By J’na Jefferson
Llundon Lawson proved to the packed crowd in the Yvonne Theater that everyone deserves a second chance when he won the fifth season of the R Factor singing competition on Jan. 31. This one-night-only event had a slightly different spin than before. Dubbed “All-Stars,” this season showcased seven contestants from the previous four seasons of the competition, who were invited back for a shot at redemption.
Lawson, a junior arts administration major, stole the hearts of the judges and audience with his soulful and enchanting vocals. His two performances, an acoustic take on Jessie J’s “Who You Are” (accompanied by Darin Earl on guitar), and an encore performance of “Clarity” by Zedd on keyboard (which he performed during his run on the R Factor’s fourth season) left the crowd moved and the judges singing his praises. Judge and former X Factor contestant Jeff Gutt praised Lawson for having “one of the best voices” he has ever heard, and fellow judge and former X Factor contestant Dani Knights said his voice was “like butter.”
Humbled by his victory, Lawson showed what it means to be a real winner, as he was not only happy with his performance, but was also impressed by his competitors.
“Winning is nice, and, of course, prizes are nice too. But Saturday night, there were so many winners aside from me,” he said. “The winning for me comes from having fun and putting my heart into my singing. And I know that all of the other contestants did that as well.”
The first and second runner-ups, senior musical theater majors Leah Killmer and Peter Petrino, did not disappoint. Judges Donte Carty, athletic marketing assistant, and Nick Barbati, assistant director of campus life, commended them on their improvement from previous seasons and their rise in confidence.
“That was a comeback,” Barbati said after Killmer’s performance of “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. “This moment was meant for you.” Her finale song was “Warrior” by Demi Lovato, which she said was “very personal” for her to perform. Petrino, who performed in seasons three and four, was praised by the judges for his “genuine” performances of “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie and “Yesterday” by The Beatles.
“You’re magnetic,” said Knights of his performance skills.
A recurring theme in this special competition was “reinvention.” Many of the contestants did something very different from what they had done in previous performances in order to gain crowd and judge approval. Freshman global supply chain management major Matt Esposito performed an original song on the keyboard, which Carty said he thought took “so much heart.” Rory Connolly, senior musical theater major, sang “Dream On” by Aerosmith, a far cry from his audition in season one with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Frankie Valli. Senior musical theater major Andres Feliz, who sang several R&B ballads as the runner-up of season two, took the audience and judges by surprise by performing “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. Angelina Valente, senior musical theater major, aimed to fulfill her dream of being a pop musician as opposed to “just being a musical theater major” by singing “I Lived” by One Republic on the keyboard, which received universal acclaim from the panel.
In the five seasons of this competition, the most rewarding aspect to Barbati, who won a special “Visionary Award” for creating the competition, is the fact that Rider students are able to shine doing something they really enjoy.
“[The R Factor] showcases Rider students who you didn’t know could sing,” he said in a video about the legacy of the show. The future of the competition is yet to be determined, but hopefully it will be around for many years, so more students can tap into their talent and bring joy to Rider’s campus.
Printed in the 2/4/15 edition.