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—>Based on “The X Factor USA” show on Wednesday, 12/06/13

On Wednesday night the X Factor was down to the Final 6 and this show was the Final 6 Showdown.  Each act would perform twice during the two hours.  Here’s how it went:

Round 1

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First up – Restless Road sings “Red” by Taylor Swift

As they have during much of the competition, they sang harmonies well, but didn’t take the opportunity to show off their voices with solos, something Demi Lovato pointed out afterwards.  For me, it was much of the same and they simply didn’t stand out and grab my attention.  The beginning of the song went seamlessly to the first chorus virtually unchanged – just harmonies.  When they got into the second portion of the song, the first solo was by Andrew Scholz, whose voice is “nice”, but not spectacular in any way.  Following his lead was Zach Beeken, the tall young man with the deep singing voice, which perhaps disturbed me most about this song.  Where’s the gut-wrenching feelings guys?  For me, it was all wrong.  Was this a country rendition? Maybe.  I didn’t get that feel either. This performance has the same feel of every other song they’ve done – lot’s of harmonies, a cameo here or there, and the staple “deep vocal” cameo of Zach.  I’m sure we could expect the same for their second performance of the night.

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Next up – Rion Paige sings “See You Again” by Carrie Underwood

First, I want to say that I liked how Rion was wearing her hair during this show. It made her look, maybe a little older, but also classy with her earrings showing and I have to say that she did a very fine job with the song.  I liked her sound and she did so well with the musical accompaniment.  Her command of her vocal range was certainly on display.  All-in-all, it was a very good performance and certainly better than Restless Road, by far.

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Next up – Jeff Gutt sings “Without You” by Randy Newman

First, I want to say that during the previous week’s “Big Band” show, I was very impressed by Jeff Gutt’s performance of “Feeling Good” by Muse.  He really took command of the stage and distinguished himself.  Tonight, he led off with “Without You” sung by Randy Newman in 1968 and by Harry Nilsson, who made it famous in 1970 and NOT Mariah Carey, as some have reported.  You can hear it here.   He started off too “baby soft” and the background music didn’t help at the start.  Then, it changed to a complete rock-out chorus, which seemed like too much of a change.  But, it was really how it started off that should have been different if he was going to rock it like that.   Two choruses later and the song was done.  Compared with his previous performance last week, this was a disappointment, typical of other times he’s sung without distinguishing himself from the original artists.

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Next up – Ellona Santiago sings “Applause” by Lady Gaga

Ellona started as she always seems to – in command – and she was clearly in control and right on at every point in the song.  This was a real “production” with the “red carpet” stairway, with her at the top where a Star should be, and the “paparazzi photographers/dancers”.  It truly reminded me of a concert performance by an already established Star, but that’s what Ellona Santiago has become with each of her performances.  She sang with, yet above, her background singers, who accentuated her vocals very well.  It could be, yet again, her best performance on the show to this point and by far the best of the evening to this point.

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Next up – Alex & Sierra sings “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child

To start off, it was Alex singing with the spotlight only on him. Then it shifted to Sierra with her solo followed by some nice duet harmonies.  They certainly handled the song very well and sounded great.  Sierra, I think, sounded better than she had on any prior performance and was the star of this one.  It was still typical for this singing duet.  Aside from Ellona’s performance, theirs was by far the best over the rest.

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Last up in Round 1 – Carlito Olivero sings “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez

He starts off fairly soft, but goes immediately into a “Latinized” version, complete with the horns and bongos in the background, typical for a Latino-style tune.  Of course, this IS his strength and he performed well.  His dancing was “suave” and his singing was perfect for this performance.  It was nice, if not moving, but well done none-the-less. At this point, I’d rate Ellona as best, followed by Alex & Sierra, Rion Paige, Carlito Olivero, Jeff Gutt, and Restless Road.

