Melanie Amaro sang and America listened. They really listened.
The 19-year-old with the powerhouse vocals was crowned winner of The X Factor (and a $5 million recording contract!) on Thursday night. Also a winner? Simon Cowell, her mentor, who originally sent Amaro back home. We caught up with Amaro and Cowell after the big show to talk about Cowell's fateful decision to bring her back into the competition.
If you can believe it, Amaro couldn't believe it when she won, telling us, "I felt as though I was hearing things, to be honest. I had to check my ear real quick. It shocked me a lot. It really did."
The $5 million singer also had a message for her fans, thanking them for believing in her when even she didn't. "Thank you to all my supporters who've supported me and have been behind me since day one and believed in me when I didn't even have the heart to believe in myself," she says. "Even when I went home, you guys still pushed and sent all your love my way." No, that's not a tear in our eye!
Speaking of when she got sent home, we had to ask Amaro and her mentor about his decision to let her go...and to bring her back. "I thought that was it for me," she says. "Everyone was like, 'Something good's going to come out of it.' I just kept saying, 'OK cool, whatever you say.' Then he walked through my door and it was like, wow. It was big."
Of his decision to bring back the future winner, Cowell tells us, "It was a feeling I had. I also had all the tapes sent through, the rough cuts of all the first auditions. That was sent to me after I sent her home. I thought, 'This is crazy!'" After she won, Amaro says Cowell told her he was proud of her and "Thank god he came back to get me!"
While not actually naming the show, Cowell says Amaro's win meant more to him than any contestant's on American Idol did. "It was very different from the other show I used to because there was a distance," he explains. "This, you're working so closely with them. I know her really well, I like her. I thought she was the most talented. It means a lot that she won."
As for Josh Krajcik and Chris Rene, the second and third place finishers, they're doing just fine and are truly happy for Amaro.
"I'm happy," Krajcik says. "The opportunity that's afforded me right now is unprecedented. Five million's not necessarily the main goal in this career. I want to win a Grammy someday." He tells us he wasn't disappointed at all when Amaro's name was called instead of his...he was laughing! "I was literally laughing maniacally as I was waiting for the results because I was thinking to myself, 'My god, either way this goes we're both in a great position to do what we love for the rest of our lives.'"
Though he came in third, Rene still feels like a winner, telling us, "At this point, nobody who's come this far has not won anything. We all won something." That you did, young homie!
Aside from the whole crowning a winner thing, the night also featured some pretty epic performances, including duets between Astro and 50 Cent and Drew and Justin Bieber, her ultimate crush.
Astro says 50 Cent is one of his favorite artists and "the fact that I got to perform with him was awesome. When he asked me to perform, I was just like, 'Yes!'"
Obviously, Drew's feelings for Bieber were well-documented on the show (just look at her intro package!), so performing with him was a dream come true for the 14-year-old. "After the performance was over, a lot was going through my head," she says. "I was thinking, OK, now I have to go back home. No more Justin, darn it! I was also thinking, holy cow, I just sang with Justin. Every girl in the world wants that!"
Of course, we had to ask the question on everyone's mind: What does the Biebs smell like? "Justin Bieber smells delicious," Drew dishes. "Like, really good. Like, fancy, amazing Justin Bieber goodness!"
Finally, no X Factor write-up is complete without a season two update, including whether or not host Steve Jones and judge Nicole Scherzinger are returning.
Jones' feelings on the matter? Who cares about the host?! Seriously. "It's not about me. We've just given Melanie Amaro a well-deserved $5 million recording contract," he tells us. "It's her moment and, quite frankly, who cares about the host? It's all about her and Chris and Josh."
Jones did say, "Nothing's been signed. None of us know who's coming back. I'd love to. If not, I'll do something else!"
Though she really wasn't interested in talking about season two, Paula Abdul says, "I think there's a karmic connection with Simon and I." Translation: she's totally coming back.
Abdul tells us she wasn't shocked to see Amaro win and compares her victory to Idol's original champion Kelly Clarkson. "She was the frontrunner pretty much the entire time. The shocking thing would've been if someone else did," she says. "You can't deny her powerful vocals. It reminds me of the first season of Idol with Kelly Clarkson."
And with that, season one of The X Factor has come to a close. What did you think of the show? Are you happy Amaro won? Who would you like to see return to the judges table and the mic in season two? Sound off in the comments!