'The X Factor' judges and finalists on the Top 3's favorite performances, and why you shouldn't count out the groups

X-FACTOR-THREE

Image Credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

You have to give the folks at The X Factor credit for consistancy: Even their finale week press conference, held today on the show’s main stage at CBS Television City, opened with a full lighting package, an introduction from host Steve Jones, and mentor/judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and L.A. Reid emerging from the mega-screen doors with finalists Melanie Amaro, Chris Rene, and Josh Krajcik. Before the press could ask any questions, we were even treated to a video package retracing the finalists’ “journeys” on the show.

After things finally did kick into gear, as is often the case with these kinds of “pressers” (to use the industry lingo), not a huge amount of news emerged from this event. Justin Bieber, Pitbull, and Ne-Yo will all perform on Thursday night’s finale, but there’s no word yet on which “superstar artist” (Simon’s words) will duet with the finalists on the Wednesday night show. Speaking of Wednesday night, Steve Jones had Melanie, Chris, and Josh pick from three cards to determine the order of the performances that night. Melanie drew the No. 1 card, which meant she got first dibs on when she wanted to sing, and she chose the final position. Chris had second choice, and he decided to sing second, which meant Josh will open the show.

There were a few other notable moments in the half-hour press event, though. Here are my top four impressions: 

Simon is not changing the voting structure
Despite fan confusion and outrage over a voting system that usually relies on the judges to make the final call — except when they don’t and deliberately force a deadlock, automatically sending home whomever had the lowest votes, like with Simon’s adorable muppet Rachel Crow — Simon made clear he was not planning on changing the system next year. “If that week had worked in the way I believe the process should work, the judges could have actually saved [Rachel],” Simon said. “The fact it went to deadlock that week — the process didn’t work. So I’m not going to change the system, I’m just going to suggest that we do a better job in the future.”

Don’t count out the groups
With all of the group contestants eliminated before Thanksgiving, the viability of the category for next season remains an open question — although a group did just win the UK version of The X Factor, the first time in eight seasons. When asked about how The X Factor‘s stateside iteration could help ensure a group make it to the finals next year, Paula Abdul first acknowledged that the category is challenging in the current pop music ecosystem, where solo artists rule the roost. (She did claim that ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys date from the “early ’90s,” but point taken). Then Paula made an intriguing suggestion: “Maybe if each judge/mentor had one group, and we each had one female, one male, and one over-30, that would help solidify more interest in groups.”

For his part, Simon decided to take the moment to make a bold prediction: “Within two years, a group will win this show. Because I think I know the kind of group who could win the show like this. And if they walk in the door, they’ll win. Guarantee it. I can feel it.”

Simon is capable of humility, to a point
When asked what he learned from Melanie Amaro, Simon indulged in a somewhat surprising display of modest introspection. “I learnt that I’m not American,” he said. “That was a big factor on where I got things right, and where I got things wrong. Even last night, I changed Melanie’s song, because I believed it was too British, too old for her. So I’m trying to think American, and that’s what Melanie has mainly taught me. I can’t do this from a British perspective.”

Simon even admitted that his hubris got the best of him before The X Factor‘s U.S. premiere, saying, “I probably came here a bit too cocky.” But then he kept talking, and the old Simon came back. “This will be the greatest final we’ve ever been in….I’m more excited about this week than I have been for quite a long while. This is $5 million talent here.”

The Top 3’s favorite and least favorite performances are pretty much exactly what you’d expect them to be
Melanie’s favorites were “Earth Song” and “Feelin’ Good,” and although she wouldn’t admit to having a least favorite performance, she did acknowledge that she was initially not happy with the notion of having to sing “Earth Song.”

Josh’s favorite song was “Wild Horses.” His least favorite? “Do the ensembles count? Because the circus song for me was a low point. I’ve never said ‘What’s the dealio’ in my life. I have said ‘Raise your glass,’ though — plenty of times.”

Chris’ favorite was his self-penned song “Where Do We Go From Here,” and his first two live show performances were his least favorite. “I was learning how to be on stage in front of a live audience, live TV for the first time.”

Read more:
‘X Factor': Top 4’s best and worst performances
EW’s ‘X Factor’ recaps
Best of 2011 (or is that Worst?): The year in reality TV meltdowns

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