Your hosts arrived on stage as different people following Mario's weekend marriage and Khloe's weekend spray tan to announce another double elimination this week. The episode intro failed to explain the premise for the evening, which had each singer perform twice. It makes you wonder why The X Factor bothers with the brief host segments if not to pass that information along.
Here are our thoughts on the night's performances, listed in the order they took place.
1. Cece Frey – Cece went first and revealed the first of this week's songs would be acoustic (or piano) backed. So naturally she sat on a piano to sing "Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga. There was nothing particularly wrong about it—she hit the notes, even if she shouted a few of them. L.A. decided he's "starting to become a fan." Britney thought it was only good, not great. Simon flat-out said it: "I don't think you are worth the five-million-dollar recording contract."
Note: this is only the second weirdest X Factor performance that has started off on top of a piano; This UK act easily tops it.
2. Emblem3 – They performed second this week and their intro video featured Demi bashing their repetitiveness. So they brought out their own guitar and took a seat on the stage for a Bruno Mars song. L.A. oddly took the opportunity to bash Fifth Harmony's inability to harmonize. Britney thought it was Emblem3's best performance of the competition. Demi called them "a downgraded version of the Jonas Brothers from five years ago." Simon straight-up called her dumb in response. The gloves are off!
3. Carly Rose Sonneclar – She broke her streak of doing "bigger" songs for an acoustic Justin Bieber number this week, perhaps the first attempt to market herself to a younger generation. She was solid, but the judges really went crazy for it. Demi thought it was her best and made a comparison to Jojo, who hasn't been relevant in years. Simon said that most girls Carly Rose's age are "annoying," but she isn't. Britney again gloated over her great luck as a judge.
4. Fifth Harmony – They went for an Adele song this week and did their usual alternating leads thing instead of harmonizing. L.A. called out some background singers on the sides of the stage and suggested another new name: "Fifth Unison." Britney wondered what separates them from other girl groups. Demi boldly suggested they might be better as solo artists, which we've been calling for from the start. Simon emphasized their great personalities and L.A. shot right back: "This isn't a competition of niceness." He's right.
5. Diamond White – There was a lot of Diamond-bashing in her intro video given she survived in place of Vino Alan last week. L.A. said he wanted more Britney in her performances. So this week she sang a conspicuously not-acoustic "It's a Man's World," which she also sang in her audition. It felt a bit rushed at times, but she certainly hit some impressive notes. As the song ended, however, she delivered a swift ninja kick to the mic stand, which was completely unnecessary and hilarious. L.A. said she brought "attitude" and "showbiz," which probably referred entirely to the mic-stand dropkick. That's exactly what Demi focused on as well, so we guess it worked. Simon was bummed by the song choice, having heard her sing it before, and he called it "a little bit screechy."
6. Tate Stevens – In his intro video, L.A. and Tate shared beers and discussed Tate's wife. It was awkward. But then, a "Living on a Prayer" alert! A bold, bold choice just outside his usual skill set. And while we liked it, he didn't attempt the highest note on the chorus! We were also weirdly distracted by the expressive twin guitar players who were backing him. Britney said he's moving too far away from "down the middle country." Demi called out the lack of that high note, the best part of the segment. Simon said Tate doing Bon Jovi during acoustic week "is like taking a goldfish for a walk... (awkward pause)... in other words, you can't." Yep.
1. Cece Frey – The fans chose Katy Perry's "Part of Me" and a return of the leopard spots, which was a lot of fun, but led to some shouting and a few awkward pauses while Cece caught her breath for the high notes. L.A. reversed course entirely and called it a karaoke performance. Then Britney reversed course as well and complimented Cece's energy. Simon felt the love and declared that he would miss her as she's "a tryer." Demi jumped all over Britney's compliment: "If the Princess of Pop is sitting right here saying you did a good job, I think you did a good job."
