Dec. 22, 2011 at 9:05 AM ET
The three “X Factor” finalists got two final chances to impress the voters on Wednesday night, once in a duet and once with their audition song. It was an odd choice on the part of the show’s organizers, making the finale a report card where the two categories boiled down to “Plays Well with Others” and “Most Improved.”
The duets were ... well, interesting would be one word. Random is another. Josh Krajcik and Alanis Morrissette? Really? How did that conversation go? “Josh, great news! You get to sing with one of the most prominent female vocalists of the last two decades! But there’s a catch. You have to try to sing “Uninvited.”
That didn’t go so well, especially since Krajcik’s facial expression never got beyond the “Holy moly, I’m onstage with Alanis Morissette!” stage. Fortunately, he got a second chance, and “At Last” drew raves, but it was ultimately the least memorable pair of numbers on the night. He was also the first to perform, which never helps in the voting.
Chris Rene went second, and again had the random pop star partner in Avril Lavigne. “Complicated,” wasn’t much better than the previous duet, but Rene looked more comfortable and got his chance to take the spotlight with his riff towards the end of the number.
Rene also had a huge advantage in that his audition song became a YouTube sensation in about a nanosecond. Though we’ve all heard “Young Homie” before, it was a reminder that of all the “X Factor” finalists he’s the best equipped to have that hit single right away.
That left it up to Melanie Amaro. The judges all picked at her duet with R. Kelly and “I Believe I Can Fly,” which continues the trend in which she gets nagged at for small things while the other contestants can skate by with pretty much anything. We did get some variety, though, as this time the culprit was “wrong key” instead of “predictable.”
But she got to close the show, and made Beyonce’s “Listen” a song that will resonate in the minds of her fans. If this is based on pure vocal abilities, she’s a lock. But is that ever really the case?
To add to the drama, all three singers had cameras in their hometowns. Krajcik’s were at his old high school, a place he graduated before some of the current students were born. Rene’s were at a nightclub he performed at, and Amaro’s were at her church.
Of course, those selections were far from random. Krajcik, who came to his audition fresh off a job making burritos, is the everyman. Rene’s the club entertainer pulled back from the brink of self-destruction. Amaro defines herself by her faith, and it was Simon’s faith in her in bringing her back (or more likely his desire for some added drama, but why be cynical on such an important night?) that caused her to have the needed faith in her own abilities to become a favorite.
Which storyline will win? Well, as Simon Cowell said, this is likely to be the closest finale in the show’s history. Of course, it’s the first season, so that went without saying.
Krajcik is the longshot, so it’ll likely come down to the best voice against the best song. I’d bet on Amaro to win, but no result would be truly be surprising. And as long as a lot of folks watch and the winner goes onto become bigger than Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry combined, the “X Factor” brass will be happy. No pressure.
Who do you think has the chops to win it all? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.