The U.S. X Factor has never been good, but tonight's relatively benign hour-long premiere suggested season 3 might not be terrible. Sure, we haven't put out a Leona Lewis or a One Direction, but our X Factor doesn't have to suck, right? New judges, yo! Simon Cowell grimacing and barking at contestants "Do you work?" before leaning back in his self-satisfied bubble of nonchalance! Demi Lovato is still there! This can work, this time. Maybe. There's a chance.
He is real.
Meet Destiny's Child member and Grammy-winning solo artist Kelly Rowland and Mexican pop princess/fingerless glove enthusiast Paulina Rubio -- two energetic sentient creatures who have thrillingly replaced season 2's judge-robots, L.A. Reid and Britney Spears. We didn't see too many antics from them tonight -- but the new ladies, along with seasoned veteran Demi Lovato, looked awake, alert, and ready to work for their massive paychecks. It's a huge improvement already.
Let's get right to the contestants -- because it's supposed to be about them, right? -- who made it through to the next round because they weren't so peet-chee -- "you know, like an apple, a peach," explained Paulina Rubio. What?
Carlito Olivero, 23: The Chicago native wants people to recognize him and go, "Hey, that's the guy who makes the best frappucinos in all of Los Angeles!" You know, if this could somehow be proven, Carlito would not even need The X Factor to become a bona fide wealthy and famous man. He should open up a 24-7 drive-thru frappe hut on Santa Monica Blvd. The guy's usually had six shots of espresso by 5 a.m. He is clearly willing to work for it! Maybe he should get in touch with Britney.
His voice started out shaky, but the compelling thing about Carlito's performance was the way he directly engaged the crowd after sauntering past the judges with nary a pleading-for-initial-acceptance glance. He has that winning combination of friendliness and confidence that can take someone truly far in life, or at least to behind the barista counter instead of teetering desperately in front of it. Zero caffeine in one's system is a sign of the weak, and Carlito is a star. Just look at him, practically lording his noggin over Simon Cowell's in this expertly arranged shot!
And then just like that, the star alignment of the century had ended.
"Enough. Enough, now," said Simon Cowell, actually.
The judges all dug Carlito's way. "There's no one around like you at the moment," said Simon, while Demi said the young earringed man reminded her of a cross between Mexican singer Frankie J and American fictional character Trey Songz. "We are witnessing a star," Kelly Rowland confirmed. Paulina Rubio was also there. And Carlito was through. Four yeses!
"They're gonna serve [coffee] to me from now on!" exclaimed the triumphant, sweaty youth. Eww. Can we delete that?
NEXT: A 54-year-old young lady and two sex partners