'The X Factor' contestants wait to perform on the first night… (Ray Mickshaw / Fox )
"The X Factor" did what it could to make the most of the hour it was allotted before the presidential debate Wednesday night. It whisked us — along with about 120 contestants — to Boot Camp in Miami, showed us the high life at a fancy hotel, and then gave us our first task: watching the contenders each sing one song of their own choosing — a high-pressure performance that would determine whether they would stay in the competition for the remainder of Boot Camp or hastily (in some cases, mercifully so) be sent home.
By the end of the day, half the singers would be eliminated, we were told. The other half would remain for what would be "the most intense week" of their lives, with a "series of challenges" that would "push them to the limit." There would be "no second chances." At week's end, only 24 acts would be left standing.
But for now the aspiring vocalists simply had to stand up on a stage, with the other contestants listening in and the judges looking on, and sing. Even that proved too challenging for some singers, including, heartbreakingly, young, funky-spec-sporting Jake Garza, age 12, who forgot his lyrics. True to their word, the judges did not give him a second chance.
"I froze. I forgot the words. I forgot the melody. I forgot everything," Garza said, weeping. "I want my mom."
She was summoned. He wept in her arms.
"It was so bad," he said.
"It's OK. It's not easy. It's not easy," his mom said.
"I messed up," he said.
"But there's nothing wrong with that," his mom said. "Look at me. I love you."
Honestly, I kind of want Garza's mom too. Certainly I could have used someone to hand me a tissue after that scene of maternal comfort.
In any event, while the crushing of Garza's dreams proved especially difficult to watch with dry eyes and dispassion, he was hardly alone in his disappointment.
Several other performers also muffed their lyrics or vocally fell flat. Pigtailed Jordyn Foley and Manny Acosta hit some seriously false notes. Nick Perrelli seemed to practically whisper his song. And promising performers such as Jennifer Espinoza and Trevor Moran disappointed this time around. Simon Cowell chalked it up to a deadly mix of nerves and song choice.
Happily, other contestants fared better. Thirteen-year-old dynamo Diamond White, "Mercy"-singing David Correy, Jennel Garcia (whose hair-flipping performance L.A. Reid called "very spicy"), tattoo-headed Vino Alan (so good, though Britney Spears was not impressed), low-voiced country kid Willie Jones, and dueling Whitney Houston singers Paige Thomas and CeCe "I'm not here to make friends" Frey, who sang back-to-back renditions Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," all impressed.
"One of you nailed it," Simon Cowell teased Thomas and Frey after their inadvertent sing-off. He didn't say which of the two singers that was.
It didn't matter. After the judges had made their cuts, both Thomas and Frey survived, along (it would appear) with White, Correy, Garcia, Alan, Jones and others including Sophie Tweed-Simmons, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Freddie Combs, Jillian Jensen and others.
Did the best of the contestants survive? Were worthy contestants sent home? That's open to debate. Have at it in the comments.