Simon Cowell, Robbie Williams, Louis Tomlinson and Ayda Field have officially confirmed their live show acts.
These acts have come a long way from battling through auditions, to the Six Chair Challenge, and even impressing their mentors at the Judges’ Houses.
So, who will be fighting for a chance to be crowned the winner of X Factor 2018? Here’s a recap of all the action from judges’ houses
First up were the Girls, who were whisked off to Simon’s actual home in Malibu in the twelfth episode of the series tonight.
Naturally, they were excited to see the sights of Hollywood, where stars are born – and Simon recently got his own star on the Walk of Fame.
He even treated them to a shopping spree so they could look their best for their big moments.
However, while browsing the stores on Rodeo Drive, they were completely unaware that they were about to face one of the most daunting audiences imaginable.
As always, the judges have got special guests to help them make their all-important decisions – but this year, Simon went to new extremes.
The Syco mogul threw a Judges’ Houses party, inviting not two, not three, but FIFTY entertainment industry bigwigs.
The guestlist included his former American Idol colleagues Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest, Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren and legendary singer Paul Anka.
Also in attendance were famed producers Babyface and Dallas Austin, Simon’s former protégés Adam Lambert and Leona Lewis – and, of course, the one and only Sinitta.
“We’ve never done this before, so if it does work, I take the credit. If it doesn’t work, I’ve got it on record, it has absolutely nothing to do with me whatsoever,” Simon told his pals.
“The Girls have no idea you guys are gonna be here, they’re gonna be petrified.”
With everyone seated, Simon finally brought out the women of the moment – and they were astonished to see so many familiar faces, whom Simon said have collectively sold “about 5billion records”.
“We have every big-name songwriter in the world,” he said. “These are the people, in real life, you’ve got to impress. These are the people who make the hits. People who have been in your position before.
“It’s not just about impressing me, it’s about impressing these guys.”
With the pressure well and truly on, it was time for the performances begin.
Molly Scott – First to take the mic was Molly, who was left “shaking” after being introduced to the all-star crowd. Unfortunately for the 16-year-old – the youngest solo act remaining in the competition – she admits she doesn’t “deal well with pressure”, noting that nerves “did get the better” of her at the Six Chair Challenge. For the moment that could change her life, she performed the English version of ‘Fake Love’ by chart-storming Korean boyband BTS. It was a pick Simon described as “really clever”, while Randy felt like “it could have been her song”.
Georgia Burgess – Georgia fought hard to attend Judges’ Houses; having initially lost her seat at the Six Chair Challenge, she took part in two further sing-offs to win it back. Although “scared” by the audience, she vowed to put just as much effort in to reaching the live shows. She was “so nervous” about her song choice, ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ by Jocelyn Brown – but it had a few of the guests standing up in applause, including Paula. Simon said Georgia reminds him of Kelly Clarkson, while Diane observed: “Her voice doesn’t look like her. It’s like what Adele has, you wanna hang out with her.”
Afterwards, Georgia told host Dermot O’Leary: “This has surpassed my wildest dreams. To sing in front of all these people, in itself, is such a lifetime achievement.
Shan – Having been a session singer for four years, Shan is looking for her big break – and she put herself through double the pressure to get one. Not only did she have to face a crowd of music tastemakers, she also chose to debut an original track. She wrote ‘Get Back’ after her Six Chair Challenge experience, about how it “taught me a lesson that when you put in hard work and effort, it’s possible for good results to happen”. The song wasn’t even finished before Ryan whispered to Simon: “You’ve got to keep her.” Randy added: “That was fantastic, it really shows who can be a star. Stars rise to the occasion.”
Dermot was stunned by what had happened, commenting: “When you said, ‘I’m doing an original’, I was looking around and thinking,’ there’s so many great songwriters, I hope this goes well’.”
“I was looking at Diane Warren like, ‘oh my gosh’,” Shan replied.
Maria Laroco – Sadly, Maria was unable to join the Girls in Malibu after issues arose with her visa. However, unlike previous years, when such circumstances forced acts to leave the show, Maria was allowed to compete via a video recorded in London. “Hey Simon, thank you so much for the opportunity you have given me,” she introduced herself. “I don’t want this to be my last performance, so please, please, please, pick me.” The Filipino teenager sang ‘California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas. “I feel really bad for her, because she would have thrived in this atmosphere,” sighed Simon.
