We're just two weeks away from the X Factor
season 3 finale and the six remaining acts are in the home stretch.
They will all perform twice tonight, once with a song from their
favorite diva and once with an unplugged song.
New judges Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland are each down to a single act in the competition while Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato both have two. That's actually good news for Paulina because it lessens her chances of incorrectly identifying one of her artists like she did last week. Will Ellona Santiago dominate the diva round? Will Alex and Sierra's stripped-down song win the night? Let's find out.
It's another double elimination (or should I say elimination, since every week is a double). There are only four spots for next week's semifinals. Is it just me, or is Mario Lopez a little too smug? He acts like this is the biggest show on TV and that every performance and elimination is the most important one ever.
The fact that Restless Road features three guys from three different small towns might explain their success, because they have three times as much support as the other acts. Their "diva" is Taylor Swift, so we're being liberal with the word "diva" this week. This kind of bubblegum pop country is right in their wheelhouse, resulting in a pretty solid performance. The vocals are much better than in recent weeks, but they still kind of lack stage presence. Paulina, as if trying to prove a point, calls out all three guys by name and gets them right. The judges rave and Simon pushes as hard as possible for them to win.
She's singing Carrie Underwood, so maybe this is country divas week. This is getting back to her roots, since she auditioned with a Carrie song. And it's accidental promotion for tomorrow's live Sound of Music on NBC, starring the country diva. I'm not wild about her voice, and for the nfirst time all of her overly emotional faces and thrashing physical theatrics get on my nerves. It's too much. The judges praise her look and attitude, which is the clearest indication that the vocals weren't spot-on. Simon gets a little harsh, which is a nice bit of honesty.
We get some non-country diva action with Mariah Carey. This is certainly outside of his comfort zone, except they totally cheat by taking Badfinger's "Without You," which was then covered by Mariah. So it's not a diva song, it's a rock song. He does a good job, but it's not unexpected like I was hoping. Paulina wants blood, whatever that means, and Simon starts talking about self mutilation. Jeff delivers the same performance for me every week, a fantastic rock vocal, but he stays inside his little box the whole time without trying anything interesting.
She goes Gaga with "Applause." In her video we see Ellona's baby niece who is another cute kid for this show. This is a killer performance. She changes up the song at the right parts to keep the whole thing full of pleasant surprises. She goes for the full-on Gaga performance with crazy costumes and artistic poses. It's fierce, unexpected and everything I complain about Jeff not being. Simon loves this arrangement more than the original, as do I.
Alex and Sierra
I don't know if Destiny's Child counts as a diva, but I like the courage to do it in front of Kelly. Their "Say My Name" is sensual, cool and it somehow works perfectly as a male.female duet. Every week I expect the unexpected with them, and they deliver. It proves that risks can work out. Kelly loves Sierra's sass and Demi wants them in the finale. Simon even says he thinks he's looking at winners and all of the judges agree that they fit a gap in the market. Right now, any finale other than Alex and Sierra vs. Ellona would be wrong.
Carlito ends the diva portion of the night with J.Lo's "Let's Get Loud." During the week Paulina invited him to her house to rehearse, and it looked like being asked up to the fantasy suite on The Bachelorette. His shirt is unbuttoned just enough to make it sexy, but the vocals aren't very strong. He's just kind of strained and doesn't seem all that comfortable. Kelly and Demi are hard on him, but Simon gives him a pass because the song was changed just 24 hours ago. Ah, good, that means I can blame Paulina. Demi wants to see him in the finals too. That makes him, Alex and Sierra and, presumably, her two girls. This is why it's hard to take the judges seriously, because they've basically said they want to see all six acts in the finale and that they couldn't stand losing any of them.
The country boys take on an unplugged version of "Wake Me Up," one of the biggest songs of the year. It's actually quite good and the emotions are on point. The unplugged style also helps because they can just sit there and don't need to perform. It's beautiful, and Demi cries as she says they just earned their spot in the finals. So that makes five acts in Demi's imaginary finale. This song is perfect voter manipulation, and Simon even admits he didn't pick it, the singing coach for the show did.
I don't know if it's my ears or her voice, but I'm not feeling her vocals tonight. They sound a bit shrill to me, and while I've praised her emotional performances in the past, it now feels kind of forced. It's all too cutesy and theatrical, like she should be in child pageants. The judges cry over how inspiring and empowering she is. All of these tears are way too much.
He sings Elton John's "Daniel" for his older brother, Daniel, who's in the U.S. Navy. I like this because Jeff doesn't rely on a current hit song or overacting to convey the emotions, he just sings it expertly. It's not that interesting, but it's good. Although the show's constant cutaways to Jeff's brother, in uniform, are way too manipulative. The judges all seem to be sandbagging him, because he's getting much less praise than the others.
She sings Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy," which is a tough one for me to deal with because Alex Newell absolutely killed this song on Glee a few weeks ago. Ellona starts a cappella and then lets loose with her big voice, reminiscent of when she did "Titanium." This girl is a star, moreso than anyone else on this show. She's going to have a bright career no matter what.
Alex and Sierra
Because they're always unplugged, they switch it up with Sierra playing the piano. Their "Say Something" is just a simple, bittersweet love song between these two. It was magical and the judges loved it. With both of them playing instruments, it reminded me of the movie Once, but maybe performing "Falling Slowly" would be too obvious (or they're saving it for the finale). Simon calls it the best performance of the entire season.
When Paulina calls him "the only one," what is he the only one of? Acts who deserve to go home? Anyway, he sings "Stand By Me," alternating between English and Spanish throughout. This is the least unplugged of the performances. He gets up, starts dancing and gyrating and trying to hype up the crowd. That might be smart, because actually singing is his weakest asset. It's clear how outmatched he is by everyone else, and how outmatched Paulina is as a mentor if she's in any way responsible for coming up with this. Kelly thought it was his best vocal ever (which is a low bar) and Demi didn't like all the music. Paulina idiotically says it's the best performance in the entire competition. Simon adds that he'd be upset if they lose him tomorrow, but does he realize that two acts need to go home?
That does it for the X Factor quarterfinals. Tomorrow night two acts go home, and under no circumstances should either of those acts be named Ellona Santiago or Alex and Sierra. I truly don't care which of the other four go, but I think Rion and Carlito deserve to.
Also on Thursday's results show will be X Factor U.K. winners Little Mix and X Factor U.S. fourth-place finisher Emblem3. Since Sweet Suspense was eliminated when Fifth Harmony, logic dictates that Restless Road will be eliminated on the night that a superior boy band from last season performs.
(Image courtesy of FOX)