This Gala was fun because the contestants got to choose their songs. No bizarre and obscure tracks, thankfully! Some stayed in their comfort zone while others took big risks leading up to the finale. This week, we found out our first two finalists, decided by the judges through a long-winded scoring system and by the professors. Those two finalists are Natalia (judges choice) and Famous (professors’ choice). The rest will have one last week to make their case to the judges, who will decide on two more finalists, and the last one will be left to voters to decided. My ideal top five is Natalia, Famous, Alba Reche, Sabela, and Julia, but we’ll have to wait till next Wednesday to find out if my wish comes true.
Until then, let’s recap the performances of Gala 11!
Sabela – “El Cuarto De Tula”
Whatever happens between now and the finale, Sabela at least wins for most improved this season. When this show started, I wrote Sabela off as a less-than-remarkable singer. However, about five Galas ago the Galician started flourishing into a brand new version of herself. In mere weeks, Sabela has become the underdog I never thought I would root for. If she makes it to the finale, it will be because Spain recognizes the hard work she’s put in to get there.
Sabela hasn’t just shown a determination to take on all the shitty songs they’ve thrown at her this season (and they’ve thrown plenty) but has done so exceptionally well. We’ve seen her discipline and her self-accountability shine through her past few performances, and while Sabela might not be the most remarkable singer in the bunch, her effort to execute each song to the best of her ability has catapulted her farther in the competition than I’m sure anyone expected. What excites me most about Sabela, though, is that she understands what it takes to do that.
Taking risks in OT has the potential to either backfire or elevate your status within the parameters of the show, and this week Sabela approached her song choice intelligently. She chose a style entirely distinct from anything we’ve heard this season and mounted a spectacular number filled with an energy and a side of Sabela we hadn’t seen before.
Famous – “Problem” (finalist)
If Famous isn’t chosen to represent Spain in Eurovision next year, it would be the biggest missed opportunity. The dude knows how to put on a good show, and sell just about anything that gets thrown at him like candy to children.
This week, Famous took on Ariana Grande’s “Problem.” While the song itself is cute and catchy, what made his performance stand out as one of the best of the night is that Famous tapped into a completely new set of skills nobody knew he had tucked under his sleeve: RAP. Like, whaaaaaa?
That’s right: Famous not only sang all of Ariana Grande’s verses, he also rapped Iggy Azalea’s rap in its entirety, with choreography and everything! I mean, you try doing that. The professors did the right thing choosing Famous as one of the two finalists this week because it’s undoubtedly clear that he’s earned his spot in the finale. Famous is arguably the only male competitor to come close to giving the rest of his peers a run for their money.
Julia – “Sober”
I love just about everything about Julia. Her singing, her stage presence, her deep and meaningful performances. What I don’t particularly love is watching her suffer on stage, and I think you see that a bit here. It’s not immediately obvious, but I have found Julia ever-so-slightly disconnected more and more every week, and I think the conditions of the show are to blame. OT is getting to her, psychologically, and it’s sad to see it affect her of all people.
Imagine being locked in an academy, with cameras on you, Big Brother style, and you have no access to the outside world; no internet, no phone calls — nothing. On top of that, you’re required to go through a grueling three-month long session in which each week you have to prepare a song given to you and defend it on live primetime television; imagine repeating this process with the stakes getting higher and higher each week until one of you is crowned the winner. I mean talk about pressure.
Julia has been one of the most vocal about how difficult this is. Even after this performance, Julia admitted that she wasn’t 100% present and, surprising everyone, she revealed that in the last few weeks she’s developed a fear of standing on stage. Given her immense talent, Julia has been able to go through the motions of performing each week, but this is the first time her anxiety has crept into focus for me. I think she channeled some of that into singing “Sober,” which is a song so profound that it lends itself to such a degree of vulnerability, but I hope she’s able to overcome her demons soon.
It’s almost over, Julia!
Miki – “Hijos De La Tierra”
Miki brings a lot of energy to the show. He’s always having fun and his charisma is irresistible. That’s why I think he’s made it this far. I mean, even I’ve grown to love the dude. But in terms of vocal pedigree compared to his competitors, he’s just not at the same level.
“Hijos De La Tierra” is yet another song choice that leans into Miki’s charm rather than his artistic capability, and to me, it did him a disservice because we’re not seeing him be challenged hard enough or pushed beyond his comfort zone.
It’s time for you to go, my friend.
Natalia – “Bang Bang” (finalist)
Winner winner chicken dinner.
Unless voting goes in a completely different direction during the finale, this competition is Natalia’s to lose. She hasn’t been nominated for elimination once and by far has received the least negative critiques, if any, by the judges and her professors. Natalia is a goddamn savage who’s been an exemplary student each week without fail. She started off strong and has only grown as a performer, inching closer and closer to the win with very little standing in her way.
Having said that, I have to admit that I don’t 100 percent agree she’s as excellent as the show is forcing us to believe. I recognize that Natalia is talented as fuck, and she has certainly proven it all seasons. But for me, there has always been a tiiiiiiiiiny bit of artificiality in her performances keeping me from completely falling head over heels for her. Natalia has compelled me on an emotional level maybe twice. She’s great at acting emotional on stage, and that’s thanks to Los Javis’ classes of interpretation, but her best moments have been with songs that require her to deliver a superficial fierceness and very little else. This performance of “Bang Bang” is yet another example in which I applaud Natalia for doing great, but falls a hair short of hitting me where it counts.
Do I think Natalia doesn’t deserve to win this season? Not at all. She’s a superstar and I can totally see her slaying the game once this is all over. Natalia has been one of my favorites since the beginning and I’m rooting for her success. I’m just missing depth from her, is all.
Alba Reche – “Crazy In Love”
Is this Alba Reche’s best performance? No. Do I still stan? YUP.
You have to have balls of steel to take on Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and although Alba showed signs of running out of breath near the end, I think she earns praise for doing the damn thing at all. Not even Beyoncé sings this song all the way through. It’s a goddamn cardio workout from beginning to end, but Alba did it, rap included (!), and good for her for taking the risk. She knows how to make a song her own, even massive ones like “Crazy In Love”. Alba has the “it” factor that draws the right kind of attention, and she’s only gotten better at utilizing that to elevate her performances.