Tag Archives: Vino Alan

The X Factor Top 6 – The Fight to Dethrone Carly Rose

Last week on the X Factor, thirteen-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar’s star was born. Somewhere over that rainbow of “alien” talent and remarkable performer poise, Simon’s sing to win competition show got a little of her groove back (continual production hiccups aside). This week, you could feel this momentum shift (even Britney looked amazing both nights and managed a minor increase in verbal coherence) overtake the show. Fewer remaining contestants means longer forms of songs and a better barometer of an artist’s full potential (I agree with Simon, I couldn’t wait for Vino to end), more engaging intros (Vino’s was my favorite. LA stepping in at the last minute to change songs is non-fabricated drama that this show needs), and judge/mentor comments that have more time to breathe. The good news is that many of the key players including the judge/mentor panel (LA Reid – it is so good to have the season 1 version of you back!) and several contestants rode Carly’s pathway to brilliance and made the show come alive anew. My X Factor loyalist and aficionado friend, Daniel, has been contending for several weeks that there is marked distinction among the contestant battles for the top and the bottom of the rankings (the haves and the never will haves, so to speak). For the first time this week, I thought this setup changed to a battle between Carly and then everyone else who was gunning for her top spot (albeit with some variation in success). As the pre-performance videos suggested, Carly Rose is the one to beat and the other acts are aware. By having this frontrunner in place (and admittedly, America is placing Tate right on her tail), the competition part of The X Factor finally found some footing and likely will continue to do so in coming weeks as we strive to find out if anyone can beat Miss Carly Rose.

Unfortunately, there are a few remaining points of trouble, trouble, trouble (bring it home, Vino) left to suss out that seem to be even further illuminated now that some other show elements are humming. They include:

The Hosts – Poor Mario and Khloe do not seem to be improving. Mario had a particularly difficult week (“Will.I.An”, a strange discussion with Diamond White about her year of birth) and his off the cuff reactions are the opposite of organic. Khloe’s flirty interactions with Simon reached their shelf-life weeks ago and now come across as uninteresting as brother Rob Kardashian’s new line of dress socks and as ineffective as spouse Lamar’s NBA play in the years 2011 and 2012. The incessant “how do you feel?” questions when a contestant has been eliminated need a major overhaul. The only time when Khloe’s humanity (and based on my past experience with her, she actually has it in droves, Kardashian haters take a step back) is in her interactions with Carly Rose and Diamond (Beatrice, too, previously) when she snaps into big sister mode (Kendall and Kylie know it well) and provides TLC and cuddly support. More of this Khloe, please. Unless something drastically changes, I think both Khloe and Mario can take the same advice Simon gave to CeCe this week – after this season, pack your bags.

The theme – Or should I say, what theme? Apparently (I had to look this up), the theme this week was “number ones.” Listen X Factor brain trust – if you are going to have a theme, have a theme, but this in-between, inconsistent (I am still stuck on Al Green as a diva), “maybe we won’t mention it at all” mentality has got to go. Pick a theme and make it an artistic challenge of the night or just let the artists pick a song of their choosing.

Drew Chadwick of Emblem3 – Someone has got to let Drew Chadwick know that he is not required to take off his sleeved shirt to expose his burgeoning arm cannons during or after every performance. Drew, you may not have received the memo, but this is not required of you to be a contestant. You can cover your arms, bro.

On to the top 6, two surprising eliminations, and the odyssey of CeCe Fry:


The Top 6 (as ranked by America)

1 (1) Carly Rose Sonenclar (should be 1)

Is this the right ranking? Obviously. Although LA Reid was right when he called her “Rolling in the Deep” a “second best” performance, he was also right when he said that “even her second best is better than everyone else’s first best.” Preach, LA. I have gone back and watched this performance a few times and my only objections with it are in the arrangement (the attempt to differentiate from Adele went too far) and production (Carly Rose does not need a wind machine blowing in her face, people). Notwithstanding, she is an incredible artist. I remember eagerly anticipating the wow factor each week of the Adam Lambert experience back in Idol season 8 and Carly Rose has tapped into this higher ground. She is unreal. Simon’s “the first half was good, the second half was sensational” comment gave me goose pumps. To witness this birth of a star continues to be a privilege. Her only problem, according to Simon, is that her suspected alien status (as in humans should not be capable of what she can do as a singer) could disqualify her from the competition. Carly Rose’s response? “Darn it.” America, you have to love this girl.

