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'The X Factor' USA Top 17 perform - Live Blog

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After a surprising twist during the Top 16 reveal, The X Factor USA revealed a total of 17 contestants to go through to the live shows.

As the hopefuls take to the stage for the first time tonight, they must prove themselves to judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, LA Reid and Nicole Scherzinger, who must eliminate five contestants at the end of the broadcast. Who will make the cut? Stay with Digital Spy as we live blog the event!

22.29 And that's it! We'll be back next Wednesday at 8/7c with our Top 12 finalists!

22.25 Simon has to choose which three of his five will continue with the competition but is having difficulty on the second one to send home. Finally, he picks Drew, Rachel and Melanie, leaving Tiah and Simone out of luck. I told you Simon and I were soul mates! Good decisions.

Melanie Amaro
22.21 Last up for the Girls is Melanie Amaro - the 17th contestant. She does Whitney Houston's 'I Have Nothing' - generally a tall order for any singer, but if anyone can do it, it's Melanie. The production is simple and scaled back, as it should be, but her voice is in fine form. It does seem a bit screamy in parts, but no one can deny that this girl can sing.

LA is wowed by her talent, saying they saved the best for last and describing her as "unbelievable" despite the predictable song choice. Nicole connects with her every time she's on stage, calling her "so special" and saying she's grateful that Melanie is on the show. Paula agrees completely, while Simon is happy that they allowed her to come back but realises his difficult decision ahead.

inTENsity
22.16 Next up is Tiah Tolliver - come on, girl! I have loved her from her first audition, so I really hope she can turn it out here. She sings The Eurythmics' 'Sweet Dreams', but the song choice seems all wrong and not suited to her at all.

I'm a bit disappointed, as she could have been given something that actually showed her range rather than a track in which her vocals are mostly drowned out by an overly loud chorus. I don't know if it bodes well for her, to be honest.

LA thought it was a great production, but admits that it lacked what he was looking for. Nicole is also not a fan but says that she was proud of her and that she looked fierce. Paula gives her credit for having so much ambition, calling it a fierce effort but noting that she still needs to work on her pitch. Simon calls Nicole and Paula "two spiteful cats" and congratulates Tiah on a job well done.

Drew Ryniewicz
22.08 Drew Ryniewicz - now going just by Drew, apparently - tries to impress with Irene Cara's 'What A Feeling'. There's no doubt she's got an incredible voice, but it is exactly like her Judges' Houses performance, which makes me worry that she might try this weird floaty vocals thing every week... which would really get old. It's quite beautiful, though.

LA adores her voice and thinks that she's the "whole package", though it pains him to have to give Simon a compliment. "You're a star, girl!" he tells her. Nicole also applauds Simon, calling it "so ethereal" and dubbing Drew a "folk princess". Paula appreciates that she connects with the audience and is wise beyond her years, while Simon says that finding someone like her was the reason he wanted to get back on American TV.

Rachel Crow
22.03 It's 13-year-old Rachel Crow next. I love this kid, I swear. Anyone who doesn't lacks a soul. She's wearing the cutest little outfit and covers Justin Bieber's 'Baby' mashed with The Supremes' 'Where Did Our Love Go?' and it just works. It'll really be a shame if she leaves. She could be a massive star.

LA loves her and thinks that she could have a career not only in music but in acting. Nicole is so proud of her "Little Miss Sunshine" and thinks that she did amazing even though she would have chosen a different song that showed her vocal range. Paula says that she is the most likable girl she's ever met and that she could do anything she wanted. Simon stands by his song choice and think she's an original, retro-influenced act.

Simone Battle
21.54 Finally, it's time for the Girls and it's Simone Battle up first. Ugh. She sings The SOS Band's 'Just Be Good To Me' (Cher Lloyd, anyone?) but it's all a bit disjointed. She talk-sings much of it and almost seems to get lost in the large production Simon has set up for her.

LA wants Simon to explain why he's put her through as he just doesn't get it, saying he's never been a fan. Nicole also says it was predictable, though she congratulates Simone for doing a good job. Paula thinks that she looked beautiful but would have liked to see fewer dancers but Simon stands by her and says that the other panelists are trying to upset her as they've never liked her.

21.46 Nicole has to make a decision as to who to send home. After the Over 30s head back to the stage, she chooses Stacy Francis, Josh Krajcik and LeRoy Bell to proceed and sends Dexter Haygood home.

