Recap: 'The X Factor' Season 3 - Top 16 Performances
I have no clue how this is going to work. FOX has scheduled Tuesday (October 29) night's special "X Factor" for a hair over two hours and, in that time, the show has to make it through four Boys, four Girls, four Geriatrics and four Groups, plus commentary from four judges/mentors for all 16 acts, presumably.
It's also possible that we'll be sending four acts home tonight, though I can't begin to imagine where the time is for all of that.
Since this is the start of the live performances and since it's not like there's a World Series game to watch, I might as well live-blog, so follow along at home!
7:59 p.m. ET. So we're pretty much all waiting for Alex & Sierra and only Alex & Sierra, right? Damn right!
8:01 p.m. Each mentor will eliminate one team, Mario Lopez tells us as part of an ambitious long tracking shot. He does not, however, tell us how long we're going to have to wait for Alex & Sierra. Simon doesn't want to lose any of his four Groups. We're starting, though, with the Girls, as mentored by Demi Lovato.
8:02 p.m. Let's talk about Demi Lovato's blue hair. She's excited about her Girls. She believes in them, but she breaks the news that she's going to have to put one of them to sleep. Ellona Santiago is going to dance. Rion Paige is singing a Demi song. Danie Geimer worries about her stage presence. Who's up first? It's...
Singer: ELLONA SANTIAGO
Song: "Til the World Ends"
My Take: Oh right. I'd forgotten that "X Factor" is the show where we attempt to make every performance into a Vegas show, even if Ellona Santiago doesn't have the lungs to dance and sing at the same time. When she stands still, she's great. When she dances, she dances well, but she loses voice. But for a first performance in this spotlight and this format, that's pretty good. I've compared Ellona to Jessica Sanchez before and I think that Ellona is a more polished up-tempo product, at least now.
The Judges Say: "That was so magical and you were so on fire," Kelly Rowland says, calling Ellona "one to watch." "Wow, wow, wow," Paulina Rubio says. Simon takes credit for Ellona's advancing this far, saying that she's in it to win it. "You really, really kicked butt in this," Demi says, calling her "a true Diva."
Singer: DANIE GEIMER
Song: "Wrecking Ball"
My Take: Nice! It's a fully clothed performance of a Miley Cyrus "classic." I like Danie's voice on the verses, but on the choruses, there are some ugly bum notes. I don't know what shook her, but she's a bit brutal on the second chorus. Is there too much emotion? Is she having trouble with an odd an unnecessary key change? Does it turn out that Miley Cyrus' goat-like bleating is actually necessary to get the rhythm of this song? I'm not sure. I really typed out, "This is a much better vocal than the original" as Danie started and then I deleted it at the first chorus. That's not encouraging if somebody has to go home tonight.
The Judges Say: "I feel like I was expecting more from you," Kelly says. "You had real moments there," Simon says, before saying that the problem is making Danie not-boring. "I'm not sure you have the X Fact," Simon says. "I feel like your performance lacked a lot of energy," Demi says, blaming her for lowering the energy level.
8:13 p.m. Wait. What did Paulina think of Danie? And does anybody care? Yeah, probably not. Time for...
Singer: RION PAIGE
My Take: Demi warns us how much emotion Rion puts into her performances and it's hard to avoid. Initially, it sounds like the emotion is going to overwhelm her. As the first chorus hits, Rion makes a shift to her upper register and it isn't smooth. But the second half of the performance, where Rion is trying to avoid getting blown off the stage by the wind machine, is much, much better. Rion sells songs in a way that, sadly, Danie seems not to be able to do as well. I'd like to hear Rion's version of "Wrecking Ball," because I feel like she'd probably nail it as well.
The Judges Say: "I feel the power that you have. The courage," Paulina says. Simon accuses Demi of helping Rion pick her song, but Rion stands up for herself and insists it was her call. Simon calls it a brilliant decision, saying the competition needs someone like Rion. Demi compliments Rion for doing what she told her to do.
