When last we dropped in on "The X Factor," we were saying farewell to Willie Jones, Sister C, David Correy and Diamond White. We'll see if we miss those four.
We were also saying farewell to whatever awful name "The X Factor" gave to The Lylas after their original name didn't clear. There was a promise that an online contest would determine the new moniker. We'll see how that went.
8:02 p.m. ET. Whoa whoa whoa. A big twist? A surprise? Bigger than a new name for The Formerly Lylas?
8:02 p.m. Who likes tight leather pants? Britney Spears likes tight leather pants! Meanwhile, Demi Lovato seems to have killed an army of pythons for her jacket.
8:03 p.m. And who likes tight leather dresses? Khloe Kardashian Odom likes tight leather dreses!
8:04 p.m. NEWS! It's courtesy of Simon. They watched the show back and while they were happy with the Final 12, they made a mistake with one act. Can anybody say "Diamond White"?
8:05 p.m. Why yes. Diamond White is the first person to hit the stage. "I feel awesome and I'm ready to get performing," she says. "I'm so excited Diamond's back," Mario Lopez gushes.
8:05 p.m. Our theme is "Songs From The Movies."
8:06 p.m. Up first...
Singer: ARIN RAY
Song: "American Boy"
My Take: Is this a song from a movie? Well... OK. Is it a movie about a motorcycle? Is it a movie about female dancers in white facing off against male dancers in black? Arin is still being used as a relatively immobile frontman with lots of action around him. He's much less distracted by the circus this time and he does a little singing and a little rapping. Arin's slowly putting it together. He's obviously not Usher yet. I don't even know if he's quite Marcus Canty yet. But he could surpass Marcus Canty by next week, if he keeps improving.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid thinks Arin has found his vocal identity. "I am a little speechless," Demi Lovato says, calling Arin "more smooth" and raving that he looks like a star. Simon Cowell is impressed with Britney's mentoring, saying Arin has his confidence back. "You're turning into a little pop star," Simon says. "You owned it, you rocked it and you're definitely a true star," Britney says. "You can be my American Boy," Khloe adds awkwardly. "Nice rapping too," says Mario Lopez. And if there's anything Mario Lopez knows, it's rapping.
8:15 p.m. Ugh. Mario Lopez brings the cheese plugging for voting options. So cheesy.
8:16 p.m. "Thank you, Mario. That was a mouthful," Khloe says, impressed by Mario's ability to read cue cards.
8:17 p.m. On to the first of our Young Adults...
Singer: PAIGE THOMAS
Song: "Take My Breath Away"
My Take: See? This is a song from a movie. Anyway... Paige descends from the rafters in a billowy white gown that exposes a lot of pantaloon to the audience and threatens to muffle the singer. I don't think of this as a diva song, but Paige is doing a lot more with this song than she did with last week's performance, which was mostly about the spikes poking out of her head. She's also doing some acting with the male dancer on the stage. This is basically a music video. That's fine. My breath is not taken away, but Paige has definitely proven in each of the past two weeks that she knows how to make a visual statement.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid is a little jealous of the production values, but he wasn't blown away. Britney Spears thought the beginning was the best part. Simon also liked the beginning, but he wanted the song to go some place else in the second half and it becomes a debate about Demi's imagination. "You don't want to turn this into a karaoke competition," Simon warns. Demi is derisive of the idea she could have shown more imagination.
8:28 p.m. "Why are you sweating so much," Khloe asks Tate Stevens. He's nervous about performing for America.
8:28 p.m. Up next, performing a song from "When a Man Loves a Woman" is...
Singer: VINO ALAN
Song: "When a Man Loves a Woman"
My Take: Well... yes. I guess this song is kinda "from" the movie "When a Man Loves a Woman." Sure. After last week's Nickleback fiasco, this is a much, much, much better version of Vino Alan. There are no flashing lights or dancers or anything. It's Vino and a piano player and he sells it completely. Unlike the Generic Rocker Tripe last week, this is all about Vino's natural rasp and his compelling sincerity. Vino didn't deserve to stick around based on last week's performance, but this week, he deserves to get a ton of votes, especially after giving a shout-out to the East Coast.
The Judges Say: Britney liked the stripped down performance. Demi calls it "phenomenal," but she isn't sure she sees Vino as a No. 1 artist. "You went from zero to hero in one week," Simon says. He also calls Demi "stupid" for questioning Vino as a pop star, comparing Vino to Susan Boyle. "You're a good man," Simon tells Vino. L.A. Reid gives Simon credit for last week's critique.
Singer: EMBLEM 3
Song: "My Girl"/"California Girls"
My Take: Ed Hardy presents... EMBLEM 3! They're going back into the catalogue to give a beach spin on "My Girl," which then gets mashed up, not-so-smoothly, with a little Katy Perry. There's something sloppier than usual to the Emblem 3 stage show this week, but it's high energy and it seems to engage the female demographic of the crowd. Much squealing. I thought they were better last week, but an all-over-the-map performance like this proves that they're not a one-trick pony. This pony has two or three tricks, even if they sound very similar. That commentary was brought to you by Axe Body Spray. Smell like Emblem 3.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid wants to be critical, but instead he calls them "perfect." "I was really blown away at the way you guys were able to make the song yours," Britney Spears says. Demi bats her eyelashes and she also tries to be critical, so she disses Simon for sticking a little One Direction into the mix. Simon tells us that Emblem 3 had to change their song and they only had a day to rehearse.
