On June 19, 2014, Melanie Amaro, the first winner of "The X Factor" U.S., previewed her single "Fuel My Fire" (the title track of her forthcoming EP) by posting the song on Soundcloud for a 48-hour period of time. The release dates for the "Fuel My Fire" song and EP are to be announced. "Fuel My Fire" is a mid-tempo R&B/pop song in which Amaro sings about how the criticism she has received has motivated her to keep going. Unfortunately, it doesn't erase the fact that Amaro is the poster child of what can go wrong for a winner of a TV talent contest such as "The X Factor."
In 2011, Amaro won $5 million as part of her "X Factor" grand prize. But she has been a $5 million flop: All of her songs released in the U.S. so far ("Respect," "Don't Fail Me Now," "Love Me Now" and "Long Distance") failed to make it on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the official singles chart for the U.S.
It's also doubtful that Amaro really received the full $5 million. "X Factor" sources who know about the contracts signed by the winners say that the prize money is distributed over a period of time and only if the record company releases a certain number of albums from the winner.
As part of her "X Factor" grand prize, Amaro was signed to Syco Music/Epic Records, two record companies owned by Sony Music. Since then, she has gone on the Internet to reveal that she has been having problems with her debut album, "Truly," which was supposed to be released in December 2012, but has now been postponed to an undetermined date and is unlikely to be released. Amaro has kept a very low profile in the U.S., but she has said in Internet chats with fans that finding the right songs and style for her album has been an ongoing issue with her and Sony Music.
Her flop sales are likely the bigger problem. If Amaro had a No. 1 hit with her first single, which happens with most "X Factor" winners in most other countries, it's very likely her first album would have been released by now. Industry insiders say that pre-orders for Amaro's album are so low that Syco/Epic knows that the album is going to be another huge bomb if it is ever released.
Simon Cowell, who co-owns Syco Music with Sony Music, was Amaro's mentor on "The X Factor," but he seems to have lost interest in her as soon as her first single flopped. He hasn't even mentioned her on his Twitter account since February 2012. Epic Records chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid (who was a judge on "The X Factor" U.S. in 2011 and 2012) used to tweet enthusiastically about Amaro when he was executive producing "Truly," but he and Epic Records don't even mention her on social media anymore. These snubs speak volumes.
There have been ongoing rumors that Amaro has been dropped by Syco/Epic/Sony Music, but Amaro is not confirming or denying the rumors. Her "Fuel My Fire" EP appears to be an independent release.
Amaro is one of several former "X Factor" U.S. contestants who were signed to Sony Music but failed to have any hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Teen rapper Astro (seventh place in 2011) and country singer Tate Stevens (winner in 2012) are the only ones who have confirmed that they were dropped from Sony Music. Stevens' self-titled first album that was released in 2013 was a sales flop, and so were his singles. Astro's planned album for Sony Music was never released.
Chris Rene (third place in 2011), Marcus Canty (fourth place in 2011) and Rachel Crow (fifth place in 2011) released EPs on Sony Music, but those EPs flopped too. Teen pop singers Carly Rose Sonenclar (second place in 2012) and Beatrice Miller (seventh place in 2012) are signed to Syco Music and have not yet released any music on the label.
Girl group Fifth Harmony (third place in 2012) debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 with the 2013 EP "Better Together," but the EP had modest sales and isn't even close to being certified gold. Fifth Harmony's singles also bombed. The same goes for boy band Emblem3 (fourth place in 2012), whose "Nothing to Lose" album debuted in the Top 10 in 2013, but turned out to have little staying power on the charts and failed to yield any hit singles or sales reaching gold certification.
Alex & Sierra (winners in 2013) have a debut single titled "Scarecrow" that is scheduled for release on Syco/Columbia Records (also owned by Sony Music) on June 23, 2014. The title and release date of Alex & Sierra's first album are to be announced. Alex & Sierra were the last winners from "The X Factor" U.S., which was cancelled in February 2014.
For former "X Factor" contestants, having hits on Sony Music doesn't even guarantee a long-term career with the company. Most of the winners of "The X Factor" U.K. have been dropped by Sony Music, even after these singers had No. 1 singles in their home country. However, flop sales for their most recent Sony Music albums seem to be the main reason why Sony dumped them.
Based on her dismal sales, Amaro is unlikely to have a hit with "Fuel My Fire." Her attempts to have a career in musical theater have also been underwhelming. In 2013, Amaro began a starring role in the musical "You're Never Alone" in her hometown of Sunrise, Fla. Needless to say, it's a small-time production compared to the big leagues of Broadway or the West End.