X Factor finalists are selected for live finals

X Factor finalists Ella Henderson, James Arthur and Lucy Spraggan This year's finalists such as Ella, James and Lucy will be able to perform their own songs in the live shows

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The X Factor judges have selected the 12 acts to send through to this year's live shows, which start next weekend.

Gary Barlow, Nicole Scherzinger, Louis Walsh and Tulisa Contostavlos each selected three finalists from the six acts they had brought through to the judges' houses stage of auditions.

Early favourites include 16-year-old Ella Henderson and Jahmene Douglas, 22.

Each judge also selected one 'wildcard' act, with viewers now voting to put their favourite through.

Barlow, who is mentoring the older contestants this year, selected Glasgow mum of two Melanie Masson and singer-songwriter Kye Sones, 30, who has been working as a chimney sweep.

Carolynne Poole, 32, who failed to make it through judges' houses last year, has also been chosen has a finalist.

Assisted by US star Ne-Yo, Scherzinger selected Douglas, James Arthur, 23, and controversial Essex clubber Rylan Clark, who has been criticised for lacking a strong singing voice.

This year's groups category consists of boybands GMD3, from Windsor, and Union J - who started the competition as a trio, but were made into a foursome by mentor Walsh, with the addition of George Shelley.

They are joined by London duo MK1 - Charlotte Rundle and Simeon Dixon, who originally auditioned as a trio.

Along with Henderson, who bookmakers William Hill have already named as their favourite to win, Contostavlos' girls category includes 24-year-old mum Jade Ellis and Lucy Spraggan, who impressed judges with her own tracks in the first auditions.

Cole's return
Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow Former judge Cheryl Cole returned to assist Barlow

Sunday night's programme attracted an average audience of 9.8 million viewers, the highest audience of the series so far.

However the viewing figures were still much lower than the equivalent show last year, when 12.1 million tuned in to see who made it through to the live shows.

Saturday night's episode, which averaged 8.7 million, saw former judge Cheryl Cole return as a guest mentor, two years after she left The X Factor following a short-lived spell on the US version.

She helped Barlow select his three acts, while Tinie Tempah featured alongside Contostavlos and another former judge, Sharon Osbourne, returned to assist Walsh with his selections.

Four 'wildcards'

Battling it out to become Saturday night's 13th finalist are Christopher Maloney, 34, from Liverpool, saved by Barlow, and 16-year old Essex student Amy Mottram, who Contostavlos had been close to tears after rejecting.

Also facing the public vote are 24-year-old Adam Burridge, given a lifeline by the boys' mentor Scherzinger, and from the groups category, Times Red.

Changes to this year's X Factor rules mean acts will be able to perform their own songs in the live shows for the first time, and those with management deals have also been allowed to enter.

Barlow said he thought the standard of talent this year was the "best ever", with the finalists "the cream of the crop".

He added: "The live shows will feel very different this year as contestants can sing their own songs and play guitar - I can't wait for Saturday."

The show will face a new ratings battle this weekend as Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One.

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