It’s been a week full of emotional performances on The X Factor.
After South Carolina teen Carlos Guevara – a 16-year old with Tourette syndrome – wowed the judges Wednesday night with his version of “Gravity” by John Mayer, contestant Ashly Williams delivered another tear-jerker on Thursday’s show with her moving rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Williams, 24 – who was just 14 years old when her mother was murdered – dedicated the stunning performance to her deceased mother, whose birthday anniversary was just a few days after the audition.
The Los Angeles native, whose “dream is to sing,” said she wanted to make her mother proud. She brought the house down and earned a standing ovation from the audience and the judges – and even a rare thumbs up from Simon Cowell.
Kelly Rowland thanked Ashly for “spilling your heart out in that vocal,” and Paulina Rubio said she was “captivated” by her talent, while Demi Lovato said the performance gave her chills.”I can feel it in you,” she said. “I can feel that heart. There’s a place in the market for you.”
But Simon gave Ashly perhaps the biggest compliment of all, saying, “This is why we brought the show to America … to find somebody like you.” Then he told her she got “four thousand, three hundred and one yeses,” sending her through to the next round.
Another female standout from Thursday’s show was Ellona Santiago from San Lorenzo, Calif. The 16-year-old contestant sang “Wings” by Little Mix and although she appeared to be painfully shy when she first stepped on stage, Santiago made a complete 360 as soon as she started singing, working the stage with plenty of sass and attitude and even busting some serious dance moves.
“Who is this person?” asked a confused Kelly. “That’s what I love the most – whoever that girl was, she came out and she meant business,” she said.
Simon told Ellona, “You are the girl I think I want to work with most now in this competition,” before learning that he had actually sent her home once before when she auditioned back in season one as part of the group InTENsity. “The two year difference is unbelievably good for you,” he said. And Demi agreed: “You are exactly what this competiion is looking for.”
Then there was Stone Martin, a 14-year-old student from South Carolina who, prior to his audition, had only sung in front of at most six people. The girls went wild for Stone whenever he pointed at someone in the audience (and he did that a lot!). The judges were equally smitten.
“You’re so cute. You’re so charming. There’s something spacial about you,” gushed Demi. Paulina told him “your life is about to change forever” and Simon said he had incredible likability. “I think you’ve also got this kind of a star glow about you,” he said. ‘I really, really like you.”
The girls also went wild for Andrew Scholz, an 18-year-old athlete and high school senior from South Carolina. Although all three female judges initially voted “no” after he sang “Too Close,” Simon disagreed with all of them saying, “You’ve got charisma, which is part of The X Factor. He is somebody we’d be crazy to let go of at this point.”
Simon then asked the handsome singer to sing a more old school song and he chose a cover of “A Little More You.” The performance changed Demi’s mind: “I’ll start off by saying that that totally changed everything,” she said, and Simon encouraged him to “go more in a country direction,” before he got four yeses from the judges.
The next round of The X Factor auditions airs Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.