‘X Factor’ Recap: ‘Treasure’ and ‘Trouble’ on Big Band Night

Top 8 contestants go 'Big' on songs by Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.

“X Factor” spent Thanksgiving Eve [November 27] giving songs from today and yesteryear the Big Band treatment, with a helping hand from Michael Buble.

“The X Factor” doesn’t believe in a Thanksgiving break. The Top 8 contestants took a spin through Big Band Night on Wednesday [November 27], performing songs by artists such as Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars with a 25-piece band. Two acts will be kicked off Thursday night, right around the time your pumpkin pie is settling in your stomach. Here’s a look at who scored big and who was a turkey on Wednesday’s “X Factor” episode:

Demi Lovato’s Girls

Ellona Santiago, who was dismissed as “a dancing, singing puppet” on last week’s performance episode, emerged as the big winner on Wednesday. Fully committing to a sassy, fierce version of Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best,” Simon Cowell called her performance — the only song of the night to earn a standing ovation from all four judges — a “game changer.” “You may now have a chance, after that performance, of actually winning this whole show,” Cowell told her. Lovato backed Cowell’s statement. “You could win this competition, and I very well think that you will,” she said.

Rion Paige’s rootin’ tootin’ version of John Anderson’s “Swingin’” wasn’t as celebrated as Santiago’s performance was, but the judges were full of compliments for the 13-year-old. “You are as cute as a cupcake,” Cowell said, calling the song “the absolute perfect song to do.” Lovato called it her “best performance,” and told Cowell that Paige is coming for his contestants. “I think that Simon, you have a lot to look out for,” she said. “This girl is going to kill your category, I’m just saying!”

Paulina Rubio’s Boys

Carlito Olivero fought back from the brink of elimination last week and found his center when he took on Ricky Martin’s 1998 World Cup anthem “The Cup of Life.” “It finally looked like you were having fun!” exclaimed Kelly Rowland, while Lovato called the performance “amazing.”

Josh Levi, meanwhile, was so amped up during his rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” that Cowell questioned how many energy drinks he chugged before hitting the stage. “Anything you could jump up on, you did!” he said. He warned that the choreography may have been a little much, but the other three judges — who gave Levi a standing ovation — disagreed. “You were exquisite,” Rowland said, while Lovato told him, “you’ve never shined more in this whole competition.”

Kelly Rowland’s Over 25s

Jeff Gutt took charge of the stage with a confident, powerful version of “Feelin’ Good” which, top to bottom, was the night’s most solid performance. “It was absolutely fantastic,” Cowell told him. “From the minute you grabbed the microphone, you owned the song… I think you’re a really decent guy, Jeff, and you really deserve a break. And this was by far the best performance you’ve ever done, and I absolutely loved it.”

Lillie McCloud, who sang a sultry version of “Summertime,” earned a standing ovation from the three women on the judging panel, but it was Simon’s criticism she zeroed in on. After Cowell told her she was too “contained,” too “thought out” and “not raw enough,” McCloud shot back. “I never speak, but I want to say something. You’re confusing me,” she said, saying his feedback week to week gives her with mixed messages. Rowland had a very concise response to Cowell’s critique. “Simon,” she said, “shut up.”

Simon Cowell’s Groups

Cowell is still trying extremely hard to make his country boy band Restless Road happen, but cracks are beginning to show, and he resorted to vote-grubbing Wednesday by introducing the trio by saying they were, “three guys who love children, love animals, have puppies.” Their version of “Life Is a Highway” (originally performed by Tom Cochrane, popularized in recent years by Rascal Flatts) was very standard, but the judges had only good things to say about it. Lovato told the group they looked like stars, and Cowell told them, “I was worried about the song, but you pulled it together; you made a country song work with a big band.”

Boyfriend-girlfriend duo Alex & Sierra were stuck with the hack job of the night, doing a jazz-swing rendition of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” that simply didn’t work. Rowland admitted she “wasn’t crazy” about the song’s arrangement, but let Alex and Sierra off the hook, saying their personalities “shined” in the performance. As for Cowell? He called the performance “clever” and “cool,” and made a point to compliment Sierra, who was hammered by the judges for her mediocre vocals the week prior.

Wednesday’s show closed with all eight artists doing “Cry Me a River” — not the Justin Timberlake version — and while producers tried to make the judges choose favorites in the performance, Cowell refused to. “You can’t judge people on three lines, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Also ridiculous? “The X Factor” saying goodbye to two acts on Thanksgiving night, but hey, the show’s got a schedule to keep. In between the goodbyes, Lovato is set to take the stage, as is Canadian crooner Michael Buble. Since they celebrate Thanksgiving in October in Canada, it’s just another Thursday for the Bubes.

What did you think of “The X Factor” on Wednesday? Let us know in the comments!