Contrary to what Simon Cowell may have said at her audition, Melanie Amaro was probably not what the producers had in mind when they brought the X-Factor over to the United States. The television program, from the get-go, was suffering a major identity crisis: Namely, it could not be seen as another copy of American Idol, or even worse, the newly popular The Voice: the latter of which it bears extremely strong similarities to. Because America already has two strong, successful music competitions, Cowell’s X-Factor program needed to bring something else to the table.
While many fans have scoffed at some of the choices that were made in the selection process for the X-Factor, I for one can see why Simon and his crew - Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger - have picked the contestants they have. Rather than pick the strongest vocal contenders who can croon Motown hits and pop classics - Caitlin Koch, Elaine Gibbs, 4Shore, I’m looking at you - the judges put through big, aesthetically interesting personalities with voices that range anywhere from solid to spectacular. And, while no one could ever say that Simone Battle had more vocal talent than Tora Woloshin, what Simone has is that golden pop-star look, ambition, and all-together presence that would make her a contemporary pop-star. Battle is the kind of lady that could be on a Nicki Minaj track, and in her videos. She’s the kind of woman this show wants to win with.
Melanie Amaro, however, threw a wrench in this plan. The modest 19-year old, who showed up to her first audition with shoulder-length brown hair and wearing a sparkly mid-length tank dress and leggings, didn’t necessarily scream pop-star off the bat, the way the four all-American beauties of Lakoda Rayne did, for example. However, when asked if she could sing, Melanie sharply replied with a “I guess you’ll find out”, and then proceeded to get the entire 4000+ audience on their feet with an absolutely riveting performance of Beyonce’s “Listen”. In two minutes of singing, Amaro had all four judges on their feet, Nicole Scherzinger in tears, and L.A. Reid declaring that leaving his job as a music mogul was worth it to discover Amaro.
Throughout her auditions, the bootcamp rounds, and her stint in France with Cowell, Amaro has presented herself to be pure class - maybe even too much so. While contestants like Tiah Tolliver started upping their sass and bringing in drama, Amaro started to fade by simply not presenting enough of a dynamic personality. And, even though she slayed her rendition of “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson for Cowell, he ultimately decided that she was not going to get a spot in his top four, picking Tolliver, Battle, Rachel Crow and Drew Ryniewicz. It would appear that Amaro, as pristinely talented as she was as a vocalist, might not have had the popstar vibe that Cowell wanted: therefore, he picked saucier acts who could potentially provoke a bigger spark on the liveshow stage. A crushed Amaro was seen sobbing on the phone with her mom, and Cowell was shown hating his own decision the moment he gave her the news.
Now, the editing of this show has already proven itself to be quite dodgy, but as the evening pans out, Cowell is show, on camera (surprise), to be doubting his decision. He “calls” the other three judges, who unanimously agree that he has made a critical error in sending Amaro home. No reason is given as to why, but Cowell basically decides he is going to Florida to pull her back into the competition. So, while each of the other sixteen contestants is given a smiling congratulations in a 30-second segment, Amaro gets the last five minutes of the show to herself and her family, with Cowell informing them in person, that this time, “[he] won’t let her down”.
Call it a hunch, but I think Simon has decided that he is going to push Amaro to become the winner of this competition.
Amaro’s audition has had over 4.8 million views, spread out over a few links. That’s much more than what contestants like teen wonders Crow and Ryniewicz, or vocal masterclass Stacy Francis have had. In fact, aside from Chris Rene, she has had the most views - and the best buzz. When Amaro was cut, fans ripped into Cowell on various social networking sites, blasting him for picking Crow, Battle and Tolliver over Amaro. When the situation was remedied just ten minutes later, fans were riled up but now happy that their underdog Melanie was a competitor again.
Now, Melanie is poised to be both the dark horse and the frontrunner at the same time. This is for two key reasons. First, she is in what is undisputedly the best category in the competition: it didn’t matter who Cowell picked out of his eight ladies to take to the live shows - any combination of them would be better than L.A’s too-green boys, Nicole’s questionably picked Overs, or Paula’s horribly manufactured and juvenile groups. However, within her own category, she has no competition. Battle and Tolliver will compete against each other for that urban, sexy starlet image, while Crow and Ryniewicz, simply because of their 13 and 14-year old ages, will fight for a younger market. Amaro is the only one who can sing to the everyman, who can step up and be the X-Factor’s Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. And while some have her competing in a way against 42-year old mom Stacy Francis, Francis’ maturity and Amaro’s youth element will keep fans voting for the one they’ll want to hear on the radio - and while Amaro’s voice is perfectly radio-ready, Francis’ is more dramatic and theatrical, in a way that suggests she might not be a radio star so much as a Broadway dream. The second reason why Amaro is poised to now win the competition is that she is essentially anti-Cowell - that is, her winning, or succeeding in this competition now suggests that Simon “got it wrong” and that she is fighting back. From here on out, she will be the girl who is proving SIMON wrong. This is a huge selling point with fans - when Cowell turned to Kelly Clarkson and said that he couldn’t really remember her, she set out to prove him wrong, and it won her over a massive following of fans. In addition to all this, since we know that “the other judges” were mad at Cowell for sending her home, there’s no way they will send her home during the voting rounds where the Judges have say. I think a spot in the finale is damn near inevitable for Amaro.
There are some broad-stroke concerns that are still at hand, however I suspect that Cowell will fix those up when he fully steps in as her mentor: If we look at her makeover photo above, its more than obvious that Amaro cleans up to look like a popstar quite easily: her homespun look was just the effect of a modest upbringing, not a lack of personality or pizzazz. As for her slight matured song choices, I suspect Cowell will fix those too, like The X-Factor UK did for Alexandra Burke, season five winner.
Melanie Amaro has had fans listening and rooting for her from the beginning, and Cowell’s cut-and-reselect strategy simply resolidified her place as the deserving frontrunner in this competition. He did her a tremendous favor by reminding the fans all too clearly that she is the brightest star in the competition right now. The show goes live this week, and fans are buzzing harder about her than anyone else. I suspect it will stay that way right until finale night.
Good luck Miss Amaro.