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Series / The X Factor US

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The American version of the The X Factor, which started in September 2011, taking Cowell away from American Idol, and for a few weeks, Cole from the UK X Factor. It ran for three seasons, before being cancelled due to mediocre ratings and Cowell deciding to return to the UK version.

The judges are:

  • Simon Cowell again (2011-2013)
  • Paula Abdul (2011); returning from American Idol to rekindle her on-screen chemistry with Simon and to add a note of sweetness to an otherwise snarky panel. note 
  • Cheryl Cole (2011); borrowed from the UK version for a few episodes until she either quit or was fired to return to the UK version (and then, for whatever reason, did not return to the UK), replaced by would-be co-hostess Nicole Scherzinger.
  • Antonio "LA" Reid (2011-2012); black, bald, award-winning record producer willing to be harsher than Randy Jackson of American Idol, and thus more likely to confront Simon directly. Also even more experienced in the music industry than Randy, making him a Worthy Opponent for Simon.
  • Nicole Scherzinger (2011); The Ace from the UK series in her guest judging, initially hired as co-hostess but promoted to judge/mentor on Cole's departure early in the first season.
  • Britney Spears (2012); It's Britney, bitch.
  • Demi Lovato (2012-2013); Disney Teen Idol known for their starring roles in Camp Rock and Sonny with a Chance, as well as their own career in music. Became a tabloid sensation in late 2010 when they entered a rehab facility for various emotional and physical troubles; after making a full recovery, they released a new album to great critical and commercial success.
  • Kelly Rowland (2013); Former member of Destiny's Child, who's since carved out a niche for herself aside from simply being known as Beyoncé's bandmate once upon a time. She served as a judge for the 2011 series of the show's UK counterpart, before being replaced by Nicole Scherzinger - who was a judge on this incarnation of the show herself.
  • Paulina Rubio (2013); Mexican pop star, commonly noted as being one of the most successful Latinas in the Spanish-speaking music industry.

Winners of the US version, their categories and their mentors:

  • Season 1 (2011): Melanie Amaro, Girls, Simon Cowell
  • Season 2 (2012): Tate Stevens, Over 25's, L.A. Reid
  • Season 3 (2013): Alex & Sierra, Groups, Simon Cowell

The most successful contestants of the U.S. version have been chart topping girl group Fifth Harmony (who came in third place during the second season), boy band Emblem 3 (who came in fourth place during the same season), Beatrice Miller (who was in ninth place during the same season) and Kane Brown (auditioned for the third season and passed, but declined to be part of a band).

The American series contains examples of:

