‘The X Factor’ recap: The top 11 tackle movie songs

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The true contenders are starting to emerge on ‘The X Factor,’ as it continues its gradual, glitzy march toward a winner. Sure, all 11 acts still competing for the $5 million prize (and the Pepsi commercial –- don’t forget the role in the Pepsi commercial -– which host Steve Jones made me guffaw by calling ‘extraordinary stuff’) are talented. But some, we learned pretty clearly on Wednesday night’s show, where the contestants tackled songs somehow connected to movies, appear to be more talented than others.

The surprises:

Astro: Holy crumb! Just when I’d started to grow tired of his self-written rap routine (intertwined with established hits), this 15-year-old Brooklyn kid upped the ante in a way that made me realize that, no, seriously, he’s for real. On Wednesday, with a rewritten version of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself,’ he dug deep and rapped movingly about grabbing our chances in life and making the most of it. And you know he wrote it fresh this week because he mentioned the deaths of Heavy D and Joe Frazier. It was topical and timeless and meticulously performed, proving that the ‘Stop Looking at My Mom’ kid is not just a one-hit wonder. No matter how America votes, he’s got a future.

Rachel Crow: Simon Cowell wasn’t kidding when he said he’d been making bad decisions on Crow’s behalf. Those teenybopper song choices and cutie-pie, boyish outfits? Completely wrong, as it turns out. This 13-year-old has a mature, throaty, bluesy voice, singing with a resonance beyond her years; it’s only her round face that’s childlike. (We also now know that Crow has a deep well of emotional experience to draw on, if she chooses.) On Wednesday night, her song was of her choosing, Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Go Blind,’ and she owned it.


Marcus Canty: Yes, Canty’s been terrific from the start, but on Rose Royce’s ‘I’m Going Down’ from ‘Car Wash,’ he showed a vocal vibrancy and shimmering star quality (beyond just that twinkly jacket he got tangled up in mid-song) I’m not sure we’d fully seen before. A serious contender.

The steady standouts:

Melanie Amaro: One of the judges -– I think it was Paula Abdul -– said Wednesday night that Amaro could sing the phone book. It’s true. She took a singing-show staple (almost a cliché), Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror,’ and made it seem remarkably fresh and completely her own –- singing through laryngitis like it was nothing. Plus, she looked extra beautiful.

Josh Krajcik: Like Amaro, Krajcik hasn’t given a bad performance yet. But his full-throated, full-bodied take on the Joe Cocker version of the Beatles’ hit ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ may have been his best of them all. Beyond burritoriffic.

Drew: Cowell looked so pleased with himself for picking Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ for Drew, used in the film ‘You, Me and Dupree.’ But really, you could hand Drew any song and she’d make it sound like a Drew song. What I can’t decide is whether Drew’s consistency is an asset or a liability. L.A. Reid wants her to show range. Cowell thinks she should just be allowed to do her thing –- vocally, fashion-wise (the puffy tulle dress and barefoot look has now become her trademark). For once, I kind of think Cowell is right. But I also think he probably doesn’t have much of a choice.

None of this is to say that the other acts -– Stacy Francis, Leroy Bell, Chris Rene, and the two group acts, one of which will probably be sent home this week -– aren’t good. Bell had his best moment of the competition on Wednesday night, singing U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ But looking great for 60 (even Adam Sandler, whom the contestants shared a red carpet with at the premiere of his movie ‘Jack and Jill,’ felt compelled to comment on Bell’s uncanny youthfulness) is probably not enough to take him all the way. And while the judges thought Rene had a return to form on Wednesday night, I don’t really see him ever pulling off anything that will touch his ‘Young Homie’ audition moment.

What did you think of the performances Wednesday night? Who do you think will be sent packing this week? RELATED:

‘The X Factor’ results: And then there were 11

‘The X Factor’ recap: It’s now in your hands, America

‘The X Factor’ recap: It’s down to 12

‘The X Factor’ recap: Back to the judges’ homes

-- Amy Reiter