"The X Factor" U.S. episode that Fox televised on Oct. 2, 2013, featured the introduction of the Four-Chair Challenge, a new format in which 16 contestant acts (four contestant acts in each category) are chosen to perform in the live episodes.
"The X Factor" U.S. four contestant categories in 2013 are:
- Girls (female solo singers ages 12 to 24), mentored by Demi Lovato
- Boys (male solo singers ages 12 to 24), mentored by Paulina Rubio
- Over 25s (solo singers ages 25 and over), mentored by Kelly Rowland
- Groups, mentored by Simon Cowell
As previously reported, "The X Factor" U.S. eliminated the "boot camp" and "judges' houses" phases of the competition in 2013. The "boot camp" and "judges' houses" phases of the competition were replaced by a Four-Chair Challenge that was first used in the Dutch version of "The X Factor."
As previously reported, those "Four-Chair Challenge" episodes were recorded on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9, 2013 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Admission was free and open to the public. Fox is televising these episodes on Oct. 2, Oct. 3, Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, 2013.
In the "Four-Chair Challenge" episodes, 40 contestant acts (10 from each category) perform for the judges. The judge who is mentoring the category chooses which contestants will be the final four in that category.
The Four-Chair Challenge has four contestants from each category being put in chairs if the judges decided they were worthy enough to possibly be the final four in that category. However, judges were allowed to change their minds and switch out or switch in contestants from their mentor categories. After all of the 10 contestant acts in each category perform, the four contestants remaining in the chairs are the ones who will go on to the next round: performing in the live episodes.
The 16 contestant acts (four from each category) who make it to the live episodes are then voted on by the public. This year's "X Factor" U.S. live episodes begin on Oct. 29, 2013.
"The X Factor" in the U.K. also had a controversial chair challenge that was introduced in 2013. It was a Six-Chair Challenge, in which six contestants from each category were selected from boot camp to go on to judges' houses. Some of the contestants who were told that they made it into the chosen six were eliminated and replaced by other contestants in the category if a judge changed his or her mind. At the end of the chair-challenge episodes, the "real" final six in each category were announced.
At "The X Factor" press event in Los Angeles on Sept. 30, 2013, Cowell defended "The X Factor" chair challenges by telling Yahoo! Music's Reality Rocks blog: "That's the way it goes! Any show I've ever done, when people are eliminated, you have problems. So anyone who's selected to go into this part of the competition, they've got to have a bit of backbone, and they know what the rules are ...
"There is a lot of drama in it, but I think if you don't have drama in these shows, they don't work. [The Four-Chair Challenge] got a bit of criticism overseas that it was too mean. I don't think it was too mean. The overall audience seemed to really like it over there, and I think they'll like it here.
"I think if we were deliberately being mean to people, people would see through that, but we're not. It's just drama. Personally, I couldn't watch one of these shows without a little bit of friction. Otherwise like it would be like watching 'Star Search' all over again. I like to see something a little bit more edgy, and I think reality TV needs to be tense."
Now that "The X Factor" U.S.'s first Four-Chair Challenge episode has aired, it's easy to see how it's a highly manipulative format that messes with contestants' minds, because it's obvious that the first four contestants to perform in challenge will initially get the four seats and will be told they're in the final four, even if they give mediocre performances. The crowd reactions are useless, since many people in the crowd loudly boo every time the judges give constructive criticism, even if that criticism is accurate.
But if the judges were really honest, they would eliminate right away all the contestants who performed below expectations instead of putting some of them in the chairs and making them go through the agony of waiting to find out if they're going to be replaced by another contestant. But immediately eliminating any of the first four contestants to perform wouldn't be "exciting" television, according to Cowell and company. It wouldn't be as "dramatic" if people didn't see four contestants sitting in chairs with tense and worried looks on their faces, knowing they could be replaced by a contestant who performs after them. In that sense, some of these contestants are basically just used as "seat fillers," when it's obvious which contestants are the favorites of the judges and producers, even before this farce of a Four-Chair Challenge is completed.
