The first season of Fox's X Factor, has introduced American viewers to both the unique elements of the show (like the period when contestants move in with their mentoring judge, living in the judge's house as part of the singing competition) and the familiar (including the controversial lip synching).
Of course X Factor has also offered new opportunities to hear former American Idol Simon Cowell's caustic wit and to discover some remarkable singers. Here are the top ten singers in the first season of X Factor ranked from best to worst.
1. Melanie Amaro
Melanie Amaro is from Tortola, one of the most popular Caribbean islands. Mentored by Simon Cowell, Amaro has been consistently amazing on X Factor and is one of the season's front-runners. She has drawn comparisons to Adele and Alica Keys and brings her own spin to iconic songs like Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" and a pared down version of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts."
Can any of the other competitors stop Amaro's trajectory to the top? Only time will tell.
2. Rachel Crow
Thirteen-year-old Rachel Crow has been singing since she was just a toddler. Now the teenager is drawing attention from the folks at Disney. But as much as mentor Simon Cowell has tried to position Crow as a blossoming pop princess, her real strength seems to be in slower, bluesier songs like Etta James's "I'd Rather Go Blind" and Rolling Stone's "Satisfaction." Can she outperform more experienced singers? Absolutely.
3. Josh Krajcik
Thirty-year-old singer songwriter Josh Krajcik lives in Columbus, Ohio and plays guitar and piano. He has been mentored by judge Nicole Scherzinger but all the judges seem to be in his corner.
After his performance during "rock week," judge L.A. Reid raved, "You have the authenticity, you have the stage presence, and you're the only person who's really rocked the house tonight." Meanwhile judge Simon Cowell called Krajcik, "bloody fantastic." Meanwhile, Scherzinger calls Krajcik, "the ultimate rock star."
4. Drew Ryniewicz
Fourteen-year-old Drew Ryniewicz has been singing since she was just 7-years-old. On X Factor, Drew has been a front-runner under the wing of mentor/judge Simon Cowell. But while she's a fan favorite, the other X Factor judges have begun showing impatience with Drew not offering something different.
LA Reid has said he loves Drew's voice, but he's pushing for more. Nicole Scherzinger is waiting for energy from Drew while Paula Abdul wants Drew to demonstrate more diversity in her song choices.
Fifteen-year-old Astro (Brian Bradley) writes his own lyrics and can spit mad rhymes, but he's having a harder time meeting the genre requirements of weekly challenges. During rock week, Astro rhymed his own lyrics to Puff Daddy's Notorious B.I.G tribute, "I'll Be Missing You," which barely qualified as "rock" because it samples from The Police's "Every Breath You Take."
Despite praise from the judges, that performance landed Astro in the bottom-two, where his refusal to perform in the a sing off nearly cost him his place on the show. Simon Cowell berated Astro for "showing disrespect to the audience," but still voted with the other judges to keep him in the competition. But, if Astro doesn't check his attitude, he won't make it much farther.
6. Chris Rene
A former garbage man from Santa Cruz, California, Chris Rene is 28-years-old and mentored by judge LA Reid. His performance during rock week transformed Bob Marley's reggae ballad "No Woman, No Cry," into smooth and modern R&B.
Halfway through the song, Rene ripped off his jacket to reveal a Jay-Z-designed Occupy Wall Street T-shirt, but the only real controversy about the performance was whether the song qualified as "rock." Although Marley has been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, Simon Cowell said reggae didn't count. Still, Cowell admitted, "I love the performance."
If Rene--who previously garnered standing-ovations from the judges--stays true to his R&B-reggae-hip-hop-infused origins, he will regain the judges' adoration and be a fierce competitor in the weeks to come.
7. Marcus Canty
Twenty-year-old Marcus Canty is from Bowie, Maryland and mentored on X Factor by judge LA Reid.
A skilled performer, Canty has created spectacles on the X Factor stage and slid through the legs of a back-up singer. Is his undeniable stage presence enough to keep him in the competition?
8. LeRoy Bell
At sixty-years-old, LeRoy Bell is by far the oldest remaining contestant on X Factor--if not the oldest singer to compete on any reality singing competition. A native of Tacoma, Washington Bell has been mentored on the show by judge Nicole Scherzinger.
Although he has surprisingly youthful presence and energy, Bell has been accused by judges of being boring and will have to bring something special to the stage to survive the next few eliminations.
9. Lakoda Rayne
The final group remaining (and the last act mentored by X Factor judge Paula Abul), Lakoda Rayne is a band made up of Paige Elizabeth (18), Hayley Orrantia (17), Cari Fletcher (17) and Dani Knights (22). The girls have been singing since they were children. For example, Paige Elizabeth jokes, "I was always a loud child but they realized I could carry a tune since I was five."
Paula Abul has favorably compared Lakoda Rayne with the Dixie Chicks. But, during rock week, judge Simon Cowell complained about nearly every aspect of their performance--calling it “a complete mess.” How much longer can the group hang on?
10. Stacy Francis
A mother of two, Stacy Francis drew criticism when reports revealed she had previously had a professional singing career. Francis insisted that past shouldn't prevent her from competing on X Factor, arguing to Parade.com, “Obviously, my career wasn’t as 'successful' as people were saying. I wasn’t who I was before I came on The X Factor stage. It wasn’t like I was Janet Jackson.”
On the show, Francis was mentored by judge Nicole Scherzinger, but was cut after Simon Cowell called her rock week performance, "the kind of thing I'd expect to hear at the Hilton hotel, with people turning their backs."