We have a top 32! Granted, we got to that point after a few more excruciating group auditions, bizarre omissions (Audrey Turner, you deserve a long, fruitful career managed by people who appreciate your talent) and the even more bizarre choice of cobbling together assorted rejected contestants into groups so arbitrary the producers didn't even tell us which named contestants went where, or what they'd call themselves, what'd they sing or how they'd justify their sudden collective existence. Couldn't some actual groups get those spots?
But enough about the terrible first half-hour. Once the contestants got to sing on their own, also known as what they auditioned for this show to do, things became solid again, even if we must question maybe a third of the judges' specially chosen songs. (You mean the judging panel wants to hear "If I Ain't Got You" again?) Most of these solo singers will be singing solo again. Some will not. Read on as we rank the top 32 (named, that is; if the judges aren't going to bother identifying the instagroups, neither are we), some of the more interesting or outrageous omissions (like Audrey Turner), the judges, and the likes of...
|X FACTOR POWER RANKING: Boot Camp, Night 2|
|50.The Unseen Music Director: Simon’s huge hissy fit (“I’m hating this!”) was the “silly and weird” musical arrangements. The MD’s cowardice prevented any camera time. We wish the same could be said for...|
|49.Siameze Floyd: Remember that wonderful bit with Stacy Francis’ severely lengthened note? Wasn't that amazing? Now imagine that as a squeal. This guy used to be in our top 10!|
|48.Chris Rene: Every season has its Chris Richardson: a guy with a voice droopy as new grass that loses about a tenth of its power per episode he's kept around. Chris Rene is that man, down to name and initials. His Marvin Gaye was off-key, his Sting and soundbites both strained, but he's still here. And will continue to be, we fear.|
|47.Backstage Crew Member With Megaphone: She’s back! Same diction problem. Same attitude problem. Only this time, she had to read out names. Think of the dreams her poor pronunciation might have temporarily squashed. It’s sickening, for sure....|
|46.4Shore: If only there were more groups, both to quash the rummage-bin approach to filling that category and to rescue 4Shore's frontman from his backup singers, whose harmonies have the texture of wilted spinach.|
|45.Makenna and Brock: Doomed once they sang "Billie Jean." Oh, Brock. Don't go around breaking young girls' hearts--your showmance and relevance depends on it! (Oh, and anyone who wanted to take us up on our implied "Falling Slowly" bet--we meant career-long. Give them a year.|
|44.Head Adornments: We didn’t think it could get any worse than last night’s 41 pieces of headwear. But with 6 knit caps + 7 fedoras + 6 newsboy caps + 1 scarf hat + 7 flowers (4 of them Rachel Crow’s) + 1 red garland and 1 black sun hat (both of them Simone Battle’s) + 3 bandanas + 3 fake glasses + 9 sunglasses, we have 44 in total and, therefore, in rank.|
|43.Reject Freight Elevator: We hope the elevator music that awaited the rejected contestants was more appropriate than some of the selections in the....|
|42.Background Soundtrack: An instrumental ukelele version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” a ballad about a scorned and jealous lover, played after Stacy Francis revealed her father had just passed away. Enough said. (Also, bring back O-Town's epic key changes.)|
|41.Tear Ducts: Ranked 41st to represent the 41 instances of waterworks. And only 4 had the dramatic dexterity to fall to their knees.|
For judges and their pets, groups and their doppelgangers, and a boat, click NEXT.
