On tonight’s episode of “The X Factor,” the final 12 contestants peformed, and for the first time the viewers get to decide who’s going home. While the judges are still mentoring their contestants, they don’t have a say in who continues on; but they can still take jabs at each other.

First to perform was The Stereo Hogzz, with Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” The judges love them, the audience loves them, and they are entertaining. I’m not overwhelmed by them the way everyone else seems to be.

Chris Rene was up next. He’s about 6 months out of rehab, and I thought he looked really healthy tonight, like clean living is really making a difference. Simon and LA both talked about the difficulty Chris can have connecting with the lyrics when he hasn’t written them. LA gave him the song “Superstar”, which he performed beautifully, complete with some flames on stage. (Some of these productions are over the top.) I love this song; it makes me thing of Karen Carpenter. It has a sorrowful longing to it, and Chris really did it justice.

We heard tonight about Leroy Bell’s kids – two daughters in their 30s, a son who is 13, and a bunch of grandchildren. He’s super close to his son and misses him a lot, so Nicole gave Leroy the song “I’m Already There” to help connect with his emotions about his family. I love Leroy, but the giant stage and super production just doesn’t seem to fit him. I think he’s going to be huge when he can be more natural and organic, less staging, more Leroy and his music.

America’s sweetheart Rachel Crow sang “Walking on Sunshine” – or as Simon changed the lyrics, “You’re My Sunshine”. She is soo adorable, and while I don’t think she’s the best singer in the competition any more, she definitely has the most charisma. Nicole called her “America’s sunshine” but questioned Simon’s decision to change the lyrics. (Me too.) She also likened Rachel’s voice to a young Michael Jackson. She’s so cute and so personable and so talented, wherever she goes from this competition it will be successful.

Lakoda Rayne was up next, and in the pre-song segment Paula says she is going to dress the girls as seasons, something LA and Simon both call corny. I don’t know the name of the song they sang; they sang it well, although someone sounded off key to me. And while they looked lovely in gowns – red, yellow, blue, green – they reminded me of something I’d see on Lawrence Welk or TBN. They sound good and they look pretty, but to me none of it seems to work. It feels like they’re trying way too hard.

Josh Krajcik’s segment introduced us to his girlfriend of 8 years, Megan. (We learned a few shows ago that he also has a 13 year old daughter). Megan shares some insight into being the girlfriend or spouse of a musician, when sometimes you work full time while the artists pursues his dreams. But she believes in him – and with good reason. I wasn’t a fan of the song choice but Josh is just so talented it doesn’t matter.

Melanie Amaro was up next, and she talked about the responsibility of having this second chance. She also said, “I needed that ‘no’ to make me stronger,” which I thought was really insightful for a young girl. Simon wanted to take her out of her comfort zone because it would be too easy to have her singing Mariah or Whitney, so Melanie performed “Desperado.” Superb. She’s so amazing; even Simon said he had no idea how good she was until she sang that. While the judges sniped back and forth all night about each other’s song choices, everyone agreed that Simon did the right thing bringing Melanie back.

Astro did his rap thing – he wrote the first verse. The judges love him, the audience loves him, I don’t get it. I’m sorry. Simon commented about his ego and swagger growing but being a good thing.

The kids in Intensity talked about blending their musical styles, and Arin said, “We don’t want to be labeled ‘Disney kids’.” That’s noble, but let’s face it: they’re Disney kids. And that’s not a bad thing. They did a medley of “Kids in America” and something else; one of the kids rapped and it was way better than Astro (but what do I know).  Nicole summed it up when she said they were “Fun-tastic, fun-ominal” and LA said they were, “Fun, fun, fun.” Simon said, “I shouldn’t like you but I do,” and said they were terrific.

Drew sang a Nelly song and of course was a superstar. She’s just so talented and so unique, and can put her touch to any song she sings. LA said the has “the spirit of a superstar” and Simon said he was “seeing a star emerge in front of me.”

Marcus Canty has been compared to Bobby Brown throughout the competition, so tonight LA gave him a song he wrote for Bobby Brown, “Every Little Step.” The pre-song segment showed that Marcus was having trouble blending the dance and singing. It was a fun performance, but if you were watching towards the end he wasn’t actually singing; the backing vocals were carrying it. It felt rushed and not quite all there to me. But the judges loved it.

Last up was Stacy Francis. Last week Simon called her a “church singer,” something she says offended her. So this week, Nicole made an decision to stick it in Simon’s face with a gospely song. Simon said if it went well, he’d take credit. And if it failed, he’d take responsibility. It didn’t just go well, it went fantastic. Stacy is just an amazing singer, and she’s so honest and graceful. It was a great song choice, and she was amazing.

The judges had nothing but props for all of the contestants tonight, although they were free with the criticisms for their fellow judges about choreography or song choices. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the judges think. Tonight the viewers get to decide which contestant goes home.

My prediction: Leroy Bell or Lakoda Rayne. I don’t think Leroy deserves to go home, but I think of all of the contestants he lacks that super-hy[ed following that contestants like Rachel Crow have.

Tune in Wednesday night to see which contestant is sent home!

More from Beliefnet and our partners