Credit: Aaron Rapoport/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: inTENsity is in the Top 4 Groups on The X Factor

Aaaaand we’re live! For one wild second we expect Ryan Seacrest, but no, it’s Steve Jones, duh. His role during the early rounds was pretty minor, so this feels like the first time we’re really getting a taste of his hosting skills. He looks sharp in his suit, so there’s a point in his favor already! Steve lets us know that tonight the judges will have to be cutting their teams down to 3 acts each, which will finally give us out Top 12.

Judge outfit inventory: L.A. in pinstripes, Nicole in a faux-sheer one-shouldered dress, Paula in a sparkly minidress and giant boots, Simon in a suit with like 5 buttons open on his shirt. Saucy!

First up: The Boys!


Astro (aka Brian Bradley): “Jump” by Kriss Kross
Astro admits to being “kinda nervous,” but says it’s his time to shine. His performance is actually pretty awesome -- it’s a perfect way to open the show. He’s redone the lyrics, and he namechecks L.A. Reid and the Factor and Brooklyn. He really lights up the stage. The song ends with a little audience call and response. “When I say X, you say factor!” The judges are all about it. “After that performance, I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off live performances here in America,” Nicole says. “You’ve just come out on this stage, 14 years old, live, and just killed,” agrees Simon.

Chris Rene: “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by Rose Royce
Chris is currently at six months clean and sober, which is all sorts of awesome. “Music fills that void of using,” he says. He’s very obviously nervous, but he’s good. He’s got a lot of charm, and a decent voice, but the performance isn’t outstanding; it’s certainly not as electrifying as Astro. The judges love Chris. “When you open up your mouth to sing there’s a genuine truthfulness that’s authentic about you, and you’re infectious,” Paula says. Simon doesn’t think Chris is the best singer, but thinks he is one of the best recording artists. “What I love about you is you are 100 percent authentic,” he says.

Phillip Lomax: “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees
So, in his pre-song package, Phillip talks about being a crooner and needing to prove he’s a popstar. Clearly he must’ve pissed off L.A. sometime between the judges’ houses round and now, because in what way was him performing “I’m a Believer” in a tuxedo supposed to show he’s a popstar? He looks like he’s heading to his senior prom. Stag. “Your smile is your golden ticket,” says Paula, which you know means it’s bad, if that’s the best she can do. “Tonight you were like a racing driver and LA put you into a tractor... LA, on this guy you 100 percent failed,” Simon says. Word, Cowell. Word.

Marcus Canty: “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club
Well, Marcus is very obviously the best vocalist of the boys. His performance is excellent -- he’s laid back and charming and seems very comfortable on stage, and it’s an interesting song choice for him. “Marcus honey, you just made it look too easy... you were born to be on that stage,” Nicole says. Simon commends Marcus for actually seeming like he realizes what’s at stake. “I like you,” he says.

Time for someone to go home! “It’s not easy, I love all of them,” L.A. says. Our quick prediction: Astro and Marcus are obviously safe. Chris or Phillip are toast. Probably Phillip, unless L.A. keeps him just to spite Simon for dissing his song choice. First through is Astro. Duh. Next is Marcus. Double duh. Will LA feel like Astro fulfills his hip-hop quota? Nope. Chris is through, Phillip is out. Guess L.A. was not a believer.

Credit: Aldo Rossi/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: Chris Rene is in the Top 4 Boys on The X Factor

Okay, time for Groups!

The Stereo Hogzz: “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Ooh, one of the Hoggz is rocking a sleeveless shirt and he has hot, tattooed arms. They win! Okay, really though, these dudes are great. The choreography is tight, they look terrific, they sound terrific. Is their Boyz II Men-ish thing relevant today? ...Maybe? The judges love them, regardless. “As much as I want to have some criticism, I have to admit that was really good,” L.A. says. “I’m trying to say something but my mouth won’t say it... Paula you did a really good job,” Simon jokes. “I love this band, there’s nothing in the charts right now like you.”

