X Factor favourites Ella Henderson and Jahmene Douglas were among those who wowed the judges as X Factor reached its live stages, delivering an Olympics-themed show on Saturday night.
The show saw the 12 finalists – joined by wild card Christopher Maloney who was voted in ahead of the first performance – perform live for the first time this series, singing a series of Olympic and victory-themed songs in front of an audience which included such Team GB medal winners as Laura Trott and Nicola Adams.
And 16-year-old Ella provided one of the highlights of the evening with a performance of Take That’s Rule The World which won her a standing ovation from Nicole and plaudits from its original singer Gary Barlow.
“There’s nothing I hate more than someone singing my song ten times better than me,” he admitted, adding, “That was stunning.”
Nicole agreed, saying, “You are stunning in every way, you are from another planet.”
Jahmene also impressed, rounding off the show with his rendition of the John Lennon classic Imagine – although Gary expressed a note of caution, warning him not to “over-sing”.
The others, however, loved the performance, with Tulisa saying, “You have one of the strongest male vocals this competition has ever seen, well done.”
Also faring well were over 28s Kye Sones, Melanie Masson and Carolynne Poole, with Kye delivering a stirring performance of Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, Melanie delivering her version of With A Little Help From My Friends, and Carolynne offering an unusual country-themed version of Nicki Minaj’s hit Starships.
Louis told Kye, “This is going to change your life, you are going to go far in this competition,” while Nicole told Melanie, “You took us to the stratosphere, that was crazy.”
Carolynne, meanwhile, won praise from mentor Gary, who said, “You took a risk, it definitely paid off,” while Nicole praised her for her “very bold song choice”.
Elsewhere, the competition’s two other girls Jade Ellis and Lucy Spraggan won favour for two very different reasons – Ella for her low-key performance of Enrique Iglesias’ hero and Lucy for performing her own track Mountains – making her the first person to perform an original song on the show since Chico sang It’s Chico Time back in 2005.
In the boys category, James Arthur performed Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger while Rylan Clark delivered a high camp version of Spandau Ballet’s Gold which led to a war of words between Gary and Nicole.
“I wanted to have some fun this year and I really was until you started singing,” Gary said, adding, “I am embarrassed to be sat here.”
Nicole hit back by first making reference to Gary’s appearance in Take That’s early, raunchy video for Do What You Like, and then by saying, “He’s amazing and is the entire package.”
The groups, meanwhile, had a hit and miss response as they made their debut, with the newly named District 3 winning praise for their version of Tina Turner’s The Best which kicked off the show.
“I haven’t heard R&B vocals like that for a long time,” Tulisa told them while Gary assured them, “You won’t be going home tomorrow night.”
MK1 attempted to win votes with a mash-up of Chipmunk and Chris Brown’s Champion and Hot Chocolate’s Everyone’s A Winner, which won a mixed reaction – however Union J fared badly with their version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
“I didn’t agree with the song choice and the vocals were missing,” Tulisa said, adding, “Louis, what were you thinking?”
Louis admitted, “The song choice was bad”, saying the band “would have to work hard” ahead of next week’s show.
The first act will leave the competition on Sunday night.