Saturday, 21 December 2013

And The Winner Is... Yes, You Guessed...

After auditions, Boot Camp, the 4-Chair Selection and the Live Shows this is Final. Americans like to put an e on the end and call it Finale but, whatever it is called, this is when we finally do learn who gets the $1 million contract. (It was $5 million last year but that didn't seem to do a great deal more for Tate).

The show starts with everyone looking a bit silly in white. Only Josh and Sierra actually looked comfortable in the supplied outfits. It was sing-a-long time and you had to feel sorry for Jeff who is definitely not a sing-a-long fellow.

The usual this would change everything for me responses to Mario's scripted but still annoying questions.

Carlito sings again. It's a Christmas song. He seems to be doing a lot of thinking while he's performing - including deciding when to open some doors and let out a delightful girl dressed in not a great deal. Later a whole load more girls appear around him but I'm not that sure that matched the lyrics which I could have sworn were about a guy missing his girlfriend at Christmas time. His mother was caught by the camera with a slightly disapproving look on her face but I am sure that was unintentional! His family look pretty cool and don't seem to match the image that he has been 'on the streets' for some time but I suppose they must have benefitted somehow and had some support from the show too. That was a pretty average performance but I don't think it matters now.

Mary J Blige has been appearing quite a bit recently. I'm pretty sure she appeared with Tamera on the UK show and someone on an earlier USA show too.

Jeff next. Does he have a Christmas song too? Yup. Oh Night Devine. Done his way. I'm not sure that worked much better than Carlito's effort. Eventually some drums kick in and he seems to feel more at home. Quite nice change from the usual carols and crap.

Lastly, Alex & Sierra do the Mariah Carey number. Risky as it's not an easy one. They put their own spin on it and do an almost a capella version. That worked quite well. A bit forgettable, unless you have become a big fan already. They do look like winners - very smart and very professional and immensely marketable too. They will be the winners, whatever the votes and may even finish up with a deal worth more than $1 million anyway!

All very emotional stuff with the family set pieces. Gosh.

Now we get to know who is in 3rd place.

Lea Michele sings really well, bring a touch of Glee to the night. She is superb and her new release is Breakdown, probably not something we'll hear much here though.

Mario announces that it's Carlito in 3rd place after all. He'll do fine and will probably get a contract as Simon had said that he had been the one act he would sign earlier in the season, presumably when they were just reviewing the guys or something. Carlito had made a lot of noise about wanting to get his family a stable life and provide for them and all that. To be honest, even if he had won, that wouldn't in itself do more than help them have a year during which they could share his income - probably a bit more than what the Tour Group will get. So maybe they could have a grand or two a month for a while but that is by no means guaranteed to continue and even big acts don't make much from their record deals in the early years. And few survive much longer. So, yes, he'll have a bit to share but they'll still need something else.

So it's down to Jeff Gutt v Alex & Sierra. More silly questions from Mario. Is he being told to fill? It does get a bit tedious. And if I hear once more How will winning change your life? I may have to fast forward my recording. For some reason I have no idea why we then get a pile of the rubbish performances.

Leona Lewis gets to perform One More Sleep and does so fabulously well. love that song and it could become her defining track for some years ahead as I can see it becoming a Christmas Classic. She genuinely looked as if she was really enjoying herself and totally confident, apart from descending steep steps in heels but that was something she got out of the way fairly quickly. Brilliant act.

The Final really does get drawn out as there are still two big acts to come. Pitbull next. A lot of attractive girls with very short denim shorts. Timber, It's Going Down. Yeah, right. Odd bloke but that was more commercial than I'd expected. I half expected Miley Cyrus to appear and I am sure there was a wrecking ball at one point. Some pretty provocative dancing that might have Sierra's grandparents (who we's seen earlier) wondering quite what their granddaughter has let herself in for. The three girls are up and moving around. Simon isn't. Thank goodness.

Alex & Sierra and Jeff Gutt sing again. Weird mix. Jeff Gutt sounding like someone else whose name escapes me. Lou Read maybe. Not a song I would have any of them singing really. Competently performed, however, showing that both acts have developed a smart degree of professionalism. That has all been quite a lot to learn in less than a week.

Sony get an ad as the boss tells us how one will get a 'life changing' contract.

One Direction are on again. They've had a good run on this programme this Season. As always, a great job done. The three girl judges are up and dancing again. Simon stays put. Just as well.

I think that means that, at long last, we get to see who has won. Surely, it's Alex & Sierra? The Country vote has surely gone their way and should have sealed it. This could be a Fifth Harmony moment, though. If Jeff wins we'll still hear more of Alex & Sierra!

It is Alex & Sierra. Well deserved. Well done.

An Excellent Final: Pt 1 Carlito Olivero makes it a real competition after all.

This is it, The Final. Jeff Gutt v Carlito Olivero v Alex & Sierra.

They start with Queen's We Will Rock You which rather favoured Jeff, Alex & Sierra looking slightly out of place. They did have the look of someone who had already won, though. Whatever the votes, judging from the download figures for their recent performances, Alex & Sierra have established themselves as a future act that we'll be hearing a lot more of. Indeed, they're already being played on UK radio and that is something, apart from Phillips Phillips' Home official release and Carrie Underwood's official releases of course, that hasn't happened before. Adam Lambert has been doing good things here with the remaining Queen members but not record success here yet.

Carlito winds up the emotions in his recorded set piece. His first song is Impossible and I so much prefer his version to the one James Arthur won in the UK with. Funny how there is almost a closed circle of tracks that we go round. At the time of writing, this year's UK winner is about to take No.1 spot with Demi Lovato's Skyscraper. That was a good solid first performance which will keep him in the running. For several weeks he could have been the one that was going home and now I can seriously imagine him winning if the Latin vote is strong, although we do have to remember that it is really how the Country states vote that decides the winner. They'll be on Alex & Sierra's side I should think, though, which ought to mean the duo have this thing in the bag.

And now it's their turn. Give A Little Time To Me suits them, if being a little bland compared to some that they've done. It became a bit more passionate near the end but throughout the beautiful Sierra shone through. She sounds great and they are both confident. As Kelly said, any label would take them now. Demi almost said how she really hoped that they would win but I felt that she might think Carlito's appeal could do it for him after all and she turned the phrase to hoping that they'd continue to do this. Interesting choice of words.

Sierra having an Irish Dance named after her won't do any harm either. Not sure how many mafiosi vote but they might just have a word with the phone company bosses!

If it were just a singing competition then Jeff Gutt should win. With lasers and an elevating stage almost as impressive as his voice this was quite a performance of what I presume must have been called Dream On. That was some show. Well done, Jeff and his stage managers. The audience went wild. Maybe he does stand a chance? This certainly keeps the competition open when I had a feeling that he might succumb at this point. Simon says that this is the first time that he believed that Jeff believed he could win. Good point.

Now I honestly do not know how this will work out.

Paulina finally gets a chance to show us what she does. Boys Will Be Boys. Hmmm. More performance and tight leather than live singing but she looked pretty good and the recording was good. She looked about ten years younger standing next to Mario on stage.

Carlito is singing with Prince Royce, whoever he is. Nice song, Stand By Me, Latin style. Opposite to the UK show, the star introduces the contestant. They go well together and I do see Carlito in that mould and doing quite well in it. He's not Enrique Iglesias but could invade some of that territory too. Apparently Price Royce, according to Mario, has a No.1 album - out now. Must have sold before it came out. Surprised we haven't heard of him if he's No.1.

Next come the duets.

Simon plays a trump card by pairing Alex & Sierra with Leona Lewis. The song is Bleeding Love and Leona has to be careful not to overshadow Sierra. Alex doesn't get much of a look-in, to be honest. That's the first time I've seen the pair looking a bit uncomfortable. I just think Sierra was over-excited at being with Leona. Her album gets a plug too. Her Christmas single is one of the best Christmas singles for a long time.

Demi notices too that it wasn't their best performance. Whether that'll affect things I don't know. Simon picks his word carefully and probably agrees.

Jeff gets to sing with John Rzeznik, from Goo Goo Dolls, doing their biggest number Iris, perfect for Jeff. I did feel that he didn't take it as far as he could and it didn't get the emotions flowing quite as much as I'd expected. Good, definitely good, but that could have made more impact. Jeff looks better with more beard now. I reckon Demi was too influenced by the star to think of anything to say.

So no real movement in one direction or another in my view for any of the acts.

Lastly, they each get to sing whiechever of their previous songs they (or more probably the producers) feel will represent them best.

