Arin Ray fails to tap into his inner divaWell, it was Diva Week on "The X Factor"--which made it even sadder that last week's castoff, Jason "Mr. Entertainment" Brock, wasn't on the show this Wednesday. Seriously, Diva Week would have been his time to shine! And if he'd competed this week, he would have sung THIS!
Le sigh. But let's move on. This Wednesday, each of the remaining 12 contestants attempted to become what Beyonce has on occasion described as the female version of a hustla, or something like that--with very mixed results. Not everyone really hustled or flowed.
Without further ado, here's how everyone did...
Jennel Garcia - Jennel may possess one of the strongest voices of Season 2, but last week she surprisingly placed seventh on the leaderboard, right between the decidedly less vocally skilled Paige Thomas and Emblem3. At the time, Simon Cowell criticized Jennel for straying too far from the sweet girl we saw at her first audition (or, more specifically, he criticized Jennel's mentor, Demi Lovato, for giving Jennel such a severe Joan Jett makeover). So this week, Demi tried to get Jennel back to her old "rock-star-next-door" roots. It mostly worked. Jennel's song arrangement was horrible, but she belted out an otherwise fierce rendition of "Proud Mary" by that great diva of the ages, John Fogerty. Just kidding--it was the Tina Turner version, of course. And Jennel was working plenty of Tina-esque fringe during her high-energy number. (And she had "American Idol" alum Todrick Hall signing backup, too--extra diva points for that!) "You started this thing out with a bang. You just returned to the competition. That smoked," said L.A. Reid. "You are back in the game," said Simon. (Guys. She wasn't in last place last week. She was in seventh. Jennel was never really out of the game.) Then Britney Spears said, "Tina would be proud." (Um, newsflash, Britney: Tina Turner is alive and well and fabulous. Don't talk about her like she's not with us anymore! How about we call Tina and ask her what she thought of Jennel's performance?)
Tate Stevens - Tate was, somewhat shockingly, number one on the leaderboard last week, and the performance he gave this week will probably keep him near the top of the list. America clearly loves the likable lug, and I'm sure viewers just ate it up when he dedicated Shania Twain's "From This Moment" to his wife, a woman he met in high school and has been devoted to ever since. Aw. It wasn't an easy song to sing, but Tate did a very solid job with it, and the confidence boost he got from his high score last week was evident. "That was so heartfelt. I loved it," raved Britney. "You're sooooo good," gushed Demi. "This is going to be really, really annoying for me to say...but that was better than last week. The winner of this show gets $5 million, and I would be happy to write you that check," admitted Simon. I would rather have Simon write that check for someone else, personally--but regardless, Tate should probably get some sort of record deal. The guy is consistent, if nothing else, and consistency sells records and fills arena seats.
Diamond White - The mini-Beyonce of the show took on Beyonce's "Halo," a very ambitious song for such a little girl--and at first I feared that she'd bitten off more than she could chew. Like many singing-show contestants before her, she noticeably struggled with her lower register in the verse. But luckily, she recovered very nicely once she got to the chorus, and she finished strong. "You picked a really tough song. Those are really big shoes to fill--and you filled them!" said L.A., although he did add, "I'm not gonna lie, you started out shaky." Said Demi, "You are a total diva, in the best way possible. You give the rest of the competition a run for their money." Simon advised Diamond not to walk and sing at the same time, something that apparently trips her up, but agreed with L.A. that the performance improved midway through and declared, "I think we're looking at a future star."
Beatrice Miller - I love me some Beatrice, but I think she could be in trouble this week. Her mentor, Britney, keeps choosing slowwwwww and draggy songs for her that in no way suit a plucky 13-year-old, for starters. And this Wednesday--with Beatrice down in the dumps over her disappointing 10th-place finish last week--she really needed a pick-me-up song, something fun and fresh. Instead she got Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"--a beautiful ballad, for sure, but one that played too much into her sadness and resulted in a dreary performance. The whole vibe of the number was weird, too--Beatrice was styled like Emblem3's little sister, complete with a "YOLO" beanie, and she was crouching in front of a giant hourglass that looked like it'd been borrowed from the opening credits of "Days Of Our Lives." It just didn't work, and it certainly wasn't the big wow moment Beatrice needed to get out of 10th place. Said L.A., "I don't think that was the greatest song choice. It didn't allow you to peak. It's the song's fault." (Personally, I thought it was Britney's fault. Britney chose the song, after all.) Simon said this was "better than last week," but agreed that "the song was boring." Demi called Beatrice "so soulful," but my soul wasn't so stirred. The kid has major talent, and deserves to be higher on the leaderboard, but unfortunately, she may drop right off the board after this.
