Recap: 'The X Factor' Top 6 - Unplugged Performances
"The X Factor" lost a bit of talent last week with the eliminations of Vino Alan and Paige Thomas. I doubt that either singer is going to become an international superstar, but until Cece Frey goes home, every "X Factor" elimination will be a minor injustice.
That means we're down to the Top 5 + Cece Frey.
Click through for the full recap of Wednesday's (December 5) telecast...
8:01 p.m. ET. Oooh. Tonight's theme is "unplugged." I don't actually know who that benefits or if I care. But it's a theme!
8:02 p.m. Mario Lopez got married over the weekend. Mazel tov, Mario. I'll return to h8ing you in a minute.
8:03 p.m. Tomorrow is another double-elimination.
8:03 p.m. We have so much filler time tonight that the judges can walk onto the stage in slow motion.
8:04 p.m. Whew. Each act will sing twice tonight. That way we'll be able to fill the time. The first performances are unplugged and the second performances are Pepsi Choice picks from the audience.
8:06 p.m. Our first act is the lone remaining Young Adult... The inexplicably resilient...
Singer: CECE FREY
Song:"Edge of Glory"
My Take: Sorry, Demi Lovato. You have no evidence at all that more and more people are falling for Cece. Then again, Cece has always been better the less she had to do and this version of Cece Frey, perching on a piano singing a relatively straight-forward Lady Gaga song, is much better than last week's "Lady Marmalade" fiasco, to say nothing of two or three previous fiascos. Whoever arranged the song confused "unplugged" with "syrupy slow," but holding every note for at least an extra few seconds gives Cece the chance to course correct when necessary and hit every note. This is probably her best performance since she sang for her life at the start of the live shows. That's saying absolutely nothing other than that I didn't hate Cece tonight. She's drowsy and boring, but she isn't awful.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid says that Cece proved that sometimes they get it wrong. No. That's not what it proves it all. For Britney, however, Cece was just "good" and Britney wants "great" at this point in the competition. "I don't don't think you are worth a $5 million recording contract," says Simon, who calls it more "cabaret" than "unplugged." Demi disagrees meaninglessly. Cece tries to say something, but because she's on an amateurish production, the audio is out on her mic. "I'm still here," Cece smirks when Mario asks what she thinks of the criticisms.
8:14 p.m. The boys of Emblem 3 decided they needed to get away, so they went out shopping. Hmmm... I seem to recall that they were mobbed last week when they went shopping. How confusing!
Singer: EMBLEM 3
Song: "Just the Way You Are"
My Take: Emblem 3 has something to prove to Demi this week, so one of them is playing a guitar. Except that he's not actually playing a guitar. He's sitting with a guitar on his lap. Sitting on staged bathed in a golden light, the boys of Emblem 3 go into a nasally, but sincere version of this Bruno Mars song. The shrieking from certain corners of the crowd suggests that even if Demi's loins have gone cold, Emblem 3 can still light some fires. The harmonies on this one are a bit shrill and strained, but it feels a tiny bit different and we'll see if Demi approves.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid calls it "pretty good" and he's drowned out. "At least one of Simon's groups can sing harmony," L.A. adds pointlessly. Britney Spears calls it their best performance in the competition. "You guys did great. It wasn't the best," Demi says meaninglessly. OUCH. She's calls them "a downgraded version of the Jonas Brothers five years ago." Simon calls her "incredibly dumb." He's ceased to banter with Demi. At this point he just insults her contemptuously. It used to be fun watching the interplay, but it has ceased to be. I don't know if Demi is disappointing Simon or if she's outplaying him and he's offended.
8:23 p.m. Blah blah "X Factor Ap" blah blah. Time for the first of our two Teens...
Singer: CARLY ROSE SONENCLAR
Song: "As Long As You Love Me"
My Take: "It's a very unexpected song, I think," Carly Rose muses when Britney gives her a Justin Bieber song. Fortunately, I can't imagine Carly Rose not blowing "unplugged" up, regardless of what strange song Britney chooses. And guess what? Carly Rose Sonenclar remains, by an almost impossibly wide margin, the class of this competition. I get that Tate and Emblem 3 might sell more albums and that Diamond White could be more easily packaged for the marketplace. But Carly Rose Rosenclar is better than they are. Oddly, this doesn't seem especially unplugged to me. There's a pretty lush backing track that goes well beyond the lone guitarist and the drummer on stage. It's a great performance. I don't know the original, but I like that cover a ton. I wouldn't buy it, but somebody would. That was breathy and mature and powerful, despite probably not being a mature and powerful song.
