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November 29, 2012

Song by song grades for the Top 8 on The X Factor

by Mark Franklin

The remaining eight on The X Factor tackle number one hits tonight.

And you have to figure three of the singers will hit the stage knowing they need to do very well to have any chance of staying in the competition.

Cece Frey has already had to sing for a save three times … in just four weeks.

Paige Thomas was singing for her life two weeks ago. And Diamond White has already been eliminated once.

If two singers go home this week, poor little Demi Lovato might be singer-less by the end of the week.

Of course, one could say she already is, but I suppose that would be too cruel.

Diamond White: Sure enough, she’s going to try something more upbeat this week, singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” This concerns young Diamond, who has done nothing but ballads so far and is still around. So she figures that’s been working for her. Well, the start of this version of the song was very ballad-like, and Diamond sounded pretty good. Now the dance beat kicks in. And for a couple of lines, I thought this performance was going into the toilet in a heartbeat. But Diamond rallied, hit some really nice big notes and wound up turning in a pretty good performance. Really liked that touch of sassy at the end of the song. That’s actually more of the type of performance Diamond should be doing — young and fun. Grade: B-

Vino Alan: OK, he was going to sing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” but L.A. didn’t like how the rehearsal was going, so he decided to change his song. Now he’s singing “You’ve Got That Loving Feeling.” And if it doesn’t work, L.A. says he’ll take responsibility. Gee, bet Vino is glad to hear that. Hmm, Vino actually looks afflicted during the early part of this performance. Like he’s trying to sell it way too hard. Why isn’t L.A. letting this guy rock? He’s like a caged tiger. If L.A. thought the other song was boring … well, let’s just say I’m not sure this was much of an improvement. Not a horrible vocal. But not a good match of singer and song. Not at all. Easily my least favorite Vino performance. Grade: C

Paige Thomas: Looks like Paige and Demi are having a disagreement over the direction she should take. Demi wants her to do another ballad; Paige wants to do another production number with dancers. Paige gets her way.  She’ll sing “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  Nice opening by Paige. Very ballad-like, actually. She sounds really good. But then the tempo picked up, and before the dancers showed up, Paige started going off kilter with her vocal. This is a) inconsistent; b) just a so-so performance. And a so-so performance at this stage just might sink Paige. L.A. calls it her best performance. Simon liked it too. Apparently more than I did. Grade: C+

Fifth Harmony: The quintet is a little concerned because they dropped to seventh last week, there are only eight groups left and two are going home. So they’ve decided to do something more current, something they would put on their own album. Simon says he feels “a wave building” behind this group. Ally might be particularly inspired because her granddad passed away. The girls will sing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger.” This group comes alive when they start singing harmony. That chorus was superb. I could do without all the special effects behind them. But that’s just a case of typical X Factor excess, not the fault of the five gals on stage. Fifth Harmony just turned in the best performance of the night so far. Grade: B+

Carly Rose Sonenclar: She’s plotting strategy with her brother, who warns that she has a “target on her back” now that she finished first in the voting. Britney has decided she should sing Adele — ugh — so she’s going to do “Rolling in the Deep.” Let everyone else sing the classics, Britney says, we’ll be current. (By singing a song that’s been done to death, I might add. One that Haley Reinhart covered way back in Idol Season 10 when it was much more “current”.) Knowing Carly, she’ll probably pull it off pretty well. OK, that was a mixed bag. I wasn’t thrilled with the song choice; it put Carly Rose in a position of imitating Adele rather than being herself. Carly Rose struggled with timing and phrasing early in the number. But she provided a really nice ending to the song. I’d give the first part of the performance a C and the last 15 seconds an A-, so let’s average it out. Grade: B-

Tate Stevens: He’s singing a Keith Urban song “Somebody Like You.” In his pre-performance interview, Tate makes it clear he isn’t satisfied with being number two last week. So he’s heading away from the somber moments and trying to have fun this week. L.A. says he’ll be turning up the “swag big time.” I don’t know about big-time swag, but Tate sounds really good. And I’d agree that he needed to get away from the ballads and show a little versatility. This is going to be my new favorite performance of the night. Unlike the Vino Alan performance earlier, this song is perfectly suited for Tate. And he gets deserved rave reviews from the judges. Grade: A-

Cece Frey: Here’s the gal who somehow is still around despite a string of bad vocal performances. But she says she’s not “going home without a fight” and believes even the girl in eighth place could still take the number one spot. Well, you have to admire her spunk and determination. She’ll sing “Lady Marmalade.” Like the opening, with Cece lying on a couch. She’s back to a big production number. Hey, and Cece is definitely on key tonight. The vocal is a major improvement. In fact, might be delivering her best vocal since the live shows began. The fact that she’s doing it during a big production is even more impressive. Will it be enough to save Cece? Tomorrow will tell. But if so, Cece did go down swinging. Grade: B

Emblem 3:  Hey, they haven’t been able to get above fourth in the voting, so I guess Simon figures his “superstars” (lol) need the pimp spot to help them out. Did Simon pay all those girls to chase after Emblem 3? Well, I wouldn’t put it above him to stage this mob scene. And is he mentoring them by phone? They’ll sing “I’m a Believer.” Yep, the song by the Monkees. Are they getting help from a backing track? Hmm. I actually like the rap segment. And it was a fun performance. I’m still not buying them as superstars though. Nor as potential winners of this competition. Britney and Demi didn’t like the song or the performance. Simon and L.A. think they’re pop stars. I’d fall somewhere in between. It was an OK performance by an OK boy group. Grade: B-

So, if I had to rank the performances in order of preference:

1. Tate Stevens
2. Fifth Harmony
3. Cece Frey
4. Carly Rose Sonenclar
5. Emblem 3
6. Paige Thomas
7. Diamond White
8. Vino Alan

Editor’s Note: Apologies to anyone who tried to follow a live blog last night. I lost my Internet connection somewhere between Vino Alan’s scowl and Paige Thomas’ singing and wasn’t able to continue the blog until Thursday morning. Thanks for your patience.

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