1. Fifth Harmony – The Fifth Harmony that could win The X Factor showed up & showed out last night, in one of the best single performances of the entire season with “Anything Could Happen.” They are at the pole position this week for the strength of that performance alone. It’s exactly what they should have been doing since the beginning, going the Little Mix route of high-energy performances that emphasize their nature as real girls, a group of genuine little pop stars in their own right, indulging in the glitz and glamour of The X Factor stage.
“Impossible” failed to recapture the magic of their first performance and was like a divisive act of pandering, particularly since they told the camera, directly, that that was why they were doing it, to get extra votes. This may have been different if they haven’t chose the eleventh hour to do so. All issues aside the girls had their best night of the competition. Nick said that they were the one act that stuck with him after the show was over, and I agree. We don’t know if they’ve done enough to make the finale, or if this surge comes too little, too late, but they deserve to be there. However, it is possible that all of this could be in vein in that the odds are stacked against them. But, as they sung last night, “Anything Could Happen.”
2) Carly Rose Sonenclar – Interesting on the last performance before the finalists are chosen, Carly Rose proved to be most vulnerable. Nick definitely felt her performance “Your Song” because it was personal to her, and that came through in the vocal and in her mannerisms. Most of us didn’t feel anything on her performance of ”Imagine”. Last week, Nick said that Carly should have utilized her piano skills on the show, but after this week, we can sort of see why she never did until this point. She admitted that she was a bit rusty in her playing, and after tonight’s performance, she didn’t seem all that accustomed to playing and singing simultaneously. Her piano playing certainly wasn’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination, nor was her singing. But for the first time in the competition, none of it seemed effortless.
We seemed to actually see her concentrating. But it could ultimately prove to be a positive for Carly, as we can actually see that, yes, she’s only human, she’s not perfect, and she actually has to work really hard to make it seem as effortless as it does. We can’t imagine she won’t make the finale, but Britney shouldn’t choose to saddle her with another classic that’s beyond her range of skill and experience. She was more than fine doing Justin Bieber songs. If Nick were Britney, he’d give Carly the Bella Ferraro prom-style arrangement of “What Makes You Beautiful.”
3) Tate Stevens – Some of Tate’s best vocals were on display this week, but like Carly, he had connection issues, though not to as severe a degree. He tends to get so lost in performing that it feels like he’s off in his own little world where no one can reach him. It’s rare that Tate doesn’t make an attempt to let the audience into his own little world, and we feel like that could end up hurting him, since one of his biggest strengths is the relatability he brings to each performance. There’s a universality to a guy like Tate, who’s just a relatively normal, down-to-Earth guy, with problems that aren’t all that different from the day-to-day problems faced by the audience. But it’s not a big deal at all, since Tate still delivered a powerful pair of vocals. But his vocals have always been powerful, if samey. Nick says this is the only thing that keeps me from really backing him as a potential winner. I feel this way as well, among other things but this is a big issue too.
There isn’t really a modern singing show contestant given this many samey, bland song choices, and still have the potential to go all the way. This was emblematic of the earlier days of these shows, before decent songs started getting cleared, and everyone had to sing “Against All Odds” or “For Once In My Life”. But Tate really should be flexing his muscles a bit, showing that he can do more than simply what’s in his wheelhouse. He should be taking things that aren’t in his wheelhouse and making them his own. Or even finding a compromise, like the Nelly/Tim McGraw duet “Over and Over Again.”Of course, song choice isn’t really his fault, when all his songs are given to him either by producers, his mentor, or by America, as was the case last week. But he had a chance this week to really surprise people, yet he stayed in the safe lane. Granted, this approach is clearly working for him, since he’s currently sitting pretty at #1, and he’s arguably the only contestant who seems to know who he is as an artist without any questions or doubts about his identity whatsoever. But can the safe approach win him the title?
4) Emblem 3 – Although we both had them at the bottom, Nick & I were divided on doucheband this week. Nick said that he thought this was one of their stronger weeks. The song choices sucked out loud, but he thought they performed them as well as could be expected, given the tall order they were tasked with. I actually thought that Emblem 3 didn’t do well at all this week, but I think that every week. I truly tried hard to find the talent in their performance this week, but it wasn’t evident in my opinion.
Nick said he came to a moment – “Oh my God…I think I hate Wesley Stromberg.” Not as a person, necessarily. Nick said he seems like a pretty decent guy, “douche edit” notwithstanding, but his voice is really forceful and abrasive, and he overtakes every harmony. His voice can be pleasant when he’s just singing a verse on his own, but he kills choruses dead, while owning all harmonies, lock, stock, and barrel. Now maybe that’s the point. But it’s to the group’s detriment, I think, as Keaton is a pretty underrated vocalist, and they might feel like more of a group if they did a better job incorporating him into their numbers. Because, as it stands right now, it really does feel like Wesley & Drew’s Excellent Adventure, with Keaton popping up every now and again in the Rufus role (or maybe Simon is Rufus and Keaton is the telephone booth).
With the douche edit, I still don’t like the Drew character week after week and the thanking (begging in disguise) he does after every performance. While we agreed the staging was a mess, we disagreed on their vocals as Nick thought their vocals were the best since the competition started. Even if their vocals were good, we are not sure it’s enough, even with the superhuman size of their fanbase, particularly when everyone else is bringing it to the degree that the other three acts were bringing it. This is the first week where I think there’s actually a chance they could be going home. That third spot in the finale is very much up for grabs, and the boys’ fanbase might take it for granted that it’s already theirs. It’s all going to depend on who Diamond and CeCe’s fans decide to throw their votes to. What are the odds those fans are going to back Emblem3? It should be a really interesting results show, as we really believe it’s between Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony, and I can’t imagine it won’t be a shockingly close vote.
What are your personal rankings? Sound off in the comments!