‘The X Factor’ USA review: Did Alex & Sierra, Jeff Gutt, or Carlito Olivero win first part of finale?

It took us about three seconds to get completely nasty with “The X Factor” this season, talking about how those gymnasiums full of people are the only people watching this season and how Mario Lopez would agree with anything Simon Cowell had to say, even if he just started reciting quotes from “Pinky & the Brain” or openly mocking Mario’s stuffed-full-of-product hair. The show just makes it too easy. These sort of moments are why we want to just pretend that the rest of the show doesn’t exist other than the singing. That’s where the good stuff lies.

There were some separate rounds to this competition, and we’re going to therefore try to give you our take on each one of them as such … though we could just say “Alex & Sierra rule!” here and be done with it, with the exception of that terrible misstep in the middle.

Round One – Solo Performances

3. Jeff Gutt, “Dream On” – It’s a good song, and not one that has been completely overdone. But, Jeff can’t hit those high notes quite as well as he probably needed to. But as much grief as we give him for being so darn emotional all of the time, he’s a good singer. Also, he’s got great stage charisma. We don’t necessarily want him to win this competition, but we do want him to get a rock band together after this and gig around the country.

2. Carlito Olivero, “Impossible” – First of all, we loathe his introduction with him saying that unless he wins this competition, there is no “fairy tale” left for him. Seriously? What an UGH thing to say. This is up there with Jeff Gutt saying last week that somehow him losing would take something away from his son. But, there was REDEMPTION in this performance. Carlito has improved a lot since the start of the show. We still don’t like all the mugging and the “look how hot I am” shtick, but this is a song that this show pulls out pretty much every year now since it always works. It’s their version of that “Dreamgirls” song.

1. Alex & Sierra, “Give Me Love” – Here’s another example of what these two do really well: They take a song that has not been overly covered on the show, and then give it some life … though to be fair they performed this song before on the show. It just doesn’t feel like it since it was around the top 10 that they really started to look like artists that were going to run the table. Once again, they were ahead of the other two by a mile. Also, hats off for having a more tasteful hometown segment than some man carrying a ridiculous giant pizza shaped like an X (which Carlito had).

(We take a brief break to try to digest Paulina Rubio’s latest performance, where her entire voice was converted over to robot form. Is this cross-promotion for “Almost Human”?)

Round Two – Duets with People You May or May Not Have Heard Of

3. Alex & Sierra and Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” – We didn’t really understand the song choice, or making a couple sing a love song with someone else. Kind of awkward, no? For the first verse, we completely hated it, and then we slightly started to come around in the chorus, even though Leona looked like the lady who turned up too formal to the party. For the sake of integrity, we can’t justify putting this first in the category. We also totally blame Simon for this more than anyone else, since it should’ve been obvious that this would have never worked.

2. Carlito and Prince Royce, “Stand by Me” – While we were familiar with this Prince prior to the performance, that’s mostly due to Fifth Harmony. We wouldn’t blame you if you had no idea who he was. This was another smart Carlito performance, mostly because it was partly in Spanish and soulful. We don’t think it did anything to show you that he is capable of much more than what he’s done already, but it was pleasant enough.

1. Jeff Gutt and John Rzeznik, “Iris” – We have heard about a billion different covers of the song over the years, but very few of them actually featuring the guy from the Goo Goo Dolls that actually performed it. This was actually the most natural one of the celebrity performances, and we liked it for that reason. Plus, these two guys seemed to be having a good time performing with each other.

Round Three – Reprises

3. Jeff Gutt, “Creep” – We’re personally not a fan of really anyone other than Radiohead singing this song, mostly because nobody else can do it as well. Also, wasn’t it a little weird that the camera kept showing Jeff’s son during this song of all things? The vocal wasn’t really that tight, and it seemed to be mostly just trying to distract you with a ton of fire.

2. Carlito Olivero, “Maria Maria” – Another solid performance by Carlito, and we have to say that overall, he did a very good job tonight of coming out and doing what he needed to do. He has almost no shot at winning, but he made a pretty good case for himself in trying to stay afloat in this industry after the show.

1. Alex & Sierra, “Say Something” – There was probably never any doubt that the duo was going to perform probably the most-successful song on a performance show in its three-year history, and they were just as stellar as they were the first time. It’s probably impossible to recreate the original moment that they had that brought everyone to tears, but this was something close to it. A beautiful performance that redeems the Leona Lewis bit, and puts them firmly in the driver’s seat.

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