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The X Factor: Thoughts So Far

Come on – there was really no question I was going to watch The X Factor, was there?  That being said, I did question whether I would enjoy it, or whether The X Factor would be good or necessary.

In short, I have been pleasantly surprised.  Here’s what I am enjoying:

  • Simon Cowell.  I truly tired of Simon on Idol and frankly did not miss him this past season.  In seasons 7, 8, & 9, Simon just seemed bored, stale, and repetitive.  But The X Factor’s ratings performance will reflect squarely on Simon.  It is his endeavor, and he is excited about it – to make sure it is the #1 show on television and to prove all the haters wrong who think it is unnecessary in addition to Idol.  He has his spunk back, and at least in the first two weeks of auditions, he has actually shown a lot more than acerbic criticism.
  • Paula Abdul.  I am convinced that Paula has gone through several mad detox programs and potentially speech coaching, because so far, she seems damned near coherent.  At this point in time, she is way better known for her Idol stint than she is for her music career, so she adds an “elder stateswoman” quality to the judging panel.
  • Simon Cowell + Paula Abdul.  No question, one of the best duos of all-time.  When they are together, they are magic.  It was brilliant of Simon to pull Paula in on The X Factor.  Anyone else whining about how mean he is just wouldn’t pack as much punch.  These two are fun to watch in a new context.
  • Musical Accompaniment.  Let’s face it, not a lot of folks can sound amazing a cappella.  Not a lot of folks can stay in key or in tempo without music in the background.  The addition of musical accompaniment on The X Factor generally raises everyone’s performances to a different level – even those of the best contestants.  It will also likely result in sending some contestants through whose shortcomings were hidden by the music.
  • Live Audience.  The addition of a live audience during auditions keeps the judges a lot more honest.  If they are unfairly dismissing someone with a lot of talent, the audience revolts.  The audience helps make sure that some gems are not passed over.
  • Contestant Diversity.  How refreshing it is to see folks of all ages up on that stage.  Maybe I am showing my age here, but I have seriously tired of the 16-year-old Lauren Alainas and Scotty McCreerys prattling on and on about how long they have been dreaming of their moments in the sun.  Give me some Stacy Francis or Dexter Haygood story anytime.  Idol’s model was based on the assumption that the enterprise could make a lot more money off of someone young who then had many years of career ahead of them.  Let’s see how well that works out for Reuben, Taylor, Lee, Chris, and lots of the others.  Simon seemed to learn his lesson well with Susan Boyle (not that I share any of that particular fervor).  Talent is talent, regardless of age.
  • More Than A Great Voice.  Nothing moves me more than an amazing set of pipes.  I can listen to Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, and Melinda Doolittle sing the phone book.  But an amazing voice does not a star make.  The X Factor is a real phenomenon.  For every Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, and Christina Aguilera out there, there is a Madonna, JLo, Bob Dylan, and Katy Perry.  The X Factor is set up to overlook less-than-superior vocal prowess when other star qualities are in place.  Go Brian Bradley.
  • Less Host.  I think Ryan Seacrest is brilliant and is a core part of American Idol’s huge success.  Idol would suffer way more from his departure than from the departure of any individual judge.  But not everyone is Ryan Seacrest, and The X Factor is smart to realize that no one knows its host (I have zero idea what his name is) and gives him very little air time at this stage.

Here’s what I am not necessarily enjoying, but what still works for me:

  • L.A.Reid.  L.A. hasn’t yet displayed a big on-screen presence or any particularly compelling qualities to watch, and his conducting with his eyes closed just doesn’t make for good television.  But this guy is the real deal.  He adds way more credibility to the panel than Simon ever did.  Let’s just hope that he stays true to his opinions and doesn’t start jumping on any producer-dictated bandwagon.
  • Nicole Scherzinger.  Nicole is kind of all over the place and is actually the Paula Abdul of The X Factor judging panel.  But let’s face it – like JLo, she HAS the X Factor.  From The Pussycat Dolls to judging The Sing-Off to WINNING Dancing With The Stars, she has proven herself versatile, eminently watchable, and a force to be reckoned with.  She is a worthy addition to the judge’s panel.

The X Factor also seems like it is going to be less harsh and sink-or-swim than Idol is.  I am interested to see what Boot Camp is like and how the mentoring aspect of the show is.  I suspect it will be a lot more satisfying than Christina Aguilera’s mentoring is on The Voice.

So I stand quite optimistic about Simon’s newest import and even about his boasts that The X Factor’s ratings will trump even those of American Idol.  I just pray pray pray that the show has some solution to the stranglehold Idol has on it by the southern voting block.

I am looking forward to really seeing what the talent is like in the next couple of weeks.  If it’s anything like Drew “Baby” Ryniewicz or Melanie Amaro, I will be excited to devote a good chunk of my viewing time to Simon’s creation every week.

If you haven’t already, check out Melanie Amaro’s performance from last week below.  She’s currently at the very top of my list.

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