In case you don’t know, The X Factor launched as a British music talent show in 2004. After passing the first set of auditions, contestants would be assigned to one of four judges. The judges would be in competition with one another as well as the candidates (BBC, 2004). Winners were signed to judge and founder of the show Simon Cowell’s Syco label.
The good side of The X Factor
Currently the show has had 13 winners, with the 14th to be announced this weekend in The X Factor final. Little Mix, Louisa Johnson, Alexandra Burke, One Direction, JLS, Leona Lewis and Olly Murs got their ‘big break’ on The X Factor.
The X Factor has had moments that will go down in British TV History, with iconic and unforgettable acts like Chico, Jedward, Wagner, Rhydian Robert, Katie Waissel, Cher Llord and Rylan.
Big music names have performed on the show like Beyonce, which almost didn’t happen as Simon Cowell commented that he found “the whole [Beyonce] thing mystifying. She’s not sexy, she hasn’t got a great body and she’s not a great singer” (London City Girl).
Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams performed with their group Take That, who reunited just for The X Factor. These two members have also been judges, as has Tulisa from N-Dubz, Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls, Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, and Mel B from the Spice Girls.
There has been drama between contestants, like the famous Ablisa moment below, rumours that acts were dating and that contestants were fighting with their judge eg Cher Lloyd and Cheryl Cole. Some contestants have returned despite being kicked out like Amelia Lily (Sterling, 2011).
The show’s winners have done well; Leona Lewis is “one of the biggest superstars [The X Factor] has ever produced” and Alexandra Burke has had “many hits” since winning (Archer, 2018). Sam Bailey was the first X Factor winner in 3 years to get a Christmas number 1 (Archer, 2018) and Little Mix, the first group to win are “one of the most successful pop acts around” (Archer, 2018). Even though they didn’t win, One Direction’s run after the show speaks for itself.
The bad side of The X Factor
However, all that glitters is not gold.
Most of the positives I pointed out have little to do with The X Factor’s original purpose as a talent show, and most memorable acts are remembered for being controversial. The X Factor has shifted it’s focus towards entertainment and showbiz to respond to decreasing ratings and viewers. Some of the performers were used because of their “pulling power” as the most recent launch show had the lowest ratings in 14 years (Gillibrand, 2018).
And sadly, not all winners have had a good experience after the show. Something most winners have in common apart from winning is being dropped from the Syco Label. Where are winners Leon Jackson and Shayne Ward today, who seemed to have so much support during the show?
The show has been accused of cheating, with questions about how ‘real’ it is. This year, Acacia and Aaliyah sung the same song over and over again (Desborough, 2018) which is usually not allowed. Previously, there was a revelation that judge Louis Walsh used to be an auditionee’s manager (Kilkelly, 2004), and there were “serious technical issues” surrounding voting in the 2005 final (Welsh, 2007).
The auditioning process has been challenged too. After being rejected by the production team and not the judges themselves as you are led to believe on the TV show, auditionees could not receive feedback, meaning their 11 hours’ wait was over in a minute (Hassan, 2009).
So should The X Factor be cancelled?
The controversy, lack of long-term success for most winners and a heavy focus on showbiz over talent might lead potential auditionees to question why they would bother to audition for the show. I think that, like CD shops, The X Factor hasn’t weathered the test of time given the increasing role of technology in the music industry and all the changes this has brought.
The idea of being on a TV show isn’t so attractive anymore, as going viral on social media could bring the same opportunities or more that you would expect from being on TV. Just ask Big Shaq to confirm.
Why would an auditionee wait for 11 hours to be told no when they could post a cover on Instagram and potentially be discovered by a big-time artist like Ella Mai was? Ella’s situation is ironic as she was rejected by The X Factor and has seen arguably more success by turning to Instagram.
The judges are there to mentor and provide guidance, but technology means that information (in theory) can be found easily on the internet. Although, this would be nowhere near as insightful as coming from the actual judges.
The X Factor’s winner will get access to the Syco record label, who can provide facilities to record and push the music. But with technology becoming so cheap and accessible, there is the option to record at home, and with the power of social media, this can be extremely effective for music marketing.
Considering these, the X Factor’s prizes don’t seem so attractive anymore. I personally think that the X Factor doesn’t have long left as it’s original shine isn’t there any more. Something that could have potential, however, would be a contest putting musicians who found fame from social media against each other, but this is just a suggestion.
What do you think? Will The X Factor still be on in 5 years?
SOURCES: https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/x-factors-acacia-aaliyah-booted-13644887, http://tv.bt.com/tv/tv-news/x-factor-winners-where-are-they-now-11364207030194, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/3653461.stm, http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/the-x-factor/news/a15585/x-factor-judge-accused-of-cheating/, http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/the-x-factor/news/a350594/amelia-lily-returns-to-the-x-factor/, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8209429.stm, http://www.digitalspy.com/media/news/a78001/x-factor-final-hit-by-phone-scandal/, http://londoncitygirl.com/article/our-top-10-x-factor-moments, https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/showbiz-tv/x-factors-most-controversial-moments-15095254, https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/02/the-x-factor-launch-show-has-lowest-ratings-in-14-years-following-simon-cowells-decision-to-replace-judges-7906170/