"The X Factor" Season 2: Boot Camp, Part 2

In which we get sing-offs, and EVERYONE FORGETS THE WORDS

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We went into Day 2 of Boot Camp in Miami with 60 acts remaining. They were paired off and had to duet against one another. The singing pairs had to pick the same song, and decide who sang what parts. Both singers could advance. Only one could advance. Neither of them could advance. Ultimately we didn't get any results from this episode. Mostly we got a lot of people forgetting their lyrics and breaking down. I mean a LOT of people.

First up: hyper irritating vocal coach Tara Simon and shy-girl-turned-blues-hoochieJenell Garcia. Tara and Jenell picked "Landslide" - or rather, Tara picked it. Jenell seemed more or less pushed into that song. I will say, I thought it was a smart song for both of them, because it's very different from what we've seen from either contestant thus far. It's much quieter and more restrained, and had the potential to show off a totally different side. Jenell struggled a bit with the low notes, but she was connected to the song. Tara still oversang like a motherfucker, but when she actually pulled back a bit there were some nice emotional moments. Simon thought it was a terrible song choice for them, and said that neither one of them represented themselves well. He picked up on the fact that Tara chose the song, which left Jenell with her "wings clipped." I guess the judges don't want singers with range. They want to keep them in their easily checked boxes. Good to know.

Beatrice Miller and Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, did "Pumped Up Kicks," which was a more mature song than I think they should have gone with. I mean, there's lyrics about cigarettes. Come on. But they did well with it, especially Carly, who is a phenomenon. Carly is the exception to my concerns about the 13-year-olds being in this competition. She's incredible.

Older rock guys Vino Alan and David Correy went with Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." Before they started David made this stupid speech to the judges about how he looks at them as the four roadblocks to his dreams. I'm sure he was going for earnest and determined, but he's coming off pathetic and desperate. He needs to quit it with the begging and just sing. Because he IS good. But I thought Vino worked better with that song - his deep, soulful voice just really hit the pocket. Interestingly, Vino thought he blew it, and reacted very negatively to it. Britney Spears said that Vino kind of scares her. I can see that.

Diamond White, 13, was up against Dinah Jane Hansen, 16, for a very slowed down version of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger." (An aside: so many of the songs we saw last night were dreary, sappy versions of upbeat pop songs. Is this show trying to bore us?) Dinah again started much too low, and took too long to get warmed up - she also blew the lyrics in the beginning. But once she opened up she was lovely. Diamond, conversely, attacked the song from the beginning. I like Dinah's voice better, but Diamond has more star quality. But she is still a little girl aping older artists' moves, and that's going to get very boring very quickly. She's like watching a doll come to life.

There were some quick clips of a couple of sing-offs that the judges responded positively to, but honestly, I thought they were pretty terrible. I sometimes wonder how different things must sound live than over the TV.

There was a country showdown between Willie Jones and Tate Stevens to the 90's r'n'b jam "Nobody Knows." Willie TOTALLY blew it. He completely forgot the lyrics, and beyond that, he didn't use his lower register, which is really what's special about him. Tate didn't sound great on this, either. It was too slow and unengaging. Willie admitted that he didn't know the song, and the judges thought that Tate hoodwinked him. I don't think that's fair. We saw no evidence of Willie getting railroaded. What we saw was a guy not being able to remember lyrics and not sing particularly strongly regardless. If Willie advances it's a slap in the face of everybody else who participated thus far. This is his second full-on failure at Boot Camp. How many more chances do you give this kid?

Arin Ray, 16, and Normani Hamilton, 16, were given a fake showmance angle, which always grosses me out. The two of them picked One Direction's "You Don't Know You're Beautiful." I thought Normani was...fine. Not great, not bad, too stop-and-start for my liking. Arin started out rough, and looked like he was in pain when he sang. The high notes of the song were at the very, very top of his range, but he got through it. I don't think he's nearly as special as the judges seem to. I also continue to be put off by the fact that he made the finals last year as part of a group, even though he original started out as a solo artist. He's operating at an unfair advantage here.

Jillian Jensen, 19, and Latasha Robinson, 27, did "Why Don't You Stay," and Latasha cracked under the pressure and totally forgot the lyrics. Jillian, to her credit, tried to give her the words, and then took over the song very nicely. I really like Jillian's voice, which has a mature quality to it. But she has to figure out how to not contort her face into this near tragedy mask whenever she sings. It's very offputting.

Freddie Combs, the obese minister, and Jessie Bryant, who I don't remember seeing, BOTH forgot their lyrics in their duet. Cringe-worthy. And then we got a montage of act after act blowing their words. When one girl broke down backstage, Britney got visibly upset. She really is a delicate soul.

The big show was Cece Fray and Paige Thomas, who have been positioned as arch rivals for episodes now. Honestly, I don't feel like there's any real competition there - Cece's a way better singer, but Paige has a much better style. I had initially also given Paige the nod for personality, but I'm already growing weary of all her crying and pleading that this is what she was born to do. They did "Secrets" by One Republic. Paige suggested that Cece bullied her into the song, Cece tried to make it sound like Paige's idea. The song was too low for Paige and she mumbled through the first verse, forgetting some of her words. She was off pitch, and she did the already-tired crouch move. She told the judges that she wants to win this because she's tired of watching other artists doing what she knows she can do. Really, Paige? Then maybe you ought to start showing us, because three auditions in I am seriously unimpressed with you vocally. Cece did a much better job with the song, but it still was not a great song choice for either one of them. And Paige really better step it up. The show keeps shoving her down my throat, but thus far she's a much better stylist than she is a singer/performer.

Next week: we discover the 24 acts going through to Judges Houses. Does that mean some of these children get to go live with Britney Spears?! Cheetos for everyone!

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