The X Factor Top 6 Performance Recap: I Stand Here Waiting for You to Bang the Gong [Updated]

X-Factor-Alex-Sierra-Say-My-NameIt’s easy to make fun of The X Factor, what with Demi Lovato’s crocodile tears (and atrocious, “more prouder” grammar), Simon Cowell’s bloated sense of self-importance and especially future Emmy nominee for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Paulina Rubio’s patented brand of “does this chica have a concussion?” English. (Tonight’s “oily nose”/”you are you!” critique of Carlito Olivero was beautifully absurd, but still couldn’t top last week’s inability to tell her hot Latino contestant apart from wide-eyed 15-year-old Josh Levi.)

But then, an act like Alex & Sierra comes along, with a brand of vocal aptitude and brazen creativity that makes you think: “Hey, I might actually buy this duo’s music in the real world!” And just like that, the whole notion of watching La Cowell’s sputtering import for the sole purpose of aggressively snarky Tweeting feels a little bit hollow.

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Where there’s true talent, after all, there’s a show. And if I’m being honest — something the X Factor judges have forgotten how to do, at least based on their feedback for the sweet-but-sinking Rion Paige — I’m still invested in who wins this thing, whether they turn out to be the next One Direction or the successor to that nice road-construction dude in the cowboy hat who took home the Season 2 crown.

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With that in mind, let’s get to letter grades for tonight’s performances:

Jeff-Gutt-X-FactorDIVA SONGS
Restless Road: Taylor Swift’s “Red” — Grade: C- | No, no, no. You’re not supposed to let the one with the deep voice (AKA the one who can’t stay on pitch) have a solo verse — no matter much Simon tries to convince us it’s a formula that should help you sail to the finals.

Rion Paige: Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” — Grade: D+ | Oh, Rion, it breaks my heart a little hearing you say you fought back tears during last week’s results show because “I didn’t know if I’d stop [crying].” But maybe that just means you need to step away from the world of nationally televised singing competitions, take a little more time to grow up (you’re only 13, kiddo!) and learn to control that big instrument of yours. This performance, alas, had more sharps than a big-city needle-exchange program. (Yes, I know, I already regret that metaphor.)

Jeff Gutt: Badfinger/Mariah Carey’s “Without You” — Grade: B+ | Memo to Mario Lopez: Mariah Carey did not make “Without You” a classic; it was originally recorded by Badfinger, and was also a massive No. 1 hit for Harry Nilsson in 1972. And memo to Jeff, I know that you already knew the aforementioned info, so don’t try to pretend you meant it when you fretted that, “I’m a rock guy. I just need to find a way to do it and make it mine.” Le sigh. The bad news for Jeff is that his version ranks somewhere in the upper midpack of the dozens of versions of this song that I’ve heard. The good news is he hit just about every note, brought palpable passion and a nifty Ryan Tedder thunder-y arrangement. Plus, the “Beam Me Up, Scotty!” lighting was a nice touch. In other words, I kinda dug it.

Ellona Santiago: Lady Gaga’s “Applause” — Grade: C+ | Either my ears are designed at just the wrong angle to appreciate Ellona’s tone, or the judges were selling me Kool-Aid and pretending it was Dom Perignon. To me, Ellona not only lost control of her powerful vocals at both ends of her register, but she sounded utterly vacuous attempting to deliver lyrics like, “I’ve overheard your theory/Nostalgia is for geeks.” Plus, the black leather bustier and tiny fabric-sample skirt were way too sexpot for a cute 17-year-old kid. Come on, Demi, you should know better. (Oh, who am I kidding? Demi hasn’t got the slightest clue what’s happening with her acts nowadays!)

Alex & Sierra: Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” — Grade: A+ | It’s not easy upgrading Beyoncé, Kelly and those other two, but damn — Alex and Sierra’s sweet harmonies, verbal dexterity and playful humor made me feel like DC’s R&B warning to a cheating lover was born to be a duet! Sienna’s mini-scat breakdown, Alex’s gruff counterplay (and adorbs eyebrows) and the sparse arrangement (which put their vocals front and center) made this one of the best X Factor performances, well, ever! Is there any way these cats don’t win the whole bag of Friskies?

Carlito Olivero: Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” — Grade: B | Carlito was clearly aiming for “La Copa de la Vida” Part Dos, but — having been assigned the track by POW-POW only 24 hours earlier — he never quite reached such lofty territory. To his credit, the Season 3 recipient of Simon’s annual “You’re a Hard Worker” plaque hit the bulk of his notes — and in certain moments, displayed hints of real charisma — but ultimately this was more competent than it was compelling.

UNPLUGGED NUMBERS
Restless Road: Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” — Grade: B | Yeah, I still spied four (maybe six) background singers in the shadows, but the RR boys didn’t sound bad at all here, one of the few instances this season where they resembled a real life musical act. Sure, I couldn’t understand a word out of the deep-voiced one’s mouth, but improvement’s improvement, and I’m not gonna ding these fellas just because Demi fake-cried with joy.

