‘X Factor’ Recap: Ashly Williams Sings Her Way To ’4,301 Yeses’

L.A. singer leaves judge Demi Lovato with 'chills all over,' while contestant Blake Shankle's dreams of superstardom are dashed Thursday night.

On reality singing competitions, song choice is everything. Just ask Andrew Scholz. On Thursday’s “X Factor,” the 18-year-old contestant from Summerville, South Carolina, showed he had plenty of all-American good looks and good ol’ Southern charm. (“You a nice, lil’ corn-fed country boy,” is how Kelly Rowland put it.) But when he auditioned with Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” which is still a little too close to those formerly ubiquitous Internet Explorer ads, he left three of the four judges cold.

“I think you’re really, really cute … but I didn’t quite get it,” Paulina Rubio told him, echoing the sentiments of the other female judges.
Simon Cowell was the lone judge who wanted to give him another shot, and when Scholz turned around with a soft take on Little Big Town’s country hit “A Little More You,” the judges switched up their tunes too. “That totally changed everything!” Demi Lovato exclaimed. And like that, Scholz earned four yes votes and was on to the next round.

It’s a new season at “The X Factor,” and we’re still not quite sure what to make of Rubio’s presence at the judge’s table, but all the old rules still apply. Thursday marked the season’s fourth audition episode and rotated between tryouts in Charleston, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

Another golden rule of these competitions: Looks aren’t everything. Pretty boy Blake Shankle, who with his impressive coif boasted he’s frequently compared to Robin Thicke and David Beckham, proudly proclaimed, “My dream is for me to be the most famous guy in the entire world” — a statement which, you’ll notice, has nothing to do with art or talent. And he proved to be wholly lacking in both when he tunelessly stumbled through Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts,” resulting in four harsh no votes from the judges. “I can kill it and I can rap!” he said in a last-ditch effort to save himself, but it was already too late. Shankle’s dreams of being super-famous were shelved, at least for now.

Meanwhile, Ellona Santiago’s dreams of stardom were resurrected. Cowell immediately took to the San Lorenzo, California, 16-year-old — but then, he liked her the last time she was on the show too, when she was a member of the group InTENsity during “X Factor’s” first season. Santiago confidently strutted across the stage while singing Little Mix’s “Wings,” causing Cowell to tell her she was “seriously good.” Lovato was onboard as well. “You are exactly what this competition is looking for,” she said. Cowell sealed it by granting her a “million percent yes.”

While he was oddly weighing his own yes votes,” Cowell also awarded 24-year-old Ashly Williams of Los Angeles “4,301 yeses,” which we’re pretty sure still counts the same as just one yes. Williams slayed a big dragon by taking on Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” nailing her vocals while giving Lovato “chills all over my arms and legs.” Cowell gave her one of those sound bites that is custom-made for “X Factor” TV commercials, telling her, “This is why we brought the show to America, to find somebody like you,” which he’s surely said to other contestants over the last two years.

The night’s final contestant was 14-year-old Stone Martin, who proved that even several years after Justin Bieber changed his hairstyle, a sweep cut still goes a long way. The eighth-grader from Hartsville, South Carolina, charmed the judges with his locks, jostling his head every few seconds so his hair was to his liking, and also tickled their fancy with his tender take on One Direction’s “Little Things.” The judging crew wasn’t about to let a potential heartthrob walk away, and they promoted him through with four yes votes. “I think your life is about to change forever,” Rubio told him.

Martin reacted with a smile and another toss of his hair.

What did you think of Thursday’s “X Factor” episode? Let us know in the comments!