December 19, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 9 Through Top 4 Week

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Episode 33 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction
1:07 – Top 9 Week Eliminations: Lakoda Rayne & Leroy Bell
4:23 – Top 7 Week Eliminations: Astro & Drew
10:13 – Top 5 Week Elimination: Rachel Crow
13:48 – Top 4 Week Elimination: Marcus Canty
14:18 – Melanie Amaro was amazing during Top 4 Week and Josh Krajcik performed “Hallelujah!”
16:57 – The background dancers, choreography and Simon Cowell
18:52 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 21:50

Summary

Summary to be written. We just wanted to get this podcast up and out before the finale aired.

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

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December 5, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 10 Week

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Episode 32 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction
0:11 – Astro controversy
8:36 – Astro and Stacy’s performances
12:45 –  The rest of the performers: LeRoy Bell, Rachel Crow, Chris Rene, Melanie Amaro, Josh Krajcik, Lakoda Rayne, Drew and Marcus Canty
24:56 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 26:46

Summary
Rock week brought the drama on The X-Factor. After the previous week’s excellent set of songs, many contestants found themselves stumbling as performance night contained a bunch of song arrangements that were not really rock, which we largely blame the judges for because they should know what constitutes rock music.. Despite the genre problems, the bigger issue at hand was that the actual numbers, rock or not, were just not that good. This let-down calls into question the wisdom of having these theme weeks, as it not only distracts the judges by having them argue over style categorization but it also results in performers tackling songs and arrangements that just do not suit their personality.

It’s impossible to talk about this week of The X-Factor without discussing what happened on elimination night. Astro and Stacy Francis were in the bottom two and Astro did not react well to the news. This included not wanting to perform his “sing for your life” song and having an argumentative and dismissive attitude during the judges’ vote. As expected, this resulted in a flurry of activity on twitter, facebook and blogs where the general reaction was hostile and negative. In this podcast we discuss in detail our thoughts about how Astro responded to the situation and America’s general reaction thereafter. You’ll have to listen to hear our thoughts, but as a quick summary, we think Astro should have handled his reaction better and do not condone his behavior, although we at least understand where it’s coming from. America’s rage towards him was way over the line. The abusive comments towards him and the assumptions about him and his family are uncalled for. On the humorous side of things, the irony of the angry and irrational rants from middle-aged adults about Astro’s immaturity amuses us.

Stacy Francis going home was the right decision. Her off-pitch caterwauling during “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” was too much to ignore and concluded a journey that was going slowly downhill after her initial audition. It appears her audition song was her ace in the hole and she used it way too early in the competition. Combine that with the questions about how authentic and honest she was being about her past and it was inevitable that the viewership would turn on her. Astro has a chance to rebound. Stacy does not.

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

A quick note if you choose to comment about the Astro controversy: Please be respectful of us and the contestants and also listen to that portion of our podcast before commenting. We would like to engage in a discussion if our listeners wish, but aggressive, disrespectful comments will be deleted. Thanks!

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November 19, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 11 Week

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Episode 31 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: Steve Jones, no backing tracks and high quality performances
2:56 – Bottom Two: The Stereo Hogzz (eliminated), Lakoda Rayne and Paula Abdul’s breakdown
7:22 – Astro
10:01 – Leroy Bell
11:20 – Josh Krajcik
13:11 – Rachel Crow
14:58 – The rest: Stacy Francis, Marcus Canty, Drew, Melanie Amaro and Chris Rene
23:31 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 24:32

Summary
We fell behind on our publishing schedule with The X-Factor, as you can see. This is for the Top 11 week of performances (the one where The Stereo Hogzz were eliminated). As viewers of The X-Factor know, the Top 10 week provided lots of drama involving Astro and we’ll get to that as soon as we can.

This proved to be a high quality week for The X-Factor with many of the contestants putting forth their best performances since the beginning of the live shows. We really enjoyed Astro’s version of “Lose Yourself,” which showcased a lyrical talent way beyond his years. Leroy Bell and Josh Krajcik were also standouts for us, both choosing songs that suit their respective voices which resulted in performances that felt like excerpts from a concert for each contestant. Rachel Crow took a step back from the material Simon has been giving her, which we haven’t been fans of, and sang “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Although we’re still of the belief that we’d like her to wait a couple more years until her voice develops more fully, this number showcased a depth in her vocals that hasn’t been present since her boot camp rendition of “If I Were A Boy.”

