Fox’s “The X Factor” wrapped up its audition rounds Thursday (September 29), sending its final batch of singers — including more than a few teenage contestants — to its version of Hollywood Week, known as Boot Camp.
First up was Brian Bradley, who definitely had the X factor, if the X factor is massive self-confidence.
The 14-year-old pint-size Brooklyn rapper stepped in front of the “X Factor” judges with the ego of a 10-times-platinum superstar. He said the reason he hadn’t yet been signed to a record deal was “politics, man,” and then picked a mock beef with Simon Cowell that led to him performing his original song, “Stop Looking at My Mom.” With its old-school boom-bap and instantly catchy hook, “Stop Looking at My Mom” came on as strong as Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” did the first time you heard it, and the judges were instantly sold. Four “yes” votes later, Bradley was headed to Boot Camp.
Bradley mixed brash overconfidence (he said his contemporaries were Jay-Z and Kanye West, and claimed in five years he’d be “better than Jay-Z”) with an endearing teenage innocence. After he was passed through, he said his plans to celebrate involved going home and jumping up and down on his bed.
Bradley had so much confidence he could afford to let Jazzlyn Little borrow some. The 16-year-old was so meek onstage in front of the judges that it looked like if there were a hole for her to climb into, she would have happily disappeared from view. But when she sang Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down,” the shyness melted away, and she gave one of the most powerful auditions we’ve seen on the show thus far. L.A. Reid praised her “superstar voice,” and Paula Abdul dubbed her “a little brilliant gem.” Of course she’s headed to Boot Camp, where her biggest obstacle will be belief in herself.
The teenage parade continued with 17-year-old Cari Fletcher, a classically trained vocalist whom Cowell dubbed “boring” after her version of Heart’s “Alone,” though he decided to let her through anyhow; and Ausem, a duo made up of two 15-year-olds, Austin and Emily. The pair performed Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” and the judges had much more confidence in Austin than they did Emily, but since they were a package deal, it was all or nothing. After much debate, Nicole Scherzinger gave them the “yes” they needed to advance in the competition, though it came with much reservation, and Emily already seemed nervous about meeting the challenge ahead.
Viewers were also briefly introduced to 14-year-old Nick Dean, a Justin Bieber type who earned passing marks from the judges for his original song “Walk Away”; the Brewer Boys, a brother duo made up of 13-year-old and 17-year-old siblings; Paige Elizabeth Ogle, an 18-year-old whose animated version of Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I” earned her what Cowell called his “easiest yes so far”; and Emily Michalak, who at 12 just barely met the show’s age requirement but passed through to Boot Camp anyhow.
While they hogged the spotlight, Thursday’s episode wasn’t all about teenagers. High marks were also earned by Kelly Warner, a 22-year-old hairdresser at a nursing home whose bubbly disposition and sturdy vocal chops made up for her choice of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” one of the most overdone songs in the singing-show genre. Liliana Rose Andreano, a 26-year-old office worker who looked a bit like Olive Oyl, overcame her atypical pop-star looks and was called “magical” by Abdul after her winning version of “You Are My Sunshine.” If “The X Factor” doesn’t quite work out for Brennin Hunt, the 26-year-old already has the soap-star good looks to get cast on any number of daytime dramas as the brooding singer-next-door. And Tora Woloshin, a 21-year-old student who looked like Nicki Minaj by way of Amy Winehouse, was already feeling like a star during her version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
With auditions wrapped, “The X Factor” Boot Camp begins next week, where the pool of contestants will eventually be narrowed to 32 and split into four categories: Boys, Girls, Over 30 and Groups. Each judge will be assigned to coach one of the groups, and singers will be picked off until eventually we get down to one singer who has that elusive X factor.
What did you think of Thursday’s episode of “The X Factor”? Let us know in the comments!