Let the conspiracy theories begin.
The big question of the “X Factor” finale wasn’t which of the three remaining contestants—deep-throated Melanie Amaro, inspirational blue-eyed soul crooner Chris Rene or big-hearted soul man Josh Krajcik—would be voted by America as the winner of $5 million and a Pepsi Super Bowl spot.
The real conundrum was how would the producers fill up the hour and 55 or so minutes before letting us know who won the darn thing.
But fill it they did, jamming it with a star-studded show that saw any number of dreams come true.
Bringing back the final 12 contestants—and does anybody even remember Leroy Bell, Stacy Francis of the Stereo Hogzz?—we got to see Drew sing with Justin Bieber, Astro rap with 50 Cent, Marcus Canty join Pitbull and Ne-Yo and Rachel Crow take lame duck Steve Jones’ job to announce former ‘X Factor” winner Leona Lewis’ performance.
There was plenty of yuletide cheer to go around. Each of the three finalists sang Christmas songs, with Amaro belting out “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Rene looking like a modern-day Bing Crosby handling, “Have Yourself a Merry, Little Christmas” and Josh channeling Charles Brown on a robust “Please Come Home for Christmas.”
Then it was time for the Biebs and Stevie Wonder’s medley of “The Christmas Song” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in a mash-up with the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” which, honest to goodness, made me reconsider my usual dismissal of the kid, especially when he gave Drew the thrill of her young life by bringing her on to join him in singing it. “He reminds me of myself when I was a little boy,” teases Wonder about Justin.
At this point, Jones intoned the name of the third-place finisher, which means the next to be eliminated, and, to my mild surprise, it turned out to be Chris Rene. The kid has a lot of charm and songwriting chops, and I believe we’ll be hearing from him again, as they say, but his voice was woefully inadequate for a competition of this nature. He never would’ve lasted this long on “American Idol,” for instance.
So, it was down to perhaps a pair of polar opposites in terms of style and temperament, but both with unique, distinctive voices, nevertheless, in Melanie and Josh. Old-style pop divadom vs. classic rock star cool. Who would win this contest? At this point, I seriously wondered if dark horse Krajcik could pull it off.
Some filler followed. There was the Top Five Most Shocking Moments, with #1 being the elimination of Rachel Crow, a highlight reel of the sniping between Simon and L.A., a Google commercial featuring the Muppets singing “Under Pressure,” a statistical comparison of who cried more, Nicole or Paula (the ex-Pussycat Doll topped Abdul 29-10), a Weight Watchers spot in which a before and after Jennifer Hudson duets with herself. Derek Fischer introduces “my good friend,” 50 Cent, who starts off sounding like he’s gone all R&B crooner on us, with a song that nevertheless was riddled with bleeps and white women in scantily clad outfits slinking through his legs, followed by a version of “In Da Club,” during which he was joined by a bevy of L.A. Lakers, including a very bewildered-looking Steve Blake, the only white guy on the stage.
Then, it was time for one final duet between Melanie and Josh on David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Krajcik with a beaming smile that stretched across his face like a stoned pumpkin, Melanie all earth-mother, warmth and heaving breasts. My eyes welled up. I was ready for the final decision, emotionally satisfied no matter which way it went.
And the “X Factor” winner is…. MELANIE AMARO.
When you think about it, the outcome was ordained from almost the very beginning, when mentor Simon Cowell orchestrated that whole dramatic scenario where he at first sent her home, then traveled to her home to bring her back.
Amaro began to put some real distance between herself and the competition with her sudden flash of personality, embracing her British West Indies roots and revealing an island patois that showed she was ready to take the contest and grab it by the throat. Which is just what she did.
After that, it was just a matter of keeping her lead and battling back what turned out to be compelling challengers in Krajcik and Rene.
Of course, it was Simon’s show, so Simon’s girl was gonna win, right? There will always be that element of doubt in a show like this, in which, looking back, Amaro’s victory seemed to be a sure thing, from the moment Cowell admitted his mistake and backtracked. It’s the kind of story arc that usually comes from a room full of writers.
Give credit, though, to the savvy judge/mentor/executive producer, who took the by-now stock singing/talent competition and injecting it with the kind of adrenaline you get when $5 million is at stake.
In addition, there seem to be quite a few of the finalists who could have promising careers in addition to classic rocker and all-around nice guy Krajcik and 10-step inspirational poster boy Chris Rene, including tyro rapper Astro, Shirley Temple sweetheart Rachel Crow, Swiftian girl next door Drew, song-and-dance guy Marcus Canty, even country-pop girl group Lakoda Rayne or sexagenarian soul man Leroy Bell.
As for Melanie Amaro. Now comes the hard part. If you listen carefully to Steve Jones’ spiel, the prize is a $5 million recording contract. Which means that the record company —in this case, we’re probably talking Cowell’s own Syco/Columbia label—will put $5 million worth of promotion, marketing, videos, etc., into her career. What will be left over after all that is anybody’s guess. Let’s hope Amaro has some good attorneys.
But that’s for tomorrow. Tonight, it’s time to celebrate.