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Boot Camp: Unfiltered Chaos

I’m concerned about The X Factor. Simon, Paula, my new boyfriend Steve Jones, Nicole Schwarzenegger,
San Diego Reid, the children – by God, the children! I’m concerned about them all. This show is strange, you know? Like, even stranger than Idol – Ican’tbelieveItypedthat – in a way that leaves me puzzled. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. It’s just that I thought I was prepared. I’ve watched Idol and even its schizophrenic cousin America’s Got Talent once or twice, and The X Factor is pretty much all of those shows rolled into one with a pinch of The Voice added for flavor. The X Factor was never going to be original. I totally got that.
 
But does it have to be so … spastic?
 
For realz, friends, I almost got dizzy from the editing. My notes make absolutely no sense. I never got a chance to ogle Steve Jones. Even my kitties went to sleep during the episode, which I’m sure was a result of the seizure that was the Boot Camp episode. Great balls of fire, I don’t know where to begin.
 
Well, as Maria from The Sound of Music so wisely said, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Thank you, Julie Andrews. You have solved so many of life’s quandaries.
 
In the beginning …
162 acts arrived in Los Angeleese (thanks, Steve) en masse, burdened with all of their luggage and the hot California sun. If the producers intended for the contestants to resemble refugees searching for higher ground in a disaster movie, they succeeded tenfold. The only thing better would have been to witness them breaking down the theater doors. A girl can only dream.
 
Familiar faces …
In rapid succession, of course. People I kind of recognized flashed across the screen like memories from brief dreams I had a year ago. By the time I put a name to the faces, they were gone. All I gathered was that all these kids want it, like, more than they want anything else in the world. The $5 million. They can taste it.
 
Industry insiders …
In a rare move to differentiate itself from Idol, X Factor provided their captives (aka – the contestants) with vocal coaches (God speed, brave souls), stylists, and a choreographer named Brian Friedman who wears the most ridiculous clothes ever. He is a peacock preening his feathers at all times.
 
Dance …
In an awkwardly rushed segment, the contestants were forced to learn some of Friedman’s (dressed in a studded denim jacket) choreography the minute they entered the theater. Downtime is apparently not a thing in Hollywood. Some of the acts danced well. Others … didn’t dance at all. This was the point in the episode where I was sadly introduced to 14-year-old Brian Bradley, who was edited to look like the most horrible person alive, only packed up in a cute little body. He was all like, “Jay Z doesn’t have to dance, so screw this shizzle,” and I kind of wanted to send him to bed without dessert. You see, this is why the 12 & up age limit is a bad thing. Now I’m picking on a little thing whose voice hasn’t changed yet.
 
Cutting them down to 100 …
Before the first commercial break, I kid you not, we were treated to the most confusing montage of faces singing ever. After getting all tired and sweaty dancing, the contestants were instructed to sing for the judges alone. And then all kinds of action went down up there. Siameze! The Anser (still hasn’t learned to spell)! Caitlyn Koch and that girl who’s obsessed with Bieber! Names, names, names! Pipsqueak Rachel Crow! J. Mark! Chris Rene! At the end, Stacy Francis (single mom) sang a note forever and had Simon telling her that sometimes “less is more.” The judges did that thing that we’ve seen before on Idol where they split the contestants into 3 groups and tell one group to go home. The group that went home? I didn’t recognize any of the people. Well, I did recognize J. Mark, the philosophy student who studied abroad, pounding on the floor and wailing, “I don’t have a life! I don’t have a life!” So apparently the philosophy student thing didn’t work out for him? I don’t know, it was strange. Shall I define the X Factor as “unfiltered chaos”? Because that’s what it’s resembling. Just saying …
 
And then, finally, FINALLY, Sacramento Reid introduced some structure to the hot mess of an episode. He told the acts that they were splitting them into groups and choosing a song for each one, which totally isn’t like Idol because, um … Well, at least we didn’t have to see the catty group drama that amuses Ryan Seacrest so. In Steve Jones’ world, the focus is on personal triumph and trying to get out all the names before Rachel has time to write them in her notes.
 
