With only one horse left in the race, Paula Abdul didn't have too much to defend tonight.
But the rest of the X Factor judges butted heads as much as ever as the top 10 (and their mentors) took on rock week—with varying degrees of success, as Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid were only too anxious to point out.
And guess who came to Nicole Scherzinger's defense tonight?
Nicole decided that LeRoy Bell should sing a love song—"We've Got Tonight" by Bob Seger—for all the ladies who love him, so...that's what he did. Yup, he sure did. "You're good, but I need more," L.A. Reid told the handsome 60-year-old. "Right now, you're being mentored like a session singer," Simon Cowell jabbed. "It's rock week, you should have been a shark, [but] you're actually like a dolphin." None other than host Steve Jones asked the contestant how he felt about the judges' "horrible comments," and then he tried to shush Simon. Nicole's got a new white knight!
After L.A. noted that LeRoy wasn't older than Mick Jagger(probably meaning he should be expending way more energy up there), 13-year-old Rachel Crow came out and performed The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." L.A. thinks she can sell tickets, and Simon, surprise, can picture her winning. And Nicole, not one to hold a judge-grudge, called it "the perfect song choice."
Chris Rene was in his element with "No Woman, No Cry" and he gave his most confident performance to date. So it was a bit of a jolt when Simon said, "I loved the performance and it would have been great if the theme this week had been reggae music." Oh, snap. "Bob Marley was a rock star," retorted the the no-nonsense L.A.
Are the bells tolling for Nicole's over-30 group now? Sure, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" was eventually done by Meat Loaf. But Céline Dion did it, too, and that's the version you couldn't help comparing Stacy Francis' pitchy (to borrow an Idol word) rendition to. Said an unimpressed Simon, "Stacy, let me start with the good news: Your hair looks better this week."
Then there went Simon, trying to create one of those capital-m Moments again. He had Melanie Amaro sing R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," but not everybody cried. She didn't exactly have the kind of life-altering performance that Simon was looking for her to have—and the judges called him on it, first and foremost L.A. Reid. "That was rock? That was so not rock!" the producer insisted. "Fine, call up R.E.M. and tell them they're not a rock band," retorted Simon, who said that Melanie reminded him of Adele and Alicia Keys. "Adele and Alicia are rock now?" L.A. asked skeptically.
But if L.A. and Simon felt the night was hurting for real rock music, Josh Krajcik eased their troubles. He tore into Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" and, as L.A. correctly pointed out, gave the one true rock 'n' roll performance so far. "Bloody fantastic," deemed Simon.
How did young Astro handle rock week? We don't think his stellar take on Diddy's (back when he was Puff Daddy) ode to the late Notorious B.I.G. "I'll Be Missing You" (which, of course, samples the Police) technically counted as rock—but it was so good and he has so much charisma. And Simon didn't question the song choice one bit.
Lakoda Rayne wasn't the "complete mess" that Simon sussed out, but their "You Can Go your Own Way"-"I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight" mashup was like something out of Mamma Mia.
We'll take U2's "With or Without You" anytime, anywhere—and Drew did The Joshua Tree proud. Again, it wasn't the rockiest of rock songs, but it was beautiful. Very Florence + the Machine-like. "Take no notice of the three witches on my right side, especially Cruella in the middle," Simon said after the inevitable critique of the song choice.
Marcus Canty closed the show with Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart"—and it was strange. It started off disastrously, but by the end, you couldn't help but be into it.
Remember, two groups are gone, so at least one individual is going to be in the bottom two tomorrow night.
Who will it be?
Who wins the rock vs. reggae argument in your book? Are you tired of Drew's slow tunes? Is Paula out of the game as of tomorrow? Share your X Factor thoughts in the comments section!
GALLERY: 2011 MTV EMAs