Friday, 21 December 2012

No 1. It's ...

A complete contrast for the Final, starting on the red carpet as the judges, Pitbull the rapper and One Direction arrive, as if to emphasise the spread of appeal that the show needs to keep its audience figures up. I like the way Simon Cowell chose a Rolls Royce. Without a script, Khloe struggles and comes out with some stupid questions which everyone answers politely but is anxious to get away from her. Mario is better but it's all a bit silly.

Tate arrives in an ugly 4 x 4 and sings on the red carpet. Carly Rose comes across far better and looks happy and relaxed. Fifth Harmony look fun, Lauren struggling to keep her very short dress decent. This was a cheery version of All You Need Is Love that the six girls totally took over but the producers let Tate do the last line in case we'd not noticed him.

So that got 20 minutes of a 2 hour schedule out of the way. I do hope they get rid of Khloe next year and get someone better to write the autocue or maybe even find someone who can do the commentary mostly naturally and off the cuff. For the money they can afford there are surely some candidates who would be entertaining to watch and add to the show rather than detract from its sparkle. Yes, and while they're at it, find a better Peter Dickson substitute for the big announcements. In fact, why not get Peter to do it?

Brilliant edit of LA Reid's movements and then we get Tate with a Christmas song. I guess we'll get one from each act. Will this affect the votes? Or have they closed? Sometimes, if it's close a last minute rush after a particularly great performance could make a difference but with what I guess will be in the region of 100 million votes coming in the chances of it being that tight must be unlikely,

It's OK, a bit nondescript but I'm sure lots of older folk would have loved it and sung along in front of their log fires. His promotion team are making a bit much of the family, giving up the job, being a good dad stuff, though, with no-one looking very happy and clearly going for the sympathy vote there. That was very contrived, even if the things people said were all well-intentioned, the 'package' was just too much of a 'package' and we could do without all that. Now I expect we'll get the videos of Carly Rose as a 2 year old and her mum and dad telling us how talented she is and that she's always wanted to do this. as they can hardly do all five of the Fifth Harmony girls I suppose we'll get shots from each mum and - simply because they haven't been around as long - none of the six girls stand a chance against the Tate package,

Simon appears to be growing a moustache.

Fifth Harmony next. Nice Santa outfits, really good song with everyone performing well, especially Dinah Jane, rivalling Mariah Carey's notes too. What a great group they've turned out to be. That's 2012 Christmas as it should be. Far more 'today' than old Tate.

Then we get their package. Actually a bit more interesting because we hadn't seen so much of the people in it before but it's all pretty much of a muchness and gets the girls all emotional. I am seriously getting muddled up with Allie and Camilla though and apologies, folks, if I've been giving one the personality props and raving about the other's voice. They're both great whatever. I'd check but I'm terrified of bumping into the result in a search so I'll add some definitive pics later with some performance videos too.

Britney's edit of the expresssions she'd been using!

Carly Rose. All I Want For Christmas can go on a bit. She sings it brilliantly but stays away from the high notes this time. Entertaining, competent - sort of on a par with Tate tonight. She gets the package too.

Khloe goes outside to chat to the crowd. Dumb question: w\ho are you supporting? Fifth Harmony. Did you like their Christmas Song? Duh!?

So now we get to know who comes 3rd. That's where One Direction came. This time it's Fifth Harmony. That's what we expected I suppose. Disappointing as I think they were the real winners but hopefully Simon will organise a deal for them and get them out there as he did with 1D so amazingly successfully.

Now it's down to how it's always been until last week's interruption by five girls - Carly Rose v Tate. I've always felt that Tate has had the bigger vote base in the land of Country music and, especially being the only one for their support throughout most the competition after Willie's early exit, Carly Rose has done so well just to match him. There's no doubt she's the more accomplished modern performer and has the best talent and range but has she really inspired enough to vote? Fifth Harmony fans would vote hundreds of times but I think Carly Rose will just get one vote per fan like Tate so it's down to simple numbers.

I want Carly Rose to win now but feel it'll be Tate.

Khloe goes back stage with even more really stupid, dumb questions. This is so annoying. I would rather watch adverts. How would it change Tate's mum's life? Christ, this woman has to go.

Pitbull looked old and out of place with the groovy young dancers. He seemed to be running out of breath as the stage exploded back to the 80s, one line, some girls shaking their hair and that was that. Odd. More Mario and Khloe's vintage I reckon. They seemed to enjoy that more than the crowd. I think he should stick to being the Ft act with others.

Still One Direction to come before we get the winner's announcement. Half an hour to go. How on earth will they fill that? Looked like the Top 12 were all dressed up for something so maybe they've got a sing-a-long in store. Not sure that's such a good idea.

With an enormous pair of bright red lips the 1D set reminded me of the Stones. It is very satisfying to see an X Factor UK act doing so well over there. Kiss You isn't the best of their numbers but it was good enough to get the crowds going and they did another good job.

