'X Factor' Recap: The Top 12 Is Revealed

After a brief baseball break, the singing competition returns with the season's first live show.
Ray Mickshaw/Fox
"The X Factor's" Lillie McCloud

The X Factor eliminations continued on Tuesday night as the four returning judges were forced to eliminate one act from each of their teams.

It was the first live show of the season and the one to determine the final 12 so the pressure was most certainly on. First up were the girls, mentored by Demi Lovato  rocking a much bluer shade in her hair.

Optimistic about the girls' chances, she watched Ellona Santiago,17, take the stage first singing Britney Spears' "Til The World Ends." All four judges agreed she was "magical" and Simon Cowell said he could see a lot of record sales in her future. 

Danie Geimer,15, failed to impress the panel with her version of Miley Cyrus' megahit "Wrecking Ball." In fact, you could say it was kind of a wreck. The opening notes were pitchy and even when her sweet spot came through, she showed no energy or confidence. 

As expected, Rion Paige won the crowd over when she took on Lovato's own hit single, "Skyscraper." The 13-year-old put her  heart into the performance and hit the song's high notes with ease. Color one judge super-impressed.

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When Khaya Cohen,16, hit the stage to sing "Mercy," it looked like she was moving to an entirely different tune than the one she was belting. Her voice was fine but her presence? Forgettable, at best. Cowell suspected the crowd could have a hard time connecting to her personality but she pleaded to stay around and it worked out in the end. Lovato sent wallflower Danie packing and no one in the crowd seemed to mind. 

Paulina Rubio had an equally predictable night when her boys hit the stage. While fans likely expected big things from Josh Levi, the fresh-faced 15-year-old failed to deliver the goods. The first of a few acts to select an all-wrong song, his decision to cover Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World" was just plain odd. Not even the gender switch made it OK. 

Carlito Olivero, on the other hand, brought the first dose of genuine sex appeal, taking on Marc Anthony's "Maria Maria" and wowing judge Paulina Rubio who was seen swooning in her seat. 

Carlos Guevara,16, was less successful with a lackluster rendition of "Don't You Worry Child." He seemed to be trying too hard to hit the notes and the result was a painful-looking performance that showcased his nerves more than his singing chops. 

Returning contender Tim Olstad, 24, held strong with his crystal-clear vocals when he attempted "Always." As in the past, judges weren't too wowed by the performance, but Rubio chose him over Levi. It was the shocker of the night, certainly for the teen, whose mouth hung open until the lights went down, and even the audience who expected Levi to go farther in the competition.

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Kelly Rowland had her work cut out for her when the over-25 hopefuls took their turn. After all, her team was home to standouts like Lillie McCloud and Jeff Gutt, who kicked off the show's second hour. Still rocking her huge afro and enormous voice, 54-year-old McCloud flawlessly delivered the classic "When a Man Loves A Woman," impressing the crowd and the judges as Rowland dubbed her this season's "best vocalist." 

Gutt, 37, had a good night as well when his rock-tinged rendition of "Try" sent the judges into a tailspin of praise. Rachel Potter, 29, selected "I Hope You Dance" and while the song is so overdone on singing competitions, the arrangement was perfectly suited for her sweet-sounding voice. 

James Kenney, 36, was no match for the rest of his team. His version of "Red" didn't hold up in comparison and so his journey came to an abrupt end when Rowland sent him packing. 

By now it seemed clear the stiffest competition was coming from the groups, mentored by Cowell. 

All-girl trio Sweet Suspense got props for their take on Icona Pop's "I Love It," even if their performance was more about distracting with sparkly props than highlighting vocal chops. Still, the judges were somehow wowed, with Cowell practically salivating by the time they struck their final pose. 

Cutesy couple Alex and Sierra put a folksy twist on Robin Thicke's smash "Blurred Lines" and solidified their spot in the next round. Rowland warned that they were borderline "corny" but Cowell disagreed and insisted that the two were sexy. 

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Another all-girl threesome, Roxxy Montana, looked like stars when they hit the stage for Lorde's "Royals." But while they won the night for best song choice, the a cappella arrangement left a lot to be desired. 

Indeed, Cowell was not impressed and Rowland rode them about keeping their harmonies sharp. Still, it was one of the night's better moments. 

Restless Road was another act that chose a gender-bending song, taking on Katy Perry's "Roar." The judges loved it and felt like their rodeo-ready spin worked but the the crowd seemed underwhelmed by the newly formed trio of country crooners. 

When the time came for Cowell to send someone home, he tried, as he has in the past, to bend the rules by keeping all four. Host Mario Lopez wasn't having it, however, and pressed for a decision, Cowell reluctantly kicked Roxxy Montana to the curb. In the studio, you could hear a collective gasp. 

After the show, the girls were inconsolable as they exited the soundstage. "I knew they were gonna do us like that," sobbed one of the sisters. "That wasn't right."

Who will feel the sting of elimination next week? Finally viewers get to decide as X Factor season three opens the public vote.

Any early predictions or reactions to the first round of live competition? Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Twitter: @cortwills