The X Factor Recap: Boot Camp Is Only Skin Deep [Updated]

x factor boot campThe X Factor was in a precarious position Wednesday night — and I’m not just talking about the way it drove a bespectacled 12-year-old boy to openly weep for his mommy.

Indeed, Fox’s jewel-encrusted, aggressive and occasionally gassy reality singing competition had to serve as an amuse-bouche for the main course: The first 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

How to strike a tone, then, that could serve as appropriate lead-in to a verbal battle to become leader of the free world: An old-fashoned girlfight between two lovely ladies and their respective versions of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”? A scathing commentary on the state of the modern American boy band? Or perhaps the introduction of a female rapper with a bespangled eye patch covering the hell out of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two”?

Hey! Why not all of the above?

The one-hour telecast focused on “Task One” from Season 2 Boot Camp — held in Miami, the better to capture b-roll of bikini-clad ladies sunning themselves — in which the 120 acts who’d made it past the live auditions were herded onto a stage and asked to perform one song for the judges, while also surrounded by their gawking competitors. The show kicked off with some cinematic, semi-scripted shots of contestants in their natural settings: Country crooner Willie Jones watching his dad fixing a car in Shreveport, LA. The bros of Emblem3 soaking up the sun in Cali. Jillian Jensen, weeping again.

And then, like bullets from a machine gun, the performances began, fast and furious and pretty much blending into one noisy blur. Here are some of my quick impressions:

Diamond White: Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” | I could hold it against the 13-year-old for choosing the most egregiously overdone ballad in the history of reality singing competitions, but then I wouldn’t be giving her credit for taking some interesting liberties with the melody on the opening verse, or for being insanely on point with her riffs on the chorus. She’s like Season 1’s Rachel Crow, except she ad-libs all her own dialogue.

Sister C | We got to hear only one note from the three-girl country act, but Britney Spears’ scrunched face made me worried my favorite audition obsession somehow flubbed their opportunity. Then again, maybe Brit’s lunchtime burrito simply wasn’t agreeing with her?

Austin Corini: Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” | Decent voice, but the kid has no sense of phrasing, and lacks the maturity to convey a song with this much emotion.

David Correy: Duffy’s “Mercy” | Slayed that opening note like Brienne of Tarth against an overmatched rival, and caused L.A. to point skyward, joyously, when he broke out the falsetto. Ding, ding, ding! We have a contender!

Dinah Jane Hansen: Mariah Carey’s “Hero” | Only heard a note or two, but this teenager is going to have to break out of the Melanie Amaro Big Ballad Prison if she wants to grab the Season 2 crown.

Lyric Da Queen | Anybody who covers Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock should advance directly to the Judges’ House without passing go, and possibly collecting $5 million. I wonder, though, if the eye patch was merely an accessory, or if girlfriend was masking an unfortunate sty.

Jessica Espinoza: Whitney and Mariah’s “When You Believe” | Pristine movie ballad proved a woeful choice for a gal who showed grit and rasp and real rock tendencies in her very memorable audition. I can’t fault the judges for sending her packing.

Jennel Garcia: Gavin DeGraw’s “Sweeter” | She’s overplaying the sexy-girl card with her penchant for booty shorts, fringe-bottomed tank tops, and Betty Boop posturing, which is a shame, considering her distinctive rock wail is plenty stirring all on its own. Is there a mentor in the mix that can help her with that? (Probably not.)

Vino Alan: Bad Company’s “Bad Company” | Tattooed dude has a big ‘ole instrument (and a wonky way of holding the mic) but I’m with Britney: He’s good, not great.

Johnny Maxwell: P.Diddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” | Forgot his lyrics, but advanced to Task Two. See what being a cute, teenage boy can do for you!

Emblem3: Please tell me these egomaniacs are being set up for a terrible, terrible takedown at the Judges’ Houses rounds. They barely had enough breath between the three of ’em to squeak out the final lines of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” and their “we’re cooler than the other boy bands” shtick is already as threadbare as a Simon Cowell t-shirt.

Tara Simon: Queen’s “Somebody to Love” | Looked and sounded like Xena Warrior Princess doing battle, but with a lance sticking out of her back. Painful to the max.

Willie Jones: Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” | Score five more points for Britney, who quashed Simon’s enthusiasm for the Louisiana teen by astutely noting that he only excels when he’s in his deep lower register. “In his natural singing voice,” she said, face scrunching with disapproval, “he’s not very good.”