Tate and Carly Rose perform The Climb which seems to be one of those tracks that these shows love to do. Carly Rose simply demolished Tate on this, it being closer to her style and also she's the more capable of finding and making some quite tricky notes that the song includes.

Idiot Khloe asks LA and Britney 'how proud they are of their acts' again. LA gets a decent answer out there. Britney does her usual one short sentence. Pointless. Especially at this point. 15 minutes to go, Break.

With all the repeated references to Tate not 'giving up on his dream' I am getting distinct pointers to his victory as all that doesn't quite work if he comes 2nd. He'll get his deal whatever happens but they're making a lot of that 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again' stuff as if Tate is 67 rather than 37. Carly Rose hardly gets a mention in all that chatter. I wonder if each possible pair had to rehearse The Climb? No way all of Fifth Harmony could have climbed the stairs on that set. That tells me that the production team must have had the result already so all the autocue stuff will ahve been written with that in mind.

35 million votes. Hmmm. That's down on American Idol. Still a lot.

And the winner is...

Tate Stevens.

Oh well. Competition for Scotty in the Country charts at least.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Final Pt1

A touching start with all the Top 12 singing You Are Not Alone in memory of the Sandy Hollow children. This did show the shortcomings of some of those whom we've said goodbye to but also how good those remaining are, particularly Carly Rose and Fifth Harmony and, once again, Allie stood out as a vocalist, being chosen to perform the closing line.

Unlike LA's comment that 'there can only be a winner', I am watching this show in the firm belief that all three acts are winners in their own field. I would love to see Third Harmony take the actual prize because there can be no doubt at all that both Tate and Carly Rose will get lots of backing almost automatically from here on like UK's Jahmene has got a decent contract with Sony just a week after coming 2nd.

I guess we can be pretty certain that Tate will deliver some immaculate performances so it'll be very much down to whether he chooses nice safe songs that his Country fans will love and keep voting in their millions for. Carly Rose will, I'm sure, find all the notes she needs but she'll need to find another fabulous couple of tracks to seal her chances. Britney came up with some slightly odd choices last week, after being spot on throughout the series previously. So that's going to be interesting and I'm really looking forward to some wow moments.

Fifth Harmony have built up a great number of extra fans with their great performances last week and sheer personality. Everything for them depends on Simon's choices. He knows what he's doing and so I think we're in for a genuine competition and, whilst Fifth Harmony are definite outsiders with the bookies, I have a feeling they could surprise us.

Carly Rose starts with Feeling Good, the track she auditioned with and she'll be so confident with that. One thing I don't worry about with her is loss of nerve. This song she can also get away with age-wise so, unless something strange happens, this will be a nice, safe start.

And, yes, that was excellent. She looked relaxed, nicely dressed and made-up and that was sheer professionalism, There is just that one thing: she's a superb Broadway star, for sure, but is she a chart act? There is something just so perfect and serious about her that hasn't yet allowed her to seem to be having fun as a teenager which I feel she needs to do to win those extra votes. She is happy and really does come across delightfully but there's just something missing that I can't put my finger on. For all that she'd be a brilliant winner and really establish a high benchmark for future series.

Tate's up next. The only thing he can do wrong really is to be a bit boring. LA Reid isn't exactly renowned for his understanding of Country & Western but he has done pretty damn well with some incredibly successful acts and I'm sure he'll have access to plenty of advice. With the younger, pop vote somewhat split, he has a clear run and I would have put him favourite to win for that reason alone.

Strange set with Tate seeming to be up really high from one camera angle making him appear sort of untouchable. Anything Goes is a good, solid number and that will have sealed his votes too. Not one note wrong and the emotion was there too - decent bloke too. Not sure how pleased I'd be to have some concrete water tower with my name on it but there you go!

Next, the ones everyone is hoping and praying will do a good job tonight. Whilst I can't see how any act could come between Carly Rose and Tate, it would be great if tonight could be a three-way competition and not the two-plus-one that most have predicted. The big, so commercial number that they'll always be remembered for was Anything Can Happen but can they really do that twice in two weeks? If not, then, they'll need to improve quite a bit on whatever is chosen as it has to stand out.

Yes! Simon's chosen Anything Can Happen and that could be a good move. First, it's great and second, it has a sort of memorable thing that just grabs you. If they do it as well, that is.

And they do. Just as exciting as before and the show came alive. Great compliments too.

Mario may regret saying 'And now Allie has got the minister from her church, Randy...'

Seriously, that was even - nothing to choose between any on Round 1.

Second performances now. Carly Rose is doing How Do I Live Without You? with Leanne Rimes. Leanne didn't exactly help Carly Rose's cause with some strange timing and, quite frankly, Carly Rose would have been far better on her own. That didn't work. And there wasn't any way she could rescue it either. Why on earth didn't Britney choose someone with a ballad and maybe more reliable. Hmmm, Trouble.

