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The X Factor Recap: Pepsi Ambassadors

Willie Jones

These early X Factor episodes are a tough slog. If you’ve walked past a television that was playing American Idol even once, you know exactly what to expect: some blubbering diamonds in the rough, some yo-yos with unearned confidence, some people with actual autism that is played for laughs. Yet year after year they drag the audition process out. Not even my DVR can get it up for this episode; the description is simply “auditions continue.”

Well, at least we start with sexism. There is a montage of the judges starting their day, and while Britney is being zhoozhed by her staff and a makeup woman powders a sleeping Demi, both L.A. and Simon are tapping away at their Blackberries. The girls are getting pretty, the boys are doing deals. Gross.

Things get a late start, because they are in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Simon insists on getting grits. A British person eating grits! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Anyway, it’s super-hilarious and everyone laughs about it for 37 minutes over nine commercial breaks and everyone involved in the production earns what you and I will in our whole lifetime.

So let’s dance. Our first hopeful is 17-year-old Willie Jones, a young African-American gentleman who would not be out of place in 1984’s “Breakin’.” He’s got the hi-top fade, the neon sneakers, the whole bit. I want him to be doing this to save his town’s community center from developers. Oh, but we are in for a shock, because when he opens his mouth to sing ... it’s Josh Turner’s “Your Man,” that bebelockthemdoorsandturnthelightsdownlow song that Scotty McCreery did over and over again a couple of years ago on Idol! And honestly, it’s not that great, but it creates such a pleasing dissonance that he is sent through.

Oh, also, there is a storm coming, and everyone’s making a great big deal out of it. Here’s how little is going on in this show: They are teasing thunder.

And then we’re back to wackytown, where an old prospector named Kelvin McManigle tries to sing, but is too toothless. Kelvin McManigle is six years older than I am. I immediately, vigorously floss.

Julia Bullock is 18, unemployed, and the lead singer of a band, which she will somehow not be able to continue fronting if her X Factor dreams come true. She asks her band how they feel about this quandary, because her band is waiting in line with her for some reason, and they break up with her, immediately, on camera. Again, instead of trying to cook up drama and turn regular people into actors, they really could just have a host back there interviewing people. It is done that way throughout the world because it works. Anyway, she sings Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” in a sultry fashion, which is super-appropriate for a song about a school shooting. She is through.

And then we meet a Pepsi Ambassador! Along with the X Factor auditionees, they are auditioning a new Pepsi X flavor! The judges, and the Greensboro hoi polloi, take cautious sips of potential new flavors like Fire and Sizzle and Sparkle and whatever, and you know what? They’re all pretty damn great. There’s really nothing better than watching strangers on television tell you that a mystery liquid is “rockin’.” This show really has its finger on the pulse. Remind me to be drunker.

Tewnty-one-year-old Krysten Colon really needs this. Does anyone not really need this? Is anyone ambivalent about winning $5 million and making their dreams come true? She tries Adele’s “Do You Remember” and it’s pitchy and wobbly and she’s way too nervous, so they send her out to prepare another song. I have a bad feeling.

Also, Demi Lovato looks like Judy Jetson, and Britney Spears is afraid of thunder. Britney Spears is essentially a puppy.

Thirty-six-year-old Jeffrey Gutt “was okay with being broke when it was just me,” but now he has a son (named TALON) and so he is finally making the sensible choice to put his fortunes in the hands of a reality show. He has curly-wurly sleeve tattoos. He has a girlfriend who looks like if Marcia Brady went on to marry a baseball player. Jeffrey Gutt makes bad choices like it is his job. But he growls his way through Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (Jeffrey!) and the judges appreciate the Chad Kroegerishness of his voice. He is through to boot camp, which can start any damn day now. Were you waiting for me to say I’m ready, producers? Because I am. You may proceed.

Krysten Colon comes back! They fully replay what we saw only minutes ago, and then she sings Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” which is a terrible idea for even the best singer, which she is totally not. Plus her confidence is gone and her nerves have doubled, and whatever she’d previously had going on with her voice is totally gone. Is goes poorly. She gets four NOs, and stomps backstage for a good old-fashioned chair-throwing, camera-wrecking rampage, before careening out into the pouring rain on platform shoes, leaving her mother behind to apologize. It’s disgusting. I love it.

Okay, fine, X Factor, you win. Three hours of oatmeal and then I got to watch a person’s soul die. That’s enough. I’m in. See you next week.

Photo: FOX