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Carly Rose Sonenclar makes perfect pitch for 'X Factor' title
Carly Rose Sonenclar sang an old favorite, a duet with LeAnn Rimes and a Leonard Cohen classic to make her final case to win Fox's "The X Factor," while hundreds of "Carly's Angels" gathered in White Plains to root for the Mamaroneck teen.
After the show's first commercial break, Sonenclar kicked off the night of final performances with Nina Simone's "Feeling Good," which devout "X Factor" fans will recall as the song that helped her advance beyond her audition in Providence, R.I.
In a white lace hat, white blouse, black leather pants and tall brown boots, Sonenclar nailed note after note while strutting around the stage, earning cheers from the crowds in L.A. and at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains.
Carly Rose Sonenclar
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Judges L.A. Reid, Demi Lovato, Simon Cowell and Britney Spears offered high praise across the board.
"This is a defining moment, and you have to top everything that you've done," Reid said. "And you did."
"I think it's really cool to watch somebody so young just be able to command the stage and just give it your all," Lovato said. "And I'm very impressed. And I think you're going to inspire so many young girls to follow their dreams."
"You're here to try and win this tonight, aren't you Carly?" Cowell said with a laugh. "I can tell. What I would say about that performance is the first time I heard it, it blew me away. None of us believed you're 13. I still don't. And, actually, you sang it better tonight than you did the first time. And I like your competitive spirit."
Spears, who also serves as Sonenclar's mentor, made it a clean sweep of praise. "I just feel like it's shocking how bright your star is," she said. "And we're gonna win this."
For her second song, Sonenclar, in a purple ensemble and silver belt, sang the first verse of Rimes' "How Do I Live" as a solo, then introduced the singer who popularized it. The remainder of the song was performed as a duet.
Rimes raved about her duet with Sonenclar. "I love this girl so much," Rimes said. "She's such an amazing talent. I want to wrap her up and just hold her."
The only judge to speak after Sonenclar's second performance was Spears, who called it "shockingly" good.
For her third, and arguably best, performance of the night, Sonenclar wowed the crowd with a stirring, pitch-perfect rendition of Cohen's "Hallelujah." In an elegant white gown, she showcased poise, nuance and effortlessness on the song, which Rhinebeck native Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley helped popularize.
"That was a really angelic moment," Reid said. "The look was amazing. You showed so much restraint. You didn't oversing it, which I'm always a little concerned about. But you still managed to make it up to the famous Carly Rose note. Really great. Was it a $5 million winning performance? It's not up to me, it's up to America."
"Throughout this competition, your vocals have just impressed me so much," Lovato said. "You not only looked like an angel, but you sang like a ridiculously talented angel. I've enjoyed watching you throughout this competition."
"Carly, you looked great, sounded great," Cowell said. "I love that song, beautiful version. You've had a good night."
Spears appeared the most confident about Sonenclar's fate. "I feel like that song along is worth 5 million bucks," she said, "so you get out your checkbook, Simon."
In a taped segment that ran before her first performance, Sonenclar, her family and Spears reflected on the Mamaroneck teen's amazing run.
"Making it through to the finals was the most amazing feeling," Sonenclar said. "I want this so badly, because I've put so much of my heart and soul into it. I've wanted this ever since I could remember, ever since I started singing at 2 years old."
Her father, Bob Sonenclar, called his daughter a "quiet person [who] always had this very strong connection to music."
Her older brother, college student Russell Sonenclar, said he knew that she was going to be a star, "no question in my mind." And an old home video of Russell as a boy seemed to prove it, as he imitated Cowell — British accent and all — to praise his even younger sister's song.
Spears recalled the first time she saw Carly Rose on stage. "Hearing such a soulful voice come out of this little bitty person: It was just mindblowing," Spears said. "I feel like she's definitely come into her own. ... She was just this little girl, and now she's ready to become a huge pop star."
Hundreds of Sonenclar's biggest fans, many of them children, gathered Wednesday night in the Stepinac auditorium to cheer her every note. Two hours before the broadcast began on the East Coast, a DJ spun songs to welcome the fans as they poured into the auditorium. Many carried signs, some of which identfied their carriers as "Carly's Angels;" another declared Sonenclar "Queen Carly;" still others pleaded, "Vote for Carly."
Among the fans at Stepinac was Rachel Wurzburger, who, like Sonenclar, is a 13-year-old from Mamaroneck. She said she's been friends with Sonenclar since kindergarten. "We are all rooting for her," she said. "It's so crazy and we are all so proud."
Another one of Sonenclar's 13-year-old friends from Mamaroneck, Jessica Giordano, said she missed her friend. "I remember her singing [Bruno Mars'] 'Grenade' to me in the bathroom at school," she said. "Every time she sings, I get the chills."
"Carly's amazing," said Emily Russo, an 18-year-old Fordham University student from White Plains. "I wish I could do what she is doing, I've always wanted to sing, [but] never had the courage. She's inspiring."
White Plains resident Colleen Plunkett praised Sonenclar for her deeds as well as her performances. Attending the White Plains rally with her 8-year-old son, Ke, Colleen said Sonenclar visited him at an event for Starlight Children's Foundation, which helps children with serious illnesses.
"Carly's great," said Colleen, whose son held a sign that included a picture of him with Sonenclar during her visit. "She calls him, emails and sends videos."
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino was seen enjoying a Carly Cupcake made by ABC cakes in Mamaroneck.
"I used Chicago style and voted five times already," Astorino said. "We are really proud of Carly. She's the most popular person in Westchester, and that's including Hillary Clinton."
In a particularly meta moment, fans who gathered in White Plains got to see themselves (and their signs) on TV, thanks to the "X Factor" camera crews in Stepinac's auditorium.
After "Feeling Good," the show cut to Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum at Stepinac, where he told Sonenclar that the "friendly village, our great country and, for that matter, the rest of the world has come to know that your singing, [a] great talent, is truly a gift to the gods. And when you do sing, it goes straight to the heart and soul of everyone who's fortunate enough to hear you sing." He then formally declared Dec. 19, 2012 "Carly Rose Sonenclar Day."
For Sonenclar to win, she'll have to defeat country singer Tate Stevens and girl group Fifth Harmony. The winner, to be announced during tomorrow's two-hour finale, scores a $5 million recording contract.
The broadcast began on a somber note, with a moving tribute to the victims and families of Friday's shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn. In front of a hushed crowd, finalists dressed in white and sang Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" as the names of the victims were displayed on the backdrops.
Who will win the second season of "The X Factor?" Carly Rose Sonenclar? Tate Stevens? Fifth Harmony? Vote in Newsday Westchester's poll and leave your comments below.
With Amanda Koval
How will Carly Rose Sonenclar fare on the X Factor finale?