The X-Factor: Queen for a Day on Steroids

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The X-Factor seemed to start off on a bad note when it dropped British judge Cheryl Cole. Replacement judge Nicole Scherzinger didn't seem to me like a good fit during auditions. But now that it's clear the judges' role is not just to vote every week, but to train their assigned group of contestants, I've changed my mind. I can't see Cheryl Cole coaching any of these teams to musical super-stardom. Nicole may be lacking in the magnetic personality department (as she was on DWTS, which she won) but after watching the judges' home segments, I think she'll be a winner as a coach.

It was definitely a struggle to stick with the show through the weeks of auditions. L.A. Reid and Simon were the only reasons I kept watching. For the most part, the contestants were either very physically unappealing or far too young. But in the end, with tonight's selection of the final 17, it was worth it and made for pretty riveting TV.

The X-Factor is not the same as American Idol. To say it’s more emotional is an understatement. It’s like Queen for a Day on steroids. There's the homeless guy, the garbage collector/recovering drug addict (sober now 70 days); the emotionally battered wife/mother; the precocious 13 year old going on 30; the 14 year old reincarnation of Taylor Swift; the baby rapper; the hot likeable tart; the overweight, stringy- haired white guy with acne who makes burritos and has a voice that blows away most of the competition, and the 59 year old “sleeper”.

Aside from the non-exciting group category the show handed off to Paula, for entertainment purposes, I think the show got the finalists right tonight. It's not just about the voice but creating a star. What makes a star? The undefinable X-Factor, of course. That intangible quality you can’t define but you know it when you see it. The finalists are all talented, but in addition, they either have a compelling sad-sack story or are immensely watchable.

There will be a fierce competition between L.A. Reid, coaching the “boys” and Simon Cowell coaching the “girls.” Talent-wise, I think Nicole has the edge with the over-30 group, but can any of them be turned into a superstar? I would have thought “no” until I saw the show's final promo at the end. The X-Factor might have the best makeup/makeover department in television. They made every one of them look attractive with star-power. Even Josh Krajcik looked good.

As suspenseful as the show tried to be tonight, the choices were pretty obvious. The ones they focused on from week 1, and whose stories they repeated every week, all made it. Did anyone doubt Stacy Francis, Chris Rene, Rachel Crowe, Tiah Tolliver or Drew Ryniewicz would make it? Even Melanie Amparo's return at the end wasn't surprising — they spent too much time on her during the audition weeks.

My favorites:

  • Over-30's: Stacy Francis and Josh Krajcik are both knockout singers. Weaker: Leroy Bell. Weakest: Dexter Haygood.
  • Boys: Chris Rene, Brian Bradley and Marcus Canty. Phillip Lomax is the weaker link.
  • Girls: Rachel Crow and Tiah Tolliver. Yes, Melanie Amaro has a better voice but I think she lacks the star power and personality and I think Tiah is more compelling to watch. Weaker links: Simone Battle and even though she's a fan favorite, Drew Ryniewicz.
  • Groups: I have none. This category and Paula are unnecessary filler.

From Simon's cockiness about ratings that haven't materialized, to the mid-audition shift in judges and being bumped by baseball, the X-Factor has been challenged from the get-go. As much as I enjoy watching Simon Cowell, and I really do, I don't expect anyone to feel sympathy for him. He's far too rich, arrogant and self-absorbed. In the end, I don't think we'll need to. Turning the X-Factor in Queen for a Day is a great twist. There's nothing America likes more than watching people at the most miserable point in their lives rise up from the ashes and succeed. American Idol doesn't give us that.