Then the producers decided to Melanieamaro Diamond White back into the competition, giving us a Top 13, at least until Jason Brock was sent packing last Thursday night.
So now? Back to 12 again! Click through for the full recap...
8:01 p.m. ET. Oh right. I should probably dig up my recap from last week so that I can remember what the order was, voting-wise.
8:02 p.m. Tonight's theme: Songs of the Divas. Oh, this is gonna be... something.
8:02 p.m. Khloe Kardashian Odom is very, very, very shiny.
8:03 p.m. TWO acts are going home tomorrow night, in case you were wondering how we were going to finish this season by the end of December. And you can be sure that FOX doesn't want "X Factor" running forever.
8:04 p.m. Our judges are introduced to "Crazy." I don't know why.
8:04 p.m. "I know all about divas, because I grew up with a few of them," cracks Khloe on the night's theme. Britney Spears is confident for her group, but she declines to call any of them "divas." Demi Lovato thinks her contestants deserve to be higher on the leader board. Simon Cowell calls last week a "blip" and he expects his Groups to move higher.
8:06 p.m. Our first performance tonight comes from Demi's pack. It is...
Singer: JENNEL GARCIA
Song: "Proud Mary"
My Take: Last week, Jennel was in 7th and Demi wants her to own this performance and maybe show some of the personality she displayed before Demi started messing with her. It's another stupid song selection, courtesy of Demi Lovato. Jennel Garcia isn't Tina Turner. She's nothing like Tina Turner, but she's singing a pop manque cover of Tina's version of "Proud Mary." At this point, I'm a bit embarrassed for her. She's better than this. To Jennel's credit, the dance instructor is in good enough shape that she can prowl up and down the stage without losing her breath. As a result, she hits all of the notes with ease. Take that, Cece Frey! I just happen to think there's more to singing Tina Turner than hitting a few notes. You have to have attitude. Jennel's got spunky energy and some munchkin appeal, but this is a theme park version of a rock diva song.
The Judges Say: "Started this thing out with a bang," L.A. Reid says, claiming that it "smoked." "Tina would be proud," Britney Spears says ignorantly. "You are back," Simon says. "You look better. You sound better. You were having more fun. It's like a different person," Simon says. Demi's proud. Jennel resists Khloe's prodding to talk back to Simon for his previous criticism. Then Khloe can't think of anything else to say, so she asks Demi if she's proud, even though "proud" was like the fourth word out of Demi's mouth.
8:15 p.m. Yeah yeah. XtraFactor ap. We get it. the commercial during the ad break wasn't enough. We needed the Mario Lopez commercial in-program.
8:16 p.m. "Thumb action" - Khloe Kardashian out-of-context.
8:16 p.m. I'm pretty sure L.A. Reid just said our next performer represents every American who *ever* gave up on their dream. I'm sure he meant to say "never." Or maybe I just have wax in my ears...
Singer: TATE STEVENS
Song: "From This Moment"
My Take: I truly admire Cece Frey's presence with Tate Stevens during the rehearsal period, hoping desperately that she can glom onto some of our top vote-getter's popularity. I know exactly why Tate is getting the votes he's getting and I know exactly why the show would be comfortable with him winning. But this particular performance is pretty boring and Tate's having trouble blending his voice with some off-stage backing harmonies. This is much rougher than anything we've heard Tate do previously, so it may just have been a bad song choice or a bad arrangement. I don't suppose that was bad enough to hurt him in any meaningful way, but I also doubt it's going to help him. And the crowd still loves Tate, who is emotional after singing the song to his wife..
The Judges Say: "Your performance was so heart-felt," Britney says. "You're so good," Demi says through clenched teeth. "That was better than last week," Simon says confusingly. "I would be happy to write you that check," Simon says of the show's $5 million prize. Khloe makes sure L.A. Reid doesn't get to talk and asks Tate if he loves his wife. He does! He does!
8:27 p.m. Khloe describes things back stage as "somber." I'm guessing that's not REALLY the word she ideally meant to use. She then conducts an interview leaning on top of a clearly uncomfortable Arin Ray.
Singer: DIAMOND WHITE
My Take: Diamond did a Whitney Houston song for her return to the competition last week and it pushed her to 4th place. That, however, makes a Diva night a bit of a challenge, because where does she go from there? The answer? Beyonce. I continue to feel like Britney hasn't figured out Diamond's age and how to make it into an asset, rather than something to be ignored. In this case, Britney's made Diamond walk out onto an illuminated pier surrounded by bursts of light. The bursts of light are not, thankfully, halos, but I guess that's the intended overall effect. The opening moments when Diamond is basically walking a plank aren't fantastic, but by the time she gets to the end of the platform, the song is in its chorus and Diamond's able to stand still and belt and that's what she does best. This is my favorite performance of the night so far, not that that's saying much. Diamond can sing and she sang this one quite solidly.
The Judges Say: "Those are really big shoes to fill and you filled them," L.A. Reid says, noting that Diamond started shaky, but pulled it together. "You are a total diva in the best way possible," Demi says. "You look so much better than you did last week," Simon says, observing the same thing I did about her walking-singing problems. Simon also raves that Diamond is "a future star." Britney is proud.
8:37 p.m. Boy oh boy. That "American Idol" commercial showcases a series that's in the middle of a full-on identity crisis.
Singer: BEATRICE MILLER
Song: "Time After Time"
My Take: Poor Beatrice Miller took her 10th place position to heart. As we've already seen multiple times on the show, Beatrice really internalizes everything, which is making it absolutely impossible for her to have any fun with this. She had vocal problems. He moms are out of work. She's in 10th place. And Britney Spears has stuck her in a hilarious "YOLO" ski cap with a gigantic hourglass dripping sand behind her. And yet... And I don't think I've said this tonight... This is actually a pretty good song choice from Britney. Or maybe I'm just concerned with the songs Britney has been choosing for Beatrice previously. This is better. It's a tribute both to how terrific Cyndi Lauper's voice is, but also to how very good Beatrice is and how she infuses an awful lot of emotion into everything she sings. She's raspy and powerful on the verses and she nails the big closing. And, as always, Beatrice ends with a big, warm smile.
The Judges Say: "First of all... You are so cute," L.A. Reid says, but he didn't like the song choice. "You are so freakin' adorable. It's ridiculous," Demi says. And Demi liked the song choice. "I think it was better than last week," Simon says, but he thought the song was boring. "She has more talent in her pinky than you have in all of your contestants put together," Britney tells Simon. "Not according to the leaderboard last week," Simon responds. Oh, Simon. That was a low blow. You saw that being 10th made Beatrice cry. Don't rub it in.
Singer: LYRIC 145
Song: "E.T."/"We Will Rock You"
My Take: This is a strange Queen/Katy Perry mashup. I don't quite think that the pieces are gelling in the way that they're supposed to. "Diva" night was always going to be tough on these guys and shout-rapping a little Katy Perry isn't quite a solution. Not surprisingly, the portion of the song that's rap-shouting Queen is much more successful. The energy is unimpeachable, but there's very little use of the stage and perhaps more than previously, this feels like Lyric Da Queen and a couple guys who are barely there. Last week's "Mary Poppins" spin, which some people hated, felt absolutely inspired to me and I enjoyed watching every second, from the delivery of the lyrics to the expert stagecraft. This feels like three people yelling at me as lights flash around them. If Lyric 145 was low on the totem pole last week after a performance that I loved, I think they're going to be really hard to keep around after that. I hope they've got a good Sing For Your Life song already planned.
The Judges Say: "That was good and it was better than last week, which I thought was a disaster," L.A. Reid says, incorrectly. "I feel like they're a hip-hop group and they should be doing hip-hop tracks," Britney says. Demi didn't think that the Katy Perry was a necessary addition. Simon wants to make it clear that they changed songs at midnight and he praises them for never complaining.
