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"
Simon introduced his next contestant with a few subtle digs at Paula and Nicole: "No silly seasons, no silly outfits, it's Melanie (Amaro)." Although Simon chose to eliminate Melanie at the end of Judges' Houses, he realized his mistake, asked her to re-join the competition, and she has been "X Factor's" shining star ever since. Her performance of? "X Factor's" song catalog is starting to feel thin, as "Jar of Hearts" has also been performed already this season.
Mini-rapper Astro -- also known as Brian Bradley or The Astronomical Kid -- was next to perform, rapping (as always) an original. Paula said she knows Jay-Z's  got his eye on Astro and L.A. said he knows Brooklyn loves the young performer. Either the hip-hop community has been chatting about Astro or the judges are just trying to get his hopes up.
Video: Astro's original rap verses
Teen group InTENsity are trying to avoid being typecast as Disney or "Glee" performers -- but where else is a 10-member group of teenagers expected to fit into the music industry? The group sang a mashup of Kim Wilde's  "Kids In America" and LMFAO's  "Party Rock Anthem" Simon told the group, "I shouldn't like you, but I actually do really like you."
Video: InTENsity, "Kids In America" & "Party Rock Anthem"
14-year-old Drew (whose last name was dropped three episodes ago) sang Nelly's  "Just a Dream." She began the performance awkwardly lying on a bed of rose petals in the center of the stage, but luckily it was all uphill from there. Drew sings and performs well beyond her years, and it takes her over-excited smile to remind everyone that, while she may look and sound older, she's only just a teenager. Simon said that she was mentoring him more than he was mentoring her, and "I'm seeing a star emerge in front of me right now."
Video: Drew, "Just a Dream"
Marcus Canty sang a mashup of B.o.B.'s  "Nothing on You" and Bobby Brown's  "Every Little Step" (a song written by his mentor, L.A. Reid). Though past footage showed Marcus struggling to sing and dance at the same time, he pulled it off and Paula said that he was "the whole package." The judges had nothing but compliments for the singer, and L.A. told him to "just keep doing what you're doing. America loves you, I'm sure of it."
Video: Marcus Canty, "Every Little Step"
Closing the show was 42-year-old single mom Stacy Francis, singing Patty Griffin's  "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)." During the previous round, Simon called Francis a "church singer" and said she shouldn't be singing pop songs. Nicole decided to give him what he asked for, and if he went right, he planned to take all the credit. And that's exactly what happened. "It was real, it was fantastic, one of the best performances of the night," said Simon, after arrogantly handing out "I told you so" remarks to the rest of the panel.
Video: Stacy Francis, "Up to the Mountain"
Judging opened for two hours after the episode ended last night, and tonight we find out who America voted for and who they chose to send home. Viewers can vote each week by calling a number, going online or tweeting their choice, following the style laid out on the "X Factor" website. Verizon customers can also vote via text or by the Xtra Factor touchscreen app.
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