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TV Column
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 12/06/2012

‘X Factor’: Demi and Simon slug it out


CeCe Frey performs on “X Factor.” (Ray Mickshaw - Fox)

We’re down to six X-testants, competing for four slots in next week’s semi-finals on “The X Factor.”

We start with congrats all around to co-host Mario Lopez who got married over the weekend. “It was a blast,” he says of exchanging marriage vows, assuring co-host Khloe Kardashian Odom he’s getting back to work.

On the bill, each contestant will sing two songs. The first round is “unplugged” acoustic renditions—which means the X-Dancers and the X-pyro-technicians are getting a well deserved hour off.

The second songs have been selected by viewers – a gift to the people from Pepsi.

Here’s how the viewer voting went last week:

1. Carly Rose Sonenclar

2. Tate Stevens

3. Emblem3

4. Fifth Harmony

5. Cece Frey

6. Diamond White

First to be unplugged is Cece Frey, the weakest of this season’s X-testants who comes back week after week thanks to voting viewers who identify with the idea of mediocrity hanging on by the fingernails.

Cece sings Lada Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” dutifully, like running through scales.

Usually Empathetic Judge Britney Spears says it should have been great at this stage of the competition but it wasn’t. “I don’t think you’re worth a $5 million recording contract,” says Chief Mentioner of the $5 Million Prize Simon Cowell.

Next up, Emblem 3, the boy band Simon has been blanding down week after week in hopes they finally hit One Dimension levels.

It’s our duty to report unflinchingly on what happens on “X-Factor,” but we really hope impressionable children are not watching as Simon starts to introduce Emblem 3 for their first number and Demi grabs the microphone from him and announces that what’s coming up next is another “very predictable” song that Simon has chosen for the Emblems.

“You will go to the naughty corner in a minute,” Simon warns her.

The song is “Just the Way You Are,” by Bruno Mars — Demi was right — and it’s pleasant and they have campfire lighting to enhance their pre-teen dreaminess.

“Hands down, this has been your best performance in the competition,” says Britney.

But 18-24 Demographic Judge Demi Lovato, who has been critical of Simon’s handling of Emblem 3 for weeks, calls it “A downgraded version of the Jonas brothers five years ago.”

“Incredibly dumb,” responds Simon who points out that the youngest Emblem is just 16 years old and they’ve all been under a lot pressure lately. He apparently thinks they should get the $5 million recording contract to help lift their self-esteem.

Carly Rose Sonnenclar, at 13, is not only the best singer but the classiest act in the show. This week she gets a big challenge from her mentor Britney: sing the Justin Bieber song, “As Long As You Love Me.”

“It’s a very unexpected song, I think,” Carly says, diplomatically.

She slows it down, and who knew a Bieber song could sound sultry? Carly really can sing any lousy tune you throw at her.

“You sang it better than Justin Bieber,” says Demi, damning with faint praise, then making up for it by comparing her to JoJo.

“A lot of girls your age can be annoying as singers,” Simon says. “You are actually very cool.”

Simon’s girl group, Fifth Harmony is up next, to sing Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.” It’s a series of audition tape solos, continuing their every-gal-for-herself strategy — which, come to think of it, is a pretty good strategy, given that they haven’t a chance of winning this competition.

“I didn’t hear any harmony…They should have called you Fifth Unison,” says Why Should I Be Impartial When Nobody Else Is Judge LA Reid.

“It’s pick on Fifth Harmony week again,” whines Simon. They deserve to go on, he claims, because “They are the nicest, most humble group I’ve ever worked with.”

Little Diamond White, the other 13-year-old, who nearly got tossed last week after being pushed into performing more bubble-gum pop by mentor Britney Spears, is reprising a song she did earlier in the competition, the James Brown classic “It’s a Man’s World.”

Nice touch at the end, throwing down her mike stand.

Everyone is complimentary except Simon, who calls it “a bit screechy.” Yes, but is she $5 million worth of humble, Simon?

On to Tate Stevens, representing country singers and road workers, for a surprising non-country choice by mentor Reid, Bon Jovi’s “Living On a Prayer.” Tate has an insurmountable problem: He can’t hit the high note in the chorus – the one we all remember from the original. It’s a disappointment every couple minutes.