In this episode, Rubio and Lovato looked like they were mother and daughter, with similar blonde hair extensions, similar black hats and similar feedback to contestants. Rubio, who is the worst and most unoriginal judge on "The X Factor" U.S. this year, frequently copied some of the same words that Lovato said in her feedback. They should be nicknamed Tweedle Dee (that's Lovato) and Tweedle Dumb (that's Rubio).
For people who want to know who made it into the Top 16, the spoiler information is available.
In the meantime, here are the contestants who performed in the episode that was televised on Oct. 2, 2013:
Over 25s (solo singers ages 25 and over), mentored by Kelly Rowland
Victoria Carriger, 41, the mother of eight kids who is separated from her husband, did a bland and boring version of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" while wearing an outdated dress that looked like something she could've worn at her high-school prom in the late 1980s. Lovato contradicted herself by telling Carriger: "I think you did so great, the fire behind it ... I loved the rasp" of the performance, but Lovato said she thought Carriger's energy was "a little low, but I really do love the passion behind the voice." Rubio added, "The raspy voice is what captivated me in the beginning. I think you did great." Cowell expressed his reservations to Carriger: "You had a great first audition, but if it was me, based on that performance, I wouldn't put you through." In the end, it was Rowland who had to decide. She told Carriger that the performance "got boring, but then you kicked it up a bit."
Result: Rowland told Carriger that she could have one of the four seats.
Kristine Mirelle, 27, was barely shown in the previous prerecorded episodes, so you know that means she's not going to last long in the competition. She did a slow version of Britney Spears' "Oops! I Did It Again." It was on par with what you might see in a small cabaret. In other words, nothing that special. Lovato said that the performance was "pitchy." Rubio echoed, "I feel the same way as Demi. I feel you have great talent, but I don't know if you're ready." Cowell disagreed with Lovato and Rubio and said to Mirelle that she had "potential" and "I would keep you in at this point."
Result: Despite the lukewarm feedback, Rowland allowed Mirrelle to have one of the four seats.
Jeffrey Adam Gutt (or Jeff Gutt as the show is now calling him), 37, the single dad/rock singer who got eliminated at "X Factor" U.S. boot camp in 2012, sang a passionate version of "Amazing Grace." Rubio said, "You captivate me." Lovato said, "I think you've come so far since last season. I think you're so talented." Cowell said Gutt gave "the best performance of the night so far." Rowland gushed, "You are so talented!" (Can these judges please stop using the same words that another judge just used?)
Result: Rowland enthusiastically told Gutt to take a seat.
Rachel Potter, 29, did a pop-country version of Beyoncé's ""Irreplaceable," where she did some horrific shrieking at the end. In a prerecorded "back story" segment, the show made Potter look like a struggling bartender trying to make it as a country singer in Nashville with no prior experience in entertainment business, but the show is deliberately neglecting to mention the fact that Potter is an experienced actress/singer who has starred in Broadway musicals. As for Potter's off-key wailing in this performance, her excuse was that she was feeling "sick." Lovato said that the performance was "kind of rough." Cowell told Potter that he thought it was a "brave choice to do that song in a country version." Rowland commented, "I expected you to be ready today and blow everyone away. This girl has pipes! I was actually really shocked that your highs weren't as clean as they usually are. Can you still do that?" Of course, Potter replied, "Absolutely!"
Result: Rowland said Potter deserved another chance, so Potter was allowed to take a seat.
Lorie Moore, 34, a retired football player, did a performance of Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" that was good but was a bit pitchy and off-tempo with the back-up singers. Lovato said that she felt Moore's "passion," but "I don't know that I'm looking at a superstar." Rubio once again said, "I agree with Demi." Cowell said, "I didn't like the version of the song. But, Lorie, you can really sing." Rowland, the deciding judge, commented: "I love your voice, but I don't know if you're ready for this competition." Moore began to plead her case and went off on a preacher-like rant about how she's a hard worker. She ended it by shouting, "Hard work gets a seat!"
Result: Moore's speech worked (for the time being) because Rowland decided to eliminate Mirelle and replace her with Moore.
