The "X Factor" pared its finalists down to a neat Top 4 on Thursday night's results show, setting the stage for the semi-final showdown. But if the placement of all the final four contestants wasn't all that predictable at season's start, at least one of the acts was: Restless Road (although given so many mediocre performances to date, it certainly wasn't due to their singing). And a bona fide star act has emerged on the show as well: Alex and Sierra. So now that two of the Top 4 have been revealed -- and they were the first two revealed by host Mario Lopez on the live results show as well -- let's take a look at how they got there and which of the other Top 6 finalists joined them.
As has been the custom this season, Mario got all the team mentors to line up on stage with their team acts to hear the depressing news that one of their number would not be in rehearsal for the next round of the competition. And when he announced that that act was Ellona Santiago (of Judge Demi Lovato's Girls), not only was Ellona shocked (exhibited by the stunned look on her face) but just about everyone in the arena seemed to voice their amazement and disapproval. But, as Mario noted, every elimination now brings some level of shock, but, still...
Michael Slezak at TV Line (via Yahoo TV) made the salient point in his results recap on Dec. 5 that Ellona may have been the victim of her mentor's stage productions, putting her in "hypersexualized outfits" that "for a singer so young probably made the average U.S. couch potato a wee bit uncomfortable." He's correct. Nobody wants to see another Miley Cyrus -- at 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 (Ellona's age), 18, 19, 20, 21 (Miley's current age) -- you get the picture. When a young artist is over-sexualized, it tends to send up red flags, as well it should. Unfortunately, in this regard, it possibly hurt a promising artist's chances of making the "X Factor" finale. (In Miley Cyrus' case, it was just another day for a media blitz over an over-exposed child-woman-celebrity.)
So it was on to some filler. Enter Emblem3, the trio of marginally talented beach rats that ended Season 2 of "X Factor" in the fourth spot and immediately signed a contract with Simon Cowell's Syco Records. Their debut album, Nothing To Lose, posted a respectable No. 7 on the Billboard 200, surpassing last year's champ, Tate Stevens, on the all-genres sales chart. (Their reign as "X Factor" USA's most successful act would be short-lived: Fifth Harmony's Better Together debuted at No. 6.) The trio performed "Just For One Day," the lead track on the album. And if they were trying to sell records, they certainly didn't put their best effort forward with their performance, still looking like a bunch of kids jumping around, yelling into microphones at some high school talent show.
Then Mario revealed those getting America's votes for the Top 4. First up, no surprise, it's Restless Road. Second: Alex and Sierra. Given that they dominated the Top 6 episode with two flawless performances (not to mention their rendition of "Say Something" hit No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart immediately following the show), their move into the final four wasn't unexpected either. With Restless Road and Alex and Sierra getting through, Simon Cowell's Groups category suffered no losses for the night (he's been on a roll since Sweet Suspense was eliminated in the 12th position.
And the third act getting enough votes to get in without having to sing for their lives? Jeff Gutt. Judge Kelly Rowland's single remaining contestant had made it through.
That left Rion Paige, the 13-year-old that had to sing for her life on the Top 8 results show against Josh Levi, and Carlito Olivero, Judge Paulina Rubio's sole remaining act in the competition.
But first, more Simon Cowell-produced, "X Factor"-promoting filler. Little Mix, the winner of "X Factor" UK's eighth series in 2011. They were composed of solo singers (like Fifth Harmony from Season 2 and Sweet Suspense and Restless Road from this season) and became the first group to win the competition. They performed the first single, "Move," from their sophomore album, Salute. Although the song lacks depth and cohesion and sounds like a jumbled mess, the girls do well as a unit and their harmonies are excellent. And given that the girls have only charted once in the U. S. (slipping into the Hot 100 with "Wings," the group's second single, at No. 79), this offering will not likely make the grade either. Still, they're doing well in the United Kingdom, having had six Top 20 hits, four of which made the Top 5, two going so far as to top the charts.
Back to America's "X Factor"...
Rion Paige led off, singing Miranda Lambert's nostalgically heat-wrending "The House That Built Me." But it was a pitchy mess, the youngster's emotions pushing past her control.
Carlito Olivero's performance, Usher's "You Make Me Wanna...," was far better presented. However, better doesn't always guarantee reprieve...
It came down to Simon Cowell's vote, just as it had last week. Judges Paulina and Demi Lovato backed their finalists, of course. Kelly Rowland voted to send Rion home. If Simon chose Carlito to go home, the choice would again produce a tie, a Deadlock, whereby the contestant with the least amount of popular votes would be sent home. (This worked to Rion Paige's advantage last week, as she received more votes than Josh Levi.)
But it was not to be. Simon agreed with Kelly, also noting that he believed that this could well be Carlito's one chance to make it (a direct hint at Carlito's background of poverty and at one time being homeless). Rion was eliminated.
Rion's elimination left Coach Demi Lovato without a finalist. For the second straight season, the star found herself the first judge/mentor with all her team members dismissed from the show.
Next week, the Top 4 will vie for America's votes to make the Season 3 finale. With Alex and Sierra now the frontrunners (this includes with professional oddsmakers, like Bovada, as well) and topping iTunes charts, with Restless Road playing hit-and-miss with each selection, Jeff Gutt coming into his own in the last two performance episodes, and dark horse Carlito Olivero simply hanging in there -- the semi-final could well establish the winning act of the season.
"X Factor" returns on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 11 and 12, at 8 p.m. on Fox Television for the Top 4 performance round and results.