Most people have the same love-hate relationship as I do with The X-Factor TV show in the UK. It started out as something special and great for talented music artists but has become a breeding ground for hard luck stories and "personality" based voting, or just plain silly voting with the obligatory "talentless but funny" element like Jedward and this year, Stevi Richie! Before Christmas, Ben Haenow won the 11th series. I watched the auditions as I sometimes do and thought it would be worth a watch because of so much talent. This guy only just made my top 6 in the "6 seat challenge". Mel B (who I thought was more stronger in personality, left in two duds and got rid of two good singers, Cheryl did the same, this was when my viewing stopped again, knowing the "winner" would not be who had the "X". Andrea Faustini was the only good singer, but was a quiet guy which reminded me of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Holly Johnson. Fleur East and Ben were average.
I know reality shows are to present "entertainment" at any cost but surely, the best, most original artist must win?, I'm afraid not. Here are my perceptions and opinions about certain non-winners.
Curiously, I watched this new show from series 1 in 2004, the two most talented singers Tabby Callaghan (real name Trevor John O'Callaghan) and Cassie Compton. I was so impressed by these two I actually picked up the phone and voted for them both (mistakenly thinking it would help!). As with the "puppetry" of Simon Cowell that I loathe Tabby was advised by producers to drop the "O" in his name to become less Irish and more commercial and to drop his Rock band. Reluctantly he went solo and came third but his "Rock" roots were destroyed. He has since disappeared from the music scene after a few attempted songs and albums with various bands. A shame as he was a proper guitar rocker and had the "X".
Cassie Compton was 17 at the time and the youngest contestant, she had such a powerful voice and I thought could be the next Charlotte Church. Ironically, Simon Cowell thought she was "too West End" to be a star. Well she did, she has since appeared in Dirty Dancing, Les Miserables and Wicked musicals in the West End! As with other non-winners I don't think Mr Cowell could puppeteer enough from her to make himself money. Steve Brookstein won this year, and I believe he's singing in bars now!
Although disillusioned with the first series I gave the second series a look. Shayne Ward won this year, and personally I thought he was dreadful, he was only voted for his good looks from little girls possibly. Only one contestant stood out for me and that was Maria Lawson. A pretty Londoner with a big voice and was one of the favourites to win. Typically, she was voted off and finished in 8th place. Thankfully, this didn't stop her and since the controversial rejection the singer-songwriter has released her own albums, been a model for lingerie companies Brastop and Bravissimo, sung backing vocals for Kelly Clarkson and Anita Baker, and had a lead role in Thriller-The Musical.
The third series I avoided and ironically an artist with talent actually won, Leona Lewis, for once a justifiable winner by all accounts. The 4th series was won by Leon Jackson (?), no I don't know him either. So after dodging 2 series I decided to watch the auditions for series 5 in 2008. Again it looked interesting. Two talented ladies caught my eye, Diana Vickers, a cute husky voiced teenager and Ruth Lorenzo (Pascual), a Spanish lady with a massive voice from Murcia.
Diana Vickers is well known now as a singer, actress, fashion designer and model. She reached the semi-finals, which was won by Whitney Houston wannabe Alexandra Burke (nothing new or unique about that, they are ten a penny nowadays). She was praised for her original style and was so down to earth. Diana has released two successful albums so far, appeared in films and on the stage in the farce The Duck House but most notable, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, both to rave reviews. She will soon be seen in a new sitcom on Sky Living called Give Out Girls.
Ruth Lorenzo was your typical Spanish senorita, stunning but with a voice to match. I remember her final performance of Prince's "Purple Rain" and it was one of the best covers I'd heard as I'm a big fan of the man and usually very critical of his work!. Ruth was down to earth and came 5th in this series. She has since released singles in Spain and sung for her native country in 2014's Eurovision Song Contest with "Dancing in the Rain". Her debut album "Planeta Azul" will be released soon.
Although disappointed that the two sure-fire talents didn't win in 2008 I watched the 6th series the following year. I managed to watch the whole series for the first time since 2005. This was by far the best year and even though I thought Joe McElderry was a worthy winner, I felt others should have won. Cheeky chappie Olly Murs, ditzy Dagenham babe Stacey Solomon, controversial Danyl Johnson and the sweet Lucie Jones were all deserving of the title.
Olly Murs as everyone knows has been a major success, touted as the new Robbie Williams, he's done incredibly well. His first audition was absolutely brilliant and he's gone on from strength to strength, releasing 4 albums and presenting on TV to his own show before Christmas. He has supported his hero Robbie on tour and has also modelled for clothing store NewYorker and clothing brand Farrell. How did he not win X-Factor?. Only Simon Cowell knows.
