MTV News' own Jim Cantiello is exclusively covering "The X Factor" rehearsals. Read on for his fly-on-the-wall backstage report!
LOS ANGELES — Breaking news from "The X Factor" set: They've moved the craft service table to a secret undisclosed location. Who knew fruit roll-ups, granola bars and coffee had so much in common with Dick Cheney?
In all seriousness, things are tense in the "X Factor" world. The contestants are still processing last week's shocking double-elimination. With two of the early front-runners gone, it's anyone's $5 million contract to win, and the five remaining singers know it — as does judge Simon Cowell, who was spotted having a cigarette break with a contestant with whom he hadn't interacted much previously. The words, "You could very well win it all," might have been uttered.
Speaking of Simon, Mr. X has cooled down considerably since last Thursday's live-TV fit, but he has yet to say one word to fellow judges Paula Abdul or Nicole Scherzinger after they axed contestant Drew Ryniewicz, one of his favorites. However, Simon said in an interview — slated to premiere on the live preshow around 7 p.m. ET tonight on TheXFactorUSA.com — that he's totally over it, respects his fellow judges for following their hearts, and has no ill will toward them.
Meanwhile, his remaining singers — Melanie Amaro and Rachel Crow — told the press that Simon's been way more open to their suggestions since the Drew drama went down. Something tells me we'll see them stretch big time tonight.
Another contestant tried something new during rehearsals: a guitar! Things didn't work out at first. After a couple of run-throughs, the contestant's mentor immediately nixed the strumming. But by Tuesday's camera rehearsals, the guitar was back. Will the risk pay off?
On the lot, I spied another mentor's contestant having a deep chat inside Simon's trailer. I tracked down Cowell later to see if he was feeding the competition some bad advice or playing mind games, but Simon insists his door is open for all the contestants if they're feeling stressed or overwhelmed. The tea gets brewed, a pep talk is had, and all is right in the world again.
I've had Simon's famous ginger tea, by the way, and let me tell you: It could solve all of the world's problems. It's that good. The first sip stings, and then a sweetness takes over. It's like Simon Cowell in a glass!
I'm not allowed to reveal song choices, but I can tell you that one singer is performing an inescapable ballad from 2011 that might not be recognizable after the show's retooling. All I can say is: Brian Friedman is employing tons of dancers for this particular number. (Ooh, I just spied choreographer Sonya Tayeh working with Brian too.)
On the flipside, another contestant is re-imagining a recent uptempo radio hit as a ballad. In other words, expect lots of cool twists on your fave songs this week.
Now if only the crew could find that elusive crafty table.
Catch Jim on "The X Factor Pepsi Preshow Live," streaming at 7 p.m. ET tonight on TheXFactorUSA.com!