Carlito reprises Maria Maria - at least I think that's the title. Great track for him and plenty of attractive girls in floaty red dresses to help us remember later. Nice job, Carlito.

Alex & Sierra reprise the near-perfect track Say Something. Without candles this time. But the crossover of voices is superb. That song alone may be the reason they do, in the end, win.

The links to home towns don't seem to be working terribly well! Carlito had to wait a while while some strange-looking couple started talking. A one-eyed Chinese lady won't have done him many favours. At almost the opposite extreme, Alex & Sierra got a gigantically fat bloke making odd signs and grinning stupidly while an announcer tried to be serious, proclaiming it to be Alex & Sierra week in Florida! Weird, to say the least. Jeff's Detroit followers can surely only appear dreadfully normal after those VTs.

Jeff chooses Creep and does it superbly too. If anything, that was the best performance of the night. The set, lighting and staging were very, very impressive. He could not have done better tonight. All three acts deserve to win and I simply can't call it tonight. He gets better audio with his Betroit town connection and, actually, quite a bit longer too. He gets the odd person too - this time an attractive woman who insists on dancing into the shot despite the best efforts of some bouncer trying to pull her off!

That's it for Part 1. I shall announce the winner later today.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Wow. 4 Acts. 12 Near Perfect Performances.

Five boys and one girl in the last four acts this year. Carlito, Jeff, Restless Road and Alex & Sierra are those left standing and this week one goes as the three who will compete in the Final are decided.

Unlike the UK, there will be no judge decision at this stage, with who goes through being determined purely by the public vote. Everyone says how hard their acts have been working.

I'm glad Carlito made it this far. I think most observers reckon he's got as far as he's going now, though, and this is the time to bow out. It's not like he's going to win this thing and he's safely on the X Factor Tour and will get a good income from that. He's opening the show and you do feel confident that he'll put on a good show. It's a Timberlake number If I Was Your Boyfriend and nicely staged with a genuinely surprised-looking girl being taken up on stage and sung to. Nice touch. He also pulls up Kelly Rowland and that works too. We've seen several acts try that trick in the past but without much success. He played the heartthrob role really well, as Demi says. Simon admits to feeling a bit nervous now. I imagine that his Restless Road are his weaker act of the two and the next most likely to go. That performance by Carlito might just have got him a bundle of extra votes.

Restless Road follow. That's My Kind Of Night is the song the public chose for them. Not a title I know but Simon tells them it's a hugely popular Country song. So you can see where Simon sees his main chance of getting through lies. And, of course, where so many winners get their votes from. It was a cheerful and upbeat number. A bit average in places. No-one shone, really. Demi was actually so right in saying that this was not particularly exciting and Paulina isn't that enthralled either. It was OK and I thought Andrew was relaxed and in the groove, Colton was just reliable but not as outstanding as he needs to be and Zachary, as ever, just seems a little off the beat and nervous. They could be good and I wouldn't write them off yet but, having started assuming that, whatever happened really, Carlito was the one going, I now have to reconsider that.

Alex & Sierra have had a superb run so far and last week took iTunes downloads by storm. That is, of course, a pretty good guide to how they'd do in the wild and now they have to do the same with Little Talks. They really do need to get the words right. Demi says she thinks she's looking at the winners. That was quite a surprise. I wasn't sure about the performance this time. It was competent, notes in the right place but on a similar level to Restless Road and I didn't get the same sensation of watching a record being made as last week. Having said that, I get the impression that the song was far better know across the Pond than here and will have gone down well.

Jeff Gutt gets Hallelujah, which is becoming almost an X Factor staple song these days. If anyone can do it justice, though, it's Jeff who needn't stray too far from the Jeff Buckley original. He does, though, adding the metal touch and that's no bad thing but he does mangle the word a bit in places. That was an impressive response from the audience. I had forgotten that he did this tune in his first audition in the previous series. If the judges' and audience's reactions are anything to go by then he would be a dead cert for the final with Alex & Sierra.

At the start Mario mentioned some strange duels. It looks as though there is now some The Voice-like affair where one act competes with another in the same song. I didn't like that set-up in The Voice so don't know what to make of this, another variation from the traditional show format. I do hope this isn't just to attract viewers for the ratings. There is some advantage in being able to compare directly two acts but only if they're competing for the same market - not the same prize.

Oh well, Carlito sets off. And, you know what, Carlito finds a wonderful new tone to his voice that we have hardly heard before. He does, indeed, hold whatever ground he was supposed to and, if anything, I feel he did better with that particular track. Both were excellent.

Next Jeff is up against Restless Road. I think it's Every Step You Take and I should think Jeff will be very comfortable ahead on this. He even sounds like Sting at the start. Restless Road have a decent harmony going and they do pretty well. Definitely it is Jeff who stands out. Could this be a pointer towards what we're going to see? Carlito is growing and showing some superb talent whereas Restless Road have yet to make an advance on last week. It is not a totally fair comparison, though, and maybe people have already made up their minds. And will it matter with that King Size Country vote anyway?

That was over quickly so no harm done and I guess it was quite interesting.

Now Carlito is on again with a Mark Anthony song that seems to be ideal for him - another excellent choice by Paulina. I Need To Know in English and then some Spanish. That'll pull in a few more votes. Another very good performance from this guy. I do have to say that he deserves to get through with that. It's not sure, though, with that huge Country vote going to Restless Road.

The three boys have a big Country number, one of those gooey, rolling guitar numbers that just roll on. I Want To Make You Feel Wanted gives each of them a nice chance to frame what they do. It's what I'd imagine they'd record and even Zachary sounds good, just not as good as Colton and Andrew. He still gets the screams from the crowd, though. That was a nice, sugary number. I didn't think it will have made such a difference. Comfortable and confident but I don't agree with Demi that they saved themselves with this. Not in terms of that being a better performance than Carlito. But they may have attracted those votes so she may be proven right.

Alex & Sierra. Gravity. Beautiful. It could have been written for them. Very very emotional moment. So impressed with these two. Simon wants to bottle the last 10 seconds of that performance. I know what he means.

Following that was never going to easy and Jeff is at another end of the market with a rowdy number. Where My Demons Hide didn't start that well at all and sounded quite a tough number to sing, even for this guy. Not my choice of song for him. I didn't like it much at all and if he gets through then it'll be on the back of his previous performances.

This has been one impressive show and one that all those who dislike reality TV shows or competitions like this might view. It could change some minds - the four acts were that good and I cannot recall when I've written that about any of the X Factor or American Idol shows at this stage.

Part two. The results! I have been keeping away from Twitter and X Factor sites as we only get the show on Saturday.

I started just assuming Carlito was in 4th place. Now I feel that he deserves at least 3rd place.

The sing-a-long version of Stronger did tend to emphasise the 1st Alex & Sierra 2nd Carlito 3rd Jeff 4th Restless Road view that I am coming round to but you really can't tell much from some track they're all told to sing, like it or not. Jeff didn't look very well this evening and Zachary was wobbly again. That will not have had an impact on votes, though. That's already been decided.

I bet he reads out Alex & Sierra first. They are a definite. Oh that' silly - Mario must have been told to do the We'll find out after the break... No. It's Carlito who makes it through first!! Well done, lad. I was prepared for him to leave, despite the excellent three performances he put in. So who's place has he stolen? My guess is Restless Road's.

Now if you'd just tuned in and seen Carlito performing on the stage you'd think that he was doing his farewell number but this week it looks like all those getting through will get to do a number. OK. Cheaper than pulling in some international act I suppose. He is actually very good - in Spanish entirely this time. Well done indeed. He's pleased.

This vote business is getting dragged well out.

Oh, they did pay for an international star after all - and an expensive one: Enrique Iglesias. Now that's someone Carlito can copy in the Final and do well. Nice performance. Very over-produced with almost every imaginable lighting effect thrown in for good measure. Heart Attack. That'll do well.

Back to the votes. So, this time it'll be Alex & Sierra through for sure? Everyone knows they're through so to leave them v another act at the end would be unfair to the other act. Yes. OK. So will they be joined by Jeff Gutt or Restless Road?

They perform Let It Go, another beautiful track. This is the Ellie Goulding number - she writes some wonderful numbers and this so suits them. Sierra even seems to have Ellie's accent! They must be on their way to win this thing.

Now the sad part as Mario has to announce who doesn't make it. I am expecting Jeff Gutt to be the one through but Country votes may have been enough for Restless Road after all. It is Jeff Gutt who makes it through and we bid farewell to Restless Road.

