'X Factor' Top 8: Alex & Sierra and Josh Levi strong on Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars
1. Rion Paige, "Swingin'," LeAnn Rimes
Well, if they aren't making them perform actual "big band" music, just in front of a big band, that's very different than what I was envisioning. That might work out for most of them.
Anyway, vocally, this isn't showing off Paige's voice as much as the slower songs, but that's not really what this is about. This is designed to show off her personality and she's certainly handling the hard lyrics really well.
I had started wondering if they were ever going to get her a headset mic so she could work the stage instead of always just sitting there and kudos to her for not being scared to do that. The exertion got her a bit out of breath at the end, but honestly, overall this was really solid for her. Kudos to Rion.
2. Restless Road, "Life is a Highway," Tom Cochrane (though this is the Rascal Flatts version)
So, the solos start out really, really weak for these guys. The lead is normally a lot stronger than this. He's trying so hard to be Gary Vox and he does not have those kind of chops. Also, the tall bass guy could not look more awkward. The other two are totally into this and he's acting like he just got his body yesterday. This is kind of a hot mess. Honestly, the cute one, the one on the right is so much better than the other two. It's a shame he wasn't brought into the competition as a soloist.
The judges are full of nothing but praise -- what?! Are they deaf?! That was awful. Awful.
3. Jeff Gutt, "Feelin' Good," Nina Simone
This is terrific. Perfect choice to show off a different side of what he can do, plus a good bounce back from not quite being able to handle Freddie Mercury last week. He's showing off a nice range of dynamics and his clear tone, while still throwing in just a couple rock touches to gruff it up a little. Outstanding.
He even gets a standing ovation from Simon, so that tells you all you need to know right there. Kelly Rowland is working with two of the best voices in the competition.
4. Josh Levi, "Treasure," Bruno Mars
I've been wondering if he was going to tackle any Bruno Mars during the live shows. I'd actually love to hear him on "Runaway Baby," but this is cute. He's showing off his adorable personality and sounds so mature while still seeming young and hip. This is one of Josh's best performances of the competition.
5. Carlito Olivero, "The Cup of Life," Ricky Martin
Well, if you close your eyes, this sounds really nice. If you watch, however, it's something from a Carnival Cruise, between the women dancing around and Carlito shaking his hips at us. Hmm. Also, hilariously, when he first started, the women were on chairs with the feathers covering them and my mom goes, "Is that dancing broccoli?" Which would have been AMAZING.
This is definitely good enough of a vocal to keep him around, but the staging and dancing, while fun, is a little much. Maybe if the dancers looked less like showgirls? But I do agree with the judges that he clearly was having a blast and that's great.
6. Alex & Sierra, "I Knew You Were Trouble," Taylor Swift
This is the best they've done since the "Toxic" cover. I am 1000 percent in love with this arrangement, it's such a clever thing to do for big band week. Absolutely love it. I can see how these two aren't for everyone, but I adore them and their sound.
7. Lillie McCloud, "Summertime," "Porgy and Bess"
I was hoping for some "Stormy Weather" and I'm not in love with the affectations she's putting on her pronunciation, but she's still one of the best vocalists left -- the really low stuff is beautiful. This isn't my favorite Lillie performance, to be honest, and I thought she'd really own this theme. But there's no reason she should go home.
8. Ellona Santiago, "Mama Knows Best," Jessie J
This is showing off Ellona's voice more than either of her past two performances have, but there's a lot of shouting and stomping. She seems overly angry and she's not using any dynamics. It's like she's at 11 and is just going to stay there, plus the staging is very cruise shippy again. She and Carlito could put on a double act. Still, this is certainly enough to keep her.
At this point, Restless Road is the obvious weak link. They were a mess and everybody else was in a range from solid to outstanding. There is no reason any other act should leave.
The Big Face-Off
Michael Buble is a terrific mentor, really rolling up his sleeves and helping them figure out their individual parts, since each act only gets a few lines apiece.
When the song, "Cry Me a River," starts, it appears to be Jeff vs. Carlito and they both sound good. Then it's Rion vs. Restless Road and RR actually beats Rion. Alex & Sierra face off with Ellona and both are good, then it's Lillie and Josh to wrap things up and they are both solid as well. I'm not sure this helped or hurt anybody. I don't think her poor two lines here are going to send Rion Paige home, just as I don't think Restless Road redeemed their hot mess from earlier.
This entire exercise was just a time-filler and Restless Road should be heading home -- and maybe Rion Paige, she's a little out of her league, vocally. But I suspect the voters will keep them both around, so unfortunately, somebody else is heading home. And I'm not sure who it'll be, honestly.
What do you think, "X Factor" fans?