On the two-hour show, the judges – Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger, L.A. Reid and Paula Abdul – whittled down the pool of 100 acts to 32. Early favorites such as Stacy Francis and Rachel Crow are one step closer to earning a $5 million dollar recording contract, while some eccentric, talked-about performers – Siameze Floyd, for instance – have been sent home.
From the outset of Thursday's competition, the bar was set high. Thirteen-year-old Crow wowed the audience – and the judges – with a rendition of Beyoncé's "If I Were a Boy."
Her pyrotechnic take even caused Scherzinger to visibly choke back tears.
But it was Francis who brought the night's most emotionally charged moment. The 42-year-old stay-at-home mom – whose explosive version of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" during week one caused Cowell to call it one of the "best auditions I've ever heard" – revealed that her father had died as she entered the boot camp round. (In an interview with Cowell and Reid, MTV discovered that Francis was a member of the 90s female R&B group Ex Girlfriend, who had a minor hit in 1994 with the song "X in your Sex.")
"For the rest of my life, I have to deal with missing my father's funeral," she said. "[But] I know my dad would want me to be here, and I know he's with me tonight."
Her sacrifice was worth it. After delivering a crushing version of the Gershwin standard "Summertime," Reid remarked, "That's real pain!"
"I'm Hating This"Not everyone was pleased.
Several contestants delivered altered versions of familiar songs, including Tiger Budbill's acoustic take on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Brennin Hunt's electronic version of Alicia Keys's "If I Ain't Got You."
"I'm hating this," he said, interrupting Hunt's performance (although it didn't stop the judges from sending him to the next round).
The contestants weren't the only ones to have their fates decided last night. The judging panel also found out which groups they'll be mentoring in the next round.
Reid will mentor the boys, while Scherzinger will oversee the "over '30s" team. Abdul had hoped to "work with the boys," but was assigned to mentor the groups, instead. Cowell will work with the girls' team.
"You've just made eight girls very, very happy," he said. "I know they want me as their mentor."
On next week's episode, the judges will mentor the remaining pool in a series of coaching sessions at their homes.