'X Factor' Top 12: Josh Levi owns '80s night

josh-levi-x-factor-straight-up.jpgWhen we join "The X Factor," host Mario Lopez informs us that it's '80s night -- but he emphasizes hits from the nineteen-eighties, which really makes us wonder if he thinks anybody is confused it might be the eighteen-eighties.

Meanwhile, the female judges are decked out in their best '80s attire, which is awesome. Scroogey old Simon, however, cannot be bothered to put a suit jacket on over his plain white t-shirt and rock a Crockett and/or Tubbs look. For shame, Cowell.

However, we must eliminate someone first. You know, we hope they told the act who was eliminated last week when it actually happened so that he or she didn't have to rehearse all this week like normal. That just seems mean.

Anyway, Carlos Guevara is eliminated and for once, America got it exactly right. He had a couple very rough nights, he shouldn't have advanced out of the four-chair challenge. He seems like a great kid and he's very gracious in his elimination, good for him. But let's get to the performances.

1. Lillie McCloud, "Ain't Nobody Loves Me Better," Chaka Khan

So, Lillie can definitely handle Chaka aso it's nice to see that her voice is not a one-trick pony. However, Lillie's age, which doesn't usually come through when she's standing still and singing, is really showing on this performance. She's not a 24-year-old Whitney doing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and it's apparent. Major, major props to her for giving her all but this was not her strongest number.

2. Carlito Olivera, "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," Miami Sound Machine

Really fun choice for him plus he is making it sound really current and throwing in some killer dance moves. Well done, dude. Vocally, it's not his biggest song ever but that's OK. He's showing his versatility and also infusing it with his Latin flavor, which is cool. Thumbs up.

Hmm. The judges think he was getting lost on stage, but I didn't feel that way. Wonder if that's more of a live-show thing -- as in, since they could see the whole stage and don't have a camera focusing on him, it seemed like not enough Carlito.

3. Rion Paige, "We Belong to the Night," Pat Benatar

The verse is a touch low -- or else her backing music should have been quieter, because she's a little hard to hear. But then the chorus starts and it's clear why the verse was so low. If she had started in a higher key, she wouldn't be able to hit the chorus stuff. That's tough. Honestly, this is my least favorite Rion performance so far. This is kind of a hot mess. She's pitchy, she's breathy, it's just not a good song for her.

You know what would have been better? "Total Eclipse of the Heart." In the right key, Rion could've rocked that. Simon is right that she needs to pick better songs.

4. Sweet Suspense, "Mickey," Toni Basil


Fun choice, though they really missed the chance to dress them like cheerleaders, heh. Also, there's not enough happening in terms of harmonizing and working the stage. The back-up singers are really providing a lot of the color for the song when the girls should be able to do that themselves. And actually, for as upbeat and fun as this song is, this performance is uber-boring. They just keep recycling the same moves they do every week -- three steps this way, three steps that way. Also, they need to interact with each other more and have more fun.

Cowell is smoking crack -- that was NOT their best performance. He needs to stop drinking the Sweet Suspense Kool-Aid and stop calling his fellow judges "witches." What a whiny witch-with-a-b. He's so full of it.

5. Tim Olstad, "Against All Odds," Phil Collins

Great choice for him. I don't care what the judges say about him being boring, he's got a terrific voice and seems to really know what kind of artist he wants to be -- he's like a Groban. Did you hear that run on "here to remind me"? Beautiful. Team Tim, y'all. Love his tone.

6. Khaya Cohen, "Borderline," Madonna

OK, so at first glance, I was like -- terrible choice, this song is dumb and boring. But Khaya does some really interesting things with it, getting her Winehouse-style all up on it. That was terrific, actually. Seriously, she's maybe a dark horse in this competition. What do you guys think?

7. Restless Road, "Footloose," Kenny Loggins

Haha, great choice for their target demographic. Also, unlike Sweet Suspense on "Mickey," at least they throw in some fun harmonies at moments. However, since this is '80s week, would some Alabama have killed them? That would've been awesome. Some "Mountain Music" or "If You're Gonna Play in Texas", perhaps?

But anyway, this is a lot of fun, so kudos to Restless Road. If they're not careful, they just might win this thing.

8. Rachel Potter, "Alone," Heart

OK, I heart Heart. My regular readers know how much. But do you really want to tackle this one? After both Carrie Underwood and Allison Iraheta killed it on "Idol"? I mean, it's lke Carrie's iconic performance. Hmm. Well, Rachel does an OK with it and she's super, duper hot, awesome leather outfit and wind machine on blast -- though her shrieking on the bridge is like a cat on the back fence. Yikes.

But honestly, it would've been cool to hear Rachel put a country spin on something like "Bette Davis Eyes" or "True Colors."

9. Ellona Santiago, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," Whitney Houston

To her immense credit, she takes on Whitney and does not try to BE Whitney. She puts her own thing into it, which is great. However, there are moments where it's like she's singing in another key from the accompaniment. Maybe she's struggling with hearing it? Hmm. This is kind of bad karaoke -- it started off much better than it ended. It was kind of a downhill slide from the opening. Hmm.

10. Josh Levi, "Straight Up," Paula Abdul


Interesting song choice, but he actually really works it out. He makes this song super current. He sounds like a baby Usher covering Paula Abdul. This is actually pretty awesome, to be honest. Totally different vibe to the song -- this is how you do it. This is how you throw down the gauntlet. Cowell is 100 percent right saying that Josh Levi is a future star. He really is.

After seeing the next two performances, I can safely say Josh Levi easily won the night.

11. Jeff Gutt, "Just Died In Your Arms," Cutting Crew

Love this choice -- it's one of my favorite 1980s songs and Jeff does a great job with it. He does his own thing with it in places, making it more rock 'n roll than the original, but he also doesn't completely bastardize it. The key change is particularly nice.

You know, for how much he sounds like Bon Jovi, it's kind of a shame he didn't do "Bad Medicine" or "Runaway."

12. Alex & Sierra, "Addicted to Love," Robert Palmer


Love it. LOVE. IT. Though, to be fair, I'm a huge fan of Alex & Sierra's sound. I realize it's not for everyone. But I really enjoy what they do to songs and this is terrific. I want to download this, like, immediately and the only other song I've thought that about this season is their version of "Toxic."

So, who's going home? Well, Sweet Suspense was pretty weak this time around, but with Cowell's major pimping, they're probably safe -- but should be maybe going home. We'd have to say Ellona Santiago and Carlito Olivero are in trouble (though we liked Carlito).

What say you, "X Factor" fans?
Photo/Video credit: FOX
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