|X FACTOR POWER RANKING: Boot Camp, Night 2|
|40.Skyelor Anderson: Jinxed his own elimination--last episode brought us "Desperado" despair--by being so accepting of the thought. We're OK with this.|
|39.Contestant Photos: Somewhere between a mugshot and a passport photo, crude pictures of the contestants (with their ages) were strewn about on the judge’s table to aid the decision-making process. We were never in on whom the judges were discussing, so rather than feeling the suspense, we were feeling the annoyance.|
|38.Illusion Confusion: Interchangeable with the below.|
|37.The Anser: Interchangeable with the above.|
|36.Nicole Scherzinger: Let's just skip right past the teleprompting and duckface and continued cataloging of every way Nicole's useless as a judge (if not necessarily a musician) and say it's a damn good thing she's mentoring the over-30s. How else can the show prevent her from doing damage to impressionable singers?|
|35.Simone Battle: Actual Simone Battle quotes: "I have an attitude when I perform on stage." "I know that it’s not about anyone else. It’s just about me and how fierce I am." "I feel like I’m completely prepared. I just want to show off." Actual production element: a lechy camera pan up her legs. Actual performance model: the spoken-word sections of Lady Gaga's "Judas," except ten times more pretentious. Aren't you looking forward to more episodes with her?|
|34.Paula's Dog: Paula receives the “important” news about which group she will mentor while maniacally stroking a dog. The over 30’s reading this will be reminded of Blofeld’s cat; the boys and girls (and groups of them?) will be reminded of Dr. Evil’s.|
|33.Phillip Lomax: Still operating under the assumption that speak-singing = automatic jazziness and/or Buble appeal; last night, he added the assumption that "Summertime" could be sung in these post-Fantasia times.|
|32.Simon's Yacht: Simon receives the “important” news about which group he will mentor while lounging on a yacht in the south of France. This easily sinks L.A. Reid’s helicopter from last week (#36).|
|31.Nick Voss: Does anyone remember anything this guy did last night? Leave a comment.|
For hot people, a rally of swag and our favorite axed contestant, click NEXT.
|X FACTOR POWER RANKING: Boot Camp, Night 2|
|30.Brennin Hunt: "If I Ain't Got You" is one of the ten least welcome songs on Idol, The X Factor or similar. (Again.) But you'd think a guy singing it would make it original, right? Not when he makes it pretty-boy rock with a rickety arrangement that's what Microsoft Songsmith would excrete as "jazz.".|
|29.James Kenney: Still kind of a nothing. Google him, and more people talk about his city councilman doppelganger's views on parking rates and redistricting plans.|
|28.2Squard: Half a win for girl groups everywhere! Half, because The X Factor has not yet deigned to let them sing again.|
|27.The Finger That Presses Play: Formerly “The Hand that Presses Play,” this evening a lone finger did the deed a final time, almost surely symbolizing its will to give the finger to live performance. Respect.|
|26.The Piano Player: Despite some seriously odd musical direction, the piano player managed to stand out in a manner both understated and soulful. He was also gaunt and dressed in black--pianist prerequisites.|
|25.L.A. Reid: Easily the most relatable of the judges, at least when in "get him out of here" mode after several inside-jokey minutes of the judges' contestant-photo inside baseball.|
|24.Dexter Heygood: Has backstory, stage recognition and screen time for the world to envy, and he's good. You'd think he'd be a lock for the top 32 (he's in, don't worry.) But then, you'd also think that of...|
|23.Audrey Turner: The most inexplicably ousted contestant of this year, possibly any year. She's Ike Turner's ex-wife! And in case being Ike Turner's ex-wife isn't enough to provide the compelling backstory producers (and, let's be fair, watchers) crave--which it is, because she's Ike Turner's ex-wife--her "Ain't No Mountain" was impeccably sung for the first 95% of its duration. It does lend an unexpected (and unwanted) poignancy to her talk of not being sure about her chances. Or last chances. Which we hope The X Factor wasn't.|
|22.Steve Jones: Stands on a roof for maximum swag. Later, delivers exposition from the dark. Drama upped!|
|21.Tim Cifer: His surname sounds like "cipher," which is going to fire a hundred puns (maybe the Cifers should adopt Cari Fletcher?) His admitting like of Rascal Flatts is going to raise a hundred eyebrows. But his multiple baby photos raised his profile a hundredfold, and rightly; he's got enviable control over his voice that the Flatts would need about eighteen vocal mixers to achieve. Simon even called him a star. (Then, right afterward, he didn't, but consistency has yet to be The X Factor's strength.)|
For our strongest 20-11 contestants yet, click NEXT.
