‘X Factor’ Michael Jackson Night Has Singers On Edge

Meanwhile, Paula Abdul has been absent from the set since her final group was eliminated last week.

MTV News’ own Jim Cantiello is exclusively covering “The X Factor” rehearsals. Read on for his fly-on-the-wall backstage report!

LOS ANGELES — “The X Factor” top seven are back on the lot after their first (and only) mini-vacation of the season. And as the Thanksgiving tryptophan wears off, the anxiety of another double elimination is setting in.

Adding to the stress? “The X Factor” is tackling the songs of Michael Jackson on Wednesday night (November 30), on the 29th anniversary of Thriller‘s release, no less.

One of the contestants is so stressed over the theme he’s emerged as a total perfectionist. During Monday’s rehearsals, he had already nixed multiple arrangements the show had provided him. “This is the most unprepared I’ve felt on a Monday,” he said to his mentor as they rushed out of Stage 36. There was a camera crew chasing them to capture the drama — as well as the ensuing late-night emergency meeting with the vocal coaches — so don’t be surprised if some of this intense footage ends up in your living room. (This afternoon’s dress rehearsal went swimmingly, for the record.)

Meanwhile, one contestant had a full-on battle with his/her mentor over a chair. The mentor said, “Sit and sing.” The contestant said, “Again?! How about I do something on my feet for Michael Jackson week?” Another mentor came to the defense of the contestant. In the end, the contestant is sitting after all. Don’t worry, contestant. The eerie arrangement of an MJ classic is what folks are going to be buzzing about. No one will care if you sit or stand. In the control room, I spied one of the bigwigs utter the word “brilliant!” after the contestant’s dress rehearsal.

Another hot topic: wardrobe! When paying homage to one of the biggest music icons ever, it’s tempting for the stylists to include clothing nods to Michael’s various looks. But several singers are worried they’ll look too much like Jackson impersonators, which has caused many a headache in the wardrobe trailer. But stylist June Ambrose is still able to keep things light in the midst of the drama. While waiting around for a contestant’s last-minute fitting, she started an impromptu MJ dance party on the lot. Crotch grabs and “woo” included!

Lastly, Paula Abdul’s sunny energy has been noticeably absent on the CBS lot now that all her groups have been eliminated. She went from being the most hands-on mentor to an on-set ghost. “The X Factor” family can’t wait to welcome her back for her first live show as strictly a judge. What do you think she’s been doing with her newfound free time?

You can catch Jim on the “X Factor Pepsi Pre-Show,” streaming at 7 p.m. ET tonight on TheXFactorUSA.com!