The X Factor: The winner is ... (spoiler alert)
The final results show of The X Factor's first season turned out to be the one where there weren't any surprises (unless you count Stevie Wonder joining Justin Bieber onstage).
Melanie Amaro won the $5 million recording contract; Josh Krajcik came second and Chris Rene third.
The results, predictable as they were, were just one small part of a two-hour program that started out like a Christmas variety show, switched into a concert special and then back to a talent contest finale.
It's a cliche to say there are no losers, as the judges did when they gushed over the top 12 performance at the beginning of the episode, but it certainly seemed like everyone left happy.
Melanie was almost speechless with joy; Josh was grinning ear to ear at his runner-up status; Chris seemed genuinely grateful just to be there, telling host Steve Jones, "I got to touch a lot of people's hearts out there and I've just got to say thank you."
We watched a replay of Rachel Crow's elimination in a clips package of the top five shocking moments of the season (I don't even remember the one called "Chad's not happy"). But then we saw Rachel confident and happy onstage, telling Steve "there are amazing things coming in the future," before she introduced British X Factor winner Leona Lewis. Lewis sang "Run" while scenes from the season played on the screens behind her, which had the smiling judges recounting how much they'd enjoyed being on the show.
Drew, the other contestant who had a wrenching elimination (why wasn't that in the shocking moments?), got to sing, dance, hold hands with and hug her idol, Bieber.
Marcus Canty was back, looking chuffed to join Pitbull and Ne-Yo on "Give Me Everything (Tonight)." Astro threw down with 50 Cent on "Wait Until Tonight" and managed to hold his own. And the rest of the top 12 at least got to share the stage for a group rendition of Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory."
Dare I say it was a feelgood night all around.
It started with the top three performing Christmas songs: Melanie did "All I Want for Christmas Is You"; Chris followed with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"; Josh sang "Please Come Home for Christmas." The songs were good. Some of the staging was cheesy: giant fake presents and candy canes for Melanie; a dancer inside a giant snowglobe for Josh.
Each performance was followed by a sort of sentimental ambush of taped messages from the contestants' friends and families. Melanie couldn't speak for crying after seeing her mother, father and grandmother, among others. Heck, I was teary after seeing Chris's little boy say, "I love you, daddy" and hearing his friends and siblings tell Chris how proud his dead father would be. Josh held out the longest but ended up in tears after seeing his mom and daughter onscreen.
Justin Bieber was next up, getting some help from Stevie Wonder on "The Christmas Song" and following it up with a rollicking "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with a stage full of male dancers. Justin brought out Drew (with new red hair) to sing the last line and told Steve, "She is a very special girl and she will go far." Then Steve had to ruin it by reminding Drew that her "dream was you and Justin holding hands on a beach watching the sun go down."
"That was kind of better," Drew replied of her onstage experience.
That was the best of the guest musical numbers. Pitbull and Ne-Yo were the second best.
Fiddy's performance, meanwhile, featured the show's female dancers in white leotards writhing on white sofas scattered around the stage plus a bathtub (a bathtub?). The couches were later used by members of the L.A. Lakers basketball team who walked out and waved their arms around a bit before taking seats. Fifty Cent's rapping must have included some swear words since the sound cut out several times.
There was also a notable duet by Josh and Melanie on David Bowie's "Heroes." I was most struck by the genuine goodwill between the two as they sang. Josh gave Melanie a big hug and said, "I love you" after the song.
And when she won, Josh told Steve, "I feel amazing. Melanie deserves it. She has a wonderful voice.
"I have had such an incredible experience here. I got to be myself, sing what I wanted to sing and I couldn't be happier."
There's no sense feeling sorry for Josh. I very much doubt he's going back to slinging burritos. Simon told him earlier, "You are gonna sell a lot of records. I can feel it."
Steve made several fruitless attempts to get words from Melanie besides "Omigawd, omigawd, omigawd." She cried, she hugged some people who came running up onstage, she fell to her knees and prayed, then she sang "Listen" as best she could through the tears.
"I'm looking for Melanie Amaro. She just won The X Factor. That's her," quipped Steve, trying to fight his way through the other contestants, who had engulfed Melanie.
"Omigawd, I don't know what to say. Thank you," Melanie finally said, then shouting, "God is good!"
Simon Cowell, who was Melanie's mentor and the mastermind behind bringing The X Factor to America, told Steve, "We came here, Steve, to find a superstar. We found a superstar. Thank you to everyone who supported this. I'm very, very grateful."
The show will be back for a second season and is already gearing up to start auditions. There have been rumblings about the ratings (around 12 million in the U.S., more than a million in Canada per episode, though nowhere near American Idol numbers) and whether Steve and Nicole Scherzinger will be back next season.
But none of that mattered on Thursday night.
What did you think of the finale? Were you glad Melanie won? Will you watch next season?
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