The Judges Say: "I love you so much," L.A. Reid says, adding that that performance showed restrained and was maybe her best performance for him. Demi compares Carly Rose to JoJo and says it was better than the original. "This is why I love working in this country, because we find people like," Simon says. Britney is impressed and proud.
8:36 p.m. I hate these "How the acts wasted time during the week" segments so much. Why must Fifth Harmony go clothing shopping and do their nails every week. Blech. Full credit to L.A. Reid correctly noting what a silly name Fifth Harmony has for a group that can't/doesn't sing harmonies.
Singer: FIFTH HARMONY
Song: "Set Fire To The Rain"
My Take: Carly Rose Sonenclar proved last week that she's capable of tackling Adele. This week, the ladies of Fifth Harmony prove that as individuals, they're really not capable and that as a group... they're not capable of anything. If this is their idea of doing harmony, it just proves L.A. Reid all the more correct. Then again, surely we have to blame Simon and whoever arranged the song as well. That performance was five mediocre solos being traded back and forth, with nothing supporting it at all. Not a lick of harmony. That was weak. I can't imagine Fifth Harmony surviving another week. There's no point in critiquing it. Fifth Harmony just made Cece Frey look good. Well done.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid heard no harmony and the idiotic members of the audience boo. Britney Spears doesn't know what separates them from other girl groups. L.A. Reid explains that what separates them is that they don't sing harmony. Demi thinks a couple of them should just be solo artists. "That was really unfair criticism," Simon tells L.A. Reid.
Singer: DIAMOND WHITE
Song: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"
My Take: Remember Joshua Ledet? He did a pretty great version of this one on "Idol" last season. I can't imagine Diamond equalling that. And... Again... Nobody has a clue what "unplugged" means, do they? There's a big music sting to start, but then the music drops out, leaving just Diamond for a very strong intro to the song. I don't need the background vocalists and the arrangement could have been stripped down even more. But Diamond White is very good here. It's definitely her best pure vocal this season. I'd still rather hear Carly Rose do this one as well, but Diamond does herself fairly proud. She even knocks over the mic at the end. It doesn't feel spontaneous, but I like the spirit.
The Judges Say: "You brought show biz," L.A. Reid says, noting that she also brought attitude. Demi thought Diamond pulled it off. Simon and Demi both remind us that we hear Diamond do this before, but he seemed to mostly like it. "You not only nailed it, you destroyed it," Simon says.
Singer: TATE STEVENS
Song: "Living On a Prayer"
My Take: This is closer to unplugged. A bit. It's Tate and a few musicians who I actually believe are playing most of the music we're hearing. And the arrangement goes under the heading of "drowsy." Does anybody remember Nirvana's "Unplugged" album? It's not drowsy. Nor were any of the good MTV "Unplugged" sessions. Tate also has multiple key changes that serve no purpose other than saving his voice and making the song less dynamic. But, as always, you come away thinking he means it. And that's not insignificant. But I'm sure not excited or especially entertained by that.
The Judges Say: Britney feels like Tate is getting away from what he does best. Demi calls Tate on skipping out on the high note and calls it "a little boring." Simon compares it to "taking a goldfish for a walk." That's negative. L.A. Reid thought it was "pretty good."
8:58 p.m. Carly Rose and Diamond were the unplugged stand-outs for me. Tate and Emblem 3 are somewhere in the middle. Cece Frey's a solid fifth. And Fifth Harmony is bringing up the rear. But anything can change once Pepsi does something or other.
9:02 p.m. Melanie Amaro will perform tonight. Ke$ha will also perform tomorrow. No encore for Burrito Josh.
9:04 p.m. The next hour is YOUR fault, America.
Singer: CECE FREY
Song: "Part of Me"
My Take: America asked Cece Frey to wear short-shorts and shout-shout. This is brutal. Make it stop. Even Cece seems to hate what America asked her to do. She worked so hard to separate herself from the leopard spots and America forces her to restore them? Sigh. Why did the viewers want her to dressed like a carnival hooker? At least this isn't boring. I'm too busy having seizures from the flashing lights to be bored.
The Judges Say: "Not loving it," L.A. Reid says, calling it "karaoke." Britney, however, likes spectacle and she found it "very entertaining." Simon liked Cece's defiance and he calls her "a trier." Cece made Demi proud. Cece thanks the judges for making her strong.
