Whether it was the surprising wealth of talent, the lack of an onslaught of freak shows, or Demi and Britney continuing to prove the Powers That Be knew exactly what they were doing in hiring such charming new judges, The X Factor did it again.
It's still early, and things could change in a few weeks with Boot Camp or the live shows, but season two has been a breath of fresh air. I mean, honestly, there may have been more talent in this one episode than all of last season. With that in mind, let's take a look at The Good, The Bad, and The Judges.
CeCe Frey: Unlike the last time they showed a contestant doing dirty work back stage, CeCe actually made a splash once she got on stage. Her "Unchained Melody" didn't impress the judges, although it didn't sound nearly as horrible as they made it seem. After being asked to pick a different song, CeCe wowed everyone with her rendition of "Ain't No Other Man." It was definitely better, but the shock factor was played up a bit too much, because you could tell she had a good voice from the first song. It was just a bit too big for her.
Vino Alan, Tate Stevens: A couple of older contestants did the dang thing well. Vino with his "Trouble," and Cowboy Tate with his "Anything Goes," both impressed the judges enough to make it to Boot Camp.
Diamond White: When Simon kept asking her not to sing Adele, obviously I really wanted her to sing Adele. That didn't happen. Diamond sang "This is a Man's World" and it was great! As a 13-year old there are obvious comparisons to last season's Rachel Crow, and while I don't think Diamond's voice was quite as powerful as Rachel's on first listen, she seems to have a vibe that is much more likely to allow her to succeed on a show like this. Don't get me wrong, she still has a great voice.
Ally Brooke: I thought this was going to be bad when she came out and yelled something out to the crowd. If you want to let us know you have terrible stage presence, yell something lame like "Hello Texas!" to the crowd before starting. Ally then impressed, though, as her vocal was great in this rendition of "On My Knees." As she kept going on and on after the music ended, it began to get a bit frustrating. More stunts like that will lose her fans.
Panda Ross: Wow, I sure hope she's okay. Has anyone read anything more about this incident? Panda was fantastic in her performance of "Bring It on Home," but she immediately started to have trouble breathing afterward. I guess that's what happens when you audition for The X Factor the day after seven days in the hospital with pneumonia. I hope she's alright, and not only because her voice was surprisingly great, and her personality was better. I'm just a caring person like that.
Jessica Espinoza: The finale of the night, Jessica didn't quite hit me the way she did the judges. Her voice was great, her emotion was fantastic, and she had a good story to boot, but for some reason it didn't get me as excited as a Diamond or a Panda. Still really great nonetheless.
Rizzloe Jones: Cool name aside, Rizzloe was terrible. I understand he was freestyling, but don't. If you can't find ways to rhyme in your freestyle then write something and rap it, or rap something already written. All he did was say a bunch of phrases repeatedly, sometimes the same one three or four times straight. It felt a bit like Brick Tamland freestyling... I love lamp. I love lamp. I don't know how he got through.
Deangelo Wallace: While his response that he would go shopping with the $5 million dollars was kind of funny, his performance wasn't even. I'm not sure Deangelo deserved to be walked out on by the judges, but he certainly shouldn't have stolen the microphone either. It was just a ridiculously, and probably staged incident that we had to endure. Oh well.
Citizen: These guys weren't bad by any means. Heck, I'd take them in a heartbeat over most if not all of the groups we were forced to sit through last season, but Simon was right. They did seem about 10 years (or more) out of date. Boyd bands are coming back in, sure, but these guys seemed much more like a Backstreet Boys cover band than the next One Direction. And in case that kid needs another opinion, the answer is always "no" on whether or not to pop your collar.
There isn't enough space to write about how awesome Demi Lovato is. While Simon was sick in Kansas City, she took over his job of stopping the music when an audition is going south...awesome. She had the idea to do something for L.A.'s birthday and then let Britney take all the credit for it...awesomer. When Britney said she wanted to wake up to Jeremiah and Josh, Demi let out a "heyoooo" followed by a gregarious laugh that had to have made everyone smile...awesomest.
Not only has she been great all on her own, but Demi has helped Simon shine as well. Their relationship continues to be fun, as noticed when he ragged on her for catching pneumonia and she followed it up with "Simon's just gross." Unlike his forced catty behavior with Paula all of those years, this dynamic seems very genuine, and it continues to be fun to watch.
We missed Simon during the first hour of the episode, mainly because his replacement was nothing to write home about. Louie didn't bring much to the table, AND he thought of himself as part of the group after just one day. It's not that easy pal! Thankfully Simon came back for hour two, and as a bonus he had some new zingers up his sleeve. "I wouldn't play that at my funeral" and comparing a song to something out of a horror movie were two of my favorites.
Who was your favorite audition of the night? Who was your favorite judge? Which contestant did you dislike? And how are you enjoying the second season of The X Factor in general?
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.