Singer: BEATRICE MILLER
My Take: Beatrice has two moms and two sisters. She also has vocal chord problems. Uh-oh. Will she be able to bounce back? Well, kinda. Like Vino Alan, Beatrice had a dreadful song last week and suffered for it. With this, she's got something more in line with her semi-rocker desired persona. To some degree, the impossible-to-miss vocal strain meshes well with this Goo-Goo Dolls track and it reads as emotion. And then to some degree, it hurts to listen to Beatrice. She's a real trooper and she's powering through, but there are some notes she's just incapable of hitting. She ends with a bit, totally charming smile that'll cover a multitude of sins. Better than last week. I think there's better to come, though.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid thinks her voice is sensational, but no goosies. Demi's mind is blown and she knows she can count on Beatrice to connect with songs. "You're not like someone of 13," Simon says, noting the few vocal issues, but adding, "I can see you working." "I feel like you have the best personality out of anybody in this competition," Britney says.
8:47 p.m. Did we just power through three performances in one programming block? That's a bit crazy. I'm not sure if "X Factor" or "American Idol" have ever attempted that before.
Singer: JENNEL GARCIA
Song: "I Love Rock and Roll"
My Take: OK, America. If you don't vote for Jennel Garcia, she's going to have to go to bartending school and you don't want that, do you? I said it last week and I'll say it again: I'm not convinced this is who Jennel Garcia is. Demi Lovato seems to be. But if you're forcing me to compare Jennel to Joan Jett, that's just not fair. She's not Joan Jett and she doesn't pretend to be Joan Jett especially well. And yet "pretending" is exact what she's doing. This doesn't read as genuine rock, no matter how aggressively the fog machine pumps smoke around her. This reads as a pop star pretending to be a rock star in the midst of a mid-career crisis. Like Britney Spears could do that performance right now and it also wouldn't be convincing.
The Judges Say: "My problem is that it was a Joan Jett parody," L.A. Reid says. EXACTLY. "I have one word for your performance: Hot, hot, hot," Britney says. "I don't like what Demi has done to the way you look," Simon tells Jennel. He misses the "fun" and "charming" side to her. Demi thinks Simon and L.A. Reid are wrong.
8:54 p.m. And then back to only one performance in that block. Odd.
8:58 p.m. One Direction's performing TWO songs tomorrow. Crazy sauce.
8:59 p.m. L.A. Reid says our next performer is "representing the working class."
Singer: TATE STEVENS
Song: "Dead Or Alive"
My Take: See? Tate Stevens isn't a one-trick pony either. He can sing both country songs and songs by New Jersey rockers showcasing their country side. I don't think this is the best that Tate has sounded, but he's looking more confident than he did last week on the big stage. He's actually moving around and urging the crowd to join in behind him. And with the fireworks going off in the background, he didn't really need to bring any vocal fireworks. This was a way to show a tiny bit of versatility, while also showing that he continues to know his audience impeccably. And with Willie Jones gone, Tate has the country audience all to himself and should be able to ride it for a while.
The Judges Say: "You're a slice of America. You nailed it," Britney says. Demi Lovato loves Tate on and off stage. Hmmm. "Tonight, it actually feels like you've arrived back in this competition," Simon says. L.A. Reid hopes America votes for Tate, but only "If America's in a voting mood."
Singer: LYRIC 145
My Take: Nice try, "X Factor." Just because you tried introducing us to the "145" segment of Lyric 145 isn't going to make me think of them as anything other than "Lyric Da Queen and Two Guys." OK. I kinda love this trippy half-rap/half-psychadelic version of the "Mary Poppins" classic. It's kinda a hip-hop "Alice in Wonderland," with dancers, contortionists and generally amusing mayhem. Would I buy this on iTunes? Probably not, but I'm sitting here with a HUGE smile on my face watching it. That's a total funhouse trip, with the actual "Mary Poppins" lyrics getting a demented new spin in this gangsta-Disney fantasia. This is a group that took a genuine showtune and made it fresh. Mad kudos.
The Judges Say: "I hated it. I completely hated it," L.A. Reid says, before backing down and saying it was "perfect." Britney found the theatrics "intriguing." "You guys got me so hyped," Demi says. Simon calls them "bloody fantastic."
9:17 p.m. People on my Twitter feed didn't love that Lyric 145 performance. They're wrong.
9:17 p.m. Next up? The resurrected...
