The 24 acts visit the judges' homes. Check out how wealthy they are!
X Factor
Credit: FOX
Simon Cowell, American Idol

CAT-uh-gry (n.): A category.

All clear like Crystal Pepsi? Good! New cat-uh-gries this season: We’ll have Teens (ages 12-16), Young Adults (17-24), the Groups like last year, and “25+” a.k.a. all those old, tired bitches L.A. Reid can’t bring himself to care about. The judges narrowed the field from 60 to 24 at the top of the episode, then pretended to argue on the phone about the groups they’d be mentoring. Basic stuff. No one was buying it. Thanks a lot, you torture artists, for never explaining WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PANDA.

We traveled to Demi Lovato’s downtown L.A. loft with brick walls and girl furniture (of course the contestants assumed the apartment belonged to L.A. Reid) and Simon Cowell’s Miami manse, seemingly on a private island but more likely on a separate planet with just a Truman Show-esque wall depicting the Miami skyline. Demi got the Young Adults; Simon got the Groups. We’ll see everyone else sing tomorrow, but here they are for the record:

The Teens (mentored by a wincing — in delight? so hard to say! — Britney Spears): Beatrice Miller, James Tanner, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Diamond White, Reed Demming, and Arin Ray.

The Olds (mentored by a stank-faced L.A. Reid): Jason Brock, Daryl Black, David Correy, Tara Simon, Tate Stevens, and Vino Alan.

One last shot of Simon Cowell looking glum about his horrific ocean view…..and here we go!

Jennel Garcia: Pretty muted compared to last week’s hairographied lap dance, thanks to one of the many scripted Demi Lovato Anti-Pep Talks (sponsored by Pepsi, oddly) of the night. Basically Demi told her “Don’t flip your hair” and of course Jennel flipped her hair during “I Kissed a Girl” because what else is there to do during that song? Demi’s cheeks puffed out in disappointment. And suddenly Jennel had died. Brutal.

Willie Jones: This was a good idea, to sing “Nobody Knows” — the song he’d bungled with Tate Stevens during Boot Camp — on a stool. The stool is always a good move, I say. You get to appear emotional just by sitting there, all alone on a stool. And since you can’t move, it’s impossible to oversell it, really. Of course, what the hell are you supposed to do with your hands on a stool? Willie Jones took a note from American Idol winner Phillip Phillips and started slowly stroking his own thigh. Not too vigorously, not yet. There is time. Anyway, he didn’t mess up and got away with some all-too-literal gestural interpretations of the lyrics. I’ve liked him ever since he openly wept at Boot Camp. He can stay.

Jillian Jensen: On its own, I think her rendition of Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” was worth a spot in the final four, but instead of speaking frankly about that, Demi and big-time celebrity guest Nick Jonas had to run through another script. Demi “advised” Jillian to show more personality onstage, so she did, assuming the role of “generic Kristen Wiig SNL character in severe pain.” Wrong move, girl! “I think she took our advice a little too much,” lamented Demi. HOW DARE SHE FOLLOW MY ADVICE. Meanwhile, after glancing down at his own Pepsi-soaked copy of the script, Nick Jonas said he thought Jillian Jensen was sexy.

Does that make you horny?

NEXT: Are we human or are we leopard? Nick Youngerman: Oof. Sure he can sing, or rap, or whatever it is that Ke$ha does. But I cannot handle this younger man. Everything about him seems contrived, from the striped socks paired with army shorts and a hooded denim vest (?!) to the canned “You guys are beautiful” parting words as he left his new admirers (they’d have to be — he’s Nick F—ing Youngerman) Nick and Demi behind. The crew guy behind Nick as he bounded away confidentially was not impressed. “I couldn’t tell if I was loving it or super annoyed by him,” admitted Demi. Ding ding ding! Go with your gut, Demi. (But not Jeffrey Gutt. That one’s gone.)

Paige Thomas: The stylists outfitted her in some sort of twisted leopard bodysuit with hot pants in front (business) and a long blue train (party?) in the back, presumably to reinforce the similarity between Paige and good ol’ Leopard Face, CeCe Fry. The script threw us for a loop for a moment there, when Paige told CeCe she (Paige) wears her emotions on her sleeve and CeCe claimed she never did that. Whoa! Did we have two distinct women on our hands? Scandale! I stopped to wonder. But then I remembered they were both part leopard and therefore exactly alike.

Paige’s burlesque rendition of “Turn Up the Music” sounded fine to me despite the somewhat awkward visual element of it. I liked the twang she delivered on “drrrrrink it dowwwwwwn” — an original spin! — but of course Demi made up some crap about Paige having lost her confidence. Why is no one even pretending any more that this is a reality show? I’m so confused. What are we watching?

