“The X Factor” got one step closer to rounding out its list of finalists Wednesday, as Paulina Rubio solidified her lineup of boys by sending her contestants through the awkward gauntlet known as the Four-Chair Challenge.
Ten finalists competed, but in the end, only four were able to, er, sit down. And after some hemming and hawing, those four finalists were revealed to be 24-year-old Tim Olstad from Winona, Minnesota, 16-year-old Carlos Guevara of Lexington, South Carolina, 24-year-old Carlito Olivero of Los Angeles and 14-year-old Josh Levi from Hollywood.
Olstad, whose nerves nearly got the best of him during his initial audition, had the most dramatic journey to receiving his chair. After his version of Miley Cyrus’ pre-twerking ballad “The Climb” caused judge Kelly Rowland to tell him, “I can already hear your voice on the radio,” Olstad was given a seat in the final four. But Rubio was open about her reservations regarding Olstad, and later switched him out of her final four in favor of 13-year-old Timmy Thames, whom Rubio dubbed “my little Michael Jackson.”
The studio audience’s reaction to Olstad’s dismissal was rather toxic, which caused Rubio to call a “time-out,” a new wrinkle to the ever-evolving Four-Chair Challenge. “I don’t care about what they’re saying,” Rubio said, motioning to the crowd, “but I care about what I feel. So I need to be true with myself. I want Tim back.” Olstad, who had already exited the studio, was brought back in, while Rubio apologized for her wishy-washiness. “I make mistakes,” she told Olstad. “I’m so, so sorry for all this.” But those apologies were of little comfort to Holbrook, NJ 19-year-old Al Calderon, who was asked to give up his seat to the returning Olstad. (Calderon may have had it coming to him though, after he sang a dubstep version of Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” and told Rowland, “you look beautiful tonight, b.t.w.”)
Guevara, who suffers from Tourette syndrome, earned his way into Rubio’s final four by going to town on “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which Rubio praised by telling him he had “something unique.” He also said he doesn’t want to be defined by his Tourette’s. “I don’t want to be a sob story, I just want to be an inspiration,” he said. “That’s all I want.”
Olivero, a barista from L.A., sang Selena’s “Dreaming of You” for his audition, which prompted Rowland to remark, “I think you’re going to have these girls in here dreaming later.” Simon Cowell said he liked that Olivero was embracing his roots by singing the Selena song, and Rubio cleared a spot for him in her final four. “I love your voice. You have great range and power, and I love your attitude,” she told him. Olivero took the spot held by Chase Goehring, a 17-year-old singer/songwriter from Nolensville, Tennessee, whose version of B.o.B’s “Airplanes” earned him a tentative spot in Rubio’s group of finalists.
Levi was the final guy to slide in to the pack, and he did so by singing Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which has been covered by everyone from George Michael to Bon Iver to Adele. Levi danced across the stage while belting out the tune, and his overall presentation prompted Cowell’s most glowing praise of the night: “We are looking, potentially, at a future star here,” he told Levi. Rubio took to him as well — “everything that you just did was perfect,” she told him — which meant that someone in her final four had to go, and that someone was her “little Michael Jackson,” Timmy Thames, whom she sent packing back to Neverland.
Pauline's top 4 would not have been my top 4
— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) October 10, 2013
Two singers, Isaiah Alston and Isaac Tauaefa, auditioned for the panel but never got the chance to take a seat. Meanwhile, the dismissal of 14-year-old Stone Martin, a One Direction obsessive and a potential budding heartthrob in his own right, may have been the inspiration behind Cowell’s Wednesday night tweets that “you never let great talent go” and “Pauline’s top 4 would not have been my top 4.” Cowell followed by teasing a potential “wild card pick,” which would be put in the hands of the public.
Wednesday’s episode wrapped with the beginning of Cowell’s round with the groups, and he started the proceedings by giving each of his first four groups — country trio Restless Road, pop-R&B threesome Glamour, dance-pop trio Girls United and party-rocking duo Wild Thingz — seats in his final four. But with six groups left to go, there are bound to be some switches coming when he closes out his category on Thursday’s episode.