"X Factor" is at its best when it's only one hour long ... In theory. In actuality, after Wednesday night's episode managed to cram more talent in two hours than both of last week's installments combined, that could only mean we were destined for a deluge of dreck in Greensboro, NC.
And a deluge it was, not least of all because the roof of the arena started leaking thanks to an ill-timed storm. Simon was late because he had to stop and try some authentic southern grits and coconut cream pie, and Britney was bewildered that the entire population of the town had descended upon the arena for the auditions, leaving the streets as empty as an episode of "The Walking Dead." Did we uncover any actual potential between the tears, tantrums and run-ins with security? Read on to find out.
Willie Jones: "Your Man"
A 17-year-old with an acid-washed denim jacket and a Will Smith-circa-"Fresh Prince" hairstyle, Willie launched into the unlikely country tune and instantly stunned the coaches. He didn't have the effortless baritone of Scotty McCreery, and he seemed to be trying too hard to hit those bass notes, but his tone was smooth and he certainly had a likable stage presence.
Coaches' verdict: Yes x 4. "You are an absolute original," L.A. declared (falsely, I feel). Britney said he surprised her, Demi called him a rock star, and Simon said "You've gone beyond my expectations -- I think your voice is a sensational recording voice."
Julia Bullock: "Pumped Up Kicks"
A skunk-haired rocker chick who brought her band members (including her ex-boyfriend) but decided not to audition with them because they weren't vocalists, or some such. She sounds like she should be performing songs for the "Gossip Girl" soundtrack, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It wasn't the best song choice to showcase her voice, but it impressed the audience anyway.
Coaches' verdict: Yes x 4. "I think you're really good ... you look very current, you're one of my favorites," Simon said. Britney said she had a "unique sound." L.A. told her that she was "exactly what I've been looking for," and Demi declared her "awesome." Sorry, band rejects.
Jeffrey Gutt: "Hallelujah"
A single father with an adorable 4-year-old son called Talon, Jeffrey took on the original Leonard Cohen version of the oft-misused audition staple. Thankfully, he was good -- graveled and controlled with a few impressive runs thrown in for good measure. He's probably one of the best overtly rock voices we've heard on "X Factor" to date, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Coaches' verdict: Yes x 4. "You nailed it -- I am a fan," L.A. told him. Britney called his voice "soothing and unique," while Demi praised the grit in his voice. At the sound of thunder, she added "God's even rocking out right now." Simon called it "one of the most brilliant auditions I've heard."
Kalvin McManigle: A song that had the word "California" in it. Maybe.
A lawnmower factory worker with a cowboy hat and not many teeth, Kalvin seemed like a perfectly amiable guy, but no-one could understand a single word he said or sang. He moved pretty energetically for an older fellow, but a singer, he ain't.
Coaches' verdict: No x 4. "I literally couldn't understand a word of that," Simon admitted. "I'm scared I'm related to you," Britney said.
We were also treated to the typical montage of suck, complete with ominous thunder and lightning accompaniment and technical difficulties galore. Too many and too mediocre to mention.
Krysten Colon: "Don't You Remember/I Have Nothing"
A 21-year-old hairdresser with a very supportive mom, Krysten first took the stage with a dreaded Adele number, which -- given Simon's aversion to Adele on Wednesday -- probably wasn't the best choice. She wasn't bad, with a nice tone underneath the nerves, but Simon cut her off and told her to come back with a classic song that had melody, since he didn't feel we were hearing the real her. Her second attempt was the iconic Whitney number, which she couldn't quite keep time with. Sadly, her voice wasn't strong enough to belt the song as it deserved, and she completely lost the notes when she hit the chorus. And then the lights went out and Britney screamed. Trainwreck.
Coaches' verdict: No x 4. "There was a reason for that," Simon laughed. "The song wasn't working for you." L.A. agreed, "You have a decent voice but you're not quite there yet." Then she had a complete meltdown backstage, snapped at her family and threw water at the cameras until security had to escort her out of the building. A storm's got nothing on a singer scorned.
"The X Factor" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
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