‘The X Factor’ USA review: Carly Rose Sonenclar, Tate Stevens face off again

Carly Rose Sonenclair“The X Factor” USA was busy Wednesday, as there were 12 performance that made the show once again feel like it was not just stuffed for the sake of being two hours long. Of course, we would have loved it had all of the performances been amazing, or had we not heard Simon Cowell continuing to belittle Demi Lovato during some of the critiques. Overall, though, this was a marked improvement on the shows from the last two weeks as there were no awkward tears to sit through.

This show was divided into halves this time around, with the first part being all about unplugged songs and the second half being that Pepsi Challenge that we have been hearing so much over the course of the past week or so. Ironically, America knows the contestants better than the mentors do.

Unplugged round

CeCe Frey – Even when CeCe has her best vocal performance of the live shows, she still gets dogpiled with what has to be nasty remark after nasty remark from Britney Spears and Simon Cowell. What do you want a girl to do? We actually think that Simon in a sense knows what he is doing here in mobilizing her fanbase. CeCe’s great for headlines and for controversy, so it’s hard to think he will be upset if she stays around.

Emblem3 – This may be our most controversial opinion of the night, but we genuinely believe it: CeCe’s simple cover of “The Edge of Glory” was better than Emblem3’s vocal mess of “Just the Way You Are.” We know that the ladies loved it, but there were serious pitch problems here throughout, and the harmonies occasionally turned into anarchy.

Carly Rose Sonenclar – Is this Carly’s best performance of the whole season? We are going to say “yes” for one simple reason: she actually performed something that was not just a giant ballad. You can’t get more current than Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me,” and there was genuine restraint here. Plus, she did still have a few nice little melody tricks.

Fifth Harmony – L.A. Reid is completely right here: singing “ooh” for a few seconds does not constitute harmony by any stretch of the imagination. These girls are good singers, and that’s commendable; but they are not a group, and we’ve held pretty firm to that ever since we heard them sing “Impossible” for the first time at judges’ houses.

Diamond White – Diamond did bring “showbiz” to a cover of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” but she didn’t really bring pitch or control to it. This was actually, despite the judges’ taste, the worst of the unplugged songs: it was just Diamond screeching, missing notes, and awkwardly dropping the mic at the end while giving a tough look to the camera here. Taking on a big song is only commendable when it’s done right.

Tate Stevens – L.A. clearly gave Tate the best advice out of any judge this week: he realized that the man’s biggest risk was settling for straightforward covers every week, and he actually mixed it up with “Living on a Player.” Wait … and the judges are hating him for it?! Sure, it was a little sleepy of a vocal, but it was far better than Diamond screeching or Emblem3 getting into a vocal car crash.

The Pepsi Challenge

CeCe Frey – This was actually a good night for CeCe compared to what she has done the past several weeks. “Part of Me” was not perfect, but it was very entertaining, very colorful, and she hit the vast majority of the notes. In comparing it to “Eye of the Tiger” earlier this season, the two could not have been more different when it comes to quality.

Emblem3 – We are starting to get a little confused at this point over what is supposed to constitute a great performance on this show. These guys did not have their best night, since they really failed to show off anything new in their repertoire and they also lacked a little bit of energy during their take on “Forever Young.” What did the judges see tonight that we didn’t?

Carly Rose Sonenclar – “If I Were a Boy” never quite fit with Carly, which is why from our standpoint this was one of her weaker performances of the competition. You cannot deny she’s the best singer in the competition (you’re crazy if you do), but you do need to find songs that work with a particular voice. We just don’t seen her as the sort of R&B / pop hybrid that Beyonce was.

Fifth Harmony – Hooray for harmonies! Hooray for the girls actually looking like they were having fun! By far, this was the best thing that Simon’s ladies have put on the stage so far in “Give Your Heart a Break.” Demi’s #1 hit meshed perfectly with them: it was age-appropriate, and for the first time really since they debuted, it really

Diamond White – Did Diamond actually sing the melody to Rihanna’s “Diamonds” once in this entire song? Sometimes, you just have to be honest: it was terrible. Did anyone else hear the pitch problems, or that Diamond seemingly performed half the song out of key? Sometimes, we feel as though the judges are leveling their criticism to the level of talent that they have on a night, and with so many messy performances this time around, they were more willing to throw the teen some kind words for a not-so-kind rendition of a hit song.

Tate Stevens – Demi’s criticism of Tate’s “When Tomorrow Never Comes” was pretty hilarious, but also a little unfair given that this was a pretty incredible, emotional vocal from a guy who reminds us of Garth Brooks, as well. The only thing that could have been better in closing the show? If the band had just cooled off the arrangement slightly, just so that the main focus was on the emotion of the lyrics rather than anything else.

Who was your favorite from Wednesday night’s show? Be sure to vote in our poll below, and you can also check out where we ranked the contestants before the show here.

Photo: Fox

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