Please Remain Seated: ‘The X Factor’ Picks Its Top 16

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

When we left "The X Factor" Wednesday night, four contestants in Simon Cowell's Groups category — Girls United, Glamour, Wild Thingz, and Restless Road — had secured chairs (well, more like benches) in the series' Four-Chair Challenge. Wild Thingz had brought some much-needed comic relief to an otherwise total-downer night…but would the Beavisian, Butt-Headed duo really be able to stay in the game? Or would they soon be sorry for party rocking? On Thursday, it was time to find out.

Up first were Sweet Suspense (a manufactured girl group comprising Summer Reign, Celine Polenghi, and Millie Thrasher), singing "Wishing on a Star." I was wishing they would stop. I had really liked each girl individually this season, but I just didn't think they gelled well as a trio. Their harmonies were way off. Only Celine really nailed her part. However, the audience screamed and shrieked and whooped and wooted, proving they'd get excited over just about anything if the warmup-guy-for-hire goaded them enough. Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio raved about Sweet Suspense's "potential" and pop-starlet looks, and Demi Lovato described their vocal blend as "amazing," indicating that the current judges on this show might even be less qualified than Britney Spears. These girls didn't seem ready to me. However, Simon decided to give them a seat. But whose seat? All four benches were taken.

This was some not-so-sweet suspense…Simon ultimately de-seated…Wild Thingz. Cue sad trombone. Party rock was no longer in the house tonight. I was no longer LMFAO. Le sigh. I'm going to miss those crazy kids.

Moving on. Next up were made-in-America country-besties duo Yellow House Canyon. These girls actually sang like a house on fire. They brought such vivacious energy to their "Hell on Heels" performance, and they were so likable. Demi further demonstrated her insanity by saying they weren't great singers. Whaaaa? I thought YHC's vocals were stronger than those of Sweet Suspense, Girls United, or Glamour. But Simon didn't even give the girls a chance, or a seat. He shipped them straight home.

Another big, big mistake. In their own very different ways, Wild Thingz and Yellow House Canyon were extremely marketable, and both could have found a niche. And unlike Wild Thingz, Yellow House Canyon weren't controversial or polarizing. They could have been huge on this show and appealed to a mainstream audience. Was Simon just too afraid that this country girl group would threaten his clearly favored country boy group, Restless Road? I honestly didn't understand his logic, or lack thereof, in this case.

Forever in Your Mind, a slapped-together boy band with the worst "X Factor" name since Fifth Harmony were briefly christened 1432, came next, and they struggled through their limp cover of the Jonas Brothers' "Love Bug." Come on, haven't the JoBros been through enough this week? OK, that's a little mean, but honestly, this was not solid vocally. Emery was his usual adorable self (I wish he'd just stayed in the Boys category as a solo contestant), but the guy in the blue shirt sounded particularly rough. Kelly said it seemed like the group was "missing a lead singer." But Simon ignored her and swapped out Glamour for FIYM. Huh? Yellow House Canyon got the boot (no pun intended), but these boys got to stay, even temporarily? Sheesh.

Fodder duo Good News were next. While their first audition was never shown on air, I witnessed it at the L.A. audition tapings back in July, and I thought they had a certain something special, actual potential. But then they had to go and ruin Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" this week. This performance was just so sluuuggggggisssssh. It felt like it went on for hours. I could have climbed a mountain and turned around in the time it took them to finish this song. Simon called them "boring and dreary." His fellow judges, their sanity apparently finally restored, all agreed. Host Mario Lopez couldn't resist saying, "Good News just received some very bad news," as the girls were quickly sent away.

Cutesy couple Alex & Sierra have been criticized for their starry-eyed, lovey-dovey antics, but the people who blast these two are just haters. I say "The X Factor" is for lovers. This show could use some more warm 'n' fuzzy vibes, especially during this brutal phase of the competition. I absolutely adored Alex & Sierra's folksy cover of the Grease duet "You're the One That I Want." While the couple's original audition, an acoustic version of Britney's "Toxic," had been great, we'd all heard that song covered that way before (by "The Voice's" Melanie Martinez, for instance). But I'd never heard Danny and Sandy go unplugged like this, and it was cool. This was my favorite performance of the night. I got the chills, and they were multiplying. Alex & Sierra were of course offered a (love)seat. That meant it was Girls United's time to go. But did it really mean that Forever in Your Mind were going to remain forever in a seat?

Well, there was still one more group left to perform: Roxxy Montana, the Detroit sisters who may or may not be the granddaughters of actual Motown royalty, Marvin Gaye. Their performance of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" started off pretty shaky. It sounded in way too a low a key for all three of them, and their solo turns weren't perfect. But when they got to the chorus and combined their voices, the performance greatly improved. Simon was impressed and told them, "We could make you incredible." The girls started sobbing and begging for a shot, even though it already seemed fairly obvious that Simon was going to keep them. And indeed he did. Simon finally realized that Forever in Your Mind were not going to be America's answer to One Direction, and he sent them in one direction: straight off the stage.

So the final four ended up being Restless Road, Sweet Suspense, Alex & Sierra, and Roxxy Montana. I probably would have swapped out Sweet Suspense for Yellow House Canyon or even Wild Thingz, but Simon has revealed on Twitter that he will allow one contestant to come back as a wild card via fan vote…so maybe one of those groups will get another chance. However, I'd also be happy to see the wild card go to one of the Boys (Timmy Thames, Chase Goehring) or Ashly Williams. Or maybe to Second Hand High.

But for now, the top 16 is as follows:

Over 25's – Jeff Gutt, James Kenney, Lillie McCloud, Rachel Potter
Girls – Khaya Cohen, Danie Geimer, Rion Paige, Ellona Santiago
Boys – Carlos Guevara, Josh Levi, Carlito Olivero, Tim Olstad
Groups - Alex & Sierra, Restless Road, Roxxy Montana, Sweet Suspense

I'm still thinking the Over 25's are the strongest bunch here, but there are definitely one or two contestants in each category that could win this thing. Come back when the live competitive shows start in two weeks (after some baseball thing, darn it) and find out which of these singers really have the X factor.

Related links:
Simon claims the Four-Chair Challenge isn't mean
Simon invites Sinead O'Connor to guest-judge "The X Factor"
More about "The X Factor"
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