Singer: DIAMOND WHITE
Song: "I Have Nothing"
My Take: Diamond White is the new Melanie Amaro, but will Britney Spears sabotage her? After trying too hard to make Diamond seem like a youthful 13-year-old last week, Britney changes gears by making Diamond into a pint-sized Whitney Houston. We've already established that Diamond is much better with Whitney songs than anybody her age has any right to be, but the stylistic whiplash is a bit confusing. There are a few bum notes here and there, I'd say she's sharp here and there, but it's still the most impressive piece of vocal gymnastics we've gotten to hear tonight. Diamond definitely deserved to be here and that mostly validated the decision.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid is so happy to see Diamond on the stage and he says she brought it home. Demi Lovato is on the verge of tears. "This just proves dreams can come true, right?" Simon says. Britney thinks Diamond did Whitney proud.
Singer: CECE FREY
Song: "Eye of the Tiger"
My Take: Well this is a strange song choice. It's not really a "singer" song, now is it? It's a workout motivational song. And Cece's attempts to make it into a "singer" song are just a bit silly. Also: We need to stop pretending that Cece Frey can dance and sing at the same time. She cannot. She doesn't have nearly enough lung power for either the required movement, nor for the pacing of this particular song. But there's lots of silliness around her and she ends strong, so maybe people won't care/notice that Cece was just shouting for the first 80 percent of the song? Cece was really good last Thursday when she stood in the middle of the stage and sang. She was not really good tonight.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid thought that the sum was not equal to the parts. "I felt like you were a little rebel out there," Britney says. "I think anything recognizable about you from the beginning has been thrown away and this song choice was just horrible," Simon says. Cece insists that she liked the song. "You've transformed into somebody who you know you want to be," Demi says. Oh COME ON. After two weeks of calling her "Cece Fray" Cece wants to make it clear that it's "Fry," which is how it was pronounced up until last week. who made that particular pronunciation blunder?
9:31 p.m. "Silver Screen Goddess Britney Spears"? Is that because of "Crossroads," Mario?
Singer: CARLY ROSE SONENCLAR
Song: "It Will Rain"
My Take: Was this Bruno Mars song in a movie? Well, OK. It's funny that this is Britney Spears' idea of "stripped down." No, she's not having Carly prance around in a schoolgirl outfit, but the fog is swirling, the lights are changing colors and swirling everywhere. It's not *my* definition of "stripped down," to be sure. But it's a better song choice and it lets Carly belt. And Carly Rose Sonenclar can belt. The arrangement is a little overbearing and self-indulgent, but Carly still sounds good because, as I've said before, she's the best technical singer on the show the season. That's not the same as "best performer" or "most commercial artist," but it's a pretty good niche to have.
The Judges Say: "I loved it and I love you," L.A. Reid says. "This is you in your element and I would watch this over and over again," Demi says. Simon calls it "a huge improvement." "I feel like you should have closed the show, because nobody can follow that," Britney says.
Singer: JASON BROCK
Song: "I Believe I Can Fly"
My Take: Are there any phrases in the English language more exciting than "From the film 'Space Jam'..."? I think not. That's a very red blazer. And that's a lot of candles behind Jason. Are they just trying to let us know that he's flaming? Because... um... subtle. This is silly. I'm not saying that Jason can't sing, but last week was Vegas Excess. This is just Ludicrous Excess. I mean... Gospel choir. Fire. Satan suit. I'm not even especially entertained by this and I feel like there were dozens and dozens of movie-based songs that Jason could have made entertaining in a more successful way.
The Judges Say: "It's definitely an improvement from last week," Britney says. Demi feels that L.A. Reid hasn't guided Jason in the right direction, calling him "predictable and cabaret." "I like you, but I don't believe you could fly. Maybe jump a couple inches off the ground," Simon says. "You like a singer in an Italian restaurant," Simon continues. "This week, it's not up to them. It's up to America," L.A. Reid protests. Khloe asks what Britney would like Jason Brock to be singing. She suggests "something more urban," and posits "Scream" by Usher.
9:48 p.m. After the break we're going to get a new name for The Formerly Lylas.
9:50 p.m. So? What are they called, Mario?!?
9:51 p.m. Simon thanks America. The new name is Fifth Harmony. Meh. I prefer The Formerly Lylas.
Singer: FIFTH HARMONY
Song: "A Thousand Years"
My Take: I've already been told that the Bruno Mars song was from a "Twilight" film and here comes another! It starts off as a pure solo and then... Harmony! Nice. Maybe The Formerly Lylas have some potential after all. Or maybe they're at least trying to be more than just five solo artists. I appreciate the effort, even if there are several members of the group who are basically pushed to the background for the full performance. It was a choice and it shows growth or change or something. To me, they're still the worst of the groups, but they could get better and they definitely weren't the worst act of the night.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid doesn't like the new name, but he likes the improvement. Britney was really impressed. Demi Lovato didn't love the arrangement of the song, but she loved their vocals. Simon praises them for their transformation and raves at their potential.
9:57 p.m. I can't speak for America, but I'd send either Cece Frey or Jason Brock home. It really doesn't matter which. Jennel Garcia would join them in my personal Bottom Three, but I'd just hope that would scare her into a different musical direction. I wouldn't want her to be eliminated.
Who'd you love? Who'd you hate? Who's going home tomorrow?
Everything: The X Factor
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