After a strong season saw Tate Steven's win over Carly Rose Sonenclar and Fifth Harmony (Yeah I'm not really sure how that one came about either) to win the 2012 US X Factor, the show now returns to us, hopefully stronger than ever. LA Reid and Britney Spears have left the panel and been replaced by Latina pop princess Paulina Rubio and ex-Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland. They join Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato in the search for America's next big popstar. ... It's time to face the music!

Recap and videos after the JUMP ...

After a montage of successful past X Factor acts, some preview clips, a rather hilarious clip of Demi waking Simon up, and the same introductory comments we get every year about the past endeavours of our wonderful judging panel, we're treated to our first act. His name is Carlito Olivero, and he's a 23 year old from Chicago with a borderline dangerous coffee dependency. He says he wants to be the Latino Chris Brown and I can't help but hope he's separating the art from the artist while making this comment. Paulina immediately jumps in to speak some Spanish to him. I guess that's going to be her role on the panel. His song is 'Stay' by Rihanna. It's a fairly good version of the song that shows off his strong upper register as well as some nice falsetto. He goes a little overboard with the theatrics as he walks past the judges podium to sing directly to the audience, though he acknowledges this himself so I can't think of him as too cocky I suppose, at least for now. The judges all love him with Simon saying he can't think of anyone like him around right now and Kelly saying he's a star. I wouldn't go that far personally, but it was definitely a solid audition. He gets 4 yeses and is through to bootcamp.

Onto Charleston South Carolina now and unfortunately we don't get much from it. There's the usual share of bizarre and downright awful acts, centered mainly around a woman who must really exhaust her facial muscles with all her smiling, Paulina's pronunciation of the word pitchy, and a guy who does to Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' what the iceberg did to the Titanic.

From there we move onto Long Island and we're introduced to Lillie McCloud, a mother of 3 who shocks the judges before she even starts singing when she tells them she's 54. She sings 'Alabaster Box' by Cece Winans. Not exactly a very well known song, but if anything, this works to her advantage. It wins Kelly over quickly anyway. She gives an emotional and soulful rendition. I love that she doesn't give a typical belting diva performance, but a much more controlled one which shows off her voice just as well and sounds beautiful. I hope it stays that way if she gets as far as the live shows. Demi gets a little teary eyed after, commenting that listening to Lillie was like listening to Whitney. She also gets an easy 4 yeses and is through to the next round.

Another talentless montage, this time focusing on groups. Naturally, this typical X Factor montage cliché can end one of two ways, with a really bad group, or a really good group. We'll see which way in the performance by this duo, a couple named Alex and Sierra. Together, they form... Alex and Sierra. Well they won't be winning points for originality, but at least it's to the point. They show a little playful couples banter before they perform, and surprisingly they're quite cute without being vomit inducing. They're singing a slowed down and stripped back version of 'Toxic' by Britney Spears. Their individual vocals were good, though it was when they sang together that they really shone, with solid harmonies throughout. They're very sweet on stage, awkwardly avoiding each others gaze at times and acting playful. The judge's all focus on how cute they are together, with Simon telling them he finds them cool and quirky. Another easy 4 yeses for these two.

Another break and we're on our final act. 13 year old Rion Paige, who comes out very cheerfully and ready to go. She addresses the elephant in the room when Simon asks her to tell something interesting about herself and she says she has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a congenital disease which means that her hands curve differently because of her joints, and on top of that she's almost completely blind in one eye. She's singing Carrie Underwood's 'Blown Away' and after that, you can't help but hope she'll be fantastic. Thankfully, she is! She gives a passionate rendition of the song, full of power and sass well beyond her years. I will admit though, I find myself thinking that while she's great now, in a few years she could have been even better, but unless your name is Carly Rose Sonenclar there's probably always going to be that question mark of whether they're ready or not at age 13. All of the judges are very impressed, Simon compares her to Carrie Underwood and I can definitely see the comparison. Rion sails through to bootcamp with 4 yes's.

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