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'The X Factor' U.S. 2013 Episode 21: Jeff Gutt soars; Paulina Rubio is a mess

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In "The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Dec. 4, 2013, rocker Jeff Gutt continued to soar with more outstanding performances. He's arguably the most talented singer who is remaining in the competition, and he's been getting rave reviews from the judges and "X Factor" viewers. Meanwhile, pop singer Ellona Santiago earned high praise from the judges for being an all-around entertainer who can sing and dance, but she still has some off-key moments. Another judges' favorite is boyfriend/girlfriend duo Alex & Sierra, whose "X Factor" specialty is doing slow versions of songs. Alex & Sierra have divided viewers who disagree on how talented this duo is, but most people agree that Alex & Sierra are much better singers than country trio Restless Road, the other remaining contestant act in the Groups category.

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While the contestants, for the most part, have shown some improvement as this season heads toward the finale, the same can't be said for judge Paulina Rubio, as she appears to become more unhinged with each episode.

Because I was at all of "The X Factor" auditions in New York in June 2013, I have said all along that Paulina Rubio is the weakest link on the show's judging panel this year, and that her erratic behavior would be even more obvious in the live episodes where her wackiness couldn't be edited out so easily. In this episode, Rubio was even more incoherent than usual. Her speech was slurred, she kept gesturing wildly, and she frequently interrupted Simon Cowell. Her "loose cannon" behavior makes you wonder if she's under the influence of alcohol or drugs, because her loopy way of speaking isn't just because English is not her first language.

Rubio also has this annoying habit of telling certain contestants (such as Rion Paige) how much she loves them, but she can't even pronounce their names correctly, which makes her look not only stupid but also very phony. The other "X Factor" judges seemed embarrassed to be sitting at the same table with her.

As previously reported, Rubio has gotten an avalanche of complaints from many "X Factor" viewers, several of whom have said that she's the worst "X Factor" judge ever.

Meanwhile, Demi Lovato kept telling so many contestants who are not in her mentor category that they "earned a spot in the finals" (there's only room for three contestants in the finals) that it made her look like she couldn't do math correctly and wasn't being very loyal to the contestants she's mentoring. And all of this "you earned a spot" talk started to sound a lot like the atrocious and highly manipulative Four Chair Challenge, which crushed some contestants' dreams just as soon as the judges misled them to believe that the contestants had "earned a spot" in the next round.

Here are the six contestant acts that competed in this episode and the judges who are mentoring them:

Girls (female solo singers ages 12 to 24) - mentored by Demi Lovato

  • Rion Paige
  • Ellona Santiago

Boys (male solo singers ages 12 to 24) - mentored by Paulina Rubio

  • Carlito Olivero

Over 25s (solo singers ages 25 and over) - mentored by Kelly Rowland

  • Jeff Gutt

Groups - mentored by Simon Cowell

  • Alex & Sierra
  • Restless Road

(Voting information for each contestant is listed below. Voting for each episode is open for a limited time after each episode is televised in the United States. "The X Factor" U.S. host Mario Lopez announced that the phone numbers and text numbers for each contestant will be the same throughout show's entire season this year.)

This musical theme in this episode was "Divas and Unplugged Week." Each contestant act performed two songs: The first song was from a famous female singer/diva and the second song was performed acoustically or "unplugged."

Here is a recap of the contestants' performances and the judges’ feedback:

Restless Road performed Taylor Swift's "Red" as the "diva" song and a country ballad version of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" as the "unplugged" song. Although Restless Road showed some improvement from its other "X Factor" performances, the group still has a long way to go in perfecting its harmonies. Restless Road's performance of "Wake Me Up" was much better than the group's performance of "Red."

Judges' feedback: For "Red," Rowland commented, "You know what I loved most about you guys this week? It's the fact that your vocals are so tight. I think you really found that thread that really ties you together as a group. I would like more energy from you guys on stage, but I really think you guys have come such a long way. Congratulations." Lovato said, "I really enjoyed watching you grow as artists and musicians. In the beginning, you had really, really great harmonies. I would love to hear more solos. You guys have a long way. That was a great song choice." Rubio added, "You guys are so cute! Little Elvis Presley, I just love the way you sing, baby! I love the song. I know that Simon chose those song under the influence of alcohol, because that was amazing." Cowell praised Restless Road by saying: "You guys have to be in the final. You deserve to be in the final. I love this song because it took you back to your country roots. No one worked harder than you. You've really gelled as a band. There's a million-dollar recording contract. You deserve it. You really, really do."

For "Wake Me Up," Rowland said, "Guys, you know what I love most about that performance? You left each one of your hearts right there on that 'X.' You meant every single word. And that's one of the most beautiful things about unplugged. Andrew and Zach, you've grown so much vocally. It just makes everything stronger. Congratulations on a great performance." Lovato said to Restless Road: "You're making me cry right now, so stop crying. You're not even in my category, but I'm so proud of you. I feel like that was so beautiful. You just earned your spot in the final. I'm so impressed." Rubio added, "You guys are our boys. You guys need to cry because this is real and this is happening and just proud to be here." Cowell concluded, "Guys, this is what I hoped you would end up being. You're very honest, the vocals were great, I loved the song, which I didn't choose. You've come such a long way. And you know what else? I would buy that song on iTunes."

To vote for Restless Road:
Phone: 1-855-843-9310
Text: Text 10 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Restless Road's performance of "Red.")

(Click here to watch Restless Road's performance of "Wake Me Up.")

Rion Paige sang Carrie Underwood's "See You Again" as the "diva" song and Thompson Square's "Glass" as the "unplugged" song. Paige still has a lot of problems enunciating words when she sings, and her vocals are pitchy. Singing "louder" doesn't always mean singing "better." The judges seem to be afraid to tell her this truth, probably because they don't want people saying that they're picking on an underage girl with a disability, so the judges over-praise her in every episode.

Judges' feedback: For "See You Again," Rowland said, "Rion, you know what I love the most about you? Every time I watch you perform, it's always genuine. You always sing from a real place. You commanded presence the way a diva would, as we asked of you this week. You looked beautiful, my dear. Congratulations." Rubio addd, "Rion, I love you! I love the tone of your vocals. Your voice is so unique. Just that power it has, you have it in music. I always wear my hair down, because those goldilocks need to be flowing! Besides that, you're unique." Cowell said, "Not the best song to choose, perhaps. I love that you went back to your country roots. I think the second song is going to be a better choice." Lovato raved to Paige: "You literally took my breath away. I get emotional because you've come so far. Nobody in this competition has the fire behind your eyes when they perform like you do."

For "Glass," Rowland got choked up and teary-eyed when she said, "I think what's so beautiful about unplugged is that as an artist you're just allowed to be completely vulnerable. And I think that's what's s beautiful about watching you." Rubio added, "Rion, you are an inspiration. You are so strong, you are so empowering. You are so talented, so into it. You have the X Factor for me." Cowell stated, "That was so much better than the first song. I felt every word. I thought you sang it better, it suited you better, it had more depth. You could have just saved yourself on that second song." Lovato was in tears as she said to Paige, "I guess why I'm so emotional right now is that every word of that song is what you're about. You show people it's OK not to be perfect. It's so inspiring, and I love you. I think you're so talented. And America better vote for you!"

To vote for Rion Paige:
Phone: 1-855-843-9311
Text: Text 11 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Rion Paige's performance of "See You Again.")

(Click here to watch Rion Paige's performance of "Glass.")

Jeff Gutt sang Mariah Carey's "Without You" (which was originally a hit for Nilsson) as the "diva" song and Elton John's "Daniel" as the "unplugged" song. Gutt turned "Without You" into an arena rock anthem, even though he has some moments when he was shouting more than singing. And on "Daniel," he played acoustic guitar and did a fresh spin on the song. And what do you know? Gutt really does have an older brother named Daniel; he's a senior chief in the U.S. Navy and was in the audience during the performance. Cue the misty eyes.

Judges' feedback: For "Without You," Lovato raved, "I think you've come a long way. My niece is obsessed with you, and I think that goes to show you have the X Factor. You did very well." Rubio said, "Jeff, I love you. I know you have hard feelings toward me because of my comments like week. It doesn't matter. You rock! You remind me of Axl Rose, and that's a good thing. I want you show me blood. Rock and roll, love and blood, but show me that blood." Cowell said to Gutt, "OK, basically, she wants you to stab yourself next week. I'm not being rude because you are quite boring as a person. I think that's shyness. But when you come on stage, you completely transform ... I what I love about you, Jeff, is that you're someone who actually wants to win this competition, who needs to win this competition. And I shouldn't say this, because I'm not your mentor, but this is the best performance of the night so far. And Jeff, do not cut yourself next week." Rowland added, "We want this to family television. We don't want to see no blood! Jeff, that was absolutely amazing."

For "Daniel," Lovato said, "I feel like it was good, but it was a bit stale. It was a bit anti-climactic. I think you did better on the first song. The second song, not as great. I loved that you played guitar as well." Rubio commented, "You know, Jeff, I've been doing this all my life. And when you have something to say, there's nothing more healthy and more amazing just to say it. And the fact that you just sing to your brother, I love it. I never saw you playing the guitar. Besides anything else, you're a father, and I'm a single mom, and I reflect into all your hard work. That's unique." Cowell concluded, "Jeff, I'm really glad that you dedicated that to your brother. I thought that was a really cool thing to do. I do agree with Demi. Vocally, it wasn't as good as the first song, but then again, the sentiment was really strong, so I think you had a really good night." Rowland added "Jeff, I've watched you grow in this competition, and I know how tough it is for you to open up to anybody, and the fact that you even shared your heart with us speaks volumes about you, which is why you should stay here and be in the semi-finals."