The bottom two was predictable with the two remaining groups, The Stereo Hogzz and Lakoda Rayne, ending up there. Neither group had a good night, although Lakoda Rayne’s awful harmonies in both their Wednesday performance and Thursday “sing for your life” song grated our ears and made us want to fast forward our DVR. The Stereo Hogzz, now backing track free, displayed better blending but were having a bit of an identity crisis as each week they adopted a different visual style and genre of music. We would have kept The Stereo Hogzz simply for their more coherent singing, as Lakoda Rayne has progressively gotten worse with each passing week. But in the end it’s not a big deal for us as we aren’t attached to the groups category.

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

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November 6, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 12 Week

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Episode 28 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – The Stacy & Dexter controversies, group routine lip syncing, the Eliminations show format and PEPSI!
7:50 – Bottom Two – The Stereo Hogzz (Yep, they’re lip syncing!) and InTENsity
12:36- Leroy Bell
14:32 – Rachel Crow
16:40 – Lakoda Rayne
18:20 – Brian “Astro” Bradley
20:34 – Drew
23:06 – Quick words about the other acts: Melanie Amaro, Chris Rene, Josh Krajcik, Marcus Canty and Stacy Francis
30:06 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 31:46

Summary
Vocal artists and lip syncing, this topic gets debates raging about what’s acceptable and what’s not in the world of music performance. It’s known that pop artists make use of lip syncing when their live shows involve lots of dancing or when performing and sometimes during late night television appearances, but what’s more controversial is whether this practice has a place in singing competitions. The X-Factor showed us in several instances that lip syncing is being used during the elimination episodes, from Leroy Bell’s vocal cue mishap during the group number to the Stereo Hogzz using a backing track during their survival song “Emotion.” To our ears, it also sounds like the Stereo Hogzz’s live Wednesday performance contained enhanced background vocals to beef up the sound. FOX issued a statement about the observations, which admits to lip syncing being used during the group numbers and for the backing tracks in the survival songs.

Aside from the lip syncing stuff, the performance episode contained a mixed bag of performances, from the excellent Melanie Amaro and Drew to our lukewarm reaction to Chris Rene. Rachel Crow’s performance did not work for us, being too focused on flash at the expense of substance. Rachel’s vocals again weren’t as strong as we’ve seen from her (see “Mercy” and “If I Were A Boy”), but we’re more concerned about the image and performance style Simon grafted on to her. It’s bubblegum pop that wears thin on the ears. Josh Krajcik’s “Jar of Hearts” performance also had its issues in the first half of the song. The arrangement placed him in the bottom-end of his range, which led to several sour notes and the loss of his trademark bluesy grit. By the end he regained his strength, but we’re not happy that Nicole gave him a song that made half the performance weak.

Lakoda Rayne we found to be the worst act of the night, from the brutal harmony clashes at several points in the song to the “sweet” arrangement and performance that jarred with the lyrical content of “Landslide.” We don’t know what in the world the judges were thinking with the “singing with one voice” comment, or why the dresses were the point of contention, a silly superficial distraction from the larger problems of the number. For them to be the only safe group on Thursday night shocked and confused us, begging the question, who likes this and is voting for them?

We agree that Steve Jones needs a new tagline (“Bye bye” doesn’t work), that Nicole needs to give Leroy Bell songs that are closer to his solo album material and that Vote For The Worst’s pick of Astro doesn’t bother us at all. InTENsity’s departure, while sad, doesn’t upset us as we weren’t too attached to any of the groups. As we discussed in previous podcasts, we were expecting the various groups to go home first in the competition. And Marcus Canty, while a fun performer, isn’t proving to be memorable for us. James in particular completely forgot what his performance sounded and looked like by the time we got around to recording the podcast!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

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October 31, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Top 17 Week

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Episode 26 direct download

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Summary
The X-Factor, from its first audition episode, was full of flash and bombast. Everything was big! This didn’t prepare us for the over-the-top production values found in the first live show, which featured floor-to-ceiling monitors, a transparent stage with flashing lights, smoke machines and a small army of backup dancers. The only thing missing from the spectacle was pyrotechnics. It made an impression, but we’re not convinced it was necessary to be flashier than American Idol. In the end, it came down to the performances whose quality was independent of the special effects employed throughout the evening.