Rion Paige: Thompson Square’s “Glass” — Grade: C+ | Ouch, Rion’s glory note missed the mark like me swinging the bat during my one season of Little League. The judges were super encouraging with their feedback, but methinks it was a parting gift before Thursday night’s inevitable ouster.

Jeff Gutt: Elton John’s “Daniel” — Grade: B | Jeff’s acoustic take on this plaintive ballad was made a little more emotional by the presence of his Nacy officer brother Daniel’s presence in the audience. Dude definitely has talent, but I couldn’t disagree with Demi’s complaint that the end product was like a bag of chips left open a few hours too long. Which is to say, a wee bit stale.

Ellona Santiago: Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy” — Grade: B- | I liked seeing Ellona dial back on the busy production-number stuff and focus purely on her vocals. I just wish she’d picked a slightly less ambitious ballad with which to showcase her skills. The opening verses were pitched a little too low for Ellona’s range, causing several hiccups in pitch, and that final melismatic run flopped harder than an elephant being pushed into a swimming pool. There were some pretty moments in the middle, though, even if I have to point out that Rachel Crow’s Season 1 rendition was superior.

Alex & Sierra: A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)’s “Say Something” — Grade: A | OK, so maybe this cover wasn’t didn’t deviate all that much from the original — which got trotted out to gorgeous effect last month on The Voice and the AMAs (read about the latter here). Nevertheless, the Florida duo completely captured the emotional drama of the lyrics, the plaintive flow of the melody — and pulled it off with a noticably trembling Sierra at the piano and the slightly more self-assured Alex on guitar, without a single botched note. Finally, a Standing O from the judges that seemed completely authentic.

Carlito Olivero: Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” — Grade: C- I’ve liked some of Carlito’s prior bilingual efforts, but he flip-flopped so rapidly here between Spanish and English that I could practically feel my head bobbing back and forth like I was at a tennis match. In other words, there was never enough space for the dude to relax into the performance and really bring home the message. His awful leather-sleeved blazer and the cheesy, mariachi-via-a-dentist’s-office instrumentation didn’t help much, nor will Paulina’s insane babblings, which included her screeching about Simon — “Every time I talk, he opens his nose!” Alrighty, then!

Should Go Home: Rion Paige, Restless Road
Will Go Home: Rion Paige, Jeff Gutt

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Top 6 performance night? Who were your faves? Who surprised you? Who will and should be at risk? Take our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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162 Comments
  1. Jim Welker says:

    Everone mentions that Ellona is a watered down version of Jessica Sanchez! But…..AT LEAST ELLONA DOESN’T STAND THERE LIKE A DEAD FISH! ELLONA IS AN ENTERTAINER WITH TERRIFIC STAGE PRESENCE! I LIKE JESSICA, BUT IN CONCERT, I WOULD RATHER WATCH ELLONA! SO MANY ELLONA HATERS! I PICKED HER TO WIN FROM DAY ONE AND I STILL BELIEVE SHE HAS A GOOD CHANCE! AS FAR AS A&S, I DON’T FEEL THEY ARE THAT GREAT! ON THE SECOND SONG, SIERRA DIDN’T SING SOLO! AS A PIANO PLAYER MYSELF, I CAN TELL YOU, SIERRA STANK! SHE GOT PRAISE FOR HER PLAYING….PLEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSSEEEEE! GIVE US A BREAK!

    • Mary says:

      All caps are probably not needed and I don’t think she ever claimed to be a great piano player. She might not have been an expert but she did do a good job playing, clearly she was nervous, but she far from stank. I like Elona but I do not think you have to put down other contestants to show your support for her. Just a thought.

    • Lokie says:

      You must not have see any of Sanchez’s new performances post-idol.
      There’s a huge difference in staging on American Idol and Xfactor.

  2. Jim Welker says:

    I can’t imagine that goofy looking Jeff Gutt winning this thing! He’s a whiner, always saying something to get votes! A&S are too cutesy for my taste, their singing to me is a little weak! I feel they are overrated….A’s all the time is ridiculous!

    • John Anthony says:

      The bottom two tonight will be Rion and Carlito leaving a coin toss the rest of the way. That’s what happens when all the talent is average at best. Simon can promote his acts and his record label can keep them in the public eye long enough to have some success especially early on. I agree with you that Alex and Sierra are weak vocalists and in time will fade from the public eye but I do think they will win. I must admit that The X-Factor finalists are much better than the group The Voice is trying to promote as future stars. If the two shows were put together right now all the performers on The Voice would be on the bottom for sure. The winners from these two shows will join the long and growing list of average talent the past ten years have given us. There have been bright spots like Carrie Underwood, Susan Boyle, Kelly Clarkson, Aliki, and Jackie Evanco. I’ll keep watching these shows because sooner or later another star will come along. Unforunately, not this go around! Still entertaining!

      • HTGR says:

        All six of the XF contestants would be above all six on The Voice???????????????
        .
        ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

        • John Anthony says:

          I will reconsider the order on both shows once next week runs it’s course but I would like to see your order if you put the two groups together. Rion and Carlito may slip amidst the final group on The Voice but that’s it. Keep in mind that The Voice is my favorite show so I really don’t like being so negative regarding the show. Like I said before. maybe The Voice should hold open auditions and let the talent come to them.

