The TV show The X Factor USA is now in its third season, and I for one could not
In its search for the newest singing sensation, the show
auditioned thousands of hopefuls from across the United States, each one vying
for the opportunity to be America’s next top superstar. Open to contestants from
age 13 and (way) up, the competition is divided into four categories: boys,
girls, over 25s and groups. But ultimately, only one – be it an individual or a
group – will emerge the victor and win the coveted prize of a $5 million
recording contract and a life that will be changed forever.
panel of four judges consists of music mogul and the brains behind this and
other similar shows, Simon Cowell; singer/songwriter Demi Lovato; singer Kelly
Rowland, founding member of the pop group Destiny’s Child; and Latina pop singer
British-born Cowell, known for his abrasive manner and
no-nonsense comments, seems to have mellowed this year. He is still caustic in
his criticism, slinging zingers as he sees fit, but he’s not as nasty and
mean-spirited as he was before. He seems to be a kinder, gentler Cowell who
appears to have adopted a sense of humor about himself, and it is a refreshing
But that cutting edge is still there, which is what his fans, me
among them, love about him. His slings and arrows in the auditions included such
memorable comments as “You’re like a mouse trying to be an elephant”; “That was
the worst minute and a half of my life”; and, my personal favorite (to a
would-be quintet), “I think you’d be a very good group if none of you were in
But he is free with his compliments as well, showering worthy
contenders with praise when he thinks they deserve it. And he knows whereof he
speaks. As Cowell is responsible for launching the careers of such megastars as
multi-Grammy Award winner Carrie Underwood and the wildly popular boy band One
Direction, his opinion carries a lot of weight.
Aside from the savvy
panel of judges, another aspect that makes The X Factor so enjoyable is that the
auditions are held in arenas with audiences of some 4,000 people. In contrast to
one of Cowell’s previous creations, American Idol, where the auditions were held
in a closed room with just the four judges, the addition of the massive audience
on The X Factor lends an electrifying element to the proceedings. When they like
someone, they show it; and when they don’t, they don’t.
I will never
forget Season 1 of The X Factor and the audition of Josh Krajcik.
30-year-old burrito slinger from Columbus, Ohio, he walked onto the stage to a
very lukewarm reception. With his mild demeanor, brown leather jacket, paunchy
physique, messy hair and scraggly stubble, the judges and the audience and the
TV viewers (me included) were not expecting much.
“What are you going to
sing?” Cowell asked.
“‘At Last,’” said Krajcik.
Cowell, his voice filled with skepticism.
The music of the Etta James
ballad started, and with the first two words out of his mouth, the crowd began
shrieking with delight. By the time Krajcik was through, everyone was on their
“You just blew me away,” Cowell marveled.
get goosebumps remembering that performance.
Krajcik ended up being
runner-up on the show, taking second place to the 18-year-old powerhouse Melanie
Amaro from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
And that is another factor that
makes The X Factor so engaging. Ordinary people of all ages and from all walks
of life have a chance to grab that brass ring. And even if they don’t come in
first, their exposure on national television can still catapult them to
Granted, all other singing competitions are designed for unknown
wannabes as well, but there is something about the way the contestants and their
personal stories are presented on The X Factor that makes these contenders so
And it’s not just the contestants that are compelling. With
each season, the hosts have been improved upon. In Season 1, the show was hosted
by the rather lackuster Steve Jones. Not a fan favorite, the Welshman was
replaced in Season 2 by Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian. Much as I get a kick
out of the Kardashians (I must admit, I do keep up with them), Khloe’s hosting
abilities left a lot to be desired. Whether a contestant had just been
eliminated or had been voted on to stay for another round, her interviewing
skills amounted to the same question, shouted above the din of the crowd, “How
do you feel?” This season, Lopez is hosting the show on his own. Handsome, warm,
charming and on the ball, the actor has the X factor himself.
course, there is the sheer entertainment factor of the program.
after week, we are treated to superb singing, original styling and
heart-wrenching or upbeat renditions of songs we may or may not have heard
So the show, which airs on HOT 3, is now at the point where the
thousands of hopefuls and the hand-picked second- chancers have been whittled
down to 16: four in the girls category, mentored by Demi Lovato; four in the
boys category, mentored by Paulina Rubio; four in the over 25s, mentored by
Kelly Rowland; and four in the groups category, mentored by Simon
The next stage of the competition is the live shows, where each
week one act will be eliminated until the last one standing takes home the grand
Who will it be? We’ll have to watch and see.