'X Factor' Recap: Lillie McCloud, Josh Levi Get Cut - Rolling Stone
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‘X Factor’ Recap: Lillie McCloud, Josh Levi Get Cut

Viewer votes save Rion Paige after judges’ deadlock

Ah, it’s the annual Thanksgiving slaughter – and we’re not talking about Pilgrims and Indians. As in years past, The X Factor aired a live double elimination last night, and it was once again a total buzzkill. “I hate that we’re doing this on Thanksgiving, it’s not OK at all,” said mentor Demi Lovato in the understatement of the year as Lillie McCloud and Josh Levi were eliminated from the competition.

Rolling Stone’s Complete Coverage of ‘The X Factor’

While we took a break from recapping Wednesday night’s performance show to get ready for the big holiday, there was no rest for the weary reality show contestants as the top eight performed just like it was any other day of the year. (They did, however, sit down to a Honda-sponsored pre-slaughter supper.) And a big-band theme proved to be the show’s solution for making a bunch of mediocre acts sound good for the first time this season, considering the 25-piece band basically drowned out a lot of them.   

It was by far the best batch of performances since the live shows started, elevating acts who should be long gone (Carlito Olivero, Ellona Santiago) and making it hard for America – or at least the dwindling portion of America watching The X Factor – to recognize who should stay and who should go. Also mucking things up? The judges inexplicably heaped praise on flashy over-achiever Santiago, acting like she was the second coming of Beyoncé – which she is not.

But let’s get back to the matter at hand: America’s dislike of talented singers. Last week, viewers tossed Khaya Cohen, and this week it was Lillie’s turn. The 54-year-old Over 25er was crassly cut at the top of the show, falling below last week’s bottom-feeder Olivero, who should have been the one walking out the door. But Lillie pulled the ultimate reality show no-no Wednesday night: she flippantly talked back, calling Simon Cowell’s critique “confusing.” One thing America doesn’t like is seemingly ungrateful lip, but the fact she didn’t even get to “sing for survival” was just plain cruel. 

Instead, Rion Paige and Josh found themselves singing their “save me” songs after giving decent but forgettable performances the night before. The pairing made it clear that America enjoys torturing teens during the holiday season. Putting the competition’s two youngest contestants on the chopping block (14 and 15, respectively) conjured memories of last year’s bummer bloodbath, when 13-year-old Beatrice Miller sobbed her way through elimination

After Rion fiercely performed Pink‘s “Perfect” and Josh solidly tackled Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” the judges were left with a tough decision. With Girls mentor Demi and the Boys’ Paulina Rubio each siding with their respective contestant, it came down to Simon and Kelly Rowland making the final decision – sorta. After Kelly picked Josh, Simon created a “deadlock” by sticking with Rion, throwing the decision back to the viewer votes. And the viewers sent Josh packing.  

Of course, it wasn’t a good sign when Paulina enthusiastically introduced Levi as “the suave, the lover, the rico – Carlito Olivero!” before he sang his final song. Maybe she didn’t see the switcheroo coming and stuck with her pre-written speech, but this isn’t her first mix-up. If she can’t distinguish between her own contestants, why should we? So, chances are Carlito will be the next one to bite the dust. (Hopefully.)

Trying to liven up the downer of a night were performers Michael Bublé and Lovato, who did a busy, pitchy rendition of her new single “Neon Lights” that saw her fussing with her ear mic and ending breathless with a messy head of hair. Guess even pros can have an off night. 

Previous recap: One Direction Perform Amid Double Elimination


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