Is it really so tense on the set of The X Factor that Simon Cowell isn't allowed to sit in on Nicole Scherzinger's mentoring sessions?
Well, if he's anywhere near as supportive as he is during the live shows, then that makes perfect sense.
The fab four were at it again tonight as the top 11 took the stage for a night of songs from the movies. And it was definitely a toss-up as to who was more entertaining: the aspiring recording stars or the judges.
Maybe Nicole should've let Simon in on Stacy Francis' session. Singing Whitney Houston's "Queen of the Night" from The Bodyguard only served to age the 42-year-old mom—who until tonight has passed for 10 years younger. It didn't sound bad, just supercontrived. "I cowrote the song, I still don't like it!" judged L.A. Reid, who wondered why Stacy didn't go for the big Bodyguard tune, "I Will Always Love You."
Marcus Canty went with a song very popular with the ladies on American Idol, Rose Royce's "I'm Going Down" from the 1976 cult classic Car Wash. Simon found it "a thousand percent better" than last week's Bobby Brown impersonation, but advised Marcus to dress himself from now on. "You look great, you sound great," mentor L.A. assured the 20-year-old. "You have better taste than some people who sit on the end of this desk...Not Simon. I'm talking about myself, actually."
Simon pulled a fast one for his darling Drew, assigning her Coldplay's "Fix You"—from...wait for it...You, Me and Dupree, his "favorite movie of all time." L.A. was right on to question the provenance of the film (how easily we forget one of Owen Wilson's worst), but the gears didn't really start grinding until Paula, of all people, dissed Drew's grunge-tacular gown, saying it "took the seriousness away" from her performance. "Let me just clear this up, Drew designed that dress," Simon retorted. "Well, now I feel really bad," Paula said (and you could tell she really did).
Iconic movie night continued with LeRoy Bell crooning U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" from, er, Runaway Bride. Anyway, LeRoy's gospel-inflected version of the Joshua Tree classic was a big crowd-pleaser, and it was our favorite performance of his to date. "This time, I think you got it right," L.A. confirmed. "Nicole, well done," added Paula.
Paula plucked Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You" from that other Kate Hudson classic, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, for Lakoda Rayne—one of the two remaining groups, and now the only full-blown country act in the competition. We heard all sorts of bum harmonies, but Simon said they were finally turning into the group he envisioned (after last week's Stepford Wives "horror show," that is).
Astro doing the Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself"—the boy wonder adding his own opening verse, of course—from 8 Mile was a grand choice. "This is so irritating," Simon groaned good-naturedly to L.A. "You're like the cat who's got the cream. You cleared an Eminem song." And to the 15-year-old, "You are incredibly creative. I think that you are a good role model right now...Astro, you have the X Factor." Afterward, the teen gave a shout-out to "all the Astronauts in the building."
Unsurprisingly, there was no sign that phenom Melanie Amaro was in danger of losing her voice this week as she ripped into Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," from This Is It. L.A. dared criticize the song choice, but none of other judges had a problem with it. "You made Michael proud," Nicole said. "To use a British expression, you were bloody fantastic," Simon said contentedly.
The Stereo Hoggz did an exhilarating job with Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" (which happens to be from Get Smart). Simon didn't dig the burlesque vibe, though, and shot Paula down for making the group less current. He also shot Nicole down for calling the performance "bananas." "Really digging deep there," he snarked. L.A., meanwhile, didn't know the song! Which, we admit, we find strange.
Across the Universe meant a Beatles song, and who better to deliver one than resident soul-churner Josh Krajcik? And the Joe Cocker version of "With a Little Help From Friends," no less? Friends, it was Woodstock-worthy. Simon noted, in Nicole's direction, that Josh and the backup singers looked like "Dracula and his brides," but Nicole quipped back, "Simon, don't hate, just congratulate."
Remember when Coolio was the guy behind that smash hit from Dangerous Minds rather than just a silly way to say "cool"? Well, Chris Rene brought the memories rushing back with a rather fierce take on "Gangsta's Paradise" (featuring some original lyrics, natch). Even Simon admitted L.A. had done a great job with the lad.
At last, but not least, came Rachel Crow, who belted out Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," which was covered by an Etta-channeling Beyoncé in Cadillac Records. And no, the torcher wasn't too much for the precocious 13-year-old. "Simon, I'm just so happy that you listened to me and took my advice and picked a song—" Nicole began, only to be interrupted by Rachel, who informer her, "I picked my song this week." Well, well...look what Simon hath wrought.
Like it or not, The X Factor loses another act tomorrow following performances by Willow Smith and Jessie J.
Who should be done after tonight? Who was tops? Tough decision, right?! Sound off in the comments!
GALLERY: 2011 Country Music Association Awards