There is nothing like gaining a little confidence when things seem to be going in your favor. The opposite is also true. And during the Top 12 performance show on "X Factor" Wednesday evening (Nov. 14), it became clear that those that finished at the top of the leaderboard last week were determined to stay there, the acts that took up middle ground were determined to move up, and the two in the bottom might just might have remained there. Not particularly promising news for finalists CeCe Frey and Arin Ray.
The Top 12 was sort of a do-over, so viewers were informed right from the start that, along with the week's them being "Divas," there would be two finalists going home after the results show on Thursday. That was just the thing Arin Ray could have gone all night without hearing. He finished next-to-last in the vote rankings last week ("It sucks," he said), which means he needs a few more votes this week to stay in the competition. And now he's got the hots for Normani of Fifth Harmony, so there's incentive to stay (well, besides that $5 million prize). But things didn't go well. Not only did he suffer a technical glitch (somebody keyed the wrong track at the start of his performance, so there was dead air before he could begin singing Madonna's "Crazy For You"), but the judges gave him mixed reviews. Judge Simon Cowell told him it was like watching "a cat trying to eat a Tiger." Although the song may have been a little downplayed, it might not have been as bad as all that.
CeCe Frey, who finished at the bottom last week and, in fact, had to sing for her survival on the show, didn't do well, either. She went through her usual routine of saying how she didn't want to go back to Decatur, Illinois, and you can tell the producers are trying to make her a bit more likable, showing her speaking with family members and actually crying (as opposed to a few other times when she just couldn't produce the tears). She performed Celine Dion's "All By Myself," the cover of the classic Eric Carmen song. It got a bit shout and at one point Frey went up and went long but it failed. The judges, except for her mentor, Demi Lovato, panned her performance.
So unless they picked up some fans with some speed dialers, it appears that Arin Ray and CeCe just might be headed home at the end of the Top 12 results show.
There could be a battle for third and fourth place it seems. Emblem3 got the crowd going with a off-tempoed version of Alicia Keys' "No One." Although it appeared to be a crowd-pleaser, the reggaed verses didn't seem to work. Still, the judges all liked it. Emblem3 finished sixth in the voting last week (which only goes to show that not everybody is as dumbfounded by their and know they have to step up their game if they want to make the finale. At least the judges thought they did just that.
Fifth Harmony has done nothing but impress since the judges decided to keep the five solo performers and throw them together to form a vocal group. That run stayed strong on the Top 12 performance show as they nailed Mariah Carey's "Hero." Simon, who is the mentor of the Groups, posited that: "Maybe this isn't a one-horse race. Maybe there's a chance that five girls with brilliant voices could actually win this show." Fifth Harmony was fifth last week...
But the frontrunners delivered powerful performances. Tate Stevens sang Shania Twain's "From This Moment On" with such emotion, tears sparkled his eyes when he was done. Carly Rose Sonenclar received nothing but praise from the judges for singing Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." Judge Demi speculated that Celine Dion was hiding somewhere because Sonenclar was just too good and Simon picked up the theme, telling her that she wasn't human, because no 13-year-old had that kind of vocal control. He added that her last note was "absolutely incredible." Although Vino Alan got mixed reviews for his soulful version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," not one of the them faulted him for his voice (and Judge Britney Spears, who admitted that Alan frightened her earlier in the competition, loved the performance). Diamond White was a little shaky at the beginning of "Halo" (Beyonce) but made it work at the end. Simon said, "I think we're looking at a future star."
The rest of the bunch -- Beatrice Miller, Lyric 145, Paige Thomas, Jennel Garcia -- did passably well but nothing truly memorable. Truthfully, Emblem3's performance wasn't that memorable, but they just might get a bump from Simon's reveal ("... just thought I'd mention it," Simon said) that the three guys saved a child's life while swimming this past week. So now they're homeless heroes? The only thing noteworthy about Jennel Garcia's "Proud Mary" was that she's no Tina Turner. Lyric 145 wasn't much better than their hilarious song from last week's "Mary Poppins" tune (which Judge L. A. Reid called a "disaster" and, combined with the night's performance, might see the end of the rappers on "X Factor"), and that is a little sad considering they were a bit more serious this go-round with the Katy Perry ("E.T.") and Queen ("We Will Rock You") mash-up. Besides Beatrice Miller's quirky voice, she didn't add much to Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." And Paige Thomas' rendition of Donna Summers' classic "Last Dance" was pretty good (the judges liked it), but what stood out was how she rocked that red-sequined dress with the matching sparkly red lipstick.
Given the performances, it would be easy to predict that the finalists just might all finish where they were last week. CeCe Frey certainly deserves to after her performance. Arin Ray might be going home as well, especially now that Thursday's results show will be a double elimination show. (And he probably didn't help himself with that glowering look he donned after his performance.) Still, he might have some competition for the second slot in the bottom two. Lyric 145 might fall into the bottom two, but they might not.
Prediction: Carly Rose Sonenclar takes the top spot this week. Tate Stevens was good but Carly Rose was excellent.
Take Home Message: Competitions can be wearying, mentally and physically draining. And when things seem to be going against you, it can sometimes be easier simply to give up and go through the motions of competing. But that type of defeatist attitude will get you nowhere. CeCe Frey and Arin Ray finished in the last two spots last week, but this week brought a new competition. They talked about not going home, but they projected desperation. (However, only CeCe's performance sounded desperate.) A lesson can be learned from Vino Alan's making the top three last week on the leader board, something that surprised many (including Vino Alan). He talks about winning and making a better life for his son. He doesn't talk about going home. Sometimes, a winning attitude can carry you further than you normally would have gone had you entertained thoughts and talked of defeat. Young Diamond White is another example. Given another chance on the show, she simply jumped back into the competition -- and now she's fighting for a place in the finale. Remaining upbeat, presenting yourself with confidence, and performing as best you can reflects well with the audience -- something to remember when you're trying to convince others of your worth and gain a few more votes.
"X Factor" returns for the Top 1 results show on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m. on Fox Television. Taylor Swift will perform.
(photo credit: X Factor, Freemantle North America, SycoTV)