Hey guys, Nick here, doing the post (on Trey’s behalf) for this week’s ranking of The X Factor Top 6. I suppose Trey and myself have given up trying to portray this list as anything other than our own personal opinions, although we really do take a ton of different criteria into consideration when compiling our list each week, from performance to song choice, from attitude to likability, and the growth of each contestant from week-to-week. That said, I do have to reiterate that while these are our opinions, they aren’t actually our predictions for the official show rankings, and here’s why: in compiling the list, Trey comes up with his own rankings, I come up with mine, and then we combine our scores to come up with this list. So while I might have an act like Fifth Harmony, for instance, ranked towards the bottom, they end up higher in our rankings if Trey has them ranked higher on his. So this list is more of a reflection of our combined opinions on each contestant, as a package, from one week to the next. Because, really, after last week, it’s a zero-sum proposition trying to predict who goes home.
Now, onto the list…
1. Carly Rose Sonenclar: It’s getting to the point where anyone else winning the show would be kind of a travesty. There have been a lot of discussions in the comments section of the live blogs each week about the degree to which Carly’s Broadway background makes her overqualified for a competition like this. Whether or not it’s a valid criticism to argue that a 13 year-old is even capable of being overqualified, there’s no denying her voice: its tone, its power, its control. And yet, what’s peculiar about her is the “alien” compliment that frequently doubles as a subtle criticism of her inability to really connect with a song. This was a point brought up in Monday’s “Reality Check” with Michael Slezak and Melinda Doolittle, and I feel like it’s a salient point to reiterate. Carly nails every note without flaw, and yet the larger issue is that she’s frequently tasked with singing songs that are outside her range of experience. It’s hard, for instance, to really buy a performance of “Rolling in the Deep” on anything other than an aesthetic level when it’s coming out of the mouth of a thirteen year-old. She’s invariably better when she’s singing songs that don’t require her to imbue the performance with some sense of personal reference, such as when she performed “Over the Rainbow”, what I would consider her best performance in the series so far. This week, she did an exceptional job with her Bieber cover, and even did Beyonce justice. But her vocal prowess has never once been in doubt. The question that remains is whether or not she can continue to deliver these high-level performances without audiences starting to resent her vocal infallibility. But then, I think her personality is endearing enough to keep that from happening.
2. Tate Stevens: I didn’t think either of his two performances set the world on fire, individually, but taken together, Tate probably had his best night of the entire competition, delivering a versatile unplugged performance, while digging into his country roots with a Garth Brooks ballad that highlights the sentimental touch that people like about him. And I really would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Tate has one of the more underrated voices in the competition. It’s strange to say that anyone who consistently lands in the top 2 each week could be said to be underrated, but often it seems that people give Tate a pass for reasons other than his voice when, really, it’s one of the strongest aspects about him. He’s relatively unspectacular as a pop star, but as a country singer, he’s right on the money, and his personality is engaging enough to get people to vote for him on likability alone, which says a lot for how far a person can go in a competition like this. At this point, Tate is really the only person who can upend the inevitable Carly Rose victory, and whether that happens depends on how bad he wants it. Oh, and I guess on whether or not LA Reid doesn’t torpedo his chances with song choices that don’t show his range. But even then, Tate should at least make the finals without breaking much of a sweat.
3. Diamond White: As much as I feel Tate is underrated, I find myself feeling the same way about Diamond. Not in the sense that her voice actually is underrated, but rather in how people treat her performances. It’s very much reminiscent of Amanda Brown’s treatment on The Voice, where she was held to a higher standard than some of the other contestants, for reasons I still can’t seem to understand. It’s the same deal here with Diamond, as her performances of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and “Diamonds” amounted to a pretty impactful one-two punch of emotion, by the standard of any thirteen year-old. Yet I have the same problem with her that I had with Carly, and with many other young kids on shows like these: aside from Diamond’s occasional tendency to strain her voice as if the competition a sprint and not a marathon, there’s also a disconnect between her and what she sings, as she lacks the relative sense of experience to make it feel like she really feels what she’s singing. This is the problem when you’re make to sing treacly Whitney Houston ballads, or thunderous James Brown classics, or even Rihanna tunes, which have a manic kind of energy to them that’s hard to put one’s own spin on. But damned if Diamond didn’t give it a go. I thought this was one of her strongest nights, and while I still expect her to land in the bottom 2, I still have to rank her based not only on how well she did, but also on her positive attitude and likable personality, to say nothing of how she stacks against the rest of the field. If there’s any justice, she’ll stick around one more week. Or at least have the chance to sing for her life, first.
