With judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and LA Reid looking for the next big thing, who will impress and who will come up short? Can 14-year-old Astro redeem himself after last week's bad behaviour? Will Paula finally lose her last group in Lakoda Rayne?
Stick with Digital Spy live from 8/7c to find out!
21:58 Well, that's it - all nine acts have sung and now it's up to the voters to decide which two will be headed tomorrow. Who will it be? Tune in at 8/7c to find out!
He sings The Rolling Stones' 'Wild Horses' as an acoustic number, playing piano and just singing his heart out. You guys remember that I love him, right? That I think he's absolutely brilliant and would listen to him sing anything? That hasn't changed tonight - his voice is just... so, so good. He's totally on point tonight, completely connected to the song and singing the hell out of it.
LA is wowed, saying that he has "the right amount of everything" - passion, authenticity and everything it takes to win the competition. Paula says that it's a pleasure and honour to know him and applauds him for being bigger than the songs that he sings.
Simon thinks that he's what it's all about - a great song, a great voice and meaning every word. "I have to say this, Nicole - I've given you a bit of a hard time over the past few weeks. You've done an outstanding job!" he adds. Nicole is, again, in tears, saying that even outside the competition, she believe that his music can change the world. She thanks him for his "breathtaking" musicianship.
Drew performs Demi Lovato's 'Skyscraper' - it's "their song", apparently. Listen, she's got a great voice and she is actually adding some different elements to it other than that awful falsetto yodeling that she was relying on. It still peeks its head in every now and then, but you can tell that she's consciously trying not to resort to that, so I applaud her for that. It's a pretty well-sung version; I don't have much to complain about. I did just yawn during it, but we'll put that down to not having slept last night.
LA directs his comment to Simon, as he wonders why she's doing songs for older people when she's so young. To be fair, that's stupid feedback since Demi Lovato is only about 20, I think. However, Drew stands up for herself and puts him in his place. You go, girl. Nicole calls her a "beautiful girl" and is happy that she dedicated the song to her friend.
Paula says that "everyone needs a friend" and points out what I said - that Demi Lovato is young. She also loved when the tempo picked up as she could tell that Drew really got into it. Simon is really proud of her and tells LA that he's "sick to death" of his pointless criticism as it's "unfounded and inaccurate".
He takes on Jay-Z's 'Show Me What You Got' - of course adding his own original raps. He does seem to be back on top and really attacks it. You can't deny that this kid is really brilliant and has a bright future. I can't even be mad at him for last week because after all, he is only 15 and everyone makes mistakes, etc. Besides, isn't hip-hop all about grandiose gestures and false posturing and ego? Think about it.
Nicole is very proud of him, but reminds him to never expect and always remain grateful as that is what will take him all the way. Paula wants to be one of his 'Astro-nauts', claiming that he is well on his way to becoming prolific and insisting that no one should "hate on" him because no one is perfect.
Simon admires him for coming out on stage and redeeming himself but admits that the music industry needs unpredictability and passion. While he doesn't think it was the best song, Simon believes his talent is undeniable. LA thinks that he did the best thing by humbling himself and coming out and giving his best performance.
He performs a version of Sarah McLachlan's 'Angel' - yeah, the song that's in all those sad pet adoption commercials. I know. He's quite raspy in the beginning - almost unintelligible with more of that overwrought emotion of the evening, but he pulls it together and you can tell that he's really feeling the song and thinking about his mother. I should probably be a little less cynical.
LA thinks it was "really good" and appreciated the message but didn't think it was his best performance despite being heartfelt. However, Paula disagrees, saying that there was "so much passion and connection" tonight. She says that LeRoy gave the most beautiful performance in the competition.
Simon also disagrees with LA, insisting that tonight is the first night that he got to know LeRoy more and that it was a great tribute to his late mother. "You really made your mark this week. Congratulations!" he adds. Nicole says that tonight was "his moment" and applauds him for letting to and giving it his all.
They're singing Taylor Swift's 'You Belong With Me'. I'm not really sure what this song has to do with anything, considering, but why am I even trying to find reason with them? Listen, guys - I'm not unreasonable. I can see that it's feasible that Lakoda Rayne could make tons of money and be a successful country girl group. But I can also see that I will run in the opposite direction from them for the rest of my life. The performance, as it goes, is not that bad (she says through gritted teeth).
LA thinks that they managed to "drum up some excitement" today and admits that he didn't want to like it, but ended up enjoying it anyway. Nicole loves that they look and sounded amazing and claims that it felt like she was watching them in concert.
