November 27, 2013 7:54pm PT by Michele Amabile Angermiller
'X Factor Recap': Michael Buble Challenges Top 8 to 'Prove it Beeyotch'
The X Factor stepped up its game for Wednesday night’s Big Band-themed night, wecloming a 25-piece band and a guest turn by the reigning “king of big band” himself, Michael Buble.
Of course, the guy that REALLY brings his A-game for nights like this, Harry Connick, Jr., will be doling out his wisdom on American Idol this January, but Buble was more than ready to mentor the kids in the genre, offering the best line of the season in his session: “Prove it beeyotch.”
Curiously, only one song, “Summertime,” rightly represented the era, with the remaining selections plucked from the current charts, which was probably due to the fact that with a few exceptions, none of the competitors really know Big Band hits, like Rion Paige, who famously mistook the Spice Girls for an ‘80s act two weeks ago.
As is becoming an X Factor tradition, each contestant gave “thanks” for someone special in their lives. CeCe Frey’s story about her sister from last season still makes me cry every time I think about purple ribbons on the Christmas tree. Last night provided a similar moment when Ellona Santiago’s talked about her sister, who was just diagnosed with stage four cancer. Paige chose her mom, Andrew Scholtz in Restless Road remembered his late Uncle Bill, and Jeff Gutt –in a new twist--gave thanks for his father (I was sure he was going to bring up his son again).
Additionally, the show unveiled a new wrinkle--a competitive face off of all eight contestants competing in a sing-off.
“I can only imagine how nerve-wracking and scary it must be,” said Buble of the challenge, which required each competitor to shine on just one or two lines of a song, in this case, “Cry Me A River,” by Billie Holiday.
While the concept of a sing-off has shades of a TheVoice knockout round, Simon Cowell made an excellent point by saying it is impossible to judge a singer on just a few lines in a song. That said, Santiago definitely shone on that effort, hands down.
Kelly Rowland felt that Cowell made a mistake by not having the guys in Restless Road sings as a group, and said that everyone blended in except Lillie McCloud. Paulina Rubio praised her boys and Santiago, but didn’t love Gutt.
So, who is going to be crying in their mashed potatoes for tomorrow night’s double elimination on Thanksgiving? Read on:
Demi Lovato’s girls kicked off the festivities with Paige taking on the LeeAnn Rimes’ version of John Anderson's “Swingin.’” Although not a true big band effort, the plucky teen pulled out all the stops with non-stop energy and her usual infectious perkiness, although there were plenty of flat notes the judges clearly did not hear. Rowland said she “worked the stage like a serious pro,” while Rubio praised the “happiness and light” she brought to the stage. Cowell threw shade at Lovato, who he has criticized for saddling the Florida singer with poor selections week after week. He then praised her song choice as “perfect” and said that she showed she could adapt to any theme. Santiago totally rebounded from last week’s Ellie Goulding disaster with her best performance of the season with a swinging version of “Mama Knows Best” by Jessie J. Cowell called it "game changer"--and it was. With a strategically planned outfit change mid-song, hers was absolutely the strongest and most captivating act of the night.
Cowell’s Group’s category began with a shout out to kids and puppies with the guys from Restless Road giving Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” the horn treatment. While they did sound “more cohesive,” as Rowland said, Colton Pack is still struggling with his solo parts. Lovato said they “looked like stars” and Cowell didn’t seem to know if it was him or the group that chose their song. Style points for keeping with the theme, however, go directly to Alex & Sierra, who donned a gown, a tux, and slick hairstyles for a revamped work of “Trouble” by Taylor Swift. It was an ambitious, yet enjoyable undertaking by the quirky and lovable duo. Lovato loved that they turned the song “into their own,” while Rowland wasn’t crazy about the arrangement, but thought they sounded great together.
Rowland must be “Feeling Good” about the chances for her Over ‘25s after veteran rocker Gutt pretty much threw down the gauntlet with his most accomplished and sexy performance of that song. (Yes, this is what sexy looks like Demi -- unlike Tim Olstad’s un-sexy turn on the show last week.) Lovato said he “killed” it, Rubio praised his “masculinity,” Rowland wanted to download it, and Cowell said he’s a decent guy that “deserves a break.” Lillie McCloud gave thanks to her fianceé, who is head and shoulders a nicer guy than the abusive men she had in the past. This week’s theme was a lay-up for the torch song singer, who took on a song widely associated with American Idol standout Fantasia Barrino, and knocked out another polished and poised performance. Cowell, however, only loved the last note and felt it was too “contained” and that he could have mentored her better. McCloud responded by telling the salty Brit his critiques were too “confusing,” and Rowland merely told him to “shut up.”
Rubio, however, has the most promising hope of winning with teen Josh Levi, who praised his grandmother and once more looked like a star as he took on “Treasure” by Bruno Mars. Seriously, this kid has the stage presence of a celebrity. Rowland agreed, saying Levi is “wonderful to watch,” with “so much charisma,” Cowell called him a “singing/dancing fly” but criticized the choreography, which he felt was dated and theatrical. Carlito Olivero, however, feels like America hates him because he was in the bottom last week, and gave thanks to his parents for getting his family through lean times. Rubio rightly mentored Olivero with the choice of two songs popularized by Ricky Martin folded into a medley, “La Copa de la Vida/Maria Maria.” Backed by the band, this strategy worked beautifully as the X Factor stage suddenly felt like a night with Ricky Ricardo at the Copacabana club. This worked unbelievably well for Olivera, and Rowland and Lovato both praised the performance. “You need to stick to this,” said Lovato. “That was amazing.” Cowell was thrilled that Olivero “finally showed up.” Rubio’s mentoring really made the show into a “fiesta” and made the best case to America to keep her team in tact.
So who is going home? Hit us up in the comments and we'll reconvene after our Turkey dinners!