Carly Rose Sonenclar: Review of an X Factor USA Rising Star
Carly Rose Sonenclar, a former child actress from "The Electric Company" on PBS who has appeared on broadway, is a current contestant on the second season of The X Factor USA. Her mentor is Britney Spears.
They give her 7 and a half minutes of screen time, so obviously this girl is going far (since she's not a hilariously bad audition).
If you watch her audition without looking at her, she sounds awesome. If you look at her, you're in shock. How is this little girl making those noises? "What?!" L.A. Reid exclaims. The judges give her a standing ovation.
But I don't know if it's a good "What?!" from me. First of all, with the piano and the vocals, it all sounds very Broadway to me. She isn't showing that she's radio-friendly, but she is showing serious talent, so we'll see how she develops.
Plus, her audition has, at the time of writing, almost 17,000,000 views in the two and a half months since it was uploaded. Impressive feat.
She's on in this for about five seconds (skip to around 2:15, if you want to see it). I'm only including this because of Simon's comment: "Do you think she's too old for her age?"
Despite her incredible talent, that is the problem with Carly Rose. Her image, right now, is a girl with a powerful voice who can pull of singing meaningful slow songs -- think Whitney Houston or Adele. But she's 13. So can she be marketable?
Boot Camp 2: Carly Rose vs. Beatrice Miller
This whole portion of Boot Camp is presented as an act vs. act thing, suggesting some sort of elimination for whoever does worse.
But it really isn't. Both Beatrice Miller and Carly Rose end up in the Top 10. I suspect the point of these act vs. act scenes was to help differentiate otherwise similar acts.
Carly kills the few lines she sings. Simon and Britney are worried both Beatrice and Carly Rose are too young.
We are (supposedly) at Britney's house. We get the typical backstory about Carly Rose, but as always, I don't care.
She sings "Brokenhearted" by Karmin. I've never heard of the song or the artist. Again, how old is this girl? She's 13, why isn't she singing radio-friendly songs? She says she's concerned about showing the judges what they want to see so she can make it to the finals. Well, the judges want someone who can sell records. So why not sing a song that has, you know, sold. Recently.
Anyway, she does an amazing job of singing and clearly has a ton of talent. There's no question she's going to the next round. will.i.am say's she's possessed, then calls her a "caterpillar." One that shocks you when instead of turning into a butterfly, it turns into a dragon and burns down the town. Is that a compliment? Is he on drugs? Where is this coming from? I don't understand what's going on here...
Live Shows Begin!
Britney wants to help us feel the kid in Carly Rose, so she puts her in a school uniform. She calls it "outrageous." Her idea for what's going on sounds amazing. And Britney is right. Carly Rose needs to get out there and show that she can translate her voice into something that can be sold -- both in terms of radioplay and record sales and live performances that people will want to watch.
I don't know that the production crew understood what Britney was looking for here. We get some funky colored tables and what looks like iTunes Visualizer playing up on the screen behind here. Britney was pretty clear, I thought: she wanted schoolgirl taking over the cafeteria. Instead we got... whatever that mess was.
Simon, Demi, and L.A. are critical: they don't think it looked like Carly Rose was having fun. I think, though, that they got that impression because they were watching from a distance, in person, rather than on TV. For viewers, we finally get to see Carly smile! L.A. does note that he "didn't buy in to the fun of the set" -- thank you! The set was hard to buy in. Demi doesn't think it's believable that she's up there having fun.
Simon's more saying that she didn't seem to connect with the song or enjoy it. Maybe not, but she smiled! Maybe this wasn't the best song for Carly Rose -- she is definitely uncomfortable moving around on stage, but that's something she'll have to get comfortable with at some point, and for a first shot at it, I think she did great!
Top 12: It Will Rain
Britney is so much better at picking songs for Carly Rose than Carly Rose was herself. We're finally seeing her singing songs that show off her vocal talent and show us she could be played on the radio.
Carly Rose wasn't a fan of the production behind her last week. Fine, be boring. But she's boring and marketable this week with this song choice. I've actually heard of it! It's from a movie! On that a 13 year old girl would almost certainly have seen! It's Twilight! Thank goodness for Britney, making the 13 year old with a 35 year old's Broadway voice seem relevant.
This performance is the first time where I've genuinely felt Carly Rose could win this competition and become a star. Until now, she's had that "winner" quality, but in the same way that many American Idol winners are "winners" you never hear from again. She's in her element, but she's also in line with where the industry is.
Top 12 (Again): Divas!
Titanic is Carly Rose's favorite movie. Is anyone surprised that this girl's favorite movie came out before she was born? Ugh. I love her, but they make her seem like an old woman trapped in a 13 year old's body.
An excellent rendition of "My Heart Will Go On." Simply amazing. But when will someone finally say the obvious? This girl needs to sing songs that are more current if she wants to sell. Whatever. L.A. Reid "doesn't want to say" it, but "we could be looking at the winner." He needs to stop taking the competition between the judges so seriously. It's not about him, or the judges, it's about the contestants.
Top 10: Thanksgiving
It's Thanksgiving week, which is code for "the producers are making everyone sing boring songs so that they don't ruin the two-hour tearjerker theme."
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" isn't really a fun song, but that's fine, they required slow songs this week. It's simply beautiful, and unlike last week's "My Heart Will Go On," this song is a little bit more timeless in a "13 year old girls have heard of it" sort of way. So much talent just pours out of this girl. I really don't know what to call it other than beautiful. She hits every note, she gets the hook perfectly, and even though it's a slow song, it wasn't boring, it was entertaining. Watching the performance, I felt like I was watching something similar to Miley Cyrus singing "The Climb," but with far more talent.
Simon thinks she will be #1 after voting, and he's right, she comes in at #1 this week. Impressive little thang, isn't she?