The X Factor got down with Motown Wednesday night as the Top 12 performed hits from the legendary record label.
Make that the Top 13: The live show kicked off with a surprise, as Josh Levi, who was eliminated from the Boys team by mentor Paulina Rubio last week, was invited back as a wild card.
Levi, 15, sang “Who’s Loving You” by the Jackson 5, and earned raves from the judges, including Simon Cowell who said, “You went from zero to hero.”
Nashville bartender Rachel Potter, 29, part of Kelly Rowland‘s Over 25s, put a country twist on “This Old Heart of Mine,” which earned a mixed review.
“I thought it was horrible,” Cowell said, while Rowland disagreed, calling it “wonderful.”
Carlos Guevara disappointed judges with “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, with Cowell saying that the 16-year-old must create “a moment” to be memorable to the voting audience.
Restless Road, the country group engineered by Groups mentor Cowell, sang “Easy” by the Commodores, which elicited squeals from the audience.
Rowland loved the group’s “tight harmony,” and Cowell said, “I really think you’ll be in the finals,” while Demi Lovato ribbed Simon for his group’s success, saying he knew what he was doing mostly because “you were pushin’ 30” in the 1960s.
Ellona Santiago, 17, a California high school senior who spent the week juggling rehearsals while taking her SATs, sang “Baby Love” by the Supremes. Her soaring vocals earned kudos from the panel. “You are a little powerhouse,” Rowland said.
Detroit rocker and single father Jeff Gutt, 37, was nervous to take on the songs of his hometown but gently rocked the Lionel Richie ballad “Say You, Say Me,” which prompted Rubio to hail it as wonderfully “unpredictable” and Cowell to call it “by a mile, the best vocal of the night.”
Boyfriend-girlfriend duo Alex & Sierra put a haunting, acoustic twist on the classic “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” a performance that Lovato termed “sexy and hot.”
Girls contestant Khaya Cohen, a 16-year-old New York high school student who wanted to prove her talent to her father, sang the Temptations’ “My Girl.” Cowell said it was “like listening to Amy Winehouse,” and mentor Lovato said, “Your voice could be the best in this competition.”
Boys contestant Carlito Olivero, the 24-year-old barista raised in Chicago, turned “Stop! In the Name of Love” into a soaring ballad that didn’t quite fly with the judges, including Cowell, who called it “girly” and “overly theatrical.”
Grandma of seven Lillie McCloud, 54, belted “All in Love Is Fair” by Stevie Wonder. Her performance earned cheers from the crowd and a rave from Cowell, whose praise prompted a surprise kiss on the lips from her mentor, Rowland.
The female trio Sweet Suspense turned “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” into an upbeat dance mix that prompted Cowell to say, “There’s something special about you.”
And 13-year-old Rion Paige tapped into her country roots to perform “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which Cowell liked but Rowland didn’t.
Tim Olstad, 24, the shy Minnesotan who Cowell called “a funeral director” last week, sang “I’ll Be There,” which Lovato described as “karaoke” and Rowland said sounded “watered down.” Cowell, however, liked it, saying, “I know who you are now. You’re Donny Osmond.”
The results show airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox.