Season three of “The X Factor” is winding quickly to a close following another intense round of live performances on Dec. 4 and two surprising eliminations on Dec. 5. This week, the remaining artists performed two numbers: A song by a music diva and an unplugged song.
Simon Cowell takes both groups, Restless Road and Alex and Sierra into the semi-finals, Kelly Rowland takes Detroit native Jeff Gutt, and Paulina Rubio takes Carlito Olivero, who sang for survival against Rion Page and earned the last semi-final spot. Demi Lovato's only remaining artist, Ellona Santiago was surprisingly eliminated at the top of the hour.
Soft-spoken rocker Jeff Gutt revealed another layer of artistry with two very emotional performances that allowed his audience and swelling fan base to glimpse what lies underneath all that vocal power: Unwavering passion and quiet vulnerability.
The stakes are huge at this point in the competition with the title looming just beyond any one of the final four acts’ reach. They all desperately want to win. They are all driving themselves harder than ever with the end so close in sight.
However, Jeff Gutt carries something with him into the semi-finals that stands out from his determined contenders: Soul-stirring fire.
It seems like comedic irony that Simon Cowell declared Gutt to be “boring.” To Cowell’s credit, he quickly followed the remark with the observation that when he hits the stage he’s transformed. That is the mark of a true artist – someone that carries music in their soul and draws from it like a wellspring in order to thrive. Like it’s water in the desert. Like it’s the air they need to breathe.
Music obviously feeds Jeff Gutt’s soul. The song and the need to deliver it is a deep part of who he is and the vibe he puts out into the world. It’s evident in his eyes and his powerful and passionate vocals every time he sings. His "Bohemian Rhapsody" performance was epic and his "Feeling Good" delivery displayed dynamic range.
This week, Gutt opened himself up on an even deeper level. He exuded a raw vulnerability during his spectacular rendition of Mariah Carey’s iconic hit “Without You” that was followed by a very heartfelt and touching tribute to his brother, Dan, with Elton John’s “Daniel.” We felt the reverence and love behind the words. More importantly, under the stage lights and behind the soft strains of his guitar, we glimpsed his heart and how full it becomes when he’s lost in a song.
This kind of genuine spiritual connection to music is something that cannot be learned or faked. It’s a natural gift visible in some of the greatest singer/songwriters in history like Billy Joel, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, John Mayer and Jason Mraz, to name a few.
Jeff Gutt has this kind of gift. He channels a song from somewhere deep inside and when he shares it with the world, the impact is palpable. Hearts are moved and souls are stirred. Anyone can cover someone else’s song. Opening yourself up and giving a part of yourself in a song, though, is what distinguishes an artist from a performer and it bears repeating that we don’t simply hear Jeff Gutt sing a song. We feel him sing it.
Charting at #5 on the iTunes Rock Chart and holding several Top 200 chart positions is a huge accomplishment on the long and winding road Jeff Gutt has taken to get here. His growing legion of followers couldn't be more thrilled to support his advancement to next week’s “X Factor” semi-finals. With Detroit and all of Michigan behind him, he is definitely determined to do his hometown proud. He also has what it takes to win the top prize.
Beyond that, though, Jeff Gutt has established a strong and far-reaching connection and earned a permanent place in countless numbers of hearts.This kind of achievement is priceless.
“The X Factor” airs in Flint on WSMH FOX66 on Wednesdays at 8 pm ET and Thursdays at 9 pm ET.