The X Factor Season 3 Premiere Recap: Nothing Left Standing, Nothing Left of Yesterday

The-X-Factor-Season-3-Premiere-RecapChange has descended on The X Factor like flies to a discarded chunk of shawarma.

Mario Lopez has given up his suits for a collection of colorful v-neck t-shirts and traded Khloe Kardashian for a more qualified block of empty space. Someone has mercifully pressed the mute button on Booming Voiceover Man. And with the ouster of Britney Spears, the Season 3 judges’ panel is blissfully free of people you wouldn’t trust to mentor a child microwaving a hot dog, much less a kiddo hellbent on traveling the road to music superstardom and/or a failed record deal.

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Oh sure, Simon Cowell still giggles at the bad auditions like it’s 2002 and no one has ever unironically choked the life out of a Whitney Houston ballad on national television. And yeah, there’s still a smattering of faux vérité footage in which contestants try to pretend a producer isn’t standing five feet away with a cue card that reads, “This is really it, mom!” But credit must be given where it’s due, and at the very least, The X Factor‘s Season 3 premiere clocked in at a single hour and gave us four reasonably promising acts in the process.

And actually, without further ado, let’s get down to the business of discussing ’em — from least- to most promising:

4. Rion Paige | Adorable 13-year-old with a congenital disorder called arthrogryposis (which has caused deformities in the joints of her hands) certainly had no shortage of confidence and charisma, but much like Season 1’s Rachel Crowe, her shtick felt just a teensy bit scripted. And while there’s no denying Rion’s got big pipes for her age, I was baffled by Simon Cowell’s prediction that she could have a career on the scale of Carrie Underwood. I can’t be the only one who noticed that her rendition of “Blown Away” got noticeably shrill on the chorus, can I?

3. Carlito Olivero | Super handsome barista definitely looked the part of a pop star and stayed mostly in tune, too. But the question looms whether his upper register is naturally chipmunk-y or if it was merely nerves creeping into his tone. Also: Dude definitely needs a better slogan than “Latino Chris Brown,” because, y’know, Chris Brown puts the “ewww” in “dubious.”

2. Lillie McCloud (pictured) | Holy portrait in the attic, Dorian! If this is what 54 looks like, then clearly I need an upgrade from my Clean & Clear Morning Burst face wash to whatever Lillie uses on the daily. Natural gorgeousness and catsuit-ready bod aside, though, Lillie’s appeal runs far deeper than her packaging. As new judge Kelly Rowland observed, Lillie managed to take a song most of the audience didn’t know (CeCe Winans’ “Alabaster Box”) and make each and every one of ’em feel it right down to their toes. The woman knows how to caress a melody and why restraint’s as vital as a well-placed run, and her lower register is more magical than David Copperfield.

1. Alex & Sierra | Acoustic covers of “Toxic” may be totally “two thousand and late” — yes, I just quoted Fergie, because she’s a boss — but I can’t help but love this aw-shucks pair of lovebirds anyway. Their harmonies were as tighter than Simon Cowell’s t-shirts (circa 2004), and Sierra’s palpable mid-performance shock at the audience’s enthusiasm was as cute as it was comical. She’s got the more distinctive tone (kinda like The Voice‘s Caroline Glaser, no?) but Alex’s Mark Ruffalo-iness might be their secret weapon come voting time.

And on that note, I turn things over to you. What did you think of The X Factor Season 3 premiere? Who was your favorite successful auditioner? Take our poll below, then expand on your opinion in the comments!

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. Hugh says:

    Pretty excellent premiere I thought. And my expectations were in the ditch for XF US after the mess of the last two seasons but I was pretty impressed.

    A) Lively, fun spirited judges
    B) Very solid, promising talent
    C) Minimal to no filler

    The episode seemed to pass very quickly, which is a good sign. Am quite interested in seeing how tomorrow night will pan out.

  2. Eric says:

    This was a really great first episode, and don’t be surprised if all four of them makes it to lives, I got a good feeling. ( Knock On Wood)

  3. Eh, I wanted to like Alex & Ciara, but that arrangement of Toxic was a COMPLETE ripoff of the version Melanie Martinez did on The Voice a couple of seasons ago. I mean come on – just YouTube it. The fact that they’re a duo doesn’t change anything really.

    • Lore says:

      OMG, I totally agree! Melanie was the first thing I thought of when I heard Alex & Clara sing. It actually turned me off of them until Alex (the guy right?) started singing. I actually think his tone was more distinctive than hers. Clara sounded just like Melanie.

    • Kelm says:

      Well, it’s not something Melanie Martinez came up with : the cover is originally from Yael Naim, look it up.

      • Brendan says:

        Sorry but I am the only person who hates when people with normal voices suddenly sing with this crazy weird accent… they do it on purpose to sound like other folksy singers and people with unique voices and it’s so annoying to me. The way this girl sang the word down as if it had two Os and a Y was an instant turnoff. I’m rooting for Lillie McCloud WAY more than her.

  4. Thea says:

    Loved Alex and Sierra! Kinda excited for this season now, judging by tonight’s tone. Fingers crossed its at least better than last season.

