Photo Credit: Fox
As The X Factor chugs along, it continues to distinguish itself from American Idol, and last night's two-and-a-half-hour live show was no exception. Amid dramatic spotlights, smoke machines and back-up dancers, 17 acts performed and were winnowed down to 12. Meanwhile, the four judges ratcheted up their bickering, since now their mentoring roles have given them each a stake in the winner.
Here are our options going forward:
L.A. Reid's Boys
Brian "Astro" Bradley: A pint-sized rapper with gallons of confidence, he won the judges over with his rendition of Kris Kross's "Jump."
Chris Rene: The likeable R&B singer (with the underdog credentials of having kicked a drug habit) earned his top 12 slot with his version of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore."
Marcus Canty: His take on Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" led Nicole Scherzinger to comment, "You were born to be on that stage."
Paula Abdul's Groups
The Stereo Hogzz: With their coordinated dance moves, melodic singing and a dash of rap, the five-guy vocal group put their own stamp on "Try a Little Tenderness."
InTENsity: This group of high school and middle school students (formed out of individual contestants) gave "Footloose" their energetic, Glee-like treatment. Simon Cowell called them a "music miracle."
Lakoda Rayne: This gorgeous, all-girl vocal quartet (also formed in early stages of the show) sang "Come on Eileen" by the Dexys Midnight Runners. "If the four of you walked into my office right now and did what you just did, you’d be signed to a worldwide recording contract,” said L.A. Reid.
Nicole Scherzinger's Over 30s
Stacy Francis: The 52-year-old warbler did her thing, belting out George Michael's "Teacher," the way that Mariah Carey would do it. There was no denying her voice, though Reid got in a dig when he complimented her for not crying, bringing to light what was starting to become a signature move of hers.
Josh Krajcik: After his soulful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," both Paula Abdul and Reid declared Krajcik their favorite voice in the competition.
LeRoy Bell: The 60-year-old crooner took on Pink's "Nobody Knows," and the performance won him comparisons to Michael Bolton -- and a place in the top 12.
Simon Cowell's Girls
Drew: After she sang a tender, pared-down version of Irene Cara's "What a Feeling," Abdul told Drew (who has dropped her hard-to-pronounce last name) that she was well beyond her 14 years.
Rachel Crow: The 15-year-old with a baby face and corkscrew curls stood on a platform with her hair piled high, and sang a mash-up of The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go," and Justin Bieber's "Baby." "You know what?" said Reid. "I love you, girl!"
Melanie Amaro: She belted out Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," sounding no less accomplished than that iconic singer herself. "We really did save the best for last, because honey, you were unbelievable," said Reid.
The next episode of The X Factor will air on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, and the following day's episode will mark the first live results show. While this two-day set-up sounds Idol-like, it will definitely have it's own X-Factor twist -- it was announced yesterday that starting Nov. 2, viewers will be able to cast votes for their favorite performer via Twitter. Let the real excitement begin!