X Factor finalists tackle Halloween theme

It was a creepy night for the ten remaining acts in The X Factor 2011 as the show took on a Halloween theme on Saturday.

And overall it was a good night for the acts, despite a difficult week which saw Rhythmix forced to change their name to Little Mix and The Risk lose Ashley J Batptise from their line-up.

The latter were to the first to take to the stage, performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller and receiving strong responses from the judges – who this week included former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke standing in for Kelly Rowland.

Tulisa praised her act, who had had little time to perform with new member Ashford Campbell, previously a member of Nu Vibe.

“You could have given up but you fought your way through this week,” she said. “You brought Ashford back and you completely smashed it.”

And Gary Barlow also had words of encouragement for the boys.

“I’ve been right there where you are right now, in 1995 Take That, right before big tour one of our band members left and at that point you make a choice you lie down and lose or get up fighting like you’ve done tonight. Well done.”

Johnny Robinson also fared well, singing the Ella Fitzgerald ballad That Old Devil Called Love – and winning praise from the judges for his change of pace.

“That’s all you needed to do,” Gary Barlow told him. “You’re not a novelty act, you’re a great singer.”

However it wasn’t such plain sailing for Sophie Habibis, who was criticised for her choice of song after her performance of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang.

“This is the fourth week you’ve chosen to sing a weary dreary ballad,” Gary pointed out. “Your song choices are as dull as dishwater.” Louis also gave the teenager a hard time, saying she was “like a secretary who sings on weekends”.

Marcus Collins was the first of the boys to take to the stage, singing the Stevie Wonder classic Superstition – and he didn’t disappoint.

“Every week you bring it – you’re happy, you can sing, you can dance – you’ve got everything,” Louis told him, while Tulisa agreed. “You look like you were having fun tonight and when you do, everyone else does too.”

Misha B, meanwhile, faced a potentially difficult week after last Saturday when she was publicly accused by Tulisa of bullying other performers backstage – but the judges had nothing but praise for the teenager singer this week following her rendition of Tainted Love – with Tulisa keen to explain why she had spoken to her the way she did.

“The truth is you were born a star and and I want to let you know that anything I say to you is only because I want you to be the best you can be and be as successful as you can be. The point I was trying to make was you don’t have to fight for your right to be here because you deserve it,” she said.

Louis Walsh was also quick to praise the 19-year-old. “You’re a rare talent vocally and visually,” he told her, “and every week you bring something exciting to The X Factor.”

Janet Devlin, who sang the Police classic Every Breath You Take, also won favour with the panel. “There’s something different about you tonight,” Tulisa said. “You look like you mean business.” Louis, meanwhile, described the performance as “haunting”.

However Frankie Cocozza, who this week performed The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, once again received a mixed response. “I’m confused about you,” Alexandra said, “because I feel like you lack in vocal range. I think that you gave energy in your performance which is always great but my fear is how seriously do you take this?”

Gary Barlow was quick to defend his act, saying to him, “Don’t worry, she’s only here for one night!” and going on to praise him for his “really good performance”.

Kitty Brucknell was next, delivering a performance of the Eurythmics’ hit Sweet Dreams which began with her strapped to a revolving wheel.

Mentor Louis Walsh told her he had made the “right decision” in saving her last week over Sami Brookes, but Alexandra Burke injected a note of doubt.”You are very entertaining but it could come across as slightly cabaret,” she said. “Louis, this girl is a singer.”

Little Mix were the penultimate act of the night, casting aside their usual image for doll-like costumes and make-up well suited to their performance of Katy Perry’s E.T.

The quartet were seen having a difficult week as they struggled with the name change while band member Jesy had been on the receiving end of some negative comments about her weight and appearance – however Tulisa was quick to offer the singer some support.

“I am so proud of you, you have done so well,” she said. “It takes a lot to speak up about insecurities, I’m proud of you for telling your story.”

Gary, meanwhile, gave the song choice his seal of approval and added, “I really felt I could hear you all sing, really good. It feels different this year – I couldn’t pick a winner, the competition is wide open!”

Craig Colton rounded off Saturday’s show singing his version of Adele’s Set Fire To The Rain.

Tulisa branded the song choice “predictable” but added, “that was an amazing performance, it was a massive song,” while mentor Gary summed up his feelings succintly. “That was the performance of the night,” he said, “well done.”

The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show with one more act leaving the competition.