Over the past year, you've heard plenty of hype from Simon Cowell about his new singing competition, The X Factor: It's huge! Auditions are held in packed arenas! It's got really young and really old contestants! Groups are allowed! New judge Nicole Scherzinger will out-cry and out-crazy Paula Abdul! L.A. Reid will finally give Simon a worthy opponent! And did he mention it's huge? For all these reasons, we should probably brace ourselves for it to blow American Idol and The Voice right out of prime time's talent show-infested waters, right?
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Well, now that you've tuned in to Wednesday's premiere to see the goods firsthand, let's discuss. We want to hear your opinions on the night's standouts, good and bad, starting with:
Contestant No. 1, 13-year-old Rachel Crow. She told us this audition is the most important thing she's ever done and also that her family of six is near-penniless, right before busting out into a seriously soulful rendition of "Mercy." Child singers are not our thing, particularly not overly precocious ones, but we're totally and utterly won over by her. You?
How about Siameze Floyd and his hair and his screams and his many painful-looking splits? Were you surprised that the judges dug it? And are you already questioning Simon's sincerity also? Or do you think his appraisal is nothing more than a ploy to make "good TV"?
Moving on to the night's first duo, who happen to also be the night's first old contestants, Dan and Venita, 70 and 83, respectively. Was their sweet but excruciating "Unchained Melody" a train wreck you enjoyed watching or one you hid from? Same question for the divisive diva Simone Battle, a USC student and aspiring Pussycat Doll — were you left puzzled over Simon's defense of her "fearlessness" or did you think she was pretty damn fierce?
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Here's a question we're now puzzling over: Is Cheryl Cole really that hard to understand? Or did someone at Fox just owe Nicole a rather large favor? (Because frankly, Cheryl was awesome, made total sense and was adorable to boot. Please submit your plausible explanations as to why she was fired in the comments section because we're coming up empty.)
Also, do you care if Simon and L.A. have a real feud going on? Is it an entertaining one, real or faked? Whose opinion, at this point, do you respect more?
Another old one coming up: Stacey Francis is a 42-year-old single mom who says she didn't want "to die with this music in me." She got a standing O for her uber emotional "Natural Woman" — was it oversinging, or wonderfully raw? What do you think of her chances making it to the end?
A ha! At least, here's Geo Godley, X Factor's first honest-to-God horror story. Did you howl or scowl after he showed us his very hairy thighs and mercifully logo'd-out man bits to the tune of his original song "Mr. Stud"? (There is only one right way to answer this question, commenters.)
And what do we all think of host Steve Jones so far? Better than Ryan Seacrest? Indifferent to his British charms? Too soon to call?
Also, do you like these auditions happening in front of crowds? Do you respect the opinion of the masses so far? Or are you annoyed that they just root for the big belters?
Back to our next good performer Marcus Canty, who dared to do Steve Wonder's "I Wish" and then dramatically fell to the floor, which was then dramatically edited into two segments by the producers. Color us annoyed. But okay, the boy can sing. Is that enough?
Our first above-average group to go through is The Answer, which sang "Rolling in the Deep," which is good, but they also sang "Happy Birthday" to Nicole, which is bad. Better or worse than the groups on The Sing-Off?
Train wreck No. 2 is Nici No-Last-Name. Hoo boy. This second hour seems to be delving into Idol's bag of William Hung tricks. Fortunately, they sweep other not-good singers into a montage until Darren Michaels. Oy. We think The Voice has spoiled us. Do you also prefer episodes of mostly good auditions?
Speaking of, was garbage man and former junkie Chris Rene actually a good audition? Yes, it's most excellent that he's cleaning up for himself and his son, and writing a rap about your struggles takes a certain amount of creativity and vulnerability. But did the overwhelmingly positive reception to "Young Homey" resonate with you? We're still thinking...
OK fire away. Is X Factor really all that different from American Idol? If it's a clone, do you care? Are you just happy that Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul are back (and together again)? Now that you've spent equal time with Cheryl and Nicole, who do you prefer? Are groups just a very bad idea? Vote your heart in the comments section.