'X Factor' S2, Ep 20 Recap: Top 8 Contestants Perform, Will.i.am and Britney Video Premieres

Carly Rose Sonenclar on The X Factor

On The X Factor singers compete for a 5 million dollar recording contract. Each week they perform for judges Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato. On last night's show - season 2, episode 20 - we saw the Top 8 contestants perform, and saw the world premiere of the video for "Scream & Shout", the Will.i.am song featuring Britney Spears.

Khloe Kardashian and Mario Lopez
The presenters arrive on stage: Khloe Kardashian is wearing a black sequin and lace dress from her suitcaseful of sparkles, Mario Lopez is wearing yet another ensemble from his closetful of grey host suits (I requested that he wear electric blue this week, but no dice). They go over last week’s leader-board, and remind us that this week the contestants start over on a level playing field.

In the pre-taped video packages that play before each contestant's performance, we learn how some of them responded to last week’s results show, and how they were preparing for this week. In several instances L.A. Reid had interesting takes on some of the performers, even though he wasn’t their mentor.

Meanwhile, I feel like I saw and heard a different Top 8 show than the panel. I'm not into being super-critical of contestants who sing better than I ever will, but last night I liked the performances a lot less than the judges did.

The first contestant is Diamond White from Britney Spears’ Teens with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. We find out that Diamond is nervous to do a faster song because ballads have been working for her, but Britney thinks this performance will bring her to the next level. The song starts out slow with just a guitar, then builds into a raucous number with flashing lights and dancers. Diamond has an amazing voice, but I’m not completely sold on this performance. I think Simon was right a few weeks back when he advised her not to walk and sing at the same time – it makes her go a little off-key. L.A. gives Diamond an “A” for effort and a “B” for execution. Demi says she’s been waiting to see a performance like this from Diamond, but wants her to work a little more on it. Simon disagrees with L.A. (and me, apparently). He says, “I don’t know what else this girl could have brought, she sang, she danced…” He then goes on to say how hard it is to sing and dance at the same time. (Huh.) Britney tells Diamond she is proud of her and would dance with her any day.

Vino Alan on The X Factor
Vino Alan from L.A. Reid’s Over 25s sings The Righteous Brothers’ "You've Lost That Loving Feeling”. Vino was going to sing a different song, but in rehearsal L.A. wasn’t feeling it so it was changed at the eleventh hour. In other news, for this episode Vino performs without his hat! The performance is good because Vino is always good, but it’s not his best; he seems bored. It does get better toward the end when he switches it up to a quick reggae section, and he peps up even more when plays off of the background singers. Britney feels like Vino does the same thing every week and that something needs to be “freshened up”. Demi agrees with Britney, and says she wasn’t totally entertained. Simon didn’t like the song choice, and especially didn’t like the reggae part. (Huh, again.) He says L.A. took a risk but it didn’t work. L.A. admits there were some timing issues, but says he doesn’t expect the other judges to support Vino because he’s a threat. Simon shoots back that it wasn’t a five million dollar performance. L.A. says it wasn’t Vino’s greatest, but he stands behind Vino.

The third to sing is Paige Thomas from Demi Lovato’s Young Adults. She does Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Demi wants Paige to ditch the dancers because she believes it was her stripped down, more accessable side helped her move up the leaderboard last week, but Paige wants to show more of her fun side. The cameras find L.A., who thinks Paige is too into the staging and makeup and hair when what she really needs is a great musical moment. In the end, Paige loses the wild outfits, but keeps the production. She winds up in jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket. She is gorgeous, as always, and sounds great in the beginning of the number, but then she starts dancing and gets pitchy. I think Paige's bump-and-grind choreography looks awkward instead of sexy, and the song feels too slow for me. Of course, I'm at odds with the judges again. L.A. tells Paige it was by far her very best performance, and he commends Demi for getting it right. Britney says it was a definite risk but that it worked. Simon asks who chose her outfit, because it was the first time she looked and sounded like a legitimate pop star. He also says that if she sticks around she need to make more decisions for herself (as in, don’t listen to Demi). Also, he liked the dancers. (Sigh) Demi says they both decided what to do, and that they clicked working together.

Fifth Harmony from Simon Cowell’s Groups are next with Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”. In their pre-performance video, the young women are at first enjoying a break, but it’s sad when Normani has to say goodbye to her bud Arin Ray who was cut last week, then a group member gets terrible news: Ally’s grandfather passed away in a hospice. She dedicates this week’s performance to him. They do well (this winds up being my second favorite performance of the night), but I feel like they are not harmonizing as much as they could be. L.A. offers condolences to Ally and says the lyrics to “Stronger” are perfect for what she’s going through. He says the performance was good, but he didn’t hear harmony, just unison. (YES, that was it.) Britney thinks the song really worked for a group. Demi tells Ally she is sorry about her loss, then says while it was probably one of Fifth Harmony’s best performances, some of the energy got sucked out because they didn’t move – she thinks it was awkward to watch them just standing there for an upbeat song. Simon says it was a “fantastic, fantastic” performance, and that Ally’s grandfather would be incredibly proud.

Carly Rose Sonenclar from Britney's Teens sings Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. In her video Carly Rose talks about how she didn’t expect to be in the number one spot, and how much she likes having her brother visit. He tells her now that she’s number one she has to work twice as hard, and she agrees it’s important not to get comfortable. L.A. says he hopes they get Carly Rose’s song choice wrong this week (this is actually a compliment – he says this because he thinks she’s so good). It’s obvious from the first few notes that Carly Rose is going to knock this one out of the park. I am entranced by her staging: Carly Rose sits on stairs in front of a video of candles – it looks like she is singing on a giant votive display in a church. This is enhanced by the ethereal backing vocals and rays of white light that appear during the chorus. At the end there is a key change and a big note, then she brings it back down. Very nice. L.A. says Carly Rose is insanely talented, but it wasn’t her best performance, but also adds that her second best is better than everyone else's best. Demi tells her, “I'm not even your mentor and I'm so proud of you.” Simon gives the best praise: “I thought the first half of the song was good, I thought the second half of the song was sensational...The only problem, we've established this, is that you're not human. So we may need to disqualify you from this competition because aliens are not allowed.” Britney says they took a risk in order to move Carly Rose to the next level in the competition.

Tate Stevens from L.A.'s Over 25s does Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You”. In his video he talks about moving down from first to second place last week, and says close only counts in horseshoes and government work. L.A. asks him, “When you watched Carly Rose’s performance did you think she was number one?” Tate answers that he did. So, this week Tate is going to win the public back by having fun. He takes the stage wearing jeans and a black cowboy hat, and he plays guitar. He does a good job, but I’m still stuck on his performance from a few weeks back when he rocked out with Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive”. Britney compliments him with, I'm sure we'll be seeing you accept a Country Music Award one day.” Demi, remarking on how Tate always dedicates his songs to his wife says, "One day when I get married, I want my husband to love me as much as you love your wife.” Simon ribs Demi with, "That might be a tall order, actually." His advice to Tate is not to dance, but he also says that Tate is back with passion and a good song choice. Then he offers, “What I like about you is you're so likable. It's something you and I have in common.” L.A. responds by telling Tate, “He's likable, you are lovable.”

CeCe Frey on The X Factor
Then CeCe Frey from Demi's Young Adults is on. In her taped piece she says to the viewers, "I gave 110 percent and you guys still put me in the bottom two." She also states, "I haven't given up. I didn't audition for this competition to be in eighth place." L.A. Reid opines, "Unless I'm dead wrong, that ship has sailed." CeCe sings Patti LaBelles’s “Lady Marmalade” in a short hoop skirt with a crew of dancers dressed like dolls. You can see she is trying to be coquettish, but as pretty as she is, I can’t see her making it through this week with all of the off-key notes in this performance. I have a soft spot for CeCe, but "Lady Marmalade" is a huge song, and to me, an unwise choice for a singer who has been struggling with pitch issues. L.A. begins his critique with “Uh-oh, here you go,” but then offers, “… I hate that I'm gonna say this, but I actually enjoyed that circus.” Britney believes CeCe has definitely stepped it up. Simon feels the performance was like eating 62 portions of chocolate cake: “…I want a little slice. You gave me too much. There was way too much going on. Too distracting.” Then he says, “I don't think that is going to endear you to the public at home. My advice tonight is pack a suitcase.” Ouch. Demi thinks Simon is being critical because he’s old.

Then it's time for the X Factor broadcast of the world premiere of the video for the Will.i.am and Britney Spears collaboration, “Scream & Shout”. It’s a cool Will.i.am tune and a visually striking video with repetitive black and white images and splashes of gold. (It’s) Britney (bitch) looks amazing – her hair is fierce, and she has a British accent in the video – she has after all, spent months sitting next to Simon. X Factor showed less than a minute of it, but we posted the full video below.

Emblem3 on The X Factor
Before Emblem3 from Simon's Groups do their song, we see them on a routine shopping trip for socks and underwear. Then people start to recognize them, then they are posing for pictures and signing autographs, then they are mobbed and they have to run away. It may have been staged, but this is most likely a true representation of Emblem3’s future. Simon introduces them by saying they saved the best for last. They do The Monkees “I’m a Believer” while girls in flag shorts do 60s-style dances. L.A. praised the band with “If I were the chairman of a major record label, which I am, and if you were a new band looking to break into the business, which you are, I would sign you. You have the x factor." Britney puns it up with, “I'm a believer in you guys, but I didn't really like your song.” Demi doesn’t understand what Simon is doing with Emblem3 – she thinks they are predictable and that they’ve lost their spark. Simon and Demi get into a bit of a spat when he says, “You criticizing me for doing a bad job is quite ironic.” When Demi tries to pull the age card – that she’s knows better than him because she’s 20 - he drops this one on her: “I’ve sold over 300 million records sweetheart.” Then he tells Emblem3 that they turned into real pop stars this week and it was one of his favorite performances.

On tonight’s episode ( November 29, 2012), two of the Top 8 contestants will be eliminated, and we’ll see performances from platinum R&B artist Alicia Keys and X Factor season one finalist Josh Krajcik.

The X Factor airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on FOX.

To read more of our X Factor coverage click here.

Photos ©Talkback Thames, FremantleMedia, SYCOtv

Video by Will.iam performing Scream & Shout ©2012 Interscope

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2012 4:00 PM