|X FACTOR POWER RANKING: Boot Camp, Night 2|
|20.Elaine Gibbs: This is a throwaway ranking, to be honest, because Elaine's most memorable moment last night was saying "OMG, boot camp!" That said, she's one of the stronger singers in the competition. When her vocal power returns to the screen, so will her power ranking.|
|19.The Brewer Boys: Previous assessment: Two-thirds of Hot Chelle Rae with toupees made of Bieber's cast-off hair. Current assessment: One of the only people in their group capable of singing on key, and capable of buttery harmonies any of the other umpteen groups would envy.|
|18.Josh Krajcik: Every time we've seen Josh Krajcik lately, two things have happened: he turns himself into the world's burrito ambassador, and he sings either before or after Tiger Budbill, who's suddenly become the better version of him. This particular time, he also decides to make a long speech before his performance like he's Barack Obama on Inauguration Day (seriously, he borrows half Obama's cadences), and he and the judges both pretend "Up to the Mountain" is a Kelly Clarkson song (it's not, jeez). He overplays his blues and does the robot, although his last few notes are immaculate. But this show's only got room for one burly dude, and we're no longer so sure Josh is him.|
|17.Leroy Bell: There's an understated gravitas to everything Leroy Bell sings. He sounds like someone who's already had a long, accomplished career behind him. We mean that both as a compliment and a caution--should he make it to the upper X Factor ranks, how much sales traction could he really get? Plenty, we hope, but still....|
|16.Paula Abdul: You watch Paula Abdul for lovable moments. Tonight brought us an alarming yet charming "hell no!" in favor of, of all dudes, Siameze; clapping her down on another guy's photo as if in a game of Slapjack, and a surprisingly pointed "Some of you took L.A.'s notes, and some of you--didn't." She'll mentor groups, a task the show tried to equate with de-mucking the Augean stables with an eyedropper but probably the best suited to her. What can you do in groups that you can't do solo? Un-multitracked harmonies, yes, but also group choreography. Ah, now you get it.|
|15. Caitlin Koch: Sings an understated "Cry Me a River," and we've finally figured out who she reminds us of: Norah Jones. No, it's a compliment--Caitlin's voice is smooth where Norah's is scratchy, but both have the same muted, slightly somnolent but always listenable quality. It isn't, however, the sort of quality that begs for screen time or supercuts; that she's in the top 8 at all is proof that at least one of the judges is listening for vocal chops. Hopefully it's Simon, her mentor.|
|14.Melanie Amaro: Clearly has one of the best voices in the competition, but she's a bit short on screen time and other factors in her favor. In other words, she could either go top-ten or emulate Sabrina Sloan and Stephanie Edwards' too-early exits. We'll need more audio evidence before we can predict.|
|13.Marcus Canty: Has anybody, anywhere, ever been more stoked to sing Marvin Gaye? Dude's smile was the most obvious thing going on during that segment. Well, that and the fact that his charisma swallowed up everybody else in his group (mind you, that group contained Chris Rene and Brennin Hunt, so it wasn't too hard.) He's also among the most genuinely likable guys in the competition now, which can only work in his favor.|
|12.Drew Ryniewicz: This is probably the most contentious ranking on our entire list. Let us explain. We loved "Baby" just as much as you did. It's in the top three breakout performances, no question. But imagine being confronted with her Megan Joy-ful performance tonight, augmented by falsetto more faltering than impressive, and not having heard a prior note. Would you be impressed? Be honest. As a vocalist, she's still mid-pack (and it isn't about her age, either; not to spoil, but our No. 1 is about as old as her.) As an interpreter, she could be top-notch but has yet to show that side more than once. She's got star potential; now let's see it happen.|
|11.Christa Collins: Striking style--Daniel Fienberg likened her to a '40s movie star, which is both close enough and implies stardom. Her voice is definitely toward the quirky rather than powerhouse part of the spectrum, but when she goes high, it's got surprising heft. And this is our first introduction to her! Granted, that didn't work out in Audrey Turner's favor (notice how we took the excuse to mention Audrey Turner again?), but perhaps Christa might get luckier.|
For the top judge, the top onlooker and the top singers of the top 32, click NEXT.