I expect Simon will organise something for them. He did pretty well for Fifth Harmony last year!

Jeff Gutt does the big ballad - like something from an American Heartbeat CD. Yes, it's competent but maybe just a little bit boring. Nice touch at the end as the three acts stand on stage and Sierra turns away from the camera and just sinks into her boyfriend's arms.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Alex & Sierra at #1

This is Alex & Sierra's performance on X Factor USA last week. It reached#1 on the US Download chart. If downloaders = voters then they may well be this year's surprise winners.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Top 6 Perform. Difficult Choices For Voters This Week.

It's down to 6 acts now and I am hoping that it's just one that gets sent home and not two as we've had in the last two weeks. Each will have two songs to perform. I have always said that I would like to see all acts get more chance to show what they can or can't do - often one unsuitable or misjudged choice can send someone home.

Just as I wrote that Mario tells us that there will be two going tomorrow so that's it. Down to 4 and that's as good as a final really.

Restless Road get to start the show. Odd mix. One says how people in his town gave his dad cheques to help cover the cost of attending the shows. Then there's another whose parents could probably buy the airline! This is Diva week I suppose so goodness only knows what they'll do. They select a good sing-a-long track Red from Taylor Swift's recent album. Great song and although that wasn't particularly exciting it worked well. The Scotty voice chap always goes down well and got a bit more than usual this rime.

Rion Paige has a Carrie Underwood number which ought to be excellent. It was quite a shock to see her in the Bottom Two last week. This Is Not Where It Ends could have been the title. The make-over team had been hard at work and achieved a quite impressive portrait shot on TV. She is still so young and I struggle to understand how she can get the lyrics across. If she didn't get across last week after really good performances then, unless the voting profile changes, I can't see how she'll survive. My own feeling is that she's more commercial than Jeff and a better singer than Ellona but it would be Ellona who had the concerts and publicity machine grinding away more successfully. So, not necessarily for the right reasons, she could go this week.

Jeff Gutt gets a Mariah Carey song. Sounds a bit odd but it's actually a Nilsson song, folks! And that means it was written bu someone quite like this chap and he has every chance of pulling that off. He is pretty damn impressive, I must say. Very good, every note spot on and powerful too. Quite a remarkable job he's done and just at the time to complicate anyone's predictions! Another performance like that and he could upset things and avoid the Bottom Two again. But if he's not there, who is?

Ellona Santiago has a Lady Gaga number. That's either very good or very bad news. She excelled last week. Well, if I was going to choose a Lady Gaga track then Applause is not it. She looked and sounded great, with a fabulously impressive set and some nice microphone stand action too. Extremely well made up and I have to agree with Simon who wasn't crazy about the original version but liked hers! She really does look the star and I believe that she would be a dream for the professionals to work with. The only worrying factor is whether the voters will appreciate Lady Gaga.

Alex & Sierra sailed through last week and rumour has it that they are getting some impressive voting figures. I think they hit the Glee market which can't be bad. Simon has them doing a Destiny's Child track. Of course, that'll be interesting as Kelly will know the words. Say My Name is odd. But it kinda works, I think. Sierra was superb and is rapidly becoming the one to watch. Tight black leather pants helped. Paulina makes me laugh by saying that they have love and would be the first pair since... Sonny & Cher. Eh?

Carlito Olivero talks again about where he's come from. He's on the Ricki Martin train again. I didn't recognise this. Let's Get Loud must be the title. It's pretty forgettable, to be honest. This was also the second performance where I felt that there was a backing track - just in case. The other had been for Jeff. I just felt that the track and his initial few words were out of sync. He escaped the Bottom Two last week but I do feel that he could be there this week. He hasn't struck me as a likely winner since the start. Nice guy but this could be his time to go.

Right, second chances here we come. These will be just with microphones, their vocals, no backing.

Restless Road sing Wake Me Up the huge AVICII No.1 here in the UK. It had been slowed down quite a bit and taken on a Country feel too. The latter will get the big Texas voters on side but the pace might not attract any new ones. Some quite emotional support for them from Demi and Paulina. I don't know what to predict for them.

Rion Paige sings a track I don't know at all. We Are Glass I think. Quite a special song and she knows it well and gets across the message well too. Note perfect and appealing but so far I still see her going tonight.

Jeff Gutt would have been my expected one to go tonight, almost regardless of how well he sings. His first track was so good, though, and here is his chance to get to the top 4. The brother in uniform may help him quite a bit. Daniel is a nice song. It isn't a fantastic song, though, and sounded a bit tinny here. It's one of those neither here nor there numbers that could go on an album but I would not have chosen that at this stage of the competition. Mario unintentionally but ominously asks Jeff for any last words!

Ellona Santiago sings If I Were A Boy and starts totally a capella and not a great deal more comes in later. Almost the opposite of the first performance, she is in jeans and a simple top and very appealing. That was not easy but she pulled it off very well. She has developed hugely in this competition and I am beginning to see her as winner. Compared to all the others she is quite a star, indeed. I just wonder whether she is in a market of many. We never really saw much more of Melanie Amaro. Would she also get lost amongst so many established women?

Alex & Sierra have a lot of candles on the set. Sierra plays the piano and Alex has a guitar. This is a gentle number. The makeover team need medals all round for how they present Sierra tonight. Amazing. And they perform this track beautifully. Say Something I'm Giving Up On You or something like that. It didn't necessarily go anywhere but they were spot-on and is something that I wouldn't mind seeing again, it was that good. They're developing into an act quite different to what I'd thought they'd be. Nice. Simon has it as his favourite performance of the whole series!

Carlito Olivero closes the show. He has done well to make #6 and may even make #5. His track is an Anglo-Spanish Stand By Me. This is a super track but a little tinny again in Carlito's hands. The mix of language and upbeat treatment are interesting and help him along. It certainly is not bad, just not that good. A bit sing-a-long and, sad to say, probably his exit song.

We get a bit of X Factor UK v X Factor USA with Little Mix and Emblem 3 performing tonight.

First a recap and I do fear for Carlito as the first to go. Second I feel is between Rion and Restless Road. I simply don't see Alex & Sierra going anywhere, nor Ellona after two brilliant tracks and Jeff may have made it with some stunning vocals. The Country vote, however, cannot be ignored and that might bring a switch between Restless Road and Jeff.

Mario does the announcement. It's Ellona in 6th place!! Another shock. Wow. No-one expected that.

Now I am confused.

Emblem 3 were a great act last year and did well. Here they bring the sun and the beach and some surf boards to the X Factor stage and they're a cool group who look like they're enjoying themselves. They are a nice sign of the sort of success that can come from the show. Not as huge as 1D, but doing well.

Now. The acts safe: Restless Road. Thanks to the Country folk out there! Alex & Sierra. Only one more gets through automatically and that is Jeff.

So Carlito and Rion are the Bottom Two again. It does seem that Rion is now reaching the end of her public support but I would expect her to do much better than Carlito.

Little Mix are on stage. They do a fun number and fill the gap while the Bottom Two are getting sorted. Little Mix are currently with Fifth Harmony and Demi Lovato in a show and starting to break into the States which is quite something. Interestingly, Fifth Harmony have yet to do so here.

Rion is faultless in her 'save me' song. A simple Country number The House That Built Me or something. If I were Carlito, I would give up now.

He is far more 21st Century than Rion and makes full use of the stage and his fans out there with even a run around the audience. He couldn't have done much better than that and all credit to him. Maybe the huge gap between the two acts will help him? Rion wants to share God again.

OK. It's up to Kelly and Simon. It may go to a public vote if Simon plays it right and that might just save Carlito. Kelly must be a Rion supporter? No. That's a surprise. Simon I would think likes both and probably would naturally save Rion but no, he sends her home too. Perhaps he can see that public support has been falling off.

So, another surprise, Rion is out.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Big Band Week Sees The Old And The Young Go.

Big Band Night. Why? Whilst some performers might suit the genre, I don't see Alex & Sierra or Restless Road exactly matching the concept of suits and brass backing. Some challenges do seem unnecessary in the search for what I presume is to be a future star in their own right, not an all-rounder. Anyway, a nice easy-listening start with Michael Buble who smiles when he sees the three young girl judges doing a sort of stand-up dance.