What needs to happen going forward? To Britney and Carly Rose’s credit, I loved the song choice this week (just not the execution). I encourage them to continue to pick not good but great songs that are going allow Carly Rose’s artistry to have a chance to fly.

2 (2) Tate Stevens (should be 2)

Is this the right ranking? Country is not my jam (especially upbeat country), but Britney was right to predict a CMA award in Tate’s future. His aw-shucks uptempo “Somebody Like You” was wonderfully (and unexpectedly) enjoyable. He looked cool with the guitar (although, did he even play it?), the banjo player interactions were nothing short of joyous, and his dance attempts (Simon told him not to ever again) made Tate really likable. I also appreciate that Tate knows how good Carly Rose is (he admitted she was better last week) and that mixing it up this week was a conscious choice to reclaim number 1 (based on the percentage difference that Mario told us, he was very close).

What needs to happen going forward? Last week I wrote: I think Tate needs to have a performance that stretches his artistry within his genre. Think David Cook’s brilliant “Always Be My Baby” from several Idol seasons ago. The good news is that his uptempo switch this week did just that. Now he has to countrify a pop/soul tune outside of his genre. Now LA’s sole focus (bye Vino), Tate will find a way to compete.

3 (4) Emblem3 (should be 5)

Is this the right ranking? I don’t know. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Emblem3 went home this week. Demi blames it all on Simon, but I think there is something more to it in the artists themselves. Yeah, we get that you play instruments and that you write your own music, but are you that good? Although they often don’t bring all they can, Fifth Harmony gives me a more emotional connect and presents the possibility of a higher ceiling. Emblem3 seem to have plateaued, and although “I’m a Believer” was fun and energized, their musicality is worse than any other artist left in the competition (CeCe included). Great, you are a boy band that causes riots at outdoor malls in LA. Yes, Drew, we see your arm muscles all the time. I am just not sure if there is really that much there up on stage underneath the thick layer of smoke and LED moving lights.

What needs to happen going forward? Last week I wrote: I am starting to realize that their musical scope may be more limited than I thought. Simon needs to find them a song that does their thing better than they have ever done it before. This remains Mr. Cowell’s quest.

4 (7) Fifth Harmony (should be 4)

Is this the right ranking? Of who is left, probably. Their stationary rendition (they took hitting your spots a little too far) of Kelly Clarkson’s “(Stronger) What Doesn’t Kill You” suffered under the longer song format (musical monotony ensued). I did appreciate Lauren’s lead throughout the song, but their lack of body movement (those arms were rocking) choreo and scary fire soaked projections yielded a tinge of boredom. Down to the final 6, I still think that Fifth Harmony at least has shot at third place (they are never going to overtake Tate or Carly Rose) and for recent group construction, this is saying something.

What needs to happen going forward? I would love to see less of their personal interactions backstage (I get how much they care about each other, but I find myself increasingly tuning out) and more of their musical interactions. What is it like in the room when harmonies are being discussed? Do music mentors try to teach them and then give up because they are too hard for these young women to handle (it is my only reasonable explanation for the propensity of unison)? I want to connect more to them as a musical artist and less as a sweet, “so happy to be here” teenybopper story.

5 (8) CeCe Frey (should be 6)

Is this the right ranking? “Lady Marmalade” (and its visual medium incarnations) has always been a bit of a hot mess for me and CeCe Fry’s insertion into this lineage seemed to work very well. Simon’s “chocolate cake” analogy was totally relatable. With the new song length, this was all too much. Simon (“pack your bags”) and (I thought all of) America assumed CeCe would be journeying on this week, but this resilient fighter is not done yet! The old CeCe is back – a wild and unruly performer, an unlikeable personality (Demi’s house-visit words), but someone who will stop at nothing on her path to the top. She won’t win, but her continued participation in this competition makes it all the more enjoyable to watch.