Group #1 – Radiohead’s “Creep”
People whose names I managed to write down: Drew Who’s-her-witz loves Justin Bieber, rugby coach Caitlyn Koch, non-spellers The Anser, Audrey Turner was married to Ike (yeah), Elaine Gibbs who I don’t know, and Dexter Haygood is old and desperate
Young Drew dominated a lot of this segment with the ultra-serious teen-bot things she said (“I’ve always wanted to sing ever since I’ve been the age of having a goal.”) and her incredibly wide stance while she sang the first verse of the song. Then Dexter jumped up in there doing his Mick Jagger thing he does, and it was so obvious that the judges hated him that I felt kind of sorry for the old guy. I mean, aren’t his creative formative years in the past now? Let him pretend to be Mick Jagger. At least he’s attempting to get work. Some lady named Elaine Gibbs fumbled over the words, Audrey Turner was totally unlike Tina but still sang her part well, and Caitlyn Koch thankfully brought the performance to a pleasant end. It all reminded me of something you’d see if the circus had a variety hour. Take that as you may.
 
Group #2 – U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
People whose names I managed to write down: Jazzlyn Little (I demand to see her birth certificate), human faucet Stacy Francis, the greatest person in the world Melanie Amaro, Arin Ray is forgettable, Special Guest, lots of hair
After Simon’s criticism of her self-indulgent, never-ending note, Stacy was stressing in every way that poor woman could stress. I’m actually a little concerned about how much she wants to win the competition. It just seems like her self-worth as a human being is riding on what the group of trained hyenas at the judging table has to say, and that isn’t the way life should be. So Jazzlyn started off the song, and she totally forgot the lyrics, which hilariously resulted in her sobbing and apologizing profusely to the rest of the group for “letting them down.” Stacy managed to clean her act up enough to actually sing the song and not screech at me or cry, so she’ll probably live to see the final 32. And then Melanie Amaro stepped in and proved that she’s still the greatest person in the world and seriously needs to be on every week so I can listen to her voice. Since I didn’t have a chance to recap her audition piece of “Listen,” I’ll just sum it up with one word: Wow. This group effort was a bit less frantic than Group 1’s, so I guess I liked it.
 
Group #3 – The Eagles’ “Desperado”
People whose names I managed to write down: Dani Knight is blonde, Cari Fletcher is also blonde, Skyeler Anderson sings country, Leroy Bell is the cumulative age of all the kids in his group combined (OK, I’m mean), Ben Rue is ?, and Paige Ogle with the last name of Ogle
The problem with giving a group of children (except for Leroy) a song like “Desperado” is simple – they don’t know it! Why not dress them in Renaissance outfits and force them to sing minstrel music instead? Aside from being an altogether dreary song, “Desperado” didn’t do many favors for anyone but Leroy (which, ahem). Paige Ogle and her endless dark roots sang like she was underwater. Gorgeous Dani tried hard but probably doesn’t have a voice that sounds good separate from autotune. Cari looked like Dani’s twin, but her voice actually has potential. I’ll keep an eye on her. Skyeler and his sweet little twang had no idea what to do up there, and he totally dropped the melody a few times. Leroy never opened his eyes, but he did get all the notes right and sounded good. He said in the interview portion that The X Factor is his last chance. Geez Louise, why are these people so fatalistic? Need I repeat my list of reality TV singing competitions?
 
Group #4 – Jay Z’s “Wish Upon a Star”
People whose names I managed to write down: Jennifay Joy Nichols is called Jennifay, Tinuke something-or-other, Lauren Ashley has an easy-to-spell name, “Reina” has dreads and a low voice, Brian Bradley is the worst
Now this was just wrong, giving a group a rap song when only 2 members can rap. I know that Brian Bradley probably needed something easy so he wouldn’t miss curfew, but really. Speaking of Brian, let’s hear what he had to say: “You give me about five more years. I’ll be better than Jay Z.” That Brian! Kids say the darndest things! Tinuke started us off with the melodic portion of the song, and I wrote that she sounded pretty but can’t even remember anything about her today. Then Brian started rapping over her, and there were timing issues. Then he forgot some of the words, which now that I think about it, was inevitable. Reina attempted to save things with her singing and rapping, making Brian look like a baby chump and leaving me in the awkward stage of deciding whether to be delighted or sorry. Lauren Ashley carried the song with her refreshingly pleasant head voice, and then Jennifay finished things up by looking a bit like Snooki. I don’t know. It’s in the face, I think.
 
