"The X Factor" is down to its final eight contestants and you know what that means: It's time to break out all the tired old boxing analogies.
"The fight is on and the gloves are off," says Demi Lovato.
"We're going to battle this week and I don't plan on losing," insists Britney Spears.
"We're coming out swinging ...," adds L.A. Reid.
And so on and so on ...
This week brings another double-elimination -- plus the premiere of will.i.am's new music video featuring our own Brit Brit. So let's get on with the covers of No. 1 hits:
Diamond White (Teens) "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston
Enough with the ballads. Diamond wants to pick up the pace. After starting of soft and slow, the lights start flashing and she's bouncing around the stage (along with a lot of superfluous dancers). She looks like she's having a lot of fun, but it feels a little uneven to these ears. If this really is a fight, Diamond failed to produce a knockout punch. L.A. gives her a "A" for effort and a "B" for execution. Demi Lovato liked that she "had fun" but wants to see her "bring more to it," but an incredulous Simon Cowell says he doesn't know what else she could have brought. He calls it a very "important" performance for her.
Vino Alan (Over 25s) "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers
Mr. Tattoo head was No. 3 for the third time last week. Can he improve? Coach L.A. called a last-minute audible with a song change. Big mistake. Vino brings his usual soulfulness to the song, but it lacks spark and energy, despite a little reggae twist at the end. Britney and Demi both aren't all that impressed, while Simon knocks the song choice. "It just didn't work," he says. "And it was uncomfortable." L.A. just laughs it all off.
Paige Thomas (Young adults) "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley
As we have suspected, Paige and Demi haven't always been on the same page, so to speak. She wants to dance around and showcase her "fun" side. Demi is worried that she hasn't been connecting with the audience when the production gets too big. The result is somewhat of a compromise. Paige gets her dancers and her fog machine, but it's much more stripped down than some of her past over-the-top extravaganzas. We can actually concentrate on her voice, which is on point tonight. L.A. raves, "That was by far your very best performance ... You found your voice. You found your movement. You seemed at home." Simon agrees. "This is the first time you've looked and sounded like a legitimate pop star." And he knocks Demi, suggesting that Paige needs to be making more of her own decisions when it comes to her performances.
Fifth Harmony (Groups) "What Doesn't Kill You" by Kelly Clarkson
For some reason, Simon's appealing girl group dropped to seventh last week. Maybe this upbeat, current radio-friendly hit will help their cause. L.A. is a fan, but he quibbles that he heard "unison" rather than harmony, attributing the problem to the lack of imaginative arrangement. Britney, however, thought it really worked, and Demi thought it was one of their best performances, but believes it could have used a little more movement and energy.
Carly Rose Sonenclar (Teens) "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
Last week's top-ranked contestant knows she can't rest on her laurels, so, after performing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," she goes big again. To tell the truth, we are so over this played-out song, but we can't deny that this little dynamo comes across so powerful and polished that it's jaw-dropping. At 13, she makes some other the singers here look like absolute lightweights. Holding back just a little, L.A. isn't willing to go ga-ga over her. He calls Carly "insanely talented," but doesn't think it was her best. Still, he admitted, "even your second best is better than everyone else's best." Simon says he thought the first half of the song was good and the second half was "sensational." Then he jokes that they may have to disqualify her from the show because she's something other than human and "aliens" aren't allowed to compete.
Tate Stevens (Over-25s) "Somebody Like You" bu Keith Urban
After finishing first two straight weeks, Tate was a runner-up last time out. He's back with his black cowboy hat and jeans, but he's gone more upbeat (with some two-step swagger) and has the crowd clapping along. It's feel-good country music at its best. Says Brit, "I'm sure we'll be seeing you accept a Country Music Award one day." Demi says she had so much fun with the song that she felt like she was back home in Texas at a barbecue (Who knew she was from Texas?) Simon loved the passion, but advises Tate to ditch the dancing.
Cece Frey (Young adults) Lady Marmalade by Labelle
CeCe has been flirting with elimination since these live shows started, and though she still has the competitive fire, she probably just doesn't have the vocal prowess to advance. The performance is flashy, sexy and guady, as you might expect, with CeCe in a short poofy skirt surrounded by dancers, confetti and what have you. L.A. says he enjoyed "that circus" and appreciates the fact that she's going down fighting. Britney thinks CeCe definitely stepped it up a notch. But Simon says the performance left him feeling like he'd eaten "62 portions of chocolate cake. ... I want a little slice and you gave me way too much." And then: "My advice tonight is: Pack a suitcase."
Emblem3 (Groups) "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees
There's a feeling among the judges that these SoCal guys haven't really reached their potential just yet. Is this the night? Their high-energy performance mixes a little Smashmouth in with a bit of rapping and shouting, punctuated by female dancers in short shorts. The girls in the audience love it and so does L.A. "I would sign you .... because you definitely have the X factor." Britney says she's a believer, but didn't really like the song. Demi says she really doesn't understand what Simon is trying to do with the guys, implying that they aren't genuine and lack a contemporary edge. Simon, of course, scoffs at this and reminds us again that he's sold 300 million records. As if we could forget.
Just before Emblem3 came on, we were treated to (or subjected to) the new video, "Scream & Shout" -- the first single from will.i.am'snew album, "#willpower." It features a lot of artificial-sounding techno babble and Britney looking hot with teased-up hair and sparkly black skirt.
"Britney, that was phenomenal!" said Khloe Kardashian, obviously high on something. "It was a hot video," said co-host Mario Lopez. "I can already see people bumping in the club."