Bella Penfold – Bella had a weight on her shoulders; having earned Simon’s Golden X safe seat at the Six Chair Challenge, she knew she needed to “better that last performance”. Although acknowledging she’s “no Drake or Kanye”, she again demonstrated her rapping skills by covering Macklemore and Mary Lambert’s ‘Same Love’ – a song so important to her that she got it tattooed on her neck just days beforehand. “She’s got a great vibe about her, and she’s authentic,” noted Paula. “I love that she’s edgy, and kind of wild,” praised Randy. “She wants to say something, I could work with her,” added Diane.
Scarlett Lee – Last to appear was Scarlett, who was even more appreciative of her place at Judges’ Houses, having narrowly missed out last year. She couldn’t resist a cheeky dig at Simon while taking the stage, joking: “I can’t believe I’m here… finally!” The 20-year-old says it took “a hell of a lot of courage” to enter the talent contest a second time – and it took even more for her to perform Whitney Houston’s ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ in front of its writer, Diane. The risk paid off, with the Golden Globe winner led a standing ovation. “You would be an awful person to not put her through,” smirked Ryan. “Her voice is ridiculous,” proclaimed Randy.
As she rejoined her fellow hopefuls, Scarlett said: “That’s the moment I’ve always wanted.”
With the performances over, Simon again addressed the party, optimistically asking: “Let’s do it again every year, please!”
Giving his take on the night, Ryan said: “It was exceptional. I didn’t know what to expect, I had never seen any of these contestants before.
“They were nervous, but when they stepped in to their songs you could tell they were meant to do this.”
Meanwhile, former X Factor winner Leona went to talk to the Girls. “You guys have got this, you’re all amazing, you’ve got such good voices,” she complimented.
“This is a sick joke, you’re Leona Lewis!” laughed Bella.
Diane, Paula and Randy hung around after the bash to further help Simon pick his final four – and soon it was time to deliver the verdict.
The next day, Simon sat down with the Girls one at a time to reveal their fates.
He told Shan the “slightly negative” thing is that she’s “almost afraid” to show the real her – but she would have the chance to do so on the live shows.
“You’re better than even you know. I’m thrilled to give you this opportunity,” he said.
Molly acknowledged her performance earlier would have been better had she not been “as nervous” – but Simon also put her through, thanks to her “real determination”.
Next, Simon called London to speak to Maria, and for her it was bad news. “You didn’t make it. I hate telling you this in this manner,” he mused.
The media mogul did give her a small glimmer of hope, adding: “I’m not just saying this, you have to come back again. Promise me you’ll come back.”
“I do promise,” insisted an emotional Maria.
Scarlett followed, and she finally heard the words she has waited over a year for. “I’ve never seen Diane Warren cry in my life!” smirked Simon. “I don’t wanna put you through this again. I really want you to join me in the finals.”
“I can’t believe this is happening to me,” she reacted through tears.
However, it was the end of the road for Georgia. “You didn’t do anything wrong, you did nothing wrong,” Simon told her. “It’s simply a gut feeling, it’s not your year.”
She took the news well, responding: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for letting me have this opportunity. It really has been amazing.”
That meant for Bella – who says she scaled back her dreams because no-one believed in her – those dreams would finally be coming true.
“You are in the finals,” Simon revealed. “There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt. I believe in you, I really like you. You’re special.”
Moments later, she told Dermot: “I still can’t believe I’ve went and gone and done it!”
Therefore, the four Girls in this year’s live shows are Bella, Molly, Scarlett and Shan.
ROBBIE WILLIAMS AND THE GROUPS
After touching down in LA and enjoying a spot of sightseeing, the groups were whisked away to a sprawling pad owned by Robbie himself.
The ‘Angels’ singer challenged them to a tennis tournament and laid on a barbecue feast – while his wife and rival judge Ayda Williams dropped by to offer the acts good luck.
Soon the fun came to an end and it was down to business. “This is a level playing field, anybody and everybody has a chance of going through,” he said.
