Carly Rose Sonenclar
It's all up to the audience now.
The final four contestants on The X Factor sang their hearts out Wednesday night for a spot in next week's final, and audience votes alone will determine which act gets eliminated on Thursday night and which three will advance — with no sing-off or judges' votes to decide. Additionally, the show isn't going to reveal the rankings of the Top 3, meaning that viewers won't know who the frontrunner is heading into the finals.
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For the second week in a row, the acts each performed two songs — one of their choosing and one selected by them and their mentor (though Demi Lovato is the one judge with no contestants remaining). Here's a breakdown of each performance.
For his pick, the last man standing from L.A. Reid's Over 25s went full redneck with a boot-stompin', old-school country throwback rendition of Craig Morgan's "Bonfire," complete with pyrotechnics onstage. By this point, Stevens knows it's his country shtick that differentiates him from the rest of the field and it's clear he's going to milk it for all it's worth (as is Reid, who donned a cowboy hat for the performance). Not a bad move. Reid, Simon Cowell and Lovato said it was Stevens' best performance to date. Britney Spears was the only dissenter, but her lukewarm feedback drew boos from the crowd and a loud, high-pitched gasp from Reid.
Stevens' second number was "Fall" by Clay Walker, which he dedicated to his wife (again). Another traditional country song, it was a more subdued performance than his first outing, but no less commendable. Spears called it a "direct hit," and Cowell put it even more bluntly. "There is about as much chance of you going back to your old job as me flying to the moon tomorrow night," he told Stevens. "Let's be clear. You've made your mark here. I think you've done enough to get into the final, and you thoroughly deserve it." Do you agree?
Carly Rose Sonenclar
The 13-year-old sensation from Britney Spears' Teens chose Elton John's "Your Song" for, um, her song and offered an expectedly polished take on the classic. Lovato called the choice of an adult contemporary ballad "predictable," but said she loved the performance anyway, and Reid also praised Sonenclar's "risky" decision. Cowell said it wasn't Sonenclar's best performance in the competition but said she'd likely redeem herself in her second outing of the night.
Who was the best actress of 2012?
For that, Spears selected John Lennon's "Imagine," and had Sonenclar both sing and play the piano for the introduction. It was a ... let's say "interesting" arrangement of the classic, one that attempted to give Sonenclar numerous opportunities to belt out notes on a song that doesn't really call for much belting. Reid and Lovato praised the rendition, but Simon had problems with it, calling the arrangement and staging (with Sonenclar leaving and then returning to the piano) "overcomplicated."
Paying particular attention to Lovato's criticism that they were getting predictable and not working the stage enough in their performances, the first of Simon Cowell's two Groups made a point of spreading out and high-fiving members of the audience during Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way." The strategy worked — with both Lovato and Cowell saying that the performance reminded them of the group's original audition, when they first showed the judges that they had something special. Reid called it the trio's "big 5 million dollar moment," and Spears told them, "It would be unfair to call you a boy band, because you're way more than that."
On their second number, the guys paid tribute to the original boy band, taking on The Beatles' "Hey Jude," which, let's face it, could have been a disaster of a performance. But Emblem 3 pulled it off with aplomb, seriously working the crowd during the song's "na-na-na-na" outro. All of the judges had nothing but good things to say, even frequent criticizer Lovato. "I was prepared to just rip you to shreds, because doing a Beatles song is very presumptuous," Reid told them afterwards. "That was risky business ... but you did a great job."
Trying to show that they could both harmonize and perform a choreographed dance number, the second of Cowell's Groups first tackled Ellie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen." While their stage show was unconvincing at best, the girls again reinforced their individual and collective vocal talents. In fact, Reid told them it was "the very best vocal performance you've ever done." But will that be enough to keep them in the competition? Cowell seems to think so. Acknowledging the quintet had come into the semifinals as "underdogs" due to their fourth place ranking, he said after the song, "To get into the final is going to take a miracle ... but after that performance, like the lyric of that song just said, anything now can happen."
The group next opted for Shontelle's "Impossible," which they previously performed during the judges' homes round, and decided to incorporate Spanish lyrics into the song to gain some more votes. (Somebody paid attention to post-presidential election analysis!) Reid called the song selection "lazy" since they had already done it once, and all the judges (except for Simon) agreed that the performance was good but not great. "I would be really surprised if you guys are here next week," Spears said flatly. "I'm a little worried too," Lovato agreed. But remember — the judges don't get a say in this week's elimination.
So, who do you think will make it to the finals and who will be sent home Thursday? Weigh in below!