1. Carly Rose Sonenclar – Regardless of the not so good arrangement and problems with being compared to the original, she did really good. Her vocal phrasing was absolutely on point! She also showed great humility about being number one, and not letting it go to her head. This was a very good week for Carly.
2. Diamond White – If this world is right & just, then Diamond White officially broke out of the middle of the pack last night. staked her claim on the top spot in the competition by illustrating just what kind of artist she has the potential to be once this competition is over. Her song wasn’t the most current choice in the world, but she made it sound contemporary. In addition, she showed her desire to be in the top spot, along with a feistier personality than we’ve seen from her in recent weeks. In many ways, she felt like a new Diamond. This would all be great in itself, but she also delivered a hell of a journeyman vocal performance. She’s one of the most underrated singers in the entire competition, even despite getting heaps of praise for her vocals, and we can only think that she hasn’t even shown everything she’s capable of doing just yet.
3. Fifth Harmony - Though the girls didn’t harmonize nearly they needed too (harmonies are their secret weapon), they did a pretty solid job with the song. I know some people are annoyed by the prevalence of “sob stories” on the show, but Ally’s emotions seemed heartfelt, and gave the performance a gravitas it might not otherwise have had without that personal narrative carrying it. This is not to say that such a sad story is in any way a good thing, but we felt Ally (and the rest of the girls) did a good job powering through, and turning her pain into something positive. We have no doubts her grandfather would be proud. But beyond all that, the girls got back to feeling like a current act, with a song and arrangement that really suited their vocal stylings. Lauren, in particular, really brought the fire (no pun intended with those vaguely creepy background images of the girls, engulfed in flames), and it felt like the girls were not only finding their niche in the competition, but also in the market. Whether this translates to votes is anyone’s guess, but they’ve certainly made a strong case with this performance. However, they should move more though…they do a whole lot of “standing around”, and even just wandering the stage, a la Emblem3, might help them engage more with audiences.
4. Tate Stevens - It wasn’t a bad vocal, but Tate really felt dated this week and faded. Tate was never the coolest guy in Nothing wrong with the vocal itself, but it just felt like a father singing at his daughter’s wedding after one too many. Tate is still a great guy with an endearing personality and an engaging back story, and he automatically gets bonus points for being the first person to play a musical instrument at the live shows, which is completely baffling to me, since none of the other contestants, many of whom have musical talents, haven’t taken to performing yet with their instruments. But, at the end of the day, Tate doesn’t feel like a $5 million talent with performances like this. He can certainly get there, but he needs to do something that feels a little more current than this, maybe a Josh Turner or Jason Aldean song, maybe something in that wheelhouse. He has the tools, he just seems to use them inconsistently. Tate’s high-flying vote totals last week should keep him way in the clear.
5. Paige Thomas – Ms. Thomas certainly came armed for battle this week as well. The first time in the competition this actually feels like her, not Faux Rihanna act. This looks like something she could perform in her career. There’s something to be said for someone who fights for their identity in the competition, and Paige did just that by insisting on doing a dance number instead of a dreary ballad. And it resulted in her best performance of the competition. It felt so different from what Paige has done in the past. Rick-rolling aside, this performance felt like it would fit in comfortably at the Grammys or the VMAs. Believe it or not, she probably is the most contemporary artist in the competition But we’ve never really felt that her onstage persona was an authentic extension of herself, until now. Her vocals were on point, her dancing felt organic to the performance, and the staging with the dancers contributed without being distracting. We feel comfortable in saying that Paige truly should not be a member of the Bottom 3 this week.
6. Vino Alan – Just like his fellow group member, Vino took a toll this week too. His vocal wasn’t bad in the least, but his performance was just kind of safe. There’s no discernible difference or growth in his performance style from week-to-week, and of all the contestants in the competition, Vino could really benefit from pushing himself outside his comfort zone. But I don’t entirely blame Vino for this. He had the right song choice in mind when he suggested “Too Close” by Alex Clare, and the only thing that prevented him from singing it was the fact that it wasn’t a number one. But he did what he could with the song LA gave him, even if “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” immediately conjures memories of Top Gun, for many. We doubt he’ll be in trouble, but it’ll be hard to get out of the #3 spot with sleepy performances like this, and I’m not sure that the return of “Angry Vino” in the pre-performance video did him any favors. But these are all things Vino can, and likely will get the chance to, work on in the coming weeks.
7. CeCe Frey – CeCe’s vocal last night required the use of the mute button. However, this performance embodied a return to the CeCe of old, the girl with swagger who didn’t care what anyone thought about her. She also displayed a fire that’s been lacking, in her pre-performance video package. Audiences tend to at least appreciate someone who’s unapologetic about how badly they want it, and while CeCe probably could have done without complaining about how she “gave you guys 110% and you still put me in the bottom 2!”, she’s a divisive enough figure that she could generate buzz off of being a contentious presence on the show, like Cher Lloyd was over on The X Factor UK. It’s hard to imagine she won’t land in the bottom again, and we don’t know that there’s anyone left in the competition the judges wouldn’t save over her, but this saucy version of CeCe, while feeling like a put-on in many ways, feels more natural than the Celine Dion approach.
8. Emblem 3 – Boy, that song choice. We think this group is going to take a hit this week. The performance wasn’t exactly bad, but it felt so cheesy and generic. These guys should never feel lame like this. Their whole schtick is being cool (and attractive, I guess), and song choices like this, which make them sound dated and corny, do them no favors. This is not to say that their fanbase won’t come out in force for them anyway. Although we have them down here, they probably won’t have to sing for survival. But it’s getting down to the wire, but it feels like every other week they’re promising fans they’ll show their musicality, and while I’m sure they’ll have a few more weeks minimum, if they feel like coasting, they will have to show something more if they actually want to finish higher than fourth. If not, there time will be limited.