Barring an early Mayan apocalypse, we all know that Tate Stevens and Carly Rose Sonenclar will make it to the X Factor finale, so there's not much to discuss there. The real race is between Simon Cowell's two remaining groups, Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony, as there's seemingly room for only one of them.
The thing is, we won't actually know who's bringing up the rear after this next elimination because the leaderboard is now officially in "blackout" mode, meaning they won't be revealing how the numbers shake out in hopes of drumming up some semblance of drama. Also this week, there won't be a sing-off or judges' save – whoever gets the lowest number of votes gets the boot.
It's a tricky equation, for sure. Our gut says Emblem3 is a shoo-in for third place based on the number of shrieking girls in the audience each week and the fact they've yet to be in the bottom all season. However, Fifth Harmony got this week's coveted pimp spot – the very last performance of the night before voting opens – which makes us think they might have a shot at edging out the boy band. On this sort of reality competition show it's rare for the act in the pimp spot to go home the following night. Rare, but not totally unheard of.
This week, each X Factor hopeful sang two songs – one was the act's choice and the other was a song that supposedly both the artist and mentor chose together, but it quickly became clear that the mentor wears the pants in this family. (For those keeping score, Tate sang Craig Morgan's "Bonfire" and Clay Walker's "Fall" while Carly Rose did Elton John's "Your Song" and John Lennon's "Imagine.")
Emblem3 first sang Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way," followed by the Beatles' "Hey Jude." The former came complete with a surfer-dude reggae bent (possibly biting off Big Mountain's cover, which was never mentioned on the show) and started off with the boys lying down and dreamily (or annoyingly, depending on your gender and age) singing into the camera. The latter had sort of an R&B vibe that allowed the guys to literally dance right into the arms of the screaming girls in the audience.
Both performances included shaky, borderline screechy vocals and jerky frat-boy movements, yet they still garnered rave reviews from the judges. In fact, both L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato alluded to the fact that the trio is on the path to becoming the next Fab Four. Paul McCartney, take note: If your new gig as Nirvana frontman doesn't pan out, you can always join Emblem3. If nothing else, at least they're consistently average and have kept things interesting with their off-leash antics.
Meanwhile, Fifth Harmony started with "Anything Could Happen" by Ellie Goulding and then did "Impossible" by Shontelle, which was the first song they ever sang together during the Judges' Homes round. "Anything" revolved around an overproduced concept where the girls were dressed like sexy Bo Peeps while being served tea by male fairies at a giant Alice in Wonderland-like table, a visual that failed to connect with viewers when Lyric 145 first tried it.
Meanwhile, their Spanglish-language take on "Impossible" was a more toned-down affair that gave conflicting clues as to where the girls might wind up tonight. Aside from the producers giving them the pimp spot, "Impossible" is the song that just gave James Arthur the most recent win on The X Factor U.K. and has become that show's fastest-selling single ever. On the flip side, though, three out of four judges trashed the performance. L.A. called it a "lazy choice," while Britney Spears was more blunt: "I'll be really surprised if you're here next week." And so would we. But, again, that prime placement is the wild card here. So, you never know.
Basically, it comes down to which America prefers: Boy bands or girl groups. There can be only one. Unless, of course, the producers just successfully set up one doozy of an upset. But we doubt it.
No matter who nabs the top three spots, the thing we're most excited for is that there's an end in sight to those awkward, synchronized walks co-hosts Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian take together. Yeah, you know what we're talking about.
Previously: 'X Factor' Ousts CeCe Frey, Diamond White
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