Rion Paige is first on following a pretty good series for her so far. She has been pretty impressive throughout. Tonight she showed yet more brilliance in a strange and quite 'young' performance of Swingin' which was quite spectacular and suited her down to the ground. I don't know what her mother was wearing but it shone out like a lemon beacon in the audience! Amazing. That was an example of what she could do in the market-place and she'd sell bundles. She is one example of an act that should benefit from this Big Band thing. How many more will there be? She is easily safely through to a Top 6.

Restless Road are almost completely drowned out by the band - and it's pretty odd 'big band' stuff at that. I didn't get this track at all, probably because I could hardly hear it. So they may have been doing great for all I know. Strange combination of ties - bow tie, straight tie and no tie, open neck. Odd but they looked good in the black suits, a great improvement on the tired and drab outfits to date. I'm not sure everyone got Simon's joke about my namesake's open neck look catching on! The judges were all very complimentary so I guess they must have sounded OK there. I wonder what the voters will make of it - there was a Country feel so that ought to keep them safe and I can see them being pretty popular, sound or not.

Jeff Gutt really doesn't seem like someone who would suit a big band unless it was a big heavy metal band. Good song choice. Feelin' Good works with the band and suits his voice too. He still doesn't look right on stage but does do well and with bags of confidence, getting an impressive standing ovation from the judges too. That'll please him. He had another variation of the tie thing - his being a white, undone, bow tie lying against a black shirt. Really good reviews and I am getting proven wrong on how people might meet the challenge tonight. For some reason, I am still not sure how he's going down out there in voting land. He certainly ought to make the Top 6 on that performance. We'll see who, if anyone, he can shift out of the way to get there. I'm not sure he'll have overtaken Rion but if Restless Road sounded as poor on US TV as they did here then that may be one act helping him to stay safe.

There are plenty more to come yet, though. This should suit Lillie and Josh should cope well and also look good in the suit.

As if to prove the point, a well-dressed Josh enters the stage via a back door and does You Are My Treasure and is very confident with the whole scene. I did find it a bit boring and middle of the road, to be honest, but that really shouldn't hurt him. He is excellent and a great find by the programme. Mario makes a comment about Josh 'surviving the sing off' which made me wonder what I'd missed last week but I think he just meant survived the get through to the Top 8.

Carlito may be the one act most naturally at home this week. With a Spanish number that is very much in the Latin Costa Brava mould that Ricky Martin would have been proud of. That was the Nineties, though, and there might lie a problem for this chap. Lovely though he is, and he certainly had fun and appealed to the audience by the sound of their applause, I am not sure he's done enough to escape the bottom two this week. It would be a shame to see him go on such a good night.

Alex & Sierra were always going to be in a spot of trouble this week and Trouble might have been the title of that track too. It was OK, a bit complicated and, whilst they did perform it immaculately, there wasn't the closeness that they usually present on stage. The smart clothes look good but I am not at all sure the dress did Sierra any favours. It was really neither here nor there. A bit clever, maybe a bit too clever. I don't see it getting a huge vote and feel they may well struggle to get through much further in this competition.

Lillie McLoud picks Summertime. Hmmm, now this could be really good, or it could be really not very good. The start is a little annoying and you feel as if she is slightly off key throughout the first part.She puts a superb amount of effort into making this her own and a special performance but I don't know if it really worked. I didn't like it but it might appeal to some. She has a lot of talent and must be a makeover team's dream to work with. I'd put her at risk this week. She promises 'the next song, Simon' will see her let go but I am not so sure there will be one.

Ellona Santiago really was fortunate to get through after a less than impressive performance last week but she didn't even hit bottom two so must have a decent following out there. She gets the valuable closing spot this week and I would imagine that this should be a good week for her - she sort of suits the big band idea and can look a little older than she is too, which is sort of needed unless you're going to do something very imaginative like Rion did. I am hoping cool, long dress, star quality make-up and a romantic, upbeat but not too fast number for her to get herself across with and without too many low notes. In fact, no low notes at all would be best. Emotional tear-jerker stuff as her poor sister surprises her during rehearsals.

Well she certainly looked good in the white jacket and then, when that goes, in the gold bikini with tassles. She suits the casino atmosphere and that was quite a nice-looking performance. At one point the amazing male dancers might have captured more attention than he singing. The song I did not recognise at all but it was definitely something for the big band theme all right. She sang strongly and this week got all the notes right and genuinely looked and sounded excellent. Although Simon was talking about her possibly winning the whole thing, she does need to get through this round to do so. How the voters will identify her with that I am not sure at all. Based on last week's results, though, she should be even safer and get through easily.

Interestingly, many acts seem vulnerable this time.

The whole lot are doing Cry Me A River. Ellona shone and, surprisingly, Sierra of Alex & Sierra. An odd mix with everyone maybe trying a bit too hard to impress but you do have to smile at the Restless Road guy's low note at the end. I don't think it was wise to judge them on one or two lines so the judging bit seemed a little wasted. Odd. Ellona does get a lot of compliments again so that should keep her safe again.

My feeling is that Lillie, Restless Road and Carlito are the ones at risk.

The results show starts with all the contestants' families surprising them - lots of tears again - and then they do the sing-a-long Somewhere Only We Know.

Lillie is, indeed, the first to go. That figures - the others really were all better than her. Coming 7th is no bad thing and I can see her doing pretty well after all this publicity for her career.

Demi Lovato then gets to do her new single Neon Lights. Gosh it's not very good. She is live - all credit to her for that - but she is either shouting or not really hitting the notes and you can almost see in her eyes at the end when Mario is congratulating her that she realises she doesn't really deserve much by way of praise for that. It was also a bit like a tatty version of Skyscraper. I almost felt sorry for her. She was outclassed by her own acts.

Carlito is first through so that will please him. Ellona fires through too - well deserved this time. Alex & Sierra are third through and Restless Road also make it. That was a surprise. The last act through is Jeff. Wow. That leaves it between Josh and Rion. Quite a shock. I'd put both in the final three so I am well out of touch with the voters over there by the seem of things. Really, neither should be heading home this week. If I had to choose it would be Rion I'd send home - not because she's no best but because I think she would benefit most from having time out with advisors and a team to work with her and also to give her a chance to grow emotionally. She will be fabulous but I want her a year or two older and to have credible experience of more than the obvious problems in life.

Having said that, my prediction is that it will be Josh who goes. He also is still young so can come back again or, I suspect, will get picked up soon enough by SYCO who, if they had any sense will have bagged Sweet Suspense and can now get a second future Billboard #1 act at a very cheap price.

Rion pleads with Perfect and I have to say that she is pretty damn good at getting emotion across and credibility in this number. I can't believe that she is actually in the bottom two. That was a stunningly good performance and she could easily sell that sort of thing to the teen market. I can't see Josh matching that.

Paulina introduces 'Carlito'!!! Josh appears, though, singing Bruno Mars I Should Have Brought You Flowers. God, that was good too. He is a little less obviously competitive than the bubbly and pushy Rion but you can see that he so wants to be there. Rion mentions God which might help her.

Demi naturally sends Josh home. Paulina sends Rion home. That was predictable. It is for Kelly and Simon to decide. I can see it going to deadlock and that may well mean Josh goes. Kelly sends Rion home. Simon will probably send it to deadlock rather than decide. That's what he does. So who got the lowest number of votes? It must have been Josh. Yup. Poor fellow.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Never mind the results. One Direction still lead the British invasion.

First to go is Khaya Cohen. It was a slight surprise as, whilst hers had been a terrible performance, I thought she'd still catch more votes than Lillie or Tim and had Lillie down as the first.

One Direction perform The Story Of My Life really well and remind everyone that coming 3rd is OK!

Mario announces the seven acts safely through: Rion, Josh, Alex & Sierra, Lillie (1st surprise), Jeff, Ellona (2nd surprise) and Restless Road. That leaves Carlito and Tim to fight for the judges' votes.

So who'll go? I'm writing this live so I have no idea. With two of Paulina's acts in the frame, it'll be down to the other three. Simon will send Tim home. Demi too, I think. Kelly may take Tim's side and Paulina is, I feel, inclined to choose Carlito to stay but may not feel comfortable deciding. It is normal in this circumstances for the judge to abstain and that would send Tim home. If, by chance, Demin sends Carlito home then Paulina may vote to make it 2-2 and thus down to who came 9th in the voting.

My clear preference for the programme would be Carlito to stay as I think he could pull something extra out and make himself modern and appealing. Not to these voters, maybe, but he does stand a chance and duets with Ellona would look cool later on. Tim is just a bit tedious and needs to go now.

