A single father from Detroit, a couple-duo from Florida or a kid from the streets of Chicago: One of them was primed to win a $1 million recording contract as the season-three finale of "The X Factor" got under way.
And on Thursday night (December 19), Alex & Sierra were crowned, joining previous "X Factor" winners Melanie Amaro (season one) and Tate Stevens (season two). While the show's first two winners haven't had the brightest trajectory, the Simon Cowell-led competition has had success with Fifth Harmony and Emblem 3, group acts from the show's second season that have done well in the pop ranks.
All three finalists got into the Christmas spirit during the broadcast, singing a selection of holiday standards and donning their most festive gear. They were in good company, with the legendary Mary J. Blige taking the stage for a soulful rendition of "This Christmas," while "X Factor U.K." alum Leona Lewis performed her new Christmas single "One More Sleep."
Carlito Olivero was the first to be let go, but told host Mario Lopez, "I'm so happy, man. We came in third place!" and told the judges "I hope to be working with you all soon."
After performances from Lea Michele, Pitbull and One Direction, Alex & Sierra celebrated their big moment with a bear hug from Cowell, who said "I feel like Christmas just came early" while simultaneously offering "big respect" to Jeff Gutt.
"This is incredible," Alex said. "Thanks for not making fun of my weird faces all the time," Sierra added, of course while making a goofy expression.
Gutt offered his congratulations to the winners and assured America they he'll be touring and recording in the near future.
Through tears, the duo christened their win with an encore performance of "Say Something," which, when performed earlier this season, hit # 1 on the iTunes singles chart. It didn't take long for their fellow season-three competitors to join the lovebirds onstage for a group hug.
The couple from Florida, made up of 22-year-olds Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton, have been under the wing of Cowell, who has puffed them up with praise all season long. The story line has been Sierra overcoming her shyness and stage fright, and every week she's been praised by the judges for being better than she was the week before.
Alex & Sierra's best performances have been soft and plainspoken readings of popular hits, and those songs have done well on the iTunes sales charts; their version of A Great Big World's "Say Something" hit #1 on iTunes, the closest "X Factor" has come to producing a hit this season. (The group's version of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" also went to #1 on iTunes.)
In Cowell's stable of performers this season, country trio Restless Road and pop trio Sweet Suspense — both Frankensteined together from solo performers by Cowell, One Direction-style — seemed to have the edge, but Alex & Sierra have been the easygoing breakout of the season.
"The X Factor" went into its finale facing an uncertain fate, having not yet received a pickup for a fourth season. Demi Lovato has already abandoned ship and Cowell has said if the show does return, it will undergo some retooling. But for this year's winner, all that mattered is that the $1 million recording contract won't bounce, and Alex & Sierra got to go home very happy.
What do you think of "The X Factor" winner this season? Let us know in the comments!