Tate will fly through this round. There's bound to be some great, famous Country singer brought on that all his supporters will adore and, of course, these singers are more than used to working with others and can adapt in a way that Leanne clearly couldn't.

Well, I have no idea who the two girls were with him so I was wrong there! The song was, however, something that was easily divided between them. I think it was Motor Boating. Not exactly an impressive performance but whoever Little Big Town are they didn't do him any harm. Carly Rose will be relieved they didn't bring out someone really famous but two definitely were better than her one.

Fifth Harmony did really well with Give Your Heart A Break or something like that with Demi Lovato who wasn't anything like as good as they were! Great choice and popular with the audience too. They were in tune, relaxed and clearly enjoyed the performance. Good job. You know, I have to say that they actually stole Round 2 and that's not just because I want t see them win but, on tonight's performances so far and the sheer excitement and fun factor, they deserve to.

I cant believe Carly Rose or Tate will be giving up, however, and there's a third track to come. I guess this might be what they'd release if they win as in the UK show but maybe it's their own choice instead. Either way it's going to be sheer talent v Country block vote v girl band pop excitement.

Hallelujah. Perfect track for Carly Rose. Much played in previous years with Alexandra Burke winning the UK show with this and holding the record for the biggest sales too. This was a better version than that, She looked pleased with that performance and so she should be.

Tate does what was probably called Tomorrow or One Last Time. Maybe Gasoline. I don't know but he did it well. Not spectacular but pretty good and as good as probably any Country act would have done that which kinda says it all I suppose.

The shots from screaming fans didn't do him any favours but there do seem a huge number of them. I think I'd be inclined to drop those next year as it's almost impossible to hear what anyone is saying and they all look slightly mad too.

Fifth Harmony close the evening with Let It Be. Normani starts and Dinah Jane builds well on that, Gentle and then Lauren puts the all important lead in. Camilla excels and Allie gets her passion across and back to Lauren to end, all over a little too quickly. They could have made more with that. That was very good but too short and didn't show them as well as it might have done.

So overall, I might just give Carly Rose Round 3 but with Fifth Harmony close 2nd and Tate not exactly far behind. Who's going to win? I genuinely have no idea. Apart from the Leanne dip, Carly Rose has come across as the most amazing singer and clear future talent of Streisand quality, Tate is solid, decent and will have that massive Country vote all to himself. Fifth Harmony, though, really stole the show with their tremendous individual personalities and they not only held it all together tonight but actually really entertained us all. They could take that prize and how lovely that would be.

Of course, you readers across the Pond will know by now! Just don't tell me, OK!

I'll include the videos tomorrow - I daredn't look for them now in case I see the result.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Top 3 Finalists!

So will it be what most people expect - farewell to five girls? Or could there be a shock in store? Either Tate or Carly Rose would be almost as big a shock as Ella, the one who should have won, and James, who did, being in the bottom two in the UK a few weeks ago.

A sort of middle, not so much a shock, more a surprise, would be Emblem3 to leave. That is a possibility. Their version of Hey Jude may not have had wide appeal. Less appealing, though, I suspect may have been Carly Rose's interpretation of Imagine but if her base vote - the ones who'll vote whatever she does is bigger than Fifth Harmony's enhanced vote then she'll get away with it.

Carly Rose starts the show singing I'm Coming Home. I hope that's not a hint. No, Fifth Harmony sing the same thing. Tate didn't. Nor did Emblem3.

Tate playing the 'I may not have a job to go back to card' was annoying. If I had my way that would lose him votes, not gain them. But that's not the way it works. Assuming it's one of the two groups that do have to go then I would really choose the girls to stay, not because they're pretty but because Emblem3 may well be together and assured enough to get a deal and won't fall apart whereas the girls are a new band and that one extra label - X Factor finalists - and all the publicity it generates could be enough to give them sticking power and go on to show us what they can do with a contract of some sort.

The $5 million is only worth winning if it actually provides tracks that really suit the artist. For all we know, there could be a brilliant writer who just identifies with one or other of these four acts and submits some cool tracks for them. Add a decent producer and some marketing and they could be out there on top of the winner. Apart from the initial pizazz, quite frankly, it doesn't matter that much. Tate's more or less certain of a  deal just because he's so easy to write stuff for and promote in the field. That's why I'd be delighted if he was the one that did go and leave the stage open for young, today, talent.

Carly Rose? So good and yet so not quite 'today'. You can see her leading Broadway and West End shows, no problem, with lots of albums too but will they be playing her at parties? Will the kids be chatting about her latest release? I don't think so. That in no way is to criticise possibly the best singer the show has seen at home and abroad - just looking at where she fits in to a market.

Anyway, 30 minutes in, that's half way through the show and I wouldn't mind betting there'll be an ad break to come first too, the first act through is...

