On Tuesday night, it was time to face the music. And for five "X Factor" contestants, the music said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Throughout the epic live "X Factor" debut, the judges axed five hopefuls they had been personally grooming, turning a top 17 into a top 12. MTV News was granted exclusive press access backstage to speak with the first batch of eliminated finalists just minutes after they were dropped from the show.
"I killed it tonight. That's what I feel, man!" said Memphis rocker Dexter Haygood, who delivered an over-the-top cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" under Nicole Scherzinger's tutelage. During the early audition episodes, America fell in love with Haygood's infectious energy and emotional life story, which included everything from living on the streets to fronting Xavion, the first African-American rock band to be featured on MTV.
"I'm just happy to be moving on, somewhat," said Haygood, who chalked up his onstage confusion during elimination to feeling overwhelming pressure. "Let me tell you something: Being in a competition is a lot of stress. I'm not happy to be off, but it's a good feeling knowing that the competition [has ended]," Haygood said before rocking a sports metaphor: "If you don't win the Super Bowl, you're glad the damn season is over."
A downtrodden Phillip Lomax aimed to focus on the good things about his time on "X Factor." "I'm obviously disappointed, but I have to look at this in a positive light and realize that I've accomplished what not many people have," the crooner said as the sound of a cheering studio audience echoed the halls of CBS Studios.
Earlier in the show, Phillip's swinging "I'm a Believer" raised some questions about song selection among the judging panel, but Lomax insisted he was happy with what L.A. Reid picked for him. "I definitely played a hand in [picking that song] as well," said Lomax, who got as far as he did in the competition due to his dead-on Frank Sinatra impersonation, which he abandoned for the poppier Monkees hit Tuesday night. "I thought it was a good song. Definitely out of my comfort zone, but I decided to go with what my mentor told me to do and I had faith. I still have faith. I'm still a believer," he chuckled before censoring himself. "Sorry, that's way too corny."
Meanwhile, teen sibling duo the Brewer Boys, who both sport Bieber hairdos, were at peace with their elimination, courtesy of teary mentor Paula Abdul — or, as they insist on calling her, "Miss Paula." They'll never forget Miss Paula's "hands-on" mentoring, as well as her gaggle of Chihuahuas they befriended during the judges' home episodes. Keep your eyes peeled for the duo — who performed a bizarre mash-up of Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl" and George Michael's "Faith" on Tuesday — as they hope to hit the road, but in the short term, the only thing on Justin Brewer's schedule is chilling in bed and playing a ton of "Call of Duty."
Lomax, likewise, has no beef with mentor L.A. for letting him go. "I think he's an outstanding guy. I wish that he made a different decision, obviously, but he could only take three, and those three guys are outstanding as well. It's a shame he didn't pick me," the aspiring actor shrugged before wandering the halls of CBS Studios to say his goodbyes and hopefully bump into Kim Kardashian, who was spotted nearby at the "Dancing With the Stars" stage.
There was no time to chat with Simon Cowell's eliminated girls, Tiah Tolliver and Simone Battle, who were favorites of the Brit but were never well-liked by his fellow judges. Minutes after the show went off the air, they briskly grabbed their belongings and jumped into a production van to take them back to their hotel.