4. Fifth Harmony: I agreed 100% with LA Reid on the first song, and anyone who knows how much I can’t stand LA Reid will know how hard it is for me to admit agreeing with him. I couldn’t hear any appreciable sense of harmony from anywhere other than the background singers (identified by the more adult tones of their voices). It’s a major problem for the group, as they do tend to come across like five individual singers thrown together, with each one getting their turn at the microphone, and occasionally overdoing it (seriously, dial it back a little, Dinah Jane). However, I can’t front on their second song, which was the kind of high-energy, relevant performance that shows exactly where these girls fit in the current market. And they really did nail the harmonies there. The girls continue to be very identifiable too, as there’s a sense that they’re just regular teen girls who might live on your block. It really is no surprise to me that they’ve never been put in the bottom 2 by America’s vote. That said, I do expect that run to come to an end tonight. Whether they’ll actually be eliminated is anyone’s guess, but with only six acts remaining, it’s hard to imagine they won’t run up against some difficulty, particularly given their lower ranking. But I’ve been known to botch these sorts of things up before, so Fifth Harmony fans shouldn’t really despair just yet.
5. Emblem3: The boys are still a shaky act, vocally, but they finally got to show a bit of versatility in their stripped-back performance of “Just the Way You Are”, and they also got an opportunity to really showcase their underrated harmonies. I think my only real problems with them is how Wesley’s voice frequently tends to drown out the other two; and also what a confounding song choice America settled on. “Forever Young”? Really, America? But these guys have a certain effusive charm that’s hard to put a finger on, as they seem humbled by the experience, but also ecstatic about being onstage. It’s like you could see them itching to just get up and start jumping around stage and interacting with the crowd during their unplugged performance. And that kind of attitude, coupled with how clearly they want this, can be more endearing than you might expect. They’ll be ranked higher than fourth when the final vote totals come in, and the only reason I have them at fourth right now is because their second performance was such a mess. If this had been a one-song week, they’d have fared much better with the unplugged choice. But “Forever Young” was just so uncharacteristically lifeless that it makes me wonder why Simon even shortlisted the song for them on the ballot. But, again, none of that will likely matter much to their fanbase.
6. CeCe Frey: I’m sure CeCe is getting as tired of being on the bottom as I am of having to put her there, but she’s just not bringing it the way that a top six performer should be. And if she is, then it’s really not enough. And this is from someone who likes CeCe, someone who has always liked CeCe. And strangely enough, this is probably the kind of act she should have been right from the beginning, a bubblegum pop trainwreck. In many ways, CeCe reminds me of last season X Factor UK contestant Kitty Brucknell, in that she was a polarizing contestant almost from the very beginning. She was routinely in the bottom 2, and she would frequently be reduced to tears, as she could never understand why the voting public didn’t like her. It wasn’t until she started to embrace that outlandish GaGa/Ke$ha-esque stage persona that the public seemed to turn the corner on her. Unfortunately, she would be eliminated not long after. I imagine the same will happen here, as this return to the CeCe of old is probably too little, too late. I do like her feisty attitude, and the near-desperate desire to stay in the competition. She really, truly, genuinely wants this, and I think people recognize that and keep her in the competition. But that can only work for so long. Her relatively strong “Edge of Glory” performance was somewhat undone by the mess of her “Part of Me” number, so it’s hard to tell just where she’ll land. Who knows if she’ll survive the week, but at the very least, I expect her to have to sing for her life.
What are your personal rankings? Sound off in the comments!