Fifth Harmony!!!

I was about to type Yup, Tate.

Oh boy. Everyone is now thinking:  who is going home then? And answering Emblem3.

The camera caught Britney looking black. She will not want that shot publicised. Could she be thinking the unthinkable?

35 minutes in. Khloe is gigantic, like a snowman in that white outfit, Britney may have let slip something, I thought it would be the other way around with the groups, with Emblem3 going,

Someone completely new to me on stage now. Bridgit Mendler? Looking good and sounding modern, energetic if not actually that memorable and the song just goes on. She must be grateful for getting a slot on the big show in what is virtually a Semi final, the sort of slot you'd normally expect big chart acts or familar faces to appear in.

OK. 40 minutes in. The second act through is...

Now it's time for the Yup, Tate Stevens bit.

Carly Rose and Britney are looking so nervous. The boys have that Yeah OK look and must be thinking that they've gone, as must Simon. It really shouldn't be but it could be Carly Rose with two great groups to battle with the old Country fellow. But I'm guessing it'll be Emblem3 that is going in 4th place. I think we'd all love to see what delights Carly Rose would bring to the last show, especially as it doesn't matter any more and she can take all the risks in the world and really show what she can do.

50 minutes in. Cue discussion with the two acts. Of course, for all we know, one of them could have come top of the voting and that's rather more likely to have been Carly Rose.

We get Bruno Mars next. I wonder if he'll be allowed to sing about what's taking him to Paradise? Yes, he is. That's surprising. I guess someone will explain to Carly Rose what that's all about as that's not exactly a track she could cover which kinda explains a lot of what I've been saying before. Even if she wanted to she wouldn't be allowed to.

Chloe uses the shock word. Mario sounds a bit down. But no, it's OK. They built that up well. Carly Rose is through and probably got #1 or #2 again after all. Emblem3 looked like they were cool with that and maybe leaving them up against the favourite will have made the announcement a bit less of a surprise too.

So we have the final three. Carly Rose Soneclar, Tate Stevens and Fifth Harmony.

Mario taking almost complete charge at the end is good to see and one hell of a relief. As the credits roll we just get Chloe with a cut off 'Bye' which was still more than I would have wanted, Mario is beginning to get into the part. You can imagine him selling washing powder in adverts but he has grabbed this role and fought with it and his partner's gaffes well.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Top 4 Perform Pt 1

All four acts have shown that they deserve to be here and I can see markets for them all too.

Lots of blue collar stuff from Tate at the start. Something about When The Bomb Drops. Not something I'd rush out and buy but that was a good, professional performance that could have been one of the many strangely names big Country singers over there.

Tate looked younger and healthier too, very relaxed and right in his element. He hasn't moved from his home territory ever since he first auditioned but that clearly hasn't done him any harm. That was great and I can well imagine him doing that for real and lots of fans buying it.

He's got to be in with a good chance of steaming through to the final three. Britney didn't like it but the others had compliments in abundance. He is also, it has to be remembered, the act that had the most votes last week.

Carly Rose does Your Song one of Elton's early numbers. Loved the simple, clean staging for her, the hat too. Another beautiful performance - she has a way to make tracks sound quite different and this was just the right song that she could interpret too. Gentle, with a gradual build but not in any way overdone and perfect diction, Fabulous, absolutely fabulous. The choir I think I might have dispensed with but otherwise faultless. A very difficult track - with some low notes that she just managed - but overall really well done.

That girl is just amazing. I can see what Demi means about the predictability thing - another ballad, another impeccable and accurate delivery and there are aspects that you want to see in a performance that a 13 year old simply cannot bring - but anything other than winning this thing she'd see as a disappointment. Whether she will win, I don't know. The bookies think she will, the voters have consistently said that she's either winning or a fraction of a percent off so she'll be there in the Final 2 unless something very remarkable happens.


I remember Baby I Love Your Ways when Peter Frampton did it first. It suits their voice and style. They don't have any preset dance style and I swear one of them bumped into another near the end but that really doesn't matter. In fact, I prefer the natural performance - just three guys doing what they enjoying. Good choice of song.

They'll need some good writers to get decent material if they are to go far in the world. I can't yet see them winning but they have to have a good chance.

Fifth Harmony

Anything Could Happen I don't recognise. It's a complex song, full of places where all sorts of things could go wrong but that was great. Looking good and sounding excellent that must have taken ages to put together. I feel they do actually deserve to get through as, of all the acts, they do actually come across as the most current and different. There aren't many teen girl bands around. Little Mix won last year in the UK and are nothing like as good as these five. I see a mini-Girls Aloud developing rather than mini-Spice Girls. The name still puts me off a bit and they are generally expected to go but, as Simon remarked, anything could, indeed, happen. They might just attract enough votes to damage someone but who?

I do feel that the first round might just have gone to them, Tate and Carly Rose which, remarkably puts Emblem3 4th. As I tweeted recently - they should all win.

What I do like is the length of the performances this series. We're getting full length tracks and not just the verse, middle bit and show off ending. So much better.

Tate gets Fall given him by LA. This is totally for the Country audience, the older ones, the comfy people and we know there are millions of them. So they're likely to be well and truly bagged. For me this was not the big anthemic song I'd expected. It was a bit predictable - you knew what the next line would be.

Look, it was certainly OK but it doesn't get him winning Round 2. I guess it would be unimaginable for him not to reach the Final 3 - but I would, as things stand, place him 4th only because he's not sufficiently different to stand out whereas each of the other acts are very much identities of their own. Tate is just Country. Good. But just Country, not Tate Country.

Ad for the 2013 auditions now. Hope they find the same level of talent again. I'll be watching.

Britney gives Carly Rose Imagine. Yeah, we've heard this before. Nervous start while she plays the piano which I don't think she wanted to do. She has a lot to do. Then - wow - it explodes, she changes key - where's this going? It's different and I'm not sure but then I am. This time the choir is ne eded. She returns to the piano and ends quietly as she started. I think I'll have to see that again. It was either very very good or she will not have gained any new fans with it.

Simon's comments were spot on - it made a beautiful song fussy with an over-complicated arrangement. It was a big risk. It could be that Britney felt she was so safe that she could take that risk but if the two groups really hit the right spots it might have been one step too far and if the groups manage to pull in a whole bunch of new voters and Carly Rose doesn't then a shock may be coming. Incidentally, the bookies clearly disagree - she is currently an extraordinary 25-1 on to win!

As sheer illustration of talent, I still put her above Tate in this Round 2 though.


Hey Jude is a remarkable choice by Simon battling to get them into the Final 3. It must be difficult for him as, done as well as I think they can do it, this could stuff his other group unless he has something even more amazing to come for them.

This really does suit them and they work well with Beatles tracks generally. It fits. Excellent jump, spot on time for the start of the end. The repeats were cut a bit short - I would like to have seen the passion develop as it does in the original but that was damn good.

They take the lead in Round 2 with that. Which makes predictions even more difficult now!

Fifth Harmony

Simon has played a cool card here - Impossible is the song that James Arthur has just won X Factor UK with! It's also his new single. LA and Britney didn't like it. I thought they came across really well, with the Spanish verse or two sounding great. Each individual was in tune, passionate and with strong personaility and the overall effect was genuinely of a group that had a future and actually would do something fantastic, possibly worldwide, with a $5 million contract.

Camilla was much more to the fore and strong as always but all came across well, with little Ally getting great support from the audience who really love her.

Did they have the edge on Emblem3? Against Hey Jude, I guess not.

This isn't an easy night to call at all. If it were just on tonight's two performances, I'd put both groups through and have to choose between wonderful accuracy but not much emotion and the big Country man who is reliable but just a little boring and really the ultimate in predictability. Yes, I'd put him 4th.

I rather suspect, though, that there simply aren't enough voters to get Fifth Harmony through.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Just 4

Oh boy - this is cruel. No other contest like this cuts six to four. There's some sense in losing some no hope acts early on but at this stage it almost seems hurried. So, who's going to make the semi final?

All previous voting implies that it'll be Carly Rose, Tate, Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony. Especially when you remember how close the voting was reported to be. The difference is that whilst the public decide who comes 6th, the judges decide who comes 5th.

First here's last year's winner, Melanie Amaro. She deserved to win with immaculate and pretty stunning performances all the way through and with Simon Cowell's support. We haven't seen or heard much of her since, though, over here in UK and I haven't seen that much value for the $5 million across the Pond either. This was a good performance tonight and perhaps someone has finally found her a good songwriter. She's a big girl and the long dress and straight not quite blonde hair don't do her any favours but that was as faultless as you'd expect and I just hope that she'll start getting more than just recognition but some chart success too. X Factor need tv and media successes. They may find some cool acts that are wonderful musicians or performers but if they fade into specialist concert-land or get lost on the Big Country plains then you ahve to wonder why you goT so excited about them in the first place.

That's a tiny problem with Carly Rose. She strikes me as a clever sort and is hardly one to drop school and do entertainment. Yes, she could do her studies while on tour and between performances but there is a choas about the music industry that she isn't suited to at 13. Broadway shows and big albums are going To be her bag for a while I suspect. But they will all be brilliant.

It's time. Sixth place is Cece's. Sorry to see her go but kicking two out would have been a real effort.

Here's her performance from last night.

The top three are Emblem3, Carly Rose and Tate. Pretty much as expected. So it's Diamond v Fifth Harmony.

