Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 - First Elimination and '80s Night Performances
We're back for what is sure to be a frenzied Wednesday (November 13) night installment of "The X Factor."
Thanks to last Wednesday's voting SNAFU, we ended up watching 26 performances last week, which was a lot. Only Thursday's voting counts, but once can assume that emotionally, all support or lackthereof was cumulative.
Per FOX, we're expected to open the show with the season's first elimination and then we'll move on to '80s Night performances by the season's Top 12. Does that mean it's really a single elimination episode?
Click through for all of the live-blogging fun.
8:01 p.m. ET. Nobody wants to go home.
8:02 p.m. Why are we only sending one act home tonight? And what can we expect from '80s Night performances delivered by a bunch of artists who were, in some cases, barely even more in the '90s. Like was Rion Paige born in 2000?
8:03 p.m. The '80s was one of AC Slater's favorite decades.
8:03 p.m. How are we announcing the elimination? And what on Earth is Rachel Potter wearing? Is it a leather short-suit? The act that got the fewest votes last week is... EXCRUCIATING PAUSE. WHAT IS HAPPENING? It's CARLOS GUEVARA going home. That's too bad. He would have been in my Bottom 5, but I'd have sent several people home first. Carlos is very relaxed and all smiles. "Carlos, you an inspiration," Paulina says. She tells him that he had the hearts of all of America, which we know to be a bald-faced lie. Farewell, Carlos.
8:06 p.m. Ah. We're doing a double elimination tomorrow night. Who's up first?
Singer: LILLIE MCCLOUD
Song: "Ain't Nobody"
My Take: We're at least acknowledging that not only was Lillie around in the '80s, but she approached success, falling just short. Tackling Chaka Khan, this should be another strong week for Lillie, right? Well, I don't quite get the decision to style Lillie like a permed '80s teenage. Like I get that nobody with half a braincell would guess that Lillie was in her 50s, but that doesn't mean that we're supposed to pretend that she's 18, right? Lillie's energy is astounding, but she's vocally much, much better than this. The whole thing is just a bit off-putting. Would I be enjoying this more if I didn't know Lillie's age and experience? I don't know. But if Lillie had been handed a Tina Turner song, surely it would have worked better? A little "What's Love Got To Do With It"? Or am I pigeon-holing her? The more actual singing Lillie gets to do, the better she is, but this isn't my version of the best way to pitch Lillie to America.
The Judges Say: "You just showed us how multi-faceted you can be," Paulina says. I'd listen to Paulina say "multi-faceted" all day. "You really shined up there," says Demi, whose blue hair and heavy eyeliner are fairly awesome tonight. "You're a naughty little thing, aren't you?" Simon says to an out-of-breath Lillie. "You made an attempt to be current," Simon says confusingly, calling it "so much better than we've seen before." "Sometimes you have to get out of your head as a performer," Kelly tells Lillie, who tells Simon that she thinks she can win, because she's a chameleon. AC Slater has to interrupt her.
Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO
Song: "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You"
My Take: Carlito should know that he got really lucky not going home tonight. He's made a doubly smart song selection here, going with both Gloria Estefan, but also taking on a song that lets him do a little dancing. Carlito is, for me, much more successful as a showman than he is as a singer, so this is a bit better idea for him. Once again, I'd like to see more dancing or hear more singing from Carlos. Vocally, he's almost entirely lost in the mix at certain points, but at least his voice never detracts from the rhythm, which never quite gets him. And the dancing? It's fine. Overall, it's a bland-but-inoffensive performance that I won't remember at all in two hours, which isn't a great recipe for long-term success.
The Judges Say: Kelly compliments Carlito on his muscles, but she doesn't think he's getting lost as a performance. She wants him to be more suave and cool. "I actually found myself paying more attention to the dancers than to you," Demi says. "I'll bet you did," Simon responds. Simon says it's doubtful Carlito is going to stay, but he needs Carlito to take more control if he does remain. Paulina thinks they need to work on Carlito's face. "I'm gonna keep rocking out," Carlito says, reassuring Simon that he still loves him.
Singer: RION PAIGE
Song: "We Belong"
My Take: Rion was, indeed, born in 2000. And she thinks that the Spice Girls are from the '80s. Excellent. Kudos to Rion for even making Demi feel old. I'm not a fan of the '80s Barbie costume Rion has been given and the song starts a bit low-and-slow for her. She hits her sweet spot in the chorus and carries it through into the next verse. Just as she's building confidence, Rion gets lost in-yodel as she goes into the second chorus. There are some good, emotional moments, but this is not Rion at her best and the stupid fireworks behind her add nothing but distraction. I don't think Rion's in any danger, though. Heck, this was the best performance of the night so far, which isn't worth much.
The Judges Say: "You soared on the way home," Kelly says. "I just love how you feel the music," Paulina says. "No matter what song you're given, you perform it 110 percent," Simon says, but he worries Demi hasn't given her the right song yet, urging Rion to have more input. "I think you did great and I'm proud of you," Demi says.
Singer: SWEET SUSPENSE
Song: "Hey Mickey"
My Take: God, the costuming in this episode is just disastrous. Like why is Blonde Suspense looking like she's a femmed out extra from "Cruising"? Is it just because the dancing extras are out of the same "Cruising" bar? But leaving aside the weird costume decisions and the head-voice they've added to all of the high notes? This is cute, poppy and infectious. There's nothing even vaguely notable happening with the vocals. There's no harmony and the leads aren't strong, but it's probably closer to capturing an '80s spirit -- whatever the heck that means -- than anything else we've had so far. I'm grading everything on a curve tonight, though. And, once again, stupid pyrotechnics.
The Judges Say: "I felt like this week, you guys didn't actually settle into a rhythm with each other," Kelly says, telling them they needed to be better vocally. Paulina wants them to look at each other more. "My favorite part of the whole thing was the fire, to be honest," Demi says. Simon thinks this was their best performance so far. "They're no Fifth Harmony," Demi protests, as Sweet Suspense stands awkwardly and confused.
Singer: TIM OLSTAD
Song: "Against All Odds"
My Take: Sarah Hyland from "Modern Family" is a Tim Olstad fan. That's adorable. Wait. There's a sexy woman in a man's shirt standing in the fog dancing. Why the heck are we supposed to be paying any attention at all to Tim and his studded blazer? Tim's doing a much more vocally expansive take on Phil Collins than Jeff Gutt did on Thursday. He sounds good, but every second the camera isn't on the dancer, I'm annoyed and disappointed. And, let's be honest, this is the least central an "X Factor" has ever been to an "X Factor" performance. The director knows darned well who the star here is. It's either the dancing girl or Sarah Hyland, who's in the crowd rooting Tim on. Will they introduce the dancer at the end? Will Simon leer?
The Judges Say: "That still fell flat for me this week. There was no presence," Kelly says, as Sarah Hyland boos. Paulina disagrees, of course. "You sang like Tim," Paulina says. "There's no X Factor," Demi says, adding that she'd send Tim home. Simon and Demi agree that the dancer stole the show. "You've got to do something a little bit more outside of your comfort zone," Simon says.
Singer: KHAYA COHEN
My Take: Ah, the fingerless gloves. I guess that's all we wore back in the '80s. It's Madonna-by-way-of-Adele and, musically, I'm growing into a big ol' Khaya fan. But what the heck is up with Demi's insistence on pushing Sexy Khaya? The part where Khaya's down at the judging platform cooing at Simon makes Demi giddy, but it does nothing for me. On the other hand, in the second half of the performance, when Khaya does some things with her voice that Madonna could never even conceive of, it's actually terrific. Leaving the gloves and the dancing out of the equation, this is the first performance of the night that I'd call "good" without any real qualifiers. That was just a darned solid performance on a tough theme night.
The Judges Say: Kelly thinks Khaya is ready for this whole music thing. Paulina thinks Khaya is brilliant. "Now you're showing personality. Now you're showing confidence," Simon says, calling her special and saying she's getting better and better. "Work! You killed it," Demi says, adding a snap.
Singer: RESTLESS ROAD
My Take: More distracting dancers. In this case, it's women in Daisy Dukes playing pinball. This performance is a showcase for Neckbeard, who gets to do lead vocals. Deep Voice has a couple moments, but we have to wait nearly two-thirds for Jason Street to sing anything, which seems like an under-utilization. Nobody's making the Restless Road guys do much dancing, but they're still very limited in how they can use the stage, especially with the dancing honeys blocking them at nearly every path. The director was less distracted by these dancers than with Tim's accompaniment, but it's close. This won't hurt them much, but it probably won't help them much either. They don't much help, of course.
The Judges Say: Paulina loved it. Kelly will be front row at their concert. Demi is pleased, but she doesn't want Neckbeard to steal the show. "I love the fact that you love being here," Simon says.
Singer: RACHEL POTTER
My Take: This isn't a song that I would sing on a reality competition. Carrie Underwood did it. And she did it well. Allison Iraheta did it well. Others have done it well. Rachel may look better in leather and she may have an admirable ability to withstand a blasting wind machine, but she doesn't really have a big enough voice for this song. She's trying hard. I can't say otherwise. But especially on the higher parts, her voice is really thin.
The Judges Say: Paulina says this proved that Rachel is also an entertainer. "You make me so proud every week and you're not even in my category," Demi says, comparing her to Martina McBride and Shania Twain. "Thank God you have a proper song," Simon says, accusing her of screaming on the high note. "I don't think anybody else in her category really hits those notes," Kelly says. Simon isn't sure this showed her off as a country artist, but Rachel insists that Carrie Underwood did it. Demi tries saying Rachel did it wrong, which is incorrect.
Singer: ELLONA SANTIAGO
Song: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"
My Take: All of these performances are stage-designed like the worst '80s music videos imaginable. There's a way to do '80s without making it kitch, even if "The Goldbergs" struggles with this as well. Ellona and Carlito have the same problem, with having to stand out as both as a singer and a dancer. Ellona just happens to be both a better singer and a better dancer than Carlito. She does some actual moves with the dancer -- even with a slip midway through -- and as the song builds, her voice stays impressively strong. There's some lung power required to improve throughout a performance like this and Ellona did. Maintaining lung strength even after a tiny gaffe is even more admirable.
The Judges Say: "You are so incredible. I love watching you," Kelly says, calling the start a bit weak. Paulina loves that Ellona is a perfectionist. "I thought the first two-thirds of the song were literally mad," Simon says, but he calls the last 30 seconds great. He wants to see Ellona sing with a bit less choreography. Demi acknowledges Ellona's slip, but says she still killed it.
Singer: JOSH LEVI
Song: "Straight Up"
My Take: Josh was really nervous about having to sing and dance at the same time, but did they abandon most of the dancing? I mean, he runs down four or five steps. And he does a couple little slide steps. If this is the peak of his dancing ability, it makes no sense to be expect him to do both. He's high energy, but after two straight performances singing decently without any dancing, it's a disappointment to see him returning to something this mediocre.
The Judges Say: "I think you, young man, have just arrived," Kelly says. Really? She thinks, though, that Josh lives too much in his head. "It was the smartest thing that she ever did to bring you back. you are so amazing," Demi says. Yeah, I'm confused. Simon calls Josh "a future star" and "absolutely sensation." "What a great job, you delivered every single note," Paulina says. Yeah, that was not what I saw or heard at all.
Singer: JEFF GUTT
Song: "(I Just) Died In Your Arms"
My Take: I'm sure the "X Factor" target demo loves it some Cutting Crew. As women dance in red-tinted "Chicago"-style cubicles, Jeff bellows for 90 seconds. At some point, he leaves a Stargate on a riser. At some point, he takes off his jacket. At some point he waves his arm in the direction of the crowd. Mostly? He bellows monotonously. It doesn't build to anything. It's bellowing from the first note, to the last note.
The Judges Say: Paulina is pleased. Demi thinks we need someone like Jeff. "It was a little bit like 'I Want To Be a Rock Star,'" Simon says, adding that he won't remember, telling Jeff it's a tiny bit Spinal Tap at the moment. Kelly says Jeff is no stranger to hard work.
Singer: ALEX & SIERRA
Song: "Addicted to Love"
My Take: Sierra's Irish line-dancing is my new everything. The song has been almost entirely deconstructed and built up around the musical-style staging, with Alex and Sierra in separate bedrooms starting off apart, but coming together as the song progresses. If I just want Jeff Gutt to join a touring company of "Rock of Ages," it's possible that all I want from Alex & Sierra is a really good production of "Once." This is the first staging tonight that I enjoyed, but this is a more interesting conceptual performance than it is an Alex & Sierra music performance. I want these two to stand together and be cute, not to play star-crossed lovers who get together in the end. Oh well.
The Judges Say: Kelly wanted them together more, which I guess I agree with. Paulina calls them "Bohemian" and "vintage." Demi felt that Sierra looked uncomfortable in her shoes and wanted the performance more organic. Simon felt like they lost the melody in the beginning and "it wasn't as good as it should have been."
9:59 p.m. Interesting. Asked for highlights, all three of the women say their own acts and Simon says Josh Levi. I didn't like Josh, but it's interesting that only Simon went outside of his box.
10:00 p.m. Yeah. That was a pretty weak, boring night on every level. I can't instantly predict who's going home with Carlito, but Lillie could be in trouble.
Who did you like? Who's going home?