December 22, 2011 2:06am PT by Shirley Halperin
'X Factor's' Melanie Amaro on her Duet with R. Kelly, Last-Minute Finale Changes
Melanie Amaro doesn’t want to count her chickens before they’re hatched, but as far as X Factor is concerned, she already feels blessed beyond her wildest dreams -- which only made the appearance of her hometown church pastor and choir director all the more fitting, even if they did take their enthusiasm to 11.
At the end of a momentous night, which found Amaro duetting with R&B star R. Kelly on his hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” it was a beginning that brought it all back around -- the Beyonce song “Listen,” which Amaro first auditioned with back in the Spring.
“If you listen to the words, you can see why the song means so much,” the 19-year-old British Virgin Islands native told the Hollywood Reporter after Wednesday’s finale. “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.”
And to think Simon Cowell came thisclose to making his last remaining team member sing Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin.” Amaro explained how the song switch decision came about: “[‘Listen’] was a last-minute change. We felt as though we needed to do something more. And I really needed a song that would describe my journey getting here. So Simon was, like, ‘We should really blow them away,’ and he never told me what he was talking about. And then he said to me, it’s ‘Listen,’ and I was cried, I was so happy.”
But Amaro wasn’t nearly as thrilled to hear that Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene had also decided to sing their audition songs. “It was like, ‘Oh they're copying me,’” she said. “But they did an awesome job -- Josh killed it and Chris did an amazing job.”
As for what she’s learned through this process? “That I can sing any genre of music,” Amaro yelped, still amazed, much like how she was feeling about her collaboration with R. Kelly. “When I first saw him in rehearsal, I was, like, ‘Oh my God, that's R. Kelly -- it blew my mind,” she said. “I just felt as though this isn't real. Like, I've come so far that now I'm singing with R. Kelly? How weird is that? I felt amazing!”
Kelly’s advice to Amaro: “To go out there, sing my heart out and leave it on the stage,” she said. And with the finale behind her, it’s in the hands of fate and the American public. “Whoever it turns out to be tomorrow, I'm just so proud and happy to be in this position,” she said. “Because think about it: so many people have auditioned and gotten no and I'm here so I'm truly blessed and I thank everybody has supported me.”