We’ve survived The X Factor‘s inaugural voting results — well, everyone except for InTENsity, that is — and after two weeks of live performances, it’s starting to become clear which acts have a decent shot at making the finale, and which ones need to start looking for exciting new stuffing recipes to impress their families at Thanksgiving. Check out my rankings below, then hit our poll to vote for your favorite!
11) Chris Rene: Recovering addict is incredibly likable and very charismatic — and his audition proved he can write a solid ditty. But his two live performances have exposed serious vocal shortcomings that may be beyond what mentor L.A. Reid can fix.
10) Stereo Hogzz: Simon said that there isn’t a band in the world right now as good as them — how utterly daft! — but America disagreed and sent them directly to the bottom two. That “Rhythm Nation” intro was noticeably off-key, and their styling and choreography are still works in progress.
9) Leroy Bell: He’s got good looks and undeniable vocal talent, but Leroy’s live renditions of “Nobody Knows” and “I’m Already There” were surprisingly charisma-free. Is his mentor saddling him with mismatching material, or does Leroy lack what’s called for in the show’s title?
8 ) Lakoda Rayne: They’re blond and attractive and moderately talented, but their harmonies went awry on portions of “Lansdslide,” and Paula’s wacked-out concept envisioning each member as a season probably won’t help them on a journey toward musical relevancy.
7) Rachel Crow: Super cute or cloyingly so? That’s one conundrum with the precocious 13-year-old moppet. The other is why Simon continues to saddle her with ditties that don’t allow her to show off her considerable chops. Could be headed for early trouble if she can’t gain some ground on Melanie and Drew — her two rivals from the deep “Girls Under 30″ category.
6) Stacy Francis: Nicole needs to treat Stacy’s big, untamed voice like a rodeo calf — chase it down, rope it, and wrestle it into submission — but instead continues to spur it on like a bucking bronco on a fast track to destruction. Weepy McSobbington has the tools to be a successful pop star or a church singer, but her love of wretched excess may be her undoing.
5) Josh Krajcik: Early front-runner has displayed definite rock-soul potential, but the judges didn’t do him any favors by overpraising last week’s cover of Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” that was emotionally connected but chock full of bum notes.
4) Astro: Most obnoxious contestant in the competition is also one of its most naturally gifted. He’s shown a penchant for whipping up fun, age-appropriate verses, and his flow is faster than Kim Kardashian heading to divorce court. Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him.
3) Marcus Canty: Got a little overwhelmed by the aggressive staging and arrangement on Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step,” but still displayed an enviable vocal control in the process. If L.A. allows him to forge a unique musical identity instead of making him chase the ghosts of New Edition, he could have the best shot at stopping Simon’s inevitable march to victory with a member of his “Girls Under 30″ troupe.
2) Drew Ryniewicz: Proved with Nelly’s “Just a Dream” that she won’t be undone by an R&B tempo or even a weird bit of staging that found her starting the number laying awkwardly in a bed of petals. Her Judges’ House take on “It Must Have Been Love” and Top 16 version of “What a Feeling” remain among the season’s most memorable moments. Only a foray into gangsta rap or death metal could get her booted before December.
1) Melanie Amaro: Simon acted as if his choice of The Eagles’ “Desperado” was revolutionary — a big, maudlin ballad? um, no. — but there’s no denying Melanie combines near robotic precision with a gentle, wide-eyed dose of soul. Even if her Big Diva Style isn’t your cup of 2% milk, you can’t deny she’s earned her front-runner status.
Slezak on Twitter: @MichaelSlezakTV