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'X Factor Recap': Top 6 Tap Into Their Inner Divas

The contestants dial it down to perform unplugged for one of their two songs on performance night.

X Factor Alex and Sierra 2013 P
Michael Becker / FOX
Alex and Sierra

With one week to go before the semifinals, the top six took on two songs on The X Factor’s diva themed performance show.

While the first half featured songs by divas including Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Carrie Underwood, the second half dialed down the theatrics in favor of stripped down, “unplugged,” musical fare.

The evening also focused on the hometowns of the remaining contestants, Paulina Rubio finally name checking her final remaining contestant’s name correctly, and a weird exchange between Simon Cowell and Rubio concerning blood and whether or not Jeff Gutt should stab himself on stage next week if he survives tomorrow nights’--ahem--cut.

PHOTOS: 'X Factor' Season 3: Meet the Top 16

Who stood out, and who is in danger of going home? And does Cowell have the winners in his category? Read on.

Cowell’s groups kicked things off with Restless Road and their attempt to put a “man band twist” on their diva song, Taylor Swift’s “Red.” While the guys were still practically drowned out by the backing music, Zach, Colton (not Colin, Paulina!) and Andrew managed to tighten up their act, which prompted  Demi Lovato to praise how far they have come. Their second unplugged song, a countrified version of “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, worked in its simplicity. By the end, Colton Pack was overcome with emotion as his eyes welled up in the song’s final notes. Lovato, also in tears, said the boys earned a spot in the finals. Rubio wanted more solos, while Cowell was proud of his creation. “You’ve come such a long way, and I feel very proud of you. I would by that song on iTunes.”

Quirky and lovable duo Alex and Sierra was given a huge challenge by Cowell: perform “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child in front of Kelly Rowland. Their duet-meant for three funky divas was jazzy, sexy cool. Rowland couldn’t believe she was listening to her own song. “I was not ready for that, but you guys really actually pulled that off," she said.  Cowell said he was looking at “winners.”  Their encore of A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something”—with Sierra at the piano and Alex on guitar--was the single greatest moment of the season, according to Cowell. Rowland took the words out of my mouth when she said she felt like she was watching an awards show (I was thinking Grammy Awards--I swear!) and Cowell once more had his eyes on the finals.

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Lovato’s girls should have had the advantage with the diva theme, and cutie-pie Rion Paige gave it all she had with a song by one of her Idols--Carrie Underwood. She attacked “See You Again” with gusto, but there were pitch problems, as the song was way too big for her. Cowell once more pointed out that the song choice was all wrong, drawing the ire of Lovato. “Is this the way it’s going to be tonight?” she hissed at him. Still, he was right. Her second song, Thompson Square’s “Glass,”on the other hand, showcased her vulnerability, and had her mentor in tears. Paige needs to caress the lyrics a little more, but she’s only thirteen and that comes with time. Rubio called the teen an inspiration, while Cowell marveled that he felt every word. “You could have just saved yourself on that second song.” “Every word of that song is what you are about. I love you,” said Lovato.

Ellona Santiago embraced the theme with her choice of “Applause” by Lady Gaga. Donning thigh high boots and decked in leather, Santiago emerged down a red staircase flanked by back up dancers. However, all that staging may have been a bit too much, as sometimes she was out of breath, prompting Rowland to warn that she needs "to control those big notes that divas hit." Her second song, “If I Were A Boy” by Beyonce, handled with grace by season one competitor Rachel Crow, showed another side of Santiago, who chose to start the song a capella. The softer approach worked. “You have such a big beautiful voice, and the parts I enjoyed most was when you softened up the notes,” said Rowland. Rubio called her a “superstar,” while Cowell praised the 17-year old and Lovato’s decision to ditch the circus performers and just sing.

Rowland’s Over 25s had a strong start courtesy of Gutt, who was assigned Mariah Carey’s version of  Harry Nillson’s “Without You.” This song served the resident rocker well, who drove it home in the final moments with bravado and stage presence that grows each week. This was not lost on Lovato, who gushed “I think you’ve come a long way. My niece is obsessed with you, and that goes to show that you have the X Factor." Paulina Rubio simply said, “You Rock. You remind me of Axl Rose.” She then challenged Gutt to “show me that blood.” Simon Cowell’s quibble? “You are quite boring as a person, but when you come on stage you completely transform." Gutt strapped on a guitar (WGWG!) for a stripped down cover of “Daniel” by Elton John, which he dedicated to his brother. Lovato found it anticlimactic after the first song, while Cowell commended the dedication but didn’t feel the vocal was as good. Gutt may be in trouble. Why else would Mario Lopez ask him for “last words” on a performance night?

Rubio’s boys had a tough night, with the last remaining act being Carlito Olivero. Considering his diva song was Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud”-- a wedding song staple—he should have had a better night. Olivero blamed his lackluster performance on changing his song in the last 24-hours, but Rowland wasn’t having it, reminding him that the Jackson 5 learned the National Anthem in eight hours. Rowland said he “fell flat,” while Lovato said that Olivero did not top his prior week’s performance.  Cowell disagreed, and said the girls were being unfair. “It wasn’t the best vocal, but I would hate to lose you from this competition," he said. Olivero did much better with Ben. E King’s “Stand By Me” by injecting a Latino flair and singing partly in Spanish. He began from a chair, and playfully added some salsa moves. Rowland said his vocal was the best she had heard him sing all season. Lovato loved the Spanish but wished there was less music in the arrangement. Rubio for some reason fixated on Olivero’s "oily" nose-TWICE-but declared her love for her mentee.

So who is going home tomorrow? And will Drew Chadwick of Emblem 3 show his abs once more for old time’s sake tomorrow night? Hit us up in the comments!

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile