Sure, The X Factor is wasting three hours of our lives every week, doling out so little action that I could recap this whole show in a tweet and have enough room for a #YOLO, but at least they know comedy. Tonight’s show begins with Britney Spears’s manager Larry Rudolph cooking up some hilarious mischief: He suggests to Britney that they mess with Wade, the judges’ assistant. You know, just really wind the kid up. Britney is reluctant at first, but eventually, she gets into the Kutchery spirit: “Let’s tell him ... I want ... a straw hat?” “And then he’ll be running all around trying to find one?” “Yeah!” This is going to be great; mildly inconvenient errand is my favorite genre of prank.
We’re in Providence, Rhode Island, and our first auditioners are Adonis & John. They’re in a big old rush to get to the auditorium! “Get up out my way,” they cry out to literally nobody. “We’re late,” they say into the microphones tacked onto their shirts. Adonis bleats Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” which John punctuates with UHs and YEEAHs, serving as a grim reminder that if Lionel Richie’s “Hello” were released this year, it would be punctuated with UHs and YEEAHs. They are not through. They are also clearly joking. This eats up around fifteen minutes.
Britney gets her straw hat, and then guess what she does? She tells Wade that now she wants a tiara! Poor Wade! “Where am I gonna get that?” he asks the camera. Did Improv Everywhere consult on this episode? Because this is top-shelf.
And then we get someone good, and we know she’ll be good because 23 family members live in her small house. Her name is Dinah Jane, she’s 15, and she looks 35. She does a sultry take on Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy,” with a robust “oooh-uhhh” at the end of every line, like James Hetfield by way of Toni Braxton. She’s through! Her house is being raided for zoning violations right now probably!
Back to Nudg’d. Britney gets her tiara, and you guys: You won’t believe what happens. She puts it right on Simon’s head! Like he’s a princess. It’s so funny.
Our next hopeful is Arin Ray, a name he spits out so quickly I thought he said “Ayn Rand.” And if he looks familiar, last year, he was corralled into the ten-kid insta-group InTenSity, but this year, he’s in it for himself. He does an original tune called “Count on Me,” and it’s actually pretty good! He has become a man before our eyes! He is through, as a solo artist! He has rejected the false God of collectivism and focused on rational egoism.
And then a whole other bunch of good singers get short shrift in a montage, because God forbid we miss a minute of Britney n’ Larry Prankery. Natalie Martin has kind of a weak voice, but she looks like something from an eighties sugarless gum commercial, so she’s through. Nick Merrelli is a young man doing a kind of a croonery thing, and he dissolves into tears when he makes it to boot camp. Beatrice Miller is 13, and her mother apparently lets her leave the house with unbrushed hair, but her version of “Cowboy Take Me Away” gets her four yeses. One4Five are some kind of a jokey pop rap duo like you might see in the early nineties, and somehow they make it to boot camp. Why are they speeding through all of these decent people?
The answer is simple: They need more time for cruelty. Changyi Li is 52, and from China, and there is something unusual about her face that I cannot put my finger on, until I realize that she has hope and kindness in her eyes. Simon asks if she is married, she says she is not, he asks why, there is the longest pause in television history, and then she replies “I am picky.” Oh, you guys, it is in the top five of most tragic things I have ever seen on television. She launches into a shaky, broken-English version of “My Heart Will Go On” and they make fun of her and send her away and the whole thing makes me sadder than the ending of “Titanic” ever could. God, this is awful.
Then we’re back in Greensboro, where Britney has the big thick glasses that make her look like Brett Somers. We begin with dreamy bleach-blondie Austin Carrini, who is so handsome, people simply walk up to him and ask for his autograph. He’s an unimpressive singer, but he sails right through. So does Nick Youngerman, an adorable young rapper who can’t quite get any breath behind his version of “Ice Ice Baby.” Neither of these guys should have had this easy a time getting to boot camp, but then it hits me what’s about to happen here: These two, and maybe Crooner Nick from earlier, and two other guys we haven’t met yet, are going to get thrown into a group together, and that’s how we’re going to get our American One Direction. You watch.
Jamie is the collective name of a couple who are auditioning together. They’re one of those couples that can’t stop telling you how much they love each other, and then they both go in for kisses but never quite at the same time. You know Liza Minelli and David Gest’s wedding-day kiss? That kiss produced these two. Jamie is Liza and David’s mouth baby. Their performance is as corny as they are, and everyone cringes, including me, and I don’t want to defend these two, but Karmin does this exact thing and people go bananas over it. No boot camp for Jamie.
David Correy is kind of a Brazilian Dave Navarro who thinks that what makes him stand out is the fact that he’s adopted. He wants The X Factor to reunite him with his birth mother, so we know he knows how television works. He gets four yeses. It’s never fewer than four yeses on this show.
And then we’re back to San Francisco, and to creating phony drama between contestants. Tara Simon is a vocal instructor, which is this show’s code for “villain.” Sophie Tweed-Simmons IS THE DAUGHTER OF GENE SIMMONS AND SHANNON TWEED, and she is here to “step out of [her] famous parents’ shadow,” a desire she expresses by showing up with her famous parents. Now, I haven’t watched Family Jewels, so excuse me for not knowing this, but: When did Gene Simmons grow the Gerry Spivey hair? Anyway, Tara serves some serious stink-eye as Sophie goes out for her audition. Sophie does “To Make You Feel My Love,” and it’s a little shaky, but there is promise! She gets through to boot camp, and the whole weird family is elated. “I didn’t know I wanted it until I got out there,” she says. So hurray for this rich girl not being denied something she wanted for three whole seconds.
Tara is brassy as can be, and they are setting her up for the biggest failure of all time. She says she wants to take out Christina Aguilera, which I can absolutely get on board with. But come singin’ time, she does a way-too-low, piano bar version of David Guetta’s “Without You,” that is all vocal tricks and runs. I’m certain they’re going to kick her right in the butt, but NO. She is through to boot camp, unanimously as always. And as much shade as she throws Sophie for capitalizing on her parents’ name, there is no way she would have made it through herself if she weren’t such a low-self-esteem psychodisaster. Keep your eye on this one. She is our generation’s Tatiana Del Toro.
She does do one wonderful thing: When Demi compliments her voice, she replies, “That means a lot coming from you, Skyscraper!” Did I say wonderful? I meant “full-body-cringe-inducing.”
Darryl Black is 37, and has a wife and two kids, and he’s charming and handsome and I can tell he’s going to make it into the finals in the over-30s before he even sings a note. Hey, did you know you wanted a jazzy version of Gym Class Heroes’ “Stereo Hearts?” I didn’t either, you guys, but guess what: We all did and he gave it to us and here’s this year’s Leroy Bell.
Trevor Moran is the 13-year-old I would have been if I weren’t filled with Catholic gayshame and we have already seen him flat on the ground surrounded by paramedics in promos, so I worry. After we meet him and learn about his series of YouTube dance videos, the show FAST FORWARDS TO ONE HOUR LATER, where he is prone, grey, and unresponsive. Was it pills? Did he live “Valley of the Dolls” in the space of one busy backstage hour? We will find out tomorrow. TO BE CONTINUED.