December 22, 2011 6:57pm PT by Shirley Halperin
'X Factor' Finale: And the Winner Is...
“There’s more than one star on that stage – genuinely.” So said X Factor creator and head judge Simon Cowell at the top of Thursday’s finale as all 12 season 1 finalist acts paraded in front of the judges’ table for a group performance of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” but at the end of the night, there was just one winner: Melanie Amaro.
The 19-year-old British Virgin Islands native beat Chris Rene and Josh Krajcik for the inaugural title along with some 100,000 hopefuls who auditioned in the spring, and after three months of heated, competition it was her rousing performances that clinched the crown and a $5 million recording contract with Sony Music.
"I’ve seen this massive progression with you both as a person and as a singer,” said mentor and head judge Simon Cowell following Amaro’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” a holiday song made famous by her idol Mariah Carey. It capped off an emotional journey for the college student, who was initially eliminated during the judges' house rounds only to be asked back by her mentor Cowell who believed he had made a mistake.
Ballads were her signature and season highlights included her version of "Hero," Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," and, of course, her audition and finale number "Listen," by Beyonce. On Wednesday, Amaro told the Hollywood Reporter why the song encapsulates her journey. “If you listen to the words, you can see why the song means so much,” she said. “It's like I had this dream in my heart that needs to be heard. And every time I sing that song, I think it's heard.”
The results capped off a star-studded finale that featured performances by 50 Cent (with X Factor finalist Astro), Leona Lewis, Pitbull and Ne-Yo (performing with Marcus Canty) and Justin Bieber, who was joined by soul legend Stevie Wonder and finalist Drew. The top two performed a duet as well, singing David Bowie's classic "Heroes."
While it's still unknown how many votes were actually cast for the finale -- last week's totaled 30 million -- the show traditionally releases a percentage breakdown of the top 3 finishers at the close of the season.