Josh Krajcik
21.41 Finally, it's Josh Krajcik's turn. You all know I adore this man, right? He sings 'Forever Young' almost a cappella and it's perfect. Completely minimalistic, but with a voice like that, who needs anything else?

LA calls him one of the greatest singers of the competition and loves everything about him. Paula says he's her favourite voice of the past decade, while Simon admits that Josh is the one artist that he fears, calling it a "brilliant" choice of song and deeming it the best performance they've had. Nicole thinks it was "soul-stirring", and I agree. He's amazing.

Stacy Francis
21.31 Stacy Francis has a lot to live up to, considering her incredible Judges Houses' performance. She takes on George Michael's 'One More Try', complete with a backing choir and it's quite good - almost effortless. She looks fantastic, as well, and seems completely in her element.

LA thinks she got it right and is proud of Stacy, which Paula agrees with, adding that she looked like a star and still told a beautiful story. "It was a brilliant performance," she adds. Simon really likes her but wasn't fond of her outfit or her song choice. He thinks that she's a "church singer", which sounds a bit offensive but I totally agree that she has massive gospel leanings. Nicole applauds her, saying every aspect of the performance "gave her wings" and helped her "soar".

LeRoy Bell
21.26 LeRoy Bell takes the stage to perform Pink's 'Nobody Knows'. He's got a nice voice but it's not a $5 million one, honestly. Still, he does a good job of it and really gets into the song - you can tell he really loves being on stage.

LA says it was really good but would have given him a better song. However, he's confused as to how he's not become a big star already because there's nothing missing from him being the total package. Paula calls his voice "pure magic" and compares him to Michael Bolton. Simon thinks he has one of the best voices in the competition but wonders if he's connected to Nicole yet as he seemed to lack confidence. However, Nicole stands by Leroy, congratulating him for performing so well.

Dexter Haygood
21.17 Nicole's Over 30s are up next and Dexter Haygood (reserve your comments, I know) is up first. He performs a cover of Britney Spears' 'Womanizer' but I can't type anything about it since my eyes are rolling too far back in my head to see the screen. He adds in a bit of Katy Perry's 'I Kissed A Girl', as well and screams into the mic like a maniac. Sigh.

LA thinks he found himself and is really proud of Dexter but doesn't agree with the song choice. Paula jokes that she doesn't get his version of the song, while Simon called it "the weirdest milkshake in the world" that he would sing such big pop songs. He also likes Dexter as he's "interesting and unpredictable", much like his mentor. Nicole is so proud of him as well for remembering his lyrics and was "such a rockstar" on stage.

21:09 Paula's got to make her decision now as to which group goes home. They're all called back to the stage as she announces that Stereo Hogzz, Lakoda Rayne and InTENsity, meaning the Brewer Boys are headed home. Whew!

Lakoda Rayne
21.05 Oh no, it's Lakoda Rayne. I don't know why I dislike them so much, I just do. They sing Dexy's Midnight Runners' 'Come On, Eileen' and it's all so corny. The vocals aren't so bad but it just seems like they all would rather be solo artists and/or in Coyote Ugly. Still, it could have been worse, I suppose.

LA says that he would sign them to a worldwide recording contract as he loves everything about them and Nicole agrees, saying that they sounded amazing and made girl groups look good. Simon is also on LA's side, admitting that there's a gap in the market for a band like Lakoda Rayne and applauding Paula for her work once again. Paula is emotional and choked up, saying that of all the groups, they impressed her most as they had the most to prove.

inTENsity
20.59 And it's InTENsity's turn to try and impress. These guys are too cute. They're a bit too Glee for my liking, but they do have good energy as they perform 'Footloose'. I'm not sure why it works, but it does. Will they win? Of course not, but they deserve to stay around a bit longer, I think.

LA is impressed, especially since they were only recently put together and have managed to put together a "thoroughly entertaining" performance. Nicole calls them her "little pumpkin patch of yummy pumpkins" and says that they're all little stars. Simon thinks it was the equivalent of a music miracle as they've pulled it together despite all odds. And because Simon and I are soul mates, he thinks they're "the new young Glee". See? Paula loves that they rose to the occasion and is very proud.