Group #5 – Five for Fighting’s “Superman”
People whose names I managed to write down: L.A. didn’t “get” Tiger Budbill, Kompl3te (…), Nick Dean is a child, burrito chef Josh Krajcik, James Kelley and Thomas McAbee
The judges somehow managed to choose a song worse than “Desperado” for a show about finding a superstar. Well done. Brian Friedman pulled out a fuzzy vest to help this group of XY chromosome contestants. The only guys who made a good impression on me were James and Josh, who both managed to sing their parts with clarity and a bit of flair. Poor Nick Dean started the song, and he totally folded under the pressure. His singing started off horrible, and then it just faded away because he forgot the words. The desolate look in his eyes was Reason 1,877 That They Shouldn’t Have Kids on X Factor.
 
Group #6 – Every Lounge Singer’s “Feeling Good”
People whose names I managed to write down: Dreadful hipster Phillip Lomax, the actual worst Tiah Tolliver and her lips, misguided hair Nick Voss, gray-haired Austin Simmons, “performer” Chesi Spriggs, and cute Kelly Warner
Between Phillip, Tiah, and Nick, this group had enough awfulness to end the world twice. Steve made us remember Tiah, who must have nudie pictures of Simon somewhere because he threw a genuine hissy when the female judges didn’t want to vote her through to Los Angeles. Then there was Nick Voss, who acts like an Elvis impersonator but has Vanilla Ice hair and shaved out a chunk of his eyebrow. Phillip managed to sing decently in the opening, followed by Chesi, who didn’t sing that well and will probably never be seen again. I’m not sure what Austin sounded like because I was focused on his gray hair. Dyed gray hair. Because that’s apparently something people do now. Miraculously, Tiah managed to stop changing keys mid-song, which San Francisco Reid thought was amazing even though someone needed to tell him that even a baby can refrain from changing the key with a backing track. Her voice still sounded horribly unpleasant, but she had a lot of energy, and Nicole and Paula pretended that Tiah wasn’t awful anymore because women apparently can’t have opinions in 2011. Nick licked his lips a lot, and I don’t like him.
 
Group #7 – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing”
People whose names I managed to write down: Pipsqueak Rachel Crow, Joshua Maddox, amateur magicians Illusion Confusion, failed out of school 4-Shore, De’quan Allen, Hayley Orrantia, and Ellona Santiago
I thought Randy always said that contestants shouldn’t sing Whitney … Oh, wrong show. My mistake. Steve made up a voice-over story about Rachel struggling with the song. Well duh, it’s Whitney! Everyone struggles with Whitney songs, especially 13-year-old girls who still shop at Baby Gap. Somehow, this scrappy group of singers pulled off the song without too much trouble. Even though Rachel struggled a bit, she managed to hang on and give it her best. De’quan is a mystery to me, but he sounded very nice. Ellona seemed to miss the key change in the chorus, though. It didn’t sound right. Kudos to the kids for finishing the song.
 
Group #8 – Snow Patrol’s “Run”
People whose names I managed to write down: Human rainbow Siameze, Jeremiah Pagan, Nervous Nancy Emily Michalak, not-quite-lovers Brock & Makenna, The Stereo Hogzz (zzzz), and Cesar De La Roza
I think Makenna might be leading Brock on for ratings. While he was trying to cuddle with her at the fountain, she looked stiff as a board and like the thought of his touch made her dry heave. Just saying. Brock is a lesson in unrequited love. Young Emily talked a whole bunch of drama about how nervous she was, and I eventually tuned her out. I can’t believe she expected to monopolize my time when I could watch Makenna emotionally abuse Brock. Siameze and Emily pulled off their parts rather well. Brock and Makenna were off. Jeremiah has a very high voice. Verrryy high. The harmonies at the end were hideous. To top off the episode, Emily angsted some more.
 
Tune in tonight (or tomorrow on my DVR) to find out who makes the Top 32. Sorry I missed so many recaps. We had a death in the family, and my mind was elsewhere. Does anyone else think this show is strange? Will Brian Bradley ever grow on me? What is more offensive – Tiah Tolliver’s huge red lips or her gapped teeth? And when the contestants live in the judges’ houses, are they actually living in their real houses? That just seems creepy to me …


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