Last night’s phase of the competition had a new twist, with the ten hopefuls in each category performing on stage in front of the judges and an audience of thousands to try to earn a place in the next round, instead of at their mentor’s home.
Kelly filled her final four seats quickly, with returning contender and Detroit native Jeff Gutt snagging a well-deserved early chair. From there, selected candidates had to wait out the remaining six performances to see if someone else would take their place and send them home.
The new system played like a maddening sort of musical chairs and Kelly clearly made some unpopular choices, especially when she saved 29-year-old Rachel Potter, who was way off pitch but promised to work hard and do better. In fact, several switches were made seemingly on the basis of who could grovel the best or step higher on their personal soap box.
While fighting for what you want is admirable, is this how selections should ultimately be made?
No Sweet Talk Needed
Two clear standouts among Kelly Rowland’s top ten earned their spots in the final four solely by delivering amazing performances, no sweet talk needed: Jeff Gutt and Lillie McCloud.
Soulful rocker Jeff Gutt belted out a powerful and emotionally arresting “Amazing Grace” that commanded the room and completely captivated the audience and judges.
Paulina Rubio said, “I feel the power that you have is beyond your voice. I think the power that you have is about your will and that’s why you captivate me.”
Simon Cowell paid him another huge compliment saying, “This is why I would never do a talent show where you have to have an upper age limit. It’s just insane because when you’ve got it you’ve got it, it doesn’t matter how old you are. This is by far the best performance of the night so far.”
Jeff’s fate ultimately rested with his mentor Kelly Rowland. She was obviously bowled over, saying, “Dude, you are so talented! You bring up all the stakes in the competition. You really, really do.” She happily granted him the third seat.
Simon made a lot of sense. There are no age limits on the kind of gift that Jeff Gutt possesses. He’s one of the best examples of raw undiscovered talents out there that just needed this kind of vehicle to take him to the next level. Jeff was unquestionably born to touch lives with his gift and seems destined for a huge career.
Kelly Rowland was also right: He raises the stakes way up for other contenders across the board.
Fifty-four-year-old Lillie McCloud was Kelly’s final singer and like Jeff Gutt, her talent, stage presence and pure star power clearly spoke for itself. She was the only singer to earn a four-judge standing ovation with her amazing version of Luther Vandross’ “A House is Not a Home.”
All of the judges were blown away by the performance. Simon said, “Competitions need big voices. Competitions need stars and you have the X factor sweetheart.”
Kelly Rowland added, “Lillie you’ve got to know with every single fiber of your being how special you are.”
In a shocking move, Kelly placed Lillie in her final four by replacing former football player Lorie Moore. The crowd was stunned, vying instead for her to remove Rachel Potter. Her decision to cut the R & B singer was booed, but the decision remained final.
James Kenney deservedly rounded out her picks. At this point, however, Jeff Gutt and Lillie McCloud shine like seasoned professionals and set an incredible standard for the rest of the contenders to follow.
“The X Factor” airs in Flint on WSMH FOX66 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. EST.