Tim sings the Westlife number, still staying with the Brit theme, interestingly. Quite good and suits him but not really a song for a 2014 new talent show. He is probably annoyed that he got in the Boys section and not as part of Simon's Restless Road where, actually, he cpuld have fitted quite nicely. In fact, it's never too late and, if I were Simon, that's exactly what I'd do. It would be a bit controversial but what the hell. More publicity for the flagging show's mid-series ratings.

Carlito does a super version of a Bruno Mars number and actually this is by far and away the best he has sung throughout the competition. Excellent. He has to stay after that, surely. I would expect Kelly to swirch to him too.

Kelly sends Tim home. Demi too. I am surprised Paulina is asked but she does abstain after all. Mario pushes her and should realise that he doesn't need a name if Simon saves Carlito. I guess it makes good TV. I thought Simon would have said something and saved her having to do that. Anyway, right choice this time.

The Top 10 perform British tracks. But it's a rather odd night...

The British Invasion. I like that. The Top 10 will be performing tracks that our folk have been successful with - over there, I presume. Another double elimination! Gosh, they're knocking them out quickly now - I just hope that the mistakes of last week don't get repeated.

Jeff Gutt just stares at Kelly when she tells him that he's doing Bohemian Rhapsody. I seem to remember Adam Lambert doing this well (and he is now joining the other Queen members on various tours!) Adam was that good. Jeff gets the notes right and sounds fairly mean but it is more or less the same all the way through. Not bad but more of an attempt at a copy than what I see as a star performance. An odd argument develops when Simon is quite complimentary but asks him why he thinks he hasn't had any success to date. I tend to agree with Demi and Kelly who stepped in but it was still an embarrassing moment. Basically, Simon would be sowing some seeds of doubt in people's minds and even his 'compliment' was merely saying that was his 'best performance to date' which, I guess, could mean anything! What I don't get is why he should worry as I can see Jeff getting much further anyway. Or does Simon know more about the voting profile than we do?

Tim Olstadt is up next. Demi is quite right in what she said last year about this chap not having the X factor. But he does Country and Country gets big votes. Tonight he sings Elton John's Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. He sings very well and you can tell he sort of identifies with the words - a bit. He gets up and, amusingly, the piano continues to play. Obviously not that one but it is kinda odd! He looks quite out of place standing up - the dark grey denim is horrid. It might not be denim but it looks like denim. He sings better, though, and will have pleased some of his fans out there. Demi and Paulina keep talking about him being sexy which is weird. This show is getting very strange in places.

Khaya Cohen was is trouble last week which is an indication of what the voters think of her. She's in a similar bag to Jennel Garcia from last year. Jennel was brilliant but just didn't grab the voters. Khaya should stay for longer than the two guys she is following but much depends on how she does tonight.

Oh dear, the start is rubbish. She is all over the place an exposed with no backing other than a piano and solitary drum. She does get into it, though, and tries hard to impress but there are too many different flavours coming through. She does plaintive, she does rasping, she does Duffy but in her efforts there are just too many parts that sound like wailing for my taste. She may well have trouble this week after that dreadful performance. Not enjoyable.

Josh Levi has become one of my favourites, with marvellous performances so far, way ahead of the other two boys and, for that matter, most of the others. This week he's doing Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, an interesting choice as the Eurythmics number may not have been that well known over there. He puts a nice modern touch - Bruno Mars in places - on the whole thing with some cool dancing too. Very professional and, OK, maybe the song was a bit less than inspiring but that doesn't really matter for him. Nice job. He has to get through.

Alex & Sierra are singing Best Song Ever which is pretty current and that ought to be popular. They're a strange couple in this industry in this time but I can see them lasting a bit longer yet. This was nice. Just nice. They sing well together but there was no excitement which you get from the 1D track. I know it was supposed to be slower and there was the pretty pretty bridge by the river scene but I am not sure it was that good. Yes, Simon's right in that that could have been released a single, whereas none of the others so far would have worked, but it is an odd audience that would buy it and I am not at all sure they're the people voting.

Rion Paige is the first act to start confidently and in tune. (Well maybe Josh did). Another Elton John song, Your Song. She is terribly young but it sort of works as she was singing this for her little brother and so managed to get real emotion across. That was an amazing performance apart from the heavy breathing just before the end. That was odd but the rest - fabulous. Great reviews from everyone. That really should be enough to take her through easily. I imagine she has to be a finalist.

Carlito Olivero is singing Satisfaction. Ha! We had Hannah Barrett doing that in the UK last week. It's a track that really needs her strength and, much as I prefer Carlito to Hannah, she did the better job. He sang well but with quite stiff movement - and I had this guy down as a good performer before. He didn't put any expression in the song and I felt that it was a bit slow too. He looks good and that was by no means bad and I don't think he deserves to go home this week but, again, I am not at all sure how the voters will like it. Good set. Imaginative and modern.

Lillie McCloud is doing a Kate Bush number. This Woman's Work is not a song she knew and, to be honest, until she starts singing, I couldn't remember it myself. Kelly has thrust her in to this one. A good singer, though, and she makes a super effort. Unfortunately, something was missing and I think it was, indeed, Lillie simply not connecting with the song. That could well translate in votes not coming through. I don't know but, much as Kelly was clearly enjoying what I guess is one of her personal favourites, that may well prove to have been the wrong, much too serious and introspective choice.

Ellona Santiago performs Burn and it is clear that she's no Elli Goulding. I don't know why Demi gave her such a difficult song to sing. It's nigh on impossible! Ellona does try and as it progresses she gets close to a decent performance and I am impressed with her dancing and ability to hold notes while being tossed around. Not a particularly enjoyable performance, though. She is appealing to the male voters with long legs and is one of the few girls old enough to write that about. She may be very lucky that Tim was boring, Khaya off key and Lillie unknown this week/

Restless Road wind up the first part of this week's shows with Coldplay's Fix You. They're three popular guys already and this is a big, big and very familiar song. Listening to them was better than watching them. They're not exactly dancers! Simon attempted to present each of them more equally but I would have left the deep voice seven foot tall guy in the background. They were OK and I am sure that they'll be flying through with no problem but they're not yet the big future stars that Simon thinks they are. They could be, But some work to do.

Tim, Khaya, Lillie and Ellona are the contenders to go in part two.

Monday, 18 November 2013

*X Factor USA Top 10* after makeovers. Some strange photography.

Karen Carpenter fans will like them and I see one album selling wellbut that, I'm afraid, will be all. We're in a Mumford & Sons, Bastille type era. This is nice but really just too twee!

Are you honestly telling me, Simon or Fox, that this is the best of all the hundreds of photos shot that day? Please.

Looking older than she really is, Ellona is the show's Pin-Up girl but she'll need to do a lot better to stay on the wall.

Jeff needs a group. Simple. And either a big beard 70s-style or get rid of that annoying bit of hair.

Saved by the belles, or more probably, SYCO, after a week 1 eviction and now one of the best acts on the whole show.

Not over fond of this make-over. Very talented singer, though. If Duffy were not already around she'd do really well.

Nice lady who has already had enough make-overs to last the rest of her days. Any more and she'll look about 8. everyone is wondering though why she didn't make it in the business many years ago. Bit late now.

Quite a bit still to do for one of Restless Road. Simon says there is nothing quite like this band. There's a reason for that, Simon. But they are Country. And Country usually wins.

Marvellous talent but Rion is just too young to appreciate what she's singing about, or certainly ought to be. In two years she'd be a very big star and I feel she could be here too early, despite being one of the best this year.

I really do worry about the Fox photographer. Anyway, by rights, Tim shouldn't be around much longer.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

X Factor USA 80s Night and three go home.

What a start. One act is to be sent home at the start of the show. That is so cruel if they have, as we have to assume, been rehearsing all week for this show. It's Carlos. What a shame. Nice chap and he was showing some good signs of talent there. So now it's just 12 to perform.

And two will be kicked out this week. So the numbers will tumble from 13 to 10 during the course of the weekend!

Lillie starts the 80s night show and she suits that genre. She certainly has the big hair, although my recollection is that it was in fact the blondes that had the big hair! Anyway she's doing the Chaka Khan Ain't Nobody number and sounds just like the real thing, if not even better. Amazingly good at this sort of thing. Halfway through I was beginning to wonder if she'd forgotten the words or the moves as it seemed to dry up but it came back to life like a CD that gets stuck and then shudders back to play. Good reviews from the judges and Simon's last question crashes into the 'time to move on' music.

Carlito is next. His song is Rhythm Is Going To Get You which has the Latin feel going for it and this guy should be able to do something with that. He isn't that great, sort of lost in all that's going on on the stage, especially as he should be getting the girl and didn't seem to be. He performs well but his voice is a little weak. I have a feeling that he's popular out there, though, with the girl voters, especially now that Carlos has gone, and that he'll be around for a while yet. He gets pretty bad reviews this week - Simon particularly predicting that he'll be going home.

Rion I have to keep reminding myself is just 13. Crazy. We Belong To The Night is her track, whatever meaning she can possibly put into that. She sings fantastically well and you simply have to believe what she's singing which is no mean feat but is quite worrying for all that. What a voice this girl has got. She is quite some star.

Sweet Suspense
Micky by Toni Basil is an unusual choice that Simon's given them. It's fun but I am sure a Cyndi Lauper number would have been better. But they put everything into that and are really entertaining. Loved it and they look tremendous and seem like a nice, ready-made group. Strangely, Demi doesn't like them. Not sure why. Kelly isn't complimentary either. Simon goes strong on defence and says that he feels as if he's up against three witches! I like this group a lot and they seem very current.

I would have expected him to have gone home before Carlos so there's a hint as to how the audeience that votes is made up. Good, old style voice but he does miss some important notes. Against All Odds sounds good and maybe as good as the Phil Collins tedious original. So if his fans are as numerous as I suspect, that will have pleased them and should keep him safe. He ends very well. Kelly and Demi are definitely in a bad mood and don't seem to like him. He hasn't got the X Factor, to that extent they're right. But he deserved better comments than they gave. Simon was wondering more about the girl dancer. I have to agree!

Khaya reminds me a lot of one from last year. She is superb but taking on Madonna is always going to be dangerous. Borderline emphasises just what a great singer Madonna is as it is damn difficult to sing and Khaya does struggle, sounding quite painfully off key at times. Not a nice oerformance at all and she doesn't look as good as she has done before either. Oh dear. She ought to be the one in trouble. Amazingly - the judges rave about her! Eh?? Have they got different microphones or speakers there? So weird. I do agree that, apart from this, she has been great and is someone who could win and have a career in the industry. But that was a poor performance through my speakers,

Restless Road do Footloose. That was unexpected. I had them down as a Country style and ballad group. So this is out of what I'd seen as their comfort zone. But... my God, they did well. The guy with the beard did rather carry them through, the others tending to come along. The low voice one was almost looking a bit surprised to see what was going on around him and did seem a bit out of place. The good-looking one should have had a few more singing opportunities and seemed to be thinking a bit more than singing but when he did join in he was good. That worked a lot better than I'd expected, they should be well safe.

I like this girl but she flies between brilliance and being not very good at all. She seems a little older than she should be for the hot pants.  Alone is a great song from Heart that really does encapsulate the 80s. This song suits her so well and she gets it across really well and shows the others exactly what power singing is all about. Yes, it was dated but yes, it was good. I can't see where she fits in to the scene but I do like her. I'd like to hear the songs she writes herself. Great reviews. I'm not sure Kelly is that good a mentor as she comes across as very angry and not as supportive as she might be.

Ellona was quite fortunate to be here after a dodgy week last week. She has to deliver I Wanna Dance With Somebody the Whitney classic that, like Madonna's songs, is tough to copy. She is a good dancer and has a presence on stage. It wasn't that good, to be honest. I think she's popular out there but that was not a brilliant performance. I was impressed at how she recovered from a slip and, if anything, she got better afterwards. Just average for me, though.

Josh was brought back last week and is singing Paula Abdul's Straight Up. He's young and talented. I am quite impressed with what we see of Paulina's mentoring and advice. He is a great dancer and so comfortable on stage. He is the first not to be surrounded by a whole bundle of distracting others. Great voice, nice style and, even if this was not, perhaps, that great a song choice for him, he should be around for a while yet. He's good.

Jeff is someone who seems a bit out of place in this series. He should simply cruise through 80s night, though. I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight is one of the classics. Cutting Crew is the group who did this first. He has just the right voice but this was strange performance. Good start but it just drops from there and doesn't really go anywhere or leave us feeling 'Wow!' as we ought. I can't see who out there in voting land he appeals to. He could be vulnerable this week. Kelly is much more defensive of him than she was of Rachel and yet he was nowhere near as good. Oh well.

Alex & Sierra have Addicted To Love to perform. Ha! That should be fun. Robert Palmer is a million miles away from these two. Strange set with each performing in separate 'rooms' in a crazy but quite good performance. These two are actually quite good and the girl, in particular, made this work tonight. I think they go down well with voters.

Here in the UK, we get the results straight after the performances. My guess is that Jeff, Khaya and Tim are in trouble. Possibly Sweet Suspense as that was a song that few voters will have been familiar with or appreciate.

The 12 start with a nice tribute to Lou Reed. Perfect Day is one of the few tracks designed for one-at-a-time singing so, for once, a sing-a-long that worked.

Losing two at this stage seems very sad to me. None have really settled yet. I would keep all of them for longer and then, later, when we've seen a much better set of performances, lose two or three each week in later stages.

Watching the repeats, I loved Sweet Suspense, Josh and Rion. Alex & Sierra should be safe as will be Restless Road. Rachel's performance was stellar and she has to stay, surely. Ellona missing some key notes was annoying and I'm not sure how she'll fare. Tim was neither here nor there. Jeff was more powerful than I'd remembered. So it'll be close, I think. Maybe Alex & Sierra could be in trouble as it might be asking a lot of voters to support that quite unusual stage show.

One of the problems with watching this in UK is that it is difficult not seeing the results beforehand on Twitter. I usually manage to do so but because it is such a shock this week it was impossible to avoid.

The lowest vote was for Sweet Suspense. That's sad. I wish Simon hadn't been chewing gum when he was answering Mario as to what his views were. I do hope he works something out for these three excellent and very smart girls.

As if to emphasise their currency we get Selena Gomez doing the sort of thing that Sweet Suspense would be jolly good at. Sad. They didn't deserve to go. Odd voters.

Almost as unbelievable is the voters' choice of bottom two: Khaya and Rachel. Odd voters indeed. Neither should be going anywhere. Khaya did mess up but deserves another chance and could win. Rachel is not going to win but is hugely more talented than several others who have been voted through. I guess I would have to send Rachel home but I wouldn't want to at all.

Fifth Harmony are back and obviously having a great time with a fun single Me And My Girls. There were one or two less than convincing vocals in there but they're so today and just fun to listen to that you can imagine teens buying their stuff, just as I had thought Sweet Suspense, arguably better singers, could do.

Thereagain, Fifth Harmony only came third (or was it fourth?) and neither Tate nor Carly Rose have exactly blown us away with releases since. I wonder whether, with some clever management, Sweet Suspense could actually be in the charts before the end of the series? That would be a nice lesson and a good example of how success is always possible for talent. So, Simon, give them a chance - and the UK market would love them too. Seriously better than Little Mix and there's no competition except the Saturdays and we don't see much of them.

Khaya is first in the sing-off. What was that song that she sang to save herself? just Don't Give Up On Me Marvellous and absolutely spot-on this time. She reminds me so much of Duffy. Really good. That was a very very good performance and there is no way she should be even close to going home.

Rachel sings From This Moment a more Country orientated song and it lacks the amazing power of Khaya's but she has this delicate charm that is so endearing and looks about 19 tonight. She really should not be going home either. But I guess she will be. Here's her version Of Alone, though which I prefer to remember her by.

It's down to Paulina and Simon. I wonder if they'll leave it to see who actually came bottom in the votes. No, Simon settles it. probably right, of the two. But it really should not have been that two.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Sweet Suspense, Rion, Khaya in full and the rest in brief on video

Here are the two stand-out performances from the rerun and Sweet Suspense from the previous show.

And here's  quick recap of all the rerun performances

Top 13 all have to sing again as voting goes haywire.

Straight in to the second show and Josh shows us just why he had to be brought back in. He sings beautifully I Want You To Stay. That was marvellous. I am not sure of the format of this show but it looks like each act gets to sing again, Mario calling it their 'survival songs'.

Rachel follows with a nice, gentle God Is Great song which has dodgy words but goes along nicely. I am wondering whether this is what they had to do because there was a problem with the first show when the voting went wrong. Perhaps we are getting the revised show instead where they are all getting to do their 'survival songs' which normally only a couple would have to do.

