The X Factor Season Finale Recap: And the Winner Is... [Updated]

The word “FINALE” — spelled out in all caps using pure molten lava — bubbled and exploded across a giant electronic screen. A lithe young woman in a red-and-white striped, fur-trimmed bathing suit writhed seductively inside an oversized snow globe. And Melanie Amaro, Chris Rene, and Josh Krajcik were reduced to blubbering, carol-singing wrecks.

The message may not have been subtle, but let’s be honest, that’s never really been Simon Cowell’s forte: IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, The X Factor reminded us in incredibly loud and extremely close-up fashion, that Christmastime is here; that Nicole HarbingerOfDoom is a master of nonsense; that Rachel Crow is alive and well and perkily scripted as ever; and — most importantly — that somebody was about to win a $5 million recording contract and the chance to star in his or her own ICONIC PEPSI AD.

X Factor’s Astro on ‘Getting to Rihanna’s Level or Higher,’ the Aggravation of Being Seen as Cocky

Here’s how the results played out. Finishing in third place — and prompting our tuxedo-clad swirl of jet-black hair and diamond-cutting cheekbones to declare “this feels…weird” — was Chris Rene. “I got to touch a lot of people’s hearts out there,” said a gracious and smiling Chris. If L.A. Reid has a functioning cell left in his brain — and after declaring “I Believe I Can Fly” as “one of the most important songs written in the last 50 years,” I’m not sure he does — he’ll release “Young Homie” to radio before 2011 is over.

And then it was on to the final results. But first, well, we had almost an hour to kill. So why not have 50 Cent take the stage with a bunch of sexed-up background dancers, some totally random L.A. Lakers players, a white bathtub prop (!), Astro (!), and a song that needed 30 percent of its lyrics censored to get it on primetime network TV without an FCC violation? And then how about a little bit of time-travel back to 1953 with a Paula-Nicole crying montage to reinforce that female reality-competition judges need not be taken seriously?

If your inner feminist survived that foolery, then it was time for Steve Jones’ final announcement (of the season, and perhaps ever): The winner of Season 1 of The X Factor is…Melanie Amaro! “She deserves it,” said runner-up Josh, noting he was thrilled to have made it to second place being himself and singing what he wanted to sing.

In a hilarious turn of events, Melanie was subsequently crushed in a group hug by her friends and family (and a member of Stereo Hogzz), then subsumed by the InTENsity collective, before Steve could ask her a single interview question. “I’m looking for Melanie Amaro: She just won The X Factor,” said Steve. To which her mentor Simon Cowell responded, “You’re not gonna get a word out of her.”

And then there was a crippling tsunami of confetti flooding the stage, Melanie attempting to deliver an encore performance of Beyoncé’s “Listen” through her gasps and sobs of joy, and finally, a few words from the new star of an ICONIC PEPSI COMMERCIAL. “God is good!” shouted Melanie. “I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say.”

As for me, well, since I’m not nearly as verklempt as Melanie, I’ve got a few more observations.

* I cannot believe they opened the episode with one last shot of that ridiculous X Factor 18-wheeler. Let’s hope it was on its way to California to pack up Nicole, Steve, the aggressively awful voiceover dude, and anyone responsible for the lighting and sound-editing this year, and send them to storage before Season 2.

* I also can’t believe they played “The Final Countdown” as the judges took the stage. Have these people never watched Arrested Development? It did air on Fox, after all.

* When Steve announced that “all your favorite finalists are back together again,” I was sure Elaine Gibbs, Jazzlyn Little, Caitlyn Koch, Tora Woloshin, 2SQUAR’D, The Brewer Boys, and even Simone Battle might storm the stage. Oh how that man lives to disappoint me.

* There were just way too many people on stage for the Top 12 performance of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” — 28 of ’em, if I counted correctly (and that’s not including the dancers) — and the backdrop was like a combination of Jodie Foster’s space-travel scene in Contact and the middle of a modern war zone. All my brain could process was Stacy Francis hollerating, the Stereo Hogzz delivering some alarming crotch-ography, and Drew Ryniewicz sporting a fetching new hair color.

* Melanie looked like a sparkly, violet Christmas ornament and sounded lovely on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” but Nicole’s nonsense critique — “you are a princess-goddess-warrior tonight” — was the equivalent of the Grinch foisting the tree up the chimney. Girlfriend is truly insufferable.

* Paula’s comment that Melanie was gorgeous “with your hair off your face” was a subtle but very necessary way of saying “no me gusta” to the tragic Cleopatra bangs our eventual winner was rocking at the start of the show.

* It struck me while Chris Rene sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that he’s like beef carpaccio to Melanie’s porterhouse steak: His voice is thin and raw and quite lovely in the right setting, hers is massive and rare and dominates the plate. Those judges’ comments he got really came off like a consolation prize, though, didn’t they? “No matter what,” Screwzywocky said, “you are a star from the inside out.” Um, next time, how about a spoiler alert!

* Josh seemed right at home rocking out on “Please Come Home for Christmas,” but what the heck was with the Snowglobe Lady behind him? It was as if the object of his affection had been kidnapped by some kind of evil holiday gnome and was being held captive till Boxing Day.

* I don’t have too much use for Steve, but I kind of fell in love with him when he interrupted Nicole’s tirade to Josh — “My flippin’ love, I appreciate you so much” — with a flummoxed “What is flimmin’?”

* Poll question: Is there a jacket in the history of jackets more heinous than Justin Bieber’s crushed black leather number with shiny green sleeves?  Answer A for “No,” and B for “Hell, No!” The kid sounded decent, though, especially with Stevie Wonder providing backing vocals. (I kid ! I kid!)

* I’m flippin’/flimmin’ mad that Drew — who remains the X Factor contestant I’m most likely to download in the post-season — got relegated to a single line of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and had to deliver it in a sombre, slowed-down fashion. And no, an awkward embrace with the Bieb is not an acceptable consolation prize.

* Surely, Leona Lewis should’ve been recruited to duet with Melanie on Wednesday on the Whitney Houston-Faith Evans-Kelly Price R&B classic “Heartbreak Hotel,” rather than being relegated to singing over a Season 1 clip show during the Thursday results telecast, right? (Yet another example of Simon’s limited musical imagination.)

* Maybe I should blame it on the alcohol, but I’m pretty sure 50 Cent’s performance was part of a Funny or Die short. Paula’s hands in the air. All the radio silence to block out the profanity. The lady dancers thrusting their netherregions with the aggression of department-store perfume hawkers. Random basketball-player types line-dancing and grabbing their manhoods. I was howling with laughter and waiting for Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel to hit their red ‘X’ buttons.

* Would you judge me harshly if I said I took a vino break when Pitbull and Ne-Yo came out to play? (Hey now, I didn’t say I actually took said break to pour a chilly glass of Indaba sauvignon blanc, I was just wondering how you’d respond if I admitted to such shirking of my recapperly duties. And hey, if I am guilty of such a crime, it’s not like I didn’t rewind and watch the eight seconds of screentime they gave to poor Marcus Canty and His Fine-Ass Leather Pants.)

* I’m not sure Melanie and Josh’s voices were built for dueting, but it was pretty adorable witnessing their genuine affection for one another on David Bowies’ “Heroes.” How come we so few glimpses of the contestants’ basic humanity over the last four months?

How about you, X Factor fans? Any parting words? Are you happy with how the season played out? And if you could change one thing about the show for Season 2, what would it be and why? Hit the comments and sound off on the results of The X Factor‘s inaugural season. And for all my interviews with The X Factor‘s Top 3 contestants, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. darcy's evil twin says:

    thank you, Mr. Slezak, for your additional hilarious comments. My husband and I both agree with you regarding Justin Bieber’s jacket. It was simply awful.

    Hey, Powers That Be – if you have to delete part of the lyrics on national TV, PICK ANOTHER SONG. Tell “Fiddy Cent” to sing “God Bless America” or go back to East St. Louis or whatever ghetto he crawled out of until he can find a song that has lyrics fit for national television. I am hardly a prude – I’m old and lived through the late 60s and early 70s for crying out loud, but that was ridiculous. What’s next? Country Joe and the Fish with their Fish Cheer?

    I enjoyed all of the three finalists’ Christmas music performances,
    particularly (and surprisingly) Chris Rene singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. I wish Chris all the best on his continued recovery and maybe he can write some songs “Fiddy Cent” can sing on TV!

    And Sweet Baby Jesus, can we PLEASE have a moratorium on the “Carmina Burana”?????? Talk about old songs! That bad boy dates back to, what, the 11th Century? Kind of puts anyone singing Whitney Houston to shame. Crimonitly, find something else and I don’t care if the network DOES have to pay royalites!
    Merry Christmas, Homies! I’ll see you all when Idol starts.

    • bluesun says:

      Aw, cute. A post with just a slight little tinge of racism. Not too overt, but definitely detectable.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Oh good grief, I am not a racist. Get over yourself. If I’m not mistaken Eminem has some lyrics that aren’t fit for national TV either and isn’t he a white guy? I don’t care for him either.

        Sorry, let me rephrase for the whiny, sensitive, Kumbaya Crowd – if you are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or any other race you should NOT be singing a song on national TV (unless it’s on late-night TV or cable) where the lyrics have to be bleeped. I am a firm believer in free speech but this has nothing to do with racism – it’s just in poor taste.
        I felt the same way about Lady Gaga on American Idol singing “Edge of Glory” with all the family-unfreindly visuals. I believe she’s white as well.

        In defense of East St. Louis I should say I recently drove through there and they’ve definitely cleaned it up since they added the casino. But I can do without all the ghetto lyrics and ghetto dancers spreading their legs. That might make me OLD, but it doesn’t make me a racist.

        • Sandi says:

          I think it was your “whatever ghetto he crawled out of” that was none to PC. I’m not too young myself but I didn’t love that either.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            PC. I’m kind of bored with politically correctness crap. I find it amusing that it’s okay for “Fiddy Cent” to get on TV and perform a completely inappropriate number but MY comments are offensive?

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          And now I find myself in the position of correcting my own comments!
          I shouldn’t be blaming the performer. The producers are at fault here. They’re probably twenty and thirty-something kids in suits that went to very expensive colleges and should really know better. Perhaps they don’t actually listen to the lyrics.

  2. Holly says:

    This show is still on?

  3. golfchicknyc says:

    slezak, your beef carpaccio/porterhouse analogy to chris/melanie is SPOT ON!!! I love the quality of Chris’s voice and have tremendously enjoyed all of his original songs. I can’t wait to hear more of his own music b/c its quite obvious that’s where he shines. he will be a success!

  4. anna says:

    Congratulations to Melanie for winning. But I honestly think the only finalist who is likely to have any kind of long, successful recording career is Astro. The 3 finalists will be able to have some sort of career, but none of them have much of a chance of ever becoming a star.

  5. leo says:

    “me no gusta”!!! oh michael, i remember that from your idolatry days. made me laugh then, makes me laugh now. thank you.

  6. CC says:

    Meh… don’t get me wrong Melanie had the best voice but she sounds like every other singer with a great voice. All ballads and just… eh. I liked Josh a lot and with the right band behind him I think he’ll do really well. Chris on the other hand totally deserved the win I think. He’s the most original and marketable (IMHO) person on the show. That being said… they all will be fine. I’m sure by now they all have recording contracts lined up. Can’t wait to see next years X Factor hopefully sans Nicole.

  7. Sandi says:

    My goodness…I’m an agnostic blue-state, Democrat and “God is good” didn’t bother me a bit. What is the big deal? Is it that she praised God or is it that she though God would care about something so trivial as a reality show competition? If you don’t believe, she didn’t tell you to change your mind. If you’re worried that she thinks God is directly responsible for her win, who cares? Would you like it better if she said “Damn, I am good”? Leave her be.

    As far as the results, it pretty much went the way I’d hoped. Melanie clearly has the best voice and a definite gift. I enjoyed Josh’s performances the most but I think Melanie had a clear edge. As for Chris Rene, I don’t get him at all but I thought he handled himself graciously.

    • betsy says:

      at first I thought the reference to God was annoying because I took it that she was giving God credit for making her win, as if a God would do such a thing. After reading these comments I realize that I shouldn’t have been so quick to assume what she meant – she could have been thanking God for her talent, which is appropriate, even though I still don’t think a magical being gave her talent if she thinks so, that’s fine.

  8. Deb says:

    Hated this show and the $5 million premise that took the focus off the singers. Wish Melanie, Josh, & Chris well, but don’t see them “making it big” unless its Chris…auto tune you know.
    Too much emphasis on the judges, too much control given to judges that kept the talent in the same vein (except Simon, oddly), too many song and arrangement choices that didn’t tell me anything about the contestants, too much nonsensical dancing, just too much stuff that didn’t matter at all.
    Glad to see the end, hope it does not make a comeback.

