'X Factor' Recap: Final Three Battle One Last Time

Leona Lewis, Johnny Rzeznik, and Prince Royce joined the remaining hopefuls on a night that will determine who will win America's votes.
Michael Becker / FOX
From left: Alex & Sierra, Carlito Olivero and Jeff Gutt

After three months of auditions, a nerve-wracking four-chair challenge, and weeks of performances and heartbreaking eliminations, it was down to the wire as the final three acts battled it out one last time on The X Factor.

“This is not about winning,” said Simon Cowell. “It’s about launching a career.”

In a flashy opening segment, the remaining finalists -- Jeff Gutt, Alex and Sierra, and Carlito Olivero -- arrived by limo, helicopter, and motorcycle and banded together for one cause: to rock the audience with a cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” (oh, Adam Lambert , wherefore art thou?).

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Each had to perform three songs, and part of the process included duets with established artists: Johnny Rzeznick of The Goo Goo Dolls, X Factor success story Leona Lewis and Prince Royce.

Cowell predicted that tomorrow night’s results would be the closest the competition ever had. However, after last night, each of these artists should walk away with record contracts. Paging L.A. Reid--got that pen ready?

Still, someone has to win, so who is going to take the title tomorrow?

Chicago native Olivero wore his heart on his sleeve one more time, as his mentor, Paulina Rubio, extolled the former Menudo member's virtues in a pre-taped video package.

“He was homeless for many months, just for one dream,” she said.

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As Olivero came out crooning Shontelle’s “Impossible” in Spanish, Rubio was already in tears. The song choice suited him well, and he impressed the panel. “I am blown away by that performance,” said Demi Lovato, who advised him to get out of his own head, but added she was impressed with his passion. Cowell had respect for the boy, who had clawed his way out of the bottom to the top three.

“You aren’t the best singer,” he said, but said he admired how Olivero makes each song his own.  Rubio took the stage to perform her auto tuned song “Boys Will Be Boys" before introducing Olivero and Royce for a duet of “Stand By Me,” a reprisal of one of the finalist’s stronger performances.

Royce praised Olivero as a strong upcoming Latino artist, and Rowland agreed. “Hand claps all around, fine holiday fun,” she said. I felt that was really easy for you.” Lovato was tougher (“The energy was low,” she said), but said he could be a Latino pop star.  “You weren’t overshadowed,” said Cowell. Olivero finished it off with an upbeat and suave performance of “Maria, Maria,” earning even more praise from the panel, particularly from Lovato, who urged America to vote for him.

Representing Florida and “America,” according to mentor Cowell, Alex and Sierra, certainly made their case by showing the country why people fell in love with the couple in the first place. While their pre-packaged interview made it clear that music brought them together and sparks had been flying ever since, the couple brought real heat to Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love.”

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”Any label with take y’all right now, they would be crazy not to,” said Kelly Rowland. “You have that X Factor,” said Rubio.  Alex and Sierra then paired with “the most successful X Factor winner ever” Leona Lewis for a duet of “Bleeding Love.” The song didn’t serve the duo well, to be honest, and the tempo was way too slow, but Sierra held her own against Lewis, who praised the pair as genuine, “lovely” people. Lovato was not blown away, saying that Lewis outshone the quirky duo.  

For their final song, the couple re-created the magic of their version of “Say Something” once more.  These two are just so adorable, even when singing a break-up song. Rowland said it was even better than the first time. Lovato said they ended the competition on high note, while Rubio said they were the perfect artists. On a side note-what a GREAT boyfriend Alex is as he told Sierra he couldn’t have done this without her.  What a genuine moment. That  was even better than the mayor of Daytona announcing that an entire week would be devoted to the pair.

Detroit resident Gutt’s X Factor journey has been a long one, starting last year when he was unceremoniously cut.  His package was really sweet, especially when he gifted Rowland with a framed picture of them both while telling her that he couldn’t have made it as far as he did without her. 

His song choice, “Dream On” by Aerosmith, couldn’t have framed the moment any better than it did. Not only was the song in his wheelhouse, Gutt, performing on a platform and flanked by lasers, owned every line and bravely went for the Steven Tyler money note at the end (which didn't work for American Idol finalist Danny Gokey, but was fine for Gutt). 

“For me this is first time that I believe that you believe you can win the show,” said Cowell. “You are the real thing.” Gutt’s pairing with Rzeznik was another highlight for Gutt, who harmonized on “Iris” in his lower register. One quibble: I sort of wish Rzeznik let Gutt sing lead on the song, though. The judges loved it. Lovato admitted to being star struck, and was proud that Gutt held his own. Rubio rightly proclaimed that rock and roll never ages, and Rowland said he “killed it.” Gutt wrapped up his X Factor run with a near perfect delivery of “Creep” by Radiohead, again drawing praise from the judges and his hometown,  which proudly offered him the key to the city. An emotional Gutt fought back tears as he once again praised his mentor.

Earlier this week, Cowell said he will not keep the panel the same. However, Rowland has been a more than effective presences at the judges’ table. He should reconsider letting her go.

So who has your vote tonight? Who will be standing in the confetti at the end? Ready for Mary J. Blige, Lea Michele, Pitbull, Ke$ha, and  One Direction tomorrow night? And where is Tate Stevens in tomorrow night’s finale? Hit us up in the comments below.

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile