Yes, all 13 singers (12 plus one wild card, which I'll get to in a moment) performed. That did happen. However, due to a glitch when the wrong contestants' voting numbers were shown onscreen, Wednesday's votes were scrapped, and all 13 contestants will have to sing again on Thursday (on what should have been Season 3's first live results show). And no one will go home until next week.
Thanks for wasting two hours of my life, Fox. And more importantly, the contestants' lives.
But wait. There were other disappointments and moments of utter confusion on Wednesday. It was Motown Night on "The X Factor," so it felt kind of weird, or maybe just plain wrong, that Roxxy Montana — the Supremes-style sister act from Detroit, the actual granddaughters of Marvin Gaye — weren't there to perform. (They were eliminated last week.) That was just Motor City madness! So when it was announced that a wild card would be coming back to the competition this Wednesday, I suspected it'd be Roxxy who'd get that second chance, and a chance to do their late grandpa proud.
However, my heart was also rooting for the soulful-in-his-own-way James Kenney, another unjustly eliminated contestant from last week's top 16. For James, a wild card spot would actually be a third chance (he'd made it to the top 32 in Season 1), and a much-deserved one at that. And I know he could've pulled off just about any Marvin Gaye song.
But then, I experienced some real panic in Detroit, when host Mario Lopez revealed that the much-ballyhooed wild card contestant was actually … Josh Levi. Nothing against the kid. He's talented, and, in some ways, he's even like a young, Motown-era Michael Jackson (or at least one of the other Jacksons). But based on last week's performances, Josh did not deserve to come back. James, Roxxy, and even the Girls' top 16 castoff, Danie Geimer, were all stronger last week. Really, Josh's top 16 elimination was the only one I was completely at peace with. He wouldn't have had been my wild card choice.
Well, maybe Simon Cowell just wanted to throw a little more youth into the mix this week by bringing back 15-year-old Josh, since this Wednesday's Motown theme all but guaranteed that the episode would be fusty and crusty. "American Idol" has caught flak for years for having old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy themes like Motown Night, because it's nearly impossible, even for cute teenagers like Josh, to make these wedding band staple songs seem current. Why the powers-that-be at Fox chose Motown as the theme for the first fan-voted episode of this "X Factor" season, I have absolutely no idea. I don't think it was the best way to drum up excitement for the season to come. But maybe Thursday's last-minute do-over show, when the contestants get to sing songs of their own choosing (i.e., their "Save Me" songs), will make for more compelling viewing.
As for the top 13, a few of them performed admirably and are probably frustrated that all of their efforts were for naught. But others, who didn't do so well, are probably relieved to have a chance to wipe the slate clean.
And for a couple of contestants they must be thanking their lucky stars they get to sing another song tomorrow.
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) November 7, 2013
Not that it matters anymore, I guess, but here's how everyone did this Wednesday:
Josh Levi (Boys, mentored by Paulina Rubio) – Immediately after Josh's semi-triumphant return was announced, he hit the stage to do the Jackson 5's "Who's Lovin' You." At first, it seemed like the show had really made a mistake bringing this kid back, when he began singing in what was definitely not the right key. But Josh thankfully got it together and delivered a pretty impressive performance, and this number was definitely better than his awkward "Only Girl in the World" from last week. I'm not so sure Josh proved he deserved to come back to the competition, but he did redeem himself. "I am so happy that you're here … Houston, Texas grows 'em best, baby!" said Kelly Rowland. "You went from zero to hero," said Simon, loosely quoting what apparently is his favorite film, Cool as Ice. Demi Lovato said, "It was the smartest thing that Paulina did, bringing you back." (This was probably the first time the words "smartest" and "Paulina" had been used in the same sentence, ever.) And Josh's mentor Paulina sighed, "When we finished the last show, I was feeling so empty … You deserve this, because you're born to be a star." I think Josh has potential, but I am still waiting for him to deliver another performance as memorable as his first "Come and Get It" audition. Maybe he will on Thursday.
Rachel Potter (Over 25's, mentored by Kelly Rowland) – Rachel did her darnedest to turn the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine" into a hillbilly hoedown, and she pretty much succeeded. Yes, the sometimes forced twang in her voice and the silly staging made her seem like she was starring in a Broadway production of "Hee Haw." But Rachel definitely sang well, proving that her disastrous Four-Chair Challenge performance was just a fluke. "You've come so far since the Four-Chair Challenge, and I'm so proud of you," raved Demi. "She worked so hard, and ladies and gentlemen, she deserves to be here," proclaimed Kelly. Country-hater Simon was the lone dissenter on the panel, saying, "When the track kicked in, I didn't get it. It's such a beautiful song, and you've made it literally insane." I understood Simon's point, but the arrangement wasn't Rachel's fault … and at least she kept it country, changed things up, and tried to get out of the Motown mold.
