X Factor has become something of an annual event these days on par with Christmas and Yom Kippur. A lot of people get involved but probably not with the same fervour of previous years. It just sort of happens and people deal with it. Watching the X Factor certainly won’t do anything for your soul, as Christmas and Yom Kippur might, but at least in past years it has been entertaining. This year, in comparison, has been kind of bland.
Why? Is it the lack of strange performances and crazy older singers that Louis Walsh usually parades out in front of the live audiences? That seemed to be what viewers actually wanted as the show has been criticised in the past for having too many contestants that can’t actually sing and simply dance around the stage. In The Voice one contestant was specifically eliminated because they felt that his performance had less to do with the voice and more to do with the razzle dazzle. So if that has been the case, then it would by hypocritical for viewers to switch off when the show actually tries catering to their demands.
Of course, that’s not to say that none of the contestants are putting on a performance. Louis Walsh is still on the panel. There are a few contestants who definitely fit the category of entertainer rather than singer and that shouldn’t really a problem. When you look at the current state of music you can see that there are a lot of artists who aren’t necessarily the best singers but are entertaining either because of their attitude or the show that they put on while singing. There are other artists, such as Lady Gaga, who do have the natural singing talent and still perform for the crowd in order to elevate themselves to the next plateau of fame.
So then, what is the problem with this season of X-Factor? Well, first of all, I would argue that there aren’t enough consistently good singers. Most of them are decent singers and can certainly hold a note but they aren’t incredible. This is still the early stages of the competition so there’s plenty of room for improvement but at this stage of the competition there isn’t really enough talent being shown. Last night, there were three acts that really stood out to me: Ella Henderson, Lucy Spraggan and Jahmene Douglas. Out of thirteen acts that’s a measly three that I would be happy to see win the competition. And, on top of that, Lucy Spraggan isn’t actually that talent in regards to singing. Her real talent comes in song writing and it will be interesting if she can keep writing the same quality of songs as the pressures of the shows increase. But her singing isn’t really outstanding.
Secondly, there isn’t really enough diversity among the contestants. Especially among the groups. District 3 and Union J both feel like cheap One Direction knock offs and the one stand out group, MK1, are not the best singers either. Charlie’s singing of Chipmunk’s Champion was a little off and ruined what was a interesting mash up with Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner. Furthermore, in regards to the Overs, they are all standing out for entirely the wrong reasons. Carolynne Poole is being shoehorned into a country category when she doesn’t really sound like a country singer at all and her performance of Nicki Minaj’s Starships was very wooden. The song choice was odd too. Wild card, Christopher Maloney sang Hero by Mariah Carey in a fashion that did nothing new with the song and made him seem very bland also. Kye Sones is forgettable as a person and, although his performance of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror wasn’t terrible, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the first to go. Melanie Masson was really the stand out of the Overs category this week but still felt like she was suffering similarly to Poole. The judges seem eager to make her out to be an old school rocker when her voice lacks the edge that singing rock songs needs. Yes, she has attitude but attitude does not a rock singer make.
Nicole Scherzinger stepped across the pond but made a few odd selections. Jahmene Douglas was a good choice, although the jury is still out on whether the nerves will get to him as the competition progresses, but Rylan Clark and James Arthur weren’t perhaps the best. Particularly after Scherzinger mentions that another contestant is a better singer than her final choice. Rylan Clark is the epitome of an entertainer. For me, his time on the show is numbered. Not because he’s terrible or anything but the entertainers who aren’t also vocally talented don’t tend to win X-Factor. This year could mark a change but I doubt it. James Arthur on the other hand is a fairly decent singer. He’s a bit hit or miss but his biggest challenge will be to stand out against the performances of Clark and the vocal ability of Douglas. Scherzinger has proven herself to be an insightful judge in the live shows but I can’t see her group winning this year.
The only group I can realistically see winning this year is the girls. Ella Henderson stood out in terms of actual singing ability; Lucy Spraggan is intriguing because she seems to be performing solely original tracks and the third girl, Jade Ellis, is talented too. If any of those girls leave in the early stages of the competition, I will be surprised. If Lucy and Ella aren’t in the final four, at least, I will be shocked. And that is perhaps my main problem with this year’s X-Factor. There aren’t enough contestants for me to really root for. I like Lucy Spraggan and there are a couple of talented singers but there just aren’t enough of them that I really connect with to make me care about the show.
All that being said, this is only week one and there have been plenty of years in which the whole show can change based on a very good week for who was an otherwise dull singer or a very talented singer can have an extremely bad week. After all, Janet Devlin was a hot favourite early on last year but didn’t actually make it to the final four. There are plenty of weeks still to come and with them come many opportunities for contestants to rise or fall.