Star quality

Simon Cowell’s latest creation ‘The X Factor’ hits the spot when it comes to sheer entertainment.

The X Factor 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The X Factor 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imust admit that I wasn’t too heartbroken when HOT didn’t run the latest season of American Idol for its viewers (but I was livid when it didn’t broadcast the Emmys!).
Although I loved the initial several seasons, I was getting bored with it and the lackluster contestants (except for Adam Lambert in Season 8, who didn’t win). By the ninth season, the only contender I remember was Crystal Bowersox – and she didn’t win. And without Simon Cowell, what was the point? So imagine my delight when HOT announced that it was bringing us The X Factor USA. Several cuts above American Idol, this show itself has the X factor. It has excitement, drama, exhilarating entertainment – and Simon Cowell.
The brainchild of Cowell, The X Factor is a singing competition that is open to contestants age 12 and up as individual singers, duets or groups.
The four judges are Cowell, Paula Abdul (she’s baaaack…), record producer L.A. Reid (who helped catapult the careers of Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, etc.) and pop singer Nicole Scherzinger (the former lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls).
Scouring the US for the next great singing sensation, the show held auditions in Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Dallas, New York and Newark. For the past two weeks, we viewers had been privy to the auditions – we and stadiums filled with 4,000 audience members. That’s one of the features that already made the show so exciting. Rather than having the four judges sequestered in a room with each aspiring contestant, the auditions were held on a stage in front of the masses, and their reaction helped heighten the hype.
The winner of the competition will receive a $5 million Sony record contract, so the stakes are very high.
Hence, so was the energy during the auditions. Thousands of hopefuls turned out in each city, but of course we were shown just a fraction of them, constituting of some of the best – and the worst.
Each contestant needed three yeses from the panel to be eligible to go on to the next round, which is called the X Factor boot camp. They will be separated into four categories – boys, girls, over 30s and groups – and each category will have one of the judges as its mentor. After going through a series of elimination challenges, they will be whittled down to 32 finalists, and then it’s anybody’s game.
So who should we keep an eye on at boot camp? Those selected to go through to the next level showed such talent, that it will be interesting to see how they handle the upcoming series of pressures. There’s 13-year-old Rachel Crow, for example, who sang “Mercy” and had the audience cheering.
Stacey Francis, a 42-year-old single mother, said, “I don’t want to die with this music in me, Simon.”
When she belted out “Natural Woman,” the crowd went wild, the judges were on their feet, and she was in tears. Cowell said, “That was one of the best auditions I have ever heard in my life.”
And when Marcus Canty, 20, sang “I Wish,” the crowd went wild.
Scherzinger said, “You’re what we’ve been waiting for.”
Similarly, when Chris Rene, 28, just out of rehab, sang a song he wrote called “Young Homey,” Cowell said, “The best feeling in the world is when I meet a star for the first time.
Maybe you need the show, and maybe we need you.”
And after handsome Nick Voss, 21, rendered Elvis’s song “Trouble,” Cowell said amidst the cheers, “I absolutely love you.”
As for Melanie Moro, 18, her rendition of Beyonce’s “Listen” had the audience and the judges on their feet, with Reid saying, “You are truly amazing. You have the X factor” and Cowell explaining, “When they asked me why I brought The X Factor to the US, it’s because I hoped we’d find someone like you.”
Then there was Josh Krajcik, 30.
Stocky, scruffy beard, messy hair and wearing a black leather jacket, he sauntered onto the stage. “What do you do?” Cowell asked. “I sling burritos,” he replied. “What are you going to sing?” Cowell asked. “At Last,” said Krajcik. “Really?” said Cowell skeptically. The music of the ballad started, and with the first two notes out of his mouth, the crowd began shrieking with delight. By the time Krajcik was through, everyone was on their feet, cheering. “You just blew me away,” said Cowell. And Reid said, “You need to give the burrito-slinging job to somebody else.”
So boot camp, here we come.
Can’t wait.

The X Factor airs on Hot 3 (H3) on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.