For the first time (that anyone has ever heard of) in the history of live voting competition programs, this week’s X Factor live results show revealed the actual ranking of America’s vote. Although the producing of this reveal was clumsy at best and unprofessional at worst (poor Mario and Khloe were understandably thrown off by some uncomfortable camera shots), the information is invaluable to the mentors, to future votes, to the contestants, and to the formatting of this column. What follows is my analysis of the rankings, discussion of Wednesday’s loosely themed “movie” night set of performances (a major comeback for the show from an awful first week of live shows), and some advice to each contestant going forward. In case you were still reeling from last week and missed out, Britney was still incoherent, although her “amazing” usage was kept in check.
The Top 12 (as ranked by America)
1. Tate Stevens (should be 5)
Is this the right ranking? Tate deserves to be ranked high, but this high? His “Dead or Alive” rendition is a clean, clear-lined country performance that does not say much more than confirm that Tate is a cowboy. I like his story (working with asphalt seems quite oppressive) and I genuinely think his “awshucks/happy to be here” persona is as genuine as they come. I also think it helps that with Sister C gone, he is the only artist pushing the country palette. I look forward to seeing whether a more nuanced theme (movie night is not that) will push him to show more artistry.
What needs to happen going forward? More of the same will do fine for Tate and he may be safest staying in his home country zone. At some point he is going to have find a little of the “X Factor” (beyond his background, he is severely lacking this quality).
2. Carly Rose Sonenclar (should be 2)
Is this the right ranking? At worst, Carly Rose should be a finalist in this competition, so America got it right. Thank goodness Miss Carly Rose knew that last week’s overproduced, “not at all her” performance was a major Britney misstep. Her stripped down “It Will Rain” not only featured the best voice in the competition (and she is only 13!), but I also thought it gave her an opportunity to express this incredible connection and soul that emanates from her performance. Simon is right. She could be a real star.
What needs to happen going forward? At a minimum, Carly Rose needs to stay clear of her mentor, Britney Spears, who two weeks in to the live shows, seems to be completely out her element. Carly has been working toward (as displayed in her home video) a date with Simon Cowell since the age of 2 and has enough (this is really remarkable) self and musical knowhow to do what is right. As long as he continues to display artistry, we should see her have a shot in the finals of this competition.
3. Vino Alan (should be 8)
Is this the right ranking? This is a bit of a surprise, considering every moment he is not singing seems utterly confusing (I loved when Simon had to direct him back to centre stage to finish the critique). “When a Man Loves a Woman” is the right direction to take (kudos to LA for getting it right this week and America seemed to notice), but I think from the standpoint of recording artist viability, Vino has a ways to go (Demi expressed this poorly, but she was not far from the truth). Beyond classic soul covers, where else can Vino go? He should be somewhere in the middle of the pack.
What needs to happen going forward? I think that Vino should find some music in the Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, or Al Green arenas to continue to build some momentum in the coming weeks. Also, his judge verbal reactions may want to be muted, X Factor production team. They come across as a little bizarre.
4. Diamond White (should be 6)
Is this the right ranking? Possibly. Diamond White was errantly sent home last week (Britney just doesn’t get it) and thankfully has been given another shot. She is an incredible talent and vocally, did an outstanding job on Whitney’s “I Have Nothing,” but at 13, she should not be performing such a song against mostly adults or for that matter at all. It is the song of a WOMAN (capital W) and Diamond is the most 13 of the 13 year-olds. Again, Britney needs to get out of the way even more here (Diamond’s white outfit also made little to no sense). Diamond is probably ranked a little too high and certainly should not be above some of the upcoming groups.
What needs to happen going forward? Diamond must find song content that allows her voice to soar while acknowledging that she is very much a girl, not yet (even close to being) a woman.
5. Fifth Harmony (should be 3)
Is this the right ranking? In a vacuum without looking at the other acts, a fifth place America vote ranking could be just right. The artist formally known as 1432 (and before that Lylas) had a beautiful (and harmonized finally) performance of “A Thousand Years” that gave this loyal TV viewer almost chills. Simon was working his magic this week with these five ladies, crafting a sound and an image that could compete in this competition and has real potential in the industry.
What needs to happen going forward? They need to keep their name (America will not forgive a fourth name change) and continue on this path that Simon so effectively fostered. More harmony, more Camila, and more rehearsal will keep them around for a long time.
6. Emblem3 (should be 1)
Is this the right ranking? This is absolutely the wrong ranking. Emblem3, as Simon pointed out, should have been ranked number 1 and at worst, number 2. I have largely been a holdout on these three until this week. I was thoroughly entranced with their brilliant and relevant “My Girl” and “California Girls” mashup (with some One Direction hooks underneath). They are electric, marketable, and could become huge. I was genuinely surprised they were so low. Look for America to get it right next week and beyond.
What needs to happen going forward? Simon was genius this week and may want to provide a ballad to will the younger teenyboppers even more into the movement next week.
7. Jennel Garcia (should be 4)
Is this the right ranking? If Demi knew what she were doing with Jennel, no, but based on what Demi has provided her, it is about right. Simon was correct in pointing out that the entire look that Demi has created is wrong and that Jennel should return to her original audition roots. This “I’m a rocker chick” direction misses the point entirely. Jennel, more than anyone left in the competition, may have the “X” in the “X Factor” and this is developed through artistry, the right song selections, and an understanding of what Jennel has to offer. I am not sure Demi gets it.
What needs to happen going forward? Beyond Simon or LA taking over, Jennel needs to worry less about image and worry more about her own connection to the material. She is at her best when you can tell that it is Jennel performing, not some fabrication of the hair and makeup room.
8. Paige Thomas (should be 9)
Is this the right ranking? It is close to it. I wouldn’t place her above any of the acts ranked higher and I don’t think that many of the acts below are as good. Her completely over the top theatrics on “Take My Breath Way” continue to conceal the reality that, as LA plainly pointed out, she is “good,” but not “great.”
What needs to happen going forward? Paige needs to find music that better hits the sweetest spots of her voice and rely less heavily on the theatre.
9. Lyric 145 (should be 7)
Is this the right ranking? Yes and no. Lyric 145 is doing great work (although bizarre, their Alice in Wonderland fused “Supercalifragilisticexpiadlidocious” from Mary Poppins was oddly captivating), but I am not sure that they have much to say as a recording artist. Simon has created a dynamic image that will be interesting to watch. They could have been ranked above Paige and maybe Vino as well.
What needs to happen going forward? They have to find more truth in their material that connects them to their Queens and Flint, MI upbringings.
10. Beatrice Miller (should be 10)
Is this the right ranking? Yes. Poor Beatrice has the distinction of now being the third best thirteen-year-old in the competition. Her “Iris” made no sense for a recording artist (and made little to know sense as a teenager). Again, Britney’s “mentoring” (it has to be in quotation marks at this point) is subpar and misguided.
What needs to happen going forward? Beatrice needs to find some upbeat material that better connect with her age and her interests. Heavy mid-90s rock ballads may need to be shuffled out of the rotation.
11. Arin Ray (should be 11)
Is this the right ranking? Yes, he is in my bottom two or three. Arin Ray is a sweet guy and much improved according to LA from last season (I am not sure how you can really remember what is contribution to Intensity was in 2011 X Factor), but I am not sure there is much there beyond a pleasant and eager seventeen year-old voice.
What needs to happen going forward? He needs have a performance that the young ladies and gents swoon over and fast.
12. CeCe Frey (should be 12)
Is this the right ranking? Well done America. Although Demi has made a mess out of CeCe Frey (as in French, Mario Lopez), CeCe may have already been a mess to begin with. Her “Eye of the Tiger” was a disaster. If you look at all of Demi’s artist (and Britney’s for that matter, besides this week’s Carly Rose), you wonder if X Factor producers were right after all picking judge/mentors who are so young.
What needs to happen going forward? At this point, she is nothing to lose, so a 180 reinvention that rebrands her as something wholly different would not be a bad thing.
Eliminated – Jason Brock
On the scale of “devastated” to “bu-bye”, how do I feel about his departure? Satisfied. Although I will miss “Mr. Entertainment” and his silky smooth voice, he may have warn out his live TV welcome (“For the Gays and Japan!”).
- Emblem 3
- Carly Rose Sonenclar
- Fifth Harmony
- Jennel Garcia
- Tate Stevens
- Diamond White
- Lyric 145
- Vino Alan
- Paige Thomas
- Beatrice Miller
- Arin Ray
- CeCe Frey
What do you think? Do you like the new transparent rankings? Was Emblem3 America’s biggest mistake? Will Demi continue to ruin her acts? Is Britney studying more phrases to add to her judging repertoire?
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASON Power Rankings appears weekly on Derrick Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.