Season 2 Live Shows, The X Factor

Song by song grades for the Top 6 on The X Factor

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We’re down to six on The X Factor and, since there are two hours to fill, each contestant will sing twice.

And, this is interesting, the show has already revealed one song each artist will sing.

So, what are the songs?

  • Carly Rose Sonenclar: Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy”
  • Cece Frey: Katy Perry’s “Part of Me”
  • Diamond White: Rihanna’s “Diamonds”
  • Emblem 3: Alphaville’s “Forever Young”
  • Fifth Harmony: Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break”
  • Tate Stevens: Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

Those are the Pepsi Challenge songs where fans have helped decide what the artists will wear and what tone the performances will take. Interesting.

This is interesting, too.  Pooling all their wisdom — and I use that term oh, so loosely — producers have decided the second performance for each artist tonight will be  unplugged and stripped down.

Because, gee, that’s what you should do when you have a sometimes vocally challenged cast, strip away The X Factor and put their voices front and center.

OK, that’s a little harsh. To be truthful, Cece and Diamond have sounded better  recently.  Emblem 3? Who knows? Their backing track is usually so loud, you can’t make out what’s them and what’s the backing track.

Personally, Simon’s seemed so smug lately, I’m hoping his hand-picked superstars fall flat on their collective faces while Cece Frey blows us away with two dynamite performances.

She seems a little fired up by Simon’s pack-your-bags statement from a week ago. And she swears the leopard spots will be back tonight.  Go, Cece!

As for singing two songs, 13-year-old Carly Rose says it isn’t that big a deal “because both songs are so short.”

Welcome to X Factor land, Carly Rose. Gotta leave time for all those commercials, you know.

Unplugged round:

1. Cece Frey: She’s tackling Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.” Cece admits she’s had dancers and lots of things going on to mask her vocals to this point. There won’t be any masking her vocals on this performance. Really nice start by Cece. She showed off a little rasp in her voice now and then. I kept waiting for her to go vocally crazy, but this was unplugged, so I guess that wasn’t in the cards. But that was one of her best vocals to date. I didn’t hear any major pitch issues, which has been a problem in the past. There weren’t a whole lot of vocal fireworks either. Grade: B

2. Emblem 3: This should be interesting. They’re going to sing “Just the Way You Are.” Kid in the middle sings pretty well. Kid on right can’t sing worth a crap. Kid on left can’t sing worth a crap. Together, they don’t sound too bad. But the harmonies don’t come close to matching Fifth Harmony. Let’s see what the judges think. Hey, Simon, unplugged Emblem 3 isn’t worth $5 million either. These guys wouldn’t have gotten past the blinds on The Voice. Grade: C-

3. Carly Rose Sonenclar: She’ll sing Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.” L.A doesn’t get the song choice. Well, L.A., if anyone can pull off unplugged, it’s Carly Rose. That bass at the start of the song was distracting. Well, part of me agrees with L.A. There have to be a million songs Carly could have done stripped down that would have been more appropriate than this. But listen to that voice. Carly Rose provided more vocal moments in those 90 seconds or so than we’re likely to hear from everyone else combined tonight. Grade: A-

4. Fifth Harmony: This week might be pretty challenging for this quintet. Apparently they spent most of rehearsals as a quartet, without Ally, who was back home for her grandfather’s funeral. They’ll sing Adele because, apparently, we just can’t get enough Adele. Really nice start for the gals on “Set Fire to the Rain.” In fact, they all are sounding really strong. OK, I take back what I just wrote about Carly Rose. Those girls did really, really well with that performance. Grade: B+

5. Diamond White: She’s going to sing “It’s a Man’s World.” I do believe Diamond’s going to do better on this than I suspect. She started very well. Darn near pitch perfect. Somewhere in the middle there was a segment that came off as shouting as much as singing. But that wasn’t the disaster it could have been. And look at this, she’s showing a little sass on stage, flipping the mic stage over. L.A. is giving her lots of credit for bringing attitude to the performance. Simon says he wishes she had done something different, since she already sang that once this season. Grade: B

