The 'X Factor' 4-chair challenge needs more cutthroat judges

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x-factor-season-3-four-chair-challenge.jpgWe've narrowed it down to the Top 40 on "The X Factor." Now they will each perform for the judges in the four-chair challenge, which is where the mentors will systematically narrow their 10 acts down to four.

The way it works is each mentor has four chairs to fill and they fill them as they go along, but once they are full, in order to add another act, they must eliminate one. It's not like this is anything new on a singing competition show (narrowing from a few dozen to a pseudo-Top 10) but this format should prove quite dramatic.

To recap the categories, Kelly Rowland has over 25s, Paulina Rubio has boys, Demi Lovato has girls and Simon Cowell has groups.

victoria-carriger-x-factor-challenge.jpg The Over 25s

Victoria Carriger is up first, she's the separated mom of eight children. She sings "To Make You Feel My Love" with a very coffeehouse-y vibe. She definitely has a Juliana Hatfield-Cyndi Lauper thing going on, we're fans. Rowland is a fan too, Victoria gets a chair.

Just to interject -- we wonder if anyone will be cut right away from the first four? Because they could all get a chair before anyone has to be eliminated.

Kristine Mirelle is next, wearing some high-waisted jeans that we are not fans of at all. But anyway, she sings "Oops I Did It Again" with an R&B thing going on. She has an interesting voice, but this song is in a weird not-slow-but-not-fast place and she goes off-key a couple times. We would not actually give her a chair, but Kelly does. Bah. That's a cop-out. We bet once the chairs are full, Kristine is the first one removed ( edited to add: until we saw Rachel Potter).

The first older male is Jeff Gutt, who sings a rocker version of "Amazing Grace." Oh, now that is pandering. But he has a nice tone, there are flashes of Steven Tyler and Bob Seger in there. He gets through to a chair, but so far that's proving so boring. Nobody's getting cut, so this means nothing yet.

Rachel Potter takes the stage next with "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce, which is A) a ballsy choice to sing to Kelly Rowland, B) not a good country song and C) off-key more than it's on. Wow. This girl had such a great voice in past performances and this is awful. SO BAD. No chair for you! But then she gets a chair. Ughhhh, Kelly. Have some gumption, girlfriend.

Oh well, the competition starts now. Rowland's been saying things like, "You're in my final four" and "I'm gonna give you a chance," but she's not, actually. She has to start cutting people and we think Kristine and Rachel are the first to go.

Next up is the football-playing Lorie Moore with "I'll Make Love To You." Huh. That's ... a really weird song choice. She biffs a couple low notes, though her runs are lovely. The key change gets a little strange, though at least it breaks up the ennui of the song. We aren't actually sure she'll take a chair away from someone. At this point, Rachel, Lorie and Kristine are all kind of even.

In a display that kind of rubs us the wrong way, Lorie gives a rousing pep talk about hard work, which riles up the crowd into a frenzy. It apparently works on Kelly, because she replaces Kristine with Lorie. So we were actually right about who would get replaced first.

In another horrible song choice, Allison Davis performs "Tik Tok" by Kedollarsignha. She actually gets boos. Yeah, is this the best "X Factor" can do for a Top 40? Because seriously. Oh! But then the song goes into "Push It" by Salt n Pepa. Wow. Kelly's eyebrow raise tells you all you need to know, Allison does not get a chair.

So that's how bad you have to be for Kelly to cut you, apparently.

Jeff Brinkman is next on "Without You." He has a nice voice and thankfully the song kicks up, because he was a little boring at first. But he's solid and should get a chair. We predict Rachel or Lorie are out. But no! Victoria Carriger is cut! Oh, that is a huge shame. She was SO much stronger than Lorie or Rachel, wow.

You can hear Cowell say, "I wouldn't have done that." Yeah, that was the wrong choice, Rowland.

Denny Smith, a.k.a. Santa Claus, is next. He sings "The Midnight Hour" and ... is this a joke? I thought we were past joke auditions at this point. Ugh, next.

With "Lean on Me," James Kenney is next. He's actually not on pitch at parts, but the judges don't seem to be able to always hear that. It must sound better in person. Also, not down with the ending, he sounds like he's passing a stone. Very strained. But the judges go bonkers over it and he takes Jeff Brinkman's spot in the four chairs.

These shots of the family members rending their garments and gnashing their teeth are kind of uncomfortable, stop that.

lillie-mccloud-x-factor-challenge.jpgThe last act is Lillie McCloud on "A House is Not a Home" and of course she's through because she's spectacular. We think she should take Lorie's spot and then she does. Yeah, that's fair. Rachel is riding through on the fact that she's country (and no one else really is) and she's had some very solid previous performances.

So the over 25s are James Kenney, Jeff Gutt, Lillie McCloud and Rachel Potter. Maybe it's just Kelly Rowland being too nice, but the four-chair challenge has been really disappointing so far.

The Girls

Now with 20 minutes left, we kick off the Girls with Bree Randall on "Glad You Came," which is way too low for her in parts and then also way too high for her to belt in parts. This is like bad karaoke, you guys. But since there are four open chairs, of course she gets one.

Khaya Cohen
is up next on "Locked Out of Heaven," which is a cool song choice for her quirky voice, though the tempo could be picked up a touch. But she's one of the best performances so far tonight. Khaya definitely gets a chair. She would even if there weren't three empty ones.

Now there is Jamie Pineda on "Don't Speak" with a gorgeous voice. Smart song choice -- a slow part to show off her pipes and a fast part to show off some personality. She needs to work on that second part, but she's pretty solid.

The last act tonight is Ashly Williams, so predictably Demi will have all four chairs filled before tomorrow' dramatic conclusion! But anyway, Ashly doesn't do that great of a job on  "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." Cowell is the only judge who tells it to her straight.

Honestly, Khaya is the only girl so far we're really impressed with. We aren't sure any of the others survive the final six performances.

What did you think of the four-chair challenge, "X Factor" fans?
Photo/Video credit: FOX