Welcome back to The X Factor's special brand of on-the-edge-of-a-trainwreck live performance shows! We were off last week for Thanksgiving, but Fox decided to go ahead with a holiday episode; while we were eating turkey, the show knocked out two of its weak links in Beatrice Miller and Arin Ray. Both contestants hailed from Britney's group, leaving her with only Carly Rose and Diamond. Going forward, it's going to be much tougher to identify the easy cuts, but of the remaining acts, Cece at #8 and Paige at #6 have historically been the most vulnerable.
And now, here's a quick review of this week's performances, presented in order of last week's audience vote ranking...
1. Carly Rose - In case you forgot that this show is happening live, Mario Lopez apparently managed to catch Britney on her way back from the bathroom in time for Carly Rose's intro. At least he got her name right after last week's unfortunate "Sonenblurgh" incident. On song choice, Carly Rose again made a bold decision to sing Adele. This girl does not mess around with lesser-known stuff! It's go big or go home every single week and she crushed this one. Britney even brought out the wind-tunnel effect to match. L.A. said the performance wasn't actually Carly Rose's best, but it was still better than everyone else's. Demi muttered a mess of words that didn't really form a full sentence, but she was impressed. Simon thought the first half was good and the second half was sensational. We're expecting she'll defend her #1 ranking.
2. Tate Stevens - In the pre-song promo, we were reminded that Tate worked construction and will be hard-up for money without a recording contract to his name. L.A. responded with a reality check: Second place won't cut it. And Tate admitted that Carly Rose's showing was deserving of last week's top spot. You could see the fear in his eyes. And so this week, he played the guitar and even danced a bit during his performance of a Keith Urban song, and then broke out a banjo and some pyrotechnics to boot. It was faster, it was fun. Demi loved it and pined for a country singer of her own. Simon delivered some pretty funny bad news: Tate shouldn't be dancing. But we're confident he'll be in the running for the next few weeks at least.
3. Vino Alan - Vino's had three straight #3 rankings and L.A. wasn't satisfied by that, even if Vino was. "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" was pretty solid even though he strayed from his backup singers and dipped into a brief moment of reggae. Britney weighed in that Vino serves up the same thing each week and that he needs to freshen things up. Demi agreed. He had soul, but she wasn't entertained. Simon hated the song and called out the weird reggae turn. L.A. completely disagreed, but admitted some timing issues.
4. Emblem3 - In perhaps the most staged moment of the night, we were treated to a video of Emblem3 being mobbed by fans at The Grove in Los Angeles. Simon is really in full sales overdrive to make sure we know that the girls love these guys. They sang the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" with some girls in American flag cut-off jeans writhing in the background. It wasn't the group's best performance, but their stage presence was still superior to most of the other acts. L.A. says they ARE the X factor. Britney's also a believer, but she didn't like the song. Demi agreed and defended herself to Simon: "I'm a 20-year-old girl and those boys lost their spark." Simon came back with his trump card—"I've sold 300 million records, sweetheart"—and crowned it his favorite Emblem3 performance.
5. Diamond White - After two weeks of ballads, she upped her tempo with "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Thus continued the season of Whitney, and again Diamond seemed up to the task. L.A. gave her an A for effort and a B for execution. Demi loved how fun the performance was, but wants Diamond to work on the performance. Simon actually loved it, calling it "an important performance." Given her unexpected return and ability to stay high in the rankings, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Diamond move into the Top 4 with Vino slipping back.
6. Paige Thomas - Last week Demi called Paige pitchy, by far the harshest criticism any judge has handed to their own act. In this week's intro, Paige said that Demi doesn't yet understand her as an artist—burn! But Demi did make a good point that Paige has only moved up the rankings in a week where the performance element was minimized. Naturally they compromised with a decision to Rickroll us, sensually. And L.A. absolutely loved it. Britney thought it was a risky move that worked. Simon thought it was the first time Paige looked like a legitimate pop star, and he was eager to throw Demi directly under the bus to credit Paige for the transformation.
7. Fifth Harmony - We were disappointed in America's #7 ranking for Fifth Harmony last week. It was a bit out-of-nowhere after the group spent a few weeks at the top of the rankings. We learned of some additional motivation for Ally, whose grandfather passed away during the week. The cameras made sure to focus on Ally as the song started, but the most interesting development was letting Lauren carry the song instead of Camilla. The result was solid enough, but L.A. heard unison instead of harmony. Britney and Demi came out on the positive side, but Demi thought it was strange that Fifth Harmony didn't move off a stationary platform during the performance. Demi's observation raises a legitimate question—can these girls dance? Simon again ignored any criticism and hyped up the performance.
8. Cece Frey - Cece is getting angry now! She's blaming America for her low ranking, but you know what? We like the fire. We miss Cece the villain. We might even miss the leopard spots. So after a proper pump-up for her performance, we were... generally impressed by her "Lady Marmalade" and its ridiculously over-the-top staging. L.A. said Cece would be going down, but that she'd go down fighting. He enjoyed "that circus." Britney said Cece stepped it up. Simon thought it was all too much and advised that she pack a suitcase. Demi boldly returned to the "Simon is too old for this" argument that eventually got Nicole Sherzinger fired last year.
– Mario asked Britney to provide a song suggestion for Vino and she responded with a vague "something more up-tempo." L.A. offered "Oops, I Did It Again." Britney was quick on her feet with a funny "No."
– We loved Simon and Demi facing off over whether Simon would ever get married. They cut the argument short before it got personal, but is anyone else feeling like Demi's button-pushing might actually be getting to Simon?
1. What did you think of Will.i.am and Britney's music video? Why did she sound British?
2. Were you as impressed by Cece's "Lady Marmalade" as the non-Simon judges?
3. We're assuming you're excited about Alicia Keys' performance next week. But how about last year's runner-up Josh Krajcik?
4. Who do you think is heading home tonight?