Melanie Amaro had another strong night on “The X Factor” Wednesday. It wasn’t her best showing of the competition but it was still very good and drew warm accolades from the judges. Unless her fans fail to hit the phones, Twitter and other means to vote, she should move safely into the Final Four.

Her cause wasn’t helped by having to lead off the show but with each of the contestants asked to sing twice–a dance song and a tune of their own choosing–it’s probably not the death trap it is when you sing then are forgotten about for the rest of the program.

In fact, Paula Abdul complimented Melanie’s first selection, “Someone Like You” as a great way to open the show. Nicole Scherzinger said the 19-year-old from Sunrise looked and sounded like a rock star diva. Simon Cowell predicted that if she released her version, she would have a hit record with it. L.A. Reid kidded that he shouldn’t like her because she is Simon’s pupil but conceded she was “really good.”

The second song of the night was supposed to be chosen by fans. Host Steve Jones said there was a glitch in the process, which prevented this from happening. So the young hopefuls had 24 hours to come up with something of their own choosing. Given all the faux drama “The X Factor” has tried to create, you can believe that story if you like. I don’t.

In any case, Melanie knocked Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe” out of the park. She earned bonus points by explaining how personal this choice was, because even after Simon didn’t originally pick her for the finals, she never stopped believing in herself.

L.A. Reid again gave her grudging praise. “That was unbelievable. Safe but amazing.” Nicole said Melanie’s take gave her goosebumps all over. “I’m in awe of you.” Paula chimed in, “This is where less is more definitely worked.” Who knows what she meant; there was no less in Melanie’s performance. Simon pitched for votes: “You’ve got to pick up the phone. If this girl winds up in the pirannha pool, she’s out.” My interpretation is, Simon feels the other judges will send her home out of jealousy because she is mentored by him.

Maybe he’s projecting what he would do. Nicole was one of the votes that sent another Simon protege, Drew, home last week. He made no secret he was furious. It looked like he got his payback when Nicole’s mentee Josh Krajcik performed. Simon savaged the song choice and the choreography. Then again, L.A. Reid, who had no axe to grind, agreed, saying he didn’t believe Josh’s choice of song, “We Found Love.”

Josh, considered by many to be Melanie’s strongest foe, redeemed himself with a soulful “Something” as his second selection. Even Simon conceded it was “a massive improvement.”

Marcus Canty, who has had to sing for surival twice, might avoid that fate this week after a couple of solid performances, “Ain’t Nobody” and “A Song For You.” But history is working against him. Everyone who has been in the bottom two has eventually gone home. None of the other four has had to sing for their show life.

L.A. Reid said, as if he knew more than he was saying, that he has heard Hollywood is circling around 13-year-old Rachel Crow. No surprise. She would be perfect on a Disney Channel of ABC Family series.

She might need a Plan B sooner rather than later. She looked like a child among adult performers–which, of course, she is– Wednesday, doing “Looking at You,” and “Music and Me.” She just didn’t come off as a $5 million performer. Someday but not yet.

Chris Rene might have punched his ticket out of the competition by boldly performing his own lyrics with his first choice and an entirely original composition with his second. “At this stage of the competition,” Simon said, “you decide to sing your own song. That’s either stupidity or a stroke of genius.” Simon went with the latter.

Given that Chris is dependent on America’s support, I would go with the former. People like familiar songs, whether it’s at the concert of a superstar or on a competition show like “The X Factor.”