Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell branded dance troupe KNE a second-rate version of Diversity during the third live semi-final of the ITV show.
The music mogul pulled no punches as he gave the five-piece feedback after they performed on Wednesday night for a place in the final.
Led by dancer and singer Kyle, the group performed against a backdrop of shifting urban graphics but drew a muted reaction from the judges.
Cowell compared the group to Diversity, saying: “You’re not as good. I can’t pretend this is as good as I’ve seen before.
“People will always compare you to Diversity and the standard isn’t as good as them.”
Fellow judge Alesha Dixon agreed, saying: “This isn’t up to the standard we’ve come to expect.”
Eight acts performed for the audience and judges before voting opened. Only two acts from tonight will make it through to the final.
Angels Inc kicked off with a dramatic routine set to an eerily slowed version of Europe’s hit The Final Countdown.
The troupe of female dancers and illusionists from the Netherlands miraculously appeared on stage, with dozens emerging from a gold closet adorned with giant angel wings.
They secured a standing ovation from judges Cowell, Dixon, David Walliams and Amanda Holden.
Holden said: “I thought it was fantastic. You are the act that literally keeps on giving. When I thought it was over, more of you kept on pouring out.”
Second on stage was Rob King, who works behind the bar at The Lowry theatre in Salford, Greater Manchester, where the ITV show is often filmed.
Against a backdrop of drummers and ticking clocks he sang Memory by Barbra Streisand.
Dixon and Holden agreed that his performance lacked “a little bit of emotion”, while Simon Cowell said he was disappointed by the song choice, adding: “I hate that song.”
Chelsea Pensioner Colin Thackery drew the biggest cheer of the night, singing Vera Lynn’s famous We’ll Meet Again.
The audience inside the Hammersmith Apollo waved their arms back and forth and poppies rained from the ceiling.
Walliams said: “The first time of this show, I think we could be looking at the winner of Britain’s Got Talent this year.”
Britain’s Got Talent continues on ITV.