Indeed, stripped down performances made for some of the best moments in the show. Josh Krajcik gave a soul-stirring performance of “Forever Young,” eschewing instrumentation in favor of a controlled vocal tone that rang out and filled the room. Drew followed suit with a low-key arrangement of “What a Feeling” carried by the haunting qualities of her voice. Both contestants established themselves as strong contenders for America’s vote and the five million dollar record contract. Leroy Bell did things his own way when singing “Nobody Knows.” Even though it’s not a song best suited for his artistic style, Leroy ran with it and let his charisma and smooth, intense voice carry the song, showing how his past experience as a song writer and an indie performer will turn him into a dark horse for this competition. He doesn’t have a lot of buzz behind him, but he’s one of our favorites and the comments we find for him are very positive.

This is not to say that flashy and fun performances didn’t have merit. Brian “Astro” Bradley’s opening hip-hop mashup of “Rump Shaker” and “Jump” demonstrated his rapping prowess, spitting forth rhymes and rhythms in quick machine-gun bursts. Even with multiple re-watches we are in awe of his ability as a hip-hop MC. InTENsity and the Stereo Hogzz, while having issues in each of their respective performances, were fun to watch and showed that Paula Abdul can and will take the groups category in a positive and constructive direction.

Some performances have us worried. Chris Rene, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro all had some problems in their songs with vocal issues creeping in during important moments. We’re the least worried with Melanie Amaro, as it appeared that nerves got the better of her due in no small part to the mind games Simon Cowell has played with her. If she knocks it out of the park on the next show she’ll be fine. As for Chris Rene, the song highlighted his limited range and downplayed his smooth R&B flow, which is the opposite of what we think L.A. Reid would want from him. He needs a song that recalls the moments from his audition or his fan-base will dwindle in the coming weeks. Rachel Crow was the most controversial performance for us. The judges and many online fans loved it, but we didn’t like the song choice and heard multiple vocal errors in the verses of the mashup. Simon is placing her in this child performer box that she is going to outgrow in one or two years, which is a dangerous place to put her.

The eliminations were the correct choices as they consisted of the poorest performances of the night. Dexter, Simone, Phillip and Tiah all had over-wrought set concepts and backup dancers coupled with sub-par vocal performances. We actually enjoyed the Brewer Boys, but since the groups category had an even level of quality it was hard to argue for another group to leave. We would have sent Lakoda Rayne packing because of our music preferences and distaste for their pop country aesthetic which still feels uncomfortable on them. We’re not upset about any of the losses from the first live show.

We’re curious how America will take to the remaining contestants. Who will America love? Who will the fanbase hate? It’s up in the air and gleaning information from the internet buzz will only get you so far. The upcoming week of live shows should prove interesting!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 34:34

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: Our thoughts on the live show stage and production and Steve Jones
4:23 – Eliminations: Phillip Lomax, The Brewer Boys, Dexter Haygood, Simone Battle and Tiah Tolliver
12:27 – The performances we loved: Brian “Astro” Bradley, Leroy Bell, Josh Krajcik and Drew
19:05 – The performances we didn’t like: Chris Rene, Marcus Canty and Lakoda Rayne
23:51 – Controversial/Lukewarm performances: The Stereo Hogzz, InTENsity, Stacy Francis, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro
32:24 – Wrap-up

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October 23, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Judges’ Houses Week 2

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Episode 23 direct download

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Summary
The second week of judges’ houses means the conclusion of the casting portion of the show, where we meet the Top 17 contestants that move into the live show competition where America takes the reigns and votes for their favorites. It wouldn’t be a reality show without controversy and the third judges’ houses episode was full of it. Simon Cowell’s ridiculous decision to initially cut Melanie Amaro shocked us and felt like a slap in the face. Simon realized his mistake and reversed the decision by the end of the episode, but we cannot for the life of us understand the first decision. We believe the same could be said for the other three judges, as we were given the impression that they had strong words for Simon when they learned about his choices.

The second half of the 32 contestants performed in this set of episodes, which brought some excellent renditions of existing songs. Josh Krajcik, Leroy Bell and Melanie Amaro all blew us away and are by far our favorites going into the live shows. The inconsistent and baffling group category stayed just that with InTENsity putting out a Glee-like rendition of their song, the Stereo Hogzz performing like a solo act with backup singers, 2 Squar’d putting forth a choppy and uneven arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Illusion/Confusion getting the worst edit of the night by having their interviews intercut with their singing. The second four people in the boys category generally underwhelmed us as well, which was disappointing.

