So close! Saara Aalto finishes as X Factor runner-up as Matt Terry wins final

She was eliminated from the six-chair challenge only to be saved by the mercy of the wildcard, and she later survived the Bottom Two on three occasions.

And tonight Saara Aalto brought the same fighting spirit to the X Factor 2016 final, finishing as runner-up to Matt Terry.

“Thank you people for all the support I’ve gotten,” she said shortly after Matt was named the winner. “I never thought I could make it this far. I am so happy for Matt. I love you.”

X Factor: Song of the series

Matt and Saara started Sunday’s show with their “songs of the series”. Matt chose to sing Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” from Movies week, while Saara went for Björk’s version of “It’s Oh So Quiet” from Divas week — the song that finally spared her from the Bottom Three.

Sshh, sshh… bring us that musical theatre realness, baby. Saara totally owned this with her exuberant staging, which exploded with Technicolour fabulosity and endless dancers. The only one who didn’t join the party was the Mad Hatter. Feathers, flowers and sunglasses filled the stage and Saara’s voice gave it life. Her unique, crazy and over-the-top style made all the judges give Miss Aalto a standing ovation — again!

“Every time you come on stage I get excited, you always surprise me,” Louis said afterwards. “You’re not predictable. This show is about finding an undiscovered talent who can sell albums and that person is you….you’re an amazingly good person. You work hard. You have the X Factor.”

Nicole, who has repeatedly taken credit for Saara receiving Sharon’s wildcard, was as effusive — even if Matt is her mentee. “You fill that entire stage with your effervescent energy,” she said. “It was explosive. It was fun. I’m just so happy you’re here. Enjoy this moment right now.”

Simon, whose record label will sign the winner of the show, made it clear he’s behind her too.

“On one of the most important nights on your life you decided to come back with the song of the series being one of the most bonkers performances we’ve ever had,” he said. “And this is why me and this audience and the British public are falling in love with you. Because it’s so easy to come on [when] you’ve got a big voice with a ballad. But the reason you have absolutely popped is you don’t take yourself too seriously. You are an entertainer. And I think tonight this was off the charts.”

Sharon, Saara’s mentor, was overcome with emotion.

“I mean, I can’t think of anything else to say about your performance ’cause I’ve said it all. But what I do want to say is I want to thank Nicole for sending you to me. Because she picked you as my wildcard and I want to thank Nicole from the bottom of my heart and I want to say I admire you as a yong woman — I admire you so much — for your strength and your talent. You are a great example to other women.”

Saara, who viewers deemed arrogant and aloof early in the show, got teary eyed as she thanked the audience.

“I’ve been thinkng about this day a lot now. About a year ago I thought I would quit, I would give up because I didn’t find my place. But here it is. You guys accepted me and the British public accepted me. For the first time I feel so loved — I feel so loved. I want to love you back. ”

Saara Aalto covers Whitney

The acts were given one final chance to impress voters with a song of their choice. Matt choose “One Day I’ll Fly Away” — originally performed by American jazz singer Randy Crawford in 1980.

British viewers will surely recognise the more recent cover from the Vaults, which features in the John Lewis Christmas advert. Matt killed it, sounding better than at any point this series.

Saara — a diva of the first order — tackled Whitney Houston’s “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”. The judges lapped it up (though, to be honest, I would have given the edge to Matt with this one).

“You have the potential to be a global superstar,” Louis said. “You came here as an underdog, but you’ve worked harder than any contestant in the show. I think the Finn can win!”

Nicole emphasised that Sharon has worked hard to protect her from producers. “Saara, when we first saw you audition I knew we found someone special. And even though I was your wildcard pick, you couldn’t have a better mentor. I know how hard she fought for you behind the scenes, always wanting you to be your best. Last but not least, not only do you have a voice out of the stratosphere, you make me smile. Thank you.”

“I think I know your story, a little bit of it,” Simon said. “You have tried and tried and tried, and for whatever reason with a talent like yours it hasn’t worked out, which is why I feel privileged you came over to the UK. You’ve been a total delight from day one and I like that this show is open to everyone. We’ve never had anyone win from another country. I would feel privillged if you were to be our first foreign winner. That’s what life is all about. It’s about people.”

Sharon echoed the thoughts of many — no doubt the bookies — when she said “this has probably been the closest final that this show has ever had.”

“You two are both great artists who deserve to be here. No matter what the outcome of the show tonight, you gave your all and left it right there on the stage.”

Saara held it together long enough to shout out to her fans once more.

“The song kind of said it all. I didn’t know I had all of this inside of me. You guys — the audience, the judges — the love and the support that I got from you made me blossom and I am so grateful that I found my home here.”

Do you think that the best act won? What gave Matt Terry the edge of Saara? You can let us know in the comments box below.


Read all of our X Factor news