Ke$ha following Melanie is quite odd. She's so much more current, although she is at a huge distance from the camera and miming to a backing track. Good commercial stuff and you have to wish that there were some acts like her remaining in the show. Maybe Fifth Harmony could let go and have some fun? Of course, we've just lost the one who could have filled that slot, haven't we? I don't think Tate would suit tights and caressing a mic stand either. Neither Diamond nor Carly Rose would be allowed to listen too closely to the lyrics. Emblem3 really could finish up being the only 'current' act left but even they've been heading unnervingly down a well-trodden and slightly dated boy band route of late. We've got 1D, may even have UnionJ so please, we don't need a third entrant in that market now.

Melanie must have been watching that performance and thanking the Lord that there had been some ads and excitement in between her s and Ke$ha's.

Fifth Harmony did a good job of When You Need A Friend. Diamond has a better song - Britney at best again - but rushes the beautiful I Hope You Dance. And, despite a lovely tone and clearly bags of potential talent, her voice is just not strong enough.

It's down to Demi and LA. LA is not a fan of Fifth Harmony but votes to keep them. Demi I expect to keep Fifth Harmony too and so avoid the risk of an odd public vote. She does and that's the Top 4 decided.

All that remains is to see the order of public votes this week. My guess is:

1 Tate
2 Carly Rose
3 Emblem3
4 Fifth Harmony

I was right. The silly talk about positions is nonsense though and asking the judges how they feel is nonsense too. It's all about the votes on the night. Mario was trying a bit too hard tonight but at least he does have the majority of the talking to do. The idea of watching Khloe reading more autocues than she does at the moment is worrying. How did she get that job? Seriously? There must be so many fabulous hosts out there - with personality as well as talent. And good looks.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Week 6 Pt1 All Six Perform Unplugged and Fans' Choice

I think I like the idea of unplugged. This should determine who can hold the right notes and also just perform as themselves rather than as one of many on a big stage. Often the backing audio has almost drowned out individual performances - at least on my system - which has made some reviews quite difficult at times as I am sure that I am hearing something quite different to the judges.

Oh no, another two to go tonight! Heavens. That is going to make everyone nervous again but particularly Cece, Diamond and Fifth Harmony. However good they've been, they're the ones who have been most often at risk to date.

Cece goes first. Still blonde so I was wrong thinking I'd seen her back in brunette.

Hey, Cece is practising the track I suggested on Twitter!! On The Edge suited her. It was cut right back and  was appealing. I still think she's vulnerable against the likes of Carly Rose and even Fifth Harmony in this sector and, of course, Tate and Emblem3 for the overall winner's place. I liked what she did and like her. Now it's down to her fans, though, and she should in no way feel bad about coming 5th or 6th this year.

Emblem3. I can't remember what I suggested. I think it was a Beach Boys track. They're doing You're Amazing and there are three vocals to win across our votes too. Nice job, with a distinct 1D feel about it which is hardly surprising but not really who they are. I'd expected to see a bit more fun. Simon and Demi argue quite a bit about what they thought which is also hardly surprising as Demi may have spotted that, as performances, there wasn't much to choose between Cece and Emblem3 and Simon must have hoped they'd have done a bit more with that.

Both tracks have been cut so short that the artists don't get a chance to get into them but I suppose that's going to be the case for all of them. We're getting two songs tonight but I'm sure they could squeeze in an extra 12 minutes somewhere.

What i really enjoy about this series is that there is no act that shouldn't be there. Unlike X Factor UK, where only one act remaining actually deserves all the support and publicity that winning will bring, any of these six could make it. Having said that, Carly Rose Soneclar is the one who deserves to take the prize with her faultless vocals and remarkable talent.

She sang a track I am not familiar with but that didn't matter. It was superb. I'm not so sure it will have pulled in a lot of extra votes but this girl is so good. I guess I just wish she were a little older so that we could get some sense that actually understood the lyrics and could properly convey the emotions that make a song. Simon was so right in saying how girls of her age singing can be a bit annoying but she is just cool. I gather that it might have been As Long As You Are There and possibly a Justin Bieber number. Maybe it will get her some votes then, after all. Great reviews from all the judges.

I like this acoustic slot and reckon that would be a great addition to the UK series next year. Why not include it in the final next week? It wouldn't actually make much difference to James Arthur, though, come to think of it!

Now here's something that hasn't happened on X Factor USA yet: the UK ads include a promotion for Rylan Clarke hosting a show - he's only just been 'sent home' too and has already had a great spot on Xtra Factor. In a way, he's become a 'star' already and only came 5th.

Back to USA. Fifth Harmony are looking good. Lauren starts again. I'm still not sure she's the right one to lead. Camilla is the one who is strongest in my view. Dinah Jane finishes after Ally has a quick spot and Normani was just in the background. They did a good job of Set Fire To The Rain and I agree with Simon that they deserve a shot in the semis. They have something and there's nothing wrong in some being out front and others staying back. Girls Aloud would be a good example. Or go back in time - I seem to recall it was MarthaReeves and The Vandellas, Diana Ross and The Supremes. I'm also not so bothered about harmony which LA constantly bangs on about. For some reason he doesn't like them.

