If you were watching "X Factor" (USA) on Tuesday evening, you watched sixteen very talented artists get pared down to 12 finalists -- three per judge/mentor -- before the show was over. And for the most part, the judges -- Demi Lovato, Paulina Rubio, Kelly Rowland, and Simon Cowell -- got their choices right -- or as right as any subjective choice could possibly be. However, there were a couple of choices that were questionable by half the judges. And in a competition like "X Factor," picking the wrong artist can weaken your team and your chances of winning the contest.
Which Judges Got It Right
Demi Lovato, mentoring the Girls for Season 3, led the night off, as was recounted in the Oct. 29 episode recap on XFactorUSA.com, and she was spot on with her three choices: Ellona Santiago, Rion Paige, and Khaya Cohen. Santiago's dance tune was effortlessly performed, and she set the bar for energetic performances so high, nobody came close to matching her for the entire duration of the two-hour show. Rion Paige was all raw emotion. Khaya Cohen lacked luster, but she has a strong voice and Judge Demi might be able to work her into a marketable commodity. Which is why choosing to not include Danie Geimer in her top three Girls was the right choice, because, no matter how great a vocalist she is (and she has excellent delivery), as Judge Simon said in critique: "How do we make you not boring?"
Simon Cowell's Groups concluded the evening and he just might have the strongest team this season. Although it came down to a difficult choice for him -- whether or not to keep trio Sweet Suspense or trio RoxXy Montana -- he made the right choice in the end. The younger Sweet Suspense appear to be more marketable, RoxXy Montana somewhat more yesterday's news (a poor man's Destiny's Child that sounds a little too church-y, as it were). But there was no way Judge Simon was going to send the oddly delightful Alex and Sierra home (because they do, as Simon said, have a "sexual chemistry" that plays well to an audience, even during their campfire-sing-along-ish version of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines"), not to mention the wildly popular Restless Road, who got perhaps the loudest screams for their country version of Katy Perry's "Roar."
Which Judges Got It Wrong
Paulina Rubio drew the Boys category to mentor and she did well -- until her final choice for her top three. She'd already chosen Carlito Olivera (who's version of Santana's "Maria Maria" was all fun and pure charisma) and Carlos Guevara (the young man with Tourette's syndrome with such unique stylings that he made Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" sound like his own song). But then it came down to Josh Levi, who performed Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)" and Tim Olstad, a seeming under-confident old soul in a young body, who gave a great but somewhat stiff vocal rendition of Bon Jovi's "Always." Young Josh's song choice was all wrong but he proved an excellent performer and his vocals were adequate, possibly making him a potential "complete package." But Paulina chose Tim Olstad instead and that was a mistake. Like Demi's Danie, the young man won't be able to get past being boring in presentation, no matter how good he sings. (But, then, Perry Como made a wildly success career out of boring, so who are we to judge?)
Kelly Rowland had a lot of "buts" in her critical reviews on Tuesday's "X Factor," but, like she said, she was there also to give constructive criticism. (However, one thing to note: Criticism, constructive or otherwise, can sway votes -- something Rowland likely understands, knowing that she, of all the judges, has the toughest job of producing a winner with her Over 25s category.) At the same time, her four finalists were on top of their singing game. Her first choice, Rachel Potter was a no-brainer (because the Nashville bartendress can really sing), having effortlessly tackled Lee Ann Womack's inspirational "I Hope You Dance." And there was no denying that Jeff Gutt gave a great performance of Pink's "Try." (Although, when he tried to guilt trip Judge Kelly into choosing him as one of her top three by telling the former Destiny's Child member that not picking him would be also letting down his three-year-old son, he most likely lost a few points with the viewers.) But Kelly Rowland chose Lillie McCloud over James Kenney, and that was a mistake. Not on a vocal level, because Lillie can definitely sing, but because she has no chance of winning the "X Factor," a "sexy grandma" (as host Mario Lopez described her) or no. She still hasn't come clean about having had a successful career in dance music (with several charting singles) as solo artist Nicole McCloud in the 80s and 90s, and continues to insist she wants a chance to make it (after she already has). She's already been lambasted online and when people care enough to comment, they'll probably care enough to vote.
All that being said, which of the four judges has the best chance of winning? At present, it looks like there just might be an all-Simon Cowell finale (Alex and Sierra versus Restless Road perhaps?) -- given the live crowd's response to his groups. Still, there are some really talented singers in all the categories. Song choice and presentation will go a long way in helping voters make up their minds as to who to support.
Professional oddsmakers, like the betting website Bovada.com, have given Demi Lovato's Girls the best odds, Simon Cowell's Groups the least best, with Paulina Rubio's Boys and Kelly Rowland's Over 25s second and third, respectively.
But there's something about Simon Cowell's Groups that seem to be resonating with the live audiences. Perhaps they are doing the same with voters at home. As is often said, we shall see...
"X Factor" will air a special showcase of the Top 12 Season 3 finalists on Thursday, Oct. 31. The show regularly airs on Fox Television on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. (EST).