Wall Township High School singer Cari Fletcher continued to wow audiences and silence critics on Simon Cowell's X Factor on Tuesday as she was part of the final dozen acts left in the singing competition.
As part of the group Lakoda Rayne, Fletcher performed live from Los Angeles on the nationally televised competition. The group sang the 1980s classic "Come on Eileen,'' by Dexys Midnight Runners.
The group seemed more comfortable with each other, and that apparently came through to the judges.
"Let me tell you,'' said judge L.A. Reid. "If you walked into my office right now and performed like that, you'd have a worldwide recording contract. I love everything about you.''
Judge Nicole Scherzinger said: "You make girl groups look good, honey.''
Simon Cowell, in a rare moment of praise said: "This is better than I could have thought. There is a drought in the market for a group like you."
And Paula Abdul, who mentored the group, coaching them on this performance, was visibly shaken and moved by the group's performance.
"I've put in a lot of hours with you, learned a lot about you,'' she said, her voice shaking with emotion. "You of all the groups had a lot to prove. You made me really proud.''
The show’s grand prize is a $5 million recording contract and a commercial spot to be aired during next year’s Super Bowl.
Fletcher, a Wall High School senior and a captain of the girls varsity volleyball team, has defied odds and stayed in the competition where thousands of singing hopefuls have failed.
She was cut from one round of the show and it appeared her nationally televised run was over. But later in that same show, the judges announced that Fletcher had been grouped with three other women who were also cut as solo acts. Together, they would be allowed to continue on the competition as a group.
That group met and practiced at Fletcher’s Wall Township home earlier this year before heading off to X Factor judge Paula Abdul’s California estate for the last round of competition. Video footage of the group at Fletcher's house was aired on the show, shot by Wall High School graduate and filmmaker Ryan Hutchins.
Abdul said the group lacked in stage presence and cohesiveness, but she gave the go-ahead for Lakoda Rayne to continue to Tuesday's live show.
Fletcher's parents, contacted previously, have said they are barred from speaking to the press for the duration of the show.