Round 2 – “Unplugged”

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Up first – Restless Road sings “Wake Me Up” by Avicii

In this one Colton Pack led off with a solo that was, in my opinion, fairly unintelligible.  What’s the point?  Next, Andrew Scholz sang his solo that was, by comparison, far easier to understand.  This then went into a nicely harmonized chorus.  Next, Zach Beeken came in with his typical “deep voice” solo and then into another well-harmonized chorus.  Sorry, but not inspiring.  As much as they try, they always seem to do something that’s irritating for me, like there’s something not quite right.  It could be that they’re exceedingly predictable with their singing or the fact that they don’t have a strong-voiced leader among them.  Disappointing yet again.

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Next – Rion Paige sings “Glass” by Thompson Square

When she started singing, her face looked like she was crying – minus the tears – and her voice sounded as though it was tear-filled. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but it didn’t sit well with me.  Contrary to her prior performance of the evening, her vocals weren’t as sharp and her words were, at times, hard to distinguish.  The “country”, however, did come out quite strongly in this performance.  It was an emotional performance, to say the least and that makes hers better than Restless Road’s performance, which elicited no emotions, as usual.

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Next up – Jeff Gutt sings “Daniel” by Elton John

To start, he reminded me of Elton John dressing it up a little.  As he’s done so many maddening times, Jeff Gutt sings a song so like the original artist that he’s fairly indistinguishable.   He played the acoustic guitar while he sang, but that’s not so different from Elton John singing while playing the piano.  It was a letdown more than anything else.

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Next up – Ellona Santiago sings “If I Were A Boy” by Beyoncé

First, her appearance was drastically different from her earlier performance. She looked like your “average teenage girl”.  She began singing solo with no music or background vocals through the first two stanzas.  Then, on cue, the acoustic guitar came in, right in tune with Ellona, or vice versa, and that’s a nice trick, being in tune to lead off and have the music come in afterwards so tight and in tune.  It was soft and meaningful and Ellona moved into the first crescendo adeptly, in a most Diva-like fashion.  From there she remained in Diva mode, hitting all of the notes, adding her well-timed and well-tuned improvisations.  Her singing was emotion-filled and meaningful.

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Next up – Alex & Sierra sings “Say Something” by A Great Big World

First, I’m sorry, but Alex had a kind of grunge look that didn’t work well with Sierra’s dress and with her playing piano, as if he’d just come off the street.  Alex’s singing, to start off, didn’t get me.  The first duet, however, was “nice” and harmonized well.  Sierra seemed off a little, perhaps because, as she said, she’d never played piano in front of people before.  But, she collected herself towards the end of the song and they sounded fine together.  But, I didn’t feel the emotion that I should have.   While Kelly Rowland said that they made her feel like she was watching an “awards show”, it made me feel like I was watching a variety show, filler for the main attraction.  Disappointing compared with their first performance.  It dragged from beginning to soft, unemotional end.

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Last up – Carlito Olivero sings “Stand By Me” by Ben E King

With an acoustic guitar player beside him, the song began with a certain Caribbean/Latino style.  His singing was, as in past performances, a mix of English and Spanish, and his voice was typical for him, a bit on the soft rather than strong side.  But, he mixed his vocals well with the music and background singers and it was a decent performance, if not outstanding.  With so many other Latino tunes, emotion is virtually eliminated and that’s because the music accompaniment doesn’t emote like lyrics might demand, but always seem to have a happy, party-in-the-Caribbean flavor.  So, he can’t be faulted by sticking with the norm.  But, if his goal is to stand out, then this performance didn’t help, much like Jeff Gutt’s performance of “Daniel” didn’t distinguish him, though I liked Carlito’s song more than Jeff’s.   All-in-all, it was a nice diversion, but not memorable.

Carlito’s performance ended the show for the evening.

My opinion is that Ellona Santiago distinguished herself wonderfully both times that she sang and out-shined all of the other acts.  I would say that Alex & Sierra did pretty well, as did Rion Paige, followed by Carlito Olivero, and a tie for the bottom with Jeff Gutt and Restless Road because neither were memorable on this night.

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