Simon says that it was their best performance to date - I suppose I agree. While the vocals weren't perfect, their vibe as a group finally came together. "I genuinely wish two people weren't going home tomorrow!" he says. Wow, that's a backhanded compliment. Paula is, of course, in tears, and tells them that the sky is the limit and she is proud of them.
Chris performs a hip-hop version of The Beatles' 'Let It Be'. It's totally out of tune and kinda like nails on chalkboard during some of the longer sung notes, unfortunately. I say all this as someone who actually likes Chris - I just think he hasn't had a chance to deliver on all the promise he showed during his first audition. The best part is when he adds his original rap, but I feel like I've seen him do this same performance ten times before even though that's not possible. Oh wait, I have! It's 'Lil' Homie'! Okay, this I can get behind. Can't all of Chris's performances be of 'Lil' Homie'?
Nicole thinks that his music is "powerful" and believes that Chris is such a good example and a blessing in the competition, saying that she is grateful that he's there. Paula agrees, adding that it's great to see him get back to what they first saw of him.
Simon didn't think that the first song worked, but reminded everyone why they liked him with the second. He also admits that not many people would have "the guts" to admit his past issues and applauds Chris for potentially helping many others to change their lives. LA Reid believes in him and leaves it at that. Fair enough.
She takes on R. Kelly's 'The World' - kind of a "meh" song and the arrangement isn't doing much to help, lending a bit of a disjointed feel to the whole thing. There's no question that Melanie is incredibly talented and could sing the phone book and still sound good, but I'd really like her to avoid the whole gospel cliché that so many singers with such big voices fall into. Then again, that's just a personal preference - far be it for me to dissuade someone from her faith. However, as an agnostic at best, the whole "singing to the sky" thing makes me a bit uncomfortable.
LA is unable to criticise the performance, calling it "really good" and telling her how good she looks. LA is also glad that her increased confidence has made an appearance. Melanie's Virgin Islands accent also makes an appearance and earns her a standing ovation and it's all getting a little weird.
Nicole is teary-eyed, calling her "so courageous". She goes up to give her a hug. I'm so confused at this point - I think I'm missing something. Paula has waited week after week to see the vulnerability of Melanie come out, and she thinks that tonight it did, advising her to always show it as it will make everyone fall in love with her. Simon is very proud of her but urges the public to vote for her as two people are going home tomorrow night. "You were outstanding tonight!" he adds.
His performance of Boyz II Men's 'Mama' should probably be incredibly moving (and it certainly is to his mother, who continues to fan herself throughout and fights back tears) but instead it just sort of falls flat. I've kind of given up on the hope that Marcus is going to pull something new and exciting from his bag of tricks, at this point. Don't get me wrong, he's "okay", but there are some disastrous pitch problems and it's a bit creepy how he sings to her like you'd expect Usher to sing to a female fan.
Nicole says that he made all the other sons in the world look bad, calling it "so beautiful, so precious" and telling his mother to be proud and enjoy his "honest" performance. Paula thinks that every performance he gives is "top notch", but that the passion of tonight's put him over the top. Oh, brother.
Simon, ever the voice of reason, admits that he's had a yo-yo ride on the show so far but is certain that tonight, for the first time he actually felt a connection and put himself back in the competition. LA claims that he's "as great as every great singer" he's ever worked with. Good Lord, are we listening to the same thing?
Rachel performs Yolanda Adams' 'I Believe' and it's great, of course. She seems so much older than her 13 years and continues to grow every week. I absolutely love her and really sort of hope she wins this whole thing. I know I tend to gush about her every week, but what else is there to say? She's fantastic.
LA says that she "did it again" and admits that he originally wanted to be critical but has nothing to say because he ended up really loving it. Rachel has made a believer out of Nicole, who says that the rest of America will probably feel the same. Nicole also calls her a "bright light" and says that she's "such an inspiration" to others who have faced adversity.
Paula tells her that angels exist on earth because of her and congratulates her for opening the show in such a grand way and hitting all the notes. "You are magnificent!" she adds. Simon is proud that Rachel did an inspirational track rather than a sad one and says that Rachel is the reason that The X Factor was right to drop the minimum age limit down to 12.
20:03 The judges are looking pretty chipper tonight. I particularly like Nicole's hair - I sometimes do mine like that, though without the personal stylist, it doesn't look quite as good. Steve Jones is still as awkward as ever, as well. I wonder if he'll be asked back next season? I mean, he's no Dermot O'Leary.
20:00 And we're off! We're giving thanks tonight on The X Factor USA, which means we've got a considerable amount of heartfelt messages (read: overwrought corniness) ahead. Is that insensitive of me? Perhaps. Who are you looking forward to hearing tonight?
Browse a gallery of photos of this week's performances below: