'X Factor' Ups the Ante With Guest Judges Rihanna, Enrique, Pharrell
After the fourth American League Championship baseball game was delayed because of rain -- running into the "X Factor" time slot -- the first "Judges' Homes" episode finally aired last night. The 32 remaining contestants traveled across the world, where they met with the judge mentoring their group as well as special guest judges.
The girls met their mentor, Simon, whose surprise guest, Mariah Carey, was stuck in New York during Hurricane Irene and unable to make it to Simon's house in France. The always self-assured judge said that it would be fine, as he could (surprise, surprise) be both judge and celebrity mentor.
The next group was one of two that had been formed by the judges from solo artists during bootcamp. Newly-formed pop-country quintet Lakoda Rayne performed Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," and the judges were sympathetic to their subpar performance, pointing out how difficult it must be to be thrown into a group during the competition.
Video: Lakoda Rayne perform "Born This Way"
42-year-old mother Stacy Francis blew Nicole and Enrique away with her phenomenal performance of Prince's "Purple Rain," but she lacked self-confidence while talking to the judges. As Nicole pointed out that, "She has all the talents, but she'll never be better than her insecurities, her doubts and her fears."
Brother duo the Brewer Boys sang "Only Girl (In The World)" by Rihanna. Their rendition was was different and well executed, although a bit age inappropriate. Still, they were charming and it's clear Paula likes them.
Video: The Brewer Boys sing Rihanna's "Only Girl"
22-year-old Philip Lomax also performed a Rihanna song, but he was singing it for the superstar herself. He drastically changed the style of "Don't Stop The Music," giving it a Frank Sinatra-esque spin, and while both judges enjoyed the performance, L.A. questioned whether his originality would work commercially.
Elaine Gibbs performed "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" for Enrique and Nicole, and she was simply stunning. There was one rough note, but, "Her confidence can make her a superstar," said Enrique.
Video: Elaine Gibbs' "Judges' Homes" performance
Caitlin Koch has always been a favorite of Simon's, and today was no exception. She sang The Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" (in the style of Amy Winehouse's cover), and he had only good things to say about it: "Her pitch, her tone was amazing. I loved her phrasing; I loved how she walked the song up."
Video: Caitlin Koch sings "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
Nick Voss was the last to perform Thursday in the boys category, singing "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears For Fears. While Nick was one of the strongest during auditions, his performances have been going downhill and it doesn't seem like he'll last much longer.
Video: Nick Voss auditions for Rihanna and L.A. Reid
Boy band 4Shore were the next group to audition for Paula and Pharrell, singing "If You Love Me." Their vocals worked well, but their dancing was over-choreographed and the performance was too stiff and calculated, especially for the current music market where boy bands are essentially non-existent.
Video: 4Shore's synchronized "If You Love Me" performance
James Kenney sang Rihanna's "Russian Roulette," and the judges didn't love the song, but Enrique said he could see Kenney "being a rockstar." Although Nicole questioned whether he could be a rockstar as a solo artist and without a band behind him.
Video: James Kenney sings for Nicole and Enrique
The last contestant of the night was 14-year-old Drew Ryniewicz, singing Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love." She sat across from Simon and sang the song with waves of emotion. He had little to say about the performance, but called her "amazing."
Video: Drew Ryniewicz performs "It Must Have Been Love"
The episode ended after the first 16 contestants had performed, and "Judges' Homes" will continue on Sunday (8 p.m. EST on Fox) with the remaining 16 performers. Eliminations will follow, and only half of the contestants will move forward to the next round.