Singer: KHAYA COHEN
My Take: Khaya's old-soul vocal tone is a really good match with Duffy. I don't fully buy the attempts to give Khaya a "sexy" makeover. I think there was a vibe they could have gone for that would have matched the song better and wouldn't have required Khaya to attempt to dance and wiggle, which is probably not what she'd ever do on-stage of her own volition. That being said, I think this is the best of the four vocals for the Girls. She was solid and spot-on from the beginning, without any meaningful flaws. That sounded like the song, without nervousness, lung-weakness or emotion overwhelming it.
The Judges Say: "I don't want to see you move as much," Kelly tells Khaya, urging her to just sing. I agree. "In my opinion, you've got the most commercial voice out of the four girls we heard," Simon says, before asking Khaya if people will like her. He tells her to lighten up and gives her the chance to say she likes animals. Demi agrees with Simon that Khaya has a wall in front of her and that the performance didn't work. Hmmm... Maybe you let the big-voiced 16-year-old sing her big-voice song without asking her to be sexy in her first live performance on national TV?
8:30 p.m. That's it for the Girls. I like Danie, but to me, she's a pretty easy boot given those four performances. I'm fairly confident that I'll prefer Danie to several of the Boys, but oh well.
8:34 p.m. Oh. We're going straight into results. This is fun. The Girls are each posed on one corner of the stage's main "X." The first girl in the Top 3 is... Ellona. Sure. That's fine. The second girl in the Top 3 is... Rion. Yup. So far, so good. "I am really nervous and I hope that I make the right decision," Demi says, before selecting Khaya as the last of her finalists. I'm disappointed for Danie, but that was the right selection/elimination.
8:37 p.m. Up next? Paulina Rubio's Boys. Our first Boy is...
Singer: JOSH LEVI
Song: "Only Girl"
My Take: There's an awful lot happening on stage with Josh in this performance. There's some very fine dancing happening all around him, which is distracting, because he's not really doing much dancing with them. He does like the first step and then stops and lets people dance around him while he plays to the crowd. I'm not saying he has to be Usher or Chris Brown when it comes to letting the dancing be the centerpiece of the performance, but this isn't much of a song when it comes to vocals and Josh isn't doing much of anything with it. Basically, I wanted either more singing or more performing, but this performance didn't let Josh shine with either facet.
The Judges Say: "I'm not crazy about the song choice and I also feel like your performance was a little uncomfortable," Demi says, saying he has a lot of potential. Simon thinks Josh was concentrating more on the dance moves than the vocals, giving it 6-out-of-10. "I believe in your vocals. I believe in the talent that you have," Paulina says.
Singer: CARLOS GUEVARA
Song: "Don't You Worry Child"
My Take:Stop spinning, camera! I'm going to puke all over Carlos. I respond well to Carlos' raw voice and his almost-terrifying intensity, which I suspect relates to his intense concentration as well as his personal connection. My problem is this: If you're going to expect me to buy that your emotion is genuine on a song like this, you can't mumble and slur through the lyrics. Enunciate, Carlos! Phrase the words properly!
The Judges Say: "I love your spirit," Kelly says, but she warns him that he gets pitchy at times. "I wasn't expecting you to be as good as you just were," Simon says, adding that he "felt real emotion." "I couldn't really hear your vocals for some reason," Demi says, before praising Carlos anyway.
Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO
Song: "Maria, Maria"
My Take: I get that Carlito wants to sing in Spanish, but doing a performance of a song that's really a backdrop for a guitar solo and turning it into a strange Pitbull-style dance-hall mess in which I'm paying much more attention to the dancing girls and to how well Carlito's bandana matches his shoes. I think that was a more convincing up-tempo performance than what Josh started us with, because Josh got to do some singing at the end, but there was so much action around him and he participated in only a little of it.
The Judges Say: I missed what the judges had to say. Slingbox error.
