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'X Factor' 2013 finale recap: Nine songs, 24 hours, one winner

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By the time "X Factor" host Mario Lopez signed off, letting America know that the voting lines were open, anyone who hadn't watched the show until the finale might have given a slight edge to either Alex & Sierra or perhaps Jeff Gutt as to which act should emerge the winner. But Carlito Olivero also performed well, so, depending upon taste, the night could have been seen as a close race to the finish. But that would only hold true if one had seen just the finale performance show. Suffice it to say that all of the three remaining finalists brought their A-game to the stage Wednesday evening, even though Michael Slezak at TV Line, in his Dec. 18 recap (via Yahoo TV), found the entire episode contained "more hot air than a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float" (but that was from the judges' table). Still, did Carlito and/or Jeff do enough to topple the frontrunner, Alex & Sierra? Or did the duo hold on for the Season 3 win?

First of all, it must be pointed out that the arrangement of the songs for the finale performance show was just plain wrong. Each finalist was charged with performing three songs: A winner's song, a celebrity duet, and a "song of the season" tune, the song that reflected their seasonal "moment" or turning point in the competition. The problem wasn't the categories but in their specific order. Why was the winner's song first? The song that was to signify winning the "X Factor" -- well, shouldn't it have been performed last, for effect? Instead, the "song of the season," a song that viewers had already observed/heard was presented last. What?

Anyway... Moving on...

The winner's song segment quickly established that Carlito Olivero was going to have an uphill battle all they way. Pulling the death spot (going first), Carlito chose as his "song to win" Shontelle's "Impossible." Although it seemed a strange choice, especially after Simon Cowell's own Fifth Harmony had performed the song to five-part harmonic perfection last season, Carlito did well, even earning a prediction from Simon himself that the singer would do well on the night. Alex & Sierra performed Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love," presenting yet another vocal performance winner. Then Jeff Gutt gave a laser-caged performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On" with overtones of Joe Lynn Turner. Simon said that for the first time, Jeff looked like he believed he could win.

The next round of performances were the celebrity duets, each song performed with an artist considered a "hero" of the finalist. Carlito Olivero performed Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" with Prince Royce, a downplayed version sung partially in Spanish. Judge Demi Lovato noted that she thought the style would be a problem, but that Carlito had risen to the occasion. Alex & Sierra basically stepped back and played back-up singers -- exemplary back-up singers -- to Leona Lewis on her international megabit, "Bleeding Love." Then Jeff Gutt performed "Iris" with John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls (who have a new album out, Mario let us know). Simon congratulated Jeff's mentor, Paulina Rubio, on the song selection (one of his favorites), because he thought it perfect for Jeff.

The last round were "songs of the season," the songs that the finalists felt gave them their moment or turning point in the season. Carlito Olivero performed Santana's "Maria Maria" once more. Judge Kelly Rowland said she didn't think he could have done it better than he had the first time, but he had. Alex & Sierra performed "Say Something" (of course). Demi said she thinks the duo will win the competition. Then Jeff Gutt closed the show by reprising his audition song, Radiohead's "Creep." A strange song to end the night on, given the line "I don't belong here," but the Detroit rocker belted it out like the professional singer he is.

So... did Carlito and Jeff make any headway into derailing the juggernaut that is Alex & Sierra? Doubtful. Still, one never knows...

Well, at least until Mario Lopez reveals the results of America's votes on Thursday evening's two-hour season finale results episode. "X Factor" will crown its Season 3 winner just prior to 10 p.m. EST. The show begins at 8 p.m. on Fox Television. Scheduled to appear are Mary J. Blige, Leona Lewis, Lea Michelle, Pitball with Kesha, and One Direction.

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