Echoing how The Voice dealt with the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., The X Factor also offered up a poignant tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tonight.
The top 10, backed by a children's choir and with the names of the 20 children and six adults killed projected on a screen behind them, sang Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone"—a sad but necessary moment before the performance finale got underway.
Reliably phenomenal Carly Rose Sonenclar kicked things off with the umpteenth rendition of "Feelin' Good" as performed on a singing competition, the top three having been tasked with redoing songs they've already sung—and it was good.
"I just feel like it's shocking how bright your star is, and we're going to win this," Carly Rose's mentor, Britney Spears, said with utmost confidence.
Tate Stevens belted out Randy Houser's "Anything Goes," which he first auditioned with, and all of the judges were duly pleased. Demi Lovato, who's without a horse in this race, called it a "stadium performance," and Simon Cowell praised Tate's "made-in-America" authenticity.
Fifth Harmony once again did a great job with Ellie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen," complete with Alice in Wonderland tea party vibe, but...really? They just sang it!
But not one of the judges minded, with Britney calling it "the best song to sing" and L.A. Reid lamenting that the X Factor-manufactured quintet was now "the one to beat."
For round two, Carly Rose trotted out LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live," originally performed by LeAnn back when she was a teen phenom herself—and again tonight when the now 30-year-old star joined Carly Rose for a duet. (Alas, the cold LeAnn admitted she was battling last night on The Tonight Show was a bit audible.)
"I love this girl so much! She's such an amazing talent," LeAnn raved about the youngster. "That was one of the most fun moments I've had on the stage," added Carly Rose. Britney, the only judge called upon to react, called the duet "shockingly amazing."
Little Big Town showed up to rock out to "Pontoon" with Tate, the country singer a little bit overshadowed by the quartet but still visibly enjoying himself.
"The new love of my life is country music!" L.A. declared.
In a surprise twist, a "very, very good friend" of Simon's joined Fifth Harmony on "Give Your Heart a Break"—Demi Lovato!
"It pains me to say this, but, Demi Lovato, you were sensational! That is what I call pop perfection, what just happened," Simon said, not so begrudgingly.
Round three boasted more solos: Carly Rose busted out none other than the perennial vote-grabber "Hallelujah," and it was a particularly beautiful way to close out the competitive portion of her journey on the show.
"That performance alone is worth 5 million bucks, so you should get out your checkbook, SImon," Britney said, her initial confidence still in full effect.
Tate tugged on more heartstrings with Chris Young's fittingly titled "Tomorrow." "I wouldn't worry about your day job anymore," Simon said, offering up yet another vote of confidence for the former drywaller.
Fifth Harmony closed the performance finale with "Let It Be" because, really...what else can anyone do?
Who do you think deserves to win The X Factor tomorrow?! Share your thoughts in the comments!