Simon Cowell's FOX singing contest series "The X Factor" is set to reveal its first winner on Thursday, December 22.
Wednesday's episode featured the top three finalists - Chris Rene, Melanie Amaro and Josh Krajcik - singing two songs each: A duet with a popular artist and a track they have sung on the show before.
Krajcik, a 30-year-old Ohio rocker and former burrito maker, earned praise from the judges with his duet of "Uninvited" with Alanis Morissette. Cowell added that he thought Krajcik was intimidated by the singer. He also sang Etta James' song "At Last," which he had performed during his first televised audition for "The X Factor."
Rene and pop star Avril Lavigne sang her hit single "Complicated." Rene, a 28-year-old Santa Cruz hip hop singer whose history of substance addiction and recovery has often been highlighted on the show, also performed "Young Homie," an original tune he sang at his own first on-air "X Factor" audition. Cowell called the latter track Rene's "$5 million song," referring to the prize set to be given to the winner.
During Wednesday's show, Amaro, a Florida soul and ballad singer, sang "I Believe I Can Fly" with R. Kelly, who scored a hit with the song in 1996. Co-judge L.A. Reid said the track was "one of the most important songs of the last 50 years," but that he thought Amaro was overshadowed by the male singer during her performance.
Amaro, 19, also performed a cover of Beyonce's track "Listen," which Reid called a "$50 million performance." Cowell, who mentored Amaro during the course of the season, declared that she should win "The X Factor."
The three finalists also joined dancers from "Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour" on stage for a performance of the late King of Pop's song "They Don't Care About Us."
On Thursday's finale, Rene, Amaro and Krajcik are expected to perform again. The episode is also set to feature celebrity guests such as teen pop star Justin Bieber, 50 Cent, Ne-Yo, Pitbull, Stevie Wonder and Leona Lewis, a British singer who won season 3 of the UK version of "The X Factor" in 2006, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In addition to $5 million, the champion of the U.S. adaptation of "The X Factor" is set to win a recording contract with Sony Music and will also get to star in a Pepsi commercial. The finale is scheduled to air on FOX on Thursday, December 22, at 8 p.m. ET.
"The X Factor" series premiere was watched by more than 12 million people and earned a rating of 4.3. It has become one of the most-watched new shows this season. FOX says it averages 13 million viewers.
Wednesday's episode earned a 3.3 rating among adults aged 18 to 49 and was watched by a little more than 11 million people.