The X Factor semi-final: it was Elton vs Beyoncé, but who sang best tonight?

It was a bit of a musical massacre as Sasha Fierce trampled poor Nicholas McDonald

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Posted 7th December 2013 in Features & Reviews, The X Factor UK
The X Factor semi-final: it was Elton vs Beyoncé, but who sang best tonight?

Sweet merciful Zeus... Leaving the tenuous theme aside for just a moment – and really, what the hell was that theme all about – tonight was a mixed bag for our contestants: some proved Saturday night's alright for fighting, while others barely survived their song choice.

I still don't understand the pairing of Elton John and Beyoncé, and I definitely don't understand the versus thing. Did I miss some kind of vicious rivalry between Sir Elton and Queen B? Did they once fight a celebrity death match? I guess I'll never really know why the producers and the creative team decided to put them together, so the question remains: who sang best tonight?

Beyoncé songs:

Luke Friend: 'Best Thing I Never Had'
Luke continues to surprise me considering that I didn't like him in the first part of the competition. His folksy version turned a pretty unimaginative Beyoncé song into a good opener for the show.

Nicholas McDonald: 'Halo'
His voice cracked on the big note and the rest of the performance was just as shaky. Ranging from George of the Jungle to Fred Flintstone, Nicholas struggled to match the scope and power of such a big song. His voice just isn't developed enough to go from the deep lows to the soaring highs and caused severe buttock-clenching throughout.

Sam Bailey: 'If I Were a Boy'
Holy Mary. Considering that the Overs were the joke category last year (Christopher Maloney), it continues to be a source of surprise and wonder that we have Sam Bailey in the competition. What separates Sam is her performance style because, on this show, big singers tend to be rigid and struggle to really perform a song. But as well as showing richer tones and even more power in her voice, Sam came out and performed like someone who wants to be a musician beyond this primetime television show.

Rough Copy: 'Survivor'
The important thing is that we survived this cover. So many things about this didn't work – the drum 'n' bass breakdown near the end, the rough individual vocals and the jittery choreography – but it was much better than Nicholas. This version did serve to remind us how good Destiny's Child were when they were still together. (The weird backpack appeared again. Is he preparing for the zombie apocalypse?)

Winners: Sam Bailey and Luke. And Beyoncé, naturally.

Sir Elton John:

Nicholas: 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me'
Thank God for his second song because he redeemed himself with a song that suits his tone and range. I still struggle to imagine what kind of music he would release beyond this show, but if Jahmene Douglas found an audience despite his struggles with flat notes, so will Little Nicky. (Although, where's Ray Quinn now?)

Luke: 'Something About the Way You Look Tonight'
I would have liked to see Luke sing 'I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues' because I think that would have allowed him to put more of himself into the performance. He sounded good vocally, but he didn't match the magnetism of Elton's original. Maybe it was the velvet smoking jacket sucking some of the life out of him. Maybe it was having his hair tied back. Is this a Samson situation? Is his power in his mane of wild hair?

Rough Copy: 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word'
I have a certain amount of bias when it comes to this. I liked the original very much until Blue came along with that ridiculous programmed beat and Lee Ryan's... Well, just Lee Ryan in general putting it about all over a good song. And that's all I can hear when I listen to it now. It was a huge leap forward from their Destiny's Child car crash cover, so that's a plus. A big plus.

Sam: 'Candle in the Wind'
It wasn't the 1997 Princess Diana version. I knew it wouldn't be, though I hoped they'd surprise us all by doing something different. It may have been controversial, but would it really be any more controversial than Nicole dropping the shit bomb live on air? Sam made the right choice in not overdoing the big notes and gave the song enough room to grow towards a strong conclusion. Thank God they finished on that and not Rough Copy.

Winner: Sam Bailey