Carlos Guevara (Boys) – So far, Carlos has been one of the best vocalists in this competition, or at least in his category, so I had high expectations for his cover of Marvin's "What's Going On." But those expectations were soon dashed, crushed, etc. What was going on with this performance, indeed? This just wasn't very exciting. Carlos's signature growl, the coolest thing about him, was all smoothed out, so that he sounded generic and dull. There was nothing special about this number — and Carlos has delivered special performances in the past. None of the judges were very impressed. "I feel like you could have done better," shrugged Kelly. "I don't think you gave us a moment there … You've got to be incredible, and that was just quite good. Quite good is not enough," said Simon. I am not even sure if this was "quite good," but I agreed with Kelly: Carlos is capable of better than this. He's lucky he's getting another chance to show that, because under normal circumstances, he may have been the one going home this week.
Restless Road (Groups, mentored by Simon Cowell) – "Easy" by the Commodores seemed like a smart song choice for these boys; they were able to turn the song into a country ballad pretty, um, easily. It was a natural, laid-back performance. But maybe it was a little too laid-back. The chillaxed song didn't really allow them to go anywhere vocally. The harmonies were solid (the leads not so much, as both Paulina and Kelly gently pointed out), but there were no real breakout vocal moments. But Paulina said they had "special magic." Kelly called them "incredibly talented." Simon name-dropped his buddy Lionel Richie, who supposedly endorsed this song choice, and said Restless Road could work "in the real world." Demi made a bunch of ageist jokes about how this song was from 54-year-old Simon's heyday, which was meant to be funny, but only emphasized the fact that this night's theme was old-fashioned and lame. Oops.
Ellona Santiago (Girls, mentored by Demi Lovato) – Ellona put on a shiny cheerleader outfit and came out ready to win on her spirited cover of the Supremes' "Baby Love," and there was no doubt that she has one of the strongest voices, and strongest competitive drives, of this entire top 13. But I'm not sure if this was the right song choice for Ellona's always-ferocious singing style; a sweet, flirtatious tune like this needed a bit more subtlety. That's something someone as young as Ellona still needs time to figure out; hopefully she will soon, because her raw talent is immense. Kelly called her a "little powerhouse." Simon told Ellona she "nailed it" and commented on the ambition he saw in her "killer eyes." Demi called her "amazing." I don't think this was Ellona's best, but if the voting had mattered tonight, it was definitely enough to get her to the next round.
Jeff Gutt (Over 25's) – Jeff, a Detroit native, brought a bit of much-needed Motor City grit to Wednesday's show…and he somehow managed to do this while singing Lionel Richie's schmaltzy lite-radio hit "Say You, Say Me," which he basically turned into a Bon Jovi power ballad. Under normal circumstances, I may have found Jeff's '80s-stadium-rock shtick a bit dated, but on Motown Night, it actually seemed kind of cool and current. It even rocked, or, well, soft-rocked. "When I saw the song choice, I thought, 'I'm not sure about this,' but that was outstanding. By a mile the best vocal of the night," said Simon. I agreed. This was the first truly exciting performance of the evening for me. Jeff is probably not too happy to find out no one can vote for him after this.
Alex & Sierra (Groups) – Things continued to look up with this sassy "Heard It Through the Grapevine" performance from the show's resident lovebirds. More than ANY other contestant of Season 3, Alex and Sierra truly know who they are and what they want to do musically, and because of their singular sound and vision, they always manage to adapt a song to their own style. This was another stellar showing from the unique duo. Demi, who hadn't been a fan of Alex & Sierra's performance last week for some reason, enjoyed this and called it "sexy." Paulina got all worked up, saying icky stuff like "you make me sweat" and "I want you guys to kiss." Simon's critique made the most sense: "You stuck to your guns, which is really important as an artist, because you know who you are." If Alex & Sierra keep sticking to their guns, they could make it to the finale.
Khaya Cohen (Girls) – I didn't think "My Girl" was the greatest song choice, I didn't dig the slowed-to-a-crawl arrangement, and the whole breakdancing-schoolboys theme was a bit bizarre and disconnected. But guess what? None of that mattered, because Khaya's vocal was awesome. I loved the raspy, purry/slurry quality of her voice, which Simon compared to Amy Winehouse's. "I almost threw my pen at you, because you just killed it, Miss Thing," sassed Kelly. "I am so proud of you…Your voice may be the best in this competition," said proud mentor Demi. I am not sure if Khaya's voice is the best of the top 13, but it's pretty high up on the Season 3 list.
