“The X Factor UK” debuted the season 15 live show premiere this week in the U.S. on AXS TV. Judges Simon Cowell, Louis Tomlinson, and Ayda and Robbie Williams each brought four acts through from the Judges’ Houses round. The 16 hopefuls all bring something different to the table. However, at the end of the two-hour live kickoff, four acts dug down deep to dazzle and steal the show.
The Acts Showcased a “This Is Me” Theme
The first round of live competition boasted a “This Is Me” theme which was intended to show what type of artist each act could potentially be. Misunderstood had the honor of kicking off the night with a fun, energetic original song called “Chewing Gum.” Overall, it worked to get the crowd going and this duo seems poised for stardom, win or lose. But, they were just the first act and the true stunners were yet to hit the stage.
Several Solid Performances Follow the Opener
Comeback kid Anthony Russell delivered a solid performance of his original 2017 audition song “Issues,” by Julia Michaels. Louis was beaming at his friend and protégé at the end of the performance, though Simon wished he wouldn’t jump around so much. In the spirit of “being who you are,” we don’t really mind Anthony’s movement – and neither does Louis, who was really proud of the “moment” his lad delivered.
Overs contender Danny Tetley was plagued by technical difficulties at the start of his “Hero” cover. But, in professional form, he asked to start over and it was smooth sailing the second time around. It’s easy to root for Danny to do well because his genuine emotion and passion for music swells through him with every song. Ayda was enamored by his performance and the crowd delivered thunderous applause.
Girls act Molly Scott worked on her song without her mentor, Simon Cowell, as he was still in America while live shows were being prepped. He did encourage her via phone, though, and she smashed a cover of BTS’ huge hit “Fake Love.” Robbie Williams called her an “out of the box pop star” and he’s probably right. It was a tough song to crack but Molly did it in stride.
Janice Robinson is the oldest contender this season, being 50. She has exceptional vocal talent and her comeback career story is inspirational. That said, something lacked her delivery of “Clarity.” Song choice, as they say, “is everything” and it seems like this one didn’t totally suit her.
Similarly, Brendan Murray’s spin on “Break Free” by Ariana Grande didn’t really fit his vocals either. He has an instantly recognizable tone – which is fantastic. But, his take on this song was underwhelming. Louis was happy with it, though and he’s a nice kid – we hope he stays in the competition a while.
A Star Breaks Through with Bella Penfold
As for our four standouts, Bella Penfold was the first of them with her amazing delivery of Labrinth and Emeli Sande’s collab hit “Beneath Your Beautiful.” Her original rap blended into the song was infectious, and her vocals were spot on. She oozes star potential and should ultimately do well is the competition. Both Robbie and Ayda thought Bella seemed more focused and in tune with her artistic identity. Ayda called her “modern” and “funky” and Louis thought her song choice was “brilliant.”
A Risk and a Rocker and Some Groups
Boys contender Armstrong Martins did an original rap-infused take on “The Story of My Life” by One Direction. Louis was obviously pleased with his song choice. However, the performance was all over the place and pitchy in spots. Still, Armstrong deserves props for singing a 1D song in front of one of its members in front of all those people.
Giovanni Spano knows exactly who he is – an aspiring rock star. It was interesting to find out he’s starring in “Bat Out of Hell” in London’s West End. He could easily be a Meatloaf mini-me. He brought the house down with his rendition of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” His powerful rock voice exploded across the stage – however, it seemed a bit too theatrical and he could stand reigning it in some moving forward.
The newly-formed United Vibe kicked off the lives with a new name (previously Vibe 5). They did a solid job with Niall Horan’s hit solo single “Slow Hands.” However, these guys still haven’t totally “meshed” yet as an act – and Louis noticed it, asking for a little more chemistry.
LMA Choir did a wonderful job with “Circle of Life” and they should be proud of themselves as the first-ever choir on the live shows. That said, we’re not sure how long they’ll stay in the fight.
Acacia and Aaliyah also changed their name from “A Star” and delivered a pretty good rendition of “Finesse” by Bruno Mars and Cardi B. However, the performance didn’t pack the punch we’ve seen from this duo before. At just 14 and 15, these girls still deserve huge, mad props for bringing the swagger.
It’s impossible not to smile when Olatunji Yearwood hits the stage with his dance-infused original songs. This week proved no exception and we’re glad to see his unique energy in the show this season.
Shan, Scarlett and Dalton Stun
Of all the contenders, Shan Ako, Scarlett Lee and Dalton Harris delivered the most stunning vocal performances. Among them, Shan sang a breathtaking rendition of John Lennon's peace anthem “Imagine,” notably a cappella. Her Judges’ Houses original song was also a knockout. Shan is our pick for best performance of the night and she is one to watch moving forward.
Scarlett seized her comeback opportunity and slayed her cover of “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin. She’s got a huge voice and a sparkling personality, and we can tell she’s not playing – she’s in it to win it.
Finally, Boys contender Dalton Harris closed out the night with a vulnerable, emotive performance of David Bowie’s iconic song “Life on Mars.” He became visibly emotional at the thunderous audience response and the judges’ praise. Of the male contenders, Dalton may have thrown down his gauntlet as the one to beat.
“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. Get involved in the broadcast using #UKintheUSA on social media.