The X Factor's Simon Cowell said a theatrical performance by flamboyant Seann Miley Moore would have viewers asking: "What the bloody hell was that?"
The Australian-born singer's rendition of Life On Mars by David Bowie was judged to be the standout of the ITV competition's first live show.
Dressed in a ruched black hat paired with earrings, bold make-up and high heels, Moore won universal praise from judges Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw.
In his assessment, The X Factor boss acknowledged Moore's song would prompt: "What the bloody hell was that?" from some viewers.
Cowell added: "You are so special, so individual, you don't care - and I love contestants like you."
Ora agreed: "You are an artist, you are a visionary," she told him. Fernandez-Versini stated: "That was outstanding. I was fixated the whole way through."
Mentor Grimshaw said: "You're a dream to work with."
The X Factor contestants sang live to win votes from the public. This week's theme was titled "This Is Me" and saw the wannabe pop stars perform the song that best showcased them as artists.
Controversial contestant Mason Noise, originally axed from the competition for rowing with Cowell, performed Sorry by Justin Bieber and won praise from the judges.
"Stop talking about the thing that you did at Six Chair!" ordered 24-year-old Ora.
Cowell made it clear the incident is in the past. "We start all over again. I could not be happier to see you back on this show," he said.
Kiera Weathers chose Crying For No Reason by Katy B, but she divided the panel. "I'm going to need you to do something better than that," Cowell said to boos from the audience.
Dental receptionist Lauren Murray opened the show with I'm Every Woman, originally by Chaka Khan, but covered by Whitney Houston. "I didn't like it, I loved it. Seriously fantastic!" cried Cowell.
Louisa Johnson tackled Beach Boys classic, God Only Knows. "You have no idea how good you are," the music mogul told the 17-year-old from Essex.
The X Factor's comeback kid Monica Michael returned, yet again, but this time as a wildcard.
"You just proved why we did this," Cowell said after hearing her sing Ed Sheeran's Make It Rain.
Bupsi, the 37-year-old from Leeds, already has a catchphrase: "You want nasty? I'll give ya nasty!"
However, the panel felt there was not enough "nasty" on Marvin Gaye's You're A Wonderful One and Cowell apologised for the song choice.
Backing singer Anton Stephans was near tears following his performance of the Luther Vandross classic Dance With My Father. "What a talent, what a voice!" cried Grimshaw.
Max Stone's reggae version of Adele's Someone Like You was not a favourite of former Girls Aloud singer Fernandez-Versini: "The reggae theme just didn't work for me personally," she said.
Filipino siblings 4th Impact made a big impact with their rendition of Problem by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea. X Factor boss Cowell said: "That was fantastic!"
Reggie n Bollie, originally from Ghana, had the crowd dancing with their raunchy rendition of Shaggy's It Wasn't Me.
Former dancers Alien Uncovered announced themselves as serious contenders with an energetic performance of Do It Like A Dude by Jessie J. "This is so annoying because that was so good," head judge Cowell conceded.
Che Chesterman is only 19, but his rendition of Tears Dry On Their Own by Amy Winehouse and Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell won a standing ovation.
Hosts Olly Murs and Caroline Flack introduced last year's winner Ben Haenow who performed Second Hand Heart.
On a night of returns, the ITV show also welcomed back announcer Peter Dickson. He quit in July, but was persuaded back to the series.
The fate of the contestants is now in the public's hands.
:: The X Factor is broadcast today at 8pm on ITV.