X Factor fans received another shock on Sunday night as former favourite Cher Lloyd made her first appearance in the bottom two alongside Paije Richardson, who was later voted off by the judges.
Cher has been a consistent favourite since her first audition, where she sang a version of Soulja Boy’s Turn My Swag On. The performance was hailed as original and unique and the 16-year-old from Malvern swiftly became the most talked-about contestant this year.
The judges have heaped praise on her every week, particularly after her performance of Shakespeare’s Sisters’ Stay, which Simon Cowell lauded as the best of the season. Her mentor Cheryl Cole has repeatedly compared her to a young version of herself.
But she also stoked controversy after being chosen for the final shows despite fluffing her words, meaning popular hopeful Gamu Nhengu was sent home.
Cher and Paije, 19, were both visibly shocked to hear their names called, and all three judges repeatedly stressed that neither act deserved to be in the bottom two.
But despite a strong performance of Sam Brown’s Stop, Paije was voted off by the judges on a 3:1 majority.
Speaking on Daybreak this morning, Paije remained dignified over his departure and insisted Cher deserved to stay on.
He said: “She’s a great talent and she deserves her place. I’m proud of her and I hope she does well.
“I’m not too upset [about being evicted]. Obviously it hurts a little bit to be out, but it’s the nature of the show and you’ve just got to keep moving with it.”
Paije’s departure leaves Dannii with just one act, 27-year-old Matt Cardle, after former bookie’s favourite Aiden Grimshaw’s shock departure last week.
Cheryl has three acts left including Cher, with Rebecca Ferguson and controversial Katie Waissel set to perform again next week. Katie attracted negative attention after being repeatedly saved by the judges despite appearing in the bottom two on four occasions.
Louis’s over-28s Mary Byrne and Wagner are still in the running, and Simon’s boy band One Direction are the last remaining group.