More power to “X Factor” tonight with two ideas that brought the best out of the final six competitors.
First they went unplugged, which helped us see the artists stripped down and without all the smoke and doodads the producers like to distract us with. Second round features songs picked by the public and we should give ourselves a pat on our collective backs for giving the remaining singers good song choices for themselves. So overall, there were a lot of great performances.
CeCe Frey, by far the weakest of the remaining bunch, is hopeless to me and again, I will predict she’s going home. I have to get that right eventually, right?
Then it gets tough. Carly Rose Sonenclar (brilliant as always) and Tate Stevens (fine for who he is) are certifiably safe. I think of the other three acts, Diamond White is going home, though I do like her a lot. She just doesn’t seem to have a strong enough fan base to make it to the final four. Then again, if she competes with Fifth Harmony for the final fourth spot, she could win over the judges. I give cred to Fifth Harmony for stepping it up this week. As for Emblem3, they might be in trouble only because Simon is steering them very very pop and that isn’t really who they are. We’ll have to see if their fans save them anyway.
1) CeCe Frey (”Edge of Glory” Lady Gaga/Demi’s team) – Stripped down, her vocal performances was decent, not great, as Britney said. I don’t get why she’s still here. She simply isn’t likable to me at all and lacks real star power. “I don’t think you’re worth a $5 million recording contract,” Simon said. “It was more cabaret than unplugged.” Grade: B/B-plus
2) Emblem3 (”Just the Way You Are” Bruno Mars/ Simon’s team) – A total mixed bag. Vocals veer from okay to horrid. Ditto with the harmonies. “That was pretty good,” L.A. said. “At least one of Simon’s groups can sing harmony.” “I used to really love you guys. I feel like it’s a downgraded version of the Jonas Brothers five years ago,” Demi said. Grade: B/B-minus
3) Carly Rose Sonenclar (”As Long As You Love Me” Justin Bieber/ Britney’s team) – This girl is just 13. That never ceases to amaze me because she is incapable of singing poorly. She is mature beyond her ears on stage. She could probably sing”Who Let the Dogs Out” and make it work. In this case, she turns a pop song into a sultry love song. Adele, meet your maker! “What I loved about that performance is you showed some restraint. That was the best for my taste,” L.A. said. “You sang it better than Justin,” Demi said. Grade: A
4) Fifth Harmony (”Set Fire to the Rain” Adele/ Simon’s team) – Arguably, most of these women are better individual singers than CeCe Frey. That’s the problem. Some of these ladies should be solo, as Demi said. The woman with the thick eyebrows, for instance. L.A. harped again on their lack of harmonies. “The group thing doesn’t work for me,” Demi said. Grade: B-plus
5) Diamond White (”It’s a Man’s World” James Brown/ Britney’s team) – I’ve always liked Diamond but she’s overshadowed by Carly’s brilliance. Diamond feels more like a teen play-acting while Carly is truly singing. But this is one of her best performances to date with passion and verve. “You brought attitude and I love attitude,” L.A. said. Simon’s critique: she’s done it before. Grade: A-minus
6) Tate Stevens (”Living on a Prayer” Bon Jovi/ L.A.’s team) – I haven’t found him terribly compelling to date but this was pretty darn good. Sure, Demi complained he didn’t go for the high notes. Simon felt it wasn’t a good song choice. Grade: A-minus
The second half were “Pepsi Challenge” songs picked by fans (though I presume their choices were fairly limited)
7) CeCe Frey (”Part of Me” Katy Perry) – Strip Katy Perry’s charm, vocal skills and looks. You get this. A horrifically fascinating sparkly, tri-color outfit. Lots of attitude but not much else. “Karaoke,” L.A. said. Grade: C
Emblem3 (”Forever Young” Alphaville) – These guys have lost all their edge now that Simon wants to turn them into OneDirection. This was sweet and sentimental but had attitude, which they could use.
9) Carly Rose (”If I Were a Boy” Beyonce) – She makes this extraordinarily difficult song sound easy. Heartfelt and commanding. Again. “You never let me down,” L.A. said. “Phenomenal,” said Britney, who does want something more uptempo. And did Simon not know that Beyonce sang that song? Grade: A
10) Fifth Harmony (”Give Your Heart a Break” -Demi) – This is the very first time I thought this Franken-group actually sounded like a group. Great song for them, too. “I actually heard harmonies!” L.A. said. “This should have been your song,” Demi said. “It was energetic and fun. Simon actually did a good job this week.” Grade: A-minus
11) Diamond White (”Diamonds” Rihanna) – She actually brings more soul to this song than the original. I thoroughly enjoyed it. “I didn’t love your rendition of it,” L.A. said. Grade: A/A-minus
12) Tate Stevens (”If Tomorrow Never Dies” Garth Brooks) – Tate can sing any country song and give a respectable version. He does so again here. Vocally, he rarely misses. As an artist, I’m not sure how interested I’d be in him. “Brilliant,” Britney said. “Got a little sleepy on that performance,” Demi said, though she blamed her own fatigue. “You have a huge future ahead of you.” “Welcome back Tate Stevens,” Simon said. “You remind me of Garth Brooks.” Grade: B-plus
The ratings for the show are way down from last year: 6 to 9 million viewers during the live show. Last year at this point, they were drawing 9 to 12 million.