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The X Factor Guide

| 03.12.2018

The X Factor has been a front-runner in the entertainment industry and has helped define the modern ‘talent show’ era.

Its arrival in 2004 came off the back of the highly successful Pop Idol and US spin-off, American Idol.

This guide rolls back the years and takes a look over its 15-year history, right up to the current series.

We investigate the format, different stages and who could be favourite to win X Factor 2018.

X Factor 2018 Format

The audition room characterised the show in the early years, before a change to a live arena audition gave a chance for the audience to get increasingly involved.

It had reverted back to the classic audition room venue for a time, but this year that took place at the SSE Arena in Wembley.

Traditionally beginning in August, this year the show began airing on September 1st 2018.

The auditions were filmed throughout July 2018 at Wembley.

This then made way for the Deliberations stage, which took the place of the original Boot Camp stage and narrowed the field down to 12 acts in each category, in preparation for the Six Chair Challenge. The decisions were made over three episodes between 29th September and 6th October.

This year the Judges Houses were filmed in late September. The remaining six artists in each of the four categories sing-off for a place in the ‘Lives’.

The four main judges bring in guest judges to help cut the six acts to four.

It’s then off to the Live Shows for a run of 7 weeks on air from 20th October until its conclusion on December 2nd.

The 2017 decision to allow 16 acts instead of 12 into the Live finals has meant many double eliminations this year.

X Factor judges

There’s been a shake-up in the judging panel for 2018. The long-serving music manager Louis Walsh has stepped aside. Walsh has missed just two series of the show since it began fifteen years ago.

Louis Tomlinson has become the first former contestant to be a judge on the show. He has joined Robbie Williams and Ayda Field in the new-look line-up alongside the show’s head-honcho Simon Cowell.

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell is the show’s creator. His then-newly formed company SyCo was the catalyst to create a brand-new music competition that was to be known as The X Factor in 2004.

He has been a judge on the show for 12 of the 15 seasons after taking three years off to kick-start a US spin-off.

Cowell has helped to mastermind huge global success for the show with acts such as Leona Lewis, Little Mix, One Direction, James Arthur and Olly Murs.

He was given the girls category in this year’s series.

Robbie Williams

The former Take That star was in one of the most famous bands of all time during the 1990s. He went on to have a highly-successful solo career and has won awards for his ‘lasting impact on British culture’.

He has also been involved in musical theatre and clothing ranges throughout his enduring career.

Williams’ knowledge of working in a group could have had some influence on being given that category for his series debut.

Ayda Field

Ayda Field rose to fame on NBC’s Days of Our Lives and, Fox’s Back to You before her UK TV debut alongside Jack Whitehall in Fresh Meat in 2016.

She married Robbie Williams in August 2010 and has since appeared in ITV/Netflix series Paranoid as well as being a regular guest panellist on Loose Women.

The TV actress was given the Overs category for 2018.

Louis Tomlinson

Louis Tomlinson shot to prominence as a member of One Direction. The group were formed by Cowell during X Factor 2010 and came third behind Rebecca Ferguson and winner Matt Cardle.

He has also had solo hits with ‘Just Hold On’, ‘Back to You’ and ‘Miss You’ since the band’s hiatus.

Tomlinson is also a big football fan and signed a non-playing contract with boyhood club Doncaster Rovers in 2013 and has appeared in multiple charity matches.

The 26-year-old took on the boy’s category for this year’s shows.

X Factor contestants

This year’s last 16 contestants featured Anthony Russell. The 28-year-old returned for his third attempt on the show and this year is still in the running to win at 6/1.

Stand out auditions came from the likes of 2/7 favourite Dalton Harris, duo Misunderstood and current third fave Scarlett Lee.

Armstrong Martins’ unique take on High School Musical’s ‘Breaking Free’ and ‘I’ll be there for you’ popularised by US TV series Friends were highlights of the series so far.

After One Direction went global, Cowell has formed the likes of Little Mix, Union J and Stereo Kicks with varying degrees of success.

