The X Factor semi-final: who sang best and who killed Christmas?

Andrea, Ben and Fleur each get strong moments and subsequently overshadow poor Lauren

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Posted 6th December 2014 in Features & Reviews, The X Factor UK

"Don't like the people you're standing next to..."

Simon Cowell is the harbinger of doom, but he had a point in tonight's live semi-final. These contestants seem to have lost sight of the fact this is a competition. A record deal is at stake, but they're all chumming around like their fake Christmas is real and they don't care who wins.

The semi-final meant that the acts got to sing two songs: one Christmas classic and one 'to get them into the final', which might call for Trading Standards to get involved for the poor singer who doesn't make it to next weekend.

So who sang best tonight?

Fleur East: 'All I Want for Christmas

Fleur should have been relaxed going into this performance. Realistically, she couldn't have sung it any worse than Mariah Carey did earlier this week. Was it a brilliant, inventive arrangement? No, it was not. Was it Fleur's best performance? No, it most definitely was not. But it wasn't as bad as I was expecting and Fleur made it fun. B-

Lauren Platt: 'Stay Another Day'

The only thing worse than a bad cover of this East 17 hit is a bad cover of a bad cover (Girls Aloud). While I don't want to be a Grinch on poor Lauren, her voice wasn't up to what the song needed. Mel was right that she's never had a 'moment' on this show and that's pretty dicey for a semi-final when there's a big record deal up for grabs. C-

Ben Haenow: 'Please Come Home for Christmas'

I would have enjoyed Ben's performance a lot more if I hadn't seen Simon's creepy face over the sleigh-riding girls. But moving on swiftly, Ben's Charles Brown / Gene Redd song was tied for first place as the best Christmas song of the night. (With Andrea.) His voice sounded great (for the most part) and he strutted around the stage like he owned it – that's the kind of confidence these contestants need. only Fleur, Ben and Only the Young have shown it so far.

One thing to note about Ben is this: I've just realised he does exactly the same side-head-and-hand-gesture thing that Will Young used to do on Pop Idol. A-

Andrea Faustini: 'O, Holy Night'

I have to admit that this is my all-time favourite Christmas song, so I was prepared to hate it. It's a song that should be taken slowly and built to a powerful crescendo. Andrea's performance, though, was excellent.

He does go a bit over the top with those crazy facial expressions, but he's so warm and cuddly that I can forgive him. And he sings like a male version of Jennifer Holliday, which is a big plus for me. Although I loved his suit, I'm disappointed he didn't come out and do it in a tacky Christmas jumper. That would have been incredible. A-

Lauren: 'Story of My Life'

One Direction struggle with the lows of this song when they do it live, so I wasn't expecting Lauren to fare much better. Lauren managed to pull off a better performance than her terrible East 17 cover; it just wasn't spectacular and I think it pretty much doomed her. B-

Fleur: 'Uptown Funk'

If Simon Cowell genuinely switched this last minute, he did an incredible kindness to Fleur. This was the performance of the night for the wild energy of it all. She danced like a professional and mostly kept her vocal performance on point throughout.

It helped that it's a relatively new Mark Ronson song, too. Every other song tonight has been heard so many times before and this should help her to stand out against everyone else. Simon's right: this could be the moment she becomes a real popstar. A

Andrea: 'Wrecking Ball'

Everything was in Andrea's favour going into this cover. No disrespect to Miley Cyrus, but she's not exactly a great singer and her live versions of it are almost always painful to hear. It was a risky move to sing quite a stark and different song, and it paid off hugely for him. When he's not belting out like a diva, he's actually capable of smooth lows and beautiful, subtle falsetto. Who knew he'd be able to match Fleur? A

Ben: 'Hallelujah'

I have to be honest and say that I can't really be fair to Ben on this performance. It's such a special song and it's been hammered into oblivion by so many reality shows over the years. So I have a strong dislike of these sterile arrangements and Westlife-like key changes, even when someone this attractive is singing it. His voice did sound good in places, but this song deserves a break. C+