We predicted 13 out of the 17 final choices, with us being wrong on Phillip Lomax, Dexter Haygood, Lakoda Rayne and Simone Battle. We predicted Tim Ciphers, Elaine Gibbs and Anser to make it through, as well as Melanie Amaro who was added back in at the last minute. Since we’re analyzing this show from a record deal standpoint, we understand why most of the choices were made and agreed with the majority of them. In a world based on singing ability alone the list would be different and if we were given complete control to pick our preferences we would change things around even more, but we remember that it’s about finding a person to sign a five million dollar contract which carries with it the responsibility to sell albums and tour tickets. Out of all the selections, Simone Battle is our biggest source of disagreement and you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear why :-)

We’re excited to see what the live shows hold!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 32:37

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: the Melanie Amaro controversy
2:55 – Girls category: Jazzlyn Little, Rachel Crow, Tiah Tolliver and Melanie Amaro
7:28 – Boys category: Brennin Hunt, Tim Ciphers, Marcus Canty and Chris Rene
12:07 – Over 30s category: Josh Krajcik, Leroy Bell, Tiger Budbill and Christa Collins
17:38 – Groups category: The Stereo Hogzz, 2 Squar’d, Illusion/Confusion and InTENsity
22:06 – Top 5 girls (Simon Cowell): Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Tiah Tolliver, Rachel Crow and Melanie Amaro
24:01 – Top 4 boys (L.A. Reid): Brian “Astro” Bradley, Phillip Lomax, Chris Rene and Marcus Canty
25:53 – Top 4 over 30s (Nicole Scherzinger): Josh Krajcik, Dexter Haygood, Leroy Bell and Stacy Francis
27:44 – Top 4 groups (Paula Abdul): Brewer Boys, Lakoda Rayne, InTENsity and the Stereo Hogzz
30:09 – Wrap-up

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October 15, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Judges’ Houses Week 1

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Episode 22 direct download

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Summary
We only had one episode of the judges’ houses portion of the competition this week as a rain-delayed baseball game preempted The X-Factor, pushing the second episode to Sunday. Not wanting to delay our X-Factor podcast, we decided to just go ahead and do a recording covering the single episode from Thursday. The episode presented the full auditions for the majority of the sixteen featured contestants, giving us plenty to think about and discuss. Having tangible arcs for all the contestants as we move into the live shows works and keeps us interested in their journeys.

Unlike the auditions, here the contestants were given a song to practice and present to their mentor and a guest judge to prove their talents. The song choices didn’t work in some cases, as we saw with Tora Woloshin and Dexter Haygood. Tora wasn’t identifying with the song, producing a muted energy and Dexter is in desperate need of direction. We don’t know what Nicole was thinking by turning him loose on a Beyonce song. In other cases, the songs provided excellent performances such as Brian Bradley’s aggressive hip-hop attack and Stacy Francis’s all-enveloping vocals. The quirk and twang in Drew Ryniewicz’s voice continues to engage us and we hope that Simon sees the live show as a wonderful opportunity to further explore her tone and style.

Our expectations were low with the group category and this episode didn’t do much to change that. The Anser had some blending issues, 4Shore’s tenor continues to grate our ears and Lakota Rayne, while producing quality harmonies, tripped its way through amateur Coyote Ugly choreography. The Brewer Boys gave the most stable performance. There are four more groups to go, but at the moment we’re convinced a group will not win this competition.

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 31:39

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: Baseball preempts the show and our thoughts on the judges’ houses format.
7:11 – Girls category: Simone Battle, Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin and Drew Ryniewicz
12:51 – Boys category: Brian “Astro” Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Phillip Lomax and Nick Voss
18:14 – Over 30s category: Dexter Haygood, Elaine Gibbs, Stacy Francis and James Kenney
23:25 – Groups category: The Anser, Brewer Boys, Lakota Rayne and 4Shore
29:54 – Wrap-up

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October 9, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1 – Boot Camp Week

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Episode 21 direct download

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Summary
This week The X-Factor shifted gears and moved into the boot camp episodes where the judges whittled down the field to 32 contestants evenly split into four categories: the girls, the guys, the over 30s and the groups. The original field included over 150 people and two sets of cuts brought us down to 32, filling the episodes with plenty of drama, emotion and genuine surprises. The X-Factor serves itself well by continuing to focus on the people we got to know during the audition episodes and keeping the pacing at a comfortable level. We were also introduced to new talent, such as Tim Ciphers who surprised us with his strong range and clear tone.

