“The X Factor” dialed back the production, let the voices shine and overall, made for a tolerably entertaining two hours.
Diamond White was brought back after being eliminated last week. Not surprising. There were rumors they were going to do something like that.
The theme tonight: songs from the movies. And it’s the first night of public voting – finally.
My favorite was easily Carly Rose. She has star power. And Vino Alan surprised me.
As a judge, Britney was useless again but at least she’s succinct. There wasn’t as much obnoxious interplay among the judges period.
My bet for who will go home: CeCe Frey. Lame arrangement, bad song choice, unlikable person adds up to very few votes. I would have considered Fifth Harmony (the girl group Simon put together) in danger, too, but they got the pimp spot. Simon really wants them around awhile.
First up: Arin Ray (”American Boy” Estelle/ Britney’s 13-16 team) – The dancers’ outfits are comically awful. But he is far more confident than last week and pulls it off. “You were definitely more smooth,” Demi noted. “You look like a star up there.” Grade: B-plus/A-minus
2) Paige Thomas (”Take My Breath Away” Berlin/ Demi’s 17-24 team) – She has some modicum of charisma, a bit of that Rihanna cool vulnerability. She’s a good singer but her voice isn’t all that distinctive to me (unlike Rihanna.) She did a good job but nothing that would make me say hmmm…. “I’m not completely blown away,” L.A. said. Grade: B
3) Vino Alan (”When a Man Loves a Woman” Percy Sledge/L.A.’s 25-plus team. He sings this one with conviction and more soul than Michael Bolton could ever muster. And I appreciate that they didn’t over-produce this one and kept it simple. “Phenomenal,” Demi said. Grade: A-minus
4) Emblem 3 (Mashup of “My Girl” Temptations / “California Girls” Katy Perry/ “What Makes You Beautiful” One Direction/Simon’s team) – The early favorite to win didn’t do anything to hurt themselves. They sound a bit raw but show no shortage of charm. Demi said it was a mistake to even allude to One Direction. “It’s called a tribute and being clever,” Simon said. Grade: A-minus
5) Beatrice Miller (”Iris” Goo Goo Dolls/ Britney’s team) – She has a pretty, interesting voice. She does this rather angst-filled song with too chipper of a demeanor. It really feels like she’s play acting this one given her youth. Strong ending. “The tone of your voice sounds like a hit record,” L.A. said. “I can see you working,” Simon said. “You have more confidence this week.” Grade: B-plus
6) Jennel Garcia (”I Love Rock and Roll” Joan Jett/ Demi’s team) – She vocals aren’t quit edgy enough to pull off this type of rock to me. And she’s almost too pretty. I feel she’s being packaged a certain way. I’m not buying it. “It was a Joan Jett parody,” L.A. said. Grade: B
7) Tate Stevens (”Wanted Dead or Alive” Bon Jovi/ L.A.’s team) – Good song choice for Tate. He gives his performance sincerity and drive. I’m not sure he’s a star but he’s pretty good. “Tonight, it feels like you’ve arrived back in this competition,” Simon said. “I like giving guys like you a break.” Grade: B-plus
Lyric145 (”Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” Mary Poppins/ Simon’s team) – This worked much better than last week’s performance. It’s ridiculous in an LMFAO-meets-Black-Eyed-Peas kind of way. Very very gimmicky with the Alice in Wonderland fashion cues. But entertaining. “It was inventive,” L.A. said. Grade: B-plus/A-minus
9) Diamond White (”I Have Nothing” Whitney Houston/ Britney’s team) – The most over-sung song on “American Idol.” (Eight times!) She has her moments and she’s darn gutsy to take it on. It’s not quite standing ovation worthy but good enough to keep her around for sure. Grade: B-plus
10) CeCe Frey (”Eye of the Tiger” Survivor/ Demi’s team) – Pitchy, dawg. Terrible song choice. She’s trying to channel Lady Gaga but has only a fraction of Lady’s vocal skills. And that awful face tattoo is back, bigger than ever. Blech. “Anything recognizable about you has been thrown away,” Simon said. “Horrible. No imagination. Nothing different from the original.” CeCe said she wants to show off the “fierce” side of herself. Grade: C
11) Carly Rose Sonenclar (”It Will Rain” Bruno Mars/ Britney’s team) – She has an incredibly mature voice for her age. This is a touching, pretty take on this song. She doesn’t imitate Bruno either. It feels organic, like it’s her own song. Impressive. “This is you in your element,” Demi said. “You’d have a hit with a song like that,” Simon said. “You’ve got real guts… We’re watching a star in the making.” Grade: A
12) Jason Brock (”I Believe I Can Fly” R. Kelly /L.A.’s team) – A much better song pick than last week. It’s theatrical and very much in his wheelhouse. I wasn’t too excited at first but he ended strong. “It feels like a Vegas lounge act,” Britney said, in a rare moment of negativity tonight. “Very predictable and very cabaret,” Demi said. His loud, cheesy red outfit doesn’t help. Grade: B
13) Fifth Harmony (”A Thousand Years” Christina Perri/ Simon’s team) – Franken-group opts for balladry this time. Their harmonizing is improving but it’s hard to focus on a group without a lead singer when there are five of them. I’m not sure how they are going to generate votes. “You nailed it,” L.A. said. Grade: B-plus