Thursday, July 10, 2014

An American's Guide to The X Factor UK: Part I

Look, they're pointing at your ignorance.

It has come to my attention that there is a problem with America's education system. It seems that the vast majority of this country does not know the intricate details behind the monumental sensation of one of the greatest reality television singing competitions in the entire world: The X Factor UK. That's right, the television show that brought you such hits (!!!) as

is actually also responsible for some of the most amazing talent in music.

Just a brief rundown, the X Factor UK was created by our dear friend Simon Cowell as a replacement for Pop Idol (basically the original version of American Idol). Talented young musicians come to try out in front of the accredited (It's all about Cheryl Cole) musical judges for a chance for superstardom. After making it past auditions, bootcamp, and Judges' house, the real competition can begin. The show does a very good job of actually finding artists with that X Factor that keeps you coming back to their music for more. As anyone can see in the United States, we kind of lost that magic in our Idol winners and the Voice is more about the competition rather than the actual singers themselves. Plus, the X Factor gives groups an opportunity to show their stuff and singers that don't even make it very far can end up creating fruitful careers in pop music.

So here we are. After 10 seasons of the X Factor UK, we have amassed quite the army of amazing pop acts that have (mostly) been consistent in delivering show-stopping music and entertaining us one way or another. In order to give Americans most of the info they need to get excited for the upcoming season of the X Factor (which will see the return of Simon Cowell & Queen Chezza and the addition of BLOODY SCARY SPICE MEL B), I have decided to give a brief rundown on the major pop entities that were formed on, supported by, and some who ultimately overshadowed the X Factor. Because there are so many, I will only do the first 5 series, but stay tuned for the second installment to come soon.

The Dolly Rockers

The Dolly Rockers managed to make it to Judges' House on Series 3 of the X Factor before being booted. Props for singing "Round Round" by the Sugababes though girls. Since then, they suffered some minor setbacks including a member's departure, fights with other girl bands, a not so spectacular single ("North vs. South" if you're curious), and their lost member returning after seeing how amazing girl group life must be. Don't let this put you off though, these girls managed to create some damn good music such as "Boys Will Be Boys" and my personal favorite "Gold Digger." Unfortunately, the whole project seemed to be a train wreck behind the scenes, resulting in another audition for the 10th series of the X Factor. After being rejected (again), I guess the girls had had it and decided to call it quits. Still, we managed to get "Gold Digger" though!

Leona Lewis

The first two seasons of the X Factor were all well and good but Season 3 gave us something that we never expected and yet realized we need more than ever: a winner who possessed a god given voice that could make an angel cry and the star power to make fans faint with one look. That person was Leona Lewis. Yes, the singer of classics like "Bleeding Love" and "Collide (feat. Avicii)" actually came from the X Factor. Admittedly, she had a lot of things going for her. First off, THAT VOICE DOOOOOOOOOE. Secondly, she is drop dead gorgeous and could look amazing wearing a garbage bag full of trash. Thirdly, she had attended the BRIT school, a songwriter's paradise in London that essentially give you the tools to become a superstar (other alumni include Amy Winehouse, Adele, Katy B, and Jessie J). And lastly, she had the expert managerial power of her X Factor mentor Simon Cowell to propel her to international stardom. Her recent Christmas album is certifiably brilliant. And come on, if you were alive in 2008, you couldn't escape "Bleeding Love." She has never failed to give us that amazing OMG WTF moment in every performance.

Same Difference

You don't see brother-sister duos doing so well in music these days so when Same Difference came onto the scene in the fourth series of the X Factor, people thought that they would get axed first along with a brutal criticism from Simon. But, surprise surprise, they turned out to be both fan and judge favorites, making it all the way to 3rd place despite their admittedly cheesy and Disney-ish performances. But it was after the Factor that the duo managed to get a real career, essentially becoming the poster children for upbeat happy kid pop that we all know and love. Their second album Rest Is History is basically what every 10 year old wants in a pop album and includes a lamazing duet with Alcazar called "Karma Karma." After taking a break from music to start a Popstar Academy for children, the duo split up to pursue solo careers. Fortunately, it appears that they have come back together this year so new music should be on the horizon and maybe they'll have a Miley Cyrus makeover to become "edgy" as the kids say.

Alexandra Burke

Here we have another diva who anyone can see immediately has the total package. Alexandra Burke has got the looks, the moves, and the voice to make any performance show stopping. And damn can this girl SANG. The girl managed to sing all of my favorite songs by pop deities like Whitney, Britney, and Rihanna. It was no wonder she won the 5th series of the Factor with a little help from her mentor Cheryl (and the Beyonce duet didn't hurt either). After winning, Burke had an extremely amazing career which included the signature "Bad Boys", the insane "Elephant", and the anthemic "All Night Long". She is also extremely charismatic and managed to be a brilliant judge during auditions for later series of the X Factor. Though she appears to be in album limbo right now, Alexandra decided to go full circle and is starring in a stage adaptation of Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard. All in all, she really knows this whole popstar game.


Yes tween girls, it's a boy band. JLS (Jack the Lad Swing, whatever the hell that means) came into the competition in series 5 and immediately cemented themselves as the best band the X Factor had ever seen. The two notable members are Marvin Humes (aka Rochelle from the Saturdays husband) and Aston (who is clearly the Justin of this group). They came in second to Miss Alexandra but don't you worry, they have a string of number one hits to prove that everyone loves it when hot boys sing and dance together wearing all white. With a prolific career that has included the hits "Beat Again" and "She Makes Me Wanna," JLS have been a national treasure for the past 5 years. It was in 2013 that the group decided it was time to end JLS but not without an amazing Greatest hits album and a money raking arena tour mind you. While they may have ended their singles career rather poorly, JLS really were excellent popstars and hopefully we get one or two solo deals out of all this huh boys?

Diana Vickers

We now come to my favorite X Factor contestant EVER, Diana Vickers. Diana came into the 5th season's competition and was immediately noted as a hippie weirdo by Louis Walsh. However, that breathy voice mixed with the Cinderella looks and adorable quirkiness (she had the claw before Lorde thank you very much) made her the immediate fan favorite. But as with every reality TV show, Diana was eliminated too early and finished in fourth place. After losing (#JusticeforVickers), Diana decided to team up with all star pop deities Cathy Dennis, Ellie Goulding, Starsmith, and Eg White among others to release 2009's Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree, which contained the ridiculously amazing "Once" and "The Boy Who Murdered Love." After all the first album hype settled down, Ms. Vickers decided to go to the next level of pop amazingness and teamed up with the legendary Miranda Cooper (responsible for all sorts of Girls Aloud amazingness) and enigmatic Norwegian electro band Donkeyboy to create one of the best albums of 2013 Music to Make Boys Cry, whose title track and song "Better In French" are almost too breathtaking to describe. I don't say this lightly: Diana is the most underrated X Factor alum and will forever be the little hippie that stole our hearts.

Well that's the best of the first 5 series. You're excited for Part II now aren't you?

No comments:

Post a Comment