The four remaining acts on "The X Factor" -- Tate Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar, Emblem 3 and Fifth Harmony -- performed two songs apiece in an unnecessarily attenuated two-hour semifinal show Wednesday night. The first song each act sang was of their own choice; the other was selected either by or with input from the mentors.
In a nutshell …
Family man Stevens, who ended last week in first place, kicked up his boots, plucking at the heartstrings and playing right to his country base. His self-selected song, Craig Morgan's "Bonfire," boasted big production values: bursts of flame, a backing band, and a platform that went up and down.
But Stevens had the energy and vocal strength to stand up to the hoopla. His second song, Clay Walker's "Fall," was another heartfelt ballad dedicated to his wife, with whom he is celebrating his 15-year anniversary. Afterward, Simon Cowell told Stevens there was about as much chance of him going back to his old job as there was of Cowell flying to the moon that night. It's true. Whether Stevens wins or not, his performing career has launched.
Sonenclar, the grown-up-voiced 13-year-old who Stevens knocked down to second place last week, had her first underwhelming night of the season. I blame the high heels, which made her look clunky and awkward as she clumped around the stage. The ungainly shoes distracted from the fluidity of Sonenclar's voice on Elton John's "Your Song" (Cowell said the staging made her look "hesitant"), a salute to her dad, and was one of several elements that didn't quite work in John Lennon's "Imagine," which her mentor, Britney Spears, had selected for her. Spears also pressed Sonenclar to play the piano in the beginning of the song, which seemed to unsettle Sonenclar. Her performance came off as cluttered and overwrought, and the way she showily attacked some of the notes seemed sort of wrong for such a simple song. Oh well. At least Sonenclar has proved she's human. Hope the voters give her a chance to redeem herself next week.