As “The X Factor” finally gets to its live rounds next week, the reality of its limited talent pool becomes clearer. Unlike previous years where there were several strong possibilities, this time out, it’s a bit thin.
Here’s a look at how the night played out:
GIRLS (Team Demi Lovato)
ELLONA SANTIAGO: Her weird, reggaeton-ish version of Britney Spears’ “Til the World Ends” would actually have been better if she danced less and concentrated more on her vocals. (It’s not like Brit sings and dances at the same time, right?)
DANIE GEIMER: Um, it isn’t so easy to sing Miley Cyrus, is it? Danie’s version of “Wrecking Ball” was closer to, well, a car wreck -- off-pitch, off-tempo, just off. No one called her on it, though, focusing on other issues. “The problem is: How do we make you not boring?” Cowell told her.
RION PAIGE: She started off shaky on Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper,” but pulled it together at the end with a mix of strong vocals and her winning personality. She landed good critiques from the judges, but the odd “X Factor” flash poll still had her trailing badly.
KHAYA COHEN: Her version of Duffy’s “Mercy” was OK, but Cowell told her that she needed to loosen up and break down the wall she has between her and the audience. That was kind of an understatement, because her performance, though technically good, seemed stilted.
DEMI CUT: Danie
SHOULD’VE CUT: Danie
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BOYS (Team Paulina Rubio)
JOSH LEVI: His take on Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World” was incredible weak, unable to hit the same notes as RiRi and sounding winded, though his moves were nothing like Ellona’s.
CARLOS GUEVARA: Slowing down Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” was a smart idea, but nerves got the best of Carlos, who struggled at the beginning to hold notes.
CARLITO OLIVERO: His charisma carried him through Santana’s “Maria, Maria,” even when his vocals weren’t exactly on point. The judges loved him. Simon said he was the one he would sign to his label.
TIM OLSTAD: He started Bon Jovi’s “Always” in what sounded like the wrong key, but once he got to the meat of the song, he did fine. However, both Simon and Demi questioned his likability.
PAULINA’S CUT: Josh
SHOULD’VE CUT: Josh
OVER 25s (Team Kelly Rowland)
LILLIE McCLOUD: Her power and control on Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was head (hair!?) and shoulders above anyone else on the show so far. Cowell says her theatrics make her seem dated, but Kelly Rowland brushed that off.
JEFF GUTT: He handled himself well during his take on Pink’s “Try,” but he made a couple of slips that held him back. Cowell bought the whole package, though, which was weird, especially after Lovato rightly called him on his final pose.
RACHEL POTTER: She started off shaky on Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and never really got it together until the very end. However, the judges loved it all. Is Simon Cowell getting soft?
JAMES KENNEY: It was a brilliant move to pick Daniel Merriweather’s “Red,” which he handled well and was able to introduce to the bulk of the audience. The warmth and power of his voice plays to his overall likability. His cut was awkwardly rushed and sad.
KELLY’S CUT: James
SHOULD’VE CUT: Rachel
GROUPS (Team Simon Cowell)
ROXXY MONTANA: Oh dear. Not only did they miss the point of Lorde’s “Royals,” but their vocals were dodgy throughout the short song. After his praise, it seems Cowell may be losing his hearing.
SWEET SUSPENSE: They were cute on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Cowell loved it, but they were disconcertingly out of breath on the not-taxing vocals.
ALEX & SIERRA: Here’s what’s wrong with this show. The delightful duo’s acoustic take on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was wonderfully sweet -- yet, they still got criticized by Kelly for not being sexy enough.
RESTLESS ROAD: The country version of Katy Perry’s “Roar” is pure Cowell brilliance, which not only worked as song, but as a showcase for the trio’s vocals and harmonies. It was the most sellable performance of the night and on “X Factor,” it’s all about the money, money, money.
SIMON CUT: RoxXy Montana
SHOULD’VE CUT: RoxXy Montana