|X FACTOR POWER RANKING: Boot Camp, Night 2|
|10.The Mysterious Mentor Selector: Costumed in a tailored white suit with silk pocket square and hidden (sort of?) behind white blinds, the mentor selector is more powerful than any judge. He calls the judges, is British, delivers the group selection (none of them got Slytherin, phew), asks how they feel about the news, and then surely meets up for a mysterious meal with the banker from “Deal or No Deal” and Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels.”|
|9.Simon Cowell: Deal” and Charlie from “Charlie’s Angels.”
9. Simon Cowell: Stops preening periodically to get back to his calling--that is, calling contestants out on their BS. Simone rebranding "Your Song" as confetti-coated bibble with which to life-coach herself? Brennin Hunt thinking outside the box to make "If I Ain't Got You" even less advisable? Denied (well, critiqued at least.) He's also got the strongest category, and he gets to vacation in the south of France, which you probably do not. Occupy his yacht.
|8.Stereo Hogzz: Still the strongest of the groups by acres, and still the recipients of some of the strongest crowd applause on the show. They, however, have one major problem: their theatricality. "Cry Me a River" was impressive but at times came off as a lavish Vegas recreation of the idea of jazz and R&B, festooned with swooping choreography, endless moves and a jittery arrangement, all of which distracts you from crying a river. The frontman, granted, has Mariah-worthy control of his falsetto, but even that seems like so much spectacle. That said, all this makes them memorable, and at this stage, memorable is good.|
|7.Tora Woloshin: She's gotten almost no screen time since her audition; evidently the concept of an inked lady in frocks with engineering skills is so compelling that it overshadows any potential singing. She's No. 6 because you know she's going to be lavished with praise again whenever she does get a song to herself. Again, memorability is good, and Tora's so memorable she gets in on that alone.|
|6.Brian Bradley: Oh, Brian. You don't need to take all those mean people with their mean comments about your supposed brattiness to heart. It's admirable that you're so proud of how much you're practicing, but your thorns and swagger are the best part of you. With that said, Brian Bradley with two-thirds his charisma is still more charismatic than almost anybody remaining in the competition, so he'll be fine.|
|5.Jazzlyn Little: Another contestant through on memorability--maybe she cropped up in a montage, but if so we didn't have anything worth noting about it--but that memorability happened to be one of the show's star-forging moments. If anything, it's a good thing Jazzlyn didn't get any screentime. The last thing she needs is yet another segment about how shudderingly nervous she gets, distracting the world from her singing.|
|4.Tiger Budbill: He's already starting to gather the collective force of judge and producer goodwill behind him (even more so for constantly being next to Josh Krajcik and, more and more, outdoing him.) And while inventing "Billie Jean" wasn't new when David Cook did it and definitely isn't original now, somehow Tiger managed something new: making it an acoustic, near-country lament while retaining all of the original's falsetto. We cave; we are now intrigued.|
|3.Tiah Tolliver: The benefactor/victim of the night's only truly suspenseful moment, as the last girl to be chosen for her category among several plausible, less polarizing options. Her voice is something else; it's rich, it's raw, and it pops out of her and practically off the screen whenever she starts singing. More than anybody else in her category, she stands to gain by Simon's mentoring, not because she lags behind the other singers (she doesn't) but because she leaps forward in confidence--and competence--with every new song she chooses, mostly on her own accord. What could Simon draw out of her? We have no idea, but we can't wait to hear.|
|2. Stacy Francis: Stacy would have made such an easy cut. In the span of an episode, The X Factor turned her into a standout vocalist with a compelling story, to the night's most irritating recap joke. All we could think of, once she mentioned her dad's passing was how the horrible, horribly timed, horribly real-life event didn't deserve be turned into a reality-TV pellet. And then she announced she'd sing "Summertime," which we've been over. Every doubt dissolved once she began to sing. Stacy didn't sing the song so much as wrench it out of her subconscious--there are ridges to her upper range and pools to her lower range that simply devastate. We neither thought of nor missed Fantasia once; it almost feels wrong to mention her in the blurb as a comparison. Stacy sang the song like herself, and it was her best performance yet.|
