It's Miami Dreamin' as 120 'acts' tear and claw at each other's leopard-print clothing/facial tattoos for a chance at the Top 24
Credit: FOX
Simon Cowell, American Idol

“Boot camp is the epitome of tough,” said the Army commercial — I mean, a contestant on The X Factor. We watched some of the “120 acts” prepare for Miami, where Demi Lovato had personally put everyone up at one of the nicest hotels in South Beach. The bullied girl with constant Kristen Wiig-in-distress face, Jillian Jensen, hugged her mom Sharon, and they looked exactly alike with their pink tees and tear-stricken faces. “You do it for yourself, kid,” said Sharon. (Subtext: Stop copying me!)

This is it, you guys. There’s no escape from BOOT CAMP. Unless you suck.

Task One: Sing a song. I told you Boot Camp was terrifying. Here we had a regular ol’ jamboree of mostly kids and some out-of-place “Overs” sitting Indian-style and glowering at each other. Better make it original! Maybe kneel on one knee, or lean 45 degrees to the side. No? You’re good? Fine. “Either stand out or go home.”

Diamond White kicked things off with Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” possibly in reference to the amount of personal space Diamond has in the house she shares with 700 people in her family. She’s strong — “amazing,” in fact, said Demi. “But the first one we’ve seen.” Good point. Great critique.

It pretty much went on like this for an hour — just a whirlwind of tiny snippets from maybe about a third (at best) of the 120 acts. I could barely keep up with who was singing, but the one thing I could count on was the editors’ insistence on checking in with Leopard Face (CeCe Frey) over there in the corner. But that ferocious beast hated everyone who wasn’t a leopard, so she wasn’t necessarily the best barometer. We knew only one thing for certain.

Looks like someone finally tapped into the overarching theme of season 2 of The X Factor!

Britney wasn’t feeling it with Willie Jones, the country-singing teen who’s apparently a novelty because he’s black. I wasn’t feeling it with his half-assed attempt at a country-singing outfit — green jeans, denim shirt, tiny bolo tie, trapezoidal hairdo — but it did make me stop and ponder whether colored jeans on men are ever a good idea, and for that I thank him. I’ve got a lot more thinking to do on that one, I can just tell. L.A. Reid appreciated how Willie switched the lyrics in “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” from “farmer’s tan” to “black boy tan.” But Britney thought he only sounded good at his lowest register, or in his natural singing voice. Simon said he was great. “I disagree,” Britney whispered salaciously. It was the most engaged with her surroundings we’ve seen Britney yet.

Jessica Espinoza was intimidated by the rest of the girls — “vocally, physically” — and the powerful voice we’d heard during her first audition was hiding somewhere inside, still scared, when she attempted to deliver on “When You Believe.” The judges would never believe in her again and sent her home — the only sad elimination of the night, at least in terms of what we saw in the episode.

Meanwhile, Jennel Garcia put on a serious show with her cover of “Sweeter.” If her vocal hadn’t been spot-on, her physical antics would have seemed completely laughable — but as it was, they were genius. She ripped out that pesky ponytail holder that was holding her back from her destiny as a hooker and bam! Yellow streaks in the hair! Fishnets! Legs! Somewhat trashy fringed top! Look alive, boys. And all 22 of the boys the editors captured during her standing lap-dance did. “Crazy sex appeal,” Demi mouthed to Simon. Poor Jessica Espinoza just sat there, horrified. Leopard Face was not impressed.

We endured a truly ridiculous montage of contestants who were only put through as a stunt, whose “nerves got the best of them.” Dudes, no. Judges. Come on. Simon on pigtail pillow Jordyn Foley: “That was just dreadful. I’m really disappointed.” NO YOU AREN’T. And after cult of personality, party of one Trevor Moran: “I thought he was going to be a lot better.” NO YOU DIDN’T. Need I go on? Formerly promising contestants Nick Perrelli and Jake Garza also choked.

Britney was sad.

NEXT: Tara Simon flashes us More quick hits: Blonde milquetoast slice Austin Corini was mediocre “but people would like him,” pointed out L.A. David Correy‘s falsetto on “Mercy” was amazing. I still can’t believe standout Dinah Jane Hansen is a teenager. Jason Brock impressed L.A. with his tune, and me with his mid-song smiles. Simon wondered if Carly Rae Sonenclar was “too old for her age, if that makes sense” (it does). And Lyric Da Queen is a delightful young rapper with a sparkly eye patch who took on “It Takes Two” — by herself!

Vino Alan (“Over” alert!) sang out a crystal-clear and twangy snippet of “Bad Company” that was one of my very favorite snippets of them all, while Simon and L.A. hesitated to admit that he had a “really good voice.” He’s so old is the problem. Meanwhile, tiny rapper Johnny Maxwell totally forgot the lyrics….. but ended up advancing anyway!

We heard one line of song each from boy bands called L3vel, Citizen, and Jetset featuring color commentary from the lead singer of another group, Emblem3. This guy’s spoken-word gems ranged from “I’m so uncomfortable” to “That’s pretty ballsy, man,” to my favorite, “Whaaaaaaat?” Then when Emblem3 performed themselves — so far away from their home beach advantage — I could barely hear the first singer and lost interest after a few seconds of that mess. Simon singled out the color commentator as the best group singer, to which L.A. cattily inquired, “Will you still love him 20 songs from now?” Ugh, the groups.

Remember Tara Simon? She assumes you do, so that’s what matters. The ultimate drama queen in a leopard-print blouse — who’s certainly getting a run for her money at boot camp from Leopard Face — took on Queen’s “Somebody to Love” as Freddie Mercury wept regal tears in heaven and scooted slowly away, muttering “it ain’t me, babe.” Sure, Tara’s voice has a lotta umph and she was on key, but is she gonna flash us from down on her knees every time? Not even the 13-year-old boys thought that was sexy. This does not bode well. But she’s through, of course.

Finally we had the big showdown of the night: Leopard Face vs. Paige Thomas on Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Leopard Face was clearly made out to be the victor as she at least hit the high notes during the chorus, but I wish Paige had sung a different song. Both women have a smattering of misguided tattoos above the shoulders, but the similarities truly do end there, and shame on L.A. for dutifully reading from his script, “The only thing that could potentially get in the way [of Paige Turner’s success] is the comparison to another performer that looks similar.” UGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH. Bitch, please.

Leopard Face will be a nightmare to work with and for viewers to watch, so she’s an automatic in. Paige also made it through, and I hope they give her the time of day because not only is she gorgeous, but she’s humble and sweet and non-confrontational and just overall a pleasant experience to behold. With the right guidance I think she could be successful in the real world. Am I nuts? Don’t answer that.

Of course they didn’t tell us the names of everyone in the two groups that made it through, so I’ll just list the ones I heard and/or recognized: Paige Turner and CeCe Fry, Willie Jones, Diamond White, Jennel Garcia, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Freddie Combs, Jason Brock, Sophie Tweed Simmons, David Correy, Nick Youngerman, Johnny Maxwell, Tara Simon, Lauren Jauregui, and more advanced to Task Two. (Check here for updates on the show’s official site.)

Seriously, Simon? Is it just completely unbuttoned?

‘Til tomorrow, then. Do you think anyone got cut unfairly? Did you cry when the little purple kid had his meltdown? I almost did, and it was at that point that I realized hey wait a minute — I’d really like to hug my loving and supportive mom. Hi, mom! (She’ll never see this.)


Video reply time! Ask Annie anything about ‘The X Factor’ — or whatever — below.

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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