It’s British Music Night on “The X Factor,” which means that the Top 10 Finalists will sing… oh, pretty much whatever they want to. Except for Restless Road. They may struggle a bit.
I’m still going to be missing Sweet Suspense, which missed out on doing a Spice Girls song, and Rachel Potter, who missed out on… something or other.
With Duffy, Adele and Amy Winehouse all within this week’s nebulous theme, is Khaya Cohen ready to move up the leaderboard?
Will we pretend that Irish music counts for this theme and that Alex & Sierra can fulfill their life’s destiny by doing “Falling Slowly”?
Click through and follow along for the full recap…
8:00 p.m. ET. One Direction! One Direction! They’re not here tonight. But they will be performing tomorrow. Sorry, United Kingdom, you’ve been reduced to “The Land Where One Direction Was Born” to “The X Factor.”
8:03 p.m. AC Slater is back. Do I have to call him Mario again? Can’t we do an Irish episode so I can call him Mari O’Lopez?
8:04 p.m. Double Elimination tomorrow as well. Yay!
8:05 p.m. Simon Cowell says that tonight’s theme won’t be a challenge. Who’s up first?It’s one of Kelly Rowland’s Geriatrics, specifically…
Singer: JEFF GUTT
Song: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
My Take: Jeff Gutt, once again, uses his cute son as a prop. And, for some reason, Kelly thinks that Jeff is capable of singing Queen. Oy. I’m concerned. It’s funny, because if Jeff Gutt doesn’t want me to keep mentioning “Rock of Ages” every week, he shouldn’t sing Constantine Maroulis songs. He’s sitting on the literal Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones.” It’s possibly the most awesome thing ever on the “X Factor” stage. I couldn’t care less about Jeff brutalizing the high notes, because HE’S SITTING ON THE IRON THRONE. He just doesn’t have nearly enough upper range for this song at all. When he’s gruff in the middle range, he’s fine, but every time he gets too high, it’s excruciating. Then at a key moment when the song reaches the big Freddie Mercury glory notes, the cut straight to a different part of the song. Then there’s an octave drop at the end. Seriously, if you’re giving the guy a Queen song, don’t rearrange it into a tacit admission of his vocal limitations.
The Judges Say: “Wow,” Paulina says. “I love that you’re feeling it, that you’re crumbling,” Paulina says confusingly. She didn’t like the transitions of the arrangement. “This was actually your best performance yet,” Demi Lovato says. “I’ve gotta agree with Demi,” Simon says. Sorry. They’re both incorrect. Demi and Simon have a fight about why Jeff hasn’t made it previously. Vocal limitations. I can answer that.
Singer: TIM OLSTAD
Song: “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”
My Take: I’d have picked Robbie Williams’ “Angels” for Tim, but in an intriguing twist, Tim had decided he wants to sing an Elton John song, on the piano no less. Inexplicable, the audience turns on Tim by clapping along to the song, going against the beat. This is such a stupid song to clap along with. Who started that crap? It’s too bad, because it’s a reasonably decent performance. Tim could have sung “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He would have looked ridiculous, but he would have sounded fine. Here, he’s got the whole piano-and-fog staging cliche going on. He should have insisted on sitting in the Iron Throne. Tim has a vocal ease that I appreciate, even if I get nothing from him emotionally other than the identical earnestness every single week.
The Judges Say: “You definitely stepped it up a couple notches this week.” Kelly says, even saying that Tim was sexy when he was behind the piano. “I don’t even think you needed the piano to be sexy to be honest,” Demi coos, saying that he found his lane. “You are like a singing hamster and they want you to be a singing lion and you’re not,” Simon says, Sphinx-like. “He’s little Simba!” Paulina says. Simon tells Tim that his future is more cabaret and Broadway. The audience boos, as if this were the worst insult Simon could muster. Meanwhile, I want to call Tim “Hammy the Hamster” for the rest of the season.
Singer: KHAYA COHEN
Song: “Let It Be”
My Take: It’s sad that we’re telling a 16-year-old girl that the key to her success on this show isn’t having one of the show’s two or three best votes, but making people like her. Sigh. This is an odd song choice and it’s made even odder when the audience starts clapping along with her. I also don’t get the church choir. None of things are going to help make Khaya likable with teenage girls. Why didn’t they just let her sing “Rolling in the Deep” and be done with it? On an apparently unrelated side note, Khaya Cohen has a really good voice. She’s a lot better than Jeff and she’s probably better than Tim. She’s got so much potential, but this was a weird showcase.
The Judges Say: Kelly wants Khaya to round more of her vowels off. I’m not exactly sure what that means. Paulina loves that Khaya shows us her soul, but she warns Khaya that she needs to step up her wardrobe. Simon says it was a joke that Khaya was in the Bottom Two last week, telling her to smile and bring puppies in the future, offering her his puppies.
Singer: JOSH LEVI
Song: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
My Take: Whose arrangement is this? It’s strange and unpleasant, but I like the cutaway to Simon laughing at Josh coming onto the stage through a red phone booth surrounded by dancing bobbies. I’d love to get a choreographer to tell me what they think is happening here. And why. Dancing bobbies. A moving phone booth. Frantic and spastic solo dance moves. Why not use the Iron Throne, too? And lets not talk about the sweeping spotlights or seizure-inducing strobe effects. This is a better mixture of singing and dancing from Josh than last week. But there are too many details distracting me. I get that Paulina wants to show us what a Josh Levi show would look like and sound like, but my only answer is, “It would look and sound strange.”
The Judges Say: Kelly is jealous that Paulina gets to mentor Josh. “Your voice reminds me of Chris Brown when he was younger,” Demi says, telling Josh to work on his dancing. “That whole sequence with the dancing policemen was just insane,” Simon says. “I think he can deliver on that and more,” Paulina says meaninglessly.
Singer: ALEX & SIERRA
Song: “Best Song Ever”
My Take: Sigh. No Swell Season for Alex & Sierra. Instead? One Direction. Awww. They’re standing on bridge. It’s so romaaaaaaaaantic. I wish they were sitting together on the Iron Throne. Sigh. I love this and the One Direction fans are going to hate it with a white hot passion known only to outraged One Direction fans. This is cute, musical and pleasantly harmonic and it sounds almost nothing like the original. Last week’s performance was a mess, but this was simple and strong and right.
The Judges Say: “I think you guys should be really proud of yourself,” Kelly says, warning them that Alex was much stronger than Sierra. Well, Alex was singing lead almost the entire time and Sierra was just adding the harmony. It wasn’t her showcase. “That bridge is a little bit corny,” Paulina says. Those are the most accurate words Paulina has ever spoken. Demi calls this her favorite Alex & Sierra performance yet. “The bridge was corny and the 20 dancing policemen weren’t?” Simon asks Paulina. Simon calls it a brilliant performance and says they were both amazing. “That is a record. That is original,” Simon says.
Singer: RION PAIGE
Song: “Your Song”
My Take: Awww. Rion should be using her little brother like Jeff Gutt uses his son. More Elton John, which Simon thinks isn’t suited to her voice. Simon is incorrect on this one. While I don’t understand the vines encroaching on Rion’s microphone — they only remind me of “The Ruins” — I get the passion and the simplicity of the emotion and the emotional connectedness in this performance. Rion’s just so good at closing songs with emotional moments that seem completely genuine even with all of this show’s lugubrious artifice.
The Judges Say: “Rion. I’m speechless. And I talk way too much,” Kelly says, calling Rion “human” and “vulnerable.” Kelly also does an impression of Rion’s dancing that might be offensive if not for the big smile it gets from Rion. Paulina is pleased. Simon calls Rion “absolutely fantastic.” Demi praises her control of the stage and the audience. “You can’t be 13,” Simon adds.
