The new reality-style footage this season takes the viewer to places no other singing competition show has gone before, such as the Green Room where we get to see Britney and Demi bonding over their first-day-on-the-job nerves, their love of tattoos, and how hard it is to say no. We also get to see Simon giving Demi a pre-show, er, pep talk: "The worst thing that can happen, Demi, is you can't remember a single thing. You make a complete fool of yourself and your career is over," he joked to her.
The chemistry between Simon and Demi makes for great television as well. There's a must-see discussion about One Direction's Niall Horan between the two judges about kissing, dating, and more. Toward the end of the show when Simon admitted to tearing up at one woman's brave audition (read on for the deets on that!), Demi said to him, "That's what I thought. Ahhhh. You have a heart." Good stuff.
The first audition on the episode is a total showstopper. Meet Paige Thomas, a single mother from San Antonio, TX, who knocked our socks off in black hot pants and a hot pink top and booties at the Austin auditions. "You look amazing," said Simon. Oh, yeah, her audition blew us away too as did her emotional story about putting music on the side to provide for her daughter 3-year-old Jade. Her rendition of Mary J. Blige's "I'm Goin' Down" drew four yeses and a declaration by Simon that her audition was "one of my favorite ever auditions... You are commercial with a capital C." L.A. Reid said she reminded him of Rihanna. Demi was "blown away" by her stage presence, and Britney called her "flawless."
The reality element moved beyond the Green Room and into the corridors of auditions where we meet two sisters, contestant Kaci Newton (age 22, bank teller) and her big sister Kaylee, talking smack about the aforementioned Paige. "Did you see she had a big run in her pantyhose?" said Kaylee, to which Kaci replied, "Ewww." The girls' jealous comments ran throughout the show making for some great behind-the-scenes moments. (Kaci, by the way, did not make it through to the next round.)
San Antonio-based Reed Deming, a 13-year-old Justin Bieber look-a-like, was the next to impress at the Austin auditions, but it wasn't a smooth start. Reed, who confessed that he wants it so badly he'll "walk on broken glass for it," started out singing Bruno Mars' 'It Will Rain' until Simon didn't like the choice and asked him for another song. The second he started on his second Bruno Mars song of choice, "Grenade," with just piano, the judges looked impressed. "You are so cute," said Demi. Britney ditto'd that, calling him "completely and utterly adorable." Simon liked the "steel in his eyes" and called him a future pop star, while L.A. joked that he reminded him "so much of this other little kid." Well done, Reed. "I don't want to fall into that Bieber stereotype. I gotta be me," said Reed to a laughing crowd. Four yeses and he made it through.
Next on the audition trail was San Francisco, which gave us two contestants making it through on episode one. The first lucky singer was a surprise. Quatrele Da'an Smith (21, cake decorator and cross dresser) showed up in a bridal outfit complete with a long white veil, white bloomer panties, and a daring bright shade of pink on his lips. At first look, one might assume he would not make it through. But once he belted out Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," the judges were quick to say yes. "Oh my God, I love you. I love your lipstick color," gushed Demi. "You were off key a little bit, but for the most part you were really entertaining," said Britney. "If you imagine Madonna, Bobby Brown, and Dracula had a child it would be you. But in a weird way I quite liked you," said Simon, laughing. L.A. just threw his hands up and said "no." The other three judges said yes and off he went!
San Francisco's other favorites were the band of two brothers and their best friend from Huntington Beach, CA, Emblem3, who took a risk that paid off by performing an original song, a hip-hop-infused rocker "Sunset Blvd." Three things to know about Emblem3: They are not a boy band. They play their own instruments. They say dude a lot. They skate. The judges loved them: "It's awesome," whispered Britney during the performance. "I don't like you. I love you," offered L.A. "I predict big things for you," said Simon. "I think you guys are so cute," said Demi. They thought she was cute too, to which Simon chimed in, saying, "No, no, barrier" to the young judge.
Providence also proved fruitful in the form of two very special girls. First through was 18-year-old Jennel Garcia from Rochester, MA., who appeared to be a super-sweet cutie-pie until the music hit transforming her into a sexy, sultry little vixen with a raspy rock chick voice. Her take on Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' "If I Was From Paris" surprised the judges. "Feisty little fireball. I'm feeling you," said L.A. "I was not expecting that," said Britney. "I literally wrote down in my notes: HOT," said Demi. "You're different. You're exciting... A big fat yes," said Simon.
Last, but certainly not least, was arguably the most emotional audition in recent memory. Jillian Jensen, a 19-year-old part-time piano teacher also from Rochester, MA., and the other rock chick of the episode, bonded with Demi over the fact that they've both been bullied. Jillian cried. Jillian's mother cried. Demi cried. Simon even teared up. The audience at Tuesday night's screening cried. It was a wet one...and a good one. "Thank you for all you've done for anti-bullying," she said to Demi. She even cried through her rendition of Jessie J's "Who You Are." The judges were beyond moved. "You can feel that pain," said Demi to Britney during the performance. Afterwards, Demi and Jillian shared a tear-filled hug. "I know exactly what you've gone through, but I made it and I know you can too," Demi told her. And, with that, she made it through to Boot Camp.
As for Britney's role on the show, well, the rumors were true: She's a tough, decisive judge. A sampling: "I think you need to practice more." "The singing came in and it wasn't very nice." "You need a new teacher to teach you how to sing." "I think you're like Vanilla Ice meets Lauryn Hill meets West Side Story." "It's just not sung on key." "I don't think you have that wow factor" "No." "No." "No." "No." "No-No." Simon joked, "And everyone thinks I'm the mean one!" Yes, #ItsBritneyB*tch!
Of course it isn't an unforgettable or unXpected audition episode without some OMG moments of embarrassingly bad and heartbreakingly sad auditions as well. The bad: Phoenix-based singer/dancer Shawn Armenta (age 50, airline baggage handler) who sang a creepy original song about pretty young girls titled "Candy Girl." "You're like a mouse trying to be an elephant," quipped Simon. His reply to Demi saying that hard work isn't enough? "That's why you use Auto-Tune and I don't." Uh, pul-leeze!
As for the sad: Don Philip, a 32-year-old vocal coach who recorded a duet with Britney 10 years ago, offered up some weak vocals and a super-sad story about not living up to his dreams. Don broke down in tears. Hard. To. Watch. #PoorBritney
At the top of tonight's show, they played a montage of past THE X FACTOR success stories, including the U.K.'s One Direction and said: "THE X FACTOR is a global phenomenon. It's created stars around the world... Who will be the next star?" In case you missed it, here's the video shout-out from One Direction.
Miss the show? Or just want to relive it? Watch the highlights, the lowlights, and all the water-cooler moments from tonight's episode of THE X FACTOR Season 2 Premiere right here.
Well, America, that's for YOU to decide. Did you see a winner in tonight's episode? Hit the comments below and let us know! Don't forget to tune in TOMORROW for night two of our Season 2 premiere at 8/7c on FOX and tweet along with @TheXFactorUSA #xfactor.