|1.Rachel Crow: When you search "Rachel Crow" on YouTube, the first thing it suggests--already--is her performance of "If I Were A Boy." That's how you know a performance has broken out. "If I Were A Boy" should be a terrible song for a 13/14-year-old (chyron and crew disagreed.) Teens don't need to sing about beering it up with the guys after work; they especially don't need to be singing about being repeatedly hurt by those guys. That's what we thought, at least, but it was uncanny--haunting, even--how well Rachel sold the song. Her performance was both tough and fleetingly vulnerable; it's at least as good an interpretation of Beyonce's, which is a massive, massive compliment. But it wasn't all grim and gloomy--that "it's a surprise!" bit with Simon beforehand was both adorable and proof that we're hearing a human being, not a groomed talent-show kid. Speaking of Simon, his sole comment afterward wtaeras "She's getting better." Undeniably. At this rate, she's also getting to be the best.|
Interview: Judith Yaphe of the National Defense University discusses Saddam Hussein's diplomatic maneuvers and the members of his inner circle
NPR Weekend Edition - Saturday October 5, 2002 | SCOTT SIMON 00-00-0000 Interview: Judith Yaphe of the National Defense University discusses Saddam Hussein's diplomatic maneuvers and the members of his inner circle Host: SCOTT SIMON Time: 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM SCOTT SIMON, host:
The United Nations is under building pressure from the US and Great Britain to come up with a tougher resolution forcing Iraq to disarm. So far, the 15-member Security Council has yet to reach unanimity on its mandate or method guiding arms inspection. And now UN inspectors say they may delay their October 19th return to Iraq until the Council reaches agreement. The divisions among Security Council members buy precious time for Saddam Hussein. By agreeing to arms inspections when he did, Mr. Hussein robbed the Council of the momentum it needed to reach an early resolution. Also, the two memoranda of understanding Mr. Hussein negotiated with the UN in the late 1990s may help him keep sensitive sites off limits to inspections. Saddam Hussein's diplomatic tactic so far may demonstrate a gift for creating gridlock in the international community, a strategic skill that might be more valuable to him now than military might. Judith Yaphe is a senior fellow at the National Defense University. She studied Saddam Hussein and some of the people who advise him. She joins us in our studios.
Thanks very much for being with us.
Professor JUDITH YAPHE (National Defense University): Thank you for inviting me.
SIMON: It would seem over a period of years that Saddam Hussein agrees to something in order to look as if he's eager to negotiate and then the qualifications come in. Do Saddam Hussein's recent actions follow a pattern?
Prof. YAPHE: He has been very shrewd, and I have to use the word `ept' as opposed to inept, in his domestic decision-making. How do you run a country, a republic of fear? But his miscalculations have come in as foreign adventures, if you will. And probably two contravening things are true. On the one hand, he believes he knows best. I think that there linger in him thoughts that, `Surely the Americans are not going to fight to the end to remove me. There's got to be some point in which we can achieve a compromise. I've simply got to find where that level is.' Now that's a decision he might make on his own. He does have people who understand the US, who've served a long time in the US, who know our system and have worked our system very well. On the other hand, he also is surrounded by yes-men who will tell him basically what he wants to hear because they know if he asks their opinion and it's not his opinion, they could be shot in the hall. That has happened. web site national defense university
SIMON: Tell us what you could, please, of the people who seem to have his ear. Some of them are people that we might recognize from their appearances on "Nightline," for that matter--I mean, Tariq Aziz, Nazar Hamdoon.
