‘The X Factor’ Season 3, Episode 4: Girls Rule, Girls Drool
Thursday's "X Factor" audition episode featured a couple of baby-faced, perfect-haired male heartthrobs who had drooling female audience members yelling their faces off, and that was all fine and good. Cute pinup boys certainly have their place on "The X Factor." But it was two girl singers, Ellona Santiago and Ashly Williams, who truly wowed this evening. Maybe, just as females dominate the "X Factor" panel this season, they'll end up dominating the competition, too.
Here are the four contestants who made it through on Thursday:
Andrew Scholz – Last year, "The X Factor" tried to be all edgy and poppy and hip-hoppy, pushing contestants like Rihanna clone Paige Thomas, leopard-faced CeCe Frey, and surfer-dude boy band Emblem3. But then the winner was traditional hat-act country guy Tate Stevens. While Tate has failed to become a major player in Nashville since, Simon Cowell clearly must have realized that Tate's popularity on "The X Factor" (or maybe Scotty McCreery's success during and after "American Idol") meant his show should target a different audience this year. So far, Season 3 has been packed with likable, aw-shucks country singers, including this Andrew kid. His voice wasn't actually all that stellar: When he started off doing Alex Clare's angsty "Too Close," he didn't possess nearly enough passion or lung power to make the performance believable. In fact, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio all voted to send him home. But the 18-year-old star athlete exuded this all-American charm — he was a "nice little corn-fed country boy," as cougar Kelly purred — and Simon just couldn't let this boy get away. Simon for once disagreed with his co-stars (I do believe this was the first tiff the panel has had this season), begging them to reconsider. "You've got charisma, which is part of 'The X Factor,'" he told Andrew. "It would be crazy to let you go at this point; I genuinely believe that. Demi, give this guy a chance!" Andrew then got to sing a different song, Little Big Town's "A Little More You," and it was more than just a little bit better. In a nail-biting, made-for-TV turnaround, Demi suddenly exclaimed, "That totally changed everything!" And then all three of Simon's co-judges said yes, yes, yes. The ladies' 180 seemed a little staged, and I still suspect their initial reaction may have been correct; Andrew's vocals were hardly the strongest I've heard this season. But it seems that for now, Simon really has this country kid's back.
Ellona Santiago – Ellona made it to the top 12 of "The X Factor" Season 1, as part of the Paula Abdul-mentored, 20-legged kiddie collective InTENsity alongside future Season 2 soloist Arin Ray. Of course, Simon didn't remember her. But, in his defense, neither did I; there were just too many precocious tweens coming and going in that doomed group for me to keep track. But performing on her own this week, doing "Wings" by "X Factor U.K." winners Little Mix, the now 16-year-old Ellona was certainly memorable. This girl came to win this time. She stomped that stage like a baby Beyoncé, really werking it; as Kelly put it, "she meant business." Demi told Ellona, "If I had been here for the first season, you would have gotten through. You're going to be like, 'Simon, you're never, ever, ever, ever going to forget me again!'" Simon told Ellona, "You are the girl I think I want to work with most in this competition. The two-year difference is unbelievable!" (Side note: Paulina was missing in action again, just as she was on Wednesday. Why did Simon hire her? And why is she getting paid $500,000 more than Kelly, who's never missed a day on the job?)