The live shows of The X Factor season 3 are finally here. After taking some time off for the baseball playoffs (during which I’m sure most viewers have forgotten who the Top 16 acts even are), they will all perform tonight before four are eliminated. That’s a lot of singing to cram into two hours.

Which acts will emerge as the clear frontrunners and who will go home? It’s actually hard to tell this season because we have almost no information to go on. We’ve only seen these people sing twice, once during the auditions (if they were even featured) and then during the Four-Chair Challenge. Now we see if the new format works or if some performers are woefully unqualified to have made it this far.

I’m predicting that Danie Geimer, Josh Levi, James Kenney and Sweet Suspense will be the ones to go home. Let’s see if I’m right.

Mario Lopez opens the show with a nice walk-and-talk onto the giant X stage. We’re going category-by-category again to keep things easy to follow.

The Girls

Demi Lovato is rocking some insane aquamarine hair that I love. Also, The X Factor is using live internet feedback to see how the fans feel, and Khaya Cohen is way behind the other three. That could be a useful barometer to decide who will get the votes tarting next week.

Ellona Santiago

We go right into our first performance as Ellona dances with a large group of breakdancing back-up dancers. I suppose there’s singing in there too, but it’s mostly all about a big, Beyonce-style performance. Kelly Rowland calls it “magical” and the judges agree she needs to stay to win it and sell records.

Danie Geimer

Wow, this show is a mess because Ellona is barely off the stage before Danie starts up. Sixteen performances in two hours is too many. She sings Miley Cyrus‘ “Wrecking Ball,” and it’s kind of a mess. She doesn’t seem to know how to use a microphone and her enunciation is terrible. I barely understand a word she sings. Simon Cowell is worried about Danie being too boring because she’s into science. She’s Alex from Modern Family, but this show is looking for a Haley.

Rion Paige

She puts her country twang onto Demi’s “Skyscraper.” Parts of it aren’t so good, and I’m distracted by the fans blowing her giant mane of golden curls. Seriously, she’s 90 percent hair. I know she’s good, but I think the band overwhelms her vocals and she gets a little washed out. I think I need to adjust my expectations, because I’m used to American Idol and The Voice, where the singing is what matters most. But here, it’s much more about the performance and personality.

Khaya Cohen

She sings “Mercy,” and I think it’s the best vocal of the Girls. However, she tries to move and be a little flirty and sexy with it, which is disturbing and awkward because she’s 16. Simon is worried that people won’t like her because she has a wall up, and all of the judges criticize her lack of comfort when performing. Basically, they’re throwing her under the bus because they know she has the lowest fan support from that poll.

Girls Results

It’s obvious after the performances and judges comments that Ellona and Rion are safe (and they are the first two Demi picks to move on). The show would probably be better if we just got rid of the other two right now, but sadly one will have to continue to the Top 12. Khaya moves on and Danie Geimer is eliminated. That’s definitely the right decision and makes me 1 for 1 on predictions.

The Boys

The way Mario pronounces Pow-lina’s name is the most interesting thing about her. The rehearsal process is all about controlling nerves. And Paulina Rubio’s giant sunglasses.

Josh Levi

Ellona’s dance crew is back, and this performance annoys me because it’s all smoke and mirrors. The singing isn’t there at all, and he only does a few dance moves with his feet while the dancers around him do all the real work. Simon calls him out for focusing more on dancing than singing and gives it a 6 out of 10. Paulina believes in Josh’s singing ability. I assume she also believes in unicorns and fairy princesses.

Carlos Guevara

Maybe it’s his annoying wool-knit cap that I want to throw into a fire or the obnoxious audience that screams every time Carlos opens his mouth, but I don’t like it at all. He’s just screeching and wailing all over the place. Kelly says it was pitchy at times, if she means all of the time. Simon, however, loved it. Demi admits she couldn’t really hear his vocals most of the time, but she thought he did a great job anyway.  That sentence accurately describes this entire show.

Carlito Olivero

Paulina’s “little Latin lover” is full of energy and charisma, which makes him stand out. I’ve decided to like this guy, in spite of the bandanna around his neck that makes it look like he’s going to rob a train after this is over. Simon says he’d sign Carlito to his record label and gives him a rave review.

Tim Olstad

Vocally he’s about a million miles ahead of all the other Boys (and Girls, for that matter). But he just stands there with his expressionless face. Simon and Demi agree with me, comparing him to a funeral director who doesn’t get him excited at all. It’s hilarious that someone with a great voice is the odd man out in this competition.

Boys Results

Once again, there are two acts that are definitely safe (Carlito and Carlos) and two wildcards. In the viewer poll, Josh is at the bottom. Indeed, Carlito and Carlos are the first two moving on. Tim moves on and Josh Levi is eliminated. As much as I hated that Tim was brought back, this is definitely the right decision and it means I’m 2 for 2.

