Next Week's 'X Factor': Lady Gaga-Madonna Night Scrapped for Rock Theme, Rihanna to Perform

Simon Cowell X Factor judges table
Michael Becker / FOX

Thursday’s X Factor featured two eye-popping guest turns: Willow Smith, up first with her latest single “Fireball,” complete with requisite pyro, followed by Jessie J, who delivered “Domino” while wearing a skin-tight color wheel bodysuit. Now comes word (via judge Paula Abdul) that next week’s performer is none other than Rihanna. The theme for Wednesday's show? Rock-N-Roll, revealed Simon Cowell.

It’s all still a work in progress, Cowell told the Hollywood Reporter following the elimination episode (which sent Stereo Hogzz home), going so far as to say he “hated” last week’s show. “I didn’t think the production was very good, I didn’t like the guest artist [Outasight], we all looked tired,” he explained, adding that it felt "a bit Idol, like, 'You'll find out... after the break.' Where have I heard that before? I don't like that. I can always feel the energy, and I’ve got to admit, sitting there last week was hard work. This week, it all felt better -- like we clicked.” 

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The contestants are settling into their roles, too. At a viewing party held at the Pepsi House in the Hollywood Hills on Thursday, the 10 artists mingled with judges, sponsors and media alike while reliving the stress of hours earlier. Of course, the pressure picks up right away as the acts and their mentors decide on rock numbers to sing next week.

Originally, the theme was supposed to be Lady Gaga and Madonna, Cowell confirmed. So what happened? “I changed my mind,” he said. “What I like about Wednesday’s show was the idea of someone, particularly Astro, using the whole stage without props. And I thought doing Lady Gaga and Madonna could get a bit too choreography-led and also too restrictive for someone like Astro. Rock music gives you a better chance to use the whole stage like we did on the auditions: just you and a huge platform behind you and make it like it’s your first concert.”

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For his part, judge L.A. Reid is pumped at the possibilities. “If I were to use the Rolling Stone magazine list of the 500 greatest songs of all-time, it isn't limited to what we think of as rock,” he said. “There's Otis Redding, there's Bob Marley, there's Ike and Tina Turner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles… I don't know what that criteria might be, but I'm gonna stretch that envelope as wide as I can.”

And one group is starting strategize as fast as they can: the nearly eliminated, Ladoka Rayne. “We're gonna amp it up,” said group member Dani Knight. “We're gonna step up to the plate and find something to show America that we deserve to stay here.”