October 14th, 2011
11:00 AM ET
Finally, we get to where we want to be on the "X Factor"!
Thursday kicked off the mentoring stage, and the remaining 32 contestants met the judges who will advise them over the next week. As you may recall, the 32 musicians were separated into four groups of eight. Each group was assigned a judge as a mentor and then subsequently got to travel to that judge's home.
Here's how the rest went down:
Judge L.A. Reid's home in East Hampton
Last week, L.A. Reid was given the boys group. Minutes after meeting the male singers, he told them he had a surprise for them. He then went back into his house and brought a surprise guest mentor out. Their jaws dropped when they learned it was Rihanna! Both Reid and RiRi greeted the singers, and then the two sat outside on the grounds of his mansion and listened to each perform a song that reflected their musical style.
First up was Brooklyn rapper Brian Bradley, who rapped Grandmaster Flash's song "The Message," but in the end Reid wondered if viewers will give him a chance.
The next performer was 16-year-old country crooner Skyelor Anderson. He belts out Babyface's "Nobody Knows It But Me." It was a smooth performance, but not necessarily memorable. Afterwards, Reid commented, "I wonder if he chose country as a genre or if he is an authentic country singer."
The third performer took a BIG risk. The Frank Sinatra-esque Philip Lomax sang Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music" in front of her. Risky, but admirable. He definitely made it his own, but Reid wasn't sure if his style would work commercially.
Nick Voss was up next, and went for the '80s hit by Tears for Fears called "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." And from the very moment he sang the first words I felt that this was HIS song. It was the perfect fit for his rock sound. Reid still wasn't impressed, though, asking Rihanna if Nick was worthy of the $5 million prize.
Judge Simon Cowell's home in France
Cowell took on the group of ladies. All eight singers were flown to France to meet with him in his home away from home. Their guest mentor was supposed to be Mariah Carey, but due to Hurricane Irene she couldn't get out of the country.
Up first was Simone Battle - the sultry, Pussycat Doll-sounding singer. She chose the song "Help," and although her voice cracked at least once, Simon didn't seem to mind and actually complimented her singing.
After Battle was Tora Woloshin, who sang The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." Tora owned the song, making it sound more pop than rock. Cowell's response? "It doesn't quite get to me."
Caitlin Koch, who has a very soft and breathy voice, stepped up to the mic next. She went with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," hitting all the notes and getting Cowell to rave that her pitch and tone were fantastic.
Drew Ryniewicz followed Koch with The Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love." She turns this rock song into a country hit, and all while sitting in a chair! She never stands to perform, and yet she delivers a knock out performance. Even Cowell says she's amazing, and I concur. Her voice sounds at least 10 to 15 years beyond her actual age of 14.
Judge Paula Abdul's home in Santa Barbara
Abdul was given the eight group acts to mentor, and her guest judge was producer/rapper/singer Pharrell Williams.
The next group for Abdul is the duo "The Brewer Boys." The two brothers tackle Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World." At first their version sounds weird, and then a minute or two into it, I actually learn to like it.
The R&B quartet 4Shore went with Brownstone's "If You Love Me," and it sounds just the way it is supposed to sound. Pharrell believes the only thing he would love to see them do is "dirty up their style a little bit."
Judge Nicole Scherzinger's home in Malibu
Scherzinger is mentoring the over 30 solo singers, along with her guest mentor Enrique Iglesias. Right off the bat, they had who I consider one of the most talented yet extremely emotional singers around, 49-year-old Dexter Haygood.
You might recall he was the one who had an identity crisis during his previous performance, where he acted and sang like Mick Jagger one minute and James Brown the next. This time he performed Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," really getting into it by kicking his legs up in the air and putting his foot down on the table in front of the mentors at one point.
Then 42-year-old Stacy Francis took her turn, opting for Prince's hit "Purple Rain." In true Stacy fashion, she hit the high notes and turned "Purple Rain" into something that sounds like it could be sung at a church revival.
Elaine Gibbs, 53, sang "Stop Crying Your Heart Out," and right away she sounded like a mix between The Staple Singers and Tina Turner. She has a distinct voice for sure.
James Kenney took center stage at Scherzinger's home and sang "Russian Roulette," but both Scherzinger and Iglesias seemed barely moved by his rendition.
Since there were 32 acts and not everyone got a chance to showcase their talents in front of the judges, the mentoring will continue this Sunday with the remaining artists. Then the 32 will be slashed to 16.
So far, who do you think has that "X Factor"?
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