Consider, though, having survived this far it's not inconceivable that the Cece Miracle continues. She's got a bit of Ke$ha in her. Autotune her up and she's in business. Add a clever indie director for her music video and we still believe you could be looking at a star.
2. Emblem3 – The audience went with "Forever Young," performed in front of a band. And to meet L.A.'s biggest concern, Emblem3 did harmonize quite well. We've realized, though, that the douchiest of the three Emblems, the one who raps... one second... (Googling...) Drew, is the painfully weak link vocally. Still, we enjoyed the performance, even though it lacked some of their signature jumping around. So did the judges: L.A. thought they nailed it. Britney called it a superstar performance. This led to Demi, who thought it was much better than the first performance, but wanted them to "work the stage." Simon didn't really know what that meant.
Khloe stepped in as host and focused on one of the more important matters at hand—trying to figure out which Emblem Demi has a crush on. Drew then stepped up to the mic before the director silenced them (always a risk) and issued an awkward statement that he probably didn't mean to sound like a goodbye: "We're going to do something awesome with our lives. So thank you so much."
3. Carly Rose Sonneclar – The audience chose Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy," which Carly Rose tried to go big with. This is the first time we've been down on Carly, but apparently we're wrong as "Carly" chants rained down from the audience... and L.A. Reid as well. Demi called it "a phenomenal vocal," but wanted something up-tempo. This led to more awkward sniping between Demi and Simon, including Simon's second use of the word "naughty" for the evening. More on that later.
(For fun, compare Carly Rose's performance to Rachel Crow's version of the song fom last season, which we think tops it.)
4. Fifth Harmony – Simon was supremely annoyed that the audience chose Demi's song "Give Your Heart a Break," but Fifth Harmony nailed this one. Perhaps their best performance ever and all four judges agreed. L.A.: "Unbelieveable, I actually heard harmony." Demi said the song was better than the original. Simon then put on his smug face for a minute and used the phrase "girl power."
5. Diamond White – The audience got a little cheeky here, having Diamond White sing Rihanna's "Diamonds." It's unclear whether they also specified she be lowered to the stage in a diamond cage, but that's what happened. We didn't mind it at all, but L.A. disagreed. Demi thought she looked like a star on stage. Simon credited the staging, but basically signed Diamond's death warrant by citing the competition she's up against, adding a somewhat dismissive, "Overall, I think you've had a good night." Mario then confirmed the audience was responsible for the staging choices. We're hoping this was simply the work of a single clever Twitter user.
6. Tate Stevens – The audience chose one right in Tate's wheelhouse with "If Tomorrow Never Comes" by Garth Brooks. Backstage, Tate's wife looked nervous, but Britney enjoyed the performance and Simon welcomed him back to the competition. Only Demi was a little bored, but at least we know she's consistent. Tate gave another shoutout to "Tate Nation" and we chuckled along with the less mature viewers out there.
– When Cece tried to thank her fans for their support, the mic cut out for the majority of her speech.
– When Demi leaned in to interrupt Simon's Emblem3 intro, he said he would send her to the "naughty corner" soon. This made us extremely uncomfortable, as Simon undoubtedly calls a wing of one of his mansions the "naughty corner." Later in the show, he updated it to the "naughty chair," which he surely has on a few of his private jets.
– Mario mentioned a Carly Rose sign reading "Carly is Gnarly," and his delivery made him sound like the oldest person in the world.
– Mario also announced that Ke$ha will be on tonight's show and called out Britney's previous faux pas in calling her "Quisha." We poked fun at this when it happened, but we'd like to imagine that Simon chewed him out backstage for messing with the Princess of Pop.
– Simon gave a vote of approval to the audience choosing the songs, so apparently we'll do it again next week. We don't know how the process works, though, so if it's something you're excited about, please let us know how to join the party.
1. Did Carly Rose offer a first hint of weakness?
2. Are you on board the Cece train?
3. Will the show really let the audience choose all the songs next week?