Disaster montage: Pigtailed Jordyn Foley croaking “Jar of Hearts” into a soggy note salad; Trevor Moran committing felony obnoxiousness on “Starships” (“I thought he was gonna be a lot better,” lied Simon); and Nick Perrelli delivering “Feeling Good” as if he was an SNL parody of The X Factor (how tragic was his bunt on the final note?); and 12-year-old Jake Garcia blanking on words, melody, and why exactly he chose to wear matching orchid shirt and glasses. Yep, all the evidence we needed for why the X Factor age limit should’ve been raised, not lowered.

Only heard a note or two from Jason Brock, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Citizen, Jetset, L3vel, so I can’t really judge. (Side note: Did Citizen lose its fifth member, or did the camera just cut him out?)

And finally, we had Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey in an “I Will Always Love You” showdown. I’m not sure either of these women has a voice big or controlled enough to be tackling Whitney Houston’s most iconic ballad, but if I had to pick a winner, I’d go with cocky, leopard-appliqued CeCe, who hit the big note with more clarity and more authority. Paige’s over-reliance on vibrato borders on the unpleasant, even if she comes across as a far more pleasant human being. CeCe, for her part, needs to learn the audience never appreciates a comment like, “I’m about to bring the CeCe thunder here at Boot Camp.” #ThirdPersonFail

The hour ended with the 120 acts being split into three groups, two of which advanced to the next round, one of which exited in tears. Among the evicted: Jessica Espinoza, Rizzloe Jones, Trevor Moran, Jordyn Foley, and Quatrele Smith.

Everybody else, I have to be honest, this isn’t an easy process, and while you were good in your performances, I’m going to have to tell you, it’s bad news…you’re going to have to sing for us again tomorrow! [Side note: Simon didn’t actually think that shirt he wore in his end-of-episode confessional, you know, the one with a neckline so plunging it might possibly have been an unbelted bathrobe, was attractive, did he?]

Who were your favorites from Night 1 of The X Factor‘s Season 2 Boot Camp? Were there any moments that made you cringe? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Lauri says:

    Cece has an okay voice, but her attitude is horrific. I wish a tornado would pick her up and take her back to Kansas.

    • kavyn says:

      Personally I love Cece, but she stands absolutely zero chance thanks to the editing. Sometimes it’s fun to cheer for the villain. That said I also liked Paige, so I’m a bit depressed to see the two get paired up into a rivalry.

      I think she has talent, and even though both her and Tara have strong personalities, they can back it up, and that’s what I like about it. I get so tired of watching contestants talk about sob stories all the time on singing shows, so I like that Cece and Tara are both on the show just to sing and prove themselves.

    • JC says:

      The preview shows Cece weeping so she might lose that diva-off tomorrow but I kind of like her too :)

    • Hopeless says:

      And the award for the show’s bitch/villain goes to CeCe Frey. Honestly, I LOVE her diva attitude and she can back it up with her good looks and amazing vocals. Nothing wrong with that. And to me, Paige is VERY boring, very one dimensional.

    • ben says:

      Really? I thought Paige was so patently passive towards her that she just had a bit of fire in her belly about it. It’s clear that Cece told her what audition song she was doing. To me, Paige came across as the villain. Not that this necessarily makes Cece likable, but she was also by far the better singer.

    • JSAN4EVER says:

      ONLY.. YES.. ONLY JESSICA SANCHEZ CAN PULL OF I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU.. No one compares.. this two are off key, shaky vocals all throughout.. it was such a pain.. UNLIKE JSAN version which is impeccable, flawless and effortless. NOW ALL YOU HATERS CAN SEE THE JSAN DIFFERENCE.. that goes for you too SLEZAK!! wahahahaha!

      • Ted Sutton says:

        But Jessica had no soul JSAN4EVER. I agree she was way better than either of those 2 but where is she now? If all it took was a great voice she would be queen of the charts, but she is not queen of the charts so it must take something else that she doesn’t have yet. Jessica is young.
        Perhaps she will grow into it. I hope so.

  2. lily7 says:

    did i catch a glimpse of panda on stage? why didn’t they showcase her?

  3. Jared says:

    Some of those contestants have a lot of talent and are clearly stars. Especially the guys from Emblem 3.

  4. Sad about Jessica Espinoza, girl had some chops.

    • Stephanie says:

      She could sing, but I’m glad that I don’t have to hear how she “came from nothing” and had a hard life again. That got old really quick…

    • JudyVee says:

      VERY sorry to see Jessica Espinoza getting the boot. Want her back!

