The X Factor meets Divas Live? That was the case Wednesday, with the show's 12 finalists tackling "Songs of the Divas" for the second night of live performances. And the stakes are a bit higher this week, since two contestants will be eliminated on Thursday's results show. Let's get right into the recap!
Young Adults, mentored by Demi Lovato
Jennel Garcia: Garcia kicked off the night with Tina Turner's "Proud Mary," abandoning the rocker chick aesthetic she's been trying to cultivate for the past couple of weeks and taking a more straightforward soul route. And it paid off, with Britney Spears telling her the performance would have made Turner proud, and Simon Cowell saying that it brought Garcia "back in the game."
Paige Thomas: Donning a bright red sparkling dress and lipstick to match, Thomas brought a disco vibe to the show with Donna Summer's "Last Dance," which she dedicated to her late mother. She really came out of her shell for the performance, sashaying around the judges table and earning a wink from Cowell in the process. And the gamble paid off — Cowell and L.A. Reid told Thomas it was her best performance in the competition to date.
CeCe Frey: Oh, CeCe. After being forced to sing a Save Me song last week to stay in the competition, Frey opted for "All By Myself" for a much-needed comeback performance. It might not have worked. Spears said she didn't "get it," and Cowell said she should have taken the song's title to heart and performed it in a room by herself. (OUCH, Simon!) But the harshest criticism came from Reid, who called it "an improvement" but predicted that Frey would once again find herself with the lowest number of votes. Lovato's response? Reid was just jealous that Frey was "better than Vino." Might there be another rivalry brewing?
Why we love The X Factor's new rankings of shame
The Over 25s, mentored by L.A. Reid
Tate Stevens: Sap alert! After a treacly montage highlighting Stevens' relationship with his wife (the two are high school sweethearts, natch), the country crooner who came in No. 1 based on viewer votes last week belted out an (admittedly powerful) rendition of Shania Twain's "From This Moment," dedicated to his spouse. The judges were understandably impressed, with Cowell referring to his colleague Reid, Stevens' mentor, as "Mr. Smug" — but adding that he'd be happy to sign the $5 million winner's check over to Stevens.
Vino Alan: Breaking away from his typical rock repertoire, Alan selected Tina Turner's cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" for this week's show. It was perhaps not the best move. Lovato complimented his vocals but called the overall performance "boring," and Cowell said it was a downgrade from last Wednesday.
The Teens, mentored by Britney Spears
Diamond White: White is turning into a real Diamond in the rough, so to speak. After her performance of Beyonce's "Halo," the judges lavished praise on the beaming teen, with Lovato calling her "a total diva, in the best way possible," and Cowell telling her, "I think we're looking at a future star." We're guessing the judges are glad they gave White a second chance, but will she be able to take it all the way to the top?
Beatrice Miller: The show's youngest competitor took on Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," but while the judges complimented her personality, Reid and Cowell both criticized the song choice. Spears took exception to Cowell referring to her selection as "boring," telling him, "Simon, she has more talent in her pinky than you do in all of your contestants." Oh snap!
Arin Ray: Ray's interpretation of Madonna's "Crazy for You" earned the most tepid praise of the night, with Reid and Cowell again harping on Spears for her song choice. (Spears, for the record, told Ray he "nailed it.") "You taking on that song is like asking a cat to eat a tiger. ... It's just not right for you," Cowell said. "I think you could be in trouble tonight."
Carly Rose Sonenclar: Look out, Tate Stevens. Sonenclar once again blew the judges away with a soaring rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" that was light years ahead of her 13 years. The best part about Sonenclar is how she can completely own a song, channeling a grown woman with years of experience under her belt, and then transform back into a shy, nervous middle schooler immediately after the final note. Incredible. As Cowell (who admitted he initially thought he was going to hate the performance) put it, "I don't believe you're a human being." And, according to Reid, "It pains me to say this, but we could be looking at the winner."
The Groups, mentored by Simon Cowell
Lyric 145: In what was the evening's loosest interpretation of the Divas guideline, Lyric 145 did a strange mashup of Katy Perry's "E.T." and Queen's "We Will Rock You." ("Freddie Mercury was a diva," Cowell said afterwards, by way of explanation.) It failed to win the judges over — with the exception of their mentor Cowell, who insists they "bring an energy this show needs." Though he said their performance was better than the previous week's ("a disaster"), Reid told the trio, "I just think you guys have lost your way. This could be the last time we see you."
Fifth Harmony: The quintet, clad all in white, tackled Mariah Carey's "Hero" — and kept their name for two weeks in a row! Both were good moves, with the all-female group impressing the judges and the crowd with their individual and collective vocals. "Maybe this isn't a one-horse race," their mentor Cowell warned, calling the performance "brilliant."
Emblem 3: The surfer dude trio, who came in a disappointing (and surprising!) sixth place last week, offered an upbeat take on Alicia Keys' "No One," which Reid called "perfect." "You are complete superstars in my opinion, and you're exactly what this show needs," he told them. Do you think America will agree this week?
Which finalists do you think will come in at the top and the bottom of the pack after tonight? On Thursday's X Factor, Taylor Swift will perform her new single and, remember, two contestants will be sent home. Tune in at 8/7c to find out who — and give us your predictions below!