“The X Factor” finally ended its preseason last week, cutting its field down to 12 acts.
After the last weird elimination show where judges' song choices undermined some contestants (sorry, Philip Lomax, no one could have survived “I'm a Believer”), it'll be interesting to see how far the judges will go to help their contestants. Tonight marks the first show where the audience finally gets a say about will win the $5 million recording contract.
Fans can vote six different ways – by phone, by text, at www.TheXFactorUSA.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheXFactorUSA, on Twitter by sending a direct message to @TheXFactorUSA, or using the “Xtra Factor” app for Android phones.
That said, here's our pre-season power rankings for the Top 12:
1. Rachel Crow: She's destined to be the breakout star of the show, whether she wins or not, thanks to her great voice and delightful personality. Simon Cowell's decision to combine Justin Bieber's “Baby” and The Supremes' “Where Did Our Love Go” was brilliantly designed to broaden Rachel's base – as if the 13-year-old needed it.
2. Melanie Amaro: The 19-year-old from Sunrise, Fla., delivered the performance of her life last week, slaying Whitney Houston's “I Have Nothing.” How could Simon have passed her over in favor of the lame Tiah Tolliver and Simone Battle? Does she sometimes have an off switch?
3. Stereo Hogzz: The Houston quintet has gone from near-zeroes to heroes since the auditions, delivering a standout version of Otis Redding's “Try a Little Tenderness” that was fresh and star-worthy. If they can keep up this high level, they will be hard to beat.
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4. Josh Krajcik: The Ohio burrito maker has an incredible voice and uses it well. Will that be enough in a flashy popularity contest? Let's hope it is for awhile, until the audience gets a chance to fall for him.
5. Drew: The 14-year-old from Arizona has a great voice and personality, but so far, we've really only seen one side of her – the one where she slows down ballads and delivers them emotionally. Does she have a range?
6. Marcus Canty: The 20-year-old from Bowie, Md., brought R&B style to Culture Club's “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” to make it one of the most memorable performances of last week. His Bobby Brown-ish charms should take him far.
7. LeRoy Bell: The 60-year-old from Seattle took a terrible song choice from Nicole Scherzinger (Pink's “Nobody Knows”) and smoothed it out with his gorgeous voice. Let's see if he can fulfill his potential with better material.
8. Lakoda Rayne: The quartet of castoffs showed lots of potential with its countrified version of “Come on Eileen.” They have good voices and a great look, which, given the way Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid raved about them, have quite a future.
9. Stacy Francis: The Brooklyn 42-year-old has an extraordinary voice, but she has yet to learn how to use it properly. She bludgeoned “One More Try,” but hopefully will somehow get a better handle as she proceeds.
10. Astro: The Brooklyn 15-year-old is an adorable mix of hip-hop swagger and teenage sweetness. He's fun to watch, but, so far, he's still very close to a novelty act.
11. InTENsity: The cobbled-together monster group of 10 is too unwieldy to get really far here, but they're a walking “Glee” cast, which should move them along on Fox for a bit. They're a little too sweet, but kids like sweets.
12. Chris Rene: Given different circumstances, the 28-year-old from Santa Cruz, Calif., may not have survived the cut with his good, but not great, version of “Love Don't Live Here Anymore.” Up until now, he's had a good voice and a great back story. We'll see how much he can change that.