The theme for Wednesday night's "X Factor" was #1 songs and the final eight definitely took some chances, with Paige Thomas, Diamond White and Tate Stevens going uptempo and Vino Alan trying to overcome a last-minute song switch.
Facing another double elimination, at least one singer seemed to definitely punch her ticket home, as CeCe Frey came up short in the vocal department once again. The show also featured a peek at the new will.i.am "Scream and Shout" video featuring Britney Spears.
Here are the highlights of #1 night:
Diamond White: Trying to climb from the middle of the pack, the diva-in-training abandoned big ballads for Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." She was nervous about dancing and singing, and despite minimal movement, her vocals sounded shaky as she got overwhelmed by the onstage party atmosphere. L.A. Reid said it started off slow, but kind of got there, while Demi Lovato's been waiting for White to have this much fun all season and Cowell said she delivered on every level. "I'd dance with you any day," Spears added.
Carly Rose Sonenclar: Adele covers are gutsy, but "Rolling in the Deep?" The teen queen tried to keep her #1 spot with a candlelit stroll through the tune that helped the British songbird sell 10 million albums in the U.S. Instead of trying to overpower the tune, Sonenclar underplayed it in the first half, before busting out her power vocals and preternaturally soulful wailing in the big finish. For Cowell, the first half was good, but the second was simply sensational. "I'm going to tell you something you already know, you are insanely talented," said Reid, despite feeling it wasn't her best effort.
Demi's Young Adults:
Paige Thomas: Needing to bounce back from a rough week, Thomas wanted to amp up the performance factor in defiance of Lovato's suggestion to keep it simple. For a minute it felt like we got Rickrolled, as Thomas shimmied through a spare, tribal beat cover of Rick Astley's Internet-famous "Never Gonna Give You Up" that looked and felt like a glitzy awards show performance. "That was by far your very best performance," Reid raved. "You found your voice, you found your movement." It was a risk, but Spears said it worked and Cowell told Thomas she looked and sounded like a legitimate pop star for the first time.
CeCe Frey: The most polarizing singer in the competition was fighting to get out of the cellar (again), shouting her way through "Lady Marmalade" while wearing a lacy hoop skirt, surrounded by dancers in Victorian minis. The vocals were all over the place in the worst way and even the rain of confetti couldn't take away from the fact that her voice is just not worth $5 million. "No one can say you're not a try-er," sneered Cowell, comparing the over-the-top attempt to gorging on 62 pieces of cake. "I want a little slice, you gave me too much." Reid enjoyed the circus, but he predicted Frey is going down fighting, emphasis on the "going down" part. Lovato saw the fire in Frey's eyes and quipped that if it was too loud, well, you're too old.
L.A. Reid's Over 25's:
Vino Alan: Reid through a curveball at the #3 vote getter, switching up Alan's song to "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" at the 11th hour. It was still right in the skull-tatted singer's soul crooner ballpark, even if he was tentative at times. "I feel like it's the same thing each week with you," Spears and Lovato complained, praising the soul but missing the entertainment, as Cowell slammed the reggae-lite breakdown in the middle and called it "uncomfortable."
Tate Stevens: Falling into second place shook up the urban cowboy road worker. He went with Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You," hoping to inject some fun into his usually somber delivery. Strumming his guitar, Stevens cranked up the charm (and put on a gun show in short sleeves), scooted his boots, nailed the vocals and worked the stage like a veteran. "I'm sure we'll be seeing you accept a country music award some day, you're brilliant," said Spears. "Don't dance," Cowell counseled, countering with praise for Stevens' vocals and likeability.
Fifth Harmony: Dealing with the death of member Ally's grandfather, the girl group pulled together for an appropriately uplifting take on Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)." The vocals were good, not great, and the arrangement was a bit generic, verging on cheesy Euro disco. That's pretty much what Reid said, wanting great and getting good and missing any original vocal harmonies. Demi said it was one of their best performances yet, but lacked any energy or movement. Cowell, of course, said it was a breakthrough and made him picture them on the charts for the first time.
Emblem3: Already drawing boy band crowds, the bro-fessors of Emblem went old school with the Monkees' "Daydream Believer." Mixing some lite rapping with bedroom eyes and passable vocals, the totally chill trio made the girls squeal even as they appeared to half phone it in. Britney and Lovato like them, but not the song and Demi felt like they need to shake it up. Reid said he'd sign them in a minute and put the whole label to work making them stars. "You guys have turned into real pop stars," Cowell crowed, praising their sense of fun.
What was your favorite performance from Wednesday night's episode? Let us know in comments below!