“Be magnificent, because you were all born to be magnificent.”
Performance day began with the hopefuls meeting their guest mentor David – who emerged in leather hotpants with a sort-of Take That tribute group.
“I always thought you were a bit of a Jason,” claimed Robbie.
“No, I’m you cause I’m the show-off,” David replied. “Look, I’ve already gone solo!”
LMA Choir – Led by their choirmaster Stephanie, LMA faced the challenge of going first, admitting they found it “nervewracking” to be just one performance away from a place in the live shows. “What a better platform to show your talent and show the world what you can do,” said Stephanie, explaining why they entered The X Factor. “Britain’s Got Talent?” quipped David. After their rendition of James Bay’s ‘Hold Back The River’, Robbie said they “nearly brought a tear” to his eye. “A lot of your appeal is gonna be in the song choices, and that was a very original choice,” observed David.
Once they were out of earshot, the funnyman continued: “It’s an unusual one for The X Factor, a choir – it’s never been done before. The problem you have is that the audience don’t particularly connect to them… it’s not quite the same as rooting for one person.”
Robbie echoed those thoughts as he delivered his verdict the next day, claiming it would be a “risk” for fifteen people to appear together to the live shows – but he chose to take that risk and put them through. “What a pleasure to be able to put you through,” he smiled. “I’m just absolutely overwhelmed,” said Stephanie through happy tears.
A Star – They may be the youngest act in the competition, and they may have been put together after failed solo auditions, but Aaliyah and Acacia proved they’re a force to be reckoned with when Robbie gave them his Golden X at the Six Chair Challenge. “We’ve been working so hard for this performance today,” said Aaliyah. “I wanna make sure that we do each other proud.” The teenagers mashed up Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life’ with Stormzy’s ‘Big For Your Boots’. “Something remarkable just happened, it showed me exactly who you are,” Robbie reacted. “You really popped.”
Acacia spoke of how they’d “dreamed” of making the live shows – and despite some slight reservations about their age, Robbie made their dreams come true by giving them a yes. After getting the good news, their elated mums ran over for hugs.
Panda and Burgandy – Originally soloists who were sent home by Ayda, Panda and Burgandy only made it to Judges’ Houses after Robbie offered them the option of joining forces and transferring to his category. “Today we are going to prove to him that he made a very good decision,” vowed Panda. The newly-formed duo belted out ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, but while Robbie said it was a “great audition”, David wasn’t quite convinced they work together. “There’s still a slight sense that it’s two great vocalists together rather than a group,” he commented.
On results day, Robbie told the pair they’re “infectious, in the best way possible” – but agreed that they weren’t gelling together and decided to send them home. Although Burgandy was devastated by her exit, she said the ITV talent contest is “still the best thing that’s ever happened” to her.
Vibe 5 – Vibe 5 is yet another group formed by the judges, but although they’d only been together for a very short time, the lads insist they have a “natural” connection. “We’re like brothers, we just get on so well,” said Jon Guelas, one of the boyband’s five members (hence the name). “Some brothers hate each other!” David helpfully retorted. Keeping it in the X Factor family, they covered James Arthur’s ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’. Robbie complimented their falsetto, but while David felt they have “the potential to be incredibly popular”, he mused: “I just worry that they don’t quite know who they are yet.”
The next day, Robbie told the band that, vocals aside, their act is a “bit of a shambles”. However, he also noted that there’s “a huge gap in the market” for them, and that he could already see defined roles – so it’s no surprise that he sent them to the live shows.
Sweet Sense – The last of this year’s manufactured groups, Sweet Sense emerged from the Girls category as Vibe 5 did from the Boys. Robbie gave them a warning, joking: “This is the start of your band, when you all like each other and get on with each other, so enjoy this moment!” David wondered when it “turns sour”, to which Robbie claimed: “First single.” The five-piece gave a nod to opposing mentor Louis by performing One Direction’s ‘History’. Robbie praised their “incredible voices”, but picked up on a flaw: “There was a bit of looking at each other nervously, which might be a problem.”
