The X Factor returned for its third season on Wednesday night with the promise that it would be better than the train wreck of last season. Gone are host Khloe Kardashian and partially present judges/mentors Britney Spears and L.A. Reid. Mario Lopez is now the lone host and new to the judges’ panel are former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland and Mexican pop star Paulina Rubio, which are all decided improvements.

The one-hour premiere featured auditions by X-Factor hopefuls from Los Angeles and New Orleans. As could be expected, the talent competition allowed a few vocal clunkers to slip through the screening process to get their moment in the spotlight. Among them, was 55-year-old Sally Hessnice who made the bold attempt of singing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” But it was John Tanner Davis who assaulted the audience’s sense of hearing the most with his take on Celine Dion power ballad “My Heart Will Go On.”

One of the best male vocals of the night came from Carlito Olivera – the self-professed “Latino Chris Brown.” Ironically, the CB wannabe sang "Stay" by his ex Rihanna. In addition to owning the stage, Olivera seemed to have his falsetto mastered.

Another promising performance came from 13-year-old Rion Paige, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that causes a curvature of her joints. She blew the judges away with her soulful delivery of Carrie Underwood’s "Blown Away."

Boy/girl duo Alex and Sierra received a standing ovation from the audience for their stripped down folksy version of Britney Spear’s “Toxic.” While they were slightly amateurish up on stage, their chemistry delighted the judges and won them passage into the next round.

Stealing the night was 54-year-old grandmother of seven Lillie McCloud. Clad in a skintight black getup that revealed the body of a twentysomething, McCloud gave a rousing performance of Cece Winan’s "Alabaster Box" that made her the singing competition's the early favorite.

– Chelsea Regan

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