It’s the Semi-Finals, and the competition was more intense than ever before. Mario and Khloe took the stage first, of course, to make the big announcements: Next weeks’ finals would feature the remaining three contestants, who would be chosen completely by the viewers, meaning there would be no sing-off between the bottom two, or any actual “judging” by the judges (other than their own comments). Also, there would be no leader board rankings revealed.

The first to sing was Tate Stevens, who wanted to show the audience what it’s like to be a country man from Missouri. He sang “Bonfire” by Craig Morgan, and I thought it was one of his best performances. The effects were a bit much, but the song was just such a perfect fit that it didn’t matter much. Britney said, “I don’t think it was your bet,” causing L.A. to yell out “What?” Demi said, “I have to disagree. That was a freaking AMAZING performance. Not only did it totally bring me home and make me feel like I was in Texas, it was a winning performance.” Simon said, “You could have easily chosen something mushy that you know is going to get the votes, but actually what you did is you brought the song that you wanna record. This wasn’t you being controlled by somebody, this is you saying ‘This is who I am.’ You look like a man right now that believes he can win this competition.” L.A. said, “You lit that stage on fire. It was the most fun I’ve had doing this show.”

Queen Carly Rose Sonenclar chose to sing a song for her dad: Elton John’s “Your Song.” My favorite thing about it was that her voice sounded even more soulful than usual. It was clear she put so much into it. THe worst part was her children’s choir backup singers. No thank you. L.A. said, “You picked a very risky song. Having said that, you did things with that song that I’ve never heard done before. I could feel you wanting to win this competition.” Demi said, “It’s still very predictable. That being said, I think this was my favorite song you’ve ever done. The R&B side to your voice is so magical, I don’t care if it’s predictable.” Simon said, “I thought that was a beautiful version of a fantastic song. This is the first time I’ve seen any emotion from you genuinely. But I think you can do better.”

Demi told Emblem3 they needed to “command the stage” better, and they took the advice to heart. The boys started off laying down, which was weird, and they turned Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way,” into a reggae-like number with a rap, because that seems to be all they know how to do. They did spread out a little more than usual, but they still just kinda bopped around while they did it. L.A. said, “You guys are very fortunate to be so charismatic and so charming. I was concerned about you guys having your big five million dollar moment, until now.” Britney said, “I feel like that performance felt really special. I feel like it would be unfair to call you a boy band, because you’re more than that.” Demi said, “That’s exactly what I was talking about.” Simon said, “What I love is that this reminded me of your very first audition. It was raw. If this doesn’t get you into the final, nothing will.”

The big critique for Fifth Harmony has been, oddly, their lack of harmony, so put all their efforts into that. They made the song “Anything Can Happen” by Ellie Goulding fun by looking like little girls playing dress-up in. Personally, I felt like it was overdone in that sense, and really didn’t fit the song. But their singing was really good. L.A. said, “That was a really inventive vocal, and I was proud of you.” Britney said, “I loved everything about it. It was like magic when you got up there. I love your outfits, and I love that you’re like, inspiring girl power.” Demi said, “You pulled out the little sparkle that I think you guys need sometimes. You worked the stage…it felt really great.” Simon said, “To get into the final is going to take a miracle. But after that performance, like the lyric in that song said, “Anything Can Happen.”

For Tate’s second performance, L.A. picked the song “Fall” by Clay Walker, which he sang (of course) to his wife specially for their fifteenth anniversary. What can I say, other than damn, he just got the female vote across the country (which is the vast majority of X-Factor votes anyway). I got goosebumps, that’s for sure. Britney said, “We’ve seen you hit and miss a lot in this competition, and I think that was a direct hit.” Demi said, “You are such a good guy, and regardless of what happens in this competition, you deserve this. You’re so talented!” Simon said, “That was a great song. But we are supposed to be reality show: There’s about as much chance of you going back to your old job as there is of me flying to the moon tomorrow night. Let’s be clear: You’ve made your mark here.” L.A. said, “You’re consistent. You were great again.”

Britney chose another risky song for Carly Rose: John Lennon’s “Imagine.” She also started and ended the performance by playing the piano whilst singing, and was accompanied by violins. I knew she’d do a great job as usual, but when she began belting out the notes, it was clear she was making the song her own, in only the way she can. L.A. said, “What I love is that you’ve taken your artistic credibility up a notch.” Demi said, “The only predictable thing about that performance was that it was going to be amazing. You sounded really beautiful, and I love that you took a risk” Simon said, “This is what I would have done: I would have kept you at the piano. I just didn’t like the arrangement; I thought it was over-complicated.” Britney said, “I have to disagree: I feel like it’s time for you to go beyond this stage and compete with the biggest stars in the world.”

The baby of Emblem3, Keaton, was given a big role when Simon chose for the boys to sing The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” The oldest accompanied them on his guitar once again, and I actually thought it was a good choice for them. The Beatles aren’t a band you want to mess up, and while I don’t know if they really did the song the justice it deserved, I thought it was a pretty interesting take on a great song. Unfortunately, you could barely hear Keaton do his “Jude-y jude-y” part. L.A. said, “You actually ARE teen heartthrobs like The Beatles. It was risky business doing that song, but you did a great job.” Britney said, “I think that was an A-level performance. You guys should take a bow.” Demi said, “I think you guys have the potential. It was amazing.” Simon said, “I just feel so proud of what you’ve achieved tonight.”

FInally, Fifth Harmony reprised the first song they ever sang as a group: Shontelle’s “Impossible.” It was a way to show how far they’ve come, and they added a little something this time: Some of them sang part of the song in Spanish. Personally, I think that’s a great marketing tactic if you’re at the bottom and really need the votes. L.A. said, “I think you did a decent job, but that one wasn’t really a ‘finals caliber’ performance.” Britney said, “I would be really surprised if you guys were here next week.” Demi said, “I’m a little worried, too.” Simon said, “I think it was a right thing to do that song, because it’s a reminder why I fell in love with you as a group in the first place. You’ve been one of the strongest acts tonight.”

Tomorrow, Bruno Mars and some Disney Channel star will perform, and one act will be sent home.