While Vibe 5 made it through, it was the end of the road for Sweet Sense. Although Robbie compared them to the Spice Girls, he felt their chemistry needed time to develop. It seems the band may be sticking together, as they said the rejection would only “make us work harder”.
Misunderstood – Duo Jeff and Stefan have stormed The X Factor with their ridiculously catchy original songs, but their success has been a long time coming, having tried to break the music industry for nine years. “We want to give it our all and let Robbie see that we’ve got this,” said Jeff. Sticking to their winning formula, they chose to sing ‘Girls In London’, another of their own tracks, “purely because the girls in London are sick”. Robbie branded it “incredible”, while David told them:”I like that you’re not trying to be anyone else, you’re just trying to be you, and that really counts for a lot.”
Robbie was perplexed that they’d failed to hit the big time after the best part of a decade together. However, he finally gave the pair the big break they’ve been looking for with a place in the lives. “To get that yes… words can’t even describe, we’re so grateful,” Stefan said.
Therefore, Robbie’s final four groups are LMA Choir, A Star, Vibe 5 and Misunderstood.
Louis Tomlinson and the Boys
With two categories down, it was time for the Boys to face the music in the exotic hotspot of Ibiza.
After meeting them on the beach, Louis took the lads buggy racing, with Armstrong declaring him and Dalton the worst drivers.
Later they enjoyed dinner at a fancy restaurant, where Louis gave them a pep talk for the battle ahead.
“Naturally this situation is intimidating,” he said. “I think the most important thing is just, you’re proud and you’ve left nothing.”
“Tomorrow’s a big day, just try not to think about it too much and give it everything.”
Before the performances began, Louis introduced them to his two guest judges, Nile and Liam – “a legend and an old friend of mine”.
“I couldn’t be happier with the two guest judges,” grinned Brendan. “This feels real now.”
Dalton Andre Harris – Dalton has already been on a huge journey on The X Factor, sharing stories of his upbringing in Jamaica and how he’s been on his own since his teenage years, and he hopes that journey will continue. “It just has to go right,” he said. “There’s no option. It has to.” He performed the Dreamgirls song ‘Listen’, because of its message: “Stop talking, listen to me now, this is my time to pursue my dreams”. Louis said: “What was so incredible, aside from the unbelievable vocal, was the whole story you told us.” Liam claimed: “I will never listen to that song the same way ever again.”
Armstrong Martins – Armstrong stunned the judges at his original audition, playing an acoustic rendition of the High School Musical song ‘Breaking Free’ – and he played a similar tactic at Judges’ Houses, admitting: “It is a gamble, but if you’re going to go all in, you might as well go all in.” That gamble was a stripped-back rendition of the Friends theme song, ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by The Rembrandts. “What you’ve just done should make you really really proud. Your song choice was clever,” remarked Louis. “I think you’ve got a fantastic voice, you get so lost within the moment of the song,” added Liam.
Once Armstrong had rejoined the other contestants, Louis quietly mused: “It might be a risk to take him to the live shows, there is a nerve factor there.”
Thomas Pound – Thomas has been an inimitable force in the competition so far, appearing as both himself and his drag alter ego Lady Frieda Wilde, and fighting to keep his seat at the Six Chair Challenge after almost being sent home. The Welshman has a message – “be different and be you” – which was certainly reflected in his performance: a thumping dance version of ‘One Night Only’. “Your unapologetic personality is so infectious,” beamed Louis. “His confidence is fantastic, I think that’s gonna carry him so far,” noted Liam.
J-Sol – Having fought back from the devastating loss of his mother to honour her wishes by entering The X Factor, J-Sol told Louis that he wants to make the live shows so he can “inspire people to carry on going”, proclaiming: “I’m ready to just give it everything.” For his performance, he chose to sing Rihanna’s ‘Love On The Brain’. “That to me, that song right there, is a great advert for the type of artist you could be. I think you did yourself proud,” complimented Louis. “He is somebody that really brings soul back,” observed Nile.
However, J told Dermot that he was dissatisfied with his effort: “I feel like I could have done better, but I gave it everything. My nerves just got the better of me.
