And then there were four. There are only a quartet of acts remaining on The X Factor season 3, and interestingly Sierra of Alex and Sierra is the only girl left standing. They’re up against the country boys of Restless Road, sensitive rocker dad Jeff Gutt and “the only one” Carlito Olivero.
Tonight is the semifinals where the artists will each perform a song chosen by viewers. And the viewers want to see Justin Bieber, Luke Bryan and the most overused, clichÃ©d song in the history of singing competitions. The viewers also love Alex and Sierra as much as I do, giving them the coolest song of the bunch.
Let’s see who stumbles, who falls and who will move on to The X Factor season 3 finale.
There are three spots in the finals, so for the first time, there’s only a single elimination this week. And it’s not going to be decided by a Showdown, so whoever gets the fewest votes goes home.
There are three rounds, and first up is Viewers’ Choice.
America chose Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.” He really plays up the whole “I’m from a poor family and need to win to help them out” card. The performance begins with Carlito pulling a girl out of the audience, seating her in a chair and then basically doing a Magic Mike routine with her. And it ends with him dancing with Kelly Rowland. It’s fine for what it is, but I’m not wild about the vocals. He’s more about style than substance. The judges love it and his fighting attitude, though Simon Cowell says that he’s not the best singer (and gets booed for his objective honesty).
America chose Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night.” This is not my kind of song. The chorus and harmonies are decent, but individually, it highlights their vocal weaknesses. Zach is way too weak, Andrew is bland and Colton is the only one with any real potential. Demi Lovato is the buzzkill who was bored and thought they were all too tentative. Paulina Rubio makes sense, despite her broken English, about how Zach and Andrew need to step up their game because Colton outshines them every week.
Alex and Sierra
America chose Of Monsters and Men’s “Little Talks.” I adore this song and it’s a perfect fit for what they do. Even without choosing it themselves, they make it their own and do everything right. The way their voices mix and their staging is all perfect. It’s so dramatic and intense to watch, aside from being wonderful to listen to. Demi thinks they’re going to win and admits she uses one of their songs to wake up with her alarm.
America chose Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” America hates me. This song has been sung into the ground on reality shows (it was Jeff’s audition song last year) and should be banned forever. I criticize him every week for being obvious, and this changes nothing, nor does the show shoving his cute kid down our throats. He sings it phenomenally well and tries to rock it up a little bit. It’s more inventive than he usually does, but I’m still bored by his excellence. If you just imagined Jeff singing this song, the end result is probably pretty close to what you imagined. The judges go nuts and say it’s down to him and Alex and Sierra. I agree, but only because Carlito and Restless Road aren’t that good. More than winning and making a record, I’d like to see Jeff play Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Carlito Olivero vs. Alex and Sierra
The second round of this week features two duet battles. These two do “Falling Slowly” from Once. NO! I wrote extensively about how this song was perfect for Alex and Sierra last week, and throwing Carlito into the mix is like putting asparagus on top of a pizza. It ruins a great song and I’m woefully unhappy. Carlito’s style doesn’t mesh well with these two. This is a beautiful, simple song, but making it a competition and adding Carlito’s theatrics undercuts all of that quality. Carlito does OK (Paulina idiotically thinks he won), but Simon is right about how Sierra stole the show. Kelly and Demi both call it a tie, with Carlito and Sierra delivering their best vocals ever.
Jeff Gutt vs. Restless Road
The battle competition is a terrible idea at this point in the competition. On The Voice, the Battle Rounds are early enough that it’s about harmony, not opposition. You can’t do a successful duet if your goal is to destroy the other act. I don’t want to hear Jeff talk smack about the boys in Restless Road. They do “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. It’s a mess, a complete clash of two styles that make no sense together. Doing these “duets” is a worse idea than hiring Paulina as a judge and mentor. The judges give Restless Road a lot of praise for their look, which means Jeff had better vocals.
There’s no theme for the final round, it’s just one last song to get a spot in the finals. He wants to focus on the sexy Latino side, naturally, with Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know.” The highlight is when Demi photobombs Paulina’s intro. The performance is fine, but there’s nothing special about him. There are hundreds of sexy Latino dudes who could do the same thing. He’s not especially charismatic or especially sexy or especially talented. Kelly is shocked by how strong he’s been tonight, which is actually an insult about how hard he’s sucked for the entire season.
They take on “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes, so between this and Luke Bryan, it’s obvious where Simon wants them to fit in. To be honest, I wanted to hate this from the start. I wanted to find something to criticize. But I couldn’t. This was, for me, the best they’ve been all season. Everything seems to be working right, and Kelly does another back-handed compliment about how surprisingly good Zach and Andrew’s vocals were. This is a huge surprise, because I didn’t think they were capable of this kind of greatness.
Alex and Sierra
They’re ending with “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles, a great song and an even better movie. Like “Say Something” last week, this is an intimate performance with the two singing top each other and capturing all of the rich emotions of the song. Kelly starts to cry talking about how Sierra has blossomed. Demi cries too. If they don’t win, this entire season is a joke. There’s a good chance it will be anyway thanks to Paulina, but they are so far ahead of everyone else.
He ends the semifinals with “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. Finally, something unexpected from him, because it’s the first time since the Top 16 that he’s doing a recent song. His past eight songs were all more than 15 years old. It starts a bit off for me, but then he finds his rhythm and just gets into the groove. He rocks and this is a great song for him. The judges loved it and Kelly cries.
That’s it for The X Factor semifinals. Tomorrow night one act goes home and Enrique Iglesias performs. After tonight, I hope we can all agree that Jeff and Alex and Sierra need to be in the finale. The other acts are competing for third place.
(Image courtesy of FOX)