X Factor hots up ahead of final

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The Independent Culture

Nerves were jangling as the X-Factor semi-finalists were put through the ringer as they battled to earn their chance at stardom.

Olly Murs, Danyl Johnson, Stacey Solomon and Joe McElderry warbled for all their worth as a place in next week's final beckoned.

And it was bookies' favourite Joe who made the early running as his two performances went down a storm with the hard-to-please judges.

Geordie Joe stole a march on his rivals after he earned a glowing endorsement for his rendition of Michael Jackson's She's Out of My Life.

Louis Walsh gushed that Joe had the talent to sell millions of records. He said: "The thing about you, you would have an amazing recording voice. There's a big, big gap in the market for someone like you."

Dannii Minogue agreed, saying: "You just sing like a dream, I can definitely agree with Louis that I can hear you all over the radio, all over the records, you are going to do very well and you have to be in the final."

Joe then had the judges eating out of his hand as he followed up his first performance with a rendition of Open Arms by Journey. Simon Cowell said: "I genuinely wish and hope you are there next week because you deserve it.

But it was a mixed bag for Dagenham diva Stacey Solomon. Her performance of Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel divided opinions. Cowell said it was the wrong choice of song, branding the performance "gimmicky and silly". But Cheryl Cole praised the performance as "absolutely fantastic". The 20-year-old donned a toga for her second song, Somewhere, from West Side Story. This rendition went down much better with the judges.

Danyl Johnson left the judges dumfounded as he hit back at recent criticism with a blistering performance of Man In The Mirror. Cowell said: "It was absolutely on the money, genuine, brilliant". Louis Walsh agreed. Johnson looked like he had cemented his place in the final after a storming cover of I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston, despite earlier claiming that the diva "absolutely hated him".

Olly Murs opened with a rendition of Can You Feel It to all round acclaim from the judges. Walsh said: "Everybody loves you, you can dance and sing. You're an all-round entertainer." Minogue agreed.

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