One of the Top 8 acts leaves her mentor's wishes in the dust; Britney Spears and Rickroll us in their own way
X Factor
Credit: Fox
Simon Cowell, American Idol

Welcome back to The X Factor, starring “L.A. REID!” ……plus, “L.A. REID!” — the tiny seated dancer so important Mario Lopez felt the need to roll call twice. Speaking of Mario, is anyone else becoming more and more amused that Mario feels compelled to announce whenever he is even slightly turned on? Tonight’s slime targets were Paige Thomas (” It was groovy — you slowed it down and it was working, girl”) and Britney Spears (“I can see people bumpin’ in the club right now,” complete with an A.C. Slater-like crotch thrust). All I’m saying is I didn’t loathe him tonight.

Khloe Kardashian is still in the black pleather doghouse with strings of beads instead of doors and windows (a.k.a. all of her show-night dresses), though, this time for her absurd emphasis on every other word. Did you know that tonight’s results show will feature MULTI-Grammy AWARD-winning GODDESS Alicia KEYS? Jeez, Khlomeister. You’re not drumming here. You have not got the beat. Give that a rest!

This week 13-year-old Diamond White decided to quit it with the dirge-like ballads and give another Whitney Houston classic — “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” — a shot. This was your typical overblown X Factor kitchen sink production, with a three-tiered giant Gem Cart to wheel Diamond and her backup dancers around, plus 5,000 balloons, seizure-inducing graphics, the whole bit. But I was into it! Diamond really did carry out the suggestion Coach Britney had recited to her during their mentoring session — look like you’re having fun onstage. That’s very easy for her to do and her delighted “Yeahhhh!” following the final note didn’t lie. Diamond’s good at acting flirty mid-song without trying to be sexy (I liked the sly shrug on the first “I wanna dance”), and her “I thought it was awesome, what’d you guys think?” to the crowd came off as adorably enthusiastic instead of obnoxious. If anyone bothers to remember her performance way back at the start of the show, I think she’ll be safe.

In Superlame Mario World, the 2000s are “The Ohs.” Is that a thing? Huh.

All I want to do is tell Vino Alan “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and call it a paragraph, but I suppose that’d be unfair. Coach L.A. Reid — suddenly a participant behind the scenes this week — had vetoed Vino’s original song choice “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” at the last minute. L.A. just hadn’t experienced any goosebumps. He may as well have been crippled.

You could tell Vino wasn’t too jazzed about the switch because he didn’t even bother to wear a hat. His constant hunching over and the switching of the mic from hand to hand was irksome, plus his clashing t-shirt and suit (black/navy? dark blue/forest green? t-shirt/suit?) annoyed the hell of out me for some reason. Simon didn’t like “the weird reggae version of the song” and admitted that halfway through, he’d thought simply, “This has to end.” This would have been exactly my critique. Vino can still sing well, of course, but everything just seemed off. L.A. said Vino was “good,” admitted this performance was “not his best,” and then decided he “still killed it.”

NEXT: Paige Thomas is gonna sex you up Paige Thomas took a big risk by defying the wishes of her coach Demi Lovato, who wanted her to lose the crazy dresses and all the dancers and deliver a stripped-down, vulnerable performance. She wanted her to be nude! But they ended up compromising and Paige wore a white tank top, black leather jacket, and roughly 60 percent of a pair of light jeans to drawl a slow rendition of “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Paige’s version of Rickrolling us involved her seducing a smoke-surrounded ladder, grinding up against a pole on a stark metal platform, then finally joining Her People (a whole slew of backup dancers) for the last third of the song.

Dare I say this was her best performance yet? Obviously hers isn’t the greatest voice in the competition, but she’s a good little actress and I like that Paige has a vision for herself as a “total package artist” — don’t hate the player, right? — and isn’t afraid to just blatantly go the sex route. The way Paige slipped one hand into her pocket while sauntering over to the next stop on her obstacle course was almost as sensual as L.A.’s “I just sniffed something” reaction to her glory note re: not doing it for any other guy.

Simon kept interrupting Demi re: her failure to coach, and I don’t feel it’s worth transcribing, but just know that they’re “fighting” this week.

The death of little Ally’s grandpa took over Fifth Harmony‘s segment to the point where I’m not sure it mattered what they sang. I was in tears throughout their rehearsal package from the footage of Ally telling her grandparents about The X Factor, then receiving the doom call and being consoled by her four new soul sisters. God, they are good together. I’m talking about just as people — you couldn’t cast a better group of girls to interact with each other not in song. I dig all the shoulder squeezes and hand-holding and love bugging that’s going on.

I don’t know if I’m quite as convinced about them as a girl group onstage, but maybe that’s because “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” suffered from too little movement by the humans and WAY too much movement by the giant animations of the girls posing sexily in front of threatening flames. I agreed with L.A. (the horror!) that it made no sense to have the girls sing in unison. But I do have to hand it to Lauren for soloing most of the song, front and center. She sounded, and they all looked, amazing.

