Two acts on X Factor were sent home for the holidays, while half of the judges' teams were whittled down to one team member each in an intense nail-biter on Thursday night's episode.
After a competitive evening that brought out the evil side of Simon Cowell as he attacked judge Demi Lovato on everything from her mentoring decisions to her future marital status, the top eight were cut to six -- with two shocking ousters and two judges eating crow.
It turns out that on a show like this, perpetual bottom-dwellers can rise to the occasion while shining stars take a tumble right out the door. In the case of CeCe Frey, Cowell’s advice to “pack your bags” was blown off by both the singer and America, who may have been riled by comments made by both the brittle Brit and L.A. Reid, who predicted Frey was "going down."
In fact, both were wrong, as Frey’s take on Labelle’s "Lady Marmalade" gitchy-gitchy-ya-ya’d the former postal worker into the fifth place spot and, in a shocker, out of the position of singing for her life.
As surprising as this was, it was even more shocking to see Paige Thomas from Lovato's Young Adults team swiftly eliminated after what was the best performance of her X Factor run. Her rendition of Rick Astley’s "Never Gonna Give You Up" was a remarkable improvement over her less-than-stellar takes on songs like Berlin’s "Take My Breath Away," prompting Cowell to remark that she even looked like a “legitimate pop star” on Wednesday night (she did look better without spikes). Thomas took her Rickrolling elimination well and said she is looking forward to future opportunities. Her time in California may turn out to be a blessing for her and her 3-year-old daughter, who was scouted for a modeling contract already.
The question is, will Thomas be able to carve out a music career post-show? There are many perks to winning the $5 million contract, but sometimes exposure and the right song can equal success. Take, for instance, season-one second-place finisher Josh Krajcik, who proved that point on the X Factor stage with his sultry smooth adult ballad, "One Thing She’ll Never Know." Krajcik’s independently released CD was made available on iTunes after Thursday night’s show, and he will release a full-length CD on Cowell’s Syco Music label in the spring.
So who of the remaining contestants will get that same shot? As all contestants are called midstage with their mentors -- including the artist with a top-selling song in 16 countries, Britney Spears -- it is revealed that Fifth Harmony, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Emblem3, Tate Stevens and Frey were all spared.
This left perky teen Diamond White -- who was once eliminated by Spears and brought back the following week in dramatic fashion -- and former top three contender Vino Alan, of Reid's Over 25s, left to sing for their lives.
As if they weren’t nervous enough, both had to contend with following Alicia Keys, who definitely has the X Factor -- but she’s already signed.
White bravely said she was going to give it her all with a smile on her face, but her pearly whites were noticeably absent as she chose to belt out "I Was Here" by Beyonce. This prompted a very strange response from Lopez, who quipped, "You were there." Her performance had some pitch problems, but she pulled it out.
Alan felt he had more to prove and said he needed the competition more than anything and that America hadn’t really seen all he could do. America already started to lose that loving feeling for Alan after his take on The Righteous Brothers classic, prompting his decision to croon Ray LaMontagne’s "Trouble," with the lyrics about being “saved” by a woman, which should have resulted in victory, since he absolutely killed it live. Unfortunately, the two women that he needed saving weren’t on board with that plan. This is not a surprise: Spears was not going to vote against her teen and she never really warmed up to Alan anyway, and Lovato went back and forth on Alan, several times saying she was “bored” with him. Cowell seemed conflicted, but went with White possibly because a younger vocalist is more commercially viable in the pop market as opposed to a 40-year-old cougar magnet. Or maybe they didn’t want back-to-back episodes with tearful teens after Beatrice Miller‘s heartbreaking Thanksgiving elimination.
That said, Alan killed his song and was probably done in by his song choice being changed at the last minute. This same problem plagued Lyric145, resulting in their early ouster from the competition as well.
With Alan out of the competition, Emblem3 moves into the third position with the top two remaining the same.
One question: Could revealing the order of the voting be harming the contestants? Just a thought.
Next week, America could rectify these problems by participating on the X Factor website in the Pepsi Challenge, where the audience can actively mentor their favorites in song choice and wardrobe. This is an interesting twist. How many times have you screamed at your TV set about what the contestants are singing or wearing? It will be cool to see if the fans influence more than the leader board scores.
So what do you think the remaining singers should do next week? For instance, should Emblem3 try a Linkin Park song? Should Sonenclar get a younger song to try? How about Frey? What would be fun to see her tackle? Let us know in the comments.
Here are the remaining top six:
6. Diamond White
5. CeCe Frey
4. Fifth Harmony
2. Tate Stevens
1. Carly Rose Sonenclar
Next week's X Factor results show will be action-packed with last season's winner, Melanie Amaro, and Ke$ha taking the stage!