Simon Cowell delivered some big surprises this week on “The X Factor UK” in the first round of season 15 Judges' Houses, in which he brought his talented Girls team to his house in Malibu, California. The super-exciting installment (which aired here in the U.S. on AXS TV) was arguably one of the best episodes in series history. So, we thought we’d make a list of seven standout moments for Simon and the Girls.
1. The contenders sang for Simon at a star-studded backyard showcase
Talk about pulling out all the stops! Simon’s girls had no idea they would be singing for a place in the live shows in front of a pack of some of the biggest artists, songwriters, and producers in the music industry. Tables were set up in front of a stage on the lawn and some of the famous “audience” members included Paul Anka, Babyface, Leona Lewis, Diane Warren, Adam Lambert, Randy Jackson, Paul Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and many, many more. It was incredible and such a fantastic idea and introducing the girls to the host of celebrity guests was such an exciting way to kick off the intense round of the competition. Good job, Simon!
2. We were treated to an “American Idol” reunion
Simon, Randy, Paula and Ryan all sat together at one table. Call us sentimental, but, it was so cool to see the original “Idol” alum hanging out together watching a new batch of aspiring singers. Someone joked it was like having a Beatles reunion and nine-time Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren couldn’t resist asking who was John, Paul, George and Ringo in the group. When the performances were over, Simon, Randy, Paula and Diane huddled together to decide the girls’ fates.
3. Instead of cracking under the pressure, all the girls crushed their performances
Making this point might not be addressing an individual standout moment. It’s more of a collective observation. We can’t even imagine the level of pressure “The X Factor UK” contenders feel at this stage of the game. They’ve flown across The Pond. They’re hanging out at a Malibu mansion with one of the biggest music moguls on the planet (who even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) and they find out they’re not just performing for him, but a yard full of industry heavyweights. All the girls rose to the occasion and smashed it. It was impossible not to wonder how they would ever decide who to send home. This episode, and these performances, in general, reminded us it's still important for everyone to follow their dreams
4. Shan’s original song “Get Back” was so uplifting
Shan has experience as a backup singer and is looking for her time in the spotlight. She took a huge risk singing an original song called “Get Back.” It was about working hard, fighting for your dreams and getting back what you put into the journey. It was amazing to see all these huge industry people getting into the song and feeling it. Plus, she delivered it like a headlining diva. It was a joyous, feel-good, inspiring moment. Both Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest immediately recognized her star potential – and probably everyone else on the lawn. Well done, Shan!
5. Scarlett’s performance made Diane Warren cry
Diane Warren has written or co-written songs that have been recorded and performed by some of the biggest artists in music history. One of her most breathtaking examples is “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” which she co-wrote with the late, great Whitney Houston for Houston’s seventh studio album “I Look to You.” The song is such a vulnerable, emotional, and powerful song and comeback contender Scarlett Lee closed out the night with an absolutely stunning rendition of the song. Warren was enthralled, watching her, singing along and toward the end, she cried. She cried. And Simon looked to be on the verge of tears himself. The entire audience leapt to their feet in applause and it was impossible not to cry watching the moment play out – especially when Scarlett started to cry herself. One seat for the live shows had to be filled – shoe-in, hands-down – and it seems even more special, given that Scarlett is making a comeback after being eliminated last season.
6. Bella Penfod served up a smile-inducing “Same Love”
None of us will soon forget Bella Penfold falling to her knees when Simon pushed his Golden X for her at the Six Chair Challenge. She has so much nervous, bubbly energy and it’s contagious. She couldn’t have picked a better song to sing than “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert. The song has such an important message and Bella really connected with it. It was definitely a standout performance of the night.
7. Simon saved the best surprise for last
Speaking of Bella Penfold, Simon saved a huge surprise for last. When Bella sat down with him to hear his decision, he told her he had already given yeses to three girls (Molly Scott - who did an amazing rendition of BTS hit "Fake Love," Shan and Scarlett Lee). Naturally, Bella thought her journey was going to end, as three acts typically go through to the live shows. But, Simon grinned and told her he was taking four girls and she was one of them. She cried tears of joyous shock and then went running for dear sweet Dermot, who is always there waiting to hug everyone through good and bad news. Yay for Bella and well done, Simon!
Unfortunately, Maria Laroco and Georgia Burgess were eliminated. But, overall, Simon’s Judges’ Houses round with the girls was an exciting, refreshing change of pace. Well done, Simon! Well done, Girls!
“The X Factor UK” airs in the U.S. on Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on AXS TV. Weigh in on the U.S. broadcast using #UKintheUSA