'The X Factor' recap: Josh Krajcik, Chris Rene and Melanie Amaro sing for the win
No matter who wins "The X Factor" Thursday night, the final performance show Wednesday made one thing perfectly clear: All three of the top three finalists – Josh Krajcik, Chris Rene and Melanie Amaro – are supertalented and will almost certainly go on to have successful music careers.
Any of the three could walk away with the crown. It just depends on whether voters have connected more strongly with the bluesy rocker who's been slinging burritos and singing in small clubs, waiting for his big break (Krajcik), or the sweet-voiced, back-from-the-brink former addict with the winning swagger and the tender heart (Rene), or the church-going, formerly bullied young woman with the gigantic, supple voice and diva stage presence (Amaro). Really, it's anybody's call.
On Wednesday night, viewers got to hear from each singer twice, unless you count the contestants' group number, on which they were joined by metallic dancers from Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson, the Immortal World Tour." (Fox and the Jackson estate clearly can't get enough of each other. Not sure what's going on there.)
First, each contestant did a "surprise" duet with a major star. Krajcik was joined on Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited" by Morissette herself, turning in what Simon Cowell rightly summed up as an "8 out of 10" performance. (L.A. Reid, who revealed that Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" is his favorite album, called the Krajcik-Morissette duet "surreal," and it appeared he meant it as a compliment.)
Then Rene -– eight months sober as of Tuesday -- bounced around onstage with Avril Lavigne on Lavigne's "Complicated," after which Paula Abdul complimented him on his "energy" and Cowell declared the duet record-worthy. (Reid added that such a record would be "a No. 1 hit.")
Amaro, for her part, sang in a lower-than-usual register with R. Kelly, their two voices comfortably mingling on Kelly's mega-hit "I Believe I Can Fly." Reid thought Amaro was overpowered, but Cowell thought she looked like "a star."
In between all that, there was a lot of yelling from people in the contestants' home towns.
Then the contestants came back with the solo performances with which they hoped to win viewers' votes for one last all-important time. Those performances turned out to be reprises of their original auditions. Rather than showing us how far they'd come, they reminded us of what we loved about each of them in the first place. Krajcik showed his grit, earnestness and passion on Etta James' "At Last," on which he accompanied himself on guitar, perched (a bit worryingly) on a high platform fronted by a lighted set of stairs. "You're such a rock star," Reid told him.
Rene showed his sweetness and conviction on his own song "Young Homie," this time all polished up with musical accompaniment, backup dancers and a full-on light-show. "You are magic," Abdul declared. Cowell called Rene a "man of your word … a brilliant performer, a true gentlemen and a really nice guy," and said he hoped America would support him.
And Amaro? She sang Beyonce's "Listen" so powerfully she nearly blew the rest of the night away. "That wasn't a $5-million performance," Reid said. "That was a $50-million performance." Cowell, Amaro's mentor, put it even more bluntly. "To me, you should be the winner of 'The X Factor,'" he said.
Personally, I've really grown to adore each of these three contestants over the weeks, and I'd be pleased to see any of them win. But the one I'd most hate to see lose? That would have to be Amaro. She's come back from so much – not least of which was the disappointment of being prematurely sent home by Cowell earlier this season, before he thought better of it and brought her back. We've watched Amaro's dream slip away before. I'd really rather not see it happen again.
Who would you like to see win "The X Factor" Thursday night?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Top 3 Perform: L-R: Josh Krajcik, Melanie Amaro and Chris Rene on THE X FACTOR Dec. 21, on FOX. Credit: Ray Mickshaw / FOX.