Wow. It's the start of the "X Factor" finale. It seems like only 20 or 30 years ago that we started hearing all of the hype about "X Factor" traveling across the Atlantic and like only three or four years ago that FOX premiered the first audition episodes and now it's down to three. 

Tomorrow night, FOX and Simon Cowell are going to give a $5 million recording contract to one of three artists who haven't a chance on God's Green Earth of justifying a deal that big based on any empirical standards. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that Chris Rene, Burrito Josh or Melanie Amaro could possibly sell as many albums as Scotty McCreery, but will any of them sell as many albums as "The Voice" winner Javier Colon? Because go check out his sales figures. Or check out the sales figures for Dia Frampton. 

Anyway, though...

FINALE PERFORMANCES! After the break...

8:00 p.m. ET Tonight is going to be very important for the Top 3. I know this, because that's what they say. Melanie Amaro, in fact, vows to tear her heart out for us. Burrito Josh notes that there's no second place prize. Chris Rene promises to make history. Tonight. Right here in front of us.

8:02 p.m. Oh good. I had a "Carmina Burana" jones. I was all, "If I don't hear "Carmina Burana," I'm just gonna cry. Enter Steve Jones and "O Fortuna." Enter The Judges. And enter our Finalists.

8:04 p.m. Chris Rene has been told that the key to his winning will be "hats." Melanie Amaro has been told that the key to her willing will be "cleavage." And Burrito Josh has been told that the key to him winning will be "burritos."

8:05 p.m. L.A. Reid is proud, especially of Chris Rene. Nicole thinks these are the three who are meant to be where. Paula's also proud, though not of our Groups. Simon Cowell says this will be the closest final they've ever had. Really. EVER? In the history of American "X Factor"?

8:09 p.m. As a warning to all of you, I made stupid travel plans and I'm going to be missing the "X Factor" tomorrow. Instead, HitFix's fantastic Liane Bonin will be spittin' mad "X Factor" game. 

8:11 p.m. We start tonight with...

 

Burrito Josh: Ooh, it's a Tim Burton performance. He's performing "Uninvited" in front of a  spooky forest. And then... nice... Alanis Morissette joins him on stage. Not-so-strangely, the song wasn't all that well suited to Burrito Josh's voice, but it's PERFECT for Alanis, who immediately steals the spotlight, in part because she's looking fantastic. Burrito Josh also isn't so great at harmonies, so when it becomes a duet, the person shining is the professional singer with the recording contract, while Josh looks like some random guy lost in a virtual forest. "It was absolutely beautiful," Steve Jones raves, before plugging Alanis' new album, due out this summer. Then Alanis goes scurrying off before judging. L.A. Reid calls "Jagged Little Pill" his favorite album of all time and says Josh and Alanis were a perfect fit. Paula thinks Josh kept his identity and his dignity, which she claims is worth $5 million dollars. "I thought you were a little bit intimidated in the beginning," Simon says correctly. "She's completely disarming in her beauty and her talent," Burrito Josh agrees. Nicole says... something. Oh. She says Burrito Josh is "giving."

 

8:17 p.m. Burrito Josh's grandmother in Wooster, Ohio is very proud of Josh. Awwwww.

8:23 p.m. Up next...

 

Chris Rene: L.A. Reid intros Chris Rene by celebrating that yesterday marked his eighth month sober. Good for Chris. Uh. Uh. Uh. Sigh. Every week this becomes clearer and clearer: Chris Rene can't actually sing. There are two pointless key changes because "Complicated" is too darned hard for Chris to sing. But you know who sings it very well? The utterly adorable Avril Lavigne! I don't understand this as a vocal combination in the slightest. But I like Avril waiting patiently for Chris to do a corny rap verse next to her. They're wearing matching leather jackets. So at least they're in-synch fashion-wise? I'm not loving these Duets. I like Avril and Alanis, but come on... "Chris is amazing. I think everyone should vote for him," Avril gushes. She takes her red microphone and skips off-stage. "It was a little shaky in the takeoff," Nicole says, before saying that she loves him and that he's infectious. "This competition isn't about note-for-note being perfect. It's about energy," Paula says. That's two judges in a row who have finally at least hinted at Chris' inability to sing. Yay! Simon felt Chris' "total joy and confidence" when he got to his rap verse. "You looked really at home with Avril," L.A. Reid says.

 

8:29 p.m. People in Santa Cruz are very excited for Chris, including one huge fan who made him a big cake. I know it's not nice to say this, but I've said it before, so I might as well repeat it: Chris Rene fans scare me a little.

8:35 p.m. Are we going to continue with our mixed gender duets? Let's find out...

 

Melanie Amaro: Interesting. Melanie's doing "I Believe I Can Fly," which is her second R. Kelly song of the season. Is she about to be joined by Mr. Kelly himself? She sure is! There are birds flying everywhere on the screen as R. Kelly takes the stage in a jaunty scarf. Wow. This is what happens when you have two singers capable of harmonizing. The difference between this duet and the last two duets is out of control. Melanie and R. Kelly are actually complimenting each other vocally, each one appreciating the other. Melanie dominated this first round by an unimaginable amount. "There's no doubt in my mind that this girl is on her way to the moon," says R. Kelly, who has never sung that song as a duet before. L.A. Reid calls that "one of the most important songs written in the past 50 years." He also says that Melanie got overshadowed. L.A. Reid is a moron. Nicole observes that it was in R. Kelly's key, but that Melanie gave it her all. Paula wanted more emotion, but she loved Melanie's conviction at other points. "To me, that was an incredible duet," Simon says.

 

8:41 p.m. They're going crazy at Melanie's SuperChurch down in Florida.

8:47 p.m. So that's it for our duets... Three performances in 47 minutes. This is some efficient TV... Our first pure solo performance comes from...

8:47 p.m. Wait. WHAT?!? A performance from the Cirque du Soleil cast of "Immortal"? It's the FOX NFL Robots. This is madness. Oh. There are our Finalists. They're going to sing behind the FOX NFL Robots... This is really crazy. It will not surprise me if this is a precursor to a true invasion. Of pretentious, flexible Canadian circus performers.

8:50 p.m. No, Steve Jones. That was NOT "crazy good." It was, however, "crazy weird."

8:55 p.m. So... 55 minutes and still only one performance apiece. So let's get to...

 

Burrito Josh: "I'm just a regular guy from Ohio," says Josh for the second or third time tonight. He's going to need a better narrative than that if he hopes to win. Did you know that Josh used to sling burritos? I did! I'd forgotten how great Josh's audition was. I hope he does something similarly stripped down for this last performance. He's playing a guitar and standing atop a pyramid (or a riser festooned with lights) and crooning his way through "At Last." It's not the most emotional or energetic song that he could have chosen to sing, but he's infusing as much passion into the song as he can. At the very least, Nicole seems to be smitten. I would deserve that performance as "very good," but I can't begin to understand the logic of making that song/performance the last thing you want America to hear before voting for you. L.A. Reid says Josh is "such a rock star." "It's undeniable. You own that stage," Paula says. Simon thinks Josh took a risk and it paid off. Nicole is honored to be part of this journey with Josh and she tells him that music loves him.

 

9:01 p.m. The mayor of Wooster is very proud of Josh, as is his best friend and his daughter. 

9:07 p.m. Steve Jones never reads my tweets. On to...

 

Chris Rene: In case you've forgotten, Chris had a long self-destructive period. But music saved him. He wants a good life for his son. Interesting... Chris is banking his "X Factor" future on "Homie Whatcha Trippin' On," the original he introduced us to back in his audition. Will familiarity breed contempt or will Chris get well-deserved points for standing by his original composition. I suspect the answer will be the latter, because this full-scale production version of the song is in every way better suited to Chris' voice and talents than anything else he could have done. He's comfortable, composed and, in this moment, he's a star. Paula calls Chris magic. She's rather insane, Paula is. "That was your five million dollar song," Simon says, also calling Chris "a brilliant performer" and "a true gentleman." L.A. Reid loves what Chris just did. 

 

9:14 p.m. In Santa Cruz, Chris Rene's fans scare me.

9:20 p.m. I really don't think there's anything Melanie Amaro can do to stem the Chris Rene tide, but...

 

Melanie Amaro: Yes. We remember. Simon made a mistake. That's why pencils have erasers. Melanie is reprising her audition performance of "Listen." Why is she dressed as a silver burrito? Is she paying tribute to Josh? Or is she just being costumed poorly? I've said this enough times: Melanie is very good at what she does. I don't remember the last "American Idol" contestant who was nearly as good within the same genre. But even Melanie has to know that this is Chris Rene's competition. L.A. Reid, daring to be different, says that that was a 50 million dollar performance. Nicole is empowered by Melanie. "These are precious moments. You delivered a stellar, stellar performance," Paula says. Simon reminds us again that this is why Simon brought this show to America. To Simon, Melanie should be the winner of "X Factor."

 

9:27 p.m. In Sunrise, Florida... They're happy for Melanie.

 

Bottom Line: Melanie dominated the first performance. Chris won the second performance (even if Melanie totally outsang him). I'd be on Chris winning tomorrow, but I think I'm still rooting for Melanie.  And for tomorrow night's finale recap, don't forget to check Liane's Starr Raving blog.

 

What'd you think of Wednesday's show? Who are you rooting for? Who do you expect to win?