Carlos Guevara, a 16-year-old with Tourette syndrome, provided the emotional high point of The X Factor on Wednesday with a version of “Gravity” by John Mayer that the judges deemed a true force of nature.
The South Carolina teen – a former football player and student body vice president who had to leave school briefly because of his neurological disorder, which he says “affects my life every day” – tried “every medicine in the book, and the only thing that helped was music,” he said.
Demi Lovato said Guevara had a “beautiful voice and soul,” and his friends rushed the stage when the judges sent him to the next round unanimously.
“This is amazing,” Guevara said. “This doesn’t happen to people.”
Another surprising teen standout was Danie Geimer, 15, a bookish, bespectacled California girl who said she loved to read about neuroscience and then shocked the judges with a rousing version of “House of the Rising Sun.” The performance caused Kelly Rowland to exclaim, “Miss Thang, you are it!”
Meanwhile, Detroit rocker Jeff Gutt, 37, who made it to The X Factor boot camp last season before being cut, returned for redemption.
Although Simon Cowell said Gutt turned in “one of the most brilliant auditions I heard last year,” he wasn’t initially impressed this year with the singer’s version of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith.
Gutt, who said he lives from “gig to gig” and that life as a musician with a young son is hard, added, “I don’t know how many last chances you get in life.”
Cowell gave him one, though, and Gutt blew the judges away with a second song, “Creep” by Radiohead. “Jeff, you are the one that got away last year,” Cowell said. “You’re not getting away this year.”
The next round of The X Factor auditions airs Thursday on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.