CeCe Fry: Duh, we’re watching the greatest after-school special with the clunkiest script imaginable, How To Lose a Leopard Face in 10 Minutes. CeCe delivered an Emmy-worthy performance as “CeCe,” who’s just a girl, standing in front of a reality TV crew, asking them how exactly she should act out an emotional breakdown so that America will love her. Easily manipulated as always, I decided I do love CeCe now that she’s fully embraced what a tool she is and pretended to cry about it. “Honesty” is everything. Out, out, damn leopard spots! And tell me you didn’t dig her sultry coffeehouse rendition of “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” That was genius.

NEXT: Ahhh, yes, the Groups! Moving on! I’ve always been “Ugh, the Groups” when it comes to The X Factor, but once again Simon Cowell has made a believer out of me. (I’ve recently embraced juicing; it hurts less than I’d expected.) See, the judges only chose three pre-established groups (Emblem3, Sister C, Dope Crisis) and plucked the rest right out of the concrete pit of rejection, brought them back to the stage, waved some magic wands that turned out to be a new type of experimental Pepsi can, and poof! The solo artists were groups! Free to roam around the lawn of the chosen. I’m loving Lyric 145 and the Lylas. Anyway….

Playback: First of all, I loved guest mentor Marc Anthony’s “advice” / doomsday threat to this new group of five tiny teen boys: “This could be the first day of the rest of your life — OR NOT.” But you know, you gotta roll with those chances, right? Sing and live or sing and die, am I right? Sure. Austin Corini, the blonde in the neon green shirt, was the funniest dancer and delivered the most “group spirit” in their version of “Rich Girl,” or it could have been that he was just wearing the brightest shirt and that’s why I was drawn to him. Owen Stuart, the one still pining away for his girlfriend (zzzzzzzz), surprised everyone — even those beach bro masters of self-parody Emblem3 — as a charismatic lead singer for Playback.

Line of the night from Marc Anthony in reaction to Playback: “I found myself just…. looking for planes, or something.” Play it back!

Emblem3: These turds. I can’t with them. The blonde one — who looks like Gordon Ramsay two hours after eating a rancid pot brownie — needs to button his freaking shirt and stop ruining songs.

Sister C: You guessed it — they’re related. “The three of us achieving our dreams is the ultimate goal and passion of our family,” one of them said. Wow, that family sounds like a blast. I wonder if they’ll invite me to their blowout parties now that I’ve delivered them that compliment. I agreed with Simon that the sisters aren’t too engaging while they sing — “Don’t retreat into your own chemistry,” he advised — but the singing itself is gorgeous, especially that of Tall Blonde on the Right. Marc Anthony thought they were a home run, but for the sake of drama Simon wondered “But will the audience vote?”

NEXT: Lyric 145 is in it to win it, Ryan! Oh wait… Lyric 145: Here we have a hybrid of duo One4Five and a ladyrapper so damn spectacular she could qualify as her own group, Lyric Da Queen. She’s from Flint, Michigan, where “people either go to prison or they’re dead.” OR…they get the bright idea to wear a sparkly eye patch and rule the school, and end up on Simon Cowell’s private, vaguely Floridian planet! Life is crazy. So was this dream group’s hip hop rendition of “Party in the U.S.A.,” which had Simon tapping his couture loafers emphatically to the beat. Their chemistry is incredible, but I also thought what Marc Anthony said was spot-on: “She’ll eat them alive.”

In the meantime, maybe she can inspire me to do some sit-ups!

Dope Crisis: Awww. Too bad for these two perfectly fine gentlemen that Lyric 145 had stepped up to bat first. Their cover of “Super Bass” was passable, but showed little potential according to Shade Queens Simon and Marc. We never knew ye, good sirs. So not dope.

Lylas: Now here is something special again. It’s “the same person in five different bodies,” which I bet Nick Jonas would think is sexy. More importantly: So would Simon Cowell. What I loved about this group, besides everything, was that there isn’t (yet) a clear star of the show. Lea Michele lookalike Camile Cabello was emoting something fierce over there on the left during “Impossible,” and everyone else I remembered from before. I couldn’t believe how much sense it all made, this very first performance of theirs. I liked the harmonies, I liked the solos, and I loved when Ally Brooke was “on lead” with two others backing her up really softly. They can’t lose, right? Well, at least not too soon.

“There’s one clearly great group here,” Simon drawled in one of many, MANY mysterious sentences among the mentors that were not even worth writing down because they could have pertained to anyone. “This is gonna be harder than I thought.” Ha! I think he’ll be fine.

This was my fave shot of the night….

…..and it’s exactly what I look like while writing X Factor recaps. See you tomorrow! Who did you love?

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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