  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: At season 2 during the auditions when a contestant was given a second chance to perform, loud thunder boomed during her lackluster performance of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." Simon said there was a reason this happened. Needless to say, the contestant was voted down, and went into a Cluster F-Bomb afterwards.
  • Caustic Critic: Guess. Although, perhaps due to the mentoring process, compared to American Idol he seems almost cuddly to the contestants and typically reserves his harshest criticisms for their mentors. Cheryl Cole was a borderline case of this prior to being forced off the show; while not as mean as Simon or even LA, she was decidedly snarkier than either Paula or Nicole. Meanwhile, emcee Steve Jones at times plays this for the contestants, but usually by accident.
    Steve Jones: (to eliminated girl group Lakoda Rayne) The dream is over.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • No, not Paula Abdul. At least, not by comparison to Nicole Scherzinger, whose grandiose praise often contains very mixed metaphors.
      Simon Cowell: I'm sitting in Nicole's chair so I'm going to critique like Nicole. I believe in you. You believe in me. You transcend the universe. God is smiling on you. Life is a waterfall, and you are the ultimate rainbow.
    • Britney Spears in the new series said a person sung like "She was in a dream" and has said some other intriguing critiques.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Dylan Lawson's audition performance was basically a minute-long example of this trope. Granted, that was kinda to be expected since he chose to perform Lil Wayne's "Swag Surfin'," but Dylan certainly seemed very enthusiastic in his vulgarity.
  • Cringe Comedy: In the final episode of the first season, trying to banter with Nicole Scherzinger, emcee Steve Jones asked her if he could come to her house for Christmas. Scherzinger twice said, "What?" forcing him to repeat the question before finally answering, "Yes. Yes. No." The already awkward moment was given an added layer of creepy the next day, when Jones told reporters, if fired from the show, he would ask Scherzinger out on a date.
  • Crossover: Season 1 contestant Astro is featured on a remixed version of British X Factor finalist Cher Lloyd's single "Want U Back". Astro was ironically not on the American version of the song.
    • Cher herself appeared on Demi's single "Really Don't Care" which ended being her second hit.
    • Louis Walsh took a break from shooting the UK version to fill in for Simon during one round of auditions in Season 2.
  • Death Is Cheap: As was tradition with American Idol, all eliminees returned for an opening number in the final episode of the first season. Less traditionally, popular eliminees Drew, Astro and Marcus Canty were given duets with the surprise guest musicians (Justin Bieber, 50 Cent and Pitbull & Ne-Yo, respectively), while Rachel Crow emceed for one segue.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: In season 2, Cece Frey toned down her bitchy attitude after Demi told her she was coming off as unlikable.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Lyric Da Queen of Lyric 145 wears one, which is actually necessary for her; her left eye was already pretty messed up on its own, and then somebody at a club elbowed it...
  • Face–Heel Turn: While Nicole Scherzinger was quite popular and well-liked on the UK version, American audiences had a much different reaction to her as a judge. At first, they were lukewarm, but then she voted to eliminate 14-year-old sweet Christian girl Drew just to punish Simon and received death threats afterward. The following week, she refused to vote against three-time bottom two member Marcus Canty, so as not to hurt his feelings, which caused the elimination of Badass Adorable Rachel Crow (and led to the Heartwarming Orphan falling to the stage in tears and the Crowning Moment Of Heartbreaking in which she begged her adoptive mother for forgiveness). From then until the final episode, fan opinion on Scherzinger was split. Some referred to her as a Dirty Coward, whereas others insisted she was a monster.
  • I Approved This Message: A FOX commercial calls Simon Cowell the "best judge ever" and has him stating "I'm Simon Cowell and I approved this message."
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Said almost word for word by Season 2 contestant, Cece Frey.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Rion Paige from Season 3
  • Is It Always Like This?: Similarly to Louis in the UK version, a frequent question from the US judges to Simon Cowell during the auditions phase.
  • Logic Bomb: When Nicole was making the decision that would ultimately lead to Rachel Crow's elimination, she said "I don't want to have to send you home Rachel... so the act that I'm gonna send home is Rachel."
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Within the first episode, Geo Godley sang about being a stud. Then he dropped his pants and showed off his ahem, "other stud" in front of the entire audience. It was such an awful sight that it led Paula to become quite nauseated by it, having to Rage Quit to the bathroom.
    • He was wearing a thong, though that didn't stop people from leaving the auditions.
  • Mercy Kill: Simon seems to have done this when he eliminated Beatrice Miller because he felt she couldn't handle the competition anymore
  • My God, What Have I Done?: This occurred during the first season; Marcus Canty (who was in the bottom 2 for the third time) and Rachel Crow (who was seen as a frontrunner by many) were in the bottom 2, and the deciding vote went to Nicole Scherzinger. If she voted to eliminate Marcus, he would have gotten the boot. Nicole didn't want to do that, though, so she voted to eliminate Rachel, sending the vote to deadlock. The final result? Rachel has the lowest amount of votes from America and was sent home. Cue a now-very sad 13 year old girl, sobbing while FALLING TO HER KNEES, in front of millions of people. Nicole (who was directly responsible for this happening), naturally grew inconsolable at what she had done and began crying as well.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Season 1 contestant, Arin Ray, returns to compete in Season 2, this time as a solo artist in Britney's Teen category.
