X Factor finalist James Arthur gave what Gary Barlow described as the ‘performance of the series’ as the remaining 11 acts competed on club classics night.
The 24-year-old took to the stage with a decidedly offbeat rendition of LMFAO’s dance anthem Sexy And I Know It, giving the song the acoustic treatment, and wowing the judges in the process.
And Gary called the performance, “amazing,” adding, “You absolutely turned that song on its head and gave those stupid lyrics meaning.
“This wasn’t only the performance of the night but of the series so far,” he added.
James – who overcame a panic attack following last weekend’s show – was one of the few acts who escaped any form of criticism from the Take That singer this week.
Even favourites Ella Henderson and Jahmene Douglas did not escape unscathed – and Gary clashed with his fellow judges as he criticised them for their dance moves.
The singer told Ella – who sung Candi Staton’s You’ve Got The Love – that her dance moves “cheapened” her act, adding, “All you need to do is sing – have you ever seen Adele dance?”
Her mentor Tulisa was quick to defend her, saying, “She’s 16 and she’s just having fun in dance week!” and told Ella, “Who knew you could do uptempo?”
Jahmene’s dancing also fell foul of the Take That star, who told him, “Your voice is something else, I don’t think you need to move around the stage.”
Elsewhere Kye Sones impressed the judges after last weekend’s disappointing performance, delivering a slowed-down version of Swedish House Mafia’s Save The World (Tonight) which saw him take to the piano, and led Nicole to say, “I felt like I was watching Chris Martin up there.”
And boybands Union J and District 3 also fared well, with the former tackling the David Guetta hit When Love Takes Over, and the latter impressing with a mash-up of Madcon’s Beggin’ and Chris Brown’s Don’t Stop The Music.
“Boys, you are giving the other groups a run for their money after that performance,” Tulisa told District 3 while mentor Louis Walsh added, “We haven’t got one, we’ve got two great boybands in the competition now.”
There were also good reviews for Lucy Spraggan and Jade Ellis – with Lucy performing one of her own tracks interspersed with the David Guetta hit Titanium, and Jade overcoming vocal cord problems to deliver the Ultra Nate dancefloor filler Free.
However MK1’s medley of Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman and Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out won a mixed responsem with Tulisa telling the duo, “That was a perfect song choice but I kind of wish you had done the first half the whole way through.”
Gary agreed, adding, “The first 50 per cent of that performance was exceptional, the second half was your worst performance ever.”
And Christopher Maloney – who kicked off the show singing the 80s Boy Meets Girl hit Waiting For A Star To Fall – also had a rocky ride, with Nicole comparing him to “a warm cheese toastie” and Tulisa adding, “I don’t get it.”
However it was Rylan who appeared to get the biggest criticism of the night, with Gary Barlow once again dishing out his venom as the Essex boy – dressed in a cropped, revealing waistcoat – worked his way through a series of club classics.
“I’ll tell you my problem with this,” he said. “We have 10 very talented contestants left and for every week that you’re here, one of them is going to be going home. You should have been the best performer tonight but you were the worst.”
His mentor Nicole, on the other hand, quickly leapt to his defence, saying, “He doesn’t just have the x factor – he has the x, y and z factor!”
The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show, with Christopher Maloney favourite to leave the competition.