"The X Factor" is rolling out the red carpet for One Direction in preparation for the group's performance on the show Thursday night. The show is so pumped for the boy band's pending visit that Wednesday's performance episode, which found the top 10 contestants singing British Invasion tunes, was billed "songs from One Direction's homeland."
Aside from Liam, Louis, Harry, Niall and Zayn taking the stage, two acts will be cut on Thursday's episode. Here's how the contestants fared Wednesday night.
Demi Lovato's Girls
Khaya Cohen landed in last week's bottom two, and although Demi and Simon both labeled that fate a "joke," Cohen still seemed rattled, despite her full tilt, over-the-top version of the Beatles' "Let It Be," which came complete with a booming choir. "Your voice is just, like, insane," Lovato told her, though Cowell said her personality is still struggling to connect (he offered to lend her his puppies Squiddly and Diddly to make her seem more likeable).
Rion Paige ran through a subtle, often spoken version of Elton John's "Your Song," dubbed "absolutely fantastic" by Cowell, who praised her control and the performance's record-like quality.
Ellona Santiago struggled: She was saddled with the night's most forgettable song (Ellie Goulding's "Burn" just doesn't stack up against the great British tunes of all-time), and her disconnect with the material resulted in her being labeled "a dancing, singing puppet" by Cowell in the night's most harsh critique. "I think that you absolutely killed it," Lovato said in counter to Simon, but the damage may have already been done.
Paulina Rubio's Boys
Tim Olstad dialed up Elton John's "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word," and the smoldering performance showcased Olstad's newfound sex appeal. "I must admit it was sexy!" Kelly Rowland told him, echoing the sentiment of the other female judges, though Cowell labeled him "a singing hamster" compared to the "lion" the girls were making him out to be.
Josh Levi took on "Sweet Dreams" (the Eurythmics' version, not Marilyn Manson's), and Lovato compared his voice to a young Chris Brown, probably because any comparison to the current Chris Brown would be problematic. Cowell took a swipe at the the song's bizarre staging, which was like a weird "Step Up" outtake, which caused Rubio to fume, "Josh, we have the power in this competition, and I don't care what Simon says."
And Carlito Olivero's version of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was staged with him performing the song with four video versions of himself; it was the night's most technically elaborate performance, and was declared a solid comeback after Olivero's misstep last week.
Kelly Rowland's Over 25s
Jeff Gutt (rhymes with "Boot") opened the show with a "Game of Thrones"-style staging of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which found him falling to his knees like he was living out his power chord dreams in front of his bedroom mirror. Rowland said he "rocked," while Demi and Simon both called it his best performance yet.
Lillie McCloud, meanwhile, sang Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work," which was labeled the "wrong song" by Cowell before she even took the stage. He changed his tune afterward though. "By any standards," he said, "I thought that was absolutely brilliant," telling her she'd finally arrived in the competition.
Simon Cowell's Groups
Alex & Sierra, recovering from last week's awkward version of Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," paid tribute to this week's guests of honor by performing a slowed-down, acoustic version of 1D's "Best Song Ever," which earned them a standing ovation from both Simon and Demi. "You carry on like this, guys, and I think you've got a serious chance of winning this whole show," Cowell told them, while Lovato said she was going to download the song from iTunes when she got home.
Cowell's golden goose in the competition, Restless Road, had a harder time with Coldplay's "Fix You," in particular with the stiffness of the band's barrel-throated Zack Beeken. The girls offered mild critiques, which Cowell in turn sloughed off. "OK, we've heard enough from the Gloom Sisters," he said, calling it "by far one of the best performances of the night, by a mile." But Cowell, who lost his girl group Sweet Suspense in a surprise last week, may have been overcompensating so he doesn't lose another act.
Again, two acts will be sent home Thursday night, even if those eliminations take a backseat to the evening's other business at hand. Did we mention One Direction is performing?