Anthony Russell – Louis has already mentored Anthony through the personal troubles that forced him to leave last year’s series, and now he’s the mentor that has the power to put Anthony on the live shows. The Liverpool labourer sang ‘Scars’ by James Bay, but made a slight slip-up towards to the end. “I know you’re thinking about that one little note that just happened about 20 seconds ago, but that means nothing to me,” insisted Louis.
Nile was also unfazed, sharing one of his career memories. “I did a song with David Bowie, Let’s Dance, and he wanted to change it because he went out of tune,” he recalled. “I said ‘David, you don’t understand, one bad note can feel like raw emotion, and sometimes when we’re feeling emotion we can’t control what we do’. It’s fine, it’s cool.”
Brendan Murray – Brendan who fought back from a dodgy audition to secure his mentor’s Golden X at Six Chair. The former Hometown member and Eurovision entrant was very aware there would be no safety at Judges’ Houses, musing: “I’m gonna have to throw everything at them.” In his efforts to impress, Brendan took on a huge song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. “Really great, really great,” was Liam’s simple response. “That song is written by a dear friend,” noted Nile, in reference to Prince. “It was beautiful. I was holding back the tears, I was trying to be cool!”
After further discussions with Liam and Nile, it was soon time for Louis’ decision day, which host Dermot O’Leary described as “the worst day of The X Factor calendar”.
“It certainly feels like it,” agreed Louis.
First to hear their verdict was Dalton Andre Harris. Although worried about his “versatility”, Louis put him through to the live shows. “Is this real? You don’t know what you’re doing!” reacted an elated Dalton.
As he spoke to the next three acts, the One Direction star claimed: “The standard of singer is so, so high. In different years, all of you could have gone through.”
It was good news for Armstrong Martins, who smiled: “This is such an amazing moment. I can’t believe I’ve made it to the live shows.”
Brendan also made the cut, and promptly called his mum to let her know. “Congratulations, we’re so proud of you!” she beamed.
However, Louis concluded that he’s “not going to be able to take” Thomas Pound to the next stage. The Welshman was “absolutely gutted” to be out, sighing: “All I wanted was the live shows, but it is what it is.”
J-Sol’s instinct that he’d “messed up” his performance also proved to be true when he found out he’d been cut. “I feel like I let you down,” he mused. “Don’t be silly, you didn’t,” insisted Louis.
That meant that Anthony Russell bagged Louis’ fourth and final live show spot, a year after personal issues initially ended his X Factor dream. “Go on! I will not let you down, let’s do it lad!” exclaimed the Liverpudlian.
“I’ve been working my whole life for this! I feel like Rocky Balboa!”
Therefore, Louis’ final four Boys are Dalton Andre Harris, Armstrong Martins, Brendan Murray and Anthony Russell.
Ayda Williams and the Groups
Last but not least, it was time for the Overs to rise to the challenge – and that meant it was back to the Williams’ mansion in Beverly Hills, where Robbie had just picked his Groups.
This time, it was Ayda in charge, and she began by throwing her acts a lavish pool party, complete with the hashtag ‘#XF’ spelled out in balloons.
Referring to her hit with Livin’ Joy, Janice grinned: “I am a Dreamer, but this is beyond a dream, honey! This is a dream I wasn’t even dreaming!”
Soon, the hopefuls were introduced to Ayda’s two special guests, whom she says “represent the very best” of TV talent shows.
She welcomed Leona Lewis, the winner of The X Factor’s third series, and Adam Lambert, one of American Idol’s biggest success stories.
“We went through the same thing, we know how it feels,” commented Leona.
“Everything from here on out is going to change your life on some level,” added Adam.
Olatunji Yearwood – Those life-changing performances kicked off with Ola, who spoke of the “superb” support he’s had in his home nation of Trinidad and Tobago. “I’ve never felt like this ever in my life,” he gushed. Ola brought the Calypso vibes to Judges’ Houses with an original track, which was helpfully named ‘Ola’. “You have a way that is completely your own, it is magic and electric. Every time I see you, you make me smile,” reviewed Ayda. “He’s definitely a born performer,” noted Adam.
Delivering her verdict the next day, Ayda told Ola she loves him for bringing a “completely different style of music” to the ITV talent contest – and now he’d be bringing that style to the live shows. “Thanks for the opportunity. I’m gonna make my family proud, my country proud, you proud,” he pledged.
