'X Factor' Recap: The Top 12 Get Totally Tubular on '80s Night

The Fox singing show kept pushing our love over the "Borderline" as the finalists competed for America's votes.
Michael Becker / FOX
Rion Paige

Mario Lopez broke out his skinny tie as The X Factor paid homage to the ageless host’s “favorite decade,” and the top 12 partied like it was 1985.

Oh, it was a sight, with extra points awarded to Demi Lovato’s Girl’s category and Paulina Rubio for getting into the spirit with Madonna's and Cyndi Lauper’s more infamous wardrobe looks. Simon Cowell’s feathered locks were revealed in an embarrassing photo, and even Paul Abdul returned (in spirit). Kelly Rowland had a look straight out of a Janet Jackson video, and Lovato’s blue hair added a touch of New Wave chutzpah as she reclaimed her seat next to the salty Brit.

I wish some New Wave songs could see the light of day on these shows, but alas, they may be too obscure, as adorable teenage competitor Rion Paige made Lovato feel “really old” when she mistakenly pegged The Spice Girls as an ‘80s act. Ah, well.

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But before the night’s festivities began, it was time to say goodbye to Carlos Guevera, whose lips were unceremoniously sealed before he got a chance to sing, earning the lowest amounts of votes in last week’s re-vote.

To his credit,  Guevera took his ouster with the eye of the tiger.

“I’ve got to do what I always wanted to do,” he said with a smile.

“Keep going, you are a champion,” said mentor Rubio.

So how did the rest stack up? Rowland’s Over 25s  hit the stage first, with a fun and upbeat performance by Lillie McCloud, who actually had a single in 1986 under the stage name of Nicole McCloud. This week, she finally lost the Solid Gold ‘70s look and embraced her inner Chaka Khan with a sassy version of “’Aint Nobody.” This was a fun performance, and the weave was rocking.  Rubio praised her as a “goddess,” and Cowell called her a  “naughty little thing.” Rachel Potter ripped a page out of the Carrie Underwood American Idol playbook with a country take on Heart’s “Alone,” looking gorgeous and working a fence propped on stage like nobody’s business. Cowell, however, said that the big note sounded like she was “screaming.” Rowland fought back and dissed Cowell’s entire category by saying nobody else “hit those notes.”  Finally, would resident rocker Jeff Gutt  go for it with something straight out of Rock of Ages like Poison or Warrant?  No such luck. Why, oh, WHY Jeff, did you choose Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight”? He struggled with the notes, but did look good in the black skinny jeans.  Lovato thought he did great, but Cowell slammed the performance as unmemorable, and “a tiny bit Spinal Tap.”

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Rubio’s boys started rough, as Carlito Olivero took on the Miami Sound Machine’s “The Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” concentrating more on his funky fresh dance steps instead of his voice. Lovato said she paid more attention to the dancers, and Cowell called him a “dancer who is singing,” and thus predicted his ouster. Rubio felt he was “struggling with his face.” Tim Olstad got something out of the competition--a new BFF Twitter friend, Sarah Hyland of Modern Family. He is going to need all of her Twitter followers to vote for him tonight, as he went with yet another bland ballad with “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins. Rowland said the performance “fell flat,” while Lovato  pointed out the lack of an “X Factor.” Cowell said it was like a “horror movie” as he couldn’t get the visual of the girl with the weird dance moves behind him out of his head. It wasn’t all bad news for the boys, as Rubio must be thanking her lucky stars that Josh Levi was saved last week. His “Straight Up” was spectacular, as if Usher was filtering through the 15-year old pop star in the making. Cowell rightly called him a “future star.”

Lovato’s girls kicked off with Paige, who took on  Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” with a bit of country salted in for good measure. Benatar is a TALL order for any vocalist, since the woman was trained in opera, but Paige gave it her all. Rowland noted that the beginning started rough, but praised how she took the song home at the end. Cowell wasted no time slamming Lovato’s song choice for the Florida teen. Khaya Cohen rocked Madonna’s bubbly hit, “Borderline,” turning the pop-song into an Amy Winehouse meets Duffy romp.  Rowland said that Cohen is ready for the music business, while Cowell feels the show has discovered “someone special.”  Ellona Santiago may have had her first misstep with an onstage slip during her reworked version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).”  That was a struggle, but when the beat kicked in, she was back in business. Still, did the dancing throw off her vocals?  Cowell noted the first 2/3 of the song was “mad” and suggested less choreography next time.

Cowell’s groups opened with Sweet Suspense,  who already unwittingly  had one part of the ‘80s in their group name,  (anyone remember the dance group Sweet Sensation and their hit, “Hooked on You”?). Cowell  gave the girls Toni Basil’s “Mickey” to sing--a song that does not really require harmonies or much singing. They looked cute, but Lovato felt their stage presence was lacking, and then fired off the night’s best insult: “They are no Fifth Harmony.” Ouch! For Restless Road, Cowell was savvy with his choice of “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins  for the country contenders. The song gave the boys plenty of room to get their ‘80s on while staying true to the twang. All that was missing was Kevin Bacon in a red tuxedo screaming “Let’s Dance” in a shower of confetti. Rubio loved the “concept,” and Lovato said they have the "X Factor.” Alex & Sierra are not just talented singers, but we discovered Sierra is a kick-butt Irish dancer. The duo  took on Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” but may have made a bad decision by starting off the song a capella. Still, whenever the two of them are on screen, it’s like watching a different, COOLER show. Lovato and Rowland felt they didn’t work the setup well. Cowell thought they lost the melody, and didn’t feel it was as good as it should have been.

So which two singers are  getting shot down in a blaze of ‘80s glory in tomorrow night's double elimination? Let us know in the comments!         

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile