On the scene at the first 'X Factor' taping: Simon and Paula reunite, while the crowd battles L.A. Reid


Image Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox

The most anticipated new TV series of 2011 really kicked off on Sunday as the four X Factor judges — Simon Cowell, singer Cheryl Cole, record-label exec L.A. Reid, and, yes, Paula Abdul – gathered to audition wannabe superstars in downtown Los Angeles.

Before the judges stepped onto the stage of the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California, the show’s hosts, former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and British TV personality Steve Jones, introduced themselves to the audience. “You’re all probably wondering, Who the hell is this douche?” said the self-deprecating Jones, while Scherzinger danced around him. “Steve’s actually a great singer,” Scherzinger said. “You wanna hear him?” The crowd cheered him on, at which point he offered to croon…“Back for Good” by the very British group Take That. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Take That fan, but I think I could have counted on one hand the people there who had any idea of what he was talking about.) 

Unfortunately, it was then time for the judges to take the stage, so we didn’t get to hear Jones’ musical chops. “You are going to be our fifth judge,” Cowell told the crowd. “You’re here to tell us who you like, who you don’t like. You can certainly be as badly behaved as you want, actually.” He then passed the mic to Reid, who introduced himself by saying, “To be clear, I’m not the Randy of the panel. I don’t say ‘dawg,’ but I do judge talent honestly. I’m brutally honest. And I may not even agree with what you guys think.” He then added with a smile: “I’ve had more success at it than you.” (That was a very interesting foreshadowing of a battle Reid would soon have with the audience. But more on that in a bit.)

It was then Abdul’s turn. “I’m thrilled that you invited me back,” she said to Cowell. “It’s a blessing to be part of this. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to have someone on the panel here also who has experienced what it’s like to sit next to him… Miss Cheryl Cole.” The charming Cole then made her first statement to the audience: “I’m going to love getting to know America, and I hope you like to get to know me too. You might have to bear with the accent just a little bit, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it.”

From a nuts and bolts standpoint, The X Factor looks kind of like American Idol, except with Pepsi cups on the table. (Cowell and Abdul seemed happy to be reunited: During one break he lovingly petted her hair.) But one of the biggest differences was apparent the minute the first contestants hit the stage. The first act to audition was a duo (though not a very good one), comprised of two twentysomething male friends. Reid was fairly tough right off the bat: “It looked like you guys were having a good time,” he said of their rendition of TLC’s “Waterfalls,” “but I’m not sure you’re cut out for the big time.”

The talent didn’t look too promising from there. The first solo singer, a 52-year-old mom who butchered “Wind Beneath My Wings,” earned so many boos from the audience members (many of whom started singing “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye”) that the show’s audience warm-up guy had to say, “We’re going to try and steer away from the negativity” and ask them not to boo the contestants.

But the real drama surrounded the eighth contestant, a 35-year-old female rapper/singer. After she performed a Jessie J-esque rap original called “Cluck Cluck,” the crowd disagreed with Reid’s vote. After she left the stage, crowd members chanted “Bring her back!” at which point producers had her walk back on the stage. The judges told her she had 30 seconds to perform something else. Her second number led to an even more passionate response from the crowd (who were clearly taking Cowell’s “fifth judge” edict seriously). Said a defiant Reid: “I’m changing my vote, not because of them, but because of you.” The fact remains, however, that had the crowd not demanded she be given a second chance, she wouldn’t have gotten it. (You’ll have to watch the show when it premieres this fall to see if she officially made it through to the next round.)

In all, Abdul and Cole were certainly the kinder mentors, while it’s looking like it could be a battle between Cowell and Reid for the title of X Factor‘s harshest judge.

Comments (92 total) Add your comment
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  • PaulA

    Thanks for the review. I hope Cheryl does well.

    • Elle

      Me too. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and I’m glad she’s finally Stateside. I hope America is kind to her because the Brits sure aren’t.

      • Skye Hill

        The Brits are an abusive lot to even the kindest of people. They absolutely torment their X Factor contestants. It’s pathetic.

      • annie

        How dare they not be kind to a racist.

      • Lucy

        Us Brits are not abusive to her! Sure, some people don’t like her but she is the ‘Nations’s Sweetheart’ in the UK. She is probably the most popular woman in the country. She’s always saying she can’t believe the amount of support she gets off us. And @Skye Hill, do you live in Britain? If you don’t you have no right to judge us. We’re a lot nicer than a lot of Americans. Really, you are the only pathetic one around here..

    • JurryL

      Me too!

  • bruno

    i already hate this show.

    • Delon

      I already hate you.

  • maiv

    This audience seems really annoying

    • maiv

      but I am looking forward to seeing Cowell and Reid duke it out

    • kyle

      i was there yesterday…people started leaving, it was pretty rough to sit through.

      • OMGq

        I have tickets to today’s show and we decided not to go because we didn’t want to sit through 6 hours of Paula.

  • wakeforce

    I knew Paula would be joining the cast. Why do you think he was such a gloomy Gus during his last season of Idol. He was without his sidekick.
    (Dear Paula; I said “sidekick”, not “psychic”)

  • kate middleton

    Interesting….I didn’t know it was duos and groups also.

    I think they’re overdoing it a bit on having half the judges/hosts as Brits, but I guess we’ll see how it goes. I was thinking Simon would want more star power, but I guess he wants to be the biggest star.

    I’ll say that it will be nice to see some honest critiques of aspiring singers, something sorely lacking from Idol this year.

    I am American and love “Back for Good” btw – one of my favorite songs still.

    • maggie

      Idol is lacking honest critiques because they went with “star power” for judges. JLo and Steven Tyler don’t want to upset fans so they love everything. You have to have judges who don’t care what the public thinks about them, which frees them to be honest. JLo & ST went on Idol to boost their own careers. JLo star was fading & ST had to prove he wasn’t drugged out and could keep a steady job. You can’t have judges who are more in it for their own careers.

      • kate middleton

        I agree with you. I’d rather have honest judges than super famous ones. Simon had just said several times that X Factor would have lots of star power, so I think many people expected bigger names from the judges and hosts.

      • jep

        Well said! “From Addict to Idol” about days it all.

  • I Love Kate Middleton

    I am really excited for this show. But I hope they notice that AI was better during the seasons with only 3 judges (Paula/Randy/Simon and Steven/Jennifer/Randy) — we want to see more singing than judges harping on. Especially when you don’t agree with them at home, it gets VERY grating.

    • Delon

      Shut up! This show has huge stage numbers. You’ll be seeing a lot of singing, dancing and pyrotechnics. So, shut up!

      • Yay!

        ummm…. ok……

    • Skye Hill

      Get on Youtube and search on X Factor UK 2010. The four judge/mentor setup does not hinder the show at all. It works great. As long as they pick great talent, we’re in for a great show. Simon’s last year on Idol was so bad because the talent was pathetic.

      • JackieB

        Yes, but also listening to Ellen and Kara drone on was like pulling my fingernails off.

    • Rachel

      Too many Kate Middleton’s on this page! Go on the Daily Mail if you want to obsess about her!!

      • kate middleton


  • Buddymoore

    I’m excited for this show solely because of Cheryl Cole. I’ll most likely look away and do something else while’s she’s not on screen.

    • CraigJ

      YES! I loved Cheryl Cole from the first moment I saw her on the UK X-Factor and that was before I knew about her group Girls Aloud and realized she also won Popstars in the UK several years back so she knows what it takes to win this show. Most people in the USA don’t know who she is. True I don’t listen to the type of music she sings but I was hooked the moment I saw her and she opened her mouth. Love her accent. I think Simon is smart trying to help her make it in America-she has a great personality which is not code for unattractive. Just wait until you see her both men and women will adore her. Best part of the UK X-Factor although I do love Dannii Minogue also. Excited for the debut.

    • Jen

      Really hoping that this show doesn’t bomb…I actually missed Paula Abdul and Simon (*sigh* AI, may you rest in peace). Only recently found out about Cheryl…and I am hooked, that girl has enough charisma to charm the world. Gorgeous accent too. This show sounds awesome.

  • tash

    Cheryl is a rubbish judge she has no music knowledge and can’t sing, get her off

    • PaulA

      Sorry @tash, for what I’ve been reading Cheryl made a great impression on the audience :)

    • Marvin3O

      you´re forgetting she already has a vast experience with 5 (Yes! FIVE) seasons of X-Factor UK and she won TWICE! and on this last season she was the ONLY judge who had two acts on the final! (tho Cher Lloyd was cut on the first night of the final)

    • CraigJ

      Cheryl is not a rubbish judge you must not have watched the UK X-Factor in which you not only judge but also mentor. Marvin30 true there have been 5 seasons of Xfactor but Cheryl wasn’t on the show from Season 1. She was on the last 3 seasons…the first 2 of which one of her contestants she mentored won the show and last season her act finished second. So lets see. 3 season of judging/mentoring 2 wins and 1 second place. Do you know what rubish means cuz its not like saying she is the shiznit because she truly is that. Although she needs to drop her b/f he’s doing her no favors. Okay maybe I’m just jealous, but have you seen her? She gives me goose bumps when she talks. Yummy! Marvin

      • Lucy

        There have not been 5 series of UK X Factor, there have been 7. She joined in series 5 and won it. She also had the winning act in series 6 (2009) and had 2 acts in the final in series 7 (2010).

    • Sam

      thank you for throwing out a pointless, unfounded opinion tash.

    • Rachel

      Oooh use of the word rubbish, surprised that EW didn’t censor it. I Love the Brits on this page!

      • Annette

        Rubbish is not a bad word in America so they would not censor it.

    • Lucy

      Shut it Tash!

  • Craig

    The format of the show works better with four judges, during the Live Shows if each act receives an equal number of judges’ votes they take it to deadlock and the public vote decides who goes home. That’s better than having two judges always agreeing with each other voting out the third judge’s acts.

    All I hope it’s that we get to see all the judges interacting with each other rather than Paula sitting on Simon’s lap.

    • kate middleton

      I don’t know anything about X Factor. Do the judges actually coack the contestants, or are they simply choosing who is on their “team”? Do the judges have sway over who goes home (once in the final/live rounds at least) or is it based on viewer votes?

      • kate middleton

        Ugh, should be “coach” instead of coack. LOL.

      • CraigJ

        I think Simon may coack them!

      • Delon

        Why are you still talking, ignorant rectum?!

      • Skye Hill

        The coaches pick the songs and give advice on how to perform it/arrange it. Each week the two acts with the least number of votes are forced to sing-off against each other. Then the judges vote who goes. If the judges tie 2-2 then America’s least favorite is gone.

      • kate middleton

        Thanks Skye Hill.

  • Tahuaya Armijo

    This show is milking the same old act as America’s Got Talent and American Idol. At some point, there are going to be too many shows like this and it is going to kill all of them. I bet this show does not make it.

    • Anna

      Here in The Netherlands we have X Factor, The Voice and Holland’s got talent. If they can fill several shows in such a small country, I’m sure they’ll manage in the US… X Factor is my favorite btw, the Voice was cool in the beginning but it got boring after the first rounds.

    • Delon

      It’s going to be a ratings behemoth and you’ll be crying because you didn’t audition for it.

      • Pippi

        U r right

  • Erik

    Being a huge anglophile I am loving all the brits on the show! Although the crowd sounded kind of annoying, hopefully they follow very closely to the British version of XFactor and the way they edit it. Those guys have this stuff down to a science! Oh and Take That ftw, I wish they would tour here!

    • Molly B.

      If you love England so much, why don’t you marry it? Please move there so that more deserving people can have your US Citizenship.

      • Erik

        If only I could Molly, if only I could…

    • Skye Hill

      Have you ever watched the UK show? The audience is rude and never shut up.

      • Lucy

        You never shut up.

  • alan

    Here’s hoping they don’t allow a voter to vote more than five times.
    AI votes come mainly from the south. That’s why they have all those country singers who sound the same.

  • James

    I hope Paula Abdul wins! I bet it will come down to her and Madonna.

  • Jazz

    I cant stand Cheryl Cole. Cowell should stop doing favours for Cheryl. FOX execs didnt want her on the show but Simon begged them to have her as a judge. She is a fluke, a racist with a bad attitude. She was also convicted for assaulting a toilet attendant.

    • Delon

      I wish that toilet attendant was you.

      • underfor5

        Haha… Well done Delon. Yes, she was convicted but any charges of racial abuse were unproven. Plus, that was 8 years ago when she was 19.
        A lot of X Factor’s success in the UK continues to be the nation’s love for Cheryl Cole. Simon is smart in introducing her to the States.

    • wakeforce

      She was married to a black man, so not a racist, sorry.

      • PaulA

        They’re always digging up the same incident, adding the racist card to cover their irrational dislike for Cheryl Cole when the truth is they can’t stand that someone coming from a poor background has done so well in life. Cheryl is ambitious and she gives her all in every performance, those who have worked with her think she’s a real sweetheart. I think she deserves to succeed.

    • Rachel

      I keep seeing people talk about some incident with a toilet attendant and her being racist. Hey,.. Guess what?! Hardly anyone in the US knows her or her past, this is her chance to move forward.

  • Jazz

    I cant stand Cheryl Cole. Cowell should stop doing favours for Cheryl. FOX execs didnt want her on the show but Simon begged them to have her as a judge. She is a fluke, a racist with a bad attitude. She was also convicted foer assaulting a toilet attendant.

    • Lucy

      Really? You seem to know nothing. FOX execs actually did want her. She got offered the job in decemberm they just dragged it out for publicity. She was married to Ashley Cole, who is black, one of her best friends is Will.i.am (also black) ooh, maybe that makes her not racist! Yes, she was convicted but don’t we all make mistakes? And as far as i can tell, the only one with an attitude problem around here is YOU…

    • John

      Just ignore Jazz. She has an irrational dislike for Cheryl Cole and will no doubt keep spewing the same dribble every week on these boards from now on.

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