This is it — the three remaining contestants on The X Factor gave their final performances Wednesday, and now viewer votes will determine which one will walk away with a $5 million recording contract Thursday night.
Like the Voice finale on Monday night, the show opened with a tribute to last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with all the previously eliminated contestants joining finalists Tate Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar and Fifth Harmony on Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone."
And then it was time for the final nine — yes, nine — performances, with each finalist taking the stage three times. The contestants first performed their favorite song from a prior stage of the competition, which was an odd choice for the show. Undoubtedly a strategy that was designed to show the audience how much the singers have grown over the past few months, it nevertheless failed to provide any sense of edge-of-your-seat anticipation for viewers who've been following the show from the beginning. Next, they each performed a classic song with the song's original artist — allowing for special appearances by LeAnn Rimes, Little Big Town and Demi Lovato, the only judge without a finalist in the competition. And finally, they went out with a song of their and their mentor's choosing.
Here's a breakdown of all the performances:
Carly Rose Sonenclar: Sonenclar kicked off the night by revisiting her audition number, Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." She predictably killed it, and all the judges said as much. "The first time I heard it, it blew me away and actually, you sung it better tonight than you did the first time," Simon Cowell told her. And her mentor, Britney Spears, couldn't have been more proud. "It's shocking how bright your star is, and we're gonna win this," Spears said. For her second number, Sonenclar was joined by LeAnn Rimes for "How Do I Live." Toward the end of the song, the established diva and the diva-in-training did their best to out-belt each other, but Sonenclar impressively held her own and said it was one of her favorite moments on the stage thus far. And finally, Sonenclar delivered a flawless rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." It was a risky choice to put it mildly, with the song having gotten its share of play in the past week, thanks to the Sandy Hook tragedy, but the 13-year-old somehow managed to make it sound fresh yet still poignant. "You should get out your checkbook, Simon," Spears said afterward.
Tate Stevens: At 37, Stevens is 24 years Sonenclar's senior — but there's no telling whether that will sway votes in his favor or hers. The country crooner also returned to his audition song, Randy Houser's "Anything Goes," and gave a typically strong rendition of the ballad that showcased how far he's come over the course of the competition. "You turned that performance into a stadium performance," Lovato told him. Stevens teamed up with Little Big Town to perform their hit "Pontoon" for his next number, and it was refreshing to see him cut loose a little bit and strut his stuff around the stage for once. Stevens closed out the evening with Chris Young's "Tomorrow," shortly after his mentor, Reid, issued a mea culpa for initially protesting being assigned to the Over 25s and called himself "the luckiest guy in the world" for getting to work with Stevens.
Fifth Harmony: The final remaining group in the competition offered a second (nearly identical) take on Ellie Goulding's "Anything Can Happen," which they performed a couple of weeks ago on the show. The performance left L.A. Reid, for one, apparently feeling a little nervous. "You were the underdogs and now you are the one to beat," Reid, who mentors Stevens, told them. Next, they were joined by Lovato for her smash "Give Your Heart A Break," a performance that Cowell called "pop perfection" (and he was right). If the girls don't win the competition, they might want to consider touring with Lovato as her backing vocalists. And the quintet closed out the night with an R&B-tinged take on The Beatles' "Let It Be," which their mentor Simon called "one of my favorite songs of all time." For once, each of the girls got a big solo and none of them outshone the others — which is to say they all sounded great, not that no one stood out.
So, who do you think should win The X Factor? Take our poll below — and tune in to the two-hour finale Thursday at 8/7c on Fox, which will also feature performances from Pitbull and One Direction, to find out!