University of York Graduate, aspiring to be a journalist with dreams of one day publishing my own novel.
Published work can be seen at www.theyorker.co.uk and www.yorkvision.co.uk
Published October 1st 2012
Chapter 3: The Acts
Thought you'd seen the ugliest parts of The X Factor? Wardrobe malfunctions and bitter judges' feuds may have made the show all the more controversial over the years, but there would be no show without the acts themselves. Eight years have seen some colourful characters from all walks of life, from snappy rappers to girls who like to play fisticuffs in the auditions – and that's not even accounting for the guest stars! Welcome to Chapter 3 of How Has The X Factor UK Changed Over The Years- The Acts.
There's no doubting that the talent pool has evolved immeasurably since 2004. With the new waves of contestants each year comes a new wannabe-Christmas #1 single, and whereas the original years were predominantly ballad-based, (think Leona's A Moment Like This) more recent acts are keen to change their focus.
Memories of Steve Brookstein probably inspire nothing more than rolling tumbleweed, but prior to 2009, The X Factor was keen to promote a much cheesier image. Granted, the sob stories are still ripe today, but you wouldn't see a Miley Cyrus single being kicked off the #1 spot in 2012.Instead of the former power-ballad acts such as 2007's Niki Evans, the modern day X Factor is taking on more niche artists.
Remember me? Steve Brookstein, 2004's first winner xfactor.itv.com
Cast your minds back to 2009. The most over-played track of the year was Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire and afro-sporting Jamie Archer took this to its full advantage by rocking his way through the first audition. The fun didn't stop there though, and he took on his own 'rocker' image, screaming all the way to the live shows and causing Cheryl to make a rather snide remark at Simon, "notice this is the first year that we've had a rock week." Miaow.
Even more niche was to come the following year in the form of pint-sized brat Cher Lloyd. Fragile and fierce, she was even met with a barrage of rather unfounded comparisons to Cheryl Cole – but she made it through to the final 3 despite claiming in a press conference, "I'm not gonna win, I'm the rapper." It's a shame she didn't – she might have just gone on to release Matt Cardle's When We Collide rather than hitting her own number one with the insult to music that was Swagger Jagger.
Specialist-artists aside, what's changed even more so is the guest acts on the show. It's hard to believe now when we have the likes of Alexandra Burke and JLS performing at the finals, but back in 2006, there was a whole show dedicated to Rod Stewart. The ageing rocker himself even appeared to give them some coaching! The show may have lost some of its class since 2006, especially given as last year the finalists sang with their judges, but thankfully, themes such as Beatles week still remain.
The 'joke' acts
Never mind ageing rockers, what about ageing judges? Sadly, as poor Louis Walsh has aged, he's lost his credibility, and has developed rather a reputation in recent years to put through 'joke' acts whose only purpose, it would seem, is to annoy the general public. Of course I'm referring to Jedward, the two cocky, American-voiced twins from Dublin whose hair was the only thing higher than their egos. They were met by a tirade of abuse from the general public, and inspired comments from the judges such as 'they would literally step on their own mother to get ahead', but, 3 years on, the two have had numerous TV gigs, an album, and two Eurovision appearances, so in the end, the joke's on us.
It is Vaaaagner Louis!" Remember that awkward turn of phrase? The ageing Brazilian pervert was taken through to the live shows once again by Louis Walsh in 2010, and like Jedward, amazed the public with his unstoppable staying power. He played bongos, murdered Bat Out Of Hell and even had a spat with Cheryl live on air about comments regarding her council-estate background, but, thanks to the likes of Katie Waissel, managed to last until week 8.
The 'Public Enemy'
Did somebody mention Katie Waissel? Katie Waissel, or Katie Vogel, caused controversy from the word go as it was revealed during the audition stages that she had previously had a record contract under the pseudonym of Lola Fontaine. There were also rumours that she had previously frolicked with X Factor producers, and the concrete evidence was available for all eyes to see on Youtube, as she paraded about on an MTV reality show with dreams of becoming a pop star. Katie's arrogance and wanting to show the public 'the real me', despite changing her image every show, became the source of constant annoyance week after week, even inspiring Facebook groups such as 'it's easier to get rid of chlamydia than Katie Waissel'. Nice. Plucky Simon, however, picked up on this and relished the column inches that the hate campaign generated, so much so that he continued to save her week after week, until she was finally booted off in a double elimination with warbler Wagner. And the less said about the 'sod it!' moment, the better...
Cue another year and another joke act from the lovable Louis. Of course, this particularly feline act was doubly talented, in that she not only managed to make a public joke of herself but also a public enemy – step up, Miss Kitty Brucknell. She baffled judges at bootcamp by sporting a light-up leotard (and evidently a very recent bikini wax) and whining her way through Lady Gaga. She was truly deluded, but somehow Louis saw the same spark in her as Simon did in Waissel, and he took her through to the live shows and caused fireworks with it. Kitty tried to bring in her own sense of style despite very vividly channelling her inner Gaga, and lit up the stage with such theatrics as gluing herself to a spinning target and hosting an Alice In Wonderland-themed party. She may have been entertaining, but she was also unforgivably annoying – if only she had 'set herself on fire' like she said she wanted to.
So there you have it – a round-up of the series' vocalists, vixens and villains. There has been no end to the weird and wonderful contestants that The X Factor has seen, and with that deluded demographic comes a fair share of media controversy too. Tune in next time to see just how the headlines became more and more scandalous as the shows progressed.