Brewer Boys
20.50 Next up, it's The Brewer Boys. I've never really cared for them, truth be told, but who knows, maybe they'll surprise me. (Probably not.) They do a version of Hall and Oates' 'Rich Girl', which is a shame because that's a great song. Oh, then they switch to George Michael's 'Faith'. Great. A medley.

LA congratulates them on a good job but thinks that it was outside of Paula's comfort zone and says that he wasn't blown away. Nicole says that if she was still a teenager, she'd have posters of them on her wall. Wow, ringing praise. Simon thinks that they've progressed but reminds everyone that it's a $5 million competition and they don't "shine" the way they should. However, Paula thinks they've come a long way and that they "nailed it" and they're "amazing and adorable". So... they're going home, then, right?

Stereo Hogzz
20.41 Next up are Paula's Groups, and it's The Stereo Hogzz's turn to impress. They sing Otis Redding's 'Try a Little Tenderness' and it's really, really good - they sound great, have a cohesive look and might actually break the curse of the Groups established by X Factor UK.

LA thinks it was "really, really good" and that they've come a long way since their first audition, admitting that he has no criticism to offer. Nicole agrees, calling it "foolproof and solid all around" and applauding Paula for her mentoring skills. Simon has a hard time praising Paula but tells her that she did a really good job with the group and saying that he loves them because there is nothing in the charts like them right now. Paula is "so proud" and thanks them for trusting her.

20:33 Uh oh, it's LA's time to make a decision on who he wants to send home. He admits that it's a tough decision as he's grown attached to each of them but understands that this is what must be done.

The first boy through to the Top 12 is Astro, followed by Marcus. The last to make it is Chris Rene, meaning Phillip is out. Thank God!

Marcus Canty
20.28 The final boy steps up and it's Marcus Canty - I like him. His voice is in top form as he takes on Culture Club's 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me' with his own style. Behind Bradley, he's definitely the best in the category and I'll be gutted if he goes.

Nicole is a fan, saying that he makes it look too easy and that he was born to be on stage. Paula agrees, admitting that she feels like she's watching a veteran perform because he owns the stage. Simon appreciates that he gave it everything he had and appreciates LA's choice of song. LA is also proud that he stepped up to the plate once again.

Phillip Lomax
20.19 Phillip Lomax (Mini Bruno Mars, as you may recall I refer to him as) is up next and ouch, is he dressed weirdly - some sort of... suit or something. He sings 'I'm A Believer', which seems like a bizarre song choice, as well. It's not very good, I'll say that. He starts screaming half the lyrics and it's just all wrong.

Nicole says that he has no shortage of personality and charm and calls it "amazing" - were we listening to different things? Paula also thinks that he did a "mighty fine" job and enjoys that he connects with the audience. Simon says that he has massive potential but thinks that the song was too cheap and cabaret (I agree!) and tells LA that he "100% failed" tonight. However, LA applauds him for stepping out of his comfort zone and tells Phillip not to listen to Simon.

Chris Rene
20.13 Up next is Chris Rene with a cover of Rolls Royce's 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' - one of my favourite songs ever. He spices it up with a bit of his R&B style but vocally it seems to be lacking just a bit. He adds in a little rap, which isn't so bad, but he seems to be struggling a bit with some of the falsetto put in.

Nicole thinks it was a strong performance but questions the song choice. Paula loves the "genuine truthfulness" he conveys and the fact that he has a "spiritual connection" with the music, while Simon admits that he's not the best singer but would make one of the best recording artists of the competition, which is what it's all about. LA stands by the song choice and thinks that Chris did a great job.

Brian Bradley/Astro
20.09 Astro performs an incredible version of Kriss Kross's 'Jump' - with his own spin, of course. He gets the crowd out of their seats, dancing and singing along and has amazing energy. Nicole thinks he absolutely killed it and Paula tells him that he'll be an entertainer for the rest of his life. Even Simon calls him "more annoying than ever" as he came out of the gate and slayed the competition at only 15 years old. Of course, LA is just as pleased with his act and also praises him for the performance.

20:06 All four (or in Simon's case, five) acts in each category will sing in turn before their mentor decides which of them has to go. The first up is LA Reid's Boys and it's Brian Bradley, going by his stage name of Astro.

20.03 We're live and Steve Jones explains the competition (yet again) and introduces the judges, who all look fantastic. Simon gets the loudest cheers - but no surprises there, I suppose.

19.58 And we're off! It's the first live show of the season. Can't wait to see how everyone does!

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