Singer: CARLITO OLIVERO
My Take: No, Carlito. Last week there wasn’t “negativity.” There was “criticism.” There’s a difference. I wonder if Carlito knows that Mick Jagger — or “Meeek Yagger,” as Paulina calls him — isn’t dead and that he still performs to this very day. Carlito is joined by a half-dozen Dancing Carlitos. It’s scary. Also scary? That America kept Carlito around while voting Sweet Suspense, Rachel Potter and Khaya Cohen into the Bottom Three. Carlito isn’t bad here, but he’s being upstaged by reproduced versions of himself on the video screens. Carlito dancing with himself is just funny. That’s the part I’ll remember from this performance. Not the singing.
The Judges Say: “That was definitely a huge step up from last week,” Kelly says, but she still feels like something is missing. Demi thought that the end, when he was dancing with himself, was the best part. She tells him to embrace his Spanish side and be “totally sexy.” Simon agrees that Carlito should have sung in Spanish. Simon likes that Carlito is a man and he hopes America keeps him around. Paulina wants more smiling.
Singer: LILLIE MCCLOUD
Song: “This Woman’s Work”
My Take: In a vacuum, this is a great song. It’s also a great song to get Lillie eliminated. It’s a track that Lillie sings spectacularly well in places — she still has idiosyncratic phrasing choices that confuse me on a weekly basis — but it’s also a track that’ll remind the young skewing “X Factor” audience that Lillie is just a wee bit older. She’s also a wee bit better than most of the other singers. And yeah, no clue what’s happening with the stage presentation or the backing video.
The Judges Say: Paulina is refreshed by the different things Lillie does. It reminded Demi of the Lillie she first saw, but she wants to get a bit more range from Lilie. “It’s so easy to take for granted what a great singer you are,” Simon says, calling it “absolutely brilliant.”
Singer: ELLONA SANTIAGO
My Take: Ellona’s just singing this week. No up-tempo dancing. Fortunately, there are people around her dancing in doorways, because why would anybody want to concentrate on Ellona singing? And the clappers are back. The “X Factor” producers need to do something to prevent this in future shows, because it makes the “X Factor” audience seem utterly bush leagues. Do they not understand that Ellona is struggling enough with the rhythm of this song without idiots clapping against the beat because they don’t know any better? Because yeah. Ellona just no clue on the pace of this song. She’s pretty lost at points in the second half. I could blame the arrangement. Or Ellona’s ability to hear the music. But I’m blaming the dumbass audience. It’s too bad. Ellona’s voice sounds very fine.
The Judges Say: “Your voice is just so big. It’s so big,” Kelly says, though she expected more from her. Paulina babbles something. Simon thinks Ellona is a brilliant perform, but he feels like he’s watching an actress. He tells Ellona to choose the material next week, because “At the moment you’re like a dancing, singing puppet.” “I don’t want to be a dancing, singing puppet. I want to be a fierce performer,” Ellona says.
Singer: RESTLESS ROAD
Song: “Fix You”
My Take: Interesting. There’s a little country twang to this Coldplay cover, but it’s pretty straight-forward. And it’s pretty well-delivered. The harmonies are getting better. The stage presence is still a mess, as all three guys do different things that don’t always gel. But I like some of the musicality at the end, especially from Neckbeard, who may also be growing a mustache for November.
The Judges Say: Kelly felt like they needed to be more cohesive this week. I thought that vocally, they were fairly cohesive, but stage-wise, they weren’t. Paulina thinks they don’t show themselves, or something. Demi thought they were good, but they’ve done better. Demi thinks Jason Street’s harmonies were off. I didn’t hear that. I’d say that I might need to listen again, but I’m not going to listen again. Simon thought it was one of the night’s best performances.
9:58 p.m. Tonight’s star was the Iron Throne.
9:59 p.m. The night’s worst performances came from Carlito, Jeff and Elona.
That’s my opinion. And yours?