‘The X Factor’ USA finale review: Did Tate Stevens, Fifth Harmony up their game?

The X Factor LogoWho’s ready for an “X Factor” finale? The USA version of the show really stuffed this show with a ton of various performances that lasted over the course of the two hours; and while not all of them were great, at least Fifth Harmony, Carly Rose Sonenclar, and Tate Stevens all made cases as to why they deserved to be there to begin with.

Let’s start things out on a serious note here and applaud the show for going subtle with this tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School, and for bringing us a performance from so many past contestants that was a bona fide tear-jerker. We won’t dwell on it too long, except for saying that we agree with everything Simon Cowell said in his introduction.

And now, let’s look at some of the individual performances.

Round One – Repeat Songs

Carly Rose Sonenclar, “Feeling Good” – It’s strange to see that this was the song Carly Rose chose to repeat on the night, mostly because we don’t thin that this audition song was really anywhere near her best of the season. The advantage was that it did show off more of her personality; unfortunately, it also made her voice come across at times as squeaky, and much more so than usual.

Now for a pet peeve: why do all these mayors always show up on the finales and declare some day in honor of the contestant? It’s a singing show, people! On another note, kudos to Mario Lopez for showing some actual humanity and messing with Carly’s hat.

Tate Stevens, “Anything Goes” – In speaking about pet peeves, it irks us a little bit to hear so much of Tate’s introductions being constantly being about how much he “needs” the $5 million more than the other singers, who are all young and do not have a family that they need to take care of. Tate may be right, but we’d prefer the show focus more on the talent … especially when you have a voice like his.

There wasn’t too much of a difference between this performance and what he auditioned with. If you loved it the first time around, you’ll probably love it again. The one thing that was different? The tiny flicker of emotion at the very end.

Fifth Harmony, “Anything Could Happen” – Considering that we have already watched this performance about ten times on YouTube on the past week, we’re still cool with seeing it again even if it was just a week old. We did appreciate the subtle changes to the performance that made it at least somewhat different than what we saw the first time around.

Plus, how about someone not picking to repeat a ballad? No more ballads!

Round Two – Duets

Carly Rose with LeAnn Rimes – Let this be a lesson to “The X Factor” in the future: if you want these to be a “surprise,” don’t tell us about it prior to the show actually airing! Then again, it may have been better if the show didn’t tell us about this at all and just let these two sing backstage. As happy as Carly looked, this duet was awkward, under-rehearsed, forced, and it felt almost like LeAnn wanted it to be her big comeback “moment” rather than Carly’s breakout performance. It was just not good, and it may hurt her in a huge way in the voting.

Tate Stevens and Little Big Town – Only a country song will include a lyric about getting a cousy. Tate opened the song in fantastic fashion, and “Pontoon” is actually one of the most-popular songs in this genre at the moment. The one issue with this is that in between his cheeky grin and the dance moves, it felt almost like Tate had won a contest to sing with the group at a concert, and was just having a good ol’ time without really remembering that people were supposed to vote for him.

Fifth Harmony and Demi Lovato – The negative here was that this was the second repeat performance for the girl group tonight, and that could irk people looking for new material (as could the fact that it sounded occasionally like the group were Demi’s backup singers). Thankfully, it was by far the best pairing of the night, and Demi easily felt the most genuine of the celebrity guests (though she of course has been around them longer). Right now, these girls are easily leading the pack.

Round Three – New Performances

Carly Rose Sonenclar, “Hallelujah” – There was a time when this was one of our favorite songs out there, and it stayed that way after  about the start of “American Idol” season 10. Now, we can’t stand hearing it sung anymore, and it should be put on the list of overdone songs on reality shows with “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston. Here’s the issue more than anything else: Carly still has not done anything upbeat, and this song has been so overdone that it may cause people to forget how absolutely phenomenal her voice is. There’s no question that she is the best singer left in the competition, but she may have needed more of a defining moment rather than a road already traveled down a million times.

Tate Stevens, “Tomorrow” – The song choice is not familiar to us, but then again we’re not super-plugged in to the world of country radio. This was, though, the performance that will probably make Tate a serious threat to win the entire competition (as if he wasn’t one already). It was fast enough to be entertaining, but slow enough to also keep the dance moves at bay. Plus, he sang it really, really well, and the message about living like there’s no tomorrow always plays well when you are an inspirational story yourself.

Fifth Harmony, “Let It Be” – Considering Terry McDermott just did this song on “The Voice,” the timing may be just a little bit off here. But then, the song got a funky beat going about halfway through the song, and we started to get a serious L.A. Reid style “stank face” going on.

Just like the group’s momentum, we are still worried about them being too little, too late. We wish they had started to sing together a little bit earlier in the song, since it really started to get super-amazing right when the song came to a sudden halt. We still would say that Fifth Harmony is our overall pick for the night, even if they are still the group with the smallest chance of actually winning the whole thing.

Who was your favorite from the “X Factor” USA performance show finale? We want to hear your thoughts below, and be sure to also check out who we think is in line for the best career after the show over at the link here.

Photo: Fox

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