What is the X factor?
Well, toward the end of Tuesday night’s “The X-Factor,” a very pretty, dark-haired,beauty sang a song that Simon Cowell said reminded him of something a 20-year-old Nicole Scherzinger might’ve sung if she were on this show. With that, Scherzinger stood, grabbed the microphone and belted out an a cappella version of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” that blew Cowell and fellow judge Paula Adbul back about three feet. That is the X factor.
Did anyone else on the two-hour show evidence the same inexplicable, remarkable, call-granny-out-of-the-bathroom-to-see-this person sing? Not quite.
But here is something to be said about watching people in these troubled times act goofy, let their freak fly, and stand onstage in front of thousands and sing without the slightest concern that they stink. In fact, in some cases they don’t seem to know they’re awful, which might says something else about people. But then there are the few whose surprising talent manages to melt glaciers of cynicism and leave you sitting in front of your TV with a smile plastered across your face.
Such was the buffet of acts served up on Tuesday night’s “The X-Factor.” It was nothing new, nothing that hasn’t been seen for years on other singing competition shows. Even the byplay between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul was pleasant and familiar. Cowell was predictably caustic and snarky, but he showed an appreciative side for the deserving few, like opening act McKenna and Brock from Kansas City, LA, greasy-looking blues belter Josh Krajcik, from Columbus, OH, and 16-year-old Skyelor Anderson, from Memphis, TN, who won, despite a mediocre voice, won over the judges by continuing to sing after his track broke.
They were also suitably wowed by genuinely gifted 14-year-old Drew Ryniewicz. from Chino Valley, AZ, who sang Justin Bieber‘s “Baby” and appeared to not suffer a trace of nerves singing the song in front of L.A. Reid, who originally signed Bieber and apologized before a note came out of her mouth for being tough. But he ended up loving her rendition, as did Nicole Scherzinger, who created a dramatic moment by saying she, too, was a huge Bieber fan, and a fan of his recording of the hit, but she liked Drew’s rendition better. “This is exactly what I hoped to see from a 14-year-old,’ said Cowell.
It was a nifty moment, followed by an emotional montage of the girl backstage with her family, though there was a seen-it-before sort of quality to the production of the segment. Likewise the guy who sang the Bruno Mars song (totally respectable) but beforehand revealed that he was the only average-sized person raised in a family of dwarves. Were his talent giant-sized. Oh well.
There were other moments. The group 4 Shore sang a harmonious version of a Boyz to Men song written by Babyface and L.A. Reid, who is a star. The man is smart, cool, rich, talented, and phenomenally handsome. Do you hear that People magazine? Check him out for your Sexiest Man issue. There were other decent acts, some like a guy named Tiger who could’ve gone either way (he made it), and so on.
The show was good, without ever venturing into greatness. It’s worth nothing that fired original judge Cheryl Cole sat in for Scherzinger during the first hour, and you know what? She was far more interesting than the former Pussycat Doll. Loved her accent. Bottom line: “The X-Factor” in week two was well-produced, swift, effective and full of enjoyable moments. Does anyone care? Not quiet yet. Following Wednesday’s show, it’s boot camp. This hit should ratchet up a notch or two.
One final note. The night’s last performer, a young, pretty woman with a big voice, sang Duke Ellington’s 1931 classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” except that she sang “sing,” not “swing.” Years ago I had a conversation with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. about the importance of phrasing and pronouncing each word in a song the way the writer and composer intended. She butchered it. Different standards. I don’t think Frank and Sammy would’ve let her through. The judges did. And that’s the difference between a TV show and greatness.
We’ll see what happens then.
What did you think?