  5. Timothy says:

    I was in the audience for Lillie’s audition and it was a pretty amazing moment. I think she can go far. I like Alex and Sierra. I feel like they could almost be better off as solo acts, but they’re great.
    Hopefully this season isn’t as painful as the past two.

  6. I loved Lillie. That woman is rocking it at 54.

  7. Jay says:

    I love you Michael, but you really suck when it comes to giving credit for covers. You should know that Alex and Sierra sang Melanie’s version of ‘Toxic’ because you recapped Melanie’s performance. Seriously dude?

    • Mary says:

      Does it really matter, it is a show about doing covers, so obviously somebody has done it. It is a Britney Spear song, so he gave credit to the original. My god people give it a rest. The show was okay, but it just feels like a rip off of American Idol, which I prefer. The only difference is a live studio audience. The young girl is no Carrie Underwood, I was scratching my head when he said that. The couple were cute and sounded good. Lilly has an amazing voice, but sorry at her age I do not see her winning. The real test will be who makes it into the live show.

  8. Titina says:

    Loved the show tonight! Great fun the chemistry between the new panel.
    I really liked Paulina! She is fun and lovely with her accent..

    Anyways, Lille was AMAZING. Wow, she is 54? She looks no more than 30.

  9. RatingsPlummeting says:

    Hmmm — only 10 comments so far. Not a good sign.
    Curious how low the ratings will be. Maybe not too bad since no new competition til next week.
    There was definitely more buzz on Twitter than I expected to see.

  10. Tommy Marx says:

    Do you guys not have an editor? “Acoustic covers of ‘Toxic’ maybe be totally ‘two thousand and late'”? Maybe be? Followed by “Their harmonies were as tighter”? The correct wording would be “may be” and either “were as tight” or “were tighter”. And that’s just pointing out a couple of the several errors in one rather short column.

    I know, I know, I’m one of those obsessed grammar Nazis, but seriously, don’t you guys have an editor?

    • N0S4AT2 says:

      good for you for pointing out these grammatical errors. I noticed them myself and wondered about the same thing (ever heard of proof reader?).

  11. Dan says:

    Boy, what happened to the X-Factor? It’s suddenly much better. I’m almost wondering if there will be a season four, after thinking this would just be a show that limped away sadly this season.

    It feels like they’ve found just the right mix with the panel of judges, but I suppose only more episodes will tell.

    • MC says:

      Kelly Rowland is wonderful and I think she will make a great impression all season. I’m one of the few people who didn’t hate last season. My expectations for Britney were low and I wasn’t obsessed with her every word or gesture. I really think she genuinely liked Carly and did a decent job with her. My takeaway from last season was that Carly and Fifth Harmony have the potential to be stars in the very near future. I’m glad the X Factor introduced me to them.

  12. jess says:

    Loved it. I am inspired by RIon and that is a tough song to sing. Carrie doesn’t even do it that
    well live, it’s that tough.

  13. DavidSask says:

    I will never watch this show in real time as most of it is crap, watch the singers that are legit which lets face it should be all, the ones who can’t should not get screen time. I fast forward through all the stupid sob stories and getting to know you as I don’t care, can you sing is all we should know to vote. The judges are just meh even Simon is softie now!

  14. Timmah says:

    After two seasons of failing to produce a winner with an ounce of “x factor”, I think I’m done with this show.

  15. Chablis says:

    Ugh A & S scripted.

  16. Saint says:

    I have to say Rion, I mean everyone loved Alex and Sierra, but Rion moved me, I actually was crying! I cried. She moved my heart!

    • Brendan says:

      I didn’t love them at all. They felt a little obnoxious with the PDA and over-pronounced words. His twitchy movements and the constant awkward looks between them felt less authentic than the other three acts – they are clearly still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship and feel the need to put all the shmoopy stuff out there to prove how in love they are. But sorry, not buying it and not wowed at all. Lillie sounded much better, Rion had a better backstory and Carlito is better eyecandy since he’s single and not on stage making goo-goo eyes at his girlfriend the whole performance.

  17. Alan Dvorkis says:

    I can not stomach, coming soon, coming later, just do the show. I can not stand knowing the act will be terrible. There is no surprise that makes auditions so wonderful. Show more music and less filler, have judges that are capable of intelligent comments. Simon’s ego has destroyed the last 2 years of X factor US. I hope he does not make it 3 in a row.

  18. Pauli says:

    After two disappointing seasons, I wasn’t planning on wasting my time with this show anymore, but somehow, I stumbled into watching the premiere. Surprisingly, it was a pretty solid first episode. It was happy, uplifting and just plain enjoyable. I’m still not sold on the show, but I’m cautiously optimistic for now.

    • Billnyc says:

      I switched channels after they started showing the bad singers and vowed not to watch again. But luckily I gave in and later forwarded through on the Tivo … the rest of the show was really good. Can’t they stop showing the bad singers, I mean that is very 2002 and annoying. Maybe fill that time up with backstage funny clips with judges or nice things going on with the contestants.

  19. Tebbis says:

    So given 2 years to fix the broken mess of a show, all we get is Stacy Francis 2.0, another absolute plant of a contestant right down to the old recording contract, and previous contract with X-Factor Slovakia? (mjsbigblog has the details)

    Simon, the laziest man on television, just wants to see the current contract out and to back to his floating harem which is always docked just inside international waters, you know, the place where prostitution isn’t illegal.

    Thanks for paying to bring me another fixed, scripted and manipulated heap of trash Fox, Honda and Proctor & Gamble.

    • Alan Dvorkis says:

      I try to accept a show for what I watch. It is sad to read your comment. I watch X Factor Australia which is actually quite good. So it is disheartening to watch the home effort, which is mediocre to start and now I know, not nearly that good.

    • Alan Dvorkis says:

      Thanks for the mjsbigblog. Great site.

  20. Jello says:

    Alex Kinsey (of Alex & Sierra) was a Hollywood contestant on Season 12 of Idol. You can watch his “Road to Hollywood” video by googling: Alex Kinsey American Idol

    Back in the 1980’s, Lillie McCloud was a very successful recording artist known as Nicole McCloud who had 10 singles on the Billboard charts. For more info, look up Nicole McCloud on Wikipedia.

  21. Adam says:

    How has no one yet pointed out that Alex & Sierra were basically a more awkward version of Casey and Haley from Idol a couple years ago? Close your eyes and you can easily hear that A&S sounded line C&H in their early appearances. Hell, Alex even pulled faces and looked goofy when singing his harmony flourishes to Sierra’s leads.

  22. MB says:

    Okay first episode but so far not blown away.

  23. Ron says:

    Slezak, when The Voice starts, I REALLY hope you decide to bring Reality Check back because you and Melinda together are great.

    Alex and Sierra pretty much grated on my nerves. I hate when couples do that whole “cutesy” thing. You’re freaking adults. Act like it. They weren’t untalented though…
    Rion is talented, but not nearly as good as everyone was making her out to be. I felt it was more of a pity over-praise, which will not help her in the long run. There were plenty of things to praise her for, but the judges went overboard. They should have commented on her good qualities but also been honest with her on what she needs to fix so she can be better on the next round of the competition.
    That latin Chris Brown wannabe (why in the hell would you want to be like Chris Brown? Everyone hates him, his career might as well be over…) was NOT good. I didn’t get all the hype. From what I heard, he was consistently off pitch. And he was more off pitch than Rihanna–which isn’t good. He doesn’t cut it.
    Lillie is amazing. I could listen to her all day. I didn’t want her audition to stop. She sang that song just as well as CeCe Winans, and that’s NOT an easy thing to do. She’ll make it far as long as she doesn’t let the pressure get to her. She won’t win because she’s not country, a good looking guy, or a teen, but she has enough talent to carry her really far, both in the competition and in a career.

    • Mary says:

      I don’t think the pressure will get to Lilly she is an experience singer that had a recording contract a decade ago, which the producers conveniently left out. I do agree she won’t win but mainly because of her age, not to many over 50 pop stars.

      • MC says:

        People complained that Carly was a ringer, but this deception with Lilly is a little too much even for me. Oh well, it’s just light entertainment. I don’t like to take these karaoke shows too seriously. I hope Fifth Harmony and Carly have great careers. X Factor will be lucky to find younger singers with that kind of talent in season three.

  24. Allie says:

    Dare I say it, but I was bored and fast forwarded through much of the episode. I watched clips of the auditions and that’s it. The show seems more staged than ever.

    When Alex and Sierra were having that weird conversation backstage and you know it’s staged, that kinda stuff just makes me feel awkward because you know it’s not real, the producers put them up to it. I wasn’t thrilled.

  25. Kaba says:

    I care not one ounce for any of them so far. They all had pretty good voices, that’s nice and all…
    But nobody stuck out vocally. All I can say is that they’re all step-ups from just about anyone that was in the lives season 2.
    I hope someone (multiple someones) worth listening appears very, very soon.
    Because so far I don’t think I’d manage to keep my interest in the show going toward the lives because they’re all so….safe :/
    Except Lillie though I suppose. I thought she was 27 o.o

  26. tara17 says:

    Liiiiiilllllliiiiie! OMG!

  27. John says:

    Alex and Sierra intrigued me…it’s like the producers were looking for a Civil Wars type storyline, and they got it in spades. My prediction? At some point before live shows Alex and Sierra become Sierra and Sierra.

  28. Em says:

    The only thing that irritated me was that Sierra smiled almost too much to the point that it looked fake. She’s not Agnes from Despicable Me. Even Agnes didn’t smile that much. It was too childish for an adult. While the voices were good, I would become quickly irritated by Sierra’s state presence if I had to watch her on a regular basis. The constant, almost apologetic, almot goofy smiling and sticking out tongue takes away from the performance. It’s the first audition so hopefully this isn’t their style for every song.

    • Em says:

      correction: stage presence
      almost goofy smiling

      A genuine smile is vibrant but constant childish smiling on an adult is irritating. And moving your bottom jaw in an odd angle, that’s distracting too. Sweet soons becomes sickenly sweet, like being forced to eat too many cakes.