Allison Davis, 26, looks like she could be Paris Hilton's cousin, and she was barely shown in the previous episodes. You know what that means: She's another contestant who won't make it past this round. Davis completely embarrassed herself with awkward dancing and an off-key mash-up of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" and Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It." It made Ke$ha's version sound brilliant compared to what Davis squawked out in this performance. It's another example of how bad "The X Factor" U.S. is that a terrible vocalist like Davis got this far in the competition. Lovato told Davis: "Allison, I feel like you have the look, but my only problem is I feel like I can't take it seriously." Cowell added, "The word that comes to mind is 'wannabe' ...The choice of song was so obvious and so lazy, so predictable and annoying." Rowland said, "I won't have you attacking Allison! I do feel like as a performer, we have to know who we are and what we present to the world. It has to be authentic." Davis pleaded with Rowland to not eliminate her.
Result: Rowland told Davis, "Allison, I'm going to send you home. I don't think you're ready."
Jeff Brinkman, 36, is a recent first-time father whose daughter was born shortly before he auditioned before "The X Factor." He has a bluesy-rock voice that was ill-suited for his ballad version of David Guetta's "Without You" because his voice was a little too watered-down for most of the performance. He also has very little on-stage charisma. Brinkman seems like the kind of vocalist who is more comfortable singing while playing an instrument. Lovato said, "I don't think you chose the right song. I was a little bored." Cowell agreed and said the song choice was "ridiculous" but that Brinkman has "an incredible voice." Brinkman told Rowland, as he begged to stay in the competition, "I'll give you my all."
Result: Rowland decided to eliminate Carriger and replace her with Brinkman.
Denny Smith, 60, a Santa Claus look-alike and the show's token novelty act, did a very karaoke, off-key version of Wilson Pickett's "The Midnight Hour." Cowell asked, "Is Kelly going to send Santa Claus home?" 'The X Factor" U.S. host Mario Lopez asked Rowland, "Are you going to be naughty or nice?" Smith pleaded to Rowland before she made her decision, by telling her: "I'm the hardest worker here!" (That "hard worker" line was seemed to be the mantra of every contestant begging not to be eliminated.)
Result: Rowland eliminated Smith.
James Kenney, 36, was eliminated at "The X Factor" U.S. judges' houses in 2011. In this performance, he did a blue-eyed soul version of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" with a confident and natural stage presence. It was one of the better performances on the episode. Lovato said, "James, you killed it!" Rubio added, "That was so solid!" Cowell said, "You got my total respect after that performance." Rowland raved to Kenney, "You made us believe that you have something truly special!" Just like the other contestants, Kenney told Rowland how hard he was going to work if she kept him in the competition.
Result: Rowland decided to eliminate Brinkman and replace him with Kenney.
Lillie McCloud, 54, a grandmother who looks about 20 years younger than her real age, did a simple yet powerful performance of Luther Vandross' "A House Is Not a Home." Just like Potter, McCloud has a lot of experience as a professional singer, but her prior experience (including hits on Billboard's dance charts when she had the name Nicole McCloud) are not mentioned on "The X Factor." Lovato raved, "You look like a superstar!" Rubio added, "Lillie, thank you so much for giving us so much. You left me speechless. You are a goddess!" Cowell, "Lillie, I just love you ...You have the X Factor, sweetheart." Rowland gushed, "You have to know with every single fiber of your being how special you are!"
Result: Rowland decided to eliminate Moore and replace her with McCloud.
Top 4 Contestants in the Over 25s Category:
- Jeff Gutt
- James Kenney
- Lillie McCloud
- Rachel Potter
Girls (female solo singers ages 12 to 24), mentored by Demi Lovato
Bree Randall, 20, was barely shown in the previous episodes, which is a sure sign that she's not going to make it to the live episodes. In a "back story" segment, Randall rambled something about how getting into the "X Factor" live episodes was part of her "vision book," where she has her whole career planned out, including her aspirations to be a fashion designer, perfume mogul and entertainer. In this episode, she sang a dull, slow version of The Wanted's "Glad You Came." Rowland commented, "I felt the performance just kind of dragged." Rubio said, "I agree with Kelly. I think it's important for you define, to be real, and to be yourself." Cowell added, "You brought the right outfit, the right personality, but you didn't bring your voice." Lovato said, "I love that you're ambitious and I love your drive ... You have a lot of work to do on your vocals. Your drive just really touched my heart." Randall tearfully pleaded with Lovato to not eliminate her.