NEXT: A beautiful L.A. Reid/Tate Stevens hand-eye coordination snafu I had pretty much the opposite reaction to Carly Rose Sonenclar‘s segment — everything that happened before the song itself was so scripted, flat, and blah that I wanted to smush a cupcake into her face (on behalf of her brother). But as soon as “Rolling in the Deep” started, Carly had finally drawn me in. Her voice is so pitch-perfect and I was genuinely interested to hear where she would take each note.

I would have even been fine had Carly remained seated on the little candlelit staircase the whole time. I remember liking Haley Reinhart’s “Rolling in the Deep” cover so much because she never attempted to out-power Adele. Carly could have gone that route too and still “made it her own” with inventive melisma and what have you.

She’s so practiced and perfected that it is a little alarming, though — Carly truly is an alien with no edge. There’s no gamble with Carly. She’ll easily maintain top-two positioning this week along with…..

Tate Stevens! “LET’S HAVE SOME FUN!” screamed Tate’s mentor L.A. Reid, clearly ready for fun in his 100% Pure Fun light green sweater. With no need to fear a huge drop-down in the rankings, Tate tried out something more upbeat: Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You.” Tate’s devastating second-place finish last week seemed to have lit a fire in him — he was bopping around all over the place, dancing in front of a drum with his name on it, sidling up to a guitar player who looked like Vino Alan (in the face), and experimenting with a sassy finger wave. All impressive stuff from Tate.

Of course Demi and Simon had to ruin Tate’s moment with an eye-rolly tiff about whether Simon would ever get married. (Demi whined that she hoped her phantom future husband would love her as much as Tate loves his wife; Simon called that a “tall order,” and actually I just can’t anymore.)

I’m excited to report, in the name of FUN, that my favorite moment of the episode was this botched confirmation of bro-dom between L.A. Reid and Tate Stevens.

Upon repeat playbacks, it seems as though Tate was headed in for a chest-level hand-swat to complete the high-five trifecta, but L.A. had already moved onto to an unprecedented SALUTE. Absolute mayhem!

NEXT: Bejeweled Leopard Face continues to dig her own grave “I gave 110% last week and you guys STILL put me in the bottom two.” CeCe Frey bitched to every viewer who will definitely not vote for her this week either. I’m sure many people were amused by the Victorian Cotton Candyland art installation she offered, but the desperation embedded into everything CeCe does at this point, combined with her general acidity, left me unable to approve.

I did appreciate the reminder that in this lifetime, I will never get over the absurdity of the lyrics to “Lady Marmalade.” It was like The X Factor had dipped a Katy Perry concert in bleach, wrung it out, electrocuted it, then said “Go on, sing now.” The upskirt shot of CeCe’s somewhat listless “Oh, ah” with that sad garter on one leg and awkwardly lacy socks was particularly brutal. “You’ve definitely stepped it up a notch,” said Britney.

Emblem3 had me in stitches as they pretended they were shopping for socks and underwear (ewww) at a “little shopping center” when in actuality they were conspicuously roaming around the freaking Grove — the McDonald’s Playland of tourists waiting to get into The X Factor or Dancing With the Stars — with a giant camera crew! Of course they were mobbed by “fans,” a.k.a. women with smartphones and a universal desire to brag about proximity to semi-fame via social media. (Aren’t I a delight right now? Invite me to your holiday parties!) I wouldn’t be surprised if Mario Lopez had announced Emblem3’s arrival in the middle of shooting Extra 50 feet away. Seriously. You guys. Come on.

As Emblem3 blipped around singing “I’m a Believer,” Demi looked forlorn and Britney looked in every other direction except towards the stage. I’m sure the guys sounded fine, but I couldn’t help focusing on the five or so skunks behind them, thrashing wildly in sexual approval of the possible musical performance going on at the same time. America seemed to be a theme here, too, with all the red, white and blue stars. Anyway, L.A. completely overdid it as usual and pronounced that if he were the chairman of a major record label (which he is) and they were a desperado boy band in search of a big break (presto!) he would sign them immediately. Demi complained that this weird song choice marked just more of the same from the trio, to which they couldn’t help but mention barely cryptic hints at the future, like “We have a record and it’s coming” and “Working on the timing.” They can play instruments, too, they swear. This is all very odd. It’s almost like The X Factor is orchestrating something. But that couldn’t be the case, right?

Right! All is as it should be on the red planet (except for Beatrice’s absence).

Oh, I almost forgot — we got the exclusive world preview of demonstrating the all-new butterfly version of Rock Band:

I liked the part of “Scream and Shout” when his head doubled as a flaming disco ball planet, and the part where Britney’s auto-tuner went overboard with the generic “European robot” accent (“All. Eyes. On. Us.) That’s Britney, bitch. All cultured and s—.

Which two acts go home tonight? 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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