'X Factor's' Simon Cowell: 'Melanie Amaro Should Win'

“I was nervous until Melanie's very last song, and if that doesn't win the competition, I might as well give up,” said the head judge, who points to Chris Rene as the one to beat.
Ray Mickshaw / FOX

Simon Cowell wasn’t exactly the vision of confidence following Wednesday night’s X Factor finale, but after six songs and three duets, the head judge and show creator still thinks his girl Melanie Amaro will emerge victorious on Thursday.

“I was nervous until that very last song by Melanie, and if that doesn't win the competition, I might as well give up,” Cowell told reporters after the show, referring to Melanie’s reprise of “Listen,” the audition song that made her an instant favorite and frontrunner. Of course, she’s now up against two guys with similar credentials.

“To be honest, anything can happen tomorrow and I've sort of prepared myself for any decision,” said Cowell. “But my gut, my heart tells me that Melanie should win after tonight.” Still, he added, “How many times have I said that and been wrong? Many, many times.”

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Indeed, Cowell confessed that Josh Krajcik was his biggest worry coming into the finale, until Chris Rene had his turn. “[With] Chris Rene's second performance, you could feel in the room that people like him,” said Cowell. “But I know Josh has got a lot of support, too.”

In recapping the events of the night, he also revealed that duet partners Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne and R. Kelly weren’t involved until very late in the planning stages -- and only confirmed about five days prior. As it turned out, Morissette is a fan of the show (and of Krajcik's specifically), while Lavigne was brought in by LA Reid, who signed the singer when she was 17. “We didn't have to twist anyone's arms,” said Cowell.

But in a curious twist of fate, Cowell also explained that having all three contestants sing their audition numbers wasn’t actually planned. “It happened kind of by accident,” he said. “[It was] total free choice -- do whatever you want -- and we heard that Josh was gonna do ‘At Last,’ and LA was kind of hemming and hawing about it and said, ‘I've gotta do ‘Young Homie,’ and I was going to do a different song and then Sunday night I changed my mind and decided to do ‘Listen.’”

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It’s probably a good thing it turned out that way since Cowell’s song choice for Melanie was going to be the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” -- yet another example of the show’s one major flaw: a more-than-occasional disconnect when it comes to the American musical palate.

On the other hand, revisiting their very first X Factor numbers was a really sweet full circle moment that did not go unnoticed by contestants, judge and viewers alike. It was especially “poignant,” said Cowell, for Chris Rene. “You saw where he was and eight months later, he stuck to his word and it was a big moment for him -- I could feel it.”

All in all, Cowell said he’s happy with how season 1 turned out. “I think we've done good,” he offered. “When I compare it with the first time I did this in the UK, it wasn't quite so good -- it wasn't anywhere near this lineup at the end. But I always believed in the format and I think it kind of proved the point that you can have older singers competing with younger singers. Josh is in his 30s, Melanie is 19 years old… that is the right match. And compared to Idol? “We had Kelly Clarkson, we've got Melanie, I would say they're pretty close,” said Cowell, adding, “I prefer this one.”

Still, Cowell acknowledged changes could be made for year two. After a break, the team, including the sponsors, will take a long hard look at the show’s inaugural U.S. run and assess what worked and what didn’t. “Maybe I won’t be here,” Cowell cracked.

But for now, he’s only looking as far ahead as the next day, not the next season, and crossing his fingers that America will make the right choice. “Under normal circumstances I would be confident, but based on what's happened over the last few weeks of this show, I'm not gonna tempt fate,” said Cowell. “I still think it's wide open.”

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin