December 21, 2011 8:02pm PT by Shirley Halperin
'X Factor' Finale Performances: Melanie Flies, Chris Gets 'Complicated,' Josh Goes Acoustic
Judging by the trash-talking going in to Wednesday’s finale, it wasn’t a surprise that The X Factor final three had their game faces on. The night’s performances could mean the difference between a $5 million recording contract and a really excellent (and public) learning experience.
On Monday, the finalists drew envelopes to determine what order they would perform in. Josh Krajcik found out he’d open the show while Melanie Amaro – who got to choose first – will end the performance show in the “pimp slot.” They will first perform a duet with a superstar guest artist before going back to where it all began by singing their audition song.
Josh’s start to Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” was shaky -- one of the drawbacks of going first -- but he found his sweet spot soon enough and once the duet portion kicked in, totally held his own.
“I can’t believe I’m introducing the wonderful Alanis Morissette,” he told the millions of viewers at home. Later, he would defend his skittishness, telling judge Simon Cowell, “[Alanis] is completely disarming in her beauty and talent -- it was an honor for me.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Alanis, who described Josh as “a very soulful man” and the choice of song as “most appropriate.”
The judges’ reactions were mixed. L.A. Reid told Josh it was “such a natural pairing, you seemed right at home.” Paula Abdul commented, “I couldn’t think of a better way to open up this competition. I’m most proud of you, because not only did you hold your own you kept your identity and your dignity.” But Simon called it, telling Josh he seemed “a little bit intimidated in the beginning,” and scoring the performance an “eight out of 10.” Nicole Scherzinger was her usual gushy self, telling her last remaining contestant that he was “giving and wonderful” and did “a beautiful job.”
Chris Rene was next. He’s singing “Complicated” with Avril Lavigne, who was signed by L.A. back in 2000. Like Josh and Alanis, things started off shaky as both participants found their key. Afterward, Avril said, “Chris is amazing, I think everybody should vote for him. He definitely kicked ass.”
Nicole stated what was obvious to the crowd: “It was a little shaky in the take-off but you came out on top and I couldn’t help it by the end, your energy is so flippin' infectious.” Paula decided not to pick at the performance “note for note,” instead choosing to focus on the “wonderful, current, feel-good performance.” [Note: “Complicated” came out almost a decade ago, but maybe that’s “current” for Paula.] Simon liked Chris’ confidence and said that it could be a record while L.A. echoed the sentiment about his team member, saying the two are “cut from the same cloth, that could be a record we’d release tomorrow. It would be a No. 1 hit.” Chris would have to work out the beginning notes first, but OK, L.A.
It really seems like a perfect fit to have Melanie up next with R. Kelly on “I Believe I Can Fly” – uplifting songs are in her wheelhouse. It did seem as if she had a problem with the lower key of the song. Afterward, Kelly said of the singer, “No doubt in my mind that this girl is going all the way to the moon.” He also pointed out that was the first time he sang the song as a duet.
L.A. felt Melanie “got a little bit overshadowed by R Kelly.” Nicole tried to soften the blow of Melanie’s problems with that key saying, “I think she did the best she could in that key, he wrote it in that key. She soared on that song.” Though, Reid wouldn’t let it slide saying, “We can’t make excuses. This is a $5 million contract.” Paula liked the song choice calling “uplifting and spiritual.”
But, Simon jumped to his performer’s defense saying, “Don’t listen to grumpy and dumpy over there [meaning L.A. and Nicole]… An incredible duet. You didn’t look like someone in a talent completion; you looked like a really important established artist.”
It’s time for audition songs and a good chance to watch some scenes of the performers’ journey to this moment. Josh went back to the song that first got him noticed -- a cover of Etta James’ “At Last.”
“I’m just a regular guy from Ohio, been doing this for 15 years, flying by seat of my pants,” Josh says in his video. “Tried to go to L.A., I’ve been doing this for long enough, feels like it’s my time. This opportunity will never happen again, I need to grasp it.”
Josh sings the song accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Reid said, “You are such a rock star, man, and you made it yours and that’s what stardom is all about -- making it your own.” Paula pointed out how authentic Josh is and said, “It’s undeniable you owned that stage.” Simon approved, as well.
“This is the $5 million song that will determine your fate,” Simon says of Josh’s performance. “That you took that massive risk with the guitar, it was all about you and what we liked about you in the first place. This is going to be a very close call.”
And Josh’s mentor, Nicole, implored America to vote for the “Krajcik Magic,” telling the singer, “You’ve been you, you’ve delivered every single performance. Music loves you.”
It’s Chris’ turn and we’re reminded of the hard times he has gone through, which many fans relate to. “I feared for his life for many years,” his mom says.
“I made a promise to L.A. Reid and I kept my promise,” Chris says in his video. “Eight months ago I didn’t believe in myself then like I do now. People like me don’t get a break like that. I want something better, I want to have a good life for my son. The biggest moment of my life starts tonight.”
He revisits his the original song from his audition, “Young Homie.” Simon was especially complimentary.
“Remember when we sat in that audition many months ago and you looked me in the eye?” he asked. “Not only are you a man of your word, but you’re a brilliant performer. You’re also a gentleman and a really nice guy.”
L.A. said, “I’ve never seen you pour yourself into a song like that.” And hoped that the viewers vote for him.
Finally, we reach Melanie who reprises her audition song, Beyonce’s “Listen.” “B” is a hard one to match, but Melanie takes it on. To borrow from Simon, L.A. says, “That was a $50 million performance. Nicole tells Melanie that she was the first person she connected with saying, "You empowered me and that’s what music is all about.” Paula asked Melanie to take in the precious moment and called the performance “stellar.”
“I am so, so proud of what you just did,” mentor Simon says. “You’ll never get teased again, you are the person you are now. You, based on that performance tonight, should be the winner of X Factor and represent this country all over the world.”
Which performer is worth $5 million? Tell us why in the comments section below.