Singer: ARIN RAY
Song: "Crazy For You"
My Take: Arin is singing this song for "a friend." He's referring to Normani, one of the members of Fifth Harmony. Awww. They play pool together and they both agree they'd miss the other if they went home. Awww... Confusingly, the music starts playing the backing track for Lyric 145 before silence. It's a weird and inappropriate kick-off for Arin's most stripped down performance of the season and it's hard to imagine that he didn't feel disoriented and it kinda shows. No dancers. No seizure-inducing lights. It's Arin and a leading spotlight. Eventually some blue laser lights join him, but this is the most we've seen Arin sing all season. He starts off rough, gets better in the middle and then some backing vocals pop up on the chorus and temporarily confuse him, either like they came in early, or like he didn't know they were coming in at all. So after picking himself back up for a while, he stumbled into the conclusion. A lot of that performance was not Arin's fault and I'm a bit sad for him. The camera IMMEDIATELY cuts to Normani backstage, surrounded by her girls.
The Judges Say: "I'm struggling with that," says L.A. Reid, who wanted goosies. "It's a five million dollar prize and I didn't get a five million dollar performance," Demi says. "I didn't get the song choice and I think you lack soul as well," Demi says. "You taking on that song is like asking a cat to eat a tiger," Simon says. Normani's concerned backstage. Britney reassures Arin. Mario makes sure we all noticed that Arin weathered the audio glitch and says what a cute couple Arin makes with Normani. Unfortunately, the light has gone out of Arin's eyes. I'm not sure if he always knew that wasn't good or if the comments knocked him down.
Singer: PAIGE THOMAS
Song: "Last Dance"
My Take: Sniffle. Paige's mom died when she was six. I guess this performance is dedicated to her? This is just paige singing. Yes, she has Terry Tate, Office Linebacker, shoulder-pads, but she's just standing at center-stage and singing. And she's singing pretty we... Oh God. The disco beat kicks in and the entire performance goes entirely to hell. She was singing so well when she wasn't moving. Then the dancers came and Paige just forgot that she was supposed to singing. And who can blame her? The dancers are awful as well. She goes down to kinda sing to Simon, but any movement causes her to lose breath and mumble words. Paige's murdering notes left and right as the performance ends.
The Judges Say: "You get a pass, because that was your best yet," L.A. Reid says. "It was like the best disco throwback ever," Britney says. Simon calls it Paige's best, but he didn't like the dancers. Demi didn't like the dancers either, but she's proud of Paige anyway. I have no idea what the judges were listening to.
Singer: FIFTH HARMONY
My Take: They've blended together well. We know that, because we see them cooking. Ha! I see what you did there, "X Factor" editors. Dressed all in white, Fifth Harmony is a bit angelic tonight. And even outside of the kitchen, you can sense them blending. There aren't just harmonies, but there are straight-forward complimentary backing vocals. One or two of the in-performance solos are a little rough. I don't know their names, but there's some oversinging going on. But Fifth Harmony is getting better.
The Judges Say: "There's something really lovable about all of you," L.A. Reid says. "I was extremely impressed," Britney says, praising Simon. "I was really worried that I was going to be bored, but your vocals just killed it," Demi says. Simon suggests Fifth Harmony could actually win, calling them 'absolutely brilliant." He adds that they all love puppies.
Singer: CARLY ROSE SONENCLAR
Song: "My Heart Will Go On"
My Take: Help us, Carly Rose. You may be our only hope to rescue a tepid show, even if you're doing Celine Dion. Save us! Is there another audio flub at the beginning of the performance? There's a lot of squealing from the audience almost immediately. do they not care that they're interrupting a ballad with their shrieks for no good reason? Shut your yaps! Let's Carly sing. This is a straight-forward not-by-note cover of the song, so we're just supposed to be impressed that a 13-year-old girl is able to do a note-for-note cover of Celine Dion. And I am impressed. VERY impressed. I am not, however, especially moved. But technically? That's about as good as it gets.
The Judges Say: "We could be looking at the winner," L.A. Reid says. "Honestly, it just doesn't make sense. I don't believe that that's your voice," Demi says, suggesting Carly may be hiding Celine Dion somewhere. "I don't believe that you're a human being. I don't. You can't do that at 13," Simon says. Britney has chills all over her body.
9:28 p.m. Is it just me or is this episode lasting FOREVER? Gracious...
9:29 p.m. "I love Diva Night. Who's the bigger diva, you or I?" Khloe mangles the language.
Singer: VINO ALAN
Song: "Let's Stay Together"
My Take: Let's see... We're pretending this is a "diva" song because Tina Turner covered it on "Private Dancer"? Fair enough. I'll allow it, because I'm enjoying listening to Vino sing this one. Remember that awful, awful Nickleback fiasco from the first week? Listen to this guy tear into soul and you have to wonder what L.A. Reid was smoking. Vino's vocal tone is phenomenal and he really sells this song. But why did they decide to end the arrangement down-tempo, rather than letting Vino go nuts, Al Green-style, at the end? It was a sleepy ending to an otherwise excellent performance.
The Judges Say: Britney raves about his soulful voice. Demi liked this performance better than last week, but she was "a little bored. Simon, however, didn't think it was as good as last week. L.A. Reid is proud.
Singer: EMBLEM 3
Song: "No One"
My Take: Emblem 3 is better than they were only sixth in last week's rankings. Anybody who thinks that puncturing this group's ego balloon is a bad thing is cuckoo-bananas. It may be the best thing to ever happen to Emblem 3, for at least a week or two. The resulting Alicia Keys cover is more melody-and-harmony-driven than Emblem 3's past two performances. In sacrificing some of their theatrics, they also sacrifice a lot of energy. They're also much more frontman-centric in this performance than either of their previous Big Stage songs. But with this particular mix, it's a lot easier to see how Simon could could entirely One Direction-ize them. This version of Emblem 3 won't lose any fans and it may sway a few of the people turned off by previous douchiness.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid calls them "complete superstars." "You guys are complete heartthrobs," Britney says. Demi thinks they improved from last week. Simon goes back to the "absolutely brilliant" well.
Singer: CECE FREY
Song: "All By Myself"
My Take: Nice of "X Factor" to give Cece Frey the pimp slot to protect her after last week's near-elimination. Cece Frey likes to sing really on-the-nose songs, doesn't she? After a clip package about how she's feeling all by herself she goes with... this? Cece's just standing center-stage, which makes for a big improvement in her vocals, since we've established the dance-and-sing isn't right for her. She's also got a planetarium show going on behind her and a wind machine threatening to blast her off the stage. The song itself is ambitious and her performance is... Well... It's better than "Eye of the Tiger" and it's better than the performance that saved her life last Thursday. Is it good? Well, no. Despite her ambitions, Cece can't really sing this song. Her sense of pitch isn't true enough and she's missing nearly every note initially. Some of them she wrestles into shape, but some just stay wrong. Getting the pimp slot is going to help Cece, but I don't know if it's going to help enough.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid is at a loss for words. Demi and L.A. Reid get into a fight, with Cece and Vino in the middle. "Sorry. I just don't get it," Britney says. "I like you because you're a trier," Simon says, before calling it "very cabaret." "For whatever reason, you're not getting it right together, you two," Simon tells Demi and Cece. Demi hopes that people will vote for how much Cece wants it, rather than how she sings.
9:58 p.m. That was a pretty brutal night. From Cece's out-of-tune oversinging to Lyric 145's mixed up mash-up to the tech blunders in Arin's song to the dreadful second half of Paige's performance, there are more than two acts that deserve to go home for what they did tonight. I'd bet two from this group of four will be sent home. I'd guess Lyric 145 and Cece, but maybe Paige instead.
Who'd you like? Who'd you hate? Who's going home?
Everything: The X Factor
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