The X Factor returned Wednesday night for season 3, with 6.2 million viewers tuning in to see not only a new crop of talent trying out to succeed Melanie Amaro and Tate Stevens, but also the introduction of two new judges to the panel. Joining Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato are Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland and Latin pop star Paulina Rubio, who pronounces pitchy as peachy, which is hilarious. I can’t wait to see what other things she says that Simon can’t understand.

So far, the two newbies have already proven they’re better than Britney Spears, though there’s still many weeks to go — the live shows are where you can really tell who has what it takes to be a judge.

The X Factor Season 3 Premiere Recap: Rion Paige Blows the Judges Away >>>

But enough about them. What about the auditioners? The premiere may have been only an hour, but surprisingly, the vast majority of the featured singers were good — and there were four of them who made it to the next round. Carlito Olivero started off the premiere on a positive note. (Though hearing that he wants to be the “Latino Chris Brown” is a little disturbing.) Little did I know the level of talent would ratchet up a whole lot more from there.

Even though she’s not my One Singer to Watch, she’s in the running and I have to mention Rion Paige, who has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) — her joints are curved at the wrists and she’s almost completely blind in one of her eyes. That’s inspiration enough to send her through. But we have to remember that this is a singing competition and talent must reign supreme. Fortunately, she’s able to belt it out on Carrie Underwood‘s “Blown Away.”

I’m not going to take away from how talented she is, but at the same time, I wouldn’t go as far as Simon did in comparing Rion to the first time he saw Carrie. She probably will go far in the competition. But I wonder if the judges’ praise would still have been as high if she didn’t have AMC. I’m sure there’ll be people in the comments below disagreeing with me — but I just need to see more before I start heaping on the same kinds of compliments.

I’ll admit, I kept going back and forth on who I was going to choose for my One Singer to Watch. I could easily make it a tie, but since I can only choose one, the runner-up is boyfriend and girlfriend Alex and Sierra. They’re hilarious — maybe they should try out for America’s Got Talent as comedians. Okay, maybe not, because I want to keep hearing them sing.

Taking on Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” they strip the song down and make it completely new. Sierra seemed to sing more during the performance than he did — her voice reminds me of American Idol season 10 finalist Haley Reinhart. They’ve got a very singer-songwriter vibe about them, which I like. In the next round when they’re going up against some powerhouse vocals (like the singer below), I hope they don’t get lost in the shuffle and are still able to hold their own and maintain this musical style that makes them who they are.

The One Singer to Watch: Lillie McCloud

And then there’s Lillie McCloud. The first thing you notice is her afro — wow, oh wow, is it huge!  And she’s also in a tight black leather outfit. The judges asked her how old she is. She’s 54 years old, people! I was blown away after she said that, and still am. But to think the best was yet to come. She opens her mouth to sing a CeCe Winans song, “Alabaster Box,” and we’re all taken to church.

Her voice is not only smooth and beautiful, but moving and powerful all at the same time. Demi likens her to Whitney Houston, which in this case is completely justifiable — I can definitely hear hints of Whitney in her voice.

What did you think of the X Factor season 3 premiere? Do you already have a favorite? Is your One Singer to Watch the same as mine? And do you agree or disagree with me on Rion Paige? Let us know in the comments below.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.