7:50pm PT by Sophie Schillaci
'X Factor' Recap: Risk-Taking Abounds as the Top 8 Sing for Survival
Did we miss the memo about Risk-Taking Week on X Factor?
That might as well have been the theme of Wednesday's episode, with the term "risk" mentioned by nearly every performer and their mentor.
Among the most notable were Paige Thomas, Tate Stevens and Carly Rose Sonenclar (kinda), to mostly rave results. Vino Alan took a mighty big risk as well, the results of which remain to be seen.
As for the pint-sized Diamond White, she tackled her second Whitney Houston song with "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," making it clear that every week is diva week in Diamond's world. While it seems nearly impossible for the teen singer to struggle, her performance paled in comparison to last week's cover of Celine Dion.
As for fan favorites Emblem3, those boys are well on their way to stardom as so boldly illustrated in their pretaped introduction. Read on for more.
Also of note: After teasing the premiere of will.i.am's new music video featuring Britney Spears, "Scream and Shout," less than one minute of the clip actually hit the air. How is that a video premiere? It might as well have just been another teaser.
Diamond White (Ranked No. 5 last week)
Song: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston
L.A. Reid: I'm one of your biggest fans, you know that. You always seem to start slow, and then you get there. This time, I'll give you an A for effort, I'm gonna give you a B for execution.
Demi Lovato: This is something I've been waiting the entire competition to see from you. You're a young girl, it's amazing to see you walk onstage and have fun during a song. ... I'd like to see you work more on your performances. ("WHAT?" interjects Simon Cowell.) I'd like to see you bring more to it.
Cowell: Demi, I don't know what else this girl could have just brought. She sang, she danced. Every moment of that song you were aware where you were. It's the hardest thing in the world to dance, sing in tune at the same time. You hit the right notes at the right time, you got the big notes at the end. I'm gonna disagree with [Demi]. I think this was really good, important performance for you. ... You are gunning for No. 1, not just staying in the competition.
Spears: I am so proud of you. I'd dance with you any day.
Vino Alan (No. 3)
Song: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " by The Righteous Brothers
Tensions were high as Alan took the stage, with his mentor Reid having changed his song choice in the eleventh hour. Reid said he'd take "full responsibility" if Alan was unable to pull it off, but at the end of the performance, he said Alan "killed it" and that he stands behind the song change.
Spears: I feel like it's the same thing each week with you. I feel like there needs to be something fresh.
Lovato: To be honest, I agree with Britney. I do think you had a lot of soul in your voice, but I wasn't totally entertained.
Cowell: You have a very, very good singing voice. There are so many amazing songs that you can sing, and that isn't one of them. But it just, for me, it was just literally at the halfway point [I thought], 'This has just gotta end,' and then you go into some weird reggae version of the song, and you're kind hunched over the whole time. It just didn't work. It was uncomfortable. You took a risk, and it didn't work.
Reid: I completely, completely, completely disagree. I will say there were moments that were some ... issues, but you did take a risk because you're brave, and I still stand behind you. I don't expect the other judges to support you because you're a threat to the other competition.
Paige Thomas (No. 6)
"Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley
Lovato acknowledged that perhaps Thomas needed to forgo the fancy stage production, as her stripped-down performance last week paid off and gave her a big boost in the rankings. Thomas opted instead to enlist the help of a bevy of backup dancers, acknowledging the move as "a big risk." Reid, criticizing Thomas' use of dancers, said that "what we really need from Paige is a great musical moment."
Reid: That was by far your very best performance yet. By a long shot. You found your voice, you found your movement. You seemed at home, you seemed to be having fun. Demi, I have to commend you this time. You did it right.
Spears: I think that this was a little bit of a risk to take at this point in the competition, but I think it worked.
Cowell: This is the first time you have looked and sounded like a legitimate pop star. You look your age now, I thought the rendition of the song was great. It was a risk worth taking; it definitely paid off. This actually sounded like you making a record. What's quite clear is that you definitely, if you stay around, have got to make more decisions going forward with what you do. I like the dancers.
Lovato: I'm so proud of you, and I think that working together we've really ... clicked, and it was just awesome.
Fifth Harmony (No. 5)
"Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson
There were plenty of tears to go around on the girl group's pretaped package, in which Normani bids Arin Ray farewell, and later, Ally learns that her grandfather has died. "I know he wouldn't want me to give up," she manages to choke out. "He wouldn't want me to quit, as hard as it is right now." Appropriately, she dedicated this week's song -- "Stronger" -- to him. As they hit the stage, Lauren was seen clasping her hand for support.
Reid: First of all, I have to offer my sincere condolences. … I think the lyrics of this song are probably perfect to what you're going through right now. My advice to you is listen to what you just said, stay strong. I thought it was good, but I want … I didn't hear harmony. I heard a unison all the way through. When you sang the chorus … I didn't hear an original arrangement. What I heard was everybody singing the melody.
Spears: I thought the song really worked for a group. You can tell you worked hard.
