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'The X Factor' U.S. 2013 Episode 23: Alex & Sierra lead 'The X Factor' pack

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It was the semi-finals episode in "The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Dec. 11, 2013. And boyfriend/girlfriend duo Alex & Sierra can pretty much count on getting a record deal with Sony Music, since they have been declared the show's winner this year by getting the highest praise from the judges. Alex & Sierra (who do folksy ballad versions of hit songs on "The X Factor") have also been selling the most music on iTunes out of all this year's contestants on the show. Based on music sales, Alex & Sierra have already won the competition this year.

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"X Factor" judges Kelly Rowland and Demi Lovato were so moved by Alex & Sierra's version of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" that they began to cry. Meanwhile, Paulina Rubio was just as inarticulate as ever, but she curbed some "loose cannon" behavior that she had in the previous week. Simon Cowell and Lovato continued to spar and interrupt each other, but their bickering has become so tiresome and stupid that it's not worth repeating here.

Coming in a close second in the judges' praise was rock singer Jeff Gutt, who is vocally the most talented out of the remaining contestants, and he is also likely to be one of the three contestants to make it to the finals. That leaves country trio Restless Road and Latin pop singer Carlito Olivero to battle it out for that third spot in the finals.

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

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

Demi Lovato, who was mentoring the Girls category (female solo singers ages 12 to 24), no longer has any contestants in the competition, since her last two contestants (Ellona Santiago and Rion Paige) were eliminated on Dec. 5, 2013.

(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.)

In this episode, each contestant sang three songs: one song chosen by public votes; the other song was a duet between two paired contestants; the other song was chosen by the contestants and/or their mentors.

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

Carlito Olivero sang Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" for the "viewers' choice" song and Marc Anthony's "I Need to Know." Olivero played up his "Latin lover" image by singing to a woman propped on a chair on stage and gyrating his hips. And when Olivero sang "I Need to Know," it just reminded people that he isn't nearly as talented as Anthony.

Judges' feedback: For "Boyfriend," Rowland commented, "Carlito, I am so incredibly proud of you! I have been waiting on that all season! It was the right register for your voice. You were confident. You made that girl over there sweat, and then you made me sweat. I love you. Kudos!" Lovato added, "I'm so happy for you. You started out in this competition so nervous, so worried. And you came out here with so much confidence. That performance has star quality to it. You totally have the X Factor. You played the heartthrob role very, very well. Everyone s going crazy." Cowell said, "You are here to get into the finals. I can tell after that performance. What I love about you is that you never get down when you're in the bottom. You come back each week strong, which is always the earmark of a great artist. You're not the best singer ... but what you make up for is that you're a great performer, and people like you." Rubio said to Olivero, "All of the girls right now received the message. Carlito, you are multi-faceted. You can salsa, you can sing 'Boyfriend.' You can sing whatever you want, and that's a plus!"

For "I Need to Know," Rowland complimented Olivero by saying, "You are not playing with us tonight! You brought out all the weapons. You look so cute. You dance around. Where you been hiding?" Lovato spoke in Spanish, saying that Olivero was "muy caliente" (very hot) and then said in English, "Your vocals sound great." Cowell added, "It was kind of a like a singer and a magic act at the same time. I think the song was perfect for you. You had, without question, the best week you've had in the competition so far." Rubio said, "Carlito needs the support now. You guys need to vote because Carlito is 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 "Boyfriend.")

(Click here to watch Carlito Olivero's performance of "I Need to Know.")

Restless Road performed Luke Bryan's "That's My Kind of Night" as the "viewers' choice" song and Hunter Hayes' "Wanted." It was one of Restless Road's better performances. The harmonies were very good, but not spectacular.

Judges' feedback: For "That's My Kind of Night," Rowland raved, "That was so much fun! It was fun to watch ... That's the perfect sound for your guys. You had everybody shakin' and buzzin' over here. It was great!" Lovato, who wasn't as impressed, said: "Guys, kind of I'm going to be a buzz kill over here. It didn't do it for me. It was fun, but it was awkward. Colton, you do an awesome job. You just need to open up, and I feel like this performance was nervous. It wasn't a semi-final performance. I don't think it was exciting enough." Rubio added, "You're like three boys singing like Colton is the main piece of this. I need Zach and Andrew to be in the same shape. I need you guys to have more fun. I liked the performance, but I'm expecting more from you guys." Cowell stated: "You've been together three or four months ... The vocals were a little shaky in the beginning, but then you got confident. Most importantly, this final would not be the same without you. I'm very proud of you guys."

For "Wanted," Rowland commented, "Can I be honest? While you were performing that song, I was going, "They're singing to me! It's so cute!' I was not expecting Zach and Andrew's vocals to be so incredibly strong as they were. Colton came in at the end and gave this riff with a cherry on top. I just love y'all!" Lovato raved, "This was comfortable; this was confident. This is what you need to continue to do. I think that you just saved yourselves. This was incredible, this was awesome, this was great." Rubio added, "Finally, you guys did an amazing vocal together when you blend with each one of you have your own voice and at the same time together as a group. Such an amazing improvement. Congratulations." Cowell said, "This is exactly the kind of record you should make. What's really impressive is how you work together, the three of you, to support each other — particularly, Zach. You were like a little mouse when we first worked with you. You had no confidence. Just watching you performing tonight, your confidence, you sounded great. The three of you sound great together. Please, America ... put these guys in the final."

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 "That's My Kind of Night.")

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

Alex & Sierra performed Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks" for the "viewers' choice" song and Sara Bareilles' "Gravity." This performances are likely to be fan favorites, since they delivered Alex & Sierra's signature style of cutesy, lovey-dovey, slow arrangements of songs. You either love it or hate it.

Judges' feedback: For "Little Talks," Rowland said, "Y'all make me mad because you nailed the performance. It really makes me upset, because Jeff [Gutt]''s got to come up here. Y'all just killed it. I can't even front. I'm a fan!" Lovato commented, "It is so annoying to say but I think I'm looking at the winners. I really do." Rubio exclaimed: "You come stronger each week, you come more prepared, more humble. We get that. I get you guys. You have a huge space in the music industry. I know it's going to be unbelievable for you guys." Cowell added, "Let me explain why I you're important to the show: You're not performing songs; you're making records. You're really fun to work with. You are one of the best contestants I've actually worked with, for a long, long time. You're getting better and better and better."

For "Gravity," Rowland teared up and said, "You sound absolutely incredible, but what I loved most about that performance is that Sierra, you are such a flower, and I love watching women grow. I love watching you blossom!" Lovato also began to cry as she added, "That song already has so much meaning to me. You sang that flawless. That was so beautiful and captivating. I'm looking at stars. You guys never cease to amaze me. I agree with Kelly. Watching you blossom has been amazing." Rubio said, "Seeing you guys here, so different characters, so different personalities together for one reason — and it's love, music. You guys have that X Factor, and I can see it from far, far far away. Just to see you grow so far, you guys are amazing." Cowell raved, "You know what was great about that performance? It was raw, it was subtle. It showed how much you want to be in the finals, which I think is important. I would like to bottle the last 10 seconds of that performance, Sierra, and have it for the rest of my life, because it was perfection, absolute perfection! Working with you has been an absolute pleasure, because you're such nice people. I really hope America feels the same way and picks up the phone."

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 "Little Talks.")

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

Jeff Gutt sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as the "viewers' choice" song and Imagine Dragons' "Demons." People who watched "The X Factor" U.S. in 2012 may remember that Gutt sang "Hallelujah" as his audition in front of the judges. His "X Factor" performance of the song in 2013 had a backing choir but didn't have the same raw, emotional impact as his performance of the song in 2012. But the arrangement of the song was better in 2013, and he hit all the high notes on key, which was outstanding. He also did well on "Demons," but "Hallelujah" was a better performance.

Judges' feedback: For "Hallelujah," Lovato gushed, "I know I just said that Alex & Sierra could be the winners, but honestly, I think it's going to be you two in the finals. This is a very popular cover song, but this is my favorite, and it has been since last season." Rubio said, "I love this version, and I think you did amazing. I think everybody knows this song, but you made it into your own way." Cowell said to Gutt, "That was one of the best versions I've ever heard. You know why? It had absolute sincerity, passion. You absolutely took the song like you owned it." Rowland added, "Jeff, one word: iTunes. I'm running to iTunes to get that version right now! You just nailed that song. I'm so proud of you. You're so humble. I love working with you. I love your work ethic. I hope America gets behind you."