This year saw United Vibe and A-Star as the two most prominent acts to be formed following the auditions.

Themes for the Live Shows

The Live shows tend to come with themes. Whether it is Guilty Pleasures, a take on Express Yourself, Fright Night or Big Band, there is a level of consistency week on week.

However, in 2016 the show trialled a new way of deciding the themes. They installed an on-stage mechanical jukebox to decide the songs for the next week.

The Halloween themed Fright Night often sees the likes of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, Imagine Dragons’ hit ‘Demons’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’.

There have been artist specific themes such as Songs by Queen in 2009, as well as songs by Wham! or George Michael in the same year and Motown week as seen in 2012.

Big Band night usually features the likes of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’.  But notable performances include Ray Quinn’s rendition of ‘Ain’t that a Kick in the head’ and Eton Road’s ‘Mack the Knife’ in 2006.

Luke Friend also belted out a memorable performance of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ in 2013.

Previous X Factor winners: Where are they now

2004 – Steve Brookstein

Soul singer Steve Brookstein was the very first winner of the X Factor. His winner’s single, a cover of Phil Collins’ ‘Against All Odds,’ was pipped to Christmas number one by Band Aid 20’s revamp of Do They Know It’s Christmas?

After scoring a number one album he was dumped by Sony BMG just eight months into his contract.

He has since written a book called ‘Getting over the X’ which slated the show and Cowell, calling it ‘one big theatre’.

2005 – Shayne Ward

Shayne Ward won the second series of the show and bagged the X Factor’s first Christmas number one with ‘That’s My Goal’.

After two successful albums – the last of which was released in 2007 – he was dropped by the label in 2011.

He has since embarked on a successful acting career in Coronation Street.

2006 – Leona Lewis

When Leona Lewis became the third winner of X Factor, little did she know she’d go on to become the most successful artist in the show’s history.

Her post X-Factor single, Bleeding Love stayed at number one for seven weeks. It also topped the charts in Ireland, New Zealand, USA, Canada and across Europe.

Since then she’s had a string of hit singles and albums including a cover of Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’, recorded the Avatar theme song and embarked on two world tours.

Not bad, Leona!

2007 – Leon Jackson

His victory over Rhydian Roberts was one of the biggest shocks in reality TV history as the Scottish crooner charmed his way to victory in 2007.

Leon’s winner single, an arrangement of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s ‘When You Believe’ went straight in as Xmas number one.

However, after being dropped by Syco after the poor sales of debut album ‘Right Now’, he was last seen in LA where he keeps a relatively low profile.

2008 – Alexandra Burke

Alexandra Burke returned to the show in 2008 and beat JLS in the final.

She sang with Beyoncé Knowles and ended up going on tour with the superstar songstress in 2009.

Burke has had a string of hits including ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Broken Heels’ and ‘Start Without You’.

In more recent years she has turned to the West End performing the lead role in The Bodyguard and starred in Sister Act: The Musical and Chicago.

2009 – Joe McElderry

Joe’s winner single, a cover of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’ was caught up in one of X Factor’s biggest controversies.

He was beaten by Rage against the Machine’s ‘Killing in The Name’ following a huge Facebook campaign.

His debut album, Wide Awake, peaked at number three. His contract expired with Syco in 2011 but he did admit the split was amicable.

Joe appeared in Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat in 2016. Earlier this year he went on a nationwide arena tour.

2010 – Matt Cardle

Matt Cardle was the man that kept the juggernaut of ‘One Direction’ from winning the show in 2010.

His cover of Biffy Clyro’s Many of Horror (retitled When We Collide) stormed to festive top spot.

He battled with alcohol and drugs addictions in the years after his win. Cardle was also embroiled in a court case with Ed Sheeran.

It was alleged that Sheeran had copied Cardle’s song ‘Amazing’ ‘verbatim, note-for-note copying’ on his tune ‘Photograph’.