Bad reviews from all the judges, except his mentor, LA, who reminds us Tate is a great family guy.

Brit: Getting a way from what you do best -- down the middle country

Simon: You have to choose your material. You don’t sing those kinds of songs.

Round 2: Tunes chosen by viewers through the beneficence of the Pepsi company. Viewers not only get to choose each X-testant’s tunes in this round, but also what they should wear, and whether confetti guns should be involved in the performance.

Cece Frey approximates the Katy Perry tune, “Part of Me” while experimenting with various keys. But she’s discovered yet another niche voting block: fans of bedazzled “Dukes of Hazzard” apparel and painted-on leopard spots, who will keep her in the competition.

“Karaoke,” says LA dismissively. But Britney says she was entertained.

And Simon, who’s learned over the years on “American Idol” and “X,” that when someone this bad remains in the competition even though he’s savaging the performances, it’s because viewers are voting against him. So, rather than shooting fish in a barrel and trashing her performance — like last week, when he told her to pack her bag — he says he likes that she’s so defiant.

For Emblem 3, the public, not Simon mind you, have chosen “Forever Young,” by boy band One Direction. They’re likeable, if kind of restrained.

“A superstar performance,” gushes Brit.

“You be nice,” Simon warns Demi as she gets ready to comment.

“I just want to see you command the stage more and work it,” says Demi.

“What is the matter with you tonight?!” Simon says to Demi.

“They didn’t work the stage,” Demi says, standing her ground.

“ That again is just a silly, silly criticism… Emblem 3 have landed.”

“Do you have a crush on one of these boys?” KKO asks Demi, giving voice to what’s on all our minds.

“Of course – but I’m not going to say which one,” Demi blushes.

“We are actually taking out a restraining order,” Simon says, picking up on Khloe’s it’s-hormones-not-musical-smarts line of thinking.

America has chosen Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” for Carly Rose.

Once again, sow’s ear turned into a silk purse by Carly Rose.

“Phenomenal vocal,” says Demi, but criticizes the non uptempo song choice which Demi says is getting old.

Khloe Kardashian Odom asks the judges if they were paying attention when she and Mario said the second round of tunes were picked by viewers, not the X-testants. Ooh snap!

“You are the definition of the X-Factor – that was stunning,” says Britbrit.

Simon and Demi get into another fight, in re the relative stupidity of the other’s comments.

“You interrupted me every time I speak, so don’t think I’m not going to interrup you,” Demi snaps, and Simon, for the second time in the night, threatens to send her to The Naughty Chair. Where have they been hiding The Naughty Chair all this time? Bring on The Naughty Chair! No?

“You have had a phenomenal night tonight,” Simon says to Carly Rose, getting back to the singing competition and off The Naughty Chair thread.

For Fifth Harmony, “annoyingly, America has chosen a song by Demi Lovato,” Simon laughs.

It’s “Give Your Heart a Break” and — they harmonize! Or maybe the backup singers on the extreme sides of the stage harmonize.

“I actually heard harmony and it was really good. For that was your very best performance,” LA concedes.

“You guys definitely sing it better than the original,” says Demi. “You feel like a girl group…Simon actually did a good job this week.”

“Thank you, Cruella,” hisses Simon. He goes on to praise the Fifth for singing like a marketable act.

Diamond White is in the rafters hanging from a diamond-shaped cage and, as she is slowly lowered, she sings “Diamonds” by Rihanna. Because, of course, the lyric is “Diamonds in the sky.” And she’s named Diamond. And she’s up in the sky. In a Diamond.

It’s a nice outing for her. Is it so hard to be Rihanna? Why couldn’t she be Rihanna?

Not good enough for LA Reid: “I didn’t love your rendition of it.”

But Demi thinks she looks like a star on stage and Britney thinks the song was written for her.

Simon is only semi-complimentary, telling Diamond she had a good night but it’s just her tough luck that “you’re in a very competitive top 6 -- or maybe top 5, actually.”

Tate Steven’s final outing is Garth Brook’s “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” Tate is good and he kind of looks like Garth Brooks, but he’s no Garth Brooks as a singer.

Demi says he has great future, but she also says the number made her sleepy. Demi is making no sense at this point.

Simon, on the other hand, predicts “100%” that Tate will be back next week.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 12/06/2012

 
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