  9. Jurybox says:

    Now that X Factor has made its graceful, understated exit from our living rooms, we can reflect upon its unique contribution to our culture and wonder what historians, 200 years from now, will assume about the society in which we live in today. Our only hope for having later generations think anything positive about us is if these recaps survive to the historical record along with the video of X Factor’s finer moments like the Rachel Crow collapse (apparently once was not enough) or the dancers that looked like they were beamed from Vegas.

    Will X Factor be seen as the “jump the shark” moment of reality TV?

  10. Kursty Lee says:

    Sleazak is so predictable. Once again unnecessarily inserting the names of Jazzlyn, Elaine, and other random contestants. Why did he expect these people to show up when Steve said the finalists were back? Pray tell, since when did these people become “finalists?” Most of them didn’t even make it past the judges’ house rounds.

    • Sandi says:

      LOL. You sure they didn’t make it to the judge’s houses??? Even if that were true, why would that mean they couldn’t be his favorites? Jazzlyn and Caitlyn were certainly two of mine.

      • yeah says:

        Yeah Simon did royally F.I.U. when he picked those certain two who got dumped first thing anyway over Jazzlyn and Caitlyn, at the very least it ahs to be Jaazlyn over Simone come on!

  11. RD says:

    I’m just glad that the smug bully LA Reid got egg on his face. Just for the record-there is no way Chris Rene could have sang a huge song like ‘Heroes’.Makes you think,huh?

  12. leigh says:

    I would have preferred that the final three all won a prize: $3 million and the commercial to number 1, $2 million to number 2, and $1 million to number 3.

  13. AndyLuvr says:

    The audience got this one right, for a change. Good for Melanie Amaro!

    And, yes, Chris Rene’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was horrific.

  14. marie says:

    For me, Michael Slezak clearly wins in the ratings, even if X Factor proved to be a ratings disappointment: I watched very, very little of the show over the season, and just about none after the judges’ homes episodes, but I’ve been entertained every week by Slezak’s columns, even though I had no use for the show. Now on to the Idol season!

  15. SC says:

    The Gong Show was better than this tripe.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Hey, let’s show some respect for The Gong Show. I used to go home for lunch every day when I was in college to watch The Gong Show. Now THAT was entertainment. There are days when I think they need a gong or a trap door on these singing competitions!

  16. elaine says:

    Congrats Melanie Josh and Chris. thanks Michael s.

    Next season:
    1. Judges can’t be mentors. It would greatly improve the quality of the judge’s comments if they don’t have a stake in the contestant.
    2. even better, the heck with the mentoring… let the singers choose their own songs…if the judges are jdoing their jobs properly then the contestants will learn along the way (isn’t the the purpose of the judging anyway to teach?)
    3. Never background singers for a grou.. that’s just ridiculous.
    4. Never allow background singers, sound track to ever drown out the contestant.
    5. 50% less background singers, 60% less lighting/stage production; 75% less background dancers 905 less male/female pelvic thrusting.
    7. Quit making the audience go into a frenzy for the entire duration of every broadcast. god, I long for a n audience that cheers when they hear a song they like, an artist they suport rather than screaming like idiiots for evry single song….. and shut the hell up when the judges are talking. Jeez. enuff already.
    8. although I onlyt got brief glimpses of her, for the love of God, bring back CHERYL COLE!!.
    **Oops, I lied. I enjoy haring a contestant’s background story once or twice, but enough of that already. I don’t want to hear about it every second week, nor do I want to hear a judge bring up his contestant’s sad background story during the finals just to try to win some sympathy votes (I mean you L.A. reid) because by the finals no sympathy votes are needed…. by then they have roven how talented they are… let their talent win them the title.

    ok now i’m really done.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      “905 less male/female pelvic thrusting”.

      Elaine, you get a “made me laugh”. :-)

      I actually think X-Factor was less guilty of background stories than Idol. But I agreed with all of your comments.

    • betsy says:

      I think having judges being mentors would be fine – IF they KNEW WTH they were doing!! For example, I think Slezak would make a fantastic judge AND mentor, and wish they’d invite him to do so for Season 2!

    • stella says:

      good suggestions. personally – i don’t think the mentors should be assigned contestants by category. that’s ridiculous. they should choose who they want to mentor and they should be forced to choose them as early as possible in the competition. that way the world can see who really has a) the ability to spot raw talent that others miss, and b) can polish that talent into a true star.