Prof. YAPHE: There are four people who have survived extraordinary times, companions of Saddam going back to before the revolution. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri is one. I think he's vice president, very close to Saddam, and he is used for certain special missions, including to the Arab-Islamic world. Nazar Hamdoon was ambassador here for, I think, eight years in the 1980s and did a stellar job selling Iraq and his two or more years, maybe four years at the UN. He is a clear, articulate spokesman who understands how to address things. Now whether he has Saddam's ear today, I don't know. Tariq Aziz is the spokesman. Tariq is told what he needs to know. No public spokesman is going to say something that has not been vetted and cleared with Saddam Hussein.
Taha Yassin Ramadan, another long-time figure, a Mosuli Arab from Mosul, who rose within the Ba'ath Party militia and was head of the People's Army for a long time--I think I once thought that he would pose a likely challenge. I was surprised that he survived, but he does. These people survive to a great extent because they pose no threat to Saddam Hussein, and probably never have. They have been totally loyal, unlike some others over the years. Most of his other companions, the people who came to power with him, have long since been purged; most of them executed. But the point is he keeps moving people in and out, which keeps them off balance. Nobody has time to build a power base.
SIMON: What is the charm that Saddam Hussein has managed to evince, at least intermittently, with Russia, Turkey, with France?
Prof. YAPHE: I'll be cynical, but I think realistically a lot of it, bottom line, is economic charm, and that's the second part of this great offensive he's been on. He has told, for example, the neighbors, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, all of whom have very fragile economies and who now are benefiting from cheap Iraqi oil flowing through opened pipelines, especially Turkey and Jordan and Syria, excuse me, and Jordan truck traffic. Saddam's message to them is, `If you don't support me, if the Americans invade, if I go down, my economy's finished and so is yours. So your fate is directly linked to mine.' They listen. The Russians have a lot of investments, not so much the $8 billion or more that they're owed from all the past years of arms sales, but they're also looking to lucrative new contracts that they have been signing for the time when sanctions are over, regime change or no.
SIMON: Saddam Hussein has been in power nigh on 30 years, as they say, and for most of that time, the Iraqi people have known war, suffering and isolation.
Prof. YAPHE: Yeah.
SIMON: How does he stay in power?
Prof. YAPHE: Nearly 50 percent of the Iraqi population today is under the age of 16. Never knowing anything but war and sanctions, they' re not well educated anymore. All the things that made Iraq a hallmark through the 1980s are gone--best place for medical care, education, all of these things. And the answer is fear. There are neighborhood watches. If three Iraqis get together and talk about anything, two may run off probably to report it and the third one will think about it 'cause you're not secure. And the risk is not just to you as an individual, but to your family. The best example I can offer is this: We love political humor here... web site national defense university
Prof. YAPHE: ...right?
Prof. YAPHE: Well, in Iraq, political humor is a crime, punishable by death. You do not joke about Saddam Hussein.
SIMON: Saddam Hussein was a relatively young man when he came to power.
Prof. YAPHE: Yes, he was.
SIMON: I mean, how was he prepared for it? Did he go to Sciences- Po in Paris? Does he have diplomatic skills that he sharpened?
Prof. YAPHE: No. He's got better skills. He trained and cut his teeth, so to speak, on assassination attempts first as a street thug, as a teen-ager, in his hometown of Tikrit, went off to Baghdad, joined the party. He was involved, I think at the age of 19, in an assassination attempt as the shooter against the leader at the time, Qassem; failed. He escaped. If you believe the stories, he took a bullet from his leg and swam and rode horseback to escape. A lot of bravery here. But he rose essentially within the party as a security czar, but he was brought into the government by his cousin, Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr, who was a general, a Ba'athist and who led the coup in 1968, the first coup in July that brought them to power. Then two weeks later, there was a correction movement and the Ba'athists stood alone. But the point is he was brought in by his cousin who was encouraged to bring him in. It's a family thing. And his ruthlessness was appreciated, but he used that ruthlessness and his position within the apparat that did the security to consolidate his position and to eliminate potential rivals. By the mid-'70s he was virtually in charge.
SIMON: Professor Yaphe, thanks very much.
Prof. YAPHE: You're very welcome.
SIMON: Judith Yaphe, a senior fellow at the National Defense University.
And the time is now 18 minutes past the hour.