The ninth series of the X Factor returns to Saturday night viewing this coming week and on the face of it, not much has actually changed. The most obvious upheaval from last year’s series is the departure of Kelly Rowland. It sure was exciting to have her around for that one season. There was a lot of speculation that she wasn’t going to be brought back and that she didn’t really want to come back because a lot of people got crushed in the process. In the end, the reason given for her leaving was that it conflicted with her schedule. Given that Rowland only seems to release an album every four or five years, it is hard to believe the X Factor really conflicted with anything she has planned for this year.
It took several months but they finally replaced Rowland with X Factor USA ex-judge, Nicole Scherzinger. Scherzinger left the USA series after she sent a decision to dead lock and left the elimination decision to the fans. Those fans then promptly sent 14 year old Rachel Crow packing and Scherzinger was booed off the stage and sent death threats. But here’s the thing, those fans were booing Scherzinger for sending the decision to dead lock but that wouldn’t have mattered if more people voted for Crow in the first instance. She clearly wasn’t popular enough to win even if she was talented.
Scherzinger was visibly upset by the incident and it is generally hailed as one of the main reasons behind her departure from the US series. There’s also the fact that a lot of fans said that she was too soft and didn’t really comment extensively on vocal ability. That makes her the perfect replacement for Kelly Rowland, whose main comments for contestants were so abstract and stereotypical she could have easily been replaced by a machine. Of course, Louis Walsh has cruised by on that kind of advice for years now, so why should now be any different?
So while Scherzinger and Paula Abdul were replaced by Britney Spears and Demi Lovato on the US version, the original UK X Factor didn’t manage to sign Scherzinger to a contract until mid-way through the audition stages. Geri Halliwell, Leona Lewis, Rita Ora, Mel B and Anastacia were brought in as guest judges in the meantime. Every day a new singer seemed to be up for the role, from Rihanna to Alesha Dixon, Katy Perry to Dannii Minogue and two separate members of The Saturdays. I can guarantee that Scherzinger was not their first choice, although that doesn’t necessarily make her a bad option. Signing Rihanna to the show would have been a bad move, given that she’s becoming increasingly unreliable and unbalanced. She’s cancelled recent performances and she can’t seem to shoot music videos without flashing farmers. Despite her past, I also feel that Alesha Dixon wouldn’t be taken serious. Both Katy Perry and Dannii Minogue are probably keeping their distance because of recent personal break ups and the last thing they needed to do in that situation is to go on a talent competition. The only thing worse would have been to sign up to Big Brother.
Personally, I think Rita Ora might have been an interesting option, given that her style of music is different from Tulisa Contostavlos and her youth would help keep the acts that go through relevant to current young listeners. Of course, Tulisa already does that anyway and I have nothing against Scherzinger either. I like her music generally and she has experience of both leading a group and a singles career. She will need to toughen up though if she thought crushing dreams in the US was hard. In the UK, we take a kind of sick enjoyment from seeing people being torn down for their lack of talent and arrogance and it is a part of the reason that shows such as the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing do so well in this country. They don’t sugar coat the advice for those who just aren’t capable. That’s also why The Voice started to haemorrhage ratings as it ran on. A part from the shocking format of the eliminations and the lack of interest after the novelty of the spinning chairs had passed one of the main complaints of The Voice was that the mentors were too nice.
However, there will be significant pressure on the X-Factor to see if it can maintain its standard now that another singing competition has appeared on television. I really doubt it is going to affect ratings that much and in fact a lot of people who watched The Voice will probably also watch the X Factor. But the notion of some sort of combat between these two talent shows will likely inspire some viewers to tune in, at least initially. On top of that, the release of a sex tape involving Tulisa will also attract some viewers as well. Controversy usually goes a long way in creating suspense for a show or film as I imagine the whole Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson break up will cause a stir for both Twilight Breaking Dawn part 2 and On The Road. Especially the latter actually; On the Road involves Kristen Stewart in some apparently risqué sex scenes. Of course, X Factor will have none of that but I think a lot of people will tune in mostly to see Tulisa’s reaction.
Yet, the most tragic news was the most recent announcement that Gary Barlow and his wife lost their unborn child, Poppy. Obviously, this will be a very difficult time for the family and I wouldn’t be surprised if Barlow felt the need to take some time off and spend a month or so with his wife. While the show will be back this Saturday the live shows won’t be for some time, so there is an opportunity for him to step away. That doesn’t seem like the case as he still intends on performing at tonight’s closing ceremony of the Olympics. Understandably, it is a major event for any artist to perform at but I was still quite surprised that he was back in action so quickly after the tragedy. He’s already spoken out on what he perceives as what went wrong with the last series.
Overall, it seems like the right judges have come back and the right judges have left. There’s more than enough interest and speculation to lure people back to the show and consume their Saturday nights for the foreseeable future. While there were certainly problems with last year’s show, given that three quarters of the judges were new it was inevitable that teething problems would exist. And it’s only a matter of six days until we find out if those issues have been resolved.