Confusingly, Simon says Rachel was great 'tonight' but had been awful 'last night' when actually 'last night' he had said how good she's been compared to the previous 'week'.

Carlos does Stones well. He has lots of feeling in this modern track. As one of those I regard as at risk, he needed that good performance.

Mario talks of this as a tough challenge - another hint that we're seeing the rerun.

Restless Road do Don't You Wanna Stay. Nice job. Nothing like as good as the previous show but I still can't see that making much difference - these guys will be very popular out there, with only Rachel and, possibly, Tim, competing in the Country section where there's that vast vote to collect. Tate cruised through on that wave and never really had to try, just banging out nice tracks and looking like a nice dad. These guys appeal to kids too and can add a nice extra dimension to tracks too. And they have the Scotty fans too. So they really shouldn't be sent home just yet unless I am totally misreading the audience.

Ellona attempts the annoying Titanium. I was not very impressed until she seemed almost to realise that she was making a mess of it and started to try. She is a good performer but just needs some more practice. Some notes came and went. Quite weak really in too many places and she was trying too hard too obviously to correct the situation. She could be vulnerable still.

Jeff's song is In The Air Tonight. This is excellent - one of the best vocals but I still wonder whether he'll survive. A scary set, lighting and black and white scene weren't necessarily in his favour. I like the guy a lot now but worry that voters won't.

I wonder whether there should have been a star of some sort on the show? That's what normally happens in a Results Show. Throwing all 13 acts in again, in what I guess had to be the same time scale, must have meant something had to be cut. Or did the first Results Show go out, with the star performances, and America saw both that and this.

Alex & Sierra do Give A Little Time, a number I don't know but which they sing fantastically well together, Sierra has a Karen Carpenter look and sound and was very accurate and pulled the track along. But the clothes! Oh dear. Awful shades of brown and blue for Alex and a strange dark olive fat trouser thing for Sierra. Oh well, they'll survive, no worries.

Khaya sings the beautiful Duffy number. Distant Dreamer is one of my all favoutire songs and so I was prepared to be very critical. I have to say that she performed this brilliantly. A little desperate in places, lacking the crisp, dreamy notes that Duffy found but very very good for all that.

Carlito has If You're Not The One from Daniel Bedingfield. It suits him down to the ground. A very difficult track with amazingly high and low notes which few could even attempt. This guy does very well. Impressive stuff. This is a good programme with everything proceeding at a great pace and very little commentary. It's like speed dating says Mario!

Lillie has a chance to get everyone back on board. Who Wants To Live Forever is a strong track. She knows exactly what she's doing with this track and it sounds like it's one of her staples, perhaps in bars and clubs or wherever she has been performing. That should help her a lot as it had no mistakes, she looked good and nothing to pick fault with at all. She might have lifted herself out of the risk zone with that.

Sweet Suspense
That Should Be Me worked. It wasn't anything particularly memorable but a competent performance and they still should be safe as houses through to next week.

Now this is one person who can only benefit from another performance. Born This Way is so good. In some ways this was better than Lady Gaga's original. This performance will not only keep her in but may well send her flying through to a final. It's the moment of the night and one that will be played and replayed for some time yet. Brilliant.

Still such rubbish clothes for the man on this show. Tim's in grey jacket and blue jeans. Disaster. The song is the predictable I Believe I Can Fly which so many have done before. His version is up there with the best but it does nothing for me still. For all the wrong reasons maybe, I feel that Tim is the most vulnerable this week.

The show just ends. It's like it was just one to show the acts singing again. So does that mean there'll be a real 'Results Show' next? There is absolutely zero guidance on this.

Motown Night

Weird start to this week's first show where the audience get to vote for their favourites.

I am always a bit dubious about the sing-a-long at the start as so many people really look (and can sound) uncomfortable. This one has the three girls at the beginning and they looked very strange indeed. Rion, of course, has the hand problem but it's not that but more the way the makeover teams had dressed them that made Rion, in particular, look all out of proportion. Quite odd. There were noticeably huge cheers for Sweet Suspense and Rocky Road or whatever they're called. OK, Restless Road. Just compare the three girls in Sweet Suspense, dressed in silver 60s minis and looking cheerful to Rion, Khaya and Ellona looking a bit strange.

We learn that one act gets a Wild Card. Josh Levi, who didn't do badly at all and had been a strong contender before, gets a surprise from Mario in a diner. So that's the 13th that I'd been hearing about.

Josh gets to start the show and it's a cool start with the Smokey Robinson number Who's Loving You Now. He was spot on vocally. It might have been a little slow for the Josh we've known before but that was one good solo, with little in the background. Nice job. He ought to stay after that. Mario says that was old school Jackson Five. Is that right? Even sounded like Smokey.

Rachel also got a big cheer in the sing-a-long. She seems very popular. I'd expected Lillie to get all the Overs attention. Jeff looked even scarier than ever. He's a good singer but could struggle.

Rachel's song is This Ol' Heart Of Mine, a jolly ditty from the Isley Brothers in the late 60s. Rachel is worrying as you just can't be sure she will get things right. This time she started a little weakly but got into a commercial run and with that her confidence improved. It was a strange way to do that track but the Country style may help her through. Personally, I think she'll need to do a lot better to last in this competition. She does look beautiful, though, and that can't do her any harm. She is someone who might just surprise us by getting better as the show goes on.

Carlos is an interesting contestant. He does What's Going On pretty well. It did go on a bit though but then so did Marvyn Gaye's original. It suited his voice but sort of didn't do a great deal for anyone watching. This is a potentially great act but he has a lot to learn and someone needs to help him through. He is the first vulnerable act tonight but I think they'll be others that push him off the bottom.

Restless Road are three fabulous singers. Easy I hadn't thought was a Motown song, The Commodores were from the era but I didn't think they were a Motown label act. Must be wrong about that. Anyway, the boys looked great and sang, well, fairly well. It was a bit boring and they've done better but the audience loved it. Simon says they'll be in the final. That's that then.

Ellona is upset and struggling to cope with school tests as well as rehearsals. Baby Love was a bit desperate and felt as if she was trying too hard all the way through. She's an attractive girl and looked like a circus performer, with dancing that was less than impressive but then how anyone manages in heels as high as hers is a mystery to me. This was not a great performance and I wonder how much support she'll get from voters, Recalling Jessica on American Idol, she could be OK but will really have to pick a better number and dance next week. At the moment, whilst I can see any of the previous acts actually winning, I don't see it happening for Ellona. Not that she's not good. Just something isn't working yet.

Jeff is singing another Lionel Ritchie number, Say You Say Me. The guy comes from Detroit so this is quite a key one for him in a way. He is one of the strongest and most accurate singers in the competition this year - reminscent a bit of Adam Lambert, just not as good-looking. A very good performance of a tedious song. The make-over team need to get rid of that lower lip hair. He does seem a little stuck in the 80s genre. He does that so well but I don't know where he'd fit in 2014 charts. He doesn't deserve to go but I feel he's vulnerable and don't see him making it far.

Alex & Sierra make you smile. Well, grin a bit. Their track is I Heard It Through The Grapevine and I hope it's not as long as the Marvyn Gaye original. This is a difficult track to do on a programme like this. Once they get going in harmony it's quite pleasant but not something I am going to rush to find the video for. Massive audience response. I don't quite understand that. I guess the audience love the sweet couple stuff so they could be around rather longer than Jeff.

Khaya ought to do well this week as she has the Motown vibe in the way she comes across. Her strong voice should cope with the Temptations' My Girl. A gorgeous song and she does it brilliantly. Great. Best of the night so far. She's young and a little chunky but you can see her doing really well in future. She handles the attention well, too. For the first time I can see Khaya in a final. How about the voters in America? Not so sure they do.

Carlito sings Stop In The Name Of Love, the Supremes number. Good track and his interpretation of it was very smart. This was a ballad version. Unusual but excellent. This was good and should see him settled in the next week or two. He is a likeable fellow and will appeal a lot to the girl fans out there. The reviews were not so good from the judges but I think he can be happy with that performance when he sees it back.

Lillie has to be the one to watch tonight as she is the spitting image of Diana Ross. Her song is one I don't recognise. She looks immaculate in a white sparkly dress but where is the 'Motown' in this? It may well be a Motown song but it's not one the voters will be keen to watch again and I wonder whether they'll even bother to vote for that. She is an excellent singer and looks like a star but I didn't get that at all. Simon says it's a Stevie Wonder number that's one of his favourites. Lillie gets great comments from the judges but I'm still not sure it'll be enough. If she'd come on and done Chain Reaction or similar she would have blown everyone away.

