It was Michael Jackson night last night on "X Factor," and the Jackson family was there to see the contestants pay tribute to the King of Pop. Brothers Tito, Marlon, Jackie, children Paris, Prince, Blanket and mother Katherine Jackson were in the audience, upping the intimidation factor for all of the contestants. (As if the fact that two out of seven contestants would be going home the next night wasn't enough.) Like Simon said: "Biggest star of all time. Double elimination. No pressure."
Rocker Josh Krajcik kicked off the performances with a big intro about how this isn't his thing and this is the first week he was truly nervous. When he took the stage for a Foo Fighters-meets-MJ version of "Dirty Diana," it was over-the-top rock'n'roll cliche, from stripping dancers to fire and smoke machines. The only part that made it OK was how excited and happy Josh looked at the end. It was clear he had fun doing something different. L.A., Paula and Nicole all praised the over-30 contestant, but Simon was critical -- of course placing the blame more on Nicole than Josh. "As a spectacle, taking everything into account, it was great," he said. "However, you were overproduced. You got lost in all the choreography. This is very much not you on stage; this is what Nicole wants you to be."
Video: Josh Krajcik, "Dirty Diana"
It was good to finally see some of the contestants being pushed out of their comfort zones. Joining Josh on uncertain territory was Astro, who is more hip-hop than pop and was faced with the challenge of turning a Jackson song into a rap. His version of "Black or White" was one of his best performances to date, and all of the judges offered up overwhelming praise. Things seem to be turning around for this young rapper, who caused drama by refusing to sing for his survival two weeks ago, but the judges are not the ones to vote and America may not be so forgiving tonight.
Video: Astro, "Black or White"
Every time Drew takes the stage, it seems like her performance is less to showcase her talent and more to provoke cattiness between the judges, and this week was no exception. Her ballad rendition of "Billie Jean" was nothing short of fantastic, but she sat motionless in a chair with a single spotlight, singing in the same style she does each week. "The whole chair thing, like never got to come up from the chair, I don't understand that. … You had range, you had passion, and I loved it, but I just wanted you to get up out of the dang chair," Nicole exclaimed. Simon fired back, telling Paula that "too much dancing" is why her acts are all out of the competition.
Video: Drew, "Billie Jean"
Something was off during Rachel Crow's performance of "Can You Feel It," and although she's usually swimming in praise, this week she received a lukewarm response. "This is probably the only time that I've watched you and didn't believe that you were really having a great time," said L.A. to the 13-year-old singer. Nicole thought that Rachel got lost in the overproduced "world that was created around [her] onstage," while Paula didn't think the song did her justice. Maybe the heavily-produced, poppy number was just too stark a contrast to Drew's subtle performance style, but Simon blamed the judges' criticisms on the fact that "it's obviously anti-Simon night tonight."
Video: Rachel Crow, "Can You Feel It"
The trend of wearing MJ-inspired band jackets continued with Marcus Canty and his backup dancers, whose show-stopping "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" blew the panel away. Well, except for Simon, of course. Paula told the 20-year-old performer, "You know what Marcus, you are the whole package. … You are the entertainer of this show." Simon added, "I agree with everything that Paula just said, other than the vocals weren't very good." To which Nicole shot back a very irritated, "You don't know what it's like to be up there doing all that what he's doing." Before the bickering could go any further, host Steve Jones cut to commercial… again.
Video: Marcus Canty, "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"
After a cheesy intro about how Chris Rene's family was connected to the Jacksons because his grandfather wrote "Rockin' Robin," he took the stage to sing and add some rap to the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." Paula said to Chris, "You look the best you've ever look and I gotta tell you something, you manifest with abundance in the heart department." Simon was not the only one to be confused by that remark, and luckily he took time to make fun of it. He pointed out to Chris that "the vocal was a little bit shaky at the top. Then when the rap kicked in, much much better." Other than that small criticism, everyone -- the cheering audience included -- had a positive response.
Video: Chris Rene, "I'll Be There"
Melanie Amaro, who recently swapped over from her American to her Caribbean accent, was the final performer of the night, singing "Earth Song." She has been steadily improving over the past few weeks, and while it felt like she peaked last week, this performance was even better. "I forgot that we were in a competition and I thought we were at a Melanie Amaro concet," Nicole complimented, while Paula commented, "It was flawless and you are gorgeous up there and you nailed it!"
Video: Melanie Amaro, "Earth Song"
Tonight on "X Factor," celebrity guest Tinie Tempah will perform and two acts will be sent home. Who do you think should be safe? Who should be eliminated? Sound off in the comments below!