Viewers got a double dose on The X Factor Wednesday night, with each of the remaining six acts performing two songs — the first an unplugged number, and the second a song chosen by viewers — as they attempt to move into next week's semifinals. For the audience-chosen performances (a.k.a. the "Pepsi Challenge" — yay sponsorship!), viewers weighed in not only on the song choice, but also on everything from the act's wardrobe to the stage lighting. Suffice it to say, we hope the show goes back to having the judges make these decisions next week.
So, which two contestants should be sent home on Thursday's show? Here's a breakdown of their performances:
It's fitting that CeCe is such a fan of leopard makeup, because it truly seems like she's had nine lives in this competition. For her unplugged number, the only remaining contestant from Demi Lovato's Young Adults group performed a piano ballad version of Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" that both L.A. Reid and Britney Spears agreed was good but not great. Though Reid said he was "starting to become a fan," Simon Cowell told Frey flat-out, "I don't think you're worth a $5 million recording contract." Unfortunately, Frey's audience song — Katy Perry's "Part of Me" — only proved Cowell right. Her flat vocals would have been more appropriate at a karaoke-themed bachelorette party than on a reality singing competition.
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As promised, Emblem 3 did more than sing this week, with the spiky-haired, often shirtless one playing guitar to a shaky-at-best performance of Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are." (And by playing, we mean he was shown holding a guitar and strumming chords that didn't exactly sync up with the music that was coming out of the speakers. Just saying.) Spears called it the group's best performance thus far in the competition, but Lovato (who Cowell dubbed "Cruella" and threatened to put in "the naughty corner" twice) had much harsher feedback. "It's a downgraded version of the Jonas Brothers five years ago," she told them. Their second performance, of Alphaville's "Forever Young," was more the group's speed. The judges told them as much, with Reid saying they "nailed it" and Spears hailing the "superstar performance." Even Demi could only say that they needed to "work the stage" more.
Carly Rose Sonenclar
For her unplugged number, the reigning frontrunner offered a subdued rendition of Justin Bieber's "As Long As You Love Me" that Lovato said was better than the original. All the judges agreed it was one of their favorite performances to date in the competition. It's a safe bet that Sonenclar will retain her No. 1 spot after tonight's voting, because she followed up her unplugged performance by slaying Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy." "I think you're the definition of The X Factor," her mentor, Spears, told her. Well said, Britney!
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"It's 'Pick on Fifth Harmony' week again," Cowell said after Reid once again told them they didn't harmonize together on Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain." ("I think you have the wrong name," Reid jabbed.) Lovato added that "the group thing" wasn't working and she'd prefer to see a couple of the stronger singers break off as solo artists. But, for the group's second number, viewers ("annoyingly," according to Cowell) selected Lovato's own "Give Your Heart a Break," which Reid called their "very, very best performance" yet. And he said he finally heard harmony! Lovato humbly said they "sang it better than the original" and told them "this song should have been your song." Cowell repeatedly noted that there's currently a gap in the market as far as girl groups are concerned. Will that be enough to propel Fifth Harmony to the top?
White, the second of Spears' Teens still in the competition, found herself in the bottom two last week, but probably lifted herself up from the depths with a fiery, if "a bit screechy," according to Simon, take on James Brown's "It's a Man's World," which she had performed in earlier rounds of the show. For her viewer's choice song, White (fittingly) performed Rihanna's "Diamonds," which Reid said he "didn't love" but all the other judges lauded. "Overall, you've had a pretty good night," Cowell told her. But is "pretty good" enough to cut it at this stage in the competition?
The self-proclaimed "last of the old guys" chose Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" for his unplugged song (a selection Simon likened to "taking a goldfish for a walk. ... You can't.") Stevens clearly has the country vote cornered -- it's kept him in one of the top two spots for every week of the competition -- and his perfectly adequate take on the song will likely do little to change that. But "Tate Nation" brought Stevens back to his roots with Garth Brooks' "If Tomorrow Never Comes." "Now, that felt like a Tate Stevens performance. That was brilliant," Spears said. Lovato predicted that Stevens will have a "huge future" in music regardless of what happens on the show.
So, which two contestants do you think will be sent home tomorrow night? And which ones definitely deserve to make it to the semifinals? Sound off below!
The X Factor returns Thursday at 8/7c on Fox, with another double elimination plus performances by Ke$ha and last season's winner, Melanie Amaro.