In case you've been living under a rock inside a cave on the moon: The X Factor USA premieres this week, and I got a sneak peek at the highly anticipated first episode. I'm much too generous, and already much too excited about Simon's new singing show, to keep all the good things about it to myself. So here are 7 factors that I think will get you hooked on The X Factor USA from Night One:
#1 The Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul Factor
As I'm sure all too many headlines will remind you tomorrow: They're ba-aaaack! Maybe because we've had such a long break from their bickering on American Idol,
or perhaps being on this new show just has them both in better moods,
but watching Simon and Paula poke fun at one another feels like
reuniting with old friends. He's still got his no-nonsense moments, but
Simon seems a lot less sour in these first few auditions rounds, and
Paula's still kooky, but endearing and coherent. Here's hoping their
love-hate-love dynamic stays playful, not painful, throughout the
#2 The Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid Factor
The once dueling record execs are now on the same team, so to speak, but that doesn't mean their egos, and differing opinions about who has that indefinable "x factor," don't get the better of them. Quite the opposite, in fact. From day one, these judges begin a rivalry that takes "deliberation" to a whole new level, and toes the line between mutual respect and mutual annoyance. Whether Simon and L.A. just
have different viewpoints, or they're just
disagreeing to make each other's lives difficult, they make the auditions much more entertaining, and I can't wait to see what happens when they go head to head as mentors down the road.
#3 The Cheryl Cole vs. Nicole Sherzinger Factor
As I'm sure you're painfully aware, it was big news when Simon suddenly dropped UK pop sensation Cheryl Cole as the fourth X Factor judge and replaced her with US pop sensation Nicole Scherzinger after the L.A. auditions. The change feels just as sudden and comes with little explanation when it happens halfway through Wednesday's premiere, but it does allow us to compare, side-by-side, the two girl-group leads, as far as their judging (and hair) styles. As much as I don't want to admit this, Nicole slides into the role seamlessly, and, while slightly redundant next to Paula, her highly emotional presence is an improvement over Cheryl, who never seemed quite at ease in the American auditions. From the minute she sits in the chair, Nicole is overflowing with warm fuzzies about the show, the singers and the life-altering power of song. So, depending on your own stance, you'll either be endeared to her optimism immediately -- or have fun laughing your butt off about it.
#4 The Host Factor
X Factor USA host Steve Jones is British, tall, engaging and stupidly handsome. If that's not enough for you (But did you see the part about how he's British? And handsome? Just SO handsome?) imagining Ryan Seacrest getting hot under his collar about all of Jones' winning aspects should do the trick.
#5 The Crazy Folk + $5 Million Prize = Even Crazier Folk Factor
The auditions on American Idol always had more than their logical share of weirdos, dingbats and tone-deaf buffoons masquerading as performance artists ... and The X Factor has those too, except they've even crazier thanks to the dollar-signs in their wild, dilated eyes over the show's $5 million prize. The freaks aren't just hungry for attention anymore. They're hungry for RICHES and attention. And some of them just flat-out refuse to take no for an answer. In other words: These auditions are must-see(and-laugh-and-cringe)-TV.
#6 The Expanded Age Limit Factor
Much has been made of the differences between The X Factor and its singing show rivals like American Idol and The Voice, but the most noticeable and immediately rewarding difference is that Simon has lowered the minimum age to compete to 12, and the kids in these auditions are better than alright. Obviously, this isn't the first time we've been exposed to 13 and 14-year-olds who can carry a tune and hold a glory note. But that doesn't make it any less thrilling, for them or for us, when Simon looks down his fastidious nose at an impressionable youth oozing over with natural talent and says, "I think we're going to be hearing a lot about you," when we all know he's the one who can make that happen. Watching talented kids sing is great; watching them hear that they're talented from the leading expert on the matter is wonderful. (There's no upper age limit, and we don't see any amazing octogenarians in the first batch of auditions, but I'm crossing my fingers for next week!)
#7 The Singing Factor
And speaking of great singing, despite all the sideshow factors I just mentioned, you'll get plenty of it in the auditions. A $5 million prize doesn't just appeal to the untalented crazies, after all. It also appeals to the crazy-good talents who, for one reason or another, just haven't hit it big yet -- like single-mom Stacy, whose "Natural Woman" is one of the best auditions Simons says he's ever heard, and 20-year-old Marcus's joyous rendition of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," which has L.A. Reid calling him the next Bobby Brown. More than one performer brings Nicole to tears of joy before their songs are over. Yep, the competition is that stiff from Night One. Just another reason I bet you'll be hooked from that point, too.
The X Factor premieres on FOX this Wednesday, September 21, from 8 to 10 pm, with Part Two airing on Thursday from 8 to 10pm. Which factors are making YOU most excited to watch The X Factor?
(Image courtesy of FOX)