"X Factor" announced its Season 3 winner on Thursday evening's finale after two hours of stars singing new songs and the Top 3 finalists performing Christmas songs. In fact, half of the new music was also holiday music -- befitting a show airing just six days prior to Christmas Day. But only one of the remaining three finalists got that three-in-one present from the American people: $1 million, a Sony Music recording contract, and the "X Factor" title.
It came down to Jeff Gutt (representing the Over 25s category) and Alex & Sierra (the last remaining member of the Groups category). After the two acts performed the John Newman hit "Love Me Again," they were brought out to stand with their mentors, Kelly Rowland (Over 25s) and Simon Cowell (Groups). After an agonizing half-minute, host Mario Lopez announced that Alex & Sierra were the Season 3 "X Factor" (USA) winner.
Michael Slezak at TV Line (via Yahoo TV), in his Dec. 19 recap of the finale results show, said it best: "YES! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES! The season’s most consistent — and consistently inventive/thrilling/downloadable — take home the major-label recording contract!"
The duo immediately hugged their mentor. When asked to sing the show off the air, they performed "Say Something," the song that had set them on their road to victory. That song was also the first to hit No. 1 on the iTunes Top 100 Songs chart in the show's history. (They followed it up with a second No. 1 the next week with Sara Bareilles' "Gravity.") Alex's voice broke on the first few lines (Sierra's would break halfway through the song), but it somehow made the song even more momentous, the couple singing it more endearing. And if getting through the song wasn't difficult enough, the rest of the Top 13 acts rushed the stage to hug and congratulate the duo while they still had a few lines to go.
But they'd done it...
The show started with the Top 13 finalists -- all decked out in white -- singing U2's "One." Instead of being the disjointed mess that usually comes with such an ensemble performance (such as the Top 20 performance on "The Voice" finale), it was actually well done.
There followed the first of what was to be many small video flashbacks, not only of the Top 3, but of the auditions and each of the judges. There was a video tribute to each of the three finalists from family and friends. And there was even one clip showing a bunch of kids critiquing Simon Cowell's criticisms -- billed as a warm-up for his impending fatherhood.
Each of the Top 3 contestants got to sing a Christmas tune. Carlito Olivero performed Darlene Love's classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Jeff Gutt belted out the soulful traditional "O Holy Night." And Alex & Sierra softly offered Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You."
The finale had its share of star power as well. Mary J. Blige came on to perform "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," complete with sax solo, from her latest album, A Mary Christmas. Lea Michelle performed her hit song, "Cannonball," which will appear on her forthcoming album (due out in March). Leona Lewis, who performed with Alex & Sierra on the performance finale show, returned to perform "One More Sleep," a song she co-wrote for her own holiday album, Christmas, with Love. Pitbull rapped his way through his international hit, "Timber," and had all the female judges dancing behind the table. One Direction made their second appearance on "X Factor" for the season, performing the title track from the recent No. 1 album, Midnight Memories.
The show ended with the fate of "X Factor" unknown. Although Simon Cowell (who created the show) has stated publicly that the series would continue into a fourth season, Fox Television has yet to officially announce it's renewal. At the same time, it is known that even if the show does come back for another season, Demi Lovato will not. She announced this week that she would not return for a fourth season.
Still, the show, which has seen dismal ratings during its Season 3 run, ended the season on a high note. Alex & Sierra show every indication that they're ready to become the first superstar act generated by the American version of the series. Their two chart-topping singles, plus all the Top 10s and Top 20s from the duo and other finalists like Jeff Gutt, Carlito Olivero, and Restless Road, provide proof that the show can find marketable talent. But will the powers that be at Fox Television be willing to order up one more season in the hopes that the recent signs of success from Fifth Harmony and Emblem3 from Season 2 and the even more recent success of Season 3 finalists will secure more interest in the show and possibly make it a ratings winner in the future?
For future updates on the status of "X Factor," check in periodically to the show's official website, XFactorUSA.com.