After some excellent comments during auditions, super song choices for her contestants and demonstrating the best current awareness of what teenagers want on many occasions so far this series, Britney Spears has been very brief and less than helpful in her comments for the last few weeks. This has left quite a hole as I am sure that judges' support does have some influence on some voters and, at the moment, it is really LA and Simon who are the only ones making an effort. Demi supports Cece, of course, but is rather lightweight. I guess it's difficult to take that much notice of someone younger than their act!

Diamond is coming out with a big number. It's A Man's World is a tricky one for a 13 year old. I can imagine her coming out with quite a stunning-sounding performance but how will she handle the much older lyrics (never mind the matter of gender!) This could be the stand out song.

She's good. Brilliant start and end but not sure about the middle. She showed some great control and what LA called 'attitude'. She had done this at an audition stage so it didn't have quite the impact it might have. That credibility thing is still a problem, though.

Tate is doing Living On A Prayer by Bon Jovi. That's different. He should be good with just his voice but that's an odd track choice. Strange. Doing Country has had piles of votes coming his way. So he needs a strong Country slant on this. He tries but I have to say that it was just wrong. Well sung but sleepy. Maybe if I didn't know the original which had passion and urgency this would have worked better. As it is, no, that was actually quite boring and lost everything that made the track so good.

I can't imagine him going this week but it'll be because of whatever he does next, not that. The judges weren't impressed. Ridiculous and vacant commentary from Khloe to say that everyone thought it was wonderful.

Cece is on again and did Part Of Me. Britney and Simon liked it. Demi argued really well for her too although her remark that if the Princess of Pop thought it was good then the others should take notice seemed to catch Britney by surprise! This was a bit average, though, starting well and all was going well until the backing track seemed to be leading her at one point. She got through that and just managed the finish but I reckon she would like to have had another take if that could have been arranged. She was in short multicoloured shorts and the same colours in different order on her top, with big blonde hair and the leopard spots back. I like the way she really does try to please her fans and they will have loved the look and the attitude. She does look so good and I'd love to see her carry on but I do have difficulty in picking two acts that she has been better than. If it were just on the acoustic performances then she would actually stand a good chance but it may be a problem with the next big and popular songs coming up.

Emblem3 were given Forever Young. Oh dear, this is not their song at all. They make a decent job of the harmony bit but one of the soloists was not good at all. LA must have heard a different soundtrack. Britney was even briefer than ever, vaguely supportive. Demi liked it but thought they could have worked the stage better. Maybe I missed something but it seemed very poor to me.

Carly Rose is on with If I Were A Boy. Clearly this girl can sing anything that you throw at her. Fantastic. She is so good that, really, how can the others compete? The only thing they can do is express their own emotions and if that can win votes then they'll have a chance. But then there's the problem of the Big Country Vote behind Tate, presumably whatever he does. Even bad Bon Jovi.

This is getting interesting, A really smart performance by Fifth Harmony, a super, characterful one by Diamond and a boring one by Tate could change everything. Well, almost everything. Carly Rose will still be No.1.

Fifth Harmony did, indeed, put on a great show, and that ought to earn her a position in the semis. They were made up a bit strangely and, at last, there was some switching of the lead and both Dinah Jane and Camilla will have been responsible for their success if they do get through. Ally is beginning to appear the most popular and lovable character and I would be inclined to put her up front in a lively number if there is a next time as I think she'd win them a mass of extra votes.

Diamond sings Diamonds. A tough call, the big stage production helped her but matching Rihanna is not an easy task. She made a really good effort and even looked a little like a young Rihanna at times. What was missing was the character of the song and some of the top notes weren't bright. I don't know how that'll go for her.

Last in this oh so important night's performances is Tate. Back to good old familiar stuff, he was in his element and that ought to make up for the first effort. If Tomorrow Never Comes is a classic but there were some dodgy notes in there and it was just a touch tedious.

Using last week's vote as a guide, I'd say that Carly Rose and Fifth Harmony are through. Emblem3, I suspect, will have kept their teen girls voting support too, although they are vulnerable after a less than spectacular night for them. Tate may have dented his vote but, again, I guess that it's big enough to stand that. That would leave Cece and Diamond to go. If Diamond is 6th then Cece may well have to fight someone and, unfortunately, won't get the judges' majority.

Another possibility is that there is another shock immediate exit - one of the groups, perhaps, or even Tate. That might then put Cece up against Diamond and she might have a chance then, especially if the judges are split and Diamond had the lower public vote.

Tomorrow will be either very predictable: Carly, Tate, Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony or very, very interesting: Carly Rose and any three! All we know is that two go. Can't wait.