Result: Lovato semi-reluctantly allowed Randall to take a seat.
Khaya Cohen, 16, did an excellent ballad version of Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven." She has a confident stage presence that blows away some of the contestants who are much older than she is." Rowland praised Cohen by saying, "You have incredible instincts! Your presence on stage is so natural." Cowell raved, "I know a lot of great producers who'd want to work with you right now. You've got massive potential." Lovato added, "I can't help but smile really big when I see you perform. I think that ot only do the other girls need to watch out for you, but the entire competition."
Result: Lovato told Cohen without hesitation to take a seat.
Jamie Pineda, 24, is another contestant who was barely shown in previous episodes. She did a fairly good version of No Doubt's "Don't Speak," with a few Spanish lyrics thrown in as a unique twist. Cowell said, "Jamie, when you sing in English, there's nothing particularly special about you, but when you switch it up [in Spanish], then I see a market for you." Lovato added, "I'm just so impressed when you cross over into Spanish. And you have the look. You look like a star!" Well, "The X Factor" isn't a Latin-music show, so this is the judges' polite way of saying to Pineda, "Don't get too comfortable on this show because your days are numbered. You're better off in a Latin music contest."
Result: Lovato told Pineda to take a seat as if she were filling a quota.
Ashly Williams, 24, is best-remembered as the contestant whose mother was murdered when she was 14 and for getting a standing ovation for performing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" at her "X Factor" audition. Unfortunately for Williams, her version of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" raised doubts about her ability to consistently do great performances. It was a good performance, but Williams seemed disconnected from the song, as if she were just going through the motions. Rowland gushed, "Ashley, you are so talented! You have so much strength and so much incredible power behind your voice. I love listening to you!" Rubio added, "I'm just speechless." Cowell gave a more critical assessment: "I loved your first audition ... but I didn't like the song. There were some tuning issues. There are better singers in this competition."
Result: Lovato told Williams to take a seat.
The Four-Chair Challenge episodes continue on Oct. 3, Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, 2013. The final four contestants in the Girls category will be revealed in the Oct. 3 episode.
Oct. 3, 2013 update: Ratings for the first "Four-Chair Challenge" episode were 7.8 million U.S. viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. That's the biggest audience that "The X Factor" has had so far this season.
However, "The X Factor" on Wednesdays is still not doing well against its competition from CBS and ABC in the same time slot (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET/PT). "The X Factor" finished third in its time slot and seventh place overall for the night among prime-time network shows.
Here are the rankings of the U.S. prime-time network shows on Oct. 2, 2013:
- "Modern Family" (ABC) — 11.2 million U.S. viewers
- "Criminal Minds" (CBS) — 11.2 million U.S. viewers
- "Survivor: Blood vs. Water" (CBS) — 10.2 million U.S. viewers
- "CSI" (CBS) — 9.7 million U.S. viewers
- "Super Fun Night" (ABC) — 8.2 million U.S. viewers
- "The Middle" (ABC) — 8 million U.S. viewers
- "The X Factor" (Fox) — 7.8 million U.S. viewers
- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC) — 6.9 million U.S. viewers
- "Ironside" (NBC) — 6.8 million U.S. viewers
- "Back in the Game" (ABC) — 6.7 million U.S. viewers
- "Nashville" (ABC) — 6 million U.S. viewers
- "Revolution" (NBC) — 5.5 million U.S. viewers
- "Arrow" -clip show (CW) — 1.7 million U.S. viewers
- "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" - repeat- 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET/PT (CW) — 1.12 million U.S. viewers
- "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" - repeat- 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET/PT (CW) — 1.05 million U.S. viewers