We didn’t see anyone cut that upset us and are quite happy with the majority of the field left at the end of the week. We disagree with some choices, such as putting through Simone Battle and The Stereo Hogzz, but these are small nitpicks compared with an overall strong field. In the podcast we spend time talking about the top 32 contestants, sorting out who we like and who we don’t as well as discussing their prospects for making it through the judges’ houses round. Our top favorites are Melanie Amaro, Josh Krajcik and Leroy Bell.

The judges’ houses round sounds intriguing although we don’t know much about how this portion of the show will run. Will it be a drill session to push people to their limits and center around the selection process or will it be a more laid back mentoring session where the judges dispense one-on-one advice? Either possibility should prove to be good television. We have reservations about Nicole’s ability to mentor the over 30s category and it’s a toss-up whether Paula will find success in leading the groups. Simon and L.A. are both strong choices for their respective categories. We’re excited to see who makes it through and who goes home!

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 41:47

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction and general thoughts on the boot camp episodes
8:25 – Top 8 Girls: Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Rachel Crow, Melanie Amaro, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Jazzlyn Little and Tiah Tolliver
15:34 – Top 8 Boys: Brennin Hunt, Skyelor Anderson, Tim Ciphers, Marcus Canty, Brian Bradley, Nick Voss, Phillip Lomax and Chris Rene
22:49 – Top 8 Over 30s: Elaine Gibbs, Leroy Bell, Josh Krajcik, Dexter Haygood, Tiger Budbill, James Kenney, Christa Collins and Stacy Francis
29:55 – Top 8 Groups: Stereo Hogzz, 2Squared, 4Shore, Brewer Boys, Illusion Confusion, Anser and the two judge-created groups
34:13 – Thoughts on the judges and their mentoring categories: Paula Abdul – Groups, Nicole Scherzinger – Over 30s, Simon Cowell – Girls, L.A. Reid – Boys
36:30 – Odds and Ends
39:31 – Wrap-up

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October 1, 2011

Podcast: The X-Factor Season 1- Auditions Week 2

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Episode 19 direct download

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Summary
This week continued and completed the audition portion of the show. We’re happy that The X-Factor went the So You Think You Can Dance route and kept this portion of the competition short, unlike American Idol which drags the process out for several weeks. We were introduced to some amazing singers such as Josh Krajcik and Jazzlyn Little, as well as interesting talent including Tora Woloshin, Brian Bradley and the performance piece that was J Mark Inman’s audition. The show wouldn’t be complete without the requisite bad auditions, of which Devon Talley’s ceremonial murder of RENT‘s “Seasons of Love” took top prize. We now know how to measure a year.

Going into the boot camp episodes, we’re worried about the groups. We haven’t seen anyone impressive and even the judge favorites, such as 4Shore, presented weaknesses that will become more apparent as weeks go on. The judges appear to be reaching for acts to fill the group slots as the decision to put through The Stereo Hogzz illustrates.

We’re looking forward to the boot-camp episodes and the developments sure to happen in them. We saw some footage of the contestants learning choreography (assisted by Mark Kanemura from So You Think You Can Dance!), an unexpected development that could change the contestant landscape. There was also footage of several favorites breaking down, although we can never be sure if this is a red herring or foreshadowing by the show’s editors.

Please let us know your thoughts by dropping us a comment here after listening either here! We love to hear feedback and what you thought of the show. We also encourage you to check out our blog or twitter feed to keep up to date with us!

Episode Length: 38:24

Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction: We enjoyed auditions lasting two weeks, O Fortuna! and thoughts on the host Steve Jones
2:42 – What’s up with the eccentric mother/daughter pairs in every city?
3:35 – Auditions that left an impression: Kim Terek, Skyelor Anderson, J Mark Inman, Josh Krajcik, 4Shore, Tia Tolliver, Brian Bradley, Ausem, Tora Woloshin, Brennin Hunt, Devon Talley, Jazzlyn Little
26:46 – Other auditions: Brock and Makenna, Drew Ryniewicz, Phillip Lomax, Cari Fletcher, The Stereo Hogzz, Paige Elizabeth, Leroy Bell
32:49 – The people to watch going into boot-camp
36:07 – How will the judges be assigned to groups?
37:29 – Wrap-up

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September 25, 2011

The Power Of The 5th Judge On The X Factor

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And who would that be? THE AUDIENCE!! Watch the judges talk of it below….

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