Lyric 145 - Lyric 145 have become my favorites of Season 2 with their vivacious performances and bizarrely awesome/awesomely bizarre song choices, but the mashup they attempted this week was more of a mess-up. It simply did NOT work. (Simon revealed that they'd changed their song at midnight the night before, and I really wonder what song they were originally supposed to do. Whatever it was, it might have been a much better bet.) I have no idea why they mixed Katy Perry's "E.T." with Queen's "We Will Rock You"; the songs just were not two great tastes that tasted great together. And although Freddie Mercury was of course a bigger diva than Katy could ever wish to be, honestly, I would have preferred for Lyric 145 to just cover "E.T.," straight up, maybe dressed as space aliens. That would have been way cooler. Demi said she "didn't get it." In a very rare moment of clarity, Britney told Lyric 145's mentor, Simon: "I think they're a hip-hop group, and they should be doing hip-hop tracks." Said L.A., wrongly: "That was better than last week, which I thought was a disaster." (Wrong. LAST WEEK WAS AWESOME.) "But I think you guys have lost your way. This could be the last time we see you." I hope L.A. is really wrong about that, because the show would be so much less fun and exciting without Lyric 145. But if they survive this week's vote, I want performances that are more fun and exciting than this.
Arin Ray - Madonna hardly ever gets covered on shows like these, but after what Arin did to "Crazy For You," Madge will probably never license another song to a talent show ever again. I was prepared to cut Arin a little slack when there was a technical difficulty at the start of his performance and Lyric 145's "We Will Rock You" track accidentally played instead; the last time I saw a similar glitch on live TV, Ashlee Simpson freaked out and did a hoedown dance on "SNL." Arin kept it together more than that, and soldiered on, but maybe he should have lip-synched like Ashlee, because his vocal was awful--plus he committed Cowell's cardinal sin and flubbed the lyrics. You know, maybe there was a legit reason why Arin had been drowned out with fussy background vocals and sound effects before, because he needed some distractingly hissy smoke cannons and an army of backup singers this week. "I'm really struggling with that. I want goosebumps. This is a $5 million prize, and I didn't get a $5 million performance," grumbled L.A. Demi, who is frequently bored on this show, said Arin bored her and that he "lacked soul." (Ouch.) Simon trotted out one of his famous feline metaphors and said, "You singing that song was like asking a cat to eat a tiger." Britney, Arin's mentor, delusionally claimed that Arin "nailed it," but I think the only thing he nailed was the final nail in his "X Factor" coffin. (Arin was in 11th place last week, narrowly missing having to sing for his life, but this week, he will probably be in 12th.) Not even his showmance partner, Normani Hamilton from Fifth Harmony, could have been crazy for this.
Paige Thomas - Paige shared her sad, sad story about her mother dying in a car accident when she was only 6 years old (on Christmas Eve, yet), and she promised to dig into that pain for her cover of the late, great Donna Summer's "Last Dance." And that's how her performance began, with her standing solo in front of the coolest microphone stand I have ever seen in my life (that was some Fischerspooner realness, right there) and just pouring her heart into the stripped-down song. But of course, Demi could not resist bringing out the Vegas hoochie dancers and turning the whole production into a garish mess about halfway through. It just was all too literal, too disco, too cabaret. (Demi implied that the choreography had been forced on Paige and this wasn't what she'd intended. Oh well.) Anyway, Paige was NO Donna, but she did a decent job here considering her very limited, decidedly less-than-Summery abilities. "You get a pass, because that was your best performance yet," said L.A. "It was like a disco ball exploded onstage. It was the best disco throwback ever," said Britney, who clearly has never been to an actual discotheque. "That was probably your best so far. Having said that, I think the choreography and what was going behind you was distracting--you didn't need that," said Simon. He was right. Usually I do think Paige needs all the bells and whistles to mask her vocal shortcomings, but this was one time when I would have preferred for it to just be Paige and her fabulous glittery mic stand, nothing else.
Fifth Harmony - Apparently having settled on a name for two whole weeks in a row, the Artists Formerly Known As LYLAS/1432 took on "Hero," by future "American Idol" diva judge Mariah Carey. Even with five voices, they had some trouble matching the greatness of Mimi's original, but this was an overall stellar performance that America will LOVE, and it was one that finally gave Dinah Jane Hansen a chance to shine--DJH slayed her solo. "There's something really lovely about all of you," said L.A. "I think Simon is doing amazing with you guys," said Britney, oddly praising Simon instead of the girls. "I was worried that I would be bored," said the perpetually bored Demi, "but you killed it."