To vote for Jeff Gutt:
Phone: 1-855-843-9305
Text: Text 5 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Jeff Gutt's performance of "Without You.")

(Click here to watch Jeff Gutt's performance of "Daniel.")

Ellona Santiago sang Lady Gaga's "Applause" as the "diva" song and Beyoncé's "If I Were a Boy" as the "unplugged" song. Santiago's "X Factor" performances and on-stage wardrobe are heavily influenced by what you might see Cher do in a Las Vegas show. You're either going to love it or hate it.

Judges' feedback: For "Applause," Rowland exclaimed, "Ellona, that was one of your best performances, I have to say! You were commanding so much presence. And then when you got to the end, you went somewhere else. It was incredible! I do want to give you one note: I want you be able to control those big notes that divas do at the end. Remember agility." Rubio said, "Listen to her. Listen to me, mama! When you're Ellona, and you have that power, that talent, it doesn't matter what you sing. It doesn't matter what you wear. It's Ellona. And tonight is a diva's night, and you're Ellona." Cowell commented to Santiago, "You've gone from being a mouse to a little tiger here. Confidence. You are a total diva. I wasn't crazy about the original version of the song, but I loved that version. You're in it to win it." Lovato added, "Thank you, Simon, that was really cool of you, for once." And to Santiago, Lovato commented: "I couldn't be prouder of you. You have the ability to take this whole competition. You have the ability to be a great role model because you have a good heart. You're a diva, and I feel like America should vote for you because you deserve it!"

For "If I Were a Boy," Rowland said, "Ellona, you have such a big, beautiful voice, and I think that most of the time we've seen you, you used this big, beautiful voice. And the parts that I enjoyed the most in that song is when you actually softened up the notes and actually gave this beautiful, rich tone that I wish you would have done more of. Your voice has so many different levels to it, and I think you should definitely explore those tones just a little bit more." Rubio commented, "Ellona, I feel I am watching a superstar. I love it. I love how you command. I love how you deliver. I just feel that you have everything that it gets to be the X Factor." Cowell added, "Ellona, the first song, for me, had too much going on. This is what we've been waiting for, for you, for a long time: just you, a microphone, and a vocal. That was incredible — I think one of my favorite performances so far from you." Lovato raved, "Ellona, I'm so happy that Simon gave us that advice, because it really did showcase your vocals. You definitely are the type of person who could win this competition."

To vote for Ellona Santiago:
Phone: 1-855-843-9304
Text: Text 4 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Ellona Santiago's performance "Applause.")

(Click here to watch Ellona Santiago's performance of "If I Were a Boy.")

Alex & Sierra performed Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" for the "diva" song and A Great Big World's "Say Something" as the "unplugged" song. Once again, Alex & Sierra chose slow tempos in their performances. Very predictable. But the judges loved Alex & Sierra's version of "Say Something" (which had Alex on acoustic guitar and Sierra doing basic chords on a piano) so much that they gave it a standing ovation.

Judges' feedback: For "Say My Name," Rowland said, "I must admit, I was not ready for that. I was really shocked, but you guys really actually pulled that off. Sierra, you have that sass!" Lovato commented, "I felt that you were probably nervous because Kelly's sitting right here, but oh my God, Sierra, you've come out of your shell. I love you guys so much. I think it was very brave of Simon [to choose that song]. It worked I know you're not in my category, but I really want to see you in the finals." Rubio exclaimed: "Alex and Sierra, I'm so much into your picture, so much into your love story, that I just love you guys! And that unique spark about love. I think you have a potential space in the industry right now that nobody filled up after Sonny & Cher!" Cowell added, "Alex and Sierra, I get the feeling that I'm looking at winners here. I really look forward to your performances because you always put a different take on it, you're prepared to take a risk, not a lot of gimmicks. And I genuinely think there's a gap in the market for you two."

For "Say Something," Rowland gushed, "I felt like I was watching a performance on an awards show! I just saw a really, really big light for you guys. And I think that's where you guys shine the best." Lovato added, "The two of you playing instruments is so magical. And it really shows how talented you guys are and how organic this is. By the way, what I noticed was when you guys sang that song, you never took your eyes off each other. It's so beautiful. I need you guys in the final four." Rubio said, "Alex and Sierra, I'm really excited for you. I'm impressed. I didn't know that Sierra plays so great the piano. And just the fact that mathematics, genetics, love, babies are in the same equation, I just put everything in a collage. You know what I mean? You guys are different, you guys are edgy, you guys rock!" Cowell raved, "This, for me, wasn't just the best performance of the night, because it was. This is my favorite performance of the entire season. That wasn't a performance. That was a record. And I will be on iTunes downloading that in about 10 minutes' time. It was outstanding, beautiful, sincere, fantastic!"

