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The X Factor Recap: Boot Camp Means Group Mangling of Pop Songs!

Now we’re getting somewhere kind of!

The endless audition episodes are behind us, and finally — finally! — we are on to the much-ballyhooed BOOT CAMP ROUND! Which ... is kind of like the audition episodes plus some rudimentary choreography. I’ll brew a pot of coffee.

As the hopefuls wheel their travel bags into the barracks (the same Pasadena auditorium American Idol uses at this stage of the game), two things are revealed:
- Meth Guy has a sister who has also made it this far! Unfortunately for her, she has stayed drug-free and therefore has nothing to offer.
- This old woman apparently auditioned! Why haven’t we seen her? Maybe she’s one of the kids’ elderly valet?

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The judges — who, hand to God, they introduce again — will have to whittle 163 auditioners down to 32 this week, and they’ll do so with the help of some industry veterans I’ve never laid eyes on. Stylists! Vocal coaches! Choreographer Brian Friedman, who somehow got a week off from Thunderdome!

(Also, the producers tease an upcoming full minute in which Paula Abdul is wracked with heavy sobs. It’s as if they’re saying, “We know why you’re watching. It’s coming. Be cool.”)

Brian Friedman and his Jacket of Spikes take the auditioners through some dance steps, which are almost literally all just steps. When did dancing come to mean walking? I blame the Pussycat Dolls. A couple of things to notice here:
- Young, sassy Brian Bradley doesn’t want to dance. “You don’t see Jay-Z up onstage dancing,” he says. You also don’t see Jay-Z entering a televised singing competition, you want to answer. There is just no getting through to Brian Bradley.
- Yep, the Little Old Lady in Pasadena really did audition! There she is right there up front! No, there is no close-up of her Pussycat Doll slutwalk! Do I need to go in there and produce this show myself?

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After the hopefuls have proven they can walk, each is asked to sing one song so the judges can narrow the group down to 100, which is still too many people to notice all at once. So it’s Montage O’Clock!

Some observations:
- Siameze confirms my suspicion that he owns a hair crimper, while Simon Cowell’s V-neck reveals the sun-freckled chest of a Jackie Collins heroine. It’s a very 1987 moment up there tonight, and I start to hope against hope that an episode of Moonlighting will be on after this. Nope: Raising Hope.
- Goofy grad student J. Marc was clearly trying to be this year’s Norman Gentle. Dream big!
- Handsome beardy guy forgets the lyrics to Jessie J.’s “Price Tag,” which means I’m going to have to find a new crush for this season. Don’t let me down, Old Lady.
- Nicole says of Meth Guy, “Girls are going to love him.” I say of Meth Guy, “Girls are going to lend him money.”
- Josh Krajcik: You lave a lovely voice. Could you rinse yourself off before you get onstage?
- Stacy IDon’tWannaDieWithThisMusicInsideOfMeSimon Francis sings “A Song for You” and holds one random note for — I timed it — twelve minutes. After getting justly berated for it, she explains that she’s never had a vocal coach to rein her in. Huh, so Countess LuAnn was right: Elegance is learned.

The singers are split into three groups, and when Handsome Beardy Guy sidles up to group two, we know what’s about to happen. Unfortunately, group two also contains an old friend:

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Little Old Lady, we seriously hardly knew ye. But on a positive note, J Marc doesn’t make it through either and takes it about as well as you’d expect a philosophy graduate student who thinks he’s hilarious would.

Next round! The remaining 100 are put into groups and assigned a song. Group One gets Radiohead’s “Creep,” which a couple of the singers have never heard. I repeat: Some people who hope to professionally make noise with their mouths have never heard Radiohead’s “Creep.” But fear not: Group One turns it into the gospel/Colbie Caillat/Knotts Berry Farm Salute to America family jam we always knew it could be, replete with actual creeping from Dexter Haygood! Audrey Turner gives a standout performance and reveals that she is the widow of Ike Turner, which you would think might afford her more performance options than this.

(And listen: I know I’m not here to recap the commercials, but they keep showing this ad for the Chevy Volt in which a child accuses a grown man of having to use the bathroom and the man denies it, and I have no idea why any of this should be. Going to the bathroom is perfectly natural. I have also started to wish that the “bob and weave” guy from the Chase credit card spot was hosting this show, as I’ve seen more of him than Steve Jones.)

Group Two is assigned “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Jazzlyn Little either forgets her words or has rewritten the first line to “I have climbed a thousand mouse.” Stacy Francis has apparently received enough vocal coaching not to curb-stomp the song, and together they turn it into something you’d hear in a livery cab. A few of the singers do the thing where they shield their eyes from the sun and look around. It’s called INTERPRETING THE LYRICS.

Skyler Anderson wears more uncleared logos as he and Group Three sing “Desperado.” Dani Knights, who is a person and not a series of late-night Cinemax erotic thrillers, says, “God gave me this talent, I need to show the world what I can do with it.” Let’s not point fingers, Dani. The group collectively does not come near one correct note, and I can’t help but wonder what Little Old Lady might have done with this song.

Group Four gets “Wishing on a Star,” which forces a few of the singers to rap, which they actually do kind of well. Raina Williams stands out, and also looks like what would happen if Peppermint Patty went to Burning Man. Brian Bradley sulks, interrupts, and basically reminds you to stop looking at his mom.

Five for Fighting’s “Superman,” which I just managed to banish from my brain last week, is back courtesy of Group Five. Did you hear the distant sound of a million teenage girls crying, “MOM, HE’S A CHRISTIAN!” at around 8:58 p.m.? That’s because handsome young Nick Dean crossed himself on his way out to the stage. He then forgets his lyrics, so, you know, nice job, Jesus. Josh Krajcik does a decent job and, seriously, could just moisten a washcloth and give himself a quick once-over, it would take five seconds. Wedding D.J. Tiger Budbill tells us he entered the contest because “it’s time for [him] to get serious and provide for [his] family,” which reminds me: I must send Tiger Budbill a dictionary and dog-ear the pages with the definitions of serious and provide.

Nick Voss promises to put “everything he’s ever studied” into Group Six’s performance of “Feeling Good.” In other news, Nick Voss has only ever studied grand mal seizures. Tiah Tolliver still can’t sing all that well, but she can definitely wear lip gloss and put her hand on her hip. She will go far.

Group Seven or 500 or however many it’s been performs Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” and gives it the full Fame treatment. It doesn’t make much of an impression, but what does is that one of the vocal groups is called Illusion Confusion. All right, people, that’s it: I’m hitting the reset button on band names. Everything is back in play. You want to be called The Kinks? Great. It’s available now. Take it.

Quick aside: Did you know that every single person wants this more than anything else in the world? It’s true.

Last and unquestionably least, Group Eight is assigned Snow Patrol’s “Run.” They are led by young non-lovers Brock and Makenna, the latter of whom promises that “there is definitely the possibility of a relationship coming very soon.” There is no way this is not a deliberate Katniss-and-Peeta-ing. Also in this group is Emily Michalak, a 12-year-old from the Village of the Damned, and Siameze, who buys his clothes exclusively from stores that also sell Astroglide. It is — and I am not just saying this because I am grumpy and sick of music — really comically awful. The judges love it.

Tomorrow, more groups jizzing all over your favorite songs. The judges narrow it down to our top 32 and also learn which of the four groups they’ll be mentoring, which is important for some reason! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to drink whiskey in silence.

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX