By Chuck Barney
It's Halloween night and "The X Factor" is finally going live! That's great news for fans of the show, but somewhere in Detroit, people are grousing: "Shouldn't we still be playing the World Series"?
Nope. No more baseball-interruptus. No more rain delays. No more Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Instead, we're getting our first look at new "X Factor" hosts Mario "Mr. Dimples" Lopez and Khloe "Turn Down the AC" Kardashian. They're cute together, but do they have the chemistry? We'll find out.
Before we can get rolling, though, Simon is already throwing down the gauntlet.
"My acts are seriously going to demolish the competition," he boasts.
Ooh, how we love trash talk on a music show. OK, bring it, Brit boy.
We've got 16 singers hoping to make a bold impression and first up is Paige Thomas, a member of Team Demi Lovato, who, by the way, looks to be in the Halloween spirit with a brand new Morticia Addams-like hairdo. Spooky.
Even scarier is Paige, who comes out with what looks to be a silver porcupine atop her head. The over-the-top craziness of "The X Factor" has begun.
Paige sings "What Is Love?" and it's probably nowhere as good as it is dramatic -- with the wild costume, lights, and general Gaga-like outrageousness. Simon loves it, but I tend to agree with L.A. Reid, who doesn't dig the song choice.
Here's how the rest of the night went:
-- Arin Ray (Team Britney Spears); "Keep Me Hangin' On" -- Arin is not one to do the wild-costume thing (thankfully), but he's got a harem of scantily clad female dancers buzzing around as he delivers just a so-so vocal. Maybe they distracted him. Maybe not. Maybe he should present one of them with a rose.
Still, Simon likes his confidence and swagger, and Britney, who is dressed like my grandma tonight, is really, really proud of him.
-- David Correy (Team L. A. Reid); "Your Love is My Love" -- I liked this guy early on, but tonight he sounds, well, kind of terrible. Granny Britney disagrees, calling it "amazing." But Simon astutely says the performance was "manic" and kind of "desperate" -- like he was begging the audience to like him.
-- Sister C (Team Simon Cowell); "Hell on Heels" -- These country crooners immediately remind us of the Dixie Chicks, which has us wondering: Whatever happened to them? Sister C is lively and twangy. Fun stuff. Britney says it was "stunning," but Demi calls them "stiff." We'll side with Britney on this one.
-- Jannel Garcia (Team Demi Lovato); "Home Sweet Home" -- Uh-oh, we've got the wind machine working, and Jannel blows us away. L.A. gives her a "10." Britney says she was "amazing" (her most-overused adjective) and even Simon is gushing: "I absolutely love you," he says, but there's one drawback: He thinks Demi is trying to fashion Jannel into a clone of herself. OK, yes, we can see that. A little bit.
-- Diamond White (Team Britney Spears); "Hey Soul Sister" -- Sorry, but this version of the hit by Train doesn't do it for us. Too mechanical. Too pitchy. Too Disney Channel. But Diamond, in her camo pants and red leather jacket, gives it her best, and Britney, of course, is impressed and proud.
-- Vino Allan (Team L. A. Reid); "Gotta Be Someone" -- Another guy who caught our attention during the auditions, but fails to win us over tonight. It feels a little uneven, a bit shaky. Britney says it "bored" her and Simon says the arrangement sucked. Then Simon scolds L.A., telling him, "you completely and utterly (bleeped) this up."
-- Lyric145 (Team Simon Cowell); "Boom Shake The Room" -- Wild outfits. Flashing lights. Manic moves. Weak and chaotic vocals ... We totally agree with L.A., who says it sounds like they someone put them in a washer, dumped in bleach and took all of the soul out of them. The other judges praise them. They're all wrong.
-- CeCe Fry (Team Demi Lovato); "Because the Night" -- The cocky diva has dumped the leopard spots and gone bleach blonde. Maybe she should have worked more on the vocals for this Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen hit. Her voice is quivery and weak. Still, there's something about her ...
-- Tate Stevens (Team L. A. Reid); "I Thought I Was Tough" --You almost wish this likable cowboy was on "The Voice," where he could get guidance from Blake Shelton. But he's stuck with L.A. and it's not clear that he really "gets" Tate, who, whith his smooth tones and understated presence, almost feels like an anomoly on this flashy show. Still, this guy is a keeper. Let's hope he gets a fair shake.
-- Beatrice Miller (Team Britney Spears); "I Won't Give Up" -- More wind machine action on this appealing little dynamo. Simon points out that there were some "tuning" issues, but she's lovable nonetheless.
-- Jason Brock (Team L. A. Reid); "Dance Again" -- Our man from San Francisco. "Mr. Entertainment" as L.A. calls him. He has a bit of a chubby Adam Lambert vibe, but hasn't seized us the way Adam did on "Idol." Demi loves him, but questions the song choice, which lacked "sass." Simon is even tougher: "That was utterly horrendous ... everything about it was wrong."
It obviously doesn't deter Jason, who asks Mario if he can pinch his butt. (Mario politely declines). Maybe backstage.
-- 1432 (Team Simon Cowell); "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" -- The girl group takes on Taylor Swift, and, yes, it sounds a little theme-park karaoke. That's the general consensus. L.A., obviously trying to get back at Simon, says, "Your mentor really failed you." And even Simon admits they need some work.
-- Willie Jones (Team Demi Lovato); "Here for the Party" -- You just want to root for this likable country rocker, who defies genre stereotypes. He's not great tonight, but there is star potential here. Simon says it feels a little cheap and silly and gets into a little water fight with Demi. (Just call her the new Paula).
-- Carly Rose Sonenclar (Team Britney Spears); "I Get a Feeling": This teen titan has shown that she has a great voice, but is she being allowed to be herself? Britney, pulling a page from her own playbook, has Carly do the song in a little school-girl skirt, but why? Both L.A. and Demi say it didn't look like Carly was having fun. Simon claims it's a case of not feeling comfortable with the song. Still, he says, it would be "criminal" if she were ousted this early. We agree.
-- Emblem3 (Team Simon Cowell); " One Day" -- This Southern California boy group has cuteness and charisma to spare and they kill it on a lively cover. "I think we are witnessing America's next pop sensation," L.A. raves. Britney calls them "amazing and adorable," and Demi says, "You boys make me swoon."
Do we have some future superstars in our midst?
The action continues on Thursday with an elimination show featuring no public voting. Eight acts will be deemed safe by the judges. Eight more will sing for survival and four will be sent home.