We're starting with the standard recitation of The X Factor's impressive worldwide achievements -- all the records sold, all the stars minted… including One Direction. Yes, I have to admit, foreign X Factors have done pretty well for themselves. But now we're back in the U.S. and the third tier the show occupies here. Let's get this going.
Unlike last year, Mario Lopez gets to start hosting right from the jump, without being slowed down by that Kardashian he was previously saddled with. The categories are the same as last season: Boys, Girls, Over 25s and Groups. I can't believe we learned that before we (re-)met the judges, who, after all, are the point of all this. Of course Simon Cowell is back for his third season, and Demi Lovato is back for her second because Simon knows she won't ever beat him, even if she has Girls or Boys and Simon has Consumptives. Kelly Rowland is one of the new judges, and the other is Paulina Rubio, whose presence makes me think that Simon realizes this show isn't long for Fox and he's positioning it for a soft landing on Telemundo or something. As always, the judges will find out which category they'll be working with after the auditions. Which start now, in Los Angeles. That was all surprisingly efficient.
No pressure on Carlito Olivero or anything, just because he's the first singer we meet this season. He's a 23-year-old barista from Chicago who describes himself as a cheerful, singing morning person. Imagine how popular he'll be here on the West Coast where it's two hours earlier. Inside the auditorium, the judges make their entrance as Mario reminds us that each contestant needs three yes votes to move on. Carlito vows to be the Latino Chris Brown one day. How am I supposed to root for him now? Onstage, he chats with Paulina for a bit in both Spanish and English before saying that he's going to sing "Stay" by Rihanna. You sure you don't want to rethink that Chris Brown comparison, Carlito? The music starts, and he's got a decent voice, if a little high. He works the crowd pretty hard, too, walking around the judges' table on the stage to engage with the audience and making them turn around to watch him. Still, Simon is impressed with Carlito's star quality. Demi says his voice is like a mix of Frankie J and Trey Songz. If she says so. Paulina adores him, and Kelly says she's giving him a big yes. So do the other judges, so that wasn't terribly suspenseful. Carlito's flying high and looking forward to buying the coffee instead of serving it.