The "X Factor" didn't pull up this week and go for a single elimination like "The Voice" did with its Top 6. No, the "X Factor" is still eliminating finalists in duos and there will be a Top 4 come 9 p.m. (EST) Thursday night. This could be their way of staying one show off from final episode of "The Voice" so as not to produce a head-to-head finale (where "X Factor" is certain to be trounced, if a comparison of the two show's ratings are any indicator) or it might be a direct result of the abysmal ratings "X Factor" has generated this season. Worse: It could be both. Regardless, two of the top 6 finalists are going home, but before they do, they'll get to sing at least three more songs for everyone to buy on iTunes.
Two of the songs were performed Wednesday night under the themes of "Divas" and "Stripped Down Songs" (otherwise known as "unplugged"). And if seeing Coach Paulina Rubio bestow way too many female songs on her Boys team already (you didn't notice? Carlito Olivero and Josh Levi performed seven songs -- of their total 14 combined -- by female singers or groups/duos which featured women singing), one of the categories guaranteed her last remaining finalist, Carlito, was going to get at least one song performed by a female (and he did). Still, all in all, the night was filled with some adequate performances, with a few rising above. But one act stood out from the rest and they just might take the competition: Alex and Sierra.
In fact, in his recap of the "X Factor" Top 6 performance episode, Michael Slezak at TV Line (via Yahoo TV) said it best: "Where there’s true talent, after all, there’s a show."
Yes, there's a show. And you might have to go through a bit of chaff to gather a few good kernels, but even the best scripted shows have their throwaway moments. Right?
So here's what happened:
Restless Road, Coach Simon Cowell's country music answer to One Direction, got Taylor Swift's "Red." And it might have been good had someone not insisted on the big tall one getting his own line. The boy can harmonize but when he's on his own, he has a difficult time staying on key.
Rion Paige went back to doing Carrie Underwood (remember her success with "Blown Away?") but "See You Again" was a poor choice by Coach Demi Lovato. And did nobody see Keith Urban's critique of this song on "American Idol" last year where he said the humming part shouldn't even be in the song? He was right. Rion's "whoa-o-o" was awful. (Underwood's original is just plain overproduction.) Still, the judges told her how lovely and inspiring she is (which is a hint that they just don't want to come off as mean to a 13-year-old).
Jeff Gutt performed the Badfinger/Harry Nilsson/Mariah Carey classic "Without You." Impressive. He didn't go falsetto or try to sound like Nilsson or Carey. But his delivery remained strong. The judges thought so also, noting that he seems to have continued where he left off from last week. And that wasn't a bad place, considering he'd blown everyone away with his version of "Feeling Good."
Ellona Santiago went for another big production piece, doing a nice job with Lady Gaga's "Applause." You can see that this girl is going to make quite a few people rich -- including herself -- before all's said and done. She's got everything you could want in an up-and-coming artist -- looks, vocals, dance skills, and years to make money.
Alex & Sierra then stepped out and across the stage, moving inevitably toward each other as they took on Destiny's Child's "Say My Name." Yes, it was a huge risk performing the song in front of a member of the famed group (judge and mentor/coach Kelly Rowland), but the rearrangement as a conversational duo piece was masterfully done. Rowland loved it, as did all the "X Factor" judges. This duo now seems the act to beat in the competition. They're certainly surging at just the right time in the contest.
Carlito Olivero finished the first six tunes with a passable rendition of Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud." However, there was little life in the song and it lost its Latino hotness as Carlito simply couldn't deliver the sex appeal needed to make the song memorable. To his credit, he did learn the song in 24 hours. His coach said she wanted to show his range, but the song failed miserably to provide the platform the young singer needed.
Stripped Down Songs (Unplugged)
Restless Road lead off the second six songs with Avicii's "Wake Me Up." They made Demi Lovato cry. Then the judges' glowing reviews made two of the three boys cry. As mentioned, the three really do harmonize well together. But would it be enough to save them from the melody doldrums they've seemed to have drifted into? (Side note: These guys are country singers, so why not push the WGWG -- White Guy With Guitar -- angle that has worked so often in the past (think: five straight "American Idol" titles and last year's "X Factor" winner, Tate Stevens)? We know at least one of them plays guitar, so where is it? Is Coach Simon waiting to pull out the big guns in the finale to get a surge of votes for the trio? Keep waiting and it might become a bit too late.)
Rion Paige's second performance was Thompson Square's "Glass." Her pitch was off considerably during the number and a bottom two finish last week might see a repeat on the Top 6 results show. If so, the youngest finalist still on the show could be headed home. Still, the judges were complimentary, with Judge Simon telling Rion that she may have saved herself from elimination.
Jeff Gutt's "Daniel" was a heartfelt but straightforward performance that did nothing for him -- except perhaps to look good in his brother's eyes. His brother, Daniel, a 21-year Navy veteran, was there to cheer him on. The judges acknowledged his desire and adequacy at performing the song, but Judge Demi let him know that the performance was a bit stale. However, what wasn't a bit stale was that guitar he played, noting the tune and showing he actually could play. (Yes, it is likely that Coach Kelly, the Over 25s coach, is totally aware of the WGWG appeal.)
For once, Ellona Santiago did not stage a massive production with her number. Her stripped down song was Beyonce's "If I Were A Boy." A big voice song, she hung in there and hit all the right notes -- well, until the very end. Still, not bad.
Alex & Sierra had set the bar for the night at song number five earlier in the show. Nobody had even come close to touching the bar by the time they returned to the stage. And given their penchant for stripping down songs and rearranging them to their laid-back style, they were in all-too-familiar territory. Sierra wanted to show that she, too, has some musical skill, so she accompanied Alex on piano as he played guitar on A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)’s “Say Something." And they had a moment. Never taking their eyes off each other, with Sierra's trembling hands (she'd never played piano in front of an audience before) touching keys and Alex confidently moving over strings (so Coach Simon does get the WGWG thing...), they got a standing ovation from the judges panel.
Carlito Olivero, with the advantage of landing the pimp spot, went straight for the Latino vote, performing Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" almost entirely in Spanish. It was well done and interestingly so. However, it was Spanish-heavy and just might have cost him some votes. It shouldn't have but given the no-bilingual-nation crowd in the U. S., it just might. It was a far superior performance than his first.
And so ended all the diva-ness and the stripping down, so to speak. Who was best? Who was worst? Who's getting eliminated?
The best performances of the night went to Alex & Sierra. Both songs were well performed and record worthy. The worst performances belonged to Rion Paige ("Glass") and Carlito Olivero ("Let's Get Loud").
Who will make the bottom three? Rion Paige, unfortunately, is almost a definite for the bottom. She might even be sent home early in the Top 6 results show. The two that will sing for their lives? Most likely Carlito Olivero and Ellona Santiago, with Carlito getting the final boot. (Still, given Restless Road's mediocre performances to date -- except for Avicii's "Wake Me Up" -- they should be in the bottom three instead of Ellona. However, Restless Road will likely make the finale.)
To compare, Michael Slezak at TV Line says Rion Paige and Jeff Gutt will go home. However, he thinks Rion and Restless Road should be the two sent packing.
But those four might be the final four contestants. We'll find out when "X Factor" host Mario Lopez reveals the voting results on Thursday night's elimination episode beginning at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television.