'X Factor': Rihanna, Pharrell, Enrique Get Tough Before Eliminations
The second "Judges' Homes" episode of "X Factor" aired last night (Oct. 16), and the last of the 32 contestants performed before the judges and their celeb guests -- Rihanna (with L.A. Reid in the Hamptons), Pharrell (joining Paula Abdul in Santa Barbara), and Enrique Iglesias (with Nicole Scherzinger in Malibu). Judging without a celebrity guest in France, Simon Cowell discussed each contestant's fate with vocal coaches and host Steve Jones.
Adorable 13-year-old Rachel Crow, a crowd favorite by far, sang the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." It was a bizarre song choice on Simon's part, but he said the performance was "unbelievable." Cowell continued: "I like that she takes risks and I like that deep tone -- that was the part that excited me."
Video: Rachel Crow, "I Want It That Way"
From the youngest to the oldest, next to perform was 60-year-old Leroy Bell, who sang Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" for Nicole and Enrique. "Even though he's the most experienced, he may be "the most nervous," said Nicole. "When I feel those nerves, it's like it's really holding him back from giving me everything."
Video: Leroy Bell, "Make You Feel My Love"
Twenty-something boy band Illusion Confusion was up next, with David Bowie's "Let's Dance." There was nothing special about them and their vocals were lacking. "I say that they have more of drive than anything else," said Pharrell. And Paula pointed out that when drive and ambition far surpass talent, you have a problem.
Video: Illusion Confusion, "Let's Dance"
Next up was Tiger Budbill, singing Joe Cocker's "Don't Give Up On Me," an appropriate song for the contestant who called this competition his "last chance." While the judges loved his performance, Nicole once again questioned his mainstream value. Enrique responded that there shouldn't "be any rules for music. Anybody could get it with the right song."
Video: Tiger Budbill, "Don't Give Up On Me"
Marcus Canty sang K-Ci & JoJo's "All My Life," and neither Rihanna or L.A. had much to say about his performance. It's clear he can sing, but he lacks that extra star power and he's not particularly memorable. "I'm not convinced," Rihanna told L.A.
Video: Marcus Canty, "All My Life"
Tiah Tolliver continues to prove that Simon was right to save her during the first round of auditions, when Paula and Nicole both wanted to vote against her. After her performance of Blackstreet's "No Diggity," Simon said, "There's just something about her. I've just always thought she fits on this show."
Video: Tiah Tolliver, "No Diggity"
Christa Collins came out of nowhere in this episode with a phenomenal version of Radiohead's "No Surprises." She has slipped through the first few rounds, but last night it became clear how she had made it this far. She has a tall vocal range, can both belt and quietly serenade, and she connected emotionally with the song and the audience.
Video: Christa Collins, "No Surprises"
The final group to perform was the second of two formed by the judges after bootcamp. Made up of eliminated solo performers, InTENsity had only practiced together for the few days since arriving at Paula's mansion. Although the group's version of Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" was cute and fun, it's hard to imagine a 10-person group winning this competition. Paula said that their real challenge was just needing more time.
Video: InTENsity, "You Make My Dreams Come True"
Chris Rene sang Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People,"with Rihanna's reaction being, "He had something special. I want to know more about him." L.A. agreed that he is special, and he is all about his art and his music. But this audition didn't quite stack up, and L.A. told Rihanna that he had "never seen [Rene] that uncomfortable before."
Video: Chris Rene, "Everyday People"
The last contestant at the judges' houses was Melanie Amaro, one of the most impressive vocalists from the audition round. She sang Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" and Simon faux-fainted onto the couch after being blown away by her performance. "She just gave me a look, as if to say, 'You wrote me off… now write me off,'" he said after she left the stage.
Video: Melanie Amaro, "Will You Be There"
On Tuesday, the judges will decide the fates of the contestants, and only half will make it to the next round. The remaining 16 performers will take the stage next week to sing in the live round.
Who do you want to see make it to the final 16?