Singer: TIM OLSTAD
My Take: Well, um. That was embarrassing for Paulina, who clearly doesn't know Tim's last name and vamped ineptly for 15 seconds. Tim is a completely different kind of vocalist from Paulina's other three Boys. He's got a bigger, better, purer voice. He's also cheesy and corny and sincere and old-skewing and just a wee bit boring. Tim is down at least 25 pounds from his first audition and I think "X Factor" can probably work him into something commercial within a month or two. That commercial something may only be a successful Vegas lounge act, but there's value in that.
The Judges Say: "You got a killer voice, boy," Kelly says. "I felt, in a way, like I just went from a party to a funeral and then the funeral director starts singing," Simon says, adding that he can't get excited by Tim. "I do feel like the energy went down a lot," Demi agrees.
9:00 p.m. Wow. We're getting three performances and results in this one programming segment. I'd get rid of Josh, but what will Paulina do? The first guy advancing is... Carlito. That's fine. I didn't like his song choice, but he was one of the three best guys. The second guy advancing is... Carlos. Fair enough. So it's down to Tim and Josh. The last guy advancing is... Tim. Yup. Two straight divisions and two straight logical and correct picks.
9:05 p.m. Of course, for all of the rushing of that last segment, we're still only half-way through the contestants and it's hard to imagine the show wrapping in an hour. I'm not sure if any of these shows have ever attempted a full 16 performances in only two hours before. Doing eight in an hour is different from doing 16 in two hours if things are live.
9:07 p.m. On to Kelly Rowland's Geriatrics.
9:08 p.m. Kelly Rowland Boot Camp looks fun.
Singer: LILLIE MCCLOUD
Song: "When a Man Loves a Woman"
My Take: This is not Lillie's first time at the rodeo. There's a stage presence and composure she has that dwarfs what every single other singer tonight has attempting. There are people doing some sort of interpretive dance around Lillie, but I'm watching and listening only to Lillie. She sings the song and interprets the song and she's a professional among amateurs tonight.
The Judges Say: "You're one of the winners of this competition in my point of view," Paulina says. "You are one heck of a singer," Simon says. But he has a "but." He tells her to lose the theatrics, that they make her "too dated." Oh, can it, Simon. Lillie's not suddenly going to become "young." She is what she is and she shouldn't try to be Miley Cyrus or Rihanna. She's a talented throwback and either "X Factor" is going to reward that or it won't, but it's really dumb to ask her to try being something else. "You are the best vocalist here," Kelly says simply.
9:17 p.m. "X Factor" is just so reliably poorly produced. We got one performance in 14 minutes. On to...
Singer: Jeff Gutt
My Take: Sorry, but Jeff Gutt just doesn't do it for me. He could probably co-star in a decent company of "Rock of Ages," but he's nothing but '80s arena rock affectations and bulging neck veins. If this were "X Factor" 1987? Thumbs up. But this just doesn't work for me. It's one-note and dated and already boring. I'm positive I'm going to be in the minority when it comes to Jeff, but I can deal with that.
The Judges Say: Demi loves Jeff. Simon thought it was "bloody brilliant." "You didn't turn red either," Kelly says after praising Jeff's hard work. Jeff uses his five-year-old as a sympathy prop.
Singer: RACHEL POTTER
Song: "I Hope You Dance"
My Take: Rachel isn't exciting, but she's a solid right-down-the-middle country crooner. She hits the notes easily and purely and she makes the words mean a little something. There aren't that many country-friendly acts in the competition this year and after Tate's win last year, it would be stupid to get rid of Rachel, who is pretty and easily marketable and could go far in the competition if she sticks around.
The Judges Say: Paulina calls it "original," which is stupid, and "brilliant," which is hyperbolic. Simon says the song was perfect for Rachel and he says that Rachel was better than Lillie.
Singer: JAMES KENNEY
My Take: James, for me, is the anti-Jeff Gutt. He's original and interesting and I can't instantly classify where I'd pidgeon-hole him. He sings well. He sings passionately. And I fear he's about to go home, which makes me sad.
The Judges Say: "I don't know what the heck Kelly is going to do," Demi says. "I'm really bad I'm not in Kelly's position right now," Simon says, but he says that if he had to choose between Jeff and James, he'd take Jeff. Boo, Simon.
9:28 p.m. That was the best of the categories so far. I'd boot Jeff Gutt without any hesitation, but the show has over-pimped him so aggressively that there's no chance he's going home. I'd expect it'll be James leaving, which is just a shame, because James is so much more diverse and interesting a singer than Jeff. The first singer in Kelly's Top 3 is... Rachel Potter. Advancing next is... Jeff Gutt. Bah. The last person in Kelly's Top 3 is... Lillie. Yeah, that was both predictable and wrong. But "X Factor" has decided it wants to be in the Jeff Gutt business, so that's how it had to be. Farewll, James Kenney. You had my vote, for whatever that's worth.
9:35 p.m. Home stretch! Groups next Finally, some Alex & Sierra action!
9:43 p.m. FOX needs to abandon the Fifth Judge Twitter thing, because all of tonight's pre-performance results have been weirdly racialized. It looks ugly.
Singer: ROXXY MONTANA
My Take: That is a savvy, fun song choice. They're getting to play around with Lorde's hit without worrying about offending "X Factor" voters for interpretation. Unfortunately, the idea behind the cover is better than the reality. It starts out well, but it gets really rough on the harmonies at the end. I can't tell if they're singing or howling in several places at the end. They need to be much tighter as a group, which is a challenge because of the talent disparity between the sister who has been rightly positioned as a lead vocalist, and the other two. That wasn't bad, but from where it started, I wanted it to be better.
The Judges Say: "I was not expecting that," Kelly says. "You guys are like the next supergroup," Paulina says.
Singer: SWEET SUSPENSE
Song: "I Love It"
My Take: I don't love this song choice, specifically this arrangement. It's basically accentuating Sweet Suspense's collective personality, which is fun, but it's going out of its way to prevent them from singing. It plays like a fun music video and I guess that's what it was supposed to play like. So... Success! But next time, I want to hear them sing.
The Judges Say: "You guys are absolute stars," Demi says. "That's what I call a pop group. It was magic," Simon says.
Singer: ALEX & SIERRA
"Blurred Lines" My Take: Seriously, just give these two kids a variety/comedy show and let's be done with this. I don't know if they can win this show, but I'm reasonably confident that they can win in show business if they just stick together. They are just too painfully cute and talented for words. Was that maybe a smidge more "Hee-Haw" and not enough "Sonny & Cher"? Perhaps. But I still enjoyed every second.
The Judges Say: Paulina compares them to Sonny and Cher! Yay! Paulina wanted it to be a bit sexier. "I could feel the sex appeal from here," Simon insists. See, Simon figures that if the music thing doesn't work, he can market an Alex & Sierra Sex Tape. And you know what? I'd buy that too. I just love these two. Until I get sick of them. But for now? Nothing but love.
Singer: RESTLESS ROAD
My Take: Restless Road is going to be commercial as heck. There's no point in saying anything else about them. I don't love the harmonies in this country-fried take on Katy Perry, but I have zero doubt that people are going to vote for these guys. And I'd say, at least as of now, that they're your prohibitive favorites.
The Judges Say: "That was amazing," Demi says. Paulina loves their chemistry. "I am totally buying every Restless Road record," Kelly says. Simon praises their hard work.
10 p.m. This one feels easy to me. Roxxy Montana should be heading home. I can't even imagine an alternative.
10:01 p.m. The first Group advancing for Simon is... Restless Road. The second Group advancing... Alex & Sierra. Yay! Simon says he could make an argument for either of the remaining Groups. I don't think this is as hard as Simon is pretending. The last group advancing is... Simon is attempting to generate some sweet suspense. But he does the correct thing and picks Sweet Suspense. I liked Roxxy Montana, but I would GUARANTEE you that they would have been the first act out. I'm 100 percent certain of that. So Simon took the Group with upside.
What'd you think of tonight's performances? And what'd you think of the choices made by the judges?