For the third round of X Factor USA auditions the show turned to Chicago and Seattle. Overall, there was a stronger set of quality performances than during the shows in the first week. We were treated to a montage of Paula Abdul relating to quirkiness in some of the contestants. Overall, this third audition show had the feel of the judges getting down to business.
1. Drew Ryniewicz, age 14
It was difficult to know what to expect of 14 year old Drew Ryniewicz when she was introduced as an obsessed Justin Bieber fan. She chose to sing his biggest hit "Baby." She slowed down the song and wrung emotion out of it that most casual listeners would never expect is actually there in the song. It was a powerful performance for a singer so young. Nicole Scherzinger kicked off the judges' comments by saying she is a big fan of Justin Bieber's "Baby," but she preferred Drew Ryniewicz' version to his. I am certain she was echoing the opinions of many watching both live and at home.
2. Josh Krajcik, age 30
30 year old Josh Krajcik's mom drove him to the auditions in Chicago, Illinois from Columbus, Ohio. He is a burrito slinger as his profession. Josh Krajcik's appearance on stage was undistinguished, but when he opened his mouth to sing Etta James' "At Last," the judges and audience were blown away. There is a soulful depth to his vocals that is truly engaging. "At Last" hit #2 on the R&B chart for Etta James in 1961. That recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Cheryl Cole hit the nail on the head when she said, "The room's electric right now. You just killed it."
3. 4Shore, ages 20-23
The four man vocal group 4Shore took on Boyz II Men's classic "The End Of the Road." It was a #1 smash in 1992 and spent 13 weeks on top. X Factor judge L.A. Reid co-wrote the song. The performance earned a standing ovation from three of the four judges. L.A. Reid said, "Listen, man, Babyface (another co-writer) will be proud, I am proud, Boyz II Men will be proud...it was just incredible."
4. Makenna and Brock, ages 22 and 18
Makenna and Brock are best friends with a developing romantic tension. Makenna continually repeated the pair are just friends while Brock expressed his love for her to the camera. They have been singing together for four years. The pair sang the Zac Brown Band's #1 country hit "Colder Weather" from earlier this year. There is an obvious magnetism when Makenna and Brock perform. Paula Abdul said, "I think your vocal blend is really lovely."
5. Tiah Tolliver, age 19
Deli clerk Tiah Tolliver brought out conflict between Simon Cowell and the female judges. She sang an a capella version of Shontelle's "Impossible." Simon Cowell thought Tiah Tolliver exhibited true star potential, and he was joined in the opinion by L.A. Reid. However, the female judges were concerned about shifting of keys in the vocal performance. They both voted no, and normally that would be the end of the audition. However, L.A. Reid gave Tiah Tolliver the opportunity to do something to shift opinions. She delivered a more soulful version of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." Nicole Scherzinger responded saying, "I'm gonna give you a chance and say yes."