“X Factor’s” final four squared off on Wednesday, battling for the three available positions in next week’s finale. The contestants sang three songs each — one chosen by viewers, one chosen by their mentors and one that pitted them head-to-head with one of their competitors — in the two-hour semifinal smackdown.
Here’s a breakdown of who soared and who bored on Wednesday’s show:
Chicago’s Olivero, who has had to sing for his life twice so far in the competition, turned up with a sexy rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” that struck the right balance between cool and confident. “That performance right there has star quality to it,” Demi Lovato told him.
Olivero’s second song, a Spanglish version of Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know,” earned a “muy bien” from Lovato. Cowell called it as he saw it. “I don’t know whether you’ve done enough to get into the final,” he said. “But you’ve had, without question, the best week you’ve had in the competition so far.”
In his head-to-head song, Olivero sang “Falling Slowly,” from Broadway’s “Once,” with Alex & Sierra. Olivero’s mentor, Paulina Rubio, called the song for her contestant, while Lovato told him it was his best vocal performance to date.
Cowell’s country trio got a rough start with Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night,” with Road leader Colton Pack again finding himself dragged down by his stiff groupmates Andrew Scholz and Zach Beeken. “It didn’t do it for me,” Lovato told them, calling the performance “awkward.” “You guys just need to open up. I felt like this performance was nervous. It just wasn’t a semifinals performance.”
The gang of three recovered by the second song, however, earning a standing ovation from all four judges with Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted.” “I think you honestly just saved yourselves,” Lovato told them. “This is mainstream, this is incredible.”
For their duet, the guys squared off with Jeff Gutt on the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” with the consensus that they were blown out of the water vocally by Gutt, but that they at least looked good while doing it.
Alex & Sierra
The sleepers in the competition had another champion night, first taking on Of Monsters and Men’s “Little Talks.” “You’re not performing songs, you’re making records every time you come out here now, and that’s a big, big difference,” Cowell told the duo, describing them as one of the best acts he’s ever worked with (this, despite Alex donning a goofy backwards snapback hat during the performance). Lovato went even further in her praise. “This is so annoying to say,” she said, “but I think I’m looking at the winners, I really do.”
On the duo’s second song they soared even higher, bringing both Kelly Rowland and Lovato to tears. Cowell didn’t cry, because he doesn’t have the ability to, but he was definitely moved. “I would like to bottle the last 10 seconds of that song, Sierra, and have it for the rest of my life because it was perfection, absolute perfection,” he said, his most glowing comment of the season so far.
During “Falling Slowly,” meanwhile, Cowell said Sierra stole the song and Lovato called it her best vocal performance to date.
Gutt, who at 37 is the competition’s oldest remaining contestant, started the show with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which was his audition song a year ago when he tried out for “X Factor’s” second season. He started off the performance on his knees, and it ended with all four judges on their feet. Rowland said she would be “running” to iTunes to download Gutt’s version of the song, and Cowell told the tattooed single father his was one of the best versions of the oft-covered song he’s ever heard. “It had absolute sincerity, passion, (and) you absolutely took the song like you owned it,” he said.
Gutt’s second song, a bombastic version of Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” again brought the judges to their feet and had the crowd chanting “Gutt! Gutt! Gutt!” Lovato said how impressed she was watching him grow since his first audition last year. “It wasn’t your time last season, it’s your time now,” she told him. Said Cowell, “Your moment arrived this week, Jeff.”
Gutt walked away with his showdown with Restless Road, and he also got in a good jab at his competitors during a pre-taped interview. “A year from now, Restless Road might be ready for a recording contract,” he said. “But I’m ready, and I’ve been doing it as long as they’ve been alive.”
On Thursday, one of the four contestants will be eliminated, and the other three will go on to compete next week for the “X Factor” grand prize, a $1 million recording contract. Enrique Iglesias will also perform on the hour-long results show.