Lovato: I, too, want to tell you how sorry I am for your loss. … I think that this was probably one of the best performances you guys have given, but I also have to say that, I mean, the energy got sucked out 'cause you guys didn't move around or come down the stairs. I thought it was awkward to watch you guys stand around to an upbeat song.
Cowell: This is an amazing song. Written by two of my very good friends. … What a fantastic, fantastic performance you just gave. This is really, really, really important. This is the first time I can see you in the charts. I gotta tell you, Ally, your grandfather would be very proud of you tonight.
Carly Rose Sonenclar (No. 1)
"Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
Carly says she has to give "everything she has" to stay in the top spot. She truly requires no stage production, that's just her style, and she killed it up there by herself with some candles. As much as we'd love to see her work her magic on a "kid" song, we hate to say that Adele was probably a perfect fit for her huge voice. She showed incredible restraint on the chorus to make the song her own. But there's one lingering question: What is Spears' aversion to saying Sonenclar's last name? Does she know that her full name is not Carly Rose?
Reid: I'm gonna tell you something you already know: You are insanely talented, just insane. You're also really, really lovable, which really makes it difficult 'cause for me, that wasn't your very best performance. But even your second best is better than everyone else's best.
Lovato: I'm not even your mentor and I'm so proud of you. I just think you're so cute and you're so young, and there's something really genuine about that. When you step off stage, I feel like you're 13 and that's so hard to do when you're singing such soulful songs. I think that you're doing amazing. I got nothing -- you're so good.
Cowell: I thought the first half of the song was good; I thought the second half of the song was sensational. What's interesting about you, I believe that outside of this show you, as a 13-year-old, can sell records. The only problem, we've established this, is that you're not human. So we may need to disqualify you from this competition because aliens are not allowed.
Spears: I think that we knew this was gonna be a challenge, but we're really wanting to take a risk at this point so we can take it to the next level in this competition, and that's what we did.
Tate Stevens (No. 2)
"Somebody Like You" by Keith Urban
His song and dance was, metaphorically speaking, the same. "I can't go back to construction work," says Stevens for the millionth time. In his meeting with Reid, Stevens acknowledges that he felt Sonenclar deserved the top spot in last week's rankings, and the duo decided that Stevens -- the show's sole country act -- needed to "switch it up" this week. "You can't be a one-trick pony," says Reid. And performing an upbeat country song, Stevens -- you guessed it -- took a risk.
Spears: I'm sure we'll be seeing you accept a Country Music Award one day.
Lovato: You know what I think is so amazing is that you dedicate every song to your wife, and I want to tell you [that] one day when I get married, I want my husband to love me as much as you love your wife. I love that you have so much fun onstage. You made me feel like I was back at home in Texas at a BBQ. I had so much fun. You're awesome.
Cowell: (To Lovato: "That might be a tall order, actually.") Tate, first of all the bad news: Don't dance. The good news is: You're back. You're back with passion, good song choice. … What I like about you is you're so likable. It's something you and I have in common.
Reid: He's likable; you are lovable.
CeCe Frey (No. 8)
"Lady Marmalade" by LaBelle
Frey's words to America: "I gave 110 percent, and you guys still put me in the bottom two." The singer did her best Wednesday to bring the "fire" back into her eyes and shoot back up the rankings. "I haven't given up. I didn't audition for this competition to be in eighth place," she says. But Reid counters, "Unless I'm dead wrong, that ship has sailed." Frey hit the stage with fire and a slew of Victorian era-dressed backup dancers and did her best to seduce the audience.
Reid: Uh-oh, here you go. You're definitely a fighter. You're going down, but you're going down fighting. If I'm to be honest, I hate that I'm gonna say this, but I actually enjoyed that circus.
Spears: I feel like this week has been really tough, but everyone has stepped it up, and you have definitely stepped it up.
Cowell: No one can say that you're not a truer. The problem I have with that performance … is that I felt like I'd eaten 62 portions of chocolate cake. In other words, I want a little slice. You gave me too much. There was way too much going on. Too distracting. I don't think that's going to endear you to the public at home. My advice tonight is pack a suitcase.
Emblem3 (No. 4)
"I'm a Believer" by The Monkees
They didn't quite take a risk, but they did step up their game from last week with a Monkees classic. "You know the expression, you save the best for last," Cowell said while introducing his not-a-boyband-but-kinda-a-boyband. In their pretaped package, the trio are shown shopping outside The Grove in L.A. (adjacent to where X Factor is taped) and being mobbed by a group of ladies. Staged? You be the judge, but we don't find it entirely out of the question that those boys would be recognized out in public. Mob scene? Not sure.
Reid: "If I were the chairman of a major record label, which I am, and if you were a new band looking to break into the business, which you are, I would sign you. … You have the X Factor."
Spears: I'm a believer in you guys, but I didn't really like your song.
Lovato: I just don't understand what Simon's doing with you guys. It's predictable every week … but people are going to like you because you're good looking. I don't think that this is genuine at all. … Those boys lost their spark.
Cowell: What I just witnessed there is what LA said: You guys have turned into real pop stars, and I love your energy. I love that fact that whatever we give you, you take it on, you have fun with it. Actually, this is one of my favorite performances.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@thr.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci