It's a new dawn, it's a day, it's a new life -- and it's a new style for 'X Factor' darling Melanie Amaro. The powerhouse has been criticized for sticking with her "safe" ballads, but Amaro took a risk this week with Nina Simone's 'Feelin' Good.'

In her introductory montage, judge L.A. Reid echoed his comments from almost every week. "Melanie's same old, same old, every week," Reid said. Amaro admitted that stepping out of her comfort zone scared her. "I can't let myself down," Amaro said. "I'm so scared of going home." Adding to her pressure? Tweets from her hero, Mariah Carey!

Who was on her side? Her mentor, girls judge Simon Cowell, was emphatic in his support. "I wouldn't swap Melanie for any other contestant right now."

Amaro opened her performance of the soul classic with only a small spotlight behind her, but as soon as her voice began to crescendo, bright flashing lights did as well. When her voice dropped, so did the lights. The visuals were almost as effective as the vocals -- which were the only predictable part of this performance. Amaro can't not sing beautifully, and the judges took notice.

Amaro's biggest critic, L.A. Reid, had no negative words this week. "I know why you're the only female left, because you're the greatest female that ever graced this stage," Reid said. "I loved the song choice. It was not predictable and you killed it, girl."

Nicole Scherzinger agreed. "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life and you should be feeling so good right now," she said. "This was the Melanie Amaro freedom anthem." Paula Abdul kept it simple and also paraphrased the lyrics like her pal Scherzinger did. "You're letting go and we love it," Abdul said. "It feels good!"

Amaro's mentor, Simon Cowell, was the most enthusiastic -- granted, he also has the most at stake (like that ego of his). "This is why we brought the show to America," Cowell said. "Because I always dreamt that we would find someone like you, a bit of an underdog ... This was your greatest performance of the show so far."

However, despite Amaro's ability, Cowell learned last week that it might not carry her without America's help. "You saw what happened last week," Cowell urged. "You have to pick up the phone and put this girl through to next week, purely based on talent."