The Over 25s

Kelly mistakenly thinks she signed up to be a mentor on The Biggest Loser, because she brings her Top 4 acts to the gym to sing while running on a treadmill. Somehow Rachel Potter has a huge lead in the viewer poll, with Lillie and James at the bottom.

Lillie McCloud

She sings “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Well, she doesn’t just sing it. She wakes it up, puts on its nicest suit and then takes it to church. The performance is made better by two male dancers doing some interpretive thing that’s pretty cool. The judges love her voice. Simon thinks she needs to tone down the hand gestures because it’s too old-fashioned and theatrical. I know what he’s saying, but the problem is that The X Factor suffers from multiple personality disorder. Lillie just represents something different than the young-skewing demo Simon is chasing.

Jeff Gutt

He does his usual “lead singer of a rock band” thing. I feel like he’s just Roger from Rent. It’s hard for me to understand the show, because watching the Over 25s is like a completely different competition from the Boys and Girls. He’s definitely good and the judges all love him.

Rachel Potter

After almost losing during the Four-Chair Challenge, Rachel knows she needs to go pure country and not waste time with gimmicks. That’s precisely what she does, a great vocal on a solid country song that just screams “Vote for me, middle America!” Simon says that, while Rachel was absolutely terrible the last time, she was amazing this time and the best of the night. Obviously Simon got the memo from the viewer poll that this girl has a lot of fan support.

James Kenney

His voice is fine enough, but he has no clear identity. Lillie is the diva, Jeff is the rocker and Rachel is the country girl. James is just a generic pop singer. The judges all enjoyed it and agree that Kelly is screwed because there aren’t any obvious weak links in her category.

Over 25s Results

The viewer poll basically has Rachel and Jeff tied for first and Lillie and James way behind, tied at the bottom. Rachel and Jeff are the first ones moving on. It’s hard for Kelly, but she picks Lillie to move on and James Kenney is eliminated. Huzzah, I’ve been right every time! More importantly, I think the judges have made the correct decisions every time.

The Groups

Like the Four-Chair Challenge, we end with Simon’s category. Simon brought them all to his house, because showing off how rich he is makes him happy. In the poll, Sweet Suspense is somehow in the lead, with Restless Road in second, while Roxxy Montana is way behind. Since Danie was the second Girl, Josh was the first Boy and James was the fourth Over 25, the OCD stat nerd inside me wants the third Group to be eliminated, no matter who it is, just to keep it different.

Roxxy Montana

Based on their hair and outfits, Simon is turning them into Destiny’s Child. There’s the lead singer, Beyonce, plus Kelly and the other one. It’s just OK for me. The look and the set are great, but the vocals are simply fine. Paulina calls them the next big super group and Simon literally says the star is “the one in the middle,” making me suspect he didn’t bother to learn their names.

Sweet Suspense

They have bright, shiny clothes and sets with loud, bubblegum pop music (“I Love It”). I just got a cavity from watching this because it’s so clearly designed to appeal to tweens and anyone under 18. They’re fine at what they do.

Alex and Sierra

The producers are obviously bad at time management, because you can see Sweet Suspense’s set still being dragged off as these two begin. They put their cool, coffeehouse vibe on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” making it adorable. Kelly is worried that it might be too corny, but Simon defends them. He praises their sex appeal, and Alex is hilariously uncomfortable about people discussing his sexual chemistry with his girlfriend on national TV.

Restless Road

Simons’ greatest accomplishment, this country man band turns Katy Perry’s “Roar” into a country song. It works quite well, and as always, Zach Beeken’s super deep voice is used once to get a big applause from the audience. Much like I predicted, these are the guys to beat because the judges are going to push them as hard as possible.

Groups Results

This is a tough one, but I have to defer to the viewer poll. Sweet Suspense has 41 percent, Restless Road has 34 percent, Alex and Sierra have 20 percent while Roxxy Montana is way down at just 5 percent. Obviously I was way off predicting that Sweet Suspense would go and Roxxy would make the Top 5. Restless Road and Alex and Sierra are the first two groups moving on. I guess there’s only room for one all-girl trio.

Simon begs Mario to let him have both of the remaining Groups, but that’s not allowed. Simon milks every last second of TV time hemming and hawing over this decision. He keeps Sweet Suspense and Roxxy Montana is eliminated. Well, I didn’t predict this one, but I agree that they were the worst Group of the night and deserved to go.

Overall, the judges all made the best decisions, which I am thankful for. Restless Road was already a clear frontrunner, but I think Rachel Potter took a huge leap forward and Sweet Suspense could be what I thought Roxxy Montana was gonna be, a Top 5 act.

You can Meet the Top 12 with a one-hour special on Thursday at 8pm (assuming the Boston Red Sox finish things up tomorrow) and next week it’s back to Wednesday and Thursday for the Top 12 as America votes.

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(Image courtesy of FOX)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.