    • Tess says:

      I didn’t think she was so bad tonight so I was bummed that they cut her. Granted, she should’ve picked a different song to sing, but she wasn’t bad. Some worse singers were kept while she was sent home. Go figure.

    • JC says:

      She should not have picked that Whitney-Mariah monster of a song but the judges could have given her another chance but sadly they didn’t

    • Totally agree, song selection did her in. She needs to stay in the P!NK lane if anything. That’s quite a career trajectory to follow. But then again when I find myself comparing contestants to established artists I think I do them in and discover the problems with these shows: they tend to not find anyone original. Do we really need another P!NK? The more I think about it, the more I am okay with her going. Besides: There’s always, next year, or Idol, or the Voice, or… you get the point.

  5. Nancy says:

    Where was Panda?!?! With her amazingly vivacious personality there is NO WAY she just faded into the background. I mean come on Simon, are we supposed to believe that she just sat unnoticed somewhere between that poor girl suffering from “leopardsy” and that guy doing a permanent impression of Nicholas Cage in “Ghost Rider”? The way this bootcamp episode went, I fear the top 10 is going to consist of equal parts Whitney wannabes, cliched wanksters/rockers, and child “stars” devoid of any uniqueness or intrigue. Then again, maybe suffering from a lack of Panda had turned me bitter and cynical.

    • ka boo says:

      I fear that she did not show & may have used Xfactor to promote her own venue. I came to this sad idea by following posts/threads that kept taking me to a site selling her t-shirts seeminly with no connection to Xfactor or her desire to prevail. I have no problem with any cause she may promote, but the dishonesty used to promote it.

      • silkrose says:

        Oh come on. She’s probably been too busy getting ready for boot camp to update her website.

        • Oh No You Dih-nt! says:

          “Getting ready for boot camp” must be some new euphamism I am unfamillair with for “dying of pneumonia and untreated ‘beetus.”

    • jiji33 says:

      exactly. but as much as loved simon on AI, his moves with show have been popolist and downright stupid: age limit- 12?? a kardeshin as a host? an inexperienced kid as a mentor? (lovato)

      • jiji33 says:

        i meant- simon is trying to appeal to the massive kids audience that i dont trust his moved and am afraid panda wont be there…

  6. Forwarddad says:

    Britney showed a little more spirit. Tara Simon will never get the woman/girl/tween votes. Why is she so horrid?

  7. Blinged Up says:

    I have a few of them that I kind of like and several of them that I have already began to really hate….okay, hate might be a little strong, but let’s say I’m eager for them to get off my tv screen. And yes, WHERE WAS PANDA???

  8. Harry says:

    I absolutely LOVE Jennel Garcia.

  9. Alex says:

    Does the X-Factor think the audience is THAT dumb that they need to badly ADR in Demi Lovato saying, “I’m disappointed; she’s NOT as good as I remember”. Like, we couldn’t figure that out when they cut her? Or do they want to edit that in so there’s no suspense whatsoever since they’re spelling out exactly what happens?

    Also, did they think the ADR wasn’t egregious? COMPLETELY obvious.

  10. Alex says:

    Also does anyone feel like they do a lot of unnecessary subtitling? Like, we can understand the judges… I know Britney’s saying “I’m sad”, is there confusion about that with others?

  11. Tim says:

    To answer the question at the top of the page: no.

  12. K says:

    I didnt care for Cece or Emblem3. At all. Like, there’s a way to be confident without coming across as total assholes; I dont care how good you think you are.

  13. Pat says:

    Can anyone tell me where is Panda

  14. Oh No You Dih-nt! says:

    Ugly, ugly show. There is nothing going on behind Brit Brit’s eyes. Just an overly-madeup stupor. Please conservators, switch the makeup gun off from “cabaret whore” if she is just going to stare off into space and use monosyllabics.

  15. Jared says:

    Being a contestant on a show like better be confident and a little cocky or your gonna get nowhere real fast.

  16. Katie says:

    So Panda either not being there or not being showcased makes me sad, cause she’s awesome.

    The Emblem 3 and CeCe edits will be their downfall, although in my opinion Emblem 3’s downfall is that they’re not as interesting or good as they think they are.

    I am constantly astounded as to how many people are crazy enough to think they can do either Whitney or Mariah well. For most people only bad things can come from choosing one of those two. I guess I get that if you think you’re a powerhouse that those are the women you gravitate towards, but sometimes people need to embrace the fact that they’re not these women.

