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'X Factor' upends audience expectations with surprising talent

Ray Mickshaw / FOX / Today
Skyelor Anderson

These first few episodes of “X Factor” are designed mainly to get everyone familiar with the show and to test out storylines (and apparently to remind us of the rules. Lots of auditions, ages 12-up, $5 million prize ... we get it already!) Some of the themes we saw at the Chicago and Seattle auditions on Wednesday are almost certainly going to be around until the finale, so it’s probably bad news for you if you didn’t approve.

One of the themes was that “X Factor” is going to try to surprise the audience. It did so here with plenty of people who looked like train wrecks until they opened their mouths.

For example, the first contestants to get airtime were Mackenna and Brock, a teenage duo that did not look promising based on the setup. He looked like a dork. She looked above his league. She said they were just friends. He said, “I love her ... I think one day she’ll know it.”

Brock, she knows it today. That’s the benefit of making confessions before the TV cameras. But when they opened their mouths they sang a lot better than expected, and they had some chemistry from their four years singing together. All the judges approved, and they advanced to boot camp.

“There’s nobody else I’d rather share this with,” Mackenna said.

“Not a person in this world,” Brock added, wistfully.

Like a 1950s torch song come to life.

J. Mark Inman was another head-scratcher. He was full of confidence, said that he auditioned for the money, and sang a version of “Creep” that sounded like something you’d hear on the soundtrack of one of those late-night made-for-cable movies. And the dancing. Let’s not discuss the dancing.

“You don’t belong here. You are otherwordly,” Paula Abdul said. And then she made a joke and said that she would know about that sort of thing. Look at Paula, self-aware on her new show.

At any rate, the other judges agreed -- L.A.Reid said “It sounded so bad but felt so good” -- and Inman advanced. Chance of winning? Zero percent. But definitely entertaining.

Burrito slinger Josh Krajcik was another unexpected success.

“I always thought after all the auditions of the previous years I wouldn’t be surprised again, but you surprised me. You blew me away,” Simon said.

“You need to give the slinging burrito job to somebody else,” L.A. added.

Krajcik’s backstage reaction, after hugging his mom:“Where’s the bar? Is there a bar somewhere.”

Great recipe for becoming a fan favorite.

And then, there was Tiah Tolliver. Tolliver not only qualified under the “who woulda thunk it?” category, (when the pre-show clip focuses on the lipstick, that tends to be a bad sign), but also showed the second storyline of the night, the gender wars on the judges' stand.

Based on the clips, Paula and Nicole Scherzinger have a goal of not letting any women through. Also based on the clips, Nicole needs to have a serious talk with the producers, because they are making her come across as seriously unlikable. Simon and L.A. played the “we’re producers and know what is going to sell” card, and the best Nicole could do was redo her old “Pop Stars” audition. She ultimately caved on this one, but had a lot of attitude for someone whose claims to fame are 98% reliant on reality shows herself.

Teenagers Skyelor Anderson and Drew Ryniewicz were the best hopes for lasting a long time, with the former staying poised despite a soundtrack foul-up and the latter out-Biebering the Bieb on “Baby.” Those are the names to keep following. But the big takeaway is that viewers can expect more trickery during the audition rounds, and fighting among the judges as well.

What do you think of the latest 'X Factor' talent to take the stage? Share your thoughts on  our Facebook page.


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