The Top 3 duet with Alanis, Avril, and R. Kelly -- and sing their audition songs

By Annie Barrett
Updated December 22, 2011 at 05:04 AM EST
X Factor Josh Alanis
Credit: Fox
Simon Cowell, American Idol
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In so many ways, the first season of The X Factor can be summed up by Wednesday night’s very sudden and somewhat painful Top 3 rendition of Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us.” Were Chris, Josh, and Melanie referring to their X Factor mentors, the X Factor choreographers, the sound mixers, or the robots whose light-up chests kept alternating between question marks (as in What the f— is happening?) and dollar signs (as in $$$$$$$$$5 MILLION$$$$$$$$$)? This show is always so challenging. It’s why I watch!

Last night’s performance finale featured random celebrity duets (so that we could hear the Top 3 drowned out by actual famous people) and a reprise of the finalists’ audition songs (so that we could hear the Top 3 sing something we already knew they could sing). It was thrilling. My favorite parts of the show were Steve Jones’ awkward interviews with crazy people who could barely hear him in the contestants’ hometowns and the dark chocolate cinnamon roll atop Nicole Scherzinger’s head. Now and forever, I will always think of its potential secrets.

Let’s get to the songs! First up we had Josh Krajcik attempting Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” in a creepy black-and-white enchanted forest that, in a very good way, resembled an Edward Gorey illustration come to life. Wouldn’t you know it — that’s where Alanis herself has been living this whole time! Alanis (you may know her as God) emerged from the woods with her shiny hair and huge voice just to sing with our former burrito slinger. Was it just me or did Josh sound like he was auditioning for the opera here? I appreciated his ability to harmonize; it just seemed like he was concentrating so hard on getting it right that he ended up holding back.

Next up was Chris Rene, joined onstage by…Avril Lavigne. With the black and green strobe lights and two wildly different performers — she yelling, he whispering — this performance was almost as “Complicated” as Denise Richards. I was especially confused when Chris yelled “THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR….AVRIL LAVIGNE!” And here I’d thought we’d all been waiting to hear the best solo performances our Top 3 acts could offer. I’m seriously such a moron. I look like a fool to me-ee-eeeee. Anyway, Avril completely drowned Chris out and how could she not? He’s got a weak voice.

No mattah! “It isn’t about note-for-note being perfect,” said Paula. “The light around you was so flippin’ infectious,” said The Girl With a Draggin’ Hairdo. “That could be a record,” offered Simon. “That could be a number one hit,” L.A. corrected him. Four yeses!

NEXT: Melanie believes she can soar; The X Factor is actually Space JamR. Kelly was on hand to join Melanie Amaro and a kaleidoscopic flock of birds on “I Believe I Can Fly.” EYE ROLL. The song was too low for Melanie’s register, which L.A. Reid called “an excuse” and Simon called “showing respect to the person you’re singing with.” Simon then showed respect to the people he was judging with by calling L.A. “Grumpy” and Paula Abdul — who wanted more emotion from Melanie — “Dumpy.” The fact that he didn’t take this opportunity to call Nicole “Lumpy” was perhaps the greatest disappointment of all.

Then somehow Simon, who offered Melanie his signature “you didn’t look like someone in a talent competition” critique, was out-sung, so to speak, by the loudest, most enthusiastic, and best-named man I’ve ever witnessed in my life: “Friend Edison.” I know those rumors of Steve Jones leaving aren’t true, but if they become true, all The X Factor needs is to hand over the hosting gig to Friend Edison and just admit already that the entire series is a spectacular joke.

Here we are in heaven, and Josh Krajcik — making likely unintentional crazy eyes at the camera on Etta James’ “At Last” — is miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine at last. For me this was the most artistic performance of the night. If not that, at least it was surely what Josh Krajcik’s fans wanted from him — an unplugged, guitar-driven rendition of a classic song with unique phrasing. “I’ve gotta hand it to you. This is the five million dollar song,” cooed Simon. That was nice, but I much preferred the vocal stylings of Josh’s buddy Wade, who screamed while holding a small child, “THIS IS CRAZY, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU DUDE, WE’RE BLOWN!”

Chris Rene certainly poured all of himself into his original tune “Young Homie,” but as it was the third time we’d heard it from him, the song choice felt a bit stale. But it’s okay — L.A. needed the repetition so he could mouth the “da dee dahs” along with Chris while executing this week’s standing L.A. Reid dance move.

Scratching the Deep Dark Underbelly of His Prized $5 Million Calf [via Rickey]

NEXT: Paula what you trippin’ on?Even Simon was standing! “I hope America gets behind you. I really, really do,” he told Chris. “If anyone had a shred of doubt, you are the consummate singer-songwriter-performer,” slurred Paula, who felt so strongly about this that she spent Simon and L.A.’s critiques chanting “VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE” for Chris. So anyone who hadn’t been converted to Chris-ism by the weepy Love Actually suite used in his intro certainly would have been converted by Paula.

“Feeling Good” may have been Melanie’s freedom anthem, but the third time on “Young Homie” was the charm for Chris according to Nicole, who called it his “belief anthem.” But Melanie Amaro had one of those during the finale, too, delivering the strongest vocal of the night on Beyoncé’s “Listen.” The lyrics were perfect for our Dreamgirl, who has struggled all her life to find a strong sense of home and got to direct the stirring line I followed the voice you gave to me to her benefactor and ours, His Majesty Simon Cowell.

Melanie, a sparkly mermaid wearing a blazer, was backed by a simple cauldron of white smoke for the night’s $5 million money shot. You had to just imagine the gospel choir. They were there, just not there-there.

L.A. begrudgingly adjusted the monetary value of Melanie’s performance from $5 million to $50 million. Meanwhile, Nicole brilliantly managed to make Melanie’s sob story of adolescent isolation all about her, telling the 19-year-old that during her audition, “You made me feel in that moment that I wasn’t alone, and you empowered me.” That’s really what it’s all about.

“You, based on that performance tonight, should be the winner of The X Factor,” Simon told Melanie after patting himself on the back once again for bringing this flashy mess to America. Some of the greatest singers in the world are in this country, you know. This lil’ old thing? Yep. Simon says.

Who did you vote for, Ameriker — R. Kelly, Avril, or Alanis? And who’s your pick to win the $$$$$?

Episode Recaps

Simon Cowell, American Idol

The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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