Diamond White performs on "The X Factor." (Ray Mickshaw / Fox )
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In anticipation of the holiday, on Wednesday night, "The X Factor" stuffed itself with sentiment; put on its best holiday manners (less squabbling at the judges' table); basted itself in back stories and sprinkled on tears as if they were marshmallows on yams.
It was all a little overindulgent – and may have left viewers feeling a bit queasy – but did offer a few tasty morsels of talent along with some performances that seemed woefully overcooked.
The 10 remaining contestants had been asked to dedicate their performances to someone they're thankful for – which brought us misty tributes to mothers and brothers, sisters and dads, youth leaders, the U.S. military, and God. It was at times genuinely moving (Diamond White's weeping mom! Beatrice Miller's sobbing sisters! Carly Rose Sonenclar's supportive bro!), but the contestants' real feelings – of loss and love, fear and rescue – sometimes felt out of place and even exploited on a show that can come off as cool, cruel, creepy (why must Khloe Kardashian flirt so ickily with Simon Cowell?) and frankly mercenary.
Emotions are all very well and good, L.A. Reid warned us at the outset, but don't forget a $5-million prize is still at stake. Still, the judges noted, it's hard to critique performances delivered with such emotional storylines. So they often seemed to throw up their hands, ignore flat notes, and declare almost everything to have been "amazing."
Which means it's left to us to state the obvious: Emotion can propel singers to great heights, but it can also overwhelm them and knock them flat. Both happened Wednesday night.
Turning in stellar performances were …
Carly Rose Sonenclar, who reached new heights with her "Over the Rainbow," dedicated to the older brother who's always been there for her.
Vino Alan, who paid heartfelt tribute to the troops with a powerfully sung "God Bless the USA."
Diamond White, whose voice sparkled on "Because You Loved Me," a thank-you to the single mom who raised her and sacrificed for her.
And Tate Stevens, whose "I'm Already There" honored his dad, who had put his own musical aspirations on the backburner to raise his family and taught him by example how to be a good husband and father.
Solid but not soaring were …
Emblem3, who sang "Secrets" in honor of the youth leaders who helped them grow and mature.
Fifth Harmony, whose "I'll Stand By You," dedicated to God and their families, was sort of ho-hum.
Beatrice Miller, whose perfectly fine "Chasing Cars" was movingly overshadowed by the responses of the little sisters for whom she was thankful.
Falling flat were …
Arin Ray, whose "Hero," dedicated to his older brother, Aris, was pretty much a complete misfire, prompting Demi Lovato to break from the supportive mood and tell him that, if she were a music executive, she wouldn't sign him.
CeCe Frey, whose voice flattened and veered off key whenever she wasn't belting out a power note on "Wind Beneath My Wings," paying tribute to her older sister, Kelsey, who died at age 7, when CeCe was still a baby.
Paige Thomas, who vocally wavered as she wept during "Everytime" (yes, by Britney Spears), with which she expressed gratitude to the woman who adopted her at age 14 and had stood by her through everything.
So if you want to talk turkey, this season may be a contest among Sonenclar, Stevens, Alan and White. Who, of all the contestants, are your favorites – and who do you think will be dismissed from the table tonight?