DERRIK J. LANG,AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Melanie Amaro has “The X Factor.”
The powerful 19-year-old vocalist from Sunrise, Fla., won the Fox talent competition Thursday over soulful 30-year-old singer Josh Krajcik of Wooster, Ohio.
Amaro, who was mentored by judge Simon Cowell and was at one point eliminated then reinstated to the contest, was awarded the grand prize: a $5 million recording contract and a starring role in a Pepsi commercial.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” Amaro repeated after host Steve Jones announced her as the champion.
Despite continued prodding from Jones, an overly emotional Amaro couldn’t quite formulate words when she was revealed to have captured the most viewer votes, and she struggled through tears to reprise Beyonce’s “Listen,” the soaring ballad that Amaro crooned at her audition and on Wednesday’s final performance round.
“I want to say, ‘America, thank you for giving this girl an opportunity,’” said Cowell.
Krajcik, the struggling single father who delivered a stripped down rendition of “At Last” for his final routine, seemed content with his status as “X Factor” runner-up to Amaro, who was born in the British Virgin Islands.
“Melanie deserves it,” Krajcik said. “She has a wonderful voice. I had such an incredible experience here. I got to be myself, sing what I want to sing, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Chris Rene, the recovering 28-year-old singer-rapper from Santa Cruz, Calif., came in third place.
Before the winner was unveiled, the three finalists crooned classic Christmas tunes, and Justin Bieber, Stevie Wonder, Leona Lewis, Pitbull, Ne-Yo and 50 Cent performed various songs with former contestants. Amaro and Krajcik also dueted on David Bowie’s “Heroes.”
Unlike “American Idol,” the contest was open to both solo singers and groups, and had a lower minimum age of 12 and no upper age limit.
The judges also served as mentors. Cowell represented female vocalists, including Amaro; L.A. Reid headed male singers, including Rene; Nicole Scherzinger was in charge of over-30 singers, including Krajcik; and Paula Abdul helmed the groups.
Despite consistent viewership, “The X Factor” has failed to achieve popularity similar to “Idol,” which Cowell left last year to import “The X Factor” from the U.K. to the U.S. Fox announced last month that “X Factor” would return for a second season next fall.
Fox is owned by News Corp.
AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.