What needs to happen going forward? Keep fighting, girl. Be the old CeCe and you may stick around again next week.

6 (5) Diamond White (should be 3)

Is this the right ranking? Definitely not. Diamond is a precious jewel of a talent. Her “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” channeled some young Whitney (owe the beautiful spark and promise she had at the beginning of her career), and, although the production was a bit over everyone’s head (too much Britney, too much), she did so well with it. Over the last two weeks, Diamond has performed Celine, Whitney, and Beyonce (her awesome save-me rendition of “I Was Here”) and she was at least auditioning for their minor league. Diamond’s ceiling is second only to Carly Rose and she should be here close to the end.

What needs to happen going forward? I think it is time for something more contemporary. A Katy Perry or Jesse J could do the trick.


Vino Alan – last week 3

Poor Vino had a tough week (“You’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin’” struggled), and despite an AWESOME save-me rendition of his first audition song, “Trouble,” I can understand why Simon and Demi did what they did. Although LA pushed the idea that Vino was a really chill guy underneath his scary-looking exterior, I am not sure he was ever going to be accessible outside of a dark and dreary pub. He is a soul singer who excels in darker, more somber environments. The flash and gleam of the X Factor stage was just too much for Mr. Alan. I hate to admit it, but we will miss his non-singing time at the mic – a rare mix of unintentional comedy and his creepy musings.

Paige Thomas – last week 6

I didn’t really like Paige’s Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give Up” (I think the song suffers), but I thought it was definitely her best performance and earned her a chance to stay. Her look (more relatable), her vibe (a natural sexy), and her command of a very naked stage (I agree with Simon that she would have benefited from more back-up dancer time) was a bit of a revelation. Sadly, America feels the same way about Rick Astley as I do.

My rankings:

  1. Carly Rose Sonenclar
  2. Tate Stevens
  3. Diamond White
  4. Fifth Harmony
  5. Emblem 3
  6. CeCe Frey

What do you think? Will Britney continue to wear a cool stetson? Can Carly Rose maintain her top spot? Do Drew’s arms from Emblem3 get hot easily?

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.

The X Factor Top 8 – A Star Is Born

The X Factor decision to air the live results elimination (and don’t forget a rousing performance by Cher Lloyd!) on Thanksgiving night is a consistent reminder of this season’s production team brain trust failure.  As the NFL preemption yielded an 8:15 EST start, I still had an inkling of hope that maybe they would save the elimination for next week.  Unfortunately, my wishes were not their command, and on a night when America sits together in connected harmony, X Factor presented the disharmony of (not one but) two eliminations.  This decision all but eradicated the small amount of goodwill brought on by Wednesday night’s “I am thankful for you” (frequently over the top emotional) tear festival.  The good news in all of this (and maybe Mario could refrain from butchering her last name pronunciation as Sonenblerg as he did Thursday night, just embarrassing), Carly Rose Sonenclar had an X Factor moment, a two and a half minute journey “somewhere over the rainbow” that makes sticking around for the many pitfalls along the way (Khloe had a particularly challenging time this week) well worth it.  On Wednesday night’s X Factor, America saw the birth of a star.

Here is my take on the top 8 as voted by America, beginning with Miss Carly Rose “don’t you dare forget this name” Sonenclar taking her rightful place at number 1:

The Top 8 (as ranked by America)

1 (2) Carly Rose Sonenclar (should be 1)

She is thankful for: Her older brother Russ, who, according to an inside source who attends college with him, is a really sweet guy.

Is this the right ranking? YES!  YES!  YES!!!!  Carly Rose Sonenclar is the one beat and this week, according to Simon (even in perhaps an understatement), she “blew away the competition.”  Her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (the Eva Cassidy-like arrangement) was breathtaking, transformative, and finally (Carly Rose’s only real obstacle to winning) felt accessible.  As the wave of Carly Rose admiration begins to build even more height and depth over the remaining week’s of X Factor’s second US season, it will be her viable recording artist ascension that we tune in for.  We are all witnesses.

What needs to happen going forward?  This week’s stunning performance was as close to flawless (song selection, arrangement, execution) as you can get live.  I think it is important that every song that Carly Rose delivers in the future is of her caliber, quality, and ability.  Stay away from throwaway and transient pop tunes and embrace the material from the great American or Popular Music Songbook.

2 (1) Tate Stevens (should be 4)

He is thankful for: His dad, who sacrificed his own musical career aspirations as a drummer to be able to support his family.

Is this the right ranking? It is not that Tate had an off week, it just wasn’t his week (and somewhat surprisingly, he managed to hold off Vino Alan, who, by all accounts, was the runner-up to Carly on Wednesday’s nights show).  I think Tate is a warm and cuddly story, but his viability beyond this show (and certainly as deserving a 5 million dollar talent competition) remains a question.  Now that Carly Rose is placed where she belongs, if some of his upper tier competitors have transcendent performances, I could foresee Tate falling down even more.

What needs to happen going forward?  I think Tate needs to have a performance that stretches his artistry within his genre.  Think David Cook’s brilliant “Always Be My Baby” from several Idol seasons ago.  He did an off-type Mariah Carey song in his own and it was very successful.  Run of the mill country ballads (albeit well executed) may not bring him back to the top.

3 (3) Vino Alan (should be 3)

He is thankful for: The troops (there had to be one) due in part to his experience singing for them on a base near his house (they wouldn’t allow him to serve because his head tattoos were not going to work in the military).

Is this the right ranking?  Vino Alan knows how to deliver a patriotic ballad the night before Thanksgiving (and I do agree with Simon that “God Bless the USA” has a pleasing melodic line).  This was his best performance to date (by a long shot) and came across as sincere when singing (as discussed previously, when Vino’s mic is turned on after the performance, unexpected and peculiars things seem to happen).  Vino at number 3 (he could have even been second) seems about right.

What needs to happen going forward?  We are often told how much Vino has gone through in life, but have yet to see a song selection effectively connect to his backstory.  I want LA to find material that will give Vino a bit more authenticity because the “gooey on the inside” common allusion is not what he projects on the outside (let’s just say that a dark alley may not be the place that I want to meet Vino for the first time).

4 (4) Emblem3 (should be 5)

They are thankful for: Their spiritual leaders who have housed them, clothed them, and taken them on outdoor journeys filled with martial arts and survival skills (the moral of this story is to find me my own spiritual leader).

Is this the right ranking? Yeah, it just about right.  Their cover of “Secrets” by OneRepublic was a little boring.  On a positive note, Emblem3 seem to be maturing as people (not enough to avoid obnoxious “Hi Mom, I am on camera” walk byes backstage) and have clearly bonded with Simon.  The spark of creation that we witnessed a few weeks ago (X Factor able) seems like a long time ago at this point and I am just not sure they have the talent to compete with Carly Rose.  When they were next to Beatrice and CeCe as the only non-safe act remaining, I was not surprised and this is not a good thing (even if their inclusion was just to create more drama).

What needs to happen going forward? I am starting to realize that their musical scope may be more limited than I thought.  Their reggaed emo-pop m.o. has been done and done, but I am just not sure what else is there for them.  Simon needs to find them a song that does their thing better than they have ever done it before.  I would not be surprised to see them hover close to elimination next week (if some of the acts under them on the leader board step to the plate).

5 (7)  Diamond White (should be 2)

She is thankful for: Her mom, in what might of have been the most heartfelt thank you of the evening.

Is this the right ranking?  No, I think Diamond could and should be even higher.  Her “Because You Love Me” nailed the theme and evidently nailed her beautiful mother/daughter connection.  I believed every word and so did Diamond.  In a Carly Rose-less competition, Diamond would be the girl of the moment, but she is sadly compared to Carly Rose’s crazy (alien dare the judges say) talent and professionalism.  Regardless, Diamond is wonderful singer and a special young person.

What needs to happen going forward?  The last two weeks I wrote this: 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.  This week, she nailed this.  More of the same for Diamond will continue her rise in the rankings.

6 (10) Paige Thomas (should be 8)

She is thankful for: Colleen, a beautiful surrogate mom (Paige’s tragically passed away when she was six), who took Paige in when she was a young teenager and has been there for her ever since.

