The top six acts compete for four spots in next week's semifinals
X Factor
Credit: Fox
Simon Cowell, American Idol

I love how after they run all the little clips at the end of The X Factor‘s performance show, there’s this really gross “I give up” sound explosion — super off-key and dramatic, as if the viewership itself has just gurgled out its commentary on what it has recently digested. It’s just so appropriate on so many levels!

This week we get to enjoy another DOUBLE ELIMINATION, because the show started with too many turkeys and now nothing can slow down the breakneck speed of televised dream-crushing — not even Turkey Day itself. Each of the Top 6 Acts performed twice — one “Unplugged” number and then something about Pepsi — I think; they barely mentioned it! — wherein the Actual Fans voted online to make song choice, costuming, staging, etc. decisions for the contestants.

“America can’t be wrong!” twinkled Mario Lopez, and sometimes I have to wonder if he has any idea what words mean, and any idea as to why those words, in that order, are 100% Pure Absurdity.

But let’s get to the sing-ging” (–L.A. Reid)!

CeCe Frey is “the last of the young adults,” which is just one of the fun ways The X Factor manages to often present itself in the style of a post-apocalyptic horror film. After going on a headphones date on a footbridge with Wes from Emblem3, CeCe had all the confidence she needed to take on Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” for her “unplugged” round. I’ll admit CeCe very prettily hit some of the crucial high notes on this one, but she also wavered on so many others, and that’s just not something you wanna hear. I find myself rooting for her mid-song, only to regret it moments later. Was anyone else really annoyed by the way she sang the word “truth” as if it was “troath”?

CeCe’s cover of Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” was not as ludicrously staged as her Lady Marmalade sparklebarf, but the intention was there. I enjoyed the giant circle of “CECE” lights to suggest a HUGE VANITY MIRROR. But basically Leopard Face (you wanted those atrocious spots back, bitches!) was screeching the whole time and it was awful — like, SNL parody awful. Worse. But CeCe does have a certain je ne sais kitchy kitchy ya ya da da when she’s onstage. I’d almost call it compelling, if the vocals weren’t such a mess. Britney picked up on that. “You always do look like you’re having fun onstage.”

I have pretty much had it with skate bros Emblem3, who sat on stools all pensive and One Direction-style for “Just the Way You Are” after this incredibly long-winded segment about how they didn’t need to bounce around the stage to get votes…but then they were practicing with choreographer Brian Friedman anyway (for the second song, I guess), and does anyone really care? Big news that may have been obvious to you before: The tall blonde one who prefers bare arms and no shirts cannot really sing. Who knew? Nobody. His name is Drew. At least I know that. From Google. Oh, and he played guitar here, but to zero effect. I guess he’s not a multitasker. Demi’s critique was priceless here. First she claimed “You guys did great,” followed by “It wasn’t the best.” Wait, but how not-best was it exactly? “It’s like a downgraded version of the Jonas Brothers five years ago.” YES. YES. YES. I don’t care that someone probably wrote that for her (maybe even Simon). That’s funny and true. Next.

NEXT: Ugh, wait, still Emblem3The viewers had spoken and they wanted “Forever Young” from Emblem3, caught in a digital blue sandstorm with the middle one wearing a baseball cap that said “hi.” Oh hello, Wes. I know your name too. All three of these guys looooooove to find the camera and make sure they’re gazing straight into it dreamily, but especially Wes. This song was such a snoozer, honestly. I got so bored. I’M TURNING INTO DEMI LOVATO. “You’ve been really, really good tonight,” said Simon. “Emblem3 have landed.” Whoa, s—, are they aliens like Carly?

Hell to the no they aren’t! Once again Carly Rose Sonenclar proved herself to exist in an otherworldly class set apart from the rest of the contestants/humans. She has taken on Beatrice Miller’s former role as “angsty adolescent from the 1990s” and sang flawlessly on a stripped-down rendition of Justin Bieber’s very upbeat “As Long As You Love Me.” I can’t find anything to criticize so I will be shallow and say I preferred Carly’s rehearsal outfit with the patterned fishnets and jaunty hat to her mopey performance outfit and old lady earrings.

