‘The X Factor’ USA review: Did Alex & Sierra, Lillie McCloud, and Ellona Santiago rule top 8?November 27, 2013
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: The theme for Wednesday night’s “X Factor” USA episode was big band, which is proof that this show is really just interested in copying their themes from the British version a week and a half later. Somewhat annoying, especially when there was no real need for it. Why not just let people be original? There was really only one performance that benefited from this, and we had more than a few people who were hurt by the theme.
Also annoying this week? The lengthy packages that continue to show the contestants as nothing more than sympathy stories or people with insecurities. It’s okay to do that sometimes … but not all the time. Let them have fun, we say!
As always, we’re tanking the performances here in order from worst to first. Be sure to stick around at the bottom to vote in our poll!
8. Jeff Gutt, “Feeling Good” – Note to Jeff Gutt: Don’t pick songs to perform that were eviscerated (in a good way) by someone from a previous season. This was already killed by Carly Rose Sonenclar so it’s a tough song to follow up with. Jeff’s performance was just okay, but he’s getting saddled by bad themes (and performing early) every week. While it was nice to learn in his introductory package that there are some other family members in his life besides his son, the performance was flat.
7. Rion Paige, “Swinin'” – We feel like at some point over the past few weeks, it’s been somewhat lost that while Rion is extremely likable, she’s not the best singer in the Girls category. We’re pretty sure that Khaya Cohen (who is already gone from the competition) is better, but Rion really makes up for it with her personality. There was some of that in here, but it was pretty far out of her style … and it didn’t work at all.
6. Restless Road, “Life Is a Highway” – Look, it’s the guys performing the song from “Cars”! At least this is somewhat country, but we’d much prefer to see these guys doing some sort of down-south Jason Aldean track. They’re not a country-pop band no matter how much Simon may try to push that on us. The best thing that they can do is run to Nashville, and hope that one of the labels there can show them where to go next.
5. Carlito Olivero, “The Cup of Life” – A pretty solid performance from Carlito of a popular Ricky Martin song. We can’t shake the fact that the beginning was … shaky, but it did improve as the performance went on. By the time that we were at the end, we were mostly on board with it. But can Carlito really do enough to escape from elimination at this point? We’re not quite sure about that, since the damage of the past few weeks is done.
4. Lillie McCloud, “Summertime” – Let’s start with the obvious here: The vocal at the end was pretty amazing. But, we do have a criticism in that the start of this felt a little soundalike more so than Lillie’s own voice. Perhaps we’re just a little harder on this song, given that this belongs to Fantasia in the realm of all reality TV performances. Nobody else should even try to replicate it. It’s still her best performance, but it was missing a little of that spunk and creativity.
3. Josh Levi, “Treasure” – The thing about Josh is that he seems naturally cool, and not forced. Even during these horribly drippy packages before the performances, he is someone we want to root for. Then, he goes and almost gives the same amount of charisma to this song that Bruno Mars does. For a kid his age, that’s impressive.
2. Ellona Santiago, “Mamma Knows Best” – This is a difficult one. Vocally, we have to put it #2 just for the sake of her really sounding like a powerhouse singer. But, at the same time, didn’t anyone else feel a little weird watching it? We’re not some super-conservative prude here, but isn’t she only 17 years old? There were a few moments where the camera flashed on the family, and even they looked a little uncomfortable with the outfit / choreography. The best thing that we can compare it to is when Justin Bieber suddenly decided that he needed to show off his abs all of the time when he was still under age; there’s a great talent here, and we’d rather see the focus on that.
1. Alex & Sierra, “I Knew You Were Trouble” – Let’s start a petition to just make this show two hours of the couple performing, with no judges or anyone else. This was the best performance of the whole season, a complete big-band, jazzy interpretation on a Taylor Swift classic that we already had seen some great versions of. Maybe someone else has done this interpretation before, but it was new to us and it worked. Hooray for creativity! Also worth noting is that if this music career doesn’t work out, Alex can be the stand-in for Matt Bomer on the “White Collar” set.
As for that “competitive ensemble” … meh. The best pure singers are probably Ellona and Lillie, but the competition is about more than that. Grade: C+.
If you want to read where we ranked these contestants prior to tonight’s show, click here. While it may be Thanksgiving tomorrow night, we’ll still have a full review published of what exactly happened during the show.