‘The X Factor’ UK review: Emily Middlemas, Saara Aalto, Matt Terry, 5 After Midnight square off

X Factor -Tonight’s “The X Factor” UK show is a celebration of Christmas, but for the contestants, it’s also a celebration of one other glorious thing: Making it to the final four! Host Dermot O’Leary started off the night with what really was a true bombshell: Every one of the remaining singers won at least one week of the show this season. It’s a level playing field! For longtime viewers of the show, you’ll likely know that this never happens.

As per usual with these reviews, we’ll be splitting things off into two separate categories — and then ranking the performances within them. This is a LIVE review, so we’ll be adding more insight into some of these performances over the course of the show with a poll at the tail end.

Christmas Round 

4. Emily Middlemas, “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” – Emily could sing almost anything under the sun and have it come across as sweet and tender; as a result of this, this was a performance that was very easy to enjoy. She’s one of the best performers this season in terms of having an album we’d probably want to listen to.

Now, the downside of this performance: Her voice was great … when we could hear it. Like with “Creep” earlier this season, she was drowned out at times by the music and the background singers. Emily is a star, and with that, she needs to be the one who shines during her performances.

3. Saara Aalto, “White Christmas / All I Want for Christmas Is You” – The first part of the performance was stronger than the second half, as it felt that Saara had a slight bit more control. The only thing that really held her back on the Mariah Carey cover was the backing track, which really impeded much of the creativity we’ve known her for and pigeonholed her into a pretty straight-laced cover. The “corny” criticism is understandable, but we still contend that we’re more excited to watch a Saara performance going into each show than we are anyone else in the top 4.

2. 5 After Midnight, “Stay Another Day” – This was the rare Christmas performance that felt very modern, and the staging for this was particular lovely from the snow to the outfits. They created an environment that genuinely felt like December 25! We’re not going to throw out superlatives in the way in which Simon Cowell did after the performance, especially since there were a few notes individually that were a little flat. Still, this was the guys proving that they can be competent, effective performers on this show with the backup dancers and the bright lights.

1. Matt Terry, “Silent Night” – It was a little odd to be going from the manic energy of Matt and Nicole Scherzinger on an amusement-park ride to one of the most beautiful, poignant Christmas songs out there — given that this started off the night, it was even more jarring. Yet, this is precisely what we had. This was simple, but lovely as he started it off acapella before being joined in by a choir. Why not sing additional versus? The second verse may not be as popular, but lyrically it may be even stronger. Killer high note near the end.

Round Two – No Theme

4. Matt Terry, “Say You Love Me” – This is where if we were Matt, we would’ve taken on a song that was a little bit more upbeat. While the vocals in here were fairly stellar, there’s a fear that in twelve hours from now, all we will remember from this show is that Matt came out and performed twice with the help of a choir. While there is no issue on our part with him doing a lesser-known song, we do wonder what this could mean for voters at home.

3. Emily Middlemas, “Mad World” – If you are going to criticize Emily for doing songs that were “expected,” this certainly qualifies as a song choice that was incredibly easy to envision her doing. It was almost note for note exactly as expected, but this does not make it bad. Emily is exceptional at delivering these sort of atmospheric, haunting performances that utilize the break in her voice and her ability to channel emotion. She doesn’t have the biggest voice this season, but she knows what to do with it to be effective.

2. 5 After Midnight, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” – They were the final act to perform on the night, and this was a wise move for the show to give us something upbeat after three straight slower songs in a row. These guys possess an innate ability to, through subtle changes in the arrangement, make an old song feel new again. They have the energy and the passion, and even the vocals were much-improved on the earlier outing.

1. Saara Aalto, “Chandelier” – It’s a huge risk to go out and perform a song that you did in your first audition; sometimes, it can even be thought of as lazy. Nothing about this was lazy in the slightest. The arrangement was magnificent, and what she chose to do with every note of this is stunning. She’s the best singer remaining this season, and she takes the biggest risks in hopes of making them into something magical. Even if you don’t want her to win, don’t you have to say that she at the very least deserves to be in the final?

For more news on “The X Factor,” head over here to see where we ranked everyone going into this show! (Photo: ITV.)

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