Is this the right ranking? No, this is one of the biggest surprises of the week.  I love Colleen and Paige’s story, but unfortunately, her performance of Britney’s “Everytime” was one of the worst performances of the live shows, filled with unexpected and inexcusable pitch problems and overdramatic shaky voice syndrome.  I may have even preferred Britney’s vocal rendition (at least auto-tuned is tuned).  Based on her performance (and past performances), Paige should have gone home.

What needs to happen going forward?  I think Paige’s journey to be an over-the-top costumed, stage production heavy, but vocally average performer may be irreversible.  Her last chance may be to strip everything back and just sing again on a topic that does espouse tears (one of Paige’s perennial struggles).

7 (6)  Fifth Harmony (should be 6)

They are thankful for: God.

Is this the right ranking?  Let’s start with their thankfulness.  I take all pre-performance videos for what they are: melodramatic, but at times touching.  Fifth Harmony’s love fest did not hit the right notes with me and felt too fabricated and impersonal.  This led to a performance of “I’ll Stand By You” that the judges seemed to love, but I had trouble connecting with.  I look at this week as a bit of a mulligan for this fabulous five.  Look for a little comeback next week.

What needs to happen going forward? I will back off my assertion last week that they are a dark horse to win this thing (there is no way that Carly Rose will lose to this group), but I think they still have a runner-up ceiling.  Next order of business for Fifth Harmony is to define their sound (to their credit, I think they have found and discovered – albeit packaged – a group identity offstage).

8 (5)  CeCe Frey (should be 7)

She is thankful for: Her late sister Kelsey, who tragically passed away when CeCe was very little due to complications related to CP.

Is this the right ranking?  It is close to correct, although I would definitely have her above Paige.  Her performance of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” was delivered honestly and beautifully to Kelsey.  Besides Diamond, I thought this was the best execution of the “I am thankful for…” theme of the week.  I give her credit for doing what she did after watching her pre-song video, but after weeks of tears from both her and Paige, it is hard to discern how much of it is real and how much is theatrics.  Sorry.

What needs to happen going forward? I am still not sure.  Her “it” or “X” as always been a factor with CeCe, so I would play more into that next week.  If there is another double elimination, I would expect her to go home.

EliminatedArin Ray (last week in 9th place)

Arin Rsy should be proud of how far he went in this competition.  From the beginning, I think he was always little overmatched and this week’s reaction to judge critique displayed just how hard this type of show is for a person of his age (see: Beatrice’s reaction to being eliminated).  I wish the best and hope that he and Normani can continue to kind of be something more than friends.

EliminatedBeatrice Miller (laat week in 8th place)

Beatrice did an admirable job of singing through week after week of Britney’s drab modern/alternative rock song selections (as a huge Snow Patrol fan, I struggled through “Chasing Cars” this week).  Her ode to her two twin sisters was really sweet (Did you catch the moment when the surprise visit almost was “derailed” when twin number 2 tripped on the stairs en route to her Beatrice reunion hug?  The producers tried to edit it out, but twins number 1’s point of contact would have been missed, so leave it in the background did they.  Tough moment).  Again, especially after answering “no” to Khloe’s irresponsible “Are you ok?” question after having been eliminated (Beatrice was sobbing at the time, so she is obviously not, Miss “struggled mightily this week” Kardashian Odom), this is a tough road for a thirteen-year-old, and Beatrice should hang her head high.

My rankings:

  1. Carly Rose Sonenclar
  2. Diamond White
  3. Vino Alan
  4. Tate Stevens
  5. Emblem 3
  6. Fifth Harmony
  7. CeCe Frey
  8. Paige Thomas

What do you think?  Will Arin and Normani stay close?  Did Carly Rose correct Mario’s pronunciation of her name?  Do Khloe and Mario rehearse any of this?

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.

The X Factor – The Top 12 – Where America’s Rankings Are Revealed

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!”).

My rankings:

  1. Emblem 3
  2. Carly Rose Sonenclar
  3. Fifth Harmony
  4. Jennel Garcia
  5. Tate Stevens
  6. Diamond White
  7. Lyric 145
  8. Vino Alan
  9. Paige Thomas
  10. Beatrice Miller
  11. Arin Ray
  12. 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.