back to Chris Rene

March 18, 2012

Simon Cowell reveals his favorite 'X Factor' US finalist & ranks audition cities

Carla Hay, The X Factor Examiner

"The X Factor" executive producer Simon Cowell has revealed who is his favorite "X Factor" U.S. contestant from 2011. And it's not 19-year-old powerhouse singer Melanie Amaro, the show's first winner whom Cowell mentored. It's hip-hop artist Chris Rene, 29, who came in third place on the show.

Cowell made the revelation during a video chat on Saturday Night Online on March 17, 2012. During the chat, he answered questions that people had submitted in advance via the Internet. Most of the chat was about "The X Factor" U.S., since Cowell is currently a judge on the show.

"The X Factor" U.S. judge Antonio "L.A." Reid, who is chairman/CEO of Epic Records, was Rene's mentor on the show. Reid has since signed several "X Factor" finalists to Epic, including Rene, Amaro, 21-year-old R&B singer Marcus Canty, 18-year-old pop singer Cher Lloyd (from "The X Factor" U.K.) and 15-year-old rapper Astro. These artists are also signed to Cowell's Syco Music (the record label that he co-owns with Sony Music), which has partnered with Epic (another Sony Music label) to release the artists' music.

One of the questions asked Cowell which "X Factor" U.S. contestant stood out the most to him. Cowell replied:

"Melanie [Amaro] is obviously one of them. I think my favorite [‘X Factor’ U.S.] contestant from last year was probably Chris Rene, because I don’t believe other shows would have given him a chance like we gave him. And I think the show really helped him. And I think he’s one of the sweetest, nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. Melanie, obviously, she and I had this incredible bond. And she’s a really nice person. Chris probably stands out."

Earlier in the chat, Cowell complimented Rene on his unique sense of fashion style. When Cowell was asked if he pays attention to what contestants wear in auditions, he answered:

"Yes, in a good way and a bad way. I’ll tell you a good example of somebody who got it right: Chris Rene, because Chris Rene came in not what I would call an ‘audition outfit.’ He just turned up in something he would normally wear and probably would wear in his first video. He had good taste. You could see that. And that’s a good example of somebody getting it right."

Cowell's revelation that Rene is his favorite "X Factor" U.S. contestant from 2012 should not come as much of a surprise to people who remember that Cowell said early on in the show's competition in 2011 that Rene was the year's "most important contestant" on "The X Factor."

Rene performed “Young Homie” (an original song that he wrote) at his “X Factor” audition. His “X Factor” audition clip racked up millions of views on YouTube within its first week, and it has since become the most-watched “X Factor” U.S. audition clip on YouTube.

Rene also performed “Young Homie” on “The X Factor” U.S. Season 1 finale in December 2011, and that live version of the song became a Top 40 hit on iTunes’ Top 100 Songs chart, outselling all other "X Factor" U.S. contestants that year who had their live "X Factor" performances on iTunes.

The 2012 studio version of “Young Homie” also became a Top 40 hit on iTunes' Top 100 Songs chart in the U.S., and a No. 1 hit on iTunes' Top 100 Songs chart in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Amaro's cover version of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," which was released as a digital download in February 2012, was a huge flop, even though it was featured in a high-profile Pepsi commercial that Amaro co-starred in with Elton John. Amaro's version of "Respect" failed to make it onto iTunes' Top 100 songs chart or Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

Amaro and Rene have been working on their respective first albums for Epic. The albums (titles and release dates to be announced) are due for release before the end of 2012.

During the chat, former "American Idol" judge Cowell discussed many topics that he has already talked about in interviews, such as audition advice and why he is eager for a group instead of a solo artist to win on "The X Factor" U.S.

Cowell also answered a question asking him which are the best and worst audition cities (in the U.S.) for talent. He replied:

"I always love Miami. It’s one of the best, because I just love Miami. Greensboro [in North Carolina] I like. I was there six years ago [with “American Idol”], which is why I’m going back there this year.

"Worst: Seattle on the ‘Idol’ years was horrendous, but it was better when we did ‘X Factor.’ And we went to Houston when we did “Idol” seven or eight years ago. I think every single person who walked in that particular day was terrible. But we’ll go back to Houston at some point with ‘X Factor.’ And hopefully, we can make it good again."

"The X Factor" U.S. auditions for 2012 began in March and will continue through July