The Brewer Boys: “Rich Girl”/“Faith” by Hall & Oates/George Michael
Aw, they’re so adorable! Both are playing guitar. Actually, the older brother is playing guitar -- the younger one is playing a banjolin or something. The song choice(s) is actually really fun, but probably not the right direction for these really young guys -- probably they should be in more of a (sigh) Bieber vein? “If I was a teenager again I’d have you all over my walls,” Nicole says. “My issue is once again to remind everyone that it’s a 5 million dollar contract... this to me didn’t shine like it should’ve done,” says Simon.

Intensity: “The Clapping Song”/“Footloose” by Shirley Ellis/Kenny Loggins
There are ten of them! Each one is cuter than the next! A few of them sound fantastic, a few of them sound terrible. It’s sort of hard to care when you have no idea who any of the individuals are? There’s scaffolding and lots of bright colors. It’s still all very High School Musical. “You’re like my little pumpkin patch of yummy pumpkins,” Nicole says, which -- why not? “That was the equivalent of a music miracle... from a record company perspective I’d look at you and say I’ve got the new young Glee in front of me,” Simon says.

Lakoda Rayne: “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners
Rehearsal didn’t go well for the girls of Lakoda Rayne, but they’re determined to pull it together in time for the live show. Ah, this is such a great song. The country arrangement is a little hokey, honestly, and the girls all feel a little plastic and the whole thing is very corporate, but they sound fantastic and they’re all gorgeous, so on balance it mostly works. “For me this is really easy; 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,” says L.A. “Coming from a girl group, you made girl groups look good,” Nicole agrees.

Time for another cut! Paula is clearly upset to have to send anyone home. Our quick prediction: It’ll be Intensity or Brewer Boys, presumably. Probably the Brewers, but we kinda hope not. First group through is Stereo Hogzz. Next: Lakoda Rayne. “I believe in both of you, and you’re gonna go on and have careers,” Paula tells the two remaining groups, before choosing to send the Brewer Boys home. Aww. The boys thank everyone for the opportunity and address Paula as “Miss Paula.” Again: aww.

Credit: Aaron Rapoport/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: Dexter Haygood X Factor Top 4 Over 30s Contestant

Movin’ along -- time for the Over 30s!

Dexter Haygood: “Womanizer”/“I Kissed a Girl” by Britney Spears/Katy Perry
Oh, Dexter. It’s... well, it’s entertaining, and it was a good idea to give him songs that are far removed from his genre, but the whole thing is sort of manic, and the singing is mediocre at best. The 5 million dollar contract that’s at stake just isn’t meant for him. The judges are gentle with him, though. “I think you found yourself,” says L.A. “You were just a rockstar up there... you got the Dex Factor, honey,” Nicole adds.

LeRoy Bell: “Nobody Knows” by P!nk
At the total other end of the spectrum from Dexter is LeRoy, whose understated performance is gorgeous. Being the oldest contestant definitely has its benefits; LeRoy’s experience -- both as a performer and just as a person -- shines through. “You have everything, I don’t even get why you haven’t become a big star already,” L.A. says. Simon worries that LeRoy and Nicole haven’t connected the way they should have. “I see a lack of confidence, a bit of awkwardness... I actually wish I was mentoring you,” he says.

Stacy Francis: “One More Try” by George Michael
Stacy’s got a giant feathery jacket, really sparkly pants, and black rhinestones on her microphone. Oh, and a sensational voice, but we already knew that. Her performance is lovely and less over-the-top than what she usually does, but where does she fit into popular music? We’re not sure. Neither is Simon, it turns out. “What you are is a church singer,” he says. Stacy argues that she wants to be a popstar, and Simon sort of shrugs before Steve cuts things off.

Josh Krajcik: “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
First of all, awesome song choice -- this is an incredible tune. Josh does a really dramatic, stripped-down, pretty-much-acapella performance, and it’s flat-out gorgeous. It’s also right on point emotionally. The audience loves it, and so do the judges. “Your voice is my favorite voice I think I’ve heard in the past decade,” says Paula. “You are the artist I fear, because you’ve got it all going on... you are the real deal,” Simon adds.

Okay, time for cuts! Our quick prediction: Dexter has to be toast, right? First through is Stacy. Next is Josh. Come onnnnn, LeRoy... and he’s through! Which means Dexter is out. (Wait, isn’t he homeless? Someone please give Dexter a job.)

Credit: Nino Munoz/FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: X Factor Top 5 Girl Simone Battle

Finally, it’s time for the Girls.

Simone Battle: “Just Be Good to Me” by Deborah Cox
Um. Well, she looks great. Simone does seem like a popstar, in the worst sense of the word. The sense that she’s, like, 90 percent looks/attitude and about 10 percent talent. The longer the performance goes, the more painful it gets. Maybe 10 percent was generous. The judges (except for Simon, because he loves him some Simone for whatever reason -- ahem) are all kind of gobsmacked. “Everything was right except your choice in contestant... I never understood why you put her through... you must be rich, because 5 million dollars clearly doesn’t mean much to you,” L.A. says bluntly. “Yeah, that wasn’t predictable at all... Simon,” Nicole adds. Oh, snap.

Rachel Crow: “Where Did Our Love Go”/“Baby” by The Supremes/Justin Bieber
Rachel’s rocking a funky hairstyle and a plaid jacket, and she’s as cute as ever. It’s weird that in the pre-performance clip that Simon says that she has to really sing this and it’s not about personality, because this performance and these songs are kind of entirely about personality. Of which Rachel has oodles, so it’s pretty charming. “You can have a career that’s much bigger than music,” L.A. says. “You are the most likable girl I’ve ever met,” Paula adds.

Drew (Ryniewicz): “Flashdance... What a Feeling” by Irene Cara
So, Drew’s only going by one name now. Which, well, Rynewicz is a mouthful and it’s hard to spell, so we’ve got no complaints. We’ve also got no complaints about her performance, because IT’S SO GOOD! We keep waiting for the arrangement to kick up and get all dancified, but it stays soft and haunting throughout. Drew’s kind of incredible, y’all! The crowd goes absolutely nuts. “That was so ethereal, and you’re just like my little folk princess up there,” says Nicole. “This is why I wanted to be back on American TV, to find someone like you,” Simon says, and Drew flails a little. Cute!

Tiah Tolliver: “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics
Tiah’s still trying to overcome that thing from auditions where Paula and especially Nicole really hated her. Her performance is kind of interesting -- it’s not by any means, like, avant-garde, but it’s kind of arty and cool and intense. She has major eye makeup, and there are creepy/sexy dancers, and the background is a spooky forest. None of that makes her singing all that great, unfortunately. Other than Simon, the judges are unenthused. “I guess you’re one of his favorites,” L.A. says. “If that’s a sweet dream I’d hate to see what one of your scary ones are like,” adds Nicole.

Melanie Amaro: “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
There’s no question that Melanie’s an outstanding singer. The problem is that this song is one that’s been done to death on other singing shows (it’s one of the most performed ever on American Idol), so it’s hard to get too excited about her performance. She sounds fantastic, but we hope next week -- because no way is she getting sent home tonight -- she does something a little more out of the box. “We really did save the best for last, because honey you were un.be.lievable,” L.A. says. “I’m so so grateful that he believed in you and brought you back,” says Paula.

Time for the bloodiest elimination of the night, since Simon has to cut two girls. Our quick prediction: Well, the obvious dead weight is Simone. Next is... probably Tiah, although she might be more entertaining than Melanie. Drew is the surest of sure things. And yup, she’s the first one through. Next, Simon is sending through someone “who I know America wants to go through” -- Rachel Crow. The final girl is... Melanie! Four for you, SiCo! Tiah and Simone are bid adieu.

Next week, we finally, FINALLY get to vote! Did your favorite make it through tonight? Are you flexing your dialing fingers yet? Let us know what you think!