Sweet Suspense
Love these three. Great. You Keep Me Hanging On. So well presented and pretty too. They really should have a future and, whether they win this thing or not, they'll be in the charts next year.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough sung slow and with feeling by Rion was a good choice. Just a little tedious in places, I suppose, and it wasn't her best performance by a long shot, but she'll be popular and should leap into next week. One very good voice. Quite how she'll get on is a bit of a mystery. She will either go quite soon or stay all the way to the final.

Winding up the Top 13, this is the least likely act to win as he says himself: "People haven't got me yet." He certainly has an excellent tone and lovely voice. His song is I'll Be There which is a great track and should appeal to lots of people. But what is the guy wearing? Browns and greys that look like they're second hand. Where's the makeover team been? Demi gets it right - he is very talented and has a lovely voice but he doesn't stand out as a star. It's a shame but I don't see him making it. Simon cheers him up immensely by saying that he liked it and says he's a Donny Osmond or Josh Grobin which ain't bad news. After Demi and Kelly put him down quite a bit, Simon's move was smart and needed. Quite who'll be voting, though, I'm not at all sure.

Listening to them back again, Carlos, Ellona, Lillie and Tim are the most likely to be at risk.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Meet The Final 12 Performance Videos

This is an hour long programme where we get to see a bit more about each of the 12 acts that are through.

Rather than try to capture all that, here are their performances in the preceding show.










Restless Road

Sweet Suspense

Alex & Sierra

Top 16 perform live and 4 go home

After a very long intro, Mario gets us on the way with the Girls, mentored by Demi Lovato.

Ellona gets the job of kicking everything off. Great. Leather hot pants and one really modern track that we haven't seen in any of the X Factor UK shows. Producers please note! Really good performance which didn't require much by way of singing talent but she certainly got everyone's attention and a lot of compliments.

Danie may be the one with the least stage presence. She is also doing a very, very today number, Wrecking Ball which is still at the top of our charts. Her vocals were spot on but the judges were a little down on her. I feel she might be the one to go, judging from Demi's attitude.

Rion is the very young and a little strange one. A mass of curly red-blonde hair makes her look even younger, Her performance of Skyscraper was remarkably good. This girl is very impressive and you can't help but respect what she does. She is almost certain to stay and may be one of the early favourites to win this show.

Khaya is doing Duff's Mercy and actually sounds quite like her. A good solid performance. She seems reliable and, if a little chunky, is attractive. Nice mini skirt from the 60s and well-presented. Simon notes that she might have some sort of likeability problem. She sounds serious - but not as serious as Danie. That was good and should mean that she stays in the competition.

Demi has to make a decision straight after the four sing. It is pretty obvious that it will be Danie that she sends home. Probably the right decision. She had no poor performers in her group but maybe it is better for her to choose than the public. they'll get their chance soon enough.

So now Paulina has to choose three of the four boys. You get the impression that she has already decided.

Josh Levi starts this category. Only Girl In The World is ideal for his voice. This young fellow is good. He will have a huge fan base, girls will love him and he can interact with the audience and those on stage with him well. The four judges were a little damning of the song choice and said that he'll need a lot of work. I still think he'll walk through to the next round.

Carlos Guevara has been one of lovable characters in the series so far. He hasn't always looked so smart and has an unusual, chewy sort of voice and may not be everyone's idea of a pop star but he has a huge amount of passion and is a mature singer who knows what the lyrics mean and how to get the across. Don't You Worry Child was a good number but I am not sure it showed him at his best. He's good and I'd want to see him go further. Now that's interesting, Mario announces that Carlos is the 'leading boy on-line'. There must be some on-line voting going on. No-one mentioned that before.

Carlito does a truly native Latino performance. No idea what it was called. Maybe Maria Maria. It was pretty typical of this sort of stuff and he did a good job, if not a particularly memorable one. Nice movement and he can certainly sing well. There may be some room for this in the market. Simon says almost exactly that just as I write this and that is one hell of a compliment for this chap. He will be feeling great and there is no way that Paulina will be able to kick him out now!

The weak one for me has always been Tim Olstad. Nice enough chap. Good voice. In fact, an extremely good voice as I listen to this performance. I am beginning to change my mind as he goes on. This is good and maybe there is space for someone who can appeal to the ballad, slightly Country, voters. It'll be between Tim and Carlos and Paulina has to choose. I think I might choose Tim after all. Simon is right about his looks and there is little star quality in terms of what he does on stage. If it were purely voice then he's in. If it's about performance then Carlos may just survive.

Mario says that, 'at home', Carlos is slightly ahead. That may well make her choice a bit easier. And you do wonder quite why they said that. Didn't mention it for the girls. Carlos is chosen with Carlito so it's between Josh and Tim. Interesting. Tim gets it. Josh, who many thought was a major contender, is out! That was a surprise. My views have been switching as I write, live with the recorded programme. I am beginning to wish I had seen some reports on what has happened, this being some week or so after the actual broadcast, thanks to some bizarre scheduling and total lack of promotion by ITV2 here in the UK.

Kelly has the Over 25s. Rachel looks good. James too. Jeff is the doubtful one. Lillie just has to keep going. Rachel has a big lead, apparently, with that on-line thing.

Lillie starts this category with When A Man Loves A Woman. Wow, this lady is good. I am very impressed at how she can look so neat for the age she is and there is no clue whatsoever that she is more than thirty something. A little breathless in places but a nice, solid and, in places, excellent performance. She'll survive and the public should love her too. Simon has a 'but', (not that sort of butt, he adds,) making the point that she may have been a bit old-style for this competition. I didn't notice that.

Jeff looks slightly scary to me. Great voice and nice to have someone rocking on the show. His is so good but will he get votes in this competition? He should be leading a band. It's raw and honest and Simon continues to say it's 'bloody brilliant'. I agree. Would I put him through? Dunno yet.

Rachel sings Liann Rimes' I Hope You Dance. Love that song. Not an easy one, as last year's runner-up will recall. They need a Country singer in this show. She may be the only one unless they re-programme Tim. Perfect song for her and she is someone I would hope to see survive. She has quite an emotional appeal to Kelly.

James has a great stage presence, apart from the brown trousers. Painted It Red or something like that is a nice enough track but I'm not sure he will appeal widely or last that long even if he does get through. A good performance. Good reviews from the judges too. Kelly has a tough choice. Sending him home would not be an easy decision.

I feel Jeff gave the better performance and may just stand out as a more unique act in the next live shows. I'd definitely keep Rachel for the Country vote. That's the first that Kelly chooses. Second is Jeff. That must mean James is going. Yup, Kelly chooses Lillie. No she doesn't. Yes she does. That was close. Poor James.

Love the way the groups react on arriving at Simon's house.

Roxxy Montana are first up for the Groups. Simon has them singing the remarkable Royals which has just hit the top of the UK charts and I didn't think it had been released there yet. So you couldn't get much more current or commercial-sounding. A good move for the public vote but this is not what Simon needs to do. They start at the bottom of the on-line vote chart, we're told. One of the voices was not nice to listen to. I may well get rid of them

Sweet Suspense are three girls from the audition rounds that Simon has put together, Amazing! They get to do I Don't Care and they are certain, certain folks, to get through. Potential winners, even if they didn't sing so well. That was the commercial performance of the night.

Alex & Sierra next. I am so impressed with simon's choices for the groups. They get Blurred Lines - another No 1 song here - and incredibly catchy! Again, he didn't need to do that for this section and I would have saved it up for the public vote. They did a great job of the track and have a certain appeal out there. An odd pair in many ways but they suit America. They wouldn't survive here for more than a week but will be around across the Pond for a week or two more yet.

Restless Road are the other Country act. A nice bunch of lads put together for the show. Ha! They get Roar! I am stunned by the song choices he's made. So current. So different to the UK show. Much better as well. It was a bit odd in places but the guys get on well and it worked.

It does look pretty much as though Roxxy Montana will be going home. I'm not too worried about that. The others really did do well. I suppose the choice ahs to be between them and Alex & Sierra. He puts Restless Road through straight away and says he thinks they could win the show. Next must be Sweet Suspense but no, it's Alex & Sierra. So, yes, he gives Sweet Suspense the chance they need and it's Roxxy Montana that, after a very long wait, he sends home.

That was quite a show. Marvellous entertainment. Why on Earth ITV2 put that on at some crazy hour in the afternoon, I have no idea.