Singer: EMBLEM 3
Song: "Forever Young"
My Take: I'm confused by the rhythm on this cover of "Forever Young" and I think the boys of Emblem 3 are confused as well. This is pretty much the epitome of the Emblem 3 performance that has left Demi increasingly disillusioned. I'm with her on this one. They stand together, the three of them, for the entire performance. Occasionally one steps forward. But not often. It's like they're puppets joined at the hip, but without the compensation of dancing or anything like that. The guys have no sense of play with this track at all. They're treating it like something they need to overcome, rather than something to enjoy.
The Judges Say: "Tonight, you nailed it," L.A. Reid says. "I thought it was a superstar performance," Britney says. "I just want to see you command the stage more and work it," Demi says. Simon is confused. "I think you've been really, really good tonight," Simon says. Demi refuses to say which one of the Emblem 3 boys she has a crush on. Simon makes an obnoxious joke about them having a restraining order. "Yeah. That's right. A restraining order," says an unamused Demi.
Singer: CARLY ROSE SONENCLAR
Song: "If I Were a Boy"
My Take: Sorry, America. You may be able to shake Cece Frey and Emblem 3, but you can't destroy Carly Rose Sonenclar. Even those devious saboteurs you planted in the audience to clap out-of-rhythm can't shake her. This isn't a great song choice at all, but Carly Rose is entirely connected to it by the end despite its imperfections. My initial instinct is that she's not connecting with the song, so she's perhaps over-compensating by making it bigger and bigger. At the end, she looks moved, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, this isn't the sort of song Carly Rose would ever sing on an album, but she left little doubt that when asked, she most certainly can sing it.
The Judges Say: "You're so talented," L.A. Reid says. "That's a phenomenal vocal," Demi says, though she asks for something up-temp to avoid predictability. Simon tells Carly Rose not to listen to Demi, then complains about the odd lyric, which causes Demi to point out that it's a Beyonce song. "I think you're the definition of The X Factor," Britney says.
Singer: FIFTH HARMONY
Song: "Give Your Heart a Break"
My Take: Harmony! I heard it. And again! Of course, when they get to the chorus, the harmonies are gone and they are, as L.A. Reid said, all just singing in unison. Their problems with opening up songs as a group remain evident, but that was a massive improvement over the first performance. I liked that quite a bit.
The Judges Say: "For me, that was your very, very best performance," L.A. Reid says. "I think this song should have been your song," Demi says, praising them for singing it better than her original. Simon thanks America for choosing a great song.
Singer: DIAMOND WHITE
My Take: Ha. I see what you did here, America. See... Her name is "Diamond" and she's singing about "Diamonds" and she's descending onto the stage in a DIAMOND. This is a fine wheelhouse song selection from America. Diamond White has absolutely no problems living up to Rihanna's standard on a vocal level. She can't perform like Rihanna, of course, but she doesn't get lost in the silly staging, courtesy of America. So many diamonds. So much confetti. This is a second straight very reasonable performance from Diamond.
The Judges Say: L.A. Reid, however, didn't love Diamond's rendition of "Diamonds." Demi felt like Diamond did the song justice. Simon worries that it's just Diamond's luck that she's in a competitive Top 6. "Your voice was just spectacular," says Britney, who says the song was made for her.
Singer: TATE STEVENS
Song: "If Tomorrow Never Comes"
My Take: I don't get the platform on the stage, or the backdrop or the brown glow, but this is a simple and appropriate choice from America. But again, is this another song on which Tate is avoiding high notes? Does he just not have any upper range at all? Hmmm... I wonder why I haven't noticed that in previous weeks. He's very good at what he does, but his voice is roughly half-an-octave. It's crazy limited and both of tonight's songs were simplified for him. But that's fine. It works. It'll mobilize the base.
The Judges Say:
Britney calls it "brilliant." Demi got a little sleepy, "But I'm also really tired," she admits. "Welcome back Tate Stevens," Simon says. L.A. Reid calls it "great."
9:54 p.m. Carly and Fifth Harmony gave the best performances in the show's second half. Tate and Diamond were in the middle. Emblem 3 was fifth and Cece Frey was absolutely the bottom.
9:55 p.m. I'm assuming Cece and either Fifth Harmony or Diamond White will be going home tomorrow. But bad things happen when you assume.
What do you assume? Who shined tonight and who's going to be in danger tomorrow?