Uh oh. Billowing purple smoke. Is magic coming, a la Once Upon a Time? Yes! Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” is extremely difficult to sing, not that I’ve tried it (ahem) but I’ve certainly watched a bunch of caterwauling on reality TV that barely resembled B’s winding original tune. There was one time when Carly had been copping her typical Serious Carly Struggle face for 20 or so seconds and all the angst was about to explode, and then I could have sworn she sang “I’ll be your goat.” I’m sure she didn’t. The judges have nothing to say to her anymore really, but Demi did manage to sneak in an “I do wanna hear something uptempo.” Simon quickly countered: “Don’t listen to a single word of advice this one has said.” Nice. Isn’t he the one who hired her in the first place?

I was cringing heavily throughout Fifth Harmony‘s rehearsal package as villainous vocal coach Autumn, and then Simon himself, made a point to single out Normani for a lack of confidence. Girl does seem terrified, but maybe it’s because they’re creating plots for her and she has to follow them. Lauren stood and sang front and center on the group’s “Set Fire to the Rain” cover, and I’m really loving her but I think Camila and even Dinah Jane were able to take on Adele a bit better. The group continued to receive criticism for not harmonizing very much at all, and Demi even said “there’s a couple of you that should just be solo artists.” Well duh, weirdo — that’s what they were trying to be from the start. Stop doing what we told you to do! Take it back! Reverse the passing of time!

“They should have called you Fifth Unison,” quipped L.A. Reid, and I feel like the show should have taken an extra commercial break at this point just so he could have been booed anew for that “joke.”

The girls performed what Simon called “annoyingly, a song by Demi Lovato” — “Give Your Heart a Break,” which lent itself well to Lauren’s sparkly pop diva sensibilities as well as the general vibe I think this group should probably be aiming for in the real world. Demi graciously lied that she thought they’d sung it better than her. Simon nonchalanted “Thank you, Cruella” and went on to spin-doctor his group by rambling about girl power and how the show wouldn’t be the same without them next week. It’s like he really cares! You go, girls. (Not home.)

NEXT: Diamond, you’re in a diamond, Diamond! Britney Spears, looking hot in a netted black top while nestled in a cloud of oblivion, shared a heart-to-heart with her charge Diamond White about toning it down onstage and letting her voice sing for itself. I know the judges all complained that Diamond had already performed “It’s a Man’s World (But It’s Really Her World)” (Britney’s last-minute title change) during auditions, but I barely remembered that and doesn’t everything change anyway once all the hyper-production and elaborate staging is ushered in? I felt like Diamond was in a serious zone at the end of this (dare I say sexy? she’s 13!) rendition — she delivered some on-point wailing and angrily threw down the mic stand. She’s a good little actress!

For her cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” Diamond White descended from the rafters in a giant diamond structure. Mario Lopez didn’t think The X Factor‘s viewership would pick up on this subtle metaphor and had to go ahead and announce that it was the viewers who had chosen “Diamond in a diamond, which I think is pretty clever.” Are we sure he’s not the alien in the room? I’m just saying maybe they should check. Anyway, this was a case of staging trumping the intrigue of the performance, but I still thought Diamond did better than Emblem3 and CeCe by miles and miles of cobble-gemmed sky-streets.

“Being the last of the old guys is tough,” said rapidly aging Tenderheart Bear Tate Stevens, so he and Coach L.A. went to sip on fancy conical glasses of beer in some tragic hotel lobby. They talked about normal stuff, like being of legal drinking age, and Tate losing his hometown job for good, and how Tate needs to make sure his wife “understands that this is your destiny.” Ugh, L.A. Should Tate get voted out tonight, that guy will not remember Tate’s name by Friday. You know it’s true. L.A. chose Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” for the country dude possibly named Tate, and Tate disappointingly opted out of all the high notes in the chorus. It was almost like sabotage, it was such a letdown.

Dripping with condescension, L.A. introduced Tate the second time as “the guy that America looooooooooves to vote forrrrrrrrrr……” Was this his way of begging them not to? (Why am I so anti-L.A. this season? I just am! Because he’s the biggest faker baker out there, even though Simon Cowell is sitting RIGHT THERE!) Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes” fit right into Tate’s wheelhouse, so this was a great one for him to close the show with. I like him so much better when he’s performing the types of songs that come naturally to him. I even became somewhat mesmerized by the dramatic white stitching on Tate’s black western shirt; it suggested an angry but very attractive eagle. Or maybe a lion? Possibly two Olympic torches, flanking his chest. Whatever, I was into it.

Which two of the six acts go home tonight? Is Demi annoying or is the she only judge with a brain at this point? Discuss!

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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