Stacey Solomon was the stunning Essex girl who won everyone's hearts with the mad style and exuberance and hilarious laugh! The fact is she had an amazing voice and although seemed nervous beforehand just belted out the songs with effortless ease. She has since been a top TV personality winning the Queen of the Jungle title in the reality show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. She has also been the face of Iceland commercials and appeared in various shows such as Celebrity Mastermind gaining the lowest score in the competition and presented Sing If You Can with Keith Lemon. Always up for fun, the endearing lady is due to release her debut album soon.
Danyl Johnson caused a bit of controversy but not for his singing. He came out as being bisexual during the show amid fears of press digging and lies. After singing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going", his mentor Kylie Minogue said there was no need to change the gender reference if we believe the papers. This caused outrage for the show and she later apologised. This seemed to harm Danyl's performances and popularity. although covering "Purple Rain" with a blistering performance, he finished fourth. He was due to have an album out in 2011, no news as yet.
Lucie Bethan Jones was a lovely Welsh student from Cardiff. She had vocal training from Charlotte Church's mentor Louise Ryan and was a popular favourite on this year's series. A great voice and cutesy Welsh drawl. More controversy in the show as she was voted off in favour of Jedward, which sparked a storm of protests by viewers but Ofcom refused to investigate. Lucie has since signed up with Select Model Management and has been the face of Wonderbra's Full Effects campaign. She has appeared on stage in the musical Les Miserables playing Cosette and also in an episode of children's fantasy series The Sarah Jane Adventures. An album was scheduled to be released in 2012 but no news as yet as has appeared in the new musical American Psycho and also We Will Rock You. She has released her own lingerie line called "Loved By Lucie". Again an artist who couldn't be a puppet for Cowell I guess.
I avoided series 7 and was glad when Matt Cardle won, I have never heard such a whiney little voice come from a man. It is purely an insult to my ears when I hear him, and thankfully I haven't heard much of him since! Season 8 I saw some auditions and finals and for only the second time after Leona Lewis, a worthy winner in Little Mix. I thought they would be a great new girl band to rival the history of Spice Girls and Girls Aloud and have since been proved right. Like them a lot. To the artists who could have won, only Misha B posed a threat to Little Mix.
Misha Amber Bryan reached the semi-finals of 2011 and is a singer, songwriter and rapper from Manchester. I loved her outrageous style and feisty personality. She also had a top voice and big hair! She has yet to release her debut album after 3 singles but has appeared at numerous festivals and has collaborated with Emeli Sande for her upcoming release. She is a joint patron of the National Diversity Awards and proudly supports the Pride festivals. Look forward to big things from Misha.
Again, I didn't see the finals of series 9 in 2012, and I'm glad I didn't see much of the winner James Arthur. Like Matt Cardle, he has such a poor voice and it's like he really can't be bothered. This is probably why he's had trouble with record companies and the like for his lazy attitude. Not a good winner. Especially true as this year in the finals were Derbyshire born singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan and one of last year's biggest stars Ella Henderson!
Lucy Spraggan auditioned with a guitar and a quirky number called "Last Night" which was both clever and funny. She quit the X-Factor during the run after falling ill. It has since been rumoured (although not confirmed) she didn't want to be a puppet for Simon Cowell and wanted to keep her quirky style and release what she wanted. This reminded me of Avril Lavigne, offered a great contract but refused it to be "herself". She has since recorded an independent album and her latest album for Colombia Records is entitled "Join The Club".
Gabriella Michelle "Ella" Henderson was a finalist this year and finished sixth after appearing to be a favourite. In 2014 her debut single "Ghost" went straight to number one. The lady from Grimsby has released her debut album "Chapter One" and following her exit on the show many celebrities came out in support of her talent including Adele, Lily Allen and Cher! After numerous TV shows and a couple more singles to hit the top 20 she is on the road to success.
The 10th series in 2013 I saw a few auditions but wasn't impressed and even less impressed with the Susan Boyle-esque Sam Bailey. Nothing special, big voice, that's about it. A mum with a makeover who got lucky! The 11th series I have already spoke about at the start of this blog, it's just really disappointing that so many actually potentially good singers are put off by someone saying they don't like them for whatever reason other than singing. Statements as "you don't look like a pop star to me", "your attitude is all wrong", "you are too confident", "you're singing the wrong song". The top stars live and die by THEIR convictions, would Madonna have taken any lip for being confident and brash? would Prince have Simon Cowell say he was singing too sexual? would David Bowie be told his androgynous image would harm his career? would Guns N Roses' Slash be told his top hat was too silly? would Elvis Presley be told NOT to wiggle his hips suggestively?.
Sounds silly but that's how it seems.
This is just my opinion, no doubt it's entertainment in a reality world, but making music should be a passion within your soul, being original and most of all, being true to yourself.
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