Song by song grades for The X Factor’s Top 12

What did we learn last week when The X Factor decided to tell us how everyone finished in the fan voting?

That the show’s viewers are probably older and more conservative than Simon and Co. would like.

No offense to Vino Alan and Tate Stevens — because they’ve been consistently good on a show where consistently good has been tough to find — but that’s the only conclusion one can draw when they finished first and third in the voting and the brilliant Lyric 145 finished ninth after a performance that should have earned them an exclamation mark after the “brilliant.”

So, tonight, The X Factor will try to sabotage Vino, Tate and Lyric 145 by subjecting them and us to two hours of diva covers.

For a detailed explanation of why I think that theme is pure folly, head here.

The good news is that the theme is so ill-fitting and my expectations are so low … well, I’ll probably be easily impressed as I hand out song by song grades.

That is by everyone other than Carly Rose Sonenclar, who should nail this. She’s also my pick for the number one spot in this week’s X Factor rankings.

Oh, and to make it even tougher, two acts go home tonight.

1. Jennel Garcia: Challenging spot for Jennel, singing first on a two-hour show. She’s going to take on “Proud Mary.” Good choice, Jennel. A bit of a timid start. Then the lights go up, the dancers come out and Jennel starts belting. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the pipes to pull this off. She’s fun to watch, but I’ve seen this song done much better on shows just like this. And, of course, the judges are lying again. Simon, apparently losing his hearing after listening to so many of these performances, proclaims Jennel’s back in the game it was so good. Point 1: She was never out of the game; last week’s criticism was unfounded. Point 2: Come on, Simon, I KNOW you’ve seen a much better performance of that song. Grade: C

2. Tate Stevens: Tate’s a great guy, and he’s found a way to twist the theme to his strength by tackling a Shania Twain song. Hmm, I guess she qualifies as a diva. He’ll sing “From This Moment.” L.A. encouraged him to pour passion into the song, and Tate surely did that. Not thrilled with the way his voice sounded on the chorus, especially the first time around. It sounded like he was straining just a bit. But he pulled it together very well at the end and I’m sure the folks who voted for Tate last week are going to love that performance. Grade: B-

3. Diamond White: Yikes. The 13-year-old is going to sing Beyonce’s “Halo.” She might have finished fourth in the voting last week, but fact is, the vocal was incredibly shaky. Diamond certainly looks like a young diva. But that was a rough opening, like she was trying to be too precise. And, again, we’ve got a case of a singer just not quite up to the material she’s been given. No shame in that. That was a heck of a song to be given. Especially at 13. She hit a nice note at the end. Otherwise, that fell well short of diva-ish, regardless of what these suddenly very-easy-to-please judges think. Grade: D+

4. Beatrice Miller: The 13-year-old is going to sing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” And Britney tells her she understands her family’s money problems. Oh, yeah, that’s convincing. Come on, Beatrice! Nail it. Well, Britney did her a favor by picking this song. A much better match of singer and song. And Beatrice’s raspy vocals sounded excellent on it. Liked the little flourish at the end, where she got to sing a really big note. Simon touched on a key point, though: That wasn’t nearly as splashy as many of the performances we’ve seen. Still, I think it was the best so far. Grade: B

5. Lyric 145: Coming off last week’s superb performance, Lyric is doing a mash-up of a Katy Perry song (“ET”) and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Look, Simon, forget Emblem 3. This group is the real deal. This is the second straight week they’ve chosen music you wouldn’t expect a hip-hop group to perform and twisted it to conform to their style of music. And for the second straight week, they pulled it off. Perhaps not quite as good as last week, but pretty darn impressive. My new favorite of the night. Simon’s right, they brought needed energy to the show. Grade: B+

6. Arin Ray: The guy who finished 11th last week is singing Madonna’s “Crazy for You.” Turn down the scream track, X Factor. It’s beyond annoying. Problem with Arin: There just isn’t anything really unique about him. Not his voice. Not his look. And certainly not the song choice. That vocal just wasn’t special. And that performance WAS boring. For perhaps the first time tonight, most of the judges get it right. Why the heck was he singing Madonna? Oh, Britney picked it. Hmm. Wasn’t she just criticizing the Lyric 145 song choice? Grade: C-

7. Paige Thomas: She’ll sing “Last Dance.” Paige says she’s dedicating it to her mom, who died in a car crash. Like the match of dress and lipstick. Which is about as deep as this blog will ever get in terms of fashion critique. Hmm, Paige wasn’t doing badly at the start of that song. Then she started dancing around and her vocal got completely lost. She came back and delivered a nice glory note. Still not overly impressed with Paige. Grade: C+

8. Fifth Harmony: They’re going to perform Mariah’s “Hero.” These gals have a chance to pull this off. And they did. At least for the most part. Those five just sound so sweet when they sing together. I look forward to hearing that more than them singing individually. Actually, I liked the beginning a little better than the end. Simon is pleading for votes, even reminding the fans that they all love puppies. I’m beginning to think Emblem 3 is the weak link among the groups. Grade: B

9 Carly Rose Sonenclar: Britney has decided she should sing Celine’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Hmm, seems like I heard this already this week. Well, she doesn’t sound as good as Celine. I’m not sure she belted as well as Sylvia Yacoub on The Voice. But Carly Rose sounded pretty darn great for a 13-year-old. L.A. says we might have just seen the winner. I think he’s right. As long as Britney doesn’t screw it up by giving her a bunch of song-and-dance numbers. And Carly Rose is getting well-deserved praise for the performance. She made me forget I didn’t really love the arrangement of the song. Grade: A-

10. Vino Alan: I would have loved to have seen Vino’s expression when he heard this was Diva Week. He’ll sing Tina Turner’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Given the theme, Vino’s probably doing as well as we could expect. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the number one effort L.A. was looking for. But he sounded solid throughout. Simon criticizes the song choice. Which leaves me wondering just what Simon had in mind for a very un-diva-ish singer on Diva Week. Grade: B-

11. Emblem 3: They’ll tackle  “No One.” The guys say they were shocked to finish just sixth after all the great feedback they’ve gotten. Perhaps being called superstars after one good performance was a bit premature, huh, Simon? Don’t know these guys by individual name, but lead vocal on this song is just not very good. They sound much better as a trio. So-so performance. Not one that’s likely to launch them very far up the leader board. And now the bull starts. And, at the end of the day: Another very over-rated performance based on the feedback from the judges. Grade: C

12. Cece Frey: Two weeks of live shows and two weeks of needing a save for Cece. I’m sure she’d like to break that string tonight. She knows the score, saying she’s either “going to go up (in the rankings) or go home.” She’ll sing “All By Myself.” Decent opening. Cue the big note. Cue the wind machine. Cue the emotion. This is a little too much. Actually, Cece seemed to have no problem summoning up emotion. She’s having trouble summoning up a really good vocal. That vocal wasn’t bad enough to send her home on. There were worse tonight (read Diamond White as example 1). But it wasn’t good enough to lift her out of danger of elimination. Grade: C

Summary:

Best of the night: Carly Rose Sonenclar.

Worst of the night: Diamond White.

Most over-rated of the night: Emblem 3.

Least appreciated of the night: Lyric 145.

Should breeze through to the next round: Carly Rose, Lyric, Beatrice, Tate Stevens, Vino Alan, Fifth Harmony.

Should be worried: Diamond White, Arin Ray, Cece Frey, Jennel Garcia (because she performed 2 hours ago and was forgettable).

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