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"The X Factor" Recap: The “Four-Chair Challenge” Begins

Nino Munoz/FOXThe X Factor introduced a brand-new round called the "Four-Chair Challenge" on Wednesday night’s show. The acts in each category will compete for one of four available spots. Simon Cowell has the groups, Demi Lovato has the girls, Kelly Rowland has the singers over the age of 25 and Paulina Rubio is mentoring the boys.

The acts in the over 25 group and the girls competed Wednesday. Here's a rundown of the action:

The night began with the first of Kelly Rowland’s over-25 singers, recently divorced Victoria Carriger singing Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” Demi loved the singer’s raspy voice, but felt her energy was lacking. Paula also loved the texture of Victoria’s voice, but Simon didn’t think the performance lived up to her audition. Kelly disagreed, noting that Victoria held the room’s attention. She gave Victoria a chair.

Kristine Mirelle was next offering a soulful, laid-back version of Britney Spears’ “Oops!...I Did It Again.”  Lovato felt the performance was “pitchy,” and Rubio agreed, adding that Kristine wasn’t ready for the finals. Simon agreed with the female judges when it came to Kristine’s pitch problems, but felt she deserved to move on because they were looking for acts with potential they could develop it. Kelly had the final say and gave Kristine a seat.

Next on the stage was 27-year-old Jeff Gutt, who didn’t make it through the auditions last year, but managed to impress the judges this time around. He chose “Amazing Grace” for Wednesday night’s performance, earning a standing ovation from the audience. Paula said the power was beyond his voice and his will “captivated” her. Demi said he “came so far from last season” and “had talent.” Simon agreed, pointing out that “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, no matter how old you are.” Kelly agreed and awarded Jeff her third seat.

Twenty-nine-year-old Nashville native Rachel Potter tends bar for a living, but hopes to change that with this competition. She sang Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” but was visibly disappointed with her performance. She explained she had a cold. Demi remarked that she believed Rachel had talent, but called her performance “a wreck.”  Kelly gave her the final seat in her group anyway.

Next up was retired 34-year-old Chicago football player Lorie Moore, who sang Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You.” Demi told the singer she “felt the passion,” of her performance, but wasn’t sure she was looking at a “superstar.” Simon didn’t like Moore’s version of the song, but felt Lorie “could sing.” With no more chairs open, the singer had to convince Kelly she was worthy of replacing one of the four previous singers and did so by giving an impassioned speech about her devotion to hard work.  Kelly gave the singer a chance, but with all four seats filled someone had to get “switched out.” It was Kristine Mirelle, who was sent home.

Twenty-six-year-old Allison Davis was next with Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” Lovato thought she had the look, but couldn’t take her seriously as an artist. Simon went even further, calling Davis a “wannabe.” Allison made a plea to stay in the competition, but Rowland sent her home.

New dad Jeff Brinkman, who runs a dog walking business, chose the David Guetta song “Without You” for his performance. Demi thought it was a poor song choice, saying she was “bored.” Simon agreed, calling the choice “ridiculous,” but acknowledged he felt bad because Jeff had a great voice. Kelly decided to give him a shot and put him in one of the seats, knocking out Victoria Carriger.

The oldest contestant in the competition, 68-year-old Denny Smith, bears an uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus. He sang a version of Wilson Pickett‘s “In the Midnight Hour” that had Paula proclaiming “I once again believe in Santa Claus.” Simon added, “Well Santa just rocked the house.” Once again, Kelly had to decide whether to be “naughty or nice” and risked getting coal in her stocking by sending Smith home.

Thirty-six-year old Portland, Oregon, native James Kenney is a building attendant who’d like to realize his dream of singing professionally. He sang Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” Demi felt the singer “killed it,” calling the performance “solid.” Simon agreed, saying James earned his “total respect.” Kelly had the final say and after commending James for taking “a leap of faith,” gave him a seat in her group and sent Jeff Brinkman home.

Fifty-four-year-old grandmother Lilly McCloud was the final artist to try for a place in Rowland’s top four. She sang Mark Lanegan’s “House a Home.” Demi proclaimed McCloud not only sounded great, but “looked like a superstar. Paula said the performance “left her speechless” and called Lilly “a goddess.” Simon thought the competition needed “big voices and big stars” and the singer “had The X Factor.” Kelly felt she had no other choice but to put Lilly in her final four, switching out Lori Moore.

Jeff Gutt, Rachel Potter James Kenney and Lilly McCloud are the singers over 25 who are still in the competition.

Next up were the girls, mentored by Demi Lovato.

Twenty-year-old California native Bree Randall is a full-time student and intern for a clothing line. She sang a soulful version of The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” that disappointed Kelly, who felt there was “no growth” between the audition and Wednesday’s performance. Paula agreed and Simon felt she brought “the right outfit” and “the right personality,” but didn’t bring her voice. Demi was also unimpressed, but the singer managed to plead her way into a seat.

Fifteen-year-old Khaya Cohen is a student in New York City. She sang Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” that knocked out the crowd and the judges. Rowland said the young singer had “incredible instincts” and a presence on stage. Simon felt Wednesday’s performance was even better than her audition and commented, “I know a lot of great producers who’d want to work with you right now.” Demi said not only the girls, but the “entire competition” needed to watch out for her. She also told Khaya to “take a seat.”

Twenty-four-year-old Jamie Pineda gave a bilingual performance of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” Kelly said she loved her voice, but she looked a little uncomfortable onstage. She said Jamie redeemed herself when she sang in Spanish. Simon wasn’t impressed when she sang in English, but “saw a market” for her when she switched languages. Demi felt Pineda “looked like a star” and gave her a seat on her team.

Next up from Los Angeles, California, was Ashly Williams, whose mother was murdered when Ashly was 14 years old. Williams sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Kelly praised Ashly for being talented and overcoming all that she has. Paula said she was speechless. Simon liked Ashly, but not the song or the performance. It came down to Demi, who gave Ashly a chair in spite of Simon’s comment.

So far, Bree Randal, Khaya Cohen, Jamie Pineda and Ashly Williams occupy the four chairs in Demi Lovato’s girls category, but that could change when the rest of her group takes the stage on Thursday.

The X Factor returns on Thursday and 8 p.m. Eastern time on Fox.

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