In the spirit of Thanksgiving, tonight’s episode of “X Factor” asks the X-testants to each dedicate a song to someone they want to thank.
So belly up, because we’re about to be served a heaping helping of candied back-story.
First up, and ranked No. 1 in last week’s voting, is country singer Tate Stevens, who is grateful to his dad for giving up his own music career to support his family.
“Once I had to make that decision, I had to totally divorce myself from music. I miss it terribly,” Tate’s dad says, sadly.
Tate performs “I’m Already There” by Lonestar. He’s a solid performer, and Tate is a big, likeable guy which must be what’s keeping him at the top of the leaderboard because it’s not his dynamic stage presence, for sure.
Supreme Judge Simon Cowell points out that Tate’s voice broke in the middle of the song, which demonstrates just what a pro Simon is, because we couldn’t make out much of Tate’s voice over the way too loud backup singers and music — an “X Factor” trademark.
Adorable little Diamond White, No. 7 in last week’s vote, gives her best performance of the competition on Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”, to thank her single mom who, Diamond says, nearly died from scoliosis four years ago. She finishes all her notes, like a pro, then breaks down in tears.
Emblem3, Simon’s only hope of getting a commercial boy-band out of this season, jumped up several notches to No. 4 in last week’s voting, after the singers toned down their bad-boys bits.
This week, more of same strategy, on One Republic’s “Secrets” sung in honor of the camp counselor and dad of a pal who helped them through early adolescence. We even see one of the Emblems working with the poor in the Dominican Republic.
Judge L.A. Reid complains timidly that “for me your performance lacked emotion” but Simon is quick to defend them as being commercial (“this is the kind of record you could make”) and nice boys (“I want to thank you guys for being an absolute pleasure to work with”) just so everybody gets the point.
Number 9 out of 10 in the popular vote last week was Arin Ray, more proof of the wisdom of crowds. He’s dedicating his number to his older brother with whom he seems to have a lovely relationship.
Arin’s song is Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero.” LA pegs the performance when he says the song was too big for Arin. Simon agrees and notes the material Arin has been given to perform doesn’t really seem like him. Arin agrees. X-hostess Khloe Kardashian-O asks Arin who he is.
“I just really want to be me on stage,” Arin grumps, adding that he wanted to do something “more upbeat,” apparently entirely missing the point that this week’s show is supposed to be a weeper. Couldn’t he have dug up a tragic third cousin somewhere instead of his nice normal brother?
Now this is truly tragic: CeCe Frey, who has struggled with likeability and leopard spots in weeks past, had an older sister who died from cerebral palsy at a young ago. CeCe is dedicating her song to her sister who she believes still watches over her. CeCe gives a wobbly, pitchy performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” and breaks down before finishing.
The judges are all solicitous. “It’s hard to critique someone when they’re pouring out their heart,” says BritBrit.
5th Harmony, the girl group of five has a problem: too many back-stories to fit into the taped back-story segment. They wisely decide to thank God.
Their song is “I’ll Stand By You” and it’s competent but forgettable.
Beatrice Miller, the paradox of the season with her raspy, radio-ready voice, is the only contestant this year who could step right into a pop music career tomorrow. And yet she ranked number 8 of 10 last week.
But she too has a humdinger of a back-story: she’s giving thanks to her twin little sisters, adopted from Vietnam, born premature and with major health problems and learning disabilities.
Beatrice sings Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” and it’s radio ready. Plus she also looks cool. But what do we know?
Youth Demographic Judge Demi Lovato thinks Beatrice sounds the same week after week and it “would really like to hear you do something different and fun” – also forgetting that this is Weepy Week.
Every week on “X Factor” since the live shows began, we get one good blurt-out from X-hostess KK-O. That moment is now. “Why are you crying? Why are you crying?” the loud and imposing co-host blurts as she towers over little Beatrice. Where was KK-O during Beatrice’s back-story tape?
Vino Alan wants to thank the whole U.S. military, reminding us he wanted to serve, but was rejected owing to his tattoos. Can’t they be removed?
He sings “Proud to Be An American” while scenes of the U.S. countryside whiz by on a screen behind him, ending with video of a descending eagle. It’s like a “Colbert Report” opening. Naturally, the judges give him a standing ovation.
“Thanks, y’all, V-Nation,” he says, apparently referring to his fans — a nation in themselves.
Hey, if this singing thing doesn’t work out, Vino can always go into politics!
Then Vino takes it one step too far, pulling out a little American flag and using it to wipe his mouth.
Paige Thomas is a pretty woman, with a sad background (orphaned at a young age and taken in by a friend who raised her as her own daughter) but even “X Factor’s” too loud backing can’t conceal the fact she just isn’t much of a singer.
The judges are quick to blame her pitchiness on emotion, though Simon hints she’s a candidate for one of Thanksgiving night’s two elimination slots.
Carly Rose Sonnenclar, who ranked No. 2 last week — just a few votes shy of No. 1 — dedicates her song to her brother. She sings the Judy Garland standard, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” It’s a song we’re used to seeing on competition shows during the Terrible Auditions segments. But 13-year-old Carly Rose pulls out all the pathos, in an extremely powerful performance.
Her mentor, Demi wants to deliver high compliments, but the best she can come up with is to tell Carly Rose that she’s too talented for someone so young . “You’re like an alien, which is OK because I like aliens,” Demi says, lamely.
Simon to the rescue — he has the good grace to tell Carly it was “one of the best versions of the song I’ve ever heard. You’ve just blown this competition wide open.”