    My biggest irk of this show was … Jannel Garcia! I know that she’s 18, but when she sings it feels like how a young girl thinks she should act if she’s trying to portray someone who is sexy. It’s rehearsed sexy, which isn’t generally sexy. *take out hair tie* *shake out hair* *sing a line* *hair toss* *sing a line* *run fingers through hair, then toss* … blah blah blah, rinse and repeat ad nauseum. I didn’t like the feel of it in her audition and I didn’t like it last night either- which sucks because I think she has a good voice.

    I actually felt that Britney seemed more alive and into this round than she did the auditions. The fact that she seemed comfortable stating her opinions on people during judges chat gives me hope that she’ll further relax into this process and be a good judge down the stretch.

  17. Snow says:

    I was kind of disappointed in Jennel Garcia this episode. She was amazing in her first audition, but this time there was less emphasis on her voice and more on her hair. She needs to dial it back and stick to singing

  18. John Clayton says:

    WHERE WAS PANDA!?!?!??!!??!?

  19. BarbL says:

    Cowell and company needs to raise the minimum age to 15/16, and get rid of the bullroar that there isn’t an upper age limit.
    I know personally that there were a lot of fine over 40 singers who auditioned–but none made it through, so this is either an egregious oversight or an intentional weeding out of plus 40 year-olds.
    I tend toward the intentional discontinuance of the olders, as seen by the (so I’ve been told) lowering of the “overs” to 25.
    Cowell has no intention of letting a 50 +/- year old into the live rounds–which begs the question–why should a person spend the time and money to audition when there’s zero chance of making it past the initial (televised) auditions?

  20. anon says:

    Really!?! What is with the riff on Rachel Crow? Are you STILL bitter that Drew was evicted before Rachel?

    Hopefully this year your recaps don’t read like a child screaming “THIS ONE, THIS ONE, THIS ONE” over and again. Melanie and Drew were both great last year, but the constant championing of both contestants and the supposedly clever barbs against their competition in EVERY recap got really old. (Seriously, every single one, even in the episodes they didn’t perform in!)

    Towards the end last year, I went so far as to read E! Online if I wanted to catch up – and I personally don’t even think they watch the shows they recap half the time.

  21. RaineriRRC says:

    Considering that Simon wore that shirt (to much ridicule) on Kimmel, i think he thought it was damn sexy #barf

  22. jiji33 says:

    where is panda??? i read that she didnt make it, so upset!

  23. Mandy says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the poor editing of this episode. The drama was so obviously contrived, I almost couldn’t bear watching. I’m a little disappointed that you consider the members of Emblem3 egomaniacs based on the two shows in which we’ve seen them. Besides the comment made at the beginning of the group montage, which, you know as well as I do, was fabricated from some direct question from producers, there is no way of knowing exactly when the Emblem3 comments were made or exactly what they were referring to when they made them. I’m only using this example because it’s the most obvious since they are sitting on stage directly behind the perfomances. If you don’t like the guys’ music, that’s one thing, but if you don’t like them based on what the show leads you to believe about them, you’re being fooled. They were shown “trash talking” one group’s performance, but they weren’t even sitting in that spot durning the performance. Do you still believe they’re egomaniacs or any more so than all of the other contestants?

    The editing is horrible for the auditions as well, but it’s easier to pick up on when you’ve got all the contestants sitting on the stage during the performances. There is one blatantly obvious mistake during the Providence auditions when they use one of Britney’s facial expressions twice. It is possible that she could make the same expression for two different contestants, but would she make the same expression for Carly Rose Sonenclar and Patrick Ford? I don’t think so. Besides, it’s clear that it is the exact same shot. After realizing shots of the judges faces are being recycled for other contestants, I won’t begin to guess what the judges are thinking about a contestant, e.g. Britney’s scrunched face during Sister C, unless I can see them and the contestant in the same shot. However, we do know that Britney finds Sister C annoying.

    I’m curious, Michael Slezak. What is your take on the shows editing? Is it okay that they twist what people say and deceive the viewer? Is it ethical?

    Side note: It was Jake Garza, not Garcia, in the orchid shirt and glasses.

  24. Wesley says:

    I wanted to know if anyone know the name of the song right in the beginning….the violin song that plays in the backround while the contestants get ready to leave? It’s driving me insane!!!!