After 162 contestants emerged from "X Factor" auditions, the judges have slowly been narrowing down the competition. With 12 contestants left, it's finally America's turn to have a say. After tonight's live two-hour episode of "X Factor," viewers were able to call in and vote for their favorite performer of the night.
One of Paula's groups, Stereo Hogzz, opened the show, flanked by more than a dozen backup dancers for a highly-choreographed performance of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation." Simon looked like he was in physical pain as he admitted that "Miss Smug" Paula had done something right. "Not only do I think that you are one of the best groups I've seen on one of these competitions," he said. " But I don't think there's a band in the world right now who are as good as you." High praise, Simon.
Video: Stereo Hogzz, "Rhythm Nation"
Chris Rene, the first contestant from L.A. Reid's Boys group, sang a hip-hopped version of the Carpenters' "Superstar." Rene has great charisma and stage presence -- plus he can both sing and rap. Simon and L.A. bantered back and forth about the staging, which had Rene engulfed in flames as he performed. "You literally put him in hell," Simon said to L.A., to which the record exec responded, "That hell you're talking about, that's called fire baby because he's hot."
Video: Chris Rene, "Superstar"
With Dexter Haygood eliminated -- and his heart-wrenching backstory gone with him -- "X Factor" producers turned to 60-year-old Leroy Bell for the emotion, introducing his performance of Lonestar's "I'm Already There" with footage of Leroy spending time with and talking about the 13-year-old son he has back home. Cheese factor aside, his performance was strong and the audience loved him, although L.A. didn't "get" the song choice and Simon said it looked "dated."
Video: Leroy Bell, "I'm Already There"
Bubbly 13-year-old Rachel Crow commanded the stage and performed like a seasoned pop star on Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine." L.A. joked about how hard it is to criticize her, saying: "You must be one of the most charismatic people I've ever met. You're so lovable." The judging is rarely about the contestants, and more often turns into passive-aggressive digs at each other -- and this round was no different, with Paula and Nicole insulting Simon's song choice and the latter telling them to be quiet while "the grown-ups are talking."
Video: Rachel Crow, "Walking on Sunshine"
Paula decided that each of the four girls in Lakoda Rayne would represent one of the four seasons, a gimmick which both Simon and L.A. scoffed at. The girls performed Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," and they were finally able to sing together, performing as one group rather than as the four vocalists who entered the competition as soloists. Simon made fun of their bright-colored prom dresses, but the rest of the judges' responses were wholly positive.
Video: Lakoda Rayne, "Landslide"
Nicole's song choice for Josh Krajcik was a bizarre one: Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts." He completely reinvented the track and it sounded so natural, it was as if the song were written for his deep, raspy voice rather than for a female vocalist. "You can sing anything and I'm a believer because you just nail everything," Paula summed up his performance as a teary-eyed Nicole told Krajcik that she felt "like a proud mom, but we're like the same age so that doesn't work."
Video: Josh Krajcik, "Jar of Hearts"