The 2010 winner has since re-signed with Sony and released his fourth album, ‘Time to be Alive’ in April 2018.

2011 – Little Mix

For a band cobbled together from failed solo auditions, Little Mix haven’t done too badly for themselves.

Their winners single, a cover of Damien Rice’s Cannonball, charted at number one the week before Christmas.

The bandmates Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall have had extraordinary success in the UK and across the pond.

With a total of five studio albums, countless singles and music videos, they’ve scored a slew of top 10 hits including 2012 number one, ‘Wings’, and ‘Shout Out to My Ex’.

The group’s latest album LM5 was released on 16th November 2018.

2012 – James Arthur

James Arthur was a ‘ready-made recording artist’ according to the whole panel including Nicole Scherzinger, Louis Walsh and Gary Barlow in 2012.

The Middlesbrough man’s winning single ‘Impossible’ stormed to number one selling more than 1.25 million copies in the UK.

But the wheels soon fell off as the pressure began to tell. He was dropped by Cowell after years of indulgence.

However, he managed to turn his life around and was resigned by the music-mogul after his chart-topping single ‘Say You Won’t Let Me Go’ in 2016.

2013 – Sam Bailey

Sam Bailey beat Nicholas McDonald and Luke Friend to victory in 2013. Her cover of Demi Lovato’s ‘Skyscraper’ was the first to take Christmas number one since 2010.

Her debut album was the first from any X Factor alumni to chart at number one since Alexandra Burke.

She parted ways with Syco Music in 2015. Bailey has gone on to self-fund her album ‘Sing My Heart Out’ and starred in Fat Friends with Andrew Flintoff.

2014 – Ben Haenow

Ben Haenow won the eleventh series of the X Factor in 2014. He covered OneRepublic’s ‘Something I Need’ to Xmas number one in December 2014. On his 30th birthday his deal with Syco was confirmed.

But after a string of failed releases he was dropped by the label. His comeback album ‘Alive’ failed to leave a mark on the official charts in 2018.

2015 – Louisa Johnson

West Ham United fan Louisa Johnson became the youngest-ever winner of the show at just 17-years-old.

After scoring a top-five hit with ‘Tears’ featuring Clean Bandit she went on to release her debut album in February 2016.

Johnson, now 20, has now signed a deal with Ministry of Sound and is working on new music as we speak.

2016 – Matt Terry

Terry released his debut album almost a year after his 2016 success. It featured debut single ‘Sucker For You’.

Despite getting a remix by DJ John Gibbons, the original debuted at number 51 on the UK Singles Charts.

However, in June 2018 the 25-year-old left Syco after charting just once in the UK top 40.

2017 – Rak-Su

Four of their self-penned songs reached the top of the iTunes chart while they were on the show.

It was their catchy-tune ‘Dimelo’ that became a chart smash going in at number 2.

Rak-Su supported Little Mix on their summer tour in 2018 and will go on the road with Olly Murs for his UK tour in 2019.

They brought out their latest single ‘I Want You to Freak’ in October 2018.

X Factor World

The X Factor has taken the success of both Pop Idol and American Idol and has become a phenomenon enjoyed by fans around the world.

There have been memorable contestants on the show. Series 1 found Irish rocker Tabby Callaghan, Chico in 2005, Wagner in 2010 or Rylan Clark in 2012.

Presenter Dermot O’Leary has become one of the staples of the show – but it was in fact Kate Thornton who was given the gig for the first two series.

We’ve also had the long-running spin-off Xtra Factor which made Caroline Flack a household name.

Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne are almost part of the furniture – even when they’re not on the panel.

The show has become a juggernaut and despite the numbers suggesting it peaked between 2008 and 2011, it continues to make stars out of ordinary, working class people.

X Factor 2018 odds

Dalton Harris is 2/7 favourite to win the 2018 X Factor Final.

Scarlett Lee is 5/1, with Anthony Russell 8/1.

Do you have the X Factor?



Robin Whitting