Forget what you've heard about the disappointing ratings.  Forget what you've heard about the decline of Simon Cowell's popularity!  As they say in England, it's all rubbish.  The X-Factor debuted on FOX a couple of weeks ago and is doing what talent shows on television are SUPPOSED to do!  (Sorry The Sing Off!  All your groups sound exactly alike to me!)  The show is finding talent and AMAZING talent at that.  The preliminary auditions are in the books and the remaining contestants are ready to suit up for boot camp.  All have the same goal in sight.  They want to battle their way to the LIVE shows, where YOU can vote for your favorites!  And, after watching the first few episodes, I am ready to share with you some of my personal favorites.  Keep an eye on these folks.  They truly have The X-Factor!

What about that?  Throughout the entire audition process, no one surprised me as much as 30-year-old Josh Krajcik from Columbus.  Never mind the fact he bears a striking resemblance to Hagrid from Harry Potter, he can sing his behind off.  And, how much does he sound like Michael Bolton??  And, let's be serious here.  After Michael's tragic stint on Dancing With The Stars, there's room in the world for another guy who can sing like that!  Josh is a contender! 

And speaking of people who can sing their behinds off.  It takes a lot of cajones (that's Spanish for "man parts") to walk onto national television and try to sing a song by Beyonce!  But that's exactly what 18-year-old Melanie Amaro did.  With her family watching in the wings and Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, and Nicole Howeverthehellyouspellherlastname watching, she tore into the song "Listen" from Dreamgirls!  And she KILLED it! 

Simon Cowell has never made any apologies for his feelings about country music.  But Simon is smart enough to know that country music sells.  Look at American Idol!  That show's single biggest success story is Carrie Underwood.  Remember, it was Season Four in which Simon predicted that Carrie would go on to be the most successful Idol in history and she has not disappointed.  This past season, Scotty McCreery, a country crooner in every sense of the word, took home the Idol prize and he just released his first full-length CD this week.  Ladies love him and Scotty is on track to become the next big Idol star. 

All this said, Simon knew, heading into The X-Factor, he was going to have to offer up a taste of country (sorry about the pun!)  And, check out this young man . . . 16-year-old Skyelor Anderson, who walked up on the stage to sing Billy Currington's "Must Be Doin' Something Right."  Well, when something went horribly wrong, he didn't miss a beat and belted his way into X-Factor boot camp like a true champ!

Have I ever mentioned that I hate the Supremes.  I never got it.  I don't think Diana Ross can sing.  Their songs (with just a handful of exceptions) drive me insane to the point of wanting to get an ice pick and ram it through my eardrums.  And "Stop In the Name of Love" is the biggest culprit of them all!   That is until I saw rugby player-turned blonde bombshell Caitlin Koch flip the song on its head during auditions for The X-Factor.  Watch this!  Not only does Caitlin LOOK the part . . . she SOUNDS it. 

Okay!  I know some of the guys out there are secretly hoping that Caitlin gives up singing and auditions for The XXX Factor (There!  I said it for you!), but this gal has the chops and looks to make a run for the title here!  As Randy Jackson says (on that other show), she's "in it to win it!" 

And so is this gal!  This is Stacy Francis, a 42-year-old mom who's been singing her whole life just waiting and anticipating her big break.  Until now, that big break has eluded her.  Well, guess what!  She's about to get it in a big, bad way!  Hold onto your mascara, Tammy Faye!  It's about to get emotional up in here.

And therein lies the glory of The X-Factor.  It has talent, suspense, Simon Cowell, a coherent Paula Abdul (who knew?), and tremendous amounts of heart!  And, it has the biggest grand prize of any talent show on television.  Can you say 5 MILLION DOLLARS???  With this much money at stake, everything is on the line for the contestants of this show.  And many of them, especially the best ones in the group, are wearing what's at stake on their sleeves and their voices.

Let boot camp . . . and the games . . . begin!  This show is "in it to win it!"  Catch The X-Factor Wednesdays and Thursdays on FOX!