          • Lokie says:

            They actually did this season from what I hear. If I’m mistaken, Matthew Schuler said he was a complete walk in or something pretty close to that.

  3. jess says:

    The Finalist:
    Ellona, Alex and Sierra, Jeff Gut

    1. Alex and Sierra nice combination with good harmony and vocals. But I am tired of their flirting ways on the stage act that they are the most loving and caring boy and girl friend in this world. Their eye contact obviously inspired everyone and win the hearts of america. But it is really pure and sincere?, that is remain to be a big ? This is probably an act to win our vote. The very first time people will love to listen to their songs and after a while it will be boring. For young people they will never be the fan favorite to rush in a concert,

    2. Jeff Gut a nice father and with strong vocals of his own signature. He is good, very hardworking with warm heart and compassion. There is no sign of fake personality on him. I loved when he dedicate his song to his brother because it is appropriate even though that it may cost him on this competition. But he will be on the market and will be succesful

    3. Ellona Santiago, a young 17 years old, with strong vocals, beauty, with stage presence that can dance and act. She is a complete package. She is definitely a promising pop star that young generation will buy her records and pluck and rush in her concert and appearances.

    The winner is Ellona Santiago. X factor is a business. and to invest their money she is the gold that will make a huge return of their investment. She is very versatile and accomplished that versatility with high score. America will love her on the entertainment Industry.

  4. Jim Welker says:

    Someone finally agrees with me that Ellona will win! Been saying that in different posts since her “WINGS” performance! Asians rarely make it in the biz but Ellona has that spark and such energy, she might break through! She is great…VERY ENTERTAINING! Seems she gets vashed a lot but she’s showing everyone! She is so fearless! Plus she never complains and gas such a positive attitude!

  5. Jim Welker says:

    Meant BASHED not vashed in my last comment! The 2 that should go are Rion and RR! BUT, RR is mentored by Simon and we all know they are not leaving, due to Simon’s rigged voting! I believe they should go, but I suspect that Rion and Carlito will exit! Jeff Gutt is a maybe to leave with Rion! Rion should DEFINATELY GO!

    • Lokie says:

      I can see Jeff being instant voted off.
      Not that he deserves it. But because this show’s voting tendencies are reflected in their youtube views for each performance.
      Not the same as the Voice…if only though.

  6. Jim Welker says:

    And I meant HAS such a positive attitude! I said gased instead of HAS! I HATE TYPOS! This was 2 comments ago!

  7. Jim Welker says:

    Keep typing wrong…has not gas! Anyway Ellona can win! GO ELONA!

  8. kels.asklund@gmail.com says:

    I don’t like A&S at all i find them boring. RR Rion and Jeff are my favorites.

  9. Jim Welker says:

    I’m watching yesterdays show over and you know, A&S are actually a little weak, their voices Getting A’s week after week is a little ridiculous! They are so overrated! And again, Sierra’s piano playing was so so! Their voices are average and even if they do have a little chemistry, this does not transform them to an A rating! Their looking at each other all the time grows stale! Let them try out for a soap opera!

  10. Jim Welker says:

    Ellonas gone…just found out! That is ridiculous! First time ever for me to pick a very early contestant on any talent show and not make top 3…..EVER! I’VE SAID ON MANY POSTS THE VOTING IS RIGGED! I LISTED VALID REASONS! I’LL MISS HER ENERGY AND SPARKLING PERSONALITY! WE ARE STUCK WITH THESE CONTESTANTS WHO WHINE AND ARE FAR LESS TALENTED! OH WELL….CAN’T WINNEMALL!

  11. Jim Welker says:

    AND LOWEST AMOUNT OF VOTES TO BOOT….THATS LUDICROUS! RION, RR AND CARLITO GOT MORE VOTES! IF ANY OF YOU BELIEVE THIS…..SHAME ON YA”!!!!!!!!

  12. Beth says:

    Are you kidding me? Reason for keeping someone is because they ‘feel’ it would be his last chance? Well…they’re probably right. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought they were suppose to vote for the one that gave the best performance. So sick of hearing ‘underdog that had to fight his way from the bottom’ just to get pity votes. Grow up, most everyone has to fight for what they have.
    XFactor is a joke. They just lost 2 faithful viewers that have watched since the first year they were on. Rion SHOULD NOT have been sent home!

  13. John Anthony says:

    Just read Rolling Stone’s critic of the X-Factor final six after tonight’s elimination of Santiago and Page. They are right that there is no talent on this show this season worthy of a place in the music world. Carlito has been in a professional band for several years and Lillie was also a professional. Both never made it because they are average at best. Gutt and Santiago lost in past seasons altho Santiago was in a group. Restless Road is yet another put together group by Simon at the last minute because they failed again to find some real groups for the show. Simon keeps putting groups together then pushes them off on his own record label when no other record label would take them due to lack of talent. Like Rolling Stone is quoted tonight, you might as well vote for Alex and Sierra because they are the last act standing!!!

  14. Jon says:

    Wow. Picking my 3rd favorite performance was extremely hard. Because everybody aside from Alex and Sierra sucked.

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