Of course, you folk across the Pond know the outcome now and will see how way off my thoughts are! Sorry, if that is the case. Now I have to try to steer clear of Twitter and Facebook for 24 hours!

But Cece, you can message me any time whatever happens.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A look at the contestants before and after

I've been reviewing the progress of contestants through this show and have to wonder what impact the make-over team have had.

First, let's see who's been sent home so far:

Arin started looking quite mature for his years and cool.

This press photo turned him into some strange looking geek. Terrible pose and someone clearly decided to let this one with him biting his lower lip go through for some reason best known to themselves!

Beatrice probably would have preferred that her mum hadn't worn those clothes at this stage of the competition but that didn't stop Britney keeping her in the Top 3 teens.

This was a great makeover in comparison to most of the others. Strangely, Beatrice seemed to get more nervous and less confident, though, as the weeks passed.

David was never going to win any beauty competitions but the hat was quite iconic.

Press photos put him on a one-way street and emphasised the tattoos but the arms crossed defensive stance didn't match the attempt to look annoyed. The shave was successful but what on earth were they thinking with the top-knot affair? This was a singer who put emotion into his performances but his image was quite the opposite, as if he didn't care.

Jason was a gentle, lovable sort of tubby guy at the start. 

The make-over team made him smart and certainly fixed the hair and even disguised the waistline. That flower! Oh boy. It still retained his best qualities, though, and I can imagine that he has gathered as many copies as he could and is busy still signing them and sending them out to fans.

Jennel looked slightly chunky in the early days but that didn't stop her talents coming through when she started singing.

Hers was an amazing make-over and whoever was responsible deserves some sort of award. Brilliant pictures and I'd expected the 'Melanie Amaro' look might have been really good for her. I have no idea why she left so early. One of the shows big mysteries this year.

Paige looked good naturally - a little different in the early days but she was vulnerable and likeable.

Someone clearly decided to go extreme with her. This was one of the gentler incarnations. There is also an appalling shot of her almost totally disguised in a massive gold mask. Later, Demi refined her appearance with a hair cut and brought out a more pretty, less threatening Paige but one has to wonder whether the damage had already been done.

Vino looked like someone who had just wandered in and started singing. Relaxed and with a hat covering the tattooed head which many might have been put off by. He looked happy in those days too.

The make-over team went black and white. Mostly black with big face pictures and clenched fists. The hat stayed but those arms up did make you keep your distance. He seldom looked that happy afterwards, although did maintain a Top 3 position for a while so clearly wasn't affected by any of this. That last performance, crouched and all in dark clothes can't have helped him. He was better standing up.

Will had a great personality that just oozed out of his appearances, with a country boy hint in his clothes somewhere.

Whilst he looked great in the suit and the hair and smile remained intact, either those colours or the emphasis on more big band style than Country style didn't help him for long.

There were precious few shots of Lyric in the early days so comparisons aren't easy. And, of course, Lyric145 was a made up job with the two guys anyway. SisterC were similarly conspicuous by their absence in photos during the auditions and really only appeared in the press after their make-over. They looked great in that and probably did before.

Now, how about those remaining. Tate never seems to change and that can't be bad. I have a feeling that whatever the make-over team did he'd still look like Tate! Carly Rose is not that photogenic, although she may well turn into a stunning girl at 16 or 17. At 13 bits are all still growing and changing shape so ears can look big and expressions odd. The new photos are OK but for this girl it is simply about an amazing talent and whether she wins this competition or not, she's going to be the one that will be in the best shows on Broadway and with the big album sales.

Emblem3 don't seem to have changed much at all so far. I'm waiting for some 'look' to be developed by Simon, who is usually pretty good at this sort of thing, but it may be he's leaving them as the pretty experienced West Coast band they are for now. With Fifth harmony, he has transformed five girls of quite different characters at the outset into five potential stars, each looking great and yet managing to retain a group identity. Expect to see them merging more in either colours or styles or both as the competition progresses. I would still like to have seen at least a couple of these girls as solo finalists but never mind.

Diamond has actually looked pretty cool from the start, with a natural photogenic rapport with the cameras. Her make-overs have emphasised the street kid but her performances have been older. Her character shines through whatever she wears or has done with her hair, though. 

Lastly, Cece has made the Top 6 as a very unnatural blond, and without leopard spots. I love this girl but I have to admit to being surprised as she has had so many incarnations that I wonder how losing one identity and creating another each week can have kept her in. We've seen a determined but quite confident Cece at the start, taking on Paige at every juncture doing the audition stages, a vulnerable Cece who has had to cope with being in the bottom two almost every week since and a earthier, sexy Cece last week doing the Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi thing. To be honest, I can't see her getting further in that vein and would love to see her return to how she was before entering the competition. Whoever was advising her then, and it may well have been herself, really had got it right as this old shot clearly demonstrates.