  17. Justin says:

    I knew Melanie was going to win after they pulled off that bogus / staged “rescue” mission to get her back from Florida at the end of the judge’s home episode. So bloody predictable. I personally wanted Josh to win, but I figured second place would be the best he could pull off and he did, so kuddos to him. It was great to be able to see my favorite actually make the finale for a change! Melanie can sing and all, but there is nothing distinctive about her voice; no character, no feeling. I think she’ll just be another in a long line of flops from these talent shows but I guess only time will tell.

  18. Leo says:

    Nicole Harbingerofdoom. You got me with that one line, Michael. A hilariously written yet great review! I will definitely NOT tune into next season, but I’ll keep reading your review just to get a bit of good laugh.

  19. Julianna says:

    I love Nicole!! she was amazing and I hope she comes back to the second season but when comes to Steve Jones… serious, what the heck is his problem?? I hope he never comes back. Simon and Paula… they are married, right?
    I really wanted to see Josh as a winner but it wasn’t this time.

  20. Bones says:

    Melanie was the best singer on the show but the best and most original singer of the year of course goes to Haley. Melanie has a great voice but ironically doesn’t have the “xfactor” that Haley has. She is good though in a Mariah/Whitney kind of way which isn’t my cup of tea but that’s okay.

  21. Elena says:

    “I’m not sure Melanie and Josh’s voices were built for dueting, but it was pretty adorable witnessing their genuine affection for one another on David Bowies’ “Heroes.” How come we so few glimpses of the contestants’ basic humanity over the last four months?”

    ITA and was thinking earlier this season that while Idol goofed up a lot, they did show what type of people the contestants were, how they interacted with one other and what type of artists they were attempting to be. X Factor was so much about the judges to the detriment of everyone and everything else.

    While I’m glad Melanie won, I can’t say I really care to any degree. Yes, she’s good and if her album is good, then I’ll buy it. I’m still on the fence about next year, though. I can’t say I’ll miss Nicole or even L.A. While Steve was an awesomely bad host, he was the one person my teenage daughter and I looked forward to watching each week because we never knew what he’d do next. He has so much potential for screwing up! :-)

    • yeah says:

      Steve has kinda grown on me. Interesting combination of part robot, part male model/mimbo, part awkward person/geek. In the end he was actually surprisingly human. And gotta love stuff like “flimmin'”
      I don’t really get those who still want him gone.

      • Jurybox says:

        You know, if they had gotten rid of him, then the most entertaining part of X-factor’s finale would have been missing – the last few minutes worth of Steve trying to get a word from Melanie had me nearly rolling on the floor.

  22. yeah says:

    1. at least the top two were two of the best three, rather different than Idol’s top two last year…. and the strongest voice one, very, very different from last season’s Idol.

    2. Drew finally showed some different style and uptempo on her two seconds of Edge of Glory, too bad got dumped for no good reason a few weeks back.

    3. Melanie’s and Josh’s voices WERE built for duets, that worked great.

    4. I liked the Edge of Glory intro, there were not too many on stage (and gotta shout out to the Lakoda Rayne even if it makes Dear Leader, I mean Dear Blogger Slezak, leap out of a tall building tomorrow)

    5. A female actually won.

    6. It was generally a nice upbeat finale, the judges’ intro was supposed to be corny over the top intro, both serious and yet not entirely serious.

    7. Leona Lewis’ performing was both very good in that it was well very good and very bad in that she kinda showed up all the US contestants and was sort of like Melanie AND Drew all in one person.

  23. Chinonso says:

    !!..Ṁ̭̥̈̅̄ṁ̭̥̈̅̄н☀(‘.._..’)☀нṁ̭̥̈̅̄Ṁ̭̥̈̅̄ ..!!… Chris Rene didn’t win ,it was rigged thε̲̣̣̣̥яε̲̣̣̣̥ is nƠ͡ way Simon will d moni tƠ̴͡ sƠ͡meƠ͡ne hε̲̣̣̣̥ didn’t mentor

  24. Alexis says:

    Melanie was cool and all but Marcus totally should have won. He was awesome.
    PS. Can’t you tell Nicole clearly has no experience in the music industry because
    a) she still gets giddy about her bday (“happy birthday to me!!” and “it’s my birthday what?”
    b)she’s only 21. she hasn’t even had that much time to learn. paula la and simon are older and wiser. shes also immature enough to overuse the terms rock star diva and princess warrior.
    c)her carreer hasn’t even been that good. she goes virtually as a backup singer and the pussycat dolls were short lived.
    But there are good things about her. I love that new single she has out Pretty.

  25. Alexis says:

    I hate Steve Jones. SCRAP HIM Simon