6. Tate Stevens: He’ll sing Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” OK, we’re going to get a very countryfied version of this song. Not thrilled with this arrangement of the song, but let’s keep the focus where it should be, on Tate’s performance. And he’s sounding solid as always. Ends it with a nice glory note. Three of the judges are giving him grief for the song choice. Hey, but no one’s complaining that it was karaoke. It was, however, a bit boring and perhaps not the best song to go unplugged with. Grade: B-

Hey, good job, X Factor artists. I think I liked those performances more than the judges did. During the unplugged segment of the show, only Emblem 3 sucked. Everyone else did a very nice job, in some cases with very challenging songs.

Second round (aka Big ad for Pepsi)

1. Cece Frey: As noted previously, she’s singing “Part of Me” by Katy Perry. Check out the outfit. Chosen by the fans. Unfortunately, I think Cece started the song in the wrong key. Well, she never found the right key. Vocally, that performance will win no prizes. But if you’re looking for the X Factor, though Cece has it. She sang that with defiance, just like she promised she would. And, hey, there’s no question that Cece’s entertaining. And a fighter. Grade: C

2. Emblem 3: They’ll do “Forever Young.” We start off with incredibly nasally vocals. Now guy who can’t sing mumbles a few words. They don’t sound bad together. But there was absolutely no spark to that performance. And L.A. thinks they nailed it. Someone must be giving the judges a script to read from, because that was miles from a superstar performance. And the solo singing parts were abysmal. They’ve landed, Simon? If people were voting on talent and voices, they’d land smack dab at the bottom of this week’s voting. If that’s all it takes to be superstar good, The Voice found 64 superstars this season. In other words, everyone who made a team was at least that good. Grade: C

3. Carly Rose Sonenclar: And here comes Carly Rose singing another song she has no business singing. How in the world can she connect emotionally with this song? About guys taking girls home and facing no consequences? But she’ll be technically fine, of course. OK, she stumbled a little on the opening. But then her voice started soaring just like it always does. There could have been more nuance and more emotion to the performance. But if Carly Rose doesn’t win this show … well, something’s very wrong. Grade: B+

4. Fifth Harmony: They’ll perform Demi’s “Give Your Heart a Break.” You go, girls. Give L.A. some harmonies, because you sound great together. Emblem 3 is vastly over-rated. Those five gals are under-rated. They sound great when they sing together. And they sound pretty darn good when they sing individually too. They deserve to be in the final four. That’s two strong performances tonight. Grade: B

5. Diamond White: Suspended way above the stage, she’s singing “Diamonds.” And she’s suffering from a bad case of mumble mouth, because I could only make out about half of the words in that first verse. She also seems to be over-singing this very badly. She hit a nice note at the end. Otherwise, that might have been my least favorite vocal of the night. Certainly not top four worthy. Grade: C-

6. Tate Stevens: He’ll tackle “Tomorrow Never Comes.” This is an obviously better fit for Tate than his first song tonight. And he turned in a solid performance. I’m sure his fans will be thrilled, but that performance was a little sleepy for me, too, Demi. And I didn’t feel quite as much of an emotional attachment between Tate and that song as we’ve seen on some earlier performances. But no doubt he belongs in the final four. Grade: B

Who should advance: Carly Rose, Fifth Harmony, Tate Stevens, Cece Frey, in that order of preference.

Who should go home: Diamond White and Emblem 3.

Performances in order of preference:

Carly Rose: “As Long as You Love Me”
Fifth Harmony: “Set Fire to the Rain”
Carly Rose: “If I Were a Boy”
Fifth Harmony: “Give Your Heart a Break”
Diamond White: “It’s a Man’s World”
Tate Stevens: “Tomorrow Never Comes”
Cece Frey: “Edge of Glory”
Tate Stevens: “Living on a Prayer”
Cece Frey: “Part of Me”
Emblem 3: “Forever Young”
Diamond White: “Diamonds”
Emblem 3: “Just the Way You Are”

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