Carlito Olivero – Carlito was another contestant who took a stylistic risk, deconstructing "Stop in the Name of Love" and transforming it into an Enrique Iglesias-esque ballad. His performance was full of drama and tension, and it worked surprisingly well and actually seemed current. I liked this much more than I thought I would. That is why I was so shocked when the judges all came down hard on Carlito. "You always pour all of yourself into a song, but I need you to be aware of all the notes you're singing," said Kelly. Simon barked, "It wasn't as good as last week. It was a little bit girly, a little bit over-theatrical, and I think you are better than that." Then Carlito's own coach, Paulina, AGREED with Simon. That was baffling. I actually thought Carlito was the best of the Boys category this week. But I suppose if America agreed with the judges, then it's a good thing that he's getting a do-over. We'll never know.
Lillie McCloud (Over 25's) – Last week, 54-year-old Lillie got flak from the judges, mainly Simon, for seeming too dated. So she was basically screwed during MOTOWN WEEK. To seem a little fresher, Lillie wanted to try out some more youthful styling and trade in her usual sequined Grammy gown for a tank top and jeans. (Hey, if I had arms like Lillie's, I'd insist on wearing tank tops all the time.) But her mentor Kelly wasn't having it. So out came Lillie in floor-length satin, crooning Stevie Wonder's "All in Love is Fair." Her vocal was nearly flawless, but of course her performance seemed old-fashioned. It was frickin' Motown Week, for frick's sake! Demi said, "It was still a little outdated." However, Simon said this was "absolutely fantastic." Did he mean that, or was he just too scared of Kelly, who was about to smack Simon upside his head if he dared utter one negative word about Lillie? Simon isn't usually intimidated so easily, by anyone, but he may have met his match with Kelly. (Side note: Maybe Lillie will get to rock a tank and jeans on Thursday.)
Sweet Suspense (Groups) – The manufactured girl group, who surprisingly survived last week over the aforementioned Roxxy Montana, did "You Keep Me Hanging On," and they definitely looked like stars, sheathed in silver spandex and shimmying in a giant glitzy birdcage. I still wished they were singing harmonies, rather than in unison, but this was definitely their best performance to date, so maybe they will keep improving and get to that point in time (assuming they stay on the show). Demi said they "killed it." Kelly told them, "There hasn't been a girl group that has tapped into the market in a long time." Apparently Kelly did not watch "The X Factor" last season and was not aware of Season 2 finalists Fifth Harmony's success. Facepalm.
Rion Paige (Girls) – Rion is such a bubbly, ball-of-sunshiny personality, so I have no idea why Demi chose to have an effervescent song like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" slowed down to sound dreary and plaintive. Of all the contestants on this show, Rion was the one who should have gotten something fun, frothy, and upbeat. This song sucked all the life out of this poor little 8th-grader, and the performance just didn't soar high enough. Kelly didn't like the song choice, but Simon thought it was a "beautiful version." I agreed with Kelly, obviously. I wonder which judge America would have agreed with.
Tim Olstad (Boys) – Tim was hurt by Simon's "funeral director" comment last week and wanted to prove him wrong, but I'm not sure if singing another ballad this Wednesday, the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" — with a choir, yet — was the best way to change Simon's mind. They have choirs at funerals sometimes, after all, and this was not exactly a fun performance. However, the vocal was very solid; there's no question that Tim is a great singer. Does he have the X-factor, though? Demi expressed her doubts. "I don't see you moving on from this competition, unless it's in AC radio. Not Top 40. But your voice is incredible. I'm confused," she hemmed and hawed. Kelly was also conflicted, saying, "Let me start by saying you are an incredible singer…but I'm expecting way more from you. It sounded like a watered-down version." Surprisingly, Simon actually liked Tim's performance, comparing Tim to Donny Osmond and Josh Groban and meaning this as a compliment. "There's a market for that," Simon pointed out. Hey, he may be on to something. Remember, Simon is the guy who discovered AC icons Paul Potts and Susan Boyle.
So, if this had been a normal voting week, I would have predicted Carlos, Rion, and Sweet Suspense for the bottom three, with Carlos going home. Will Thursday's do-over performances change those odds? It'll be interesting to find out. See you then.
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