Premiering with much less fanfare than the previous two seasons, The X Factor began its third season Wednesday night. To say expectations for the third season weren’t high would be a fair assessment. Perhaps, the lowered and realistic expectations will be much better for the show and Simon Cowell.

I wasn’t expecting too much from Paulina Rubio but she definitely surprised me. Sure her fashion choices were from a couple decades ago and a tad tacky, but she was adorable and her sometimes lost in translation critiques were endearing. If you count the words she spoke in coherent English, she already said more in this hour-long episode than Britney Spears did the entire year. Yup, I went there ;)

With regards to Kelly Rowland, I knew she’d do well. She fit right in with Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato on the panel. Not surprising considering she has a year under her belt judging the UK version. She was direct and blunt when she needed to be and sympathetic when it was called for. No unnecessary coddling.

Overall, I enjoyed the season premiere. The show seems to be making good on its promise to refocus on the contestants. I like the fact the episode jumped from city to city instead of just focusing on the auditions of a particular one. I was even more grateful, that only one “awful” audition was included in the mix. Next time, I’m hoping for none. Check out the auditions that received four “yeses” below.

X Factor Season 3 Episode 1 Auditions

Carlito Olivero ‘Stay’

I can’t believe they started with this douche. He was too much. Too much melisma. Too much vibrato. Too much attitude. Too much cockiness. Worst of all, he wasn’t even that cute. I have this sneaky suspicion dude is going to make it to the live rounds. It’s clear Paulina is a horny fan.

Lillie McCloud ‘Alabaster Box’

They say black don’t crack, but dannnnnnnng. This woman broke the mold. With that body, attitude, style and wrinkle-free face, Lillie didn’t look remotely close to her age. She could easily pass for someone in their thirties instead of 54-years-old. What’s her secret? Papa wants to know.

When I finished picking my jaw off the ground, I found it back on the floor again. Her voice was wicked powerful. She had me riveted throughout her performance with her confidence and presence. There were definitely Whitney moments at times. She’s a shoo-in for the live rounds.

On a side note: Like most people her age on these reality shows, she has a past. Under Nicole McCloud, she released several albums and even scored a few dance hits. I’ve embedded her highest-charting one at the end of the post. “Runnin’ Away” broke into the Top 10 of Billboard’s dance chart.

Alex & Sierra ‘Toxic’

Hands down the cutest couple I’ve ever seen compete on any of these shows. As hot as Alex is (which he is BTW), Sierra is the true star here. She was pitch perfect on their incredible Britney Spears cover.

Life’s just not fair. Sierra has great pipes and an extremely hot man by her side. Did I mention how cute Alex is? I suppose it’s pretty obvious, I have a slight realty crush on him. Guess Paulina isn’t the only cougar around ;)

Rion Paige ‘Blown Away’

I admit, I’m a sucker for a heartwarming backstory. But if there’s no talent to back it up, I quickly lose interest. Not in Rion’s case. The 13-year-old suffers from arthrogryposis multiplex congenita which in laymen’s terms means her hands curve a different way. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also blind in one eye. Next time, I feel life’s unfair, someone needs to slap the silly out of me.

Rion wowed the judges with her heartfelt “Blown Away” performance. Was it vocally perfect? No, but it was clear there is definite talent in this young girl. Simon called her “literally extraordinary” and I tend to agree. She’s one to watch.

X Factor Season 3: Which Auditions Were Your Favorite From Episode 1?

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What do you think of the season premiere? Did Kelly and Paulina impress? How about the contestants? Who are you rooting for? Sound off below. As promised, here is Lillie McCloud aka Nicole’s 1994 dance hit “Runnin’ Away.”