“The X Factor UK” aired the fifth round of season 15 auditions on Sept. 16 in the U.S. on AXS TV. The hopefuls delivered several standout performances, with some of them being memorable for the wrong reason. Among the talented contenders, though, was returning singer Tom Richards who notably competed eight years ago when “X Factor” judge Louis Tomlinson competed and was later made part of One Direction.
Louis remembered Tom right away and their reunion in conjunction with his performance was one of the most intense auditions of the night.
Three ‘Confident’ singers get mixed reactions
Last night kicked off with three very different male singers who all injected confidence into their auditions and got very different reactions from the AGT judges. Richard Ryan tugged on everyone’s heartstrings when he told the judges he wanted to make his Nan Pat proud. Even Dermot O’Leary couldn’t resist a soft panged expression as he stood with Nan Pat backstage and watched Richard perform.
No one quite expected the high falsetto and revved up energy Richard brought to his rendition of “I believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. In fact, Simon Cowell didn’t care for it all while Robbie Williams brought a huge smile when he confessed, “Straddling the line between cocky and over-confident is something that I've struggled with, but I believe you managed it excellently." Richard was thrilled to get three yeses and move to the next round.
Next up was rock enthusiast Giovanni Spano who hit the stage ready to engage the crowd. They didn’t want to join in on his audition party and it was awkward. He definitely looked the part with his rock-star, hair-flipping attitude. But, Simon stopped his “Gimme Some Lovin’” performance and asked him to sing his second song, which was “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls and he smashed it. Although, his performance did drip with a little too much rock star brand cheese. Ayda encouraged him to work on his “bad habits” and Simon surprisingly supported him. So, he got three yeses.
Scott Wilkes was the last “over-confident” guy to hit the stage as a necklace-wearing, shirt-opened, self-professed ladies man. His rendition of Me and Mrs. Jones was already cringe-worthy. But then, when he asked the audience who wanted to see him take off his shirt – and NO ONE responded and he took it off ANYWAY, it was painful to watch. Robbie was blunt in his observation, telling him "You need to knock up a bit of humility, or else your talent will go missing, cause nobody's gonna like you.” Robbie was right and Scott was sent home.
Armstrong Martins makes a bold mark
After such a bizarre trio of auditions, it was refreshing to see Armstrong Martins hit the stage with his guitar and a very humble persona. He told Simon he was there with his pastor and sang a lot at church. Then he blew everyone away when he performed a stunning acoustic rendition of “Breaking Free” from High School Musical. This guy is the real deal. His performance was full of emotive vulnerability and everyone loved it, particularly Simon who said, “I think you’re the one I’m gonna remember today.” He’s right. Armstrong Martins is reminiscent of last season’s suave French contender Kevin Davy White, who finished in third place. It will be fun to watch Armstrong’s journey from here.
2 girls and a choir deliver
Choirs are rarely featured on “The X Factor UK,” though several have graced Simon Cowell’s American show, “America’s Got Talent” this season. LMA Choir is comprised of members aged 19 to 40 and is based in Liverpool. They performed a sparkling rendition of “This Is Us” from “The Greatest Showman” and all the judges loved it. Louis said the choir’s chemistry is “infectious” and Simon noted it wasn’t perfect but told them their joy made it work and they “brought an energy to the show that we need.” They received a unanimous vote to the next round.
As one of two female singers in this installment, Georgia Burgess may arguably be one of the best female singers so far this season. She could arguably even win the title, given the strength and passion she poured into her “Who’s Lovin’ You” performance. Louis was possibly the most impressed by Georgia as he told her, “"The power you have is too much for my brain to comprehend. Out of everybody that we've seen, I'm gonna say it, that was my favorite. Great, great vocals." She’s sailing through to the next round.
Filipino singer Sephy Francisco followed and delivered a shocking two-tone rendition of “The Prayer” in which she sang Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s parts in totally different vocal tones and styles. Simon probably couldn’t believe his own ears by the surprised look on his face but he loved the performance telling her, “"I've never judged a duo who's one person, this is incredible! I save money, you make more money! I loved that!
Ricky John and a comeback closer
Ricky John is a proud father whose life was admittedly changed by his girlfriend and their daughters. He was previously homeless he met his girl and they formed their family. He delivered an incredibly soulful rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come” and it was obvious the song carries deep personal meaning for him because it flowed out of somewhere deep in his soul. We’re thrilled he earned four yeses and will move to the next round.
By now we know the show will close on a dramatic note and this episode brought a big one as returning contender Tom Richards stood before the “X Factor” judges for another chance. Louis immediately remembered him as a fellow contender when he competed in 2010 and One Direction was formed. Only 16 back then, Tom didn’t make it through.
He started this audition with a mediocre rendition of James Bay’s bluesy hit ballad “Let It Go.” Simon stopped him said, “Everything about this I didn’t like.” Fortunately, he was given a chance to sing “Skin” as a second song. Simon was still unimpressed saying, “I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with you.”
The Williams’ said yes and it fell on Louis to cast the deciding vote. He visibly struggled with the decision and stressed to Tom, “If you get this chance, one you’ve got to take note of is how to really be original.” Then he finally blurted, “Look, Tom, I wanna give you a yes” which sealed Tom’s trip to the next round. Where he takes it from here and whether he follows Louis’ sage advice is up to him.
“The X Factor UK” airs on Sunday and Mondays in the U.S. at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on AXS TV.