Auditions continue in Chicago and Seattle; Simon accuses Paula and Nicole of hating the ladies
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X Factor Drew Ryniewicz
Credit: Fox
Simon Cowell, American Idol

Vroom vroom! Stevecrest Jones continued his whirlwind three-truck tour of the U.S. as The X Factor held auditions in Chicago and Seattle. What’s in the trucks, Steve?

The Chicago auditions definitely looked much better than what we saw in premiere week. Maybe it was the vastness of the auditorium, or the bright purpleness of the giant X. (Purple’s so much friendlier and hopeful than red. Justin Bieber, on the other hand, likes both purple and red.) Maybe it was the presence of Cheryl Cole, who returned for an unexpected one-hour-only U.S. X Factor tribute tour. Maybe it was just my mood! Anyway, Chicago and Seattle were overall much more compelling than last Thursday’s ridiculous snoozefest. Let’s run down the yeses:

Brock and Makenna, 18 and 22, from Springfield, Missouri. I loved their hugging moms! The Chicago camera crew kept focusing on the same five girls in the audience, which I actually enjoyed — it made the production much less disjointed, meaning I no longer felt like the cameras had been affixed to dusty beach balls. These girls were VERY sad when Makenna announced she and floppy yellow-haired Brock were not dating. I’m not sad about it. She seems controlling. The pair harmonized beautifully on “Colder Weather,” prompting L.A. Reid to groove so hard that his scarf (!) nearly swallowed his head. “I think your vocal blend is very lovely,” said Paula Abdul, sole proprietor of Planet Paula, saving herself from what I thought was a much sharper previous comment: “It’s a rarity to have two people come onstage and come together and nail.” Patience, Paula.

My love affair with L.A. Reid continued as he shot down a clown-like woman named Robin Royal with a matter-of-fact “Not for me. Not right now.” It’s like he’s at a restaurant! Mmm, restaurants.

Skyelor Anderson, 16, from rural Mississippi, does not visit many restaurants. “We go to bonfires and fish a lot,” he explained. I love everything about him — his genuine love for country music, the way he followed his instinct to just keep singing after his track suddenly cut out, his motorcycle factory worker mom and her bad teeth, the whimsical spelling of “Skyelor.” Everything! Well, okay, his voice I could give or take. Paula did say he needed to work on that. But Cheryl’s priorities were in the right place: “You look great.”

NEXT: ‘It sounded so bad, but felt so good.’ Four yeses! Jack McBrayer lookalike J-Mark, 31, was a grad student in Europe studying philosophy, so we already knew he was annoying. He also said that in 10 years, he sees himself “pretty much at the helms of a renaissance,” so that pretty much sealed the deal. And yet! Something about Mark’s bad robot impression and complete inability to sing Radiohead’s “Creep” inspired rapid-fire yeses from three judges and a loooooong swig of Pepsi from Simon. “It sounded so bad, but felt so good,” explained L.A. Reid. Okay, I officially do not understand the point of this show. Actually I think I do — but it sounds and feels so bad.

Josh Krajcik, 30, burrito slinger. Those five disapproving girls in the audience were at it again — when Josh announced his occupation, the beeyotch in the middle mouthed, “Wow.” I worried as soon as Josh announced he’d be trying Ettta James’ “At Last” — one of Simon’s picks for audition songs to retire — but he soon won me and the entire crowd over with his unique brand of controlled, guttural wailing. The only thing that bothered me just a little bit was that Josh’s mom was so excited about his X Factor journey (and her role as driver) that she almost made Josh seem not so invested by comparison. I’m sure he wants to compete; it just seemed like she wanted it more. L.A., who “conducted the orchestra” again during Josh’s performance, was convinced that Josh had dressed like a slob in order to enhance the “Before” element of his potential fashion transformation. This was baffling, but hilarious.

And it was on to Seattle, where something in the crisp air surrounding her hotel suite prompted Nicole Scherzinger to announce, “We’re nothing without the talent.” Really think about that one.

Faux “plot” alert: Simon claimed that Paula and Nicole had joined their evil double-X-factor-chromosome forces in Seattle to determine that all attractive girls who came onstage (and couldn’t sing) were dead on arrival. “You remind me of Nicole if she’d been 20,” Simon said to a piece who’d just sloppily slunk around onstage while caterwauling in a bodysuit. The stinkface this girl threw to Nicole during her ensuing let-me-prove-I-can-hold-one-note rendition of “I Will Always Love You” was worth a thousand yeses.

NEXT: Steve Jones says something

Drew Ryniewicz, 14, who stared down Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with childlike bedroom eyes and made it better, was by far my favorite contestant of the night. This was the only performance I wanted to rewind based on vocal quality alone. Drew’s adorable family — who subtly freaked out (if that’s even possible) alongside Stevecrest during her audition and then huddled around her in hushed tones — certainly made it easy. Dad was so overwhelmed he had to take a knee! I like Drew for the same reason I liked Melanie Amaro: She was completely unassuming and unaffected. When she started singing I still had no idea whether she’d be talented or not, even after we’d seen special-person-alert footage of her lolling around on her bed while listing Justin Bieber’s favorite colors. “People your age would buy your version of that song,” said $imon. “This is exactly what I wanted a 14-year-old to do on this competition.”

4Shore, a boy band. They took a risk singing a song L.A. Reid had written (“End of the Road”), but it all worked out and L.A. even spent a few measures with his eyes closed while revving up for a tremendous fist explosion. It was a beautiful thing, this silent orgasm of his (without the XXX factor). These kids honestly weren’t my favorites, but I’m glad they got the crowd going after what must have been hours of boredom. Everyone was clapping and singing along, so we know 4Shore has the capacity to deliver a concert experience. Then Simon had to go and make things kind of weird by proclaiming “I’ve always wanted to find an artist to be successful over the world that Americans could be proud of.” Really?!

Phillip Lomax, 21, part-time waiter. Watching The X Factor and American Idol, I am consistently struck by how much it turns out I HATE CONFIDENT PEOPLE. Ewwwww. Why do I convince myself I should be more like them? They are truly the worst. The judges were definitely over-reaching in their praise for this self-proclaimed “bit of a hipster” (because he was wearing a hat) and his cheesy, unremarkable cover of “Fly Me to the Moon.” A suddenly dead-inside L.A. Reid seemed to be reading from a just-out-of-frame script: “Is he a star? The answer is yes. Does he have the X factor? The answer is yes.” Will teenage girls think he’s cute? The answer is yes. As Phillip trotted offstage in search of more fashion hats, Simon admitted, “He hasn’t listened to a single word we’ve said.” Sounds like a great catch, coach! And a likely incompetent waiter, for that matter.

Tiah Tolliver, 19, likely competent deli clerk. She’d been getting a lot of good comments about her lipstick, so the standoff between her and Paulanicole must have been an especially rude awakening. Simon insisted Tiah had “steel in her eyes” and claimed “I’ve never felt so strong” after Nicole finally relented. She may have a “wonderful spirit” about her (claimed L.A.), but we could all hear that Tiah can’t stay on-key. Bottom line is Simon liked her huge lips and gap tooth, so she stayed. “Ha-hahhh!” uttered Steve Jones backstage in his most profound contribution of the night.

More yeses who got very little screen time:

–Elaine Gibbs, 53, wedding singer and the reason Nicole Scherzinger loves this show

–Francesca Duncan, 17-year-old who prompted Simon to raise his Pepsi cup

–Tiger Budbill, a 42-year-old wedding DJ with the tiger in him, maybe

Hmmm. New thing:

ANNIE’S TOP 5 ‘X FACTOR’ PLAYERS OF THE NIGHT

5. Steve Jones

4. Tiah Tolliver’s clip-on bangs

3. Simon’s Pepsi cup

2. Drew Ryniewicz

1. L.A. Reid

Okay, I’m off to go comb my DVR for the reality series about “horribly honest” Peet Montzingo and his family of dwarves. It’s gotta be in there somewhere. He’s gonna be a star.

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Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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