‘X Factor’: Melanie Amaro Stands Out As Five Go Home

First live episode whittles pool down to 12 finalists.

Five contestants were shown the door on Tuesday’s “X Factor,” the first live episode of the singing competition.

Among those sent away during the two-and-a-half-hour episode was Dexter Haygood, the formerly homeless contestant who once lived on L.A.’s Skid Row. Haygood — described early on as the “funky phenomenon” by his mentor Nicole Scherzinger — said he was “kinda confused” by the dismissal, which followed his bizarro-world mash-up of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” though he then said he didn’t know why he was confused. “Right now I’m in the boggle zone, which is the 21st century twilight zone,” Haygood explained.

Also sent packing during the episode were 20-year-old Tiah Tolliver, a favorite of Simon Cowell’s who was never liked by the other judges; 22-year-old Simone Battle, who plugged her upcoming music video even as she was being given the boot; crooner Phillip Lomax, the 22-year-old who was saddled with singing the outside-of-his-comfort-zone “I’m a Believer” on the episode by his mentor L.A. Reid; and brother duo the Brewer Boys, who apologized to their mentor Paula Abdul (older brother Justin referred to her as “Ms. Paula”) for letting her down in their performance.

That left 12 finalists who will go on in the competition:

» Astro, the 14-year-old rapper whose reworked version of Kris Kross’ “Jump” had Abdul telling him, “Welcome to the [music] business.” Following the performance, an enthused Cowell told Reid: “If this kid doesn’t make it through to the finals, you are literally insane.”

» Chris Rene, who put a fresh spin on Madonna’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” “I don’t think you are the best singer in this competition, but you are one of the best recording artists in this competition, and that’s what it’s all about,” Cowell told him.

» Marcus Canty, whose stage presence was celebrated during his bouncy, electro version of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” “You were born to be on that stage,” Scherzinger told him, while Abdul gushed, “I feel like I’m watching a veteran.”

» Houston fivesome the Stereo Hogzz, who mixed retro and current with a modernized take on Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” “As much as I want to have some criticism, I have to admit it was really good,” Reid said.

» The 10-piece InTENsity, whose mash-up of “The Clapping Song” and “Footloose” was deemed “thoroughly entertaining” by Reid. Said Scherzinger, “You’re like my little pumpkin patch of yummy pumpkins. All of you are little stars.”

» Lakoda Rayne, a group of four solo artists Frankensteined together by the judges, who put a sort of country-road spin on Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen.” Cowell dubbed the performance “better than I could have thought,” while noting many great pop groups were put together by industry types.

» Sixty-year-old LeRoy Bell, who sang “Nobody Knows” and whose voice was described as “pure velvet” by Abdul. But Cowell wasn’t convinced he was being given proper direction from Scherzinger. “I actually wish I was mentoring you,” he told him, saying he and Scherzinger “haven’t quite connected.”

» Stacy Francis, who was criticized heavily by Cowell, who attacked her outfit and choice of song (George Michael’s “One More Try”) and urged her to go in more of a “church singer” direction. Scherzinger didn’t agree, saying the performance gave her “wings.” “She soared tonight,” Scherzinger beamed.

» Burrito maker Josh Krajcik, whose hushed take on “Forever Young” was one of the least bombastic moments on the heavily produced show. Said Abdul, “Your voice is my favorite voice I think I’ve heard in the past decade,” while Cowell noted it was “probably the best performance we’ve had.”

» Drew, the 14-year-old formerly known as Drew Ryniewicz, whom Reid called “the whole package” following her performance of “Flashdance … What a Feeling.” Said Cowell, “This is why I wanted to be back on American TV, was to find someone like you.”

» Rachel Crow, the 13-year-old cutie who spun the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby” into one catchy pop ditty. Cowell praised her ability to be both old-school and modern, while in a burst of hyperbole, Abdul called her “the most likable girl I’ve ever met.”

» Melanie Amaro, whom Cowell traveled to her home to save. She didn’t let him down with her version of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Said Reid, “We really did save the best for last, because honey, you were unbelievable.”

“The X Factor” continues with a two-hour performance episode at 8 p.m. on November 2, and one finalist will be sent home during the hour-long results episode on November 3.

What did you think of the first live episode of “X Factor”? Let us know in the comments!