Carly Rose Sonenclar - I was worried when I learned that Carly planned to sing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On"--a song that's way too overdone on all of these shows, and one that I wasn't so crazy about when Sylvia Yacoub sang it on "The Voice" just this week. But this was the performance of a CHAMPION. If this had been finale week, this would have been Carly's prize-clinching, $5 million performance, no doubt. Seriously, if Carly doesn't knock Tate Stevens out of the top spot on the leaderboard this week, I'll eat Britney's wig. "It pains me to say this, but we could be looking at the winner," admitted L.A. "It just doesn't make sense, like I don't believe that that's your voice. I feel like Celine Dion is here and she's hiding [behind the curtain]," marveled a suddenly-not-bored Demi. Simon was even more incredulous, saying, "I don't believe you're a human being. You can't do that at 13!" Oh, yes, you can do that at age 13...if your name is Carly Rose Sonenclar, that is.
Vino Alan - Once again a song was wrongly credited to Tina Turner, when in fact "Let's Stay Together" was originally an Al Green tune. But of course, both Al and Tina's versions were better than Vino's. This definitely was an improvement over his "Gotta Be Somebody" and "When A Man Loves A Woman" performances of the past two weeks, with a strong and unwavering vocal, but there is just something that I'm not fully connecting with when it comes to Vino. Sorry to sound like Demi, but he bores me a bit. Demi, Vino's most vocal naysayer on the panel, of course was bored by him again this week. Britney sort of borrowed the line that Demi used on Carly, and said, "It doesn't make sense that that voice comes out of that body." Simon took Demi's side and was unimpressed, saying, "Your voice is designed for a moment. That song wasn't the song. You need bigger songs. The song you wanted to choose yourself would have been better." Gee, I wonder what that song was? It seems like there is a lot of indecisiveness on this show when it comes to song selection.
Emblem3 - Speaking of indecisive song selection, last week, this don't-say-they're-a-boy-band boy band's downright schizophrenic mashup of Katy Perry, the Temptations, and One Direction was a mess (and not even a hot one), and it put them at sixth place in the rankings, about five spots lower than their cocky mentor Simon had expected. This week, the trio totally rebounded with a reggae-inflected island-jam cover of Alicia Keys's "No One" that was surprisingly good. I thought of all the top 12, Emblem3, the least diva-ish contestant in terms of musical style, would have struggled the most this week--but they did quite well here. "Perfect vocal blend, perfect song. You are complete superstars and what this show needs," raved L.A., who's probably already planning to sign them to Epic no matter what. "I completely get why the girls are swooned by you," said the grammatically challenged Britney. "You guys have such great energy," said the obviously "swooned" Demi. Will this put Emblem3 at number one on the leaderboard this week? Probably not, but I have a feeling they may move up a notch or two.
CeCe Frey - One person who really needed a leaderboard boost this week was CeCe, who placed 12th last week and barely survived a deadlocked sing-off with Jason Brock. But I bet she'll be singing for her life again this Thursday, because--despite getting the "pimp spot" this week--she so did not deliver the performance she needed to in order to save herself. This was not entirely her fault. After a bad edit job early in the season depicted CeCe as the show's token villainess and set her up for failure going into the voting rounds, Demi orchestrated some real makeover madness and basically attempted to turn CeCe into Ke$ha. This, of course, didn't make America like CeCe one bit more. So this week, Demi tried to turn CeCe into Faith Hill or Mariah or some other MOR balladeer--putting her in a pageant gown (which L.A. didn't like), giving her a trophy-wife salon blowout and a wind machine, and having her sing Eric Carmen's/Celine Dion's "All By Myself." The result was a total identity crisis. All of this could have been overcome if CeCe's vocal had been flawless, of course--but it was not. The song totally hit a not-so-sweet spot in CeCe's register, she missed the money note, and she sounded strained and shrill throughout much of the performance. I'm really surprised Simon didn't employ another cat metaphor to describe this, but he did say, "The song is called 'All By Myself,' and I think you would have been better off singing it without anyone else in the room." L.A. predicted that CeCe would be in the bottom two again. Britney shrugged, "Sorry, I just don't get it." (Britney doesn't get a lot of things, true--but this time, she actually made sense. For the second time in one episode! Whoa!) Simon also griped, "You and Demi are not getting it right together." I'm not sure how much of this misfire was Demi's fault and how much of it was CeCe's...but the point is, it was not good.
So now it is prediction time. Two contestants are going home this week (presumably to accommodate last week's addition of bonus wild-card contestant Diamond White), and I really think those two will be CeCe Frey and Arin Ray. Beatrice Miller and Lyric 145 are definitely in jeopardy, though...and I may have to watch Thursday's results show with only one eye open (perhaps I will wear a Lyric-inspired eyepatch), because I'm totally skerred that the fabulous Lyric Da Queen might get dethroned.
See you then, when we all find out which divas take a dive.
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