Man, that was embarrassing. After a graphics snafu at the end of Wednesday night’s Motown-themed performance show that resulted in the wrong dial-in numbers being posted on screen, “X Factor” had to do it all over again on Thursday night.
Instead of eliminating one of the top 13, a serious Mario Lopez informed viewers at the top of the show that all the singers had to perform their “save me” songs and wait until next Wednesday to find out if they were going home. It was not a totally unprecedented screw-up in reality competition-land, but bad news for a show that has been bounced around the schedule by the baseball playoffs and continues to struggle in the ratings. The hurry-up-and-sing format had some early favorites like Khaya Cohen pulling away from the pack, while heartthrobs Restless Road hit a speed bump with a shaky performance.
With just 24 hours to get a new song together, how did the contestants do?
Demi Lovato’s Girls
Though host Lopez seemed rushed all night, there was still time to shoehorn in a sponsored make-over segment, which led into Ellona Santiago’s powerful, controlled cover of David Guetta’s “Titanium.” Lovato said it was incredible and Cowell called it Santiago’s best effort to date.
After channeling Amy Winehouse the night before, early frontrunner Khaya Cohen did a decent Duffy impersonation on “Distant Dreamer,” which was another powerhouse display of poise and vocal grit. Lovato smiled throughout and dubbed her charge “a little Aretha [Franklin].” Rion Paige did her twang thang on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a savvy choice considering the lyrics about acceptance. After Rion’s most impassioned singing since early in the competition, Lovato gushed, “The only reason I sat back down is so I could tell you how incredible that was.”
Paulina Rubio’s Boys
Again proving he deserved to be brought back, Josh Levi nailed an aching cover of Rihanna’s “Stay,” which Simon Cowell said was more than a survival song, but a “winning” performance. Carlos Guevara keeps getting dinged for being boring and his awkward, overemoted run through Damien Rice’s “Cannonball” didn’t do him any favors. Coach Rubio, however, called it “the most amazing performance I have ever saw.”
Carlito Olivero continued the night’s trend of somewhat obscure song choices, doing a yeoman’s job on Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not the One,” neither distinguishing himself or tripping up his chances (though that last falsetto note was way off). “Is he sick?” Cowell asked when Rubio began to make excuses for her team member. Showing serious cojones, sad sack Tim Oldstad did a tepid, Josh Groban-esque take on R. Kelly’s uber-ballad, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Paulina was impressed, but Cowell made fun of Tim for adding a “whoop” in the middle of the tune.
Simon Cowell’s Groups
Like everyone else, Restless Road went ballad, and, for the first time, they seemed nervous, struggling through Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Cowell wondered if something went wrong with the track and said, considering their short prep time, he felt for the trio. Alex and Sierra chose Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love,” which showed off their signature smooth harmonies, though they could have dialed back the awkward rock faces. Simon called it “immaculate” and said he loved the song choice, vowing to let them pick their tunes from now on.
After a solid showing the night before, teen girl group Sweet Suspense displayed poise and unity on Justin Bieber’s “That Should Be Me.” Considering the hard time he gave Rubio, it was funny that Cowell seemed to be making excuses as well about how hard the song was and asked voters to remember Suspense’s previous two performances. “I wish we weren’t in this position,” he said.
Kelly Rowland’s Over 25s
The graphics problems from the night before continued as a picture of a different singer introduced Rachel Potter’s cover of Martina McBride’s “Anyway.” Her vocals were strong and Cowell wondered if she had a twin sister because her singing was so much better than the night before. Resident rocker Jeff Gutt emoted through a predictable, karaoke rendition of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” that Rowland raved about, but Cowell dubbed “corny.”
Ballads are Lillie McCloud’s strong suit, but her snoozy waltz through Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever” was overly dramatic and reached lift-off a bit too late. “That’s what you call a diva,” Cowell said, while Rowland agreed, adding, “that’s what you’re supposed to do when you perform!”
Next week’s show will be a challenge, since the top 12 all have to perform after someone is eliminated at the top of the 1980s-themed performance show.