To vote for Alex & Sierra:
Phone: 1-855-843-9301
Text: Text 1 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Alex & Sierra's performance of "Say My Name.")

(Click here to watch Alex & Sierra's performance of "Say Something.")

Carlito Olivero sang Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud" as the "diva" song and Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" (which Olivero sang partially in Spanish, just like Prince Royce's version) as the "unplugged" song. Olivero is by far the weakest vocalist left in the competition this year. He has more style than substance.

Judges' feedback: Rowland commented, "Carlito, last week was a really good week for you, but this week I feel like, for me, it kind of fell flat. I feel like when I'm watching you sing, you're just pushing so hard. I have to be honest." Lovato added, "Carlito, last week was really hard to top. I don't think you topped it. You did a great job. What you did so well last week was flirting with everyone. It was cute. It made you connect to the girls. That's going to be your core audience. You need to be that hot Latin singer." Cowell said, "Girls, I think you've been really unfair on him ... It wasn't the best vocal I've heard, but I would hate to lose you from this competition, Carlito. You're different. There's a market for you. You're a hard worker." Rubio said to Olivero, "I am very proud of who you are. I love that you deliver whatever song you need to sing."\

For "Stand by Me," Rowland exclaimed, "Carlito, that was actually the best vocal I've heard you do in this whole competition! I know I've given you a really hard time, but it's because I think you are just so cute!" Lovato commented, "I wish there wasn't so much music in the background. I wanted to hear your voice, because you sounded so amazing." When Cowell made a booing noise in the middle of Lovato's comment, Lovato snapped at Cowell, "Hey, hold on, let me finish for once!" Does Lovato not realize that she interrupts Cowell a lot more than he interrupts her? Someone should tell Lovato that she needs to watch herself and all of her rude interruptions on "The X Factor" because she comes across as a hypocritical brat. Lovato continued saying to Olivero, "I loved the Spanish, I love that you sing to the girls. That's what I'm talking about!" Cowell added, "Carlito, you had the misfortune of following Alex & Sierra, who were incredible, but it was better than the first song. I really would be upset if we lost you." Rubio than pinched Cowell's nose and said, "Every time I tuck, he opens his nose! Whatever! Carlito, it's about you. I love you! And you're delivering and you have that great talent. I think this is the best performance ever in this competition!"

To vote for Carlito Olivero:
Phone: 1-855-843-9302
Text: Text 2 to 21523
Official website: http://www.thexfactorusa.com
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thexfactorusa
Apps: The X Factor app and Shazam app

(Click here to watch Carlito Olivero's performance of "Let's Get Loud.")

(Click here to watch Carlito Olivero's performance of "Stand by Me.")

In "The X Factor" U.S. episode airing on Dec. 5, 2013, two contestants will be eliminated. "X Factor" alumni Little Mix and Emblem3 are also performing in that episode.

And if things keep going downhill the way they are for Rubio, they may need a straightjacket for her on the season finale. Or at least a muzzle.

Dec. 5, 2013 update: Ratings for "The X Factor" U.S. continue to be unimpressive. According to the Nielsen Company, the episode that aired on Dec. 4, 2013, got only 5.41 million U.S. viewers. The episode finished in seventh place in its time slot (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST/PST) and ninth overall of the 13 prime-time U.S. network shows that aired that night.

Here are the rankings of the U.S. prime-time network shows on Dec. 4, 2013:

  1. "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" (CBS) — 10.63 million U.S. viewers
  2. "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" (NBC) — 9.74 million U.S. viewers
  3. "Modern Family" (ABC) — 9.47 million U.S. viewers
  4. "Criminal Minds" -- repeat (CBS) — 8.21 million U.S. viewers
  5. "CSI" -- repeat (CBS) — 8.20 million U.S. viewers
  6. "Saturday Night Live Christmas" (NBC) — 7.42 million U.S. viewers
  7. "The Middle" (ABC) — 7.41 million U.S. viewers
  8. "Nashville" (ABC) — 5.7 million U.S. viewers
  9. "The X Factor" (Fox) — 5.41 million U.S. viewers
  10. "Back in the Game" (ABC) — 5.12 million U.S. viewers
  11. "Super Fun Night" (ABC) — 4.77 million U.S. viewers
  12. "Arrow" (CW) — 3.24 million U.S. viewers
  13. "The Tomorrow People" (CW) — 1.74 million U.S. viewers
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