Janice Robinson – Although she’s much-loved thanks to her 90s anthem, Janice now hopes the X Factor can help her establish her own identity. “I’ve got all those people that have loved my songs, and I want to come back and show them who I am,” she explained. Appropriately, she performed a song she wrote herself, entitled ‘Love Is In The Atmosphere’. “I just sat there, and was like, ‘wow’,” gasped Adam. “I’m so happy that I’ve got to know the woman behind that voice,” smiled Leona. “You have a spirit and a force that is so remarkable,” added Ayda.
Ayda did question whether it was fair that someone who’d already cracked the charts should take precedence over someone looking for their first break. However, in the end, she told Janice: “It was always gonna be a yes.” The dancefloor diva began crying while livin’ her joy. “Thank you so much,” she sniffed.
Ricky John – Ricky was the lucky contestant that got Ayda’s Golden X at the Six Chair Challenge, and it clearly renewed his determination to reach the live shows. “I never really envisioned making it this far. I didn’t come all of this way to go home now,” he vowed. For his Judges’ Houses audition, he sang ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ by Percy Sledge – but as soon as it ended, he declared: “I’m not very happy with that.” Adam offered some words of encouragement: “I feel like you have a really cool tone, and I feel like you have a lot of emotion and story and experience.”
Once he’d left to share his woes with Dermot, Ayda commented: “I really like him but every audition we’ve had, there’s been self-doubt.”
Those concerns played on her mind, and she eventually opted to send him home – making him the only Golden X recipient to miss out on the live shows. A visibly saddened Ricky replied: “It’s fine, don’t worry. Thank you for having me.”
Louise Setara – Looking to resurrect her forgotten musical ambitions following the loss of her husband, Louise was also desperate to go further in the competition, proclaiming: “I want this opportunity to work out for me so much that it actually frightens me.” The mum-of two coverered Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Piece By Piece’, and its lyrics hit home towards the end when she burst in to tears. “That song scares the life out of me,” she admitted. “I used to sing ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ and it always reminded me of my Mum and my Dad, and I got so emotional, so I know how it feels,” sympathised Leona.
Unfortunately, Louise’s breakdown worked against her. Noting that emotions “got the better” of her, Ayda chose to say goodbye to Louise – a decision that she hinted would end her dream. “This, for me, I think was a last-crack-of-the-whip kind of thing,” she admitted.
Giovanni Spano – Wannabe rockstar Gio had been “working my whole entire life” for his moment at Judges’ Houses. “I perform in the West End, I have a great time and I love it, but I’m a little bit tired of playing a character. I wanna be Gio,” he told the judges, before performing Kings of Leon hit ‘Use Somebody’. “He’s got so much energy,” witnessed Leona. “He’s really eager to go for it,” noted Adam. Happy with his effort, Gio told Dermot: “I can feel it. I’m reaching, I’m reaching for those live shows.”
On decision day, however, Ayda told Gio that he’s “very one-level” and lacks “light and shade”. Despite reservations that he might not connect with viewers, Ayda took the chance and put him through. “You will not regret it. I’m gonna bring glam, I’m gonna bring fun, I’m gonna bring everything,” he grinned.
Danny Tetley – As a Benidorm entertainer, Danny’s used to the spotlight – and in reaching Judges’ Houses, he was just one step away from reaching his biggest audience yet by performing to millions of viewers on The X Factor live shows. “This kind of thing does not happen to me, a boy from Bradford. That’s why it’s all so surreal,” he said. His rendition of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ wowed the panel. “I think the thing that I loved about it is that you’re in full control of what you’re doing,” Adam explained.
Hours later, Ayda gave Danny the good news that he had indeed made the live finals – almost two decades after he originally failed to convince Simon Cowell on the very first Pop Idol. “Simon got it so wrong seventeen years ago!” she smirked. “Thank you so much, I can’t believe it!” he replied.
Therefore, Ayda’s final four Overs are Olatunji Yearwood, Janice Robinson, Giovanni Spano and Danny Tetley.
The X Factor goes live from Saturday 20 October with the live final airing in December