The X Factor Recap: The Secret Strife of These American Teenagers [Updated]

X Factor Carlos GuevaraI laughed. I cried. I seriously contemplated setting my television on fire.

Yep, it’s just another Wednesday night watching The X Factor, the show where every audience reaction shot looks like it’s coming from a wannabe actor feigning enjoyment rather than an actual human who’s digging the music. And yes, now that you ask, I was trying to bury that bit about being moved to tears under a blanket of bitchery.

What can I say? The story about Carlos Guevara — the kid with Tourette’s whose genuine talent trumped his backstory — gave me a case of the weepies. Or maybe it was just allergies. Yeah, it was totally just allergies.

Thankfully, Carlos wasn’t the sole bright spot, either! A few other hopefuls gave performances solid enough to have me looking forward to the next stage of the competition, while Chloe J and CJ provided the first unabashed bad-audition laughs of Season 3. (“I’m in Cleveland if you wanna come get it, daddy!” sounds like a tagline for a show that could easily lead out of Bad Girls Club or Double Divas.)

Anyhow, without further ado, let’s rank the seven folks who got “yes” votes from the judges (without getting glossed over, like that gorgeous black woman who was killing it for about 6 seconds of “Taking Chances” but never got ID’d. Hmph!)

7. Colton Pack | Were the judges so enthralled by the enviable fit of Colton’s tight pink Henley that they didn’t notice he’s got a vocal tone that’s about as pleasant as the Emergency Broadcast Signal? If nothing else, Colton’s forward march proves there’s not a single person on the Season 3 panel willing to voice even slight disagreement with the hive mentality. Of course, maybe Simon’s gushing praise — “I think right now there’s a market for somebody like you…I really, really, really like you” — was just a cynical way of saying, “If my old pal Britney is willing to lend me her Auto-Tune software, you’d look real purdy in a music video on CMT.” Which wouldn’t be untrue.

6. Josh Levi | The kid can carry a tune, but there’s something deeply disconcerting about watching a 14-year-old boy make a very practiced sexyface at Demi Lovato while singing “Come and Get It.” Um, come and get your Trapper Keeper, child, and go back to your 8th-grade social studies class! (And Simon, please scooch up the minimum age to 15 or 16!)

5. Jeff Gutt | I clearly remember Jeff from Season 2, but while Demi was right, dude definitely arrived with a glow that wasn’t in effect last yeah, his vocal on “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” was about as enjoyable as the violently awful laugh track on freshman sitcom Dads. Not only that, I didn’t think Jeff’s spin on Radiohead’s “Creep” was all that much better. The odd pronunciations and occasional pitch problems, in fact, seemed to lie in direct opposition to Simon’s predictions that Jeff could be a major contender.

4. Brandie Love | Soft-spoken southern cutie showed good vocal control on “Up to the Mountain,” but her tone seemed too nondescript to survive the live voting rounds. (Yeah, I know, I probably said the same thing about Tate Stevens this time last year.) (Also, I probably ought to admit I’m still too recently obsessed with Kree Harrison’s sublime American Idol cover to fully embrace Brandie’s.)

3. Aknu | This brotherly trio needs to modernize their look — those pleathery tux jackets and Lisa-Stansfield-circa-1989-hairstyles did them no favors. But that can be ironed out by an interested mentor. More importantly, Aknu (ugh…the name needs work, too) impressed with retro-cool Bruno-Mars-on-uppers dance moves that didn’t sacrifice their tight harmonies on “Valerie.”

2. Carlos Guevara | I’m not a sucker for contestants’ tales of woe, which is why I appreciated the way Carlos didn’t spend his audition plucking the judges’ heartstrings like Enya at the harp. Instead, the kid got down to the business of covering John Mayer’s “Gravity” with an effortless charm and an appealingly gruff tone. Time will tell if he’s a one-track wonder, but I cannot lie: Carlos’ whispered “This is amazing” in the middle of the first verse did make me go a little misty-eyed.

1. Danie Geimer | Awkward 15-year-old had to endure Demi demanding that she remove her dumpy hat — the better for the judges to ooh and ahh and ogle and act surprised that she turned out to be really pretty. That unfortunate business aside — makeovers shouldn’t happen till the live rounds, people! — Danie definitely impressed with her rendition of Haley Reinhart’s “House of the Rising Sun.” There’s something world-weary and sultry about Danie’s voice that has me wondering if she might be able to put a more interesting twist on current radio fare. As long as the mentors don’t have her surrounded by Dangerous Liaisons dancers or drop her from the ceiling into a shirtless guy’s arms, she might have a real shot to take home the big prize.

And with that, let me turn it over to you. What did you think of tonight’s X Factor? Was the ratio of bad auditions too high? Who was your favorite successful auditioner? Take our poll below, then expand on your opinion in the comments!