'X Factor' Goes Live, Final 12 Acts Picked

'X Factor' Goes Live, Final 12 Acts Picked

Each episode, "X Factor" continues to surprise, and this week was no different. Two weeks ago, the show's schedule was rearranged for baseball and last week, Simon eliminated Melanie Amaro, only to quickly bring her back after realizing his mistake. On last night's episode -- the first of the live shows -- Fox announced that five contestants would be eliminated, rather than the expected two.

With one out of four contestants (and two out of five in the Girls category) going home last night, the performers had to give it their all, because one mistake could be the end.

'X Factor': 17 Contestants Move to Live Round & Simon Gets Soft

First up was the Boys category, starting with 14-year-old rapper Astro (formerly Brian Bradley) who performed an original song, rapping about the new generation of hip-hop, "X Factor," and having L.A. Reid on his side. Astro's performances had been getting weaker, but he redeemed himself with this one.

Video: Astro's first live "X Factor" performance

The next performer in the Boys category was Chris Rene, singing "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" by

In the previous round, Nicole assigned Dexter Haygood to perform Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love" and this week she gave him an even more bizarre song choice. He performed a mashup of Britney Spears' "Womanizer" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl," and he tried to rock it, but the whole performance was awkward. The judges gave vague, positive feedback, but just could not get past the song choice.

Video: Dexter Haygood sings "Womanizer" and "I Kissed A Girl"

Continuing the trend of weird song selections, 60-year-old Leroy Bell took the stage to perform Pink's "Nobody Knows." He made the song his own and worked it, earning stellar feedback from the judges. L.A. Reid told Bell that he was only confused by one thing: "You is that you have everything. I don't even get why you haven't become a big star already because there's nothing missing."

Video: Leroy Bell, "Nobody Knows"

The sole female in the Over 30 category, Stacy Francis took the stage next, singing George Michael's "One More Try." Simon said the song was all wrong because Francis is a "church singer." She fought back, saying that she wants to be a pop star, not a church singer. Unfortunately, the host cut to a commercial break, so only the live audience was privy to the debate that followed.

Video: Stacy Francis sings "One More Try"

Josh Krajcik sang Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." It was powerful, emotional and understated, and each judge showered him with praise. Simon said it was the "best performance we've had" and L.A. said that Josh's was one of his favorite voices.

Video: Josh Krajcik performs "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan

Nicole struggled to make her decision and host Steve Jones was putting on the pressure, and in an instant she eliminated Dexter, sending Leroy, Stacy and Josh on to the next round. Dexter looked disappointed and stunned. For the first time all season, he didn't cry upon hearing the judges' decision.

The first performer in the Girls category was Simone Battle, singing Mariah Carey's "Just Be Good To Me." Everything about the performance was average at best. "I never did understand why you put her through and now this. I don't get it… You must be really rich because $5 million clearly doesn't mean much to you," L.A. told Simon, as Simone beamed awkwardly onstage.

Video: Simone Battle sings "Just Be Good To Me"

Rachel Crow sang Justin Bieber's "Baby" and L.A. Reid told her she could have a career in music, but if she really put her heart to it, she could do acting and so much more. Both Nicole and Paula loved Rachel but questioned the song, which Simon defended because it showed that she was both a retro and a pop artist.

Video: Rachel Crow sings Justin Bieber's "Baby"

Drew (the officially dropped her last name as of this episode) sang Irene Cara's "What A Feeling" from Flashdance. Paula praised Drew for her "unique vulnerability" and ability to connect with an audience, and Simon told her that he wanted to be back on American TV to find someone like her.

Video: Drew, "What A Feeling"

Tiah Tolliver performed "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics. L.A. was rather indifferent but both Paula and Nicole disliked her performance. Simon called them predictable and said they were "just like two spiteful little cats who will never recognize that she's got potential."

Video: Tiah Tolliver sings "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"

The final contestant of the night was Melanie Amaro. Simon eliminated Melanie in the last round, only to quickly realize his mistake, fly to Florida and bring her back. She performed Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" -- a perfect fit for her style and vocal range. She brought tears to Paula's and Nicole's eyes, and the entire panel agreed that Melanie has something special.

Video: Melanie Amaro 's performance of "I Have Nothing"

Because Simon kept five contestants during the previous round, he was forced to eliminated two this time. In what was clearly a difficult decision, he kept Drew, Rachel and Melanie, and eliminated Tiah and Simone. While Tiah used her final words to thank the judges, Simone used them to plug her new music video. Those were five seconds that host Steve Jones would have actually done well to cut off.

Starting next Tuesday, America will finally get to vote for their favorites on "The X Factor," and the final 12 will slowly dwindle down to one!