After a week full of baseball rain delays and half-aired episodes of The Mindy Project, Fox finally revealed The X Factor's Top 16 contestants last night. Going forward, the show will settle into a weekly routine of live performances and audience voting in order to narrow the pack down to one winner of the $5 million prize and probably a Pepsi commercial or something. The live performances are typically where we start to lose interest—without the possible surprise trainwreck contestants, competition shows are that much more of an over-edited drag. But don't let that minor detail get you down! It's actually been a really fun season of The X Factor thus far, with the ghost of Britney Spears and a surprisingly likable Demi Lovato representing a gigantic upgrade over Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger's schizophrenic tastes last season.
But who are these Top 16 contestants? How did they make it this far? And what are their chances of winning? Here's a quick cheat sheet; let's hear your own opinions in the comments.
#16 Tate Stevens
Strength: A seemingly nice guy—we loved how he couldn't stand to be in the same room as Tara Simon—who can do a pretty good imitation of slow, country hits.
Risk Level: High. Country music has done well recently on American Idol and Blake Shelton is pushing it hard on The Voice, but it's hard to see this group of pop-centric judges pick an older act, let alone an older country singer.
#15 Jason Brock
Strength: He can belt out some bigger tunes than his peers. He's funny and genuine—he claims he was fired from his tech support job as a result of going on the show, and who doesn't like a comeback story?
Risk Level: High. Is a Broadway-style singer really going to win this? It's hard to imagine. But Fox execs should be thinking about his Glee cameo if they're paying attention.
#14 Sister C
Strength: A group of cute, Texas girls that already seems like they've been doing this for years. This should be a slam dunk, right?
Risk Level: High. For a group that is destined to be compared to personality-heavy country acts, they've really struggled to impress. In fact, they sort of seem to be tired of the show. Time to turn on the inner Taylor Swift if you want to survive, ladies!
Strength: This is a group of surfer boys who sang Goo Goo Dolls at boot camp. It was unexpected and original, and that's an advantage in this competition. Plus the lead singer's vocals are genuinely strong and Simon has branded them winners despite issues with remembering lyrics.
Risk Level: High. Cocky and of all the contestants they're probably the ones who are most allergic to hard work. That might sound harsh, but so far they've generally been hanging out around the pool shirtless and there's a good chance that two out of three of them are permanently stoned.
#12 Arin Ray
Strength: He's back for a second year, which proves he's a hard worker. He has a burgeoning romance with Normani from LYLAS, which can't hurt his chances. Witness the awkward flirtation here.
Risk Level: Medium. He's really solid and there aren't many strong male contestants this year. He should advance for a little while before the girls eat his lunch.
#11 Beatrice Miller
Strength: She's talented and a perfect match for Britney's group—she could easily be a mouseketeer yesterday.
Risk Level: Medium. Totally overshadowed by Carly Rose. And it's completely in her head. It may turn into cattiness in short order. Watch her mini freakout here.
#10 Diamond White
Strength: She wants this. We know that because we've heard her story more often than anyone else's. Granted, it's a tough one. She's sharing a bed with her mother and is estranged from her father.
Risk Level: Medium. She's going to be compared to Paige Thomas, who's much more polished. In fact, she may have been weaker than Dinah Jane, who she beat in the boot camp head-to-head (Dinah is now in LYLAS).
#9 Willie Jones
Strength: Originality. Country music + Kid N' Play hair.
Risk Level: Medium. Britney may have delivered an early death blow with her observation that Willie can't decide between his country and his R & B personae. Demi puppeted that critique as well, but he's hanging tight. If country music is going to win this season, he's the one who can make it happen.
#8 Vino Alan
Strength: He's certainly got a look. Credit the badass head tattoos. A good story as well—his mother was abused when he was a child, he's admitted he might be on the street if he loses, but he was most recently employed singing for the armed forces.
Risk Level: Medium. Blame the badass head tattoos.
#7 Paige Thomas
Strength: It doesn't hurt that she's a Rihanna lookalike who has an extremely adorable little girl. No doubt the child will be running out on stage once elimination is in the cards.
Risk Level: Medium. Ridiculously emotional. Seriously, no other contestant has cried more.
#6 Lyric 145
Strength: Simon put the group together, so you can't overestimate Simon's need to have chosen a winner.
Risk Level: Medium. They're a really fun group, but does rap actually appeal to The X Factor's audience? Last year's uber-talented-if-snotty young rapper Astro (Brian Bradley) made it to the fifth round of the live shows, but left in a fiery blaze.
#5 Jennel Garcia
Strength: Cute and likable, but able to summon a surprisingly sexy performance on cue. She also lost her best friend (Jillian Jensen) in the competition and had a heartwarming powwow after. (See them talk about their friendship in this in-studio radio interview.)
Risk Level: Low, due solely to a complete lack of confidence in her cuteness. Fox should put in an emergency call in Zooey Deschanel to consult.
Strength: Again, a Simon-created group and he's happy with his work so far. Also Camila Cabello was clearly good enough to have made it as a solo act, but she looks like she might be able to carry a group just the same.
Risk Level: Low. They had an awesome performance at judge's houses, but it was also their very first performance. They have a long way to go.
#3 David Correy
Strength: Smooth, pop-ready voice. Heartwarming story (Spoiler alert: He found his birth mother!).
Risk Level: Medium. Marketability is the biggest risk, of course. We're just not sure what the finished product will be. The tattoos and lip ring couldn't be a worse match for his singing style.
#2 Cece Frey
Strength: A ridiculous voice. Confidence in her look no matter how bad it is—leopard spots painted on her face?! Beat out Paige Thomas in a Whitney Houston showdown during boot camp.
Risk Level: High. Tons of talent, but she's a heinous bitch and Demi's already called her out on it. Voters prefer to vote for likable acts, right? Also, she's an ugly crier. We already can't take any more of it.
#1 Carly Rose Sonenclar
Strength: A voice beyond her years. As Black Eyed Peas frontman/possible homeless person Will.i.am stated, "She's like a caterpillar. Think she's gonna turn into a butterfly? Nope. DRAGON!"
Risk Level: Low. It's hard to see anything stopping her right now. But last year we watched Drew Ryniewicz, who was very much Carly Rose-lite, fall short of the crown. Could that be a sign that the judges will go with an older act?
– What is with the terrible, shouting announcer? Quite a disturbing addition this year.
– The editing continues to be a distraction. Despite having more footage to work with than most reality shows, The X Factor producers are obsessed with repeating their favorite moments to the detriment of all the others. The boot camp cuts were the most egregious, with some of the groups that were put through to the next round not getting any airtime. Devastating for Emblem3 fans on edge. Not to mention, what happened to Panda? Or Gene Simmons' daughter?
– Why did it take the show SO long to hire new hosts after last year's dud? Was it really that difficult to book Mario Lopez (who will take any job ever) and Khloe Kardashian (actually a sneaky good pick for the demographic)?
– How awful are Fox's decision-making skills when baseball screws with the schedule? After airing the majority of a two-hour episode on the East Coast, the network cut it short to show a portion of The Mindy Project, then cut THAT short to return to the NLCS (neither the cut-off X Factor episode nor the Mindy Project blip ever aired on the West Coast). In attempt to clean up the mess, Fox chose to condense the original two-hour episode into a one-hour version that aired last night. Wait, why are we complaining? One hour is the ideal episode length for this show. We'll stop.