The X Factor 2018 judges encountered a bearded drag queen, two former Eurovision contestants and a cat-loving student tonight as end of the arena auditions approaches.
The latest episode featured the penultimate round of try-outs, and it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
There was hilarity when a former contestant from the American version of the ITV talent contest turned up to give Simon Cowell another piece of her Panda pie.
A self-described ‘glamonster’ then left Robbie Williams “deliciously confused” with two wildly different singing voices.
Meanwhile, Ayda Williams and Louis Tomlinson were moved by one hopeful’s painful story in the most touching moment of the series so far.
Read on for our rundown of the all-important results…
Sammi Shepherd (4 nos) – Sammi sings all over the country for her supper, but when it came to The X Factor, her performance of Rag’n’Bone Man’s ‘Human’ sounded rather out of tune. “No doubt we and the whole room really like you as a person, but singing’s not your thing,” Robbie commented. “Well I do it for a living, so…” Sammi hit back. It was a resounding no from the panel, but at least she got to live her ambition of shouting: “Good evening Wembley!”
Cezar Ouatu (4 yeses) – Fans of the Eurovision Song Contest were already very aware of Cezar’s operatic voice: he represented Romania in the 2013 event with opera-dubstep mashup ‘It’s My Life’. Five years after finishing in a not-too-shabby 13th place, he is now giving The X Factor a shot, stunning the judges at his audition with ‘Nessun Dorma’. “Where you can go to vocally is impossible to comprehend,” commented Louis. “You brought tears to my eyes, bravo, bravo,” said Ayda. “You projected to us something very special, a great energy. You just nailed it,” added Simon.
Louise Setara (4 yeses) – As a teenager, Louise was on the cusp of stardom, having secured a record deal and made an album – but she happily gave it all up to start a family. Sadly, her marriage ended, and now she’s on her own, she’s decided it’s time to chase her dream once more. The 30-year-old did her two boys proud by singing an original song ‘A Moment Of Your Time’, about a conversation she once had with her ex-husband. “I just got completely lost in you, there’s so much emotion behind every word you say. I would like to spare many more moments with you,” gushed Ayda. “Your storytelling in the lyrics is simple but beautiful,” noted Louis. Simon also offered high praise, saying: “This is one of my favourite auditions, full stop.”
Claire Angel Bryan (4 yeses) – 35-year-old Claire has been a professional singer since her teens, but she’s also currently a carer for her mum, who managed to tag along for support. “Sickness couldn’t keep her away!” she joked. Rocking bright purple hair, Claire picked Sam Cooke’s ‘Change Is Gonna Come’ for her audition track, explaining that she “has been through so much in the last two years”, and there was an emotional moment at the end when she burst in to tears. “I don’t think we will see a technically better singer than you for the whole audition process,” said Robbie. “That point at the end when you were so emotional, that’s when we all felt it. I think you’re gonna inspire people,” predicted Simon.
Panda Ross (4 yeses) – Simon was astonished when Panda declared herself to be his “ex-baby mama” – but the second she revealed her name, he remembered exactly who she is. Panda auditioned for all three seasons of the US version of The X Factor, but she was turned away all three times; now she’s come across the pond to the UK version in order to settle her “unfinished business”. After Simon welcomed her with a hug, she belted out ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, perhaps singing directly to the media mogul himself.
“Panda, that was so good, I think you made Simon feel like a natural woman,” quipped Ayda. “Pandas are an endangered species, you’ve gotta protect the panda, and I think you are a panda worth protecting!” Branding the audition “pure magic”, Simon added: “I’ve always wanted you to have this moment, I will never forget that.”
Charlotte Lily (4 yeses) – Most X Factor contestants bring someone with them for support, but Charlotte had unusual company – her two pet cats, Tinkerbell and Izzy. Describing herself as a “student and full time cat mum”, she told how she takes them out in their prams while she’s busking. As if that wasn’t quirky enough, she opted to perform Village People’s ‘YMCA’ on her guitar – but the odd choice was a hit, with the audience clapping along, and Robbie and Ayda doing the actions. “I actually like you because you’re wacky. No-one’s ever sang YMCA like that, it’s so strange… but it means we’re gonna remember you,” remarked Simon. “You’re original, and that’s what we need,” said Robbie.
Gaia Cauchi (4 yeses) – Gaia is also known for her involvement in Eurovision: in 2013, she won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for her home nation Malta at just 11 years old. Despite her age, she has always wanted to apply for The X Factor – and, now 15, she feels it’s the right time to give it a shot. However, Robbie wasn’t quite sure: although Gaia’s performance of Paloma Faith’s ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ had him describing her as “charismatic”, he felt she may still be a bit too young. “I think you should have a go at being in a group,” the ‘Candy’ singer suggested. “You are an incredible, incredible singer, there’s no doubt about it. I think you have huge potential,” said Ayda. Nonetheless, Gaia received four yeses.
Gingzilla (4 yeses) – The judges had no idea what to expect when 7ft bearded drag queen Gingzilla took to the stage, with Robbie describing himself as “deliciously confused”. “I’m gonna be so different that you won’t even know what’s hit you babe,” she promised. The Australian ‘glamonster’ – already a successful performance artist – delivered a surprising take on the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, which she sang in two wildly different tones of voice. “That was incredible, and the next time I do a swing album, will you duet with me doing that version?” asked Robbie. “I loved every single mad moment of that,” smiled Ayda. Gingzilla left with not just a full house from the panel, but a resounding ‘yes’ from the thousands-strong audience.
J Sol (4 yeses) – J Sol has a touching reason for entering The X Factor: the 25-year-old was repeatedly encouraged to do so by his mother, but he refused, “terrified” by the prospect. However, she suddenly passed away in 2015, leaving him feeling like “99% of me died as well”. Three years later, he’s finally worked up the courage to honour her wishes. For his audition, he performed original track ‘Bullet In My Heart’ – the only song he wrote in the year of her death.
The touching performance was met with roaring applause from the crowd, while Louis – who lost his own mum in 2016 – went on stage to hug J. “That is the power of music, that you can write such a beautiful song that’s touched us all on this panel,” he said. “It was moving. You’re a legend for what you’ve just done.” Ayda also shared her own memories. “In 2014, I lost my father very unexpectedly, and I’ll never forget how the world swallowed me up on that day,” she explained. “I want to thank you, because that is a beautiful, powerful song. I know your mum would be really proud of you.”
The X Factor 2018 continues tomorrow night at 8.00pm on ITV with the last of this year’s arena auditions.
The competition then heats up next weekend when the Six Chair Challenge returns with a brand new ‘Golden X’ twist.