"This will be the greatest final we've ever been in, in terms of talent," Cowell says

By Lorenzo Benet
Updated December 21, 2011 02:00 PM
Credit: Phil McCarten/Landov

It’s down to the final three after a dramatic first season of The X Factor – and with $5 million at stake, audiences should expect to see the gloves come off … musically speaking, of course.

“One of these artists is going to be the legacy of this year,” Simon Cowell, show creator, judge and mentor to Melanie Amaro, 19, said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday. “I believe they all have a shot. This is $5 million dollar talent here.”

Not bad for a group that includes recently rehabbed trash collector Chris Rene, 28, dad and burrito maker Josh Krajcik, 30, and Amaro, who is a piano teacher and college freshman.

“They are all big on talent and charisma,” said judge L.A. Reid. “Each one has a distinct competitive advantage.”

Krajcik will be the first to take the stage on Wednesday, followed by Rene and Amaro, who won the right to pick her position in the lineup. Each competitor will also perform a duet with a surprise superstar singer.

Regardless of who is crowned the first winner of the U.S. version of The X Factor, all three say they hope to push forward in the music industry:

“I have a big voice and there will be ballads [when I record an album] and songs that will make you want to dance,” Amaro said. “I’d love to do a collaboration with Mariah Carey. I love her and she is inspiring and has a big diva voice like mine.”

“I would do a mixture of hip-hop, and rock and soul,” Rene said. “I can’t wait for when that day comes.”

“I have been playing in small bars for so long and the recognition of what I do is what I strived for all these years,” said Krajcik of stepping into the spotlight. “And that’s why I’m here – to be recognized for what I do.”

And according to Simon, they could all get their chance. “I have done a lot of these competitions before,” he said, “this will be the greatest final we’ve ever been in, in terms of talent.”