A new feud is brewing on The X Factor.
It’s week two of Simon Cowell‘s new show – and auditions continued on Wednesday in Chicago, where Cheryl Cole returned for her last stint on the judges’ panel (sniff, sniff), before returning to Seattle, where her replacement, Nicole Scherzinger, sparred in the most delightful way with her boss.
The two-hour episode had its high notes – Drew Ryniewicz, 14, sang “Baby” by Justin Beiber better than the pop star himself; lovesick duo Makenna & Brock performed “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band; and Skyelor Anderson wowed the judges with “Must Be Doing Something Right” by Billy Currington, despite the audio track cutting out in the middle of his performance. Still, it was the sparks on the judges’ panel that provided the most entertaining moments of the night.
When Ivana Steelman, 20, took the stage to sing “Big Spender” like a sex kitten, Simon told her, “You remind me of Nicole. I think this is exactly what I would have seen with Nicole if she’d have been 20, auditioning for this show for the first time.”
Nicole did not look happy. “That’s funny,” she said. “I was on a show called Popstars and I actually sang Whitney Houston, ‘I Will Always Love You,’ ” she told him, before belting out the chorus of the iconic song. (Watch a clip above.)
The next audition was Tiah Tolliver, 19, who delivered an acoustic version of “Impossible” by Shontelle.
“I’ve got a real feeling about this girl,” Simon said. “This girl has got something in her. This girl potentially is great.”
But Nicole was not convinced. “You change keys a lot,” she told Tiah. “That’s why we’re looking for you to have a track or something to sing with so you can stay on key.”
Simon’s response: “If you can’t see this, you’re deaf.”
“Simon, I don’t know what you’re telling me, because it ain’t making no sense,” Nicole said. “We trying to help her out because the audition she just gave me is not convincing me … I’m going to have to pass. I’m sorry.”
When Paula sided with Nicole, Simon threw a fit, tossing a cup to the floor. “This is insane,” he said. “You two are not giving this girl a chance.”
Tiah was allowed to sing once more, performing Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” once again without a track. She impressed the audience enough that when Simon told Nicole, “I’m begging you,” she obliged him.
“I need you to work on your vocals,” she told the singer. “I’m going to give you a chance and say yes.”