For "Demons," Lovato said, "It's amazing to watch you come so far since last season ... It's your time now. It was a tiny bit pitchy when you went into that last note, but you killed it!" Rubio added, "I think you looked powerful. You sound amazing. The songs you've been choosing for this have been amazing. You did a great job." Cowell gushed, "What an incredible song, an incredible performance! I've got to say to all the contestants tonight, this has been by far the best show that we've made. For you, your moment has arrived this week, Jeff. You gave everything. That's exactly the kind of song you should make when you make an album. It's perfect for you." Rowland began to cry as she exclaimed, "I have enjoyed being your mentor! You are so humble and you are so hungry, and you come out here and fight! I respect you as a man and a father!"

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 "Hallelujah.")

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

Duets

Alex & Sierra and Olivero teamed up for Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly." The song clearly suited Alex & Sierra better than Olivero, who struggled to keep up with them vocally.

Judges' feedback: Rubio said, "I love you both. I'm the mentor of Carlito. For some reason, I think that because they're two and he is one, he's stepping to them with that voice and that mood. He did it much, much better, those long notes." Cowell added, "Carlito, you did well on the song. Alex, you did well on the song, Sierra, you stole the song." Rowland commented, "Akex & Sierra started off the song a little bit pitchy. Carlito's singing the song over here with all this feeling. All of a sudden, I hear this huge note from Carlito. I was like, 'Oh my God, I didn't know he had it in him.' Then she [Sierra] does the same thing. This is amazing!" Lovato stated, "Listen, I didn't know, Carlito, you could sing like that. That was your best vocal performance. Sierra, I didn't know you could sing like that. That was your best vocal performance. I do agree with Kelly; it was a little bit pitchy."

(Click here to watch Alex & Sierra and Carlito Olivero's performance of "Falling Slowly.")

Restless Road and Gutt teamed up for the Police's "Every Breath You Take." Gutt seemingly had an advantage since he's a rock singer, while Restless Road is a country group. But regardless of the genre, Gutt was able to deliver the better, more powerful vocal performance. Restless Road sounded like Gutt's backup singers.

Judges' feedback: Rowland gushed, "I thought that both performances were really good, but Jeff ... the Gutt killed it!" Cowell added, "Don't try to fall into the trap of trying to out-sing Jeff. Jeff is a rock singer. This song was always going to be great for him. But the great thing about the boys is that you kept to your roots. You did exactly what you should have done. You looked great. You have to vote to get Restless Road into the finals." Rubio said, "I think you guys did terrific. Restless Road did all this planning with three voices. I feel that Jeff killed it with just one voice. I really feel that Jeff did it amazing." Lovato concluded: I haven't heard a country version of the song. I thought that you, Jeff, had better vocals. You stole the performance. I think you did amazing."

(Click here to watch Restless Road and Jeff Gutt's performance of "Every Breath You Take.")

In "The X Factor" U.S. episode airing on Dec. 12, 2013, the contestant with the lowest number of votes will be automatically be eliminated. There will be no "save me" sing-off. Enrique Iglesias is also performing in that episode.

Dec. 12, 2103 update: Ratings for "The X Factor" U.S. continue to go on a downward spiral. The episode that aired on Dec. 11, 2013, got only 4.97 million U.S. viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The episode finished in eighth place in its time slot (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST/PST) and 11th 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. 11, 2013:

  1. "Criminal Minds" (CBS) — 11.19 million U.S. viewers
  2. "Modern Family" (ABC) — 10.61 million U.S. viewers
  3. "CSI" (CBS) — 10.18 million U.S. viewers
  4. "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" (CBS) — 9.92 million U.S. viewers
  5. "The Middle" (ABC) — 8.08 million U.S. viewers
  6. "Back in the Game" (ABC) — 6.14 million U.S. viewers
  7. "The Sing-Off" (NBC) — 6.03 million U.S. viewers
  8. "Super Fun Night" (ABC) — 5.37 million U.S. viewers
  9. "Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale" (NBC) — 5.31 million U.S. viewers
  10. "Nashville" (ABC) — 5.18 million U.S. viewers
  11. "The X Factor" (Fox) — 4.97 million U.S. viewers
  12. "Arrow" (CW) — 3.02 million U.S. viewers
  13. "The Tomorrow People" (CW) — 1.44 million U.S. viewers
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