    • Season 3 had both Jeffrey Gutt (from Season 2) and James Kenney (from Season 1) return in the over 25's category, both making it past the audition stage.
  • Nausea Dissonance: The first act of one episode featured a flasher who got on stage just to expose himself to the judges. While 3 of them were totally fine, Paula went to the bathroom to vomit for about 15 minutes.
  • Now, Buy the Merchandise: Played straight by Simone Battle during the first season. Just moments after being eliminated, Simone announced that her first music video was going to officially premiere the next day on YouTube.
    • Not to be outdone, The Stereo Hogzz also released their first music video within a day of their elimination, though they didn't announce it onscreen like Simone did.
  • Older Than They Look: Rachel Crow from the first season plays up a precocious, Shirley Temple-like image, which is somewhat disconcerting because she was actually 13 years old when she auditioned.
  • Only One Name: In the time between the Judge's houses and the live shows, first season finalist Drew Ryniewicz dropped her last name.
  • Only Sane Man: In the first episode of season 2, after wedding-dress/panty-clad Quatrele Da'an Smith auditioned, Britney, Demi, and SIMON all said yes, largely for the potential entertainment factor and the fact the he actually sang well. LA Reid, however, said no, and looked at the other judges like they were high after saying yes.
    LA Reid: "My fellow judges have gone mad..."
  • Papa Wolf: As much of a Jerkass he is, Simon looks over the category artists he's mentoring quite well compared to some other judges. He had a moment at Season 1 when Drew was eliminated, and Simon went to the stage to comfort her, stating that he has nothing to say to the other judges.
  • Reassignment Backfire: The decision to replace Cheryl Cole with Nicole Scherzinger, if only because of the mess surrounding Rachel Crow's elimination. If, as many have speculated, Cheryl was deliberately set up to make a total ass of herself and get fired, then Nicole was supposed to come in and bowl US viewers over in the same way she had done in her brief UK stint, then it's an even worse case of this trope.
  • Retool: Steve Jones, Nicole Scherzinger, and Paula Abdul all parted ways with the show after its first season... on the same day. Simon wasn't kidding when he said the show would undergo changes ahead of its second season.
    • And then, the show underwent another panel shakeup following Britney's and LA's respective departures; they were eventually replaced by former UK X Factor judge Kelly Rowland and Mexican pop star Paulina Rubio.
  • Revolving Door Casting: The panel of judges (including the host(s), for that matter) has never stayed the same for multiple seasons.
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: Tate Stevens went nowhere after his season finished, leaving Fifth Harmony and Emblem 3 batting for supremacy. Then Emblem 3's momentum came to a screeching halt and Fifth Harmony, much like a certain other five-piece formed specifically for (the British version of) the show and finishing in third, easily became its most successful alumni.
    • Season 3's runner-up, Jeff Gutt, also became an example, as he went on to join Stone Temple Pilots a few years later.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: After initially eliminating Melanie, Simon decided that he would add a fifth member to his team. This proved fortunate, as she would go on to win.
  • Surfer Dude: Emblem 3's stylistic shtick.
  • Take That!: To Demi Lovato after they told an unlucky auditionee that "it's not meant for everybody" he replied "That's why you use auto tune and I don't".
  • Technician Versus Performer: On season 1, Melanie Amaro is a technically perfect pop belter, whereas 3rd place finisher Chris Rene may not have the best voice, but his simple message ("Love life!") and sincerity connect with the audience on a larger scale. Meanwhile, Josh Krajcik, who finished in 2nd is both a multi-talented composer/musician with a stunning set of pipes for blues and rock and also a relatable and extremely likable bloke (albeit decidedly not in a "prefabricated pop star" way - which is, like Rene, part of his charm). This was everything just short of lampshaded in the penultimate episode with the final three's duets with established pop stars. Amaro's partner was R. Kelly, whose personal life is... let's just say "off-putting"... but who is undeniably, even to his detractors, as competent a singer and songwriter as they come. Rene's was Avril Lavigne, who has been lambasted and spoofed for her less-than-polished voice and often simplistic music, but who has maintained a career long since many of her "pop diva" contemporaries faded into nostalgia collection obscurity with her seemingly boundless energy and grungy charm. Whereas Krajcik's partner was Alanis Morissette, who began her career, in the eyes of many, as a sort of poor man's Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair or Courtney Love, due both to her slightly less conventional attractiveness and slightly more formulaic songwriting, but who has since established herself, in the words of judge Nicole Scherzinger, as "rock royalty," thanks to both her willingness to use her unique stage presence to her advantage and her nearly encyclopedic knowledge of music industry history and current events.
  • Title Drop: Astro
  • Transatlantic Equivalent
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Drew Chadwick of Emblem 3, though the group as a whole seems to like losing their shirts in general. Lampshaded by various contestants.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Carly Rose Sonenclar of Season 2 definitely comes across as this.