10 Things I Want From This Series of The X Factor


I have avidly followed every series of the X Factor since its creation. Some series have definitely been better than others but I can normally trust that I can find some kind of enjoyment out of it, however dirty and used it may leave me feeling afterwards. However, in recent years I have found X Factor to be somewhat of a chore. E.g: You have just eaten a massive, huge slice of amazing chocolate cake. You are now perfectly full. However, your new boyfriend's nan or something has just given you another slice of a cake she spent hours making herself and you must finish it all to avoid looking rude. The taste is good, but you can't help feeling nauseous.

This is what the X Factor should do to bring back the "very first bite" level of excitement.

1. Absolutely zero use of the phrase "this is a singing competition".

If there is one thing that I could drum into the hearts of the X Factor judges it would be this. X Factor is not and should never be considered as a "singing competition." We can leave that to the more appropriately titled The Voice. The brand X Factor has become such a huge household name in the past ten years most of us forget that the phrase once had a different meaning. Some people have it, most people don't. I tend to agree that popstars should be required to have some basic ability to carry a tune (but even this isn't essential) but "who is the best popstar" and "who will sell the most records" has never been, and will never be, about who has the best voice.

Reality TV is often blamed for image-driven pop but ever since Elvis Presley popstars are so much more than good singers; they're good brands. If someone is able to command attention on stage, looks great (and this doesn't necessarily mean conforming to classic Western beauty ideals before you start), has an engaging personality, and all while sounding fairly decent, I will likely be their fan. If someone is a vocal powerhouse but stands still on stage staring at the ground with a "I need to overcome my shyness" backstory, I'm not interested. And I want the judges to start calling people out on this (or better yet, never put them through in the first place) and to stop voting for the better "singer" in sing-offs and instead vote for the better performer. I'm hoping the ousting of Gary Barlow (FINALLY), the man who cited Let Her Go by Passenger as the greatest song of 2013, may help with this, but can't say I'm entirely confident.

2. Absolutely zero "I've had confidence issues all my life, I'm so shy, I only ever sing in front of the mirror"

If you were that shy you wouldn't be auditioning to go on the UK's top-rated primetime Saturday night Q4 programme. Bore off. All the best popstars have natural confidence. Either own it or go back to your normal jobs like everyone else.

3. Wind tunnel

The wind tunnel has been missing from the key X Factor makeover sequence pre-live shows for a while and we need it back.

4. No deification of the judges

I fear that this is inevitable with the return of "Our Simon" and "Our Cheryl" but let's remember: at the end of the day, they are just people. I am being 100% serious when I feel that I am definitely as qualified to judge the X Factor as Cheryl Fernandez-Versini is. They've made plenty of wrong decisions in the past and I don't want other judges who have now left maligned now this pair are back to "save" the X Factor. Well apart from Gary, the man who claimed on multiple occasions Frankie Cocozza was good. Now Gary has left the X Factor finally has a chance of saving.

5. No 'twists'

We've all seen what hideous things can happen when shit like "wildcard votes" are introduced. Do not, I repeat not rely on the general public for these things. Lest we forget the general public sent Real To Me by Brian McFadden to number one. Let's stick rigidly to the audition, bootcamp, judges houses, live shows format. No double eliminations, no bringing anyone back at a later stage. With the right contestants, we won't need scripted and invented drama for entertainment.

6. Themes that are more, dare I say it, "relevant"

During Simon's last stint at an X Factor judge he used the word "relevant" so often it ceased to have meaning, but he did have a point. There's always a place in my heart for Purple Rain and My Heart Will Go On, but are they "relevant"? During this series of X Factor, and this would be particularly amazing if it happened in the first week of live shows, EVERYONE has to pick a song from that week's current top 40. Depending on how many Christopher Maloneys, Abi Altons and Shelly Smiths we are served up this may be a challenge, but screw it, LET THEM BE CHALLENGED! What is the point of launching yourself from a program like X Factor, and presumably aiming to win, if you have no interest in creating music that will chart?

7. Contestants must stick to themes

The johnlewisification of classic pop songs is one of the greatest crimes of the modern era. The whole point of themes is the idea that this artist, as a person who allegedly has "The X Factor" should be able to handle most themes thrown at them with poise and grace and a performance which makes me tweet the word "flawless" a lot. Just because a person is known for a different type of music doesn't mean they can't slay a more upbeat song when given the right choice. I don't want any contestant to be allowed to "put their own spin" on any kind of pop song. Uniqueness needs to come from the performing style, not from the song arrangement. Another memo to the judges: "You made that song your own" isn't necessarily a good thing.

8. Every judge mentors one contestant from a different category; or even, god forbid, abolish the "mentor" idea all together

Unfortunately early on in every series the producers choose which judge has the Boys, which has the Girls, which has the Groups and which has the Overs presumably based on what makes a better narrative given who they expect to win. (Watch Cheryl be given the initial strongest category this year).

This has never struck me as particularly fair. I know every one of these categories has at least once produced a winner but we are all kidding ourselves if we believe there are not two definite categories there that tend to be stronger than the others. A real game-changer, even a "twist" if you were was if each judge was given one random contestant from each category. Imagine the unlikely friendships that could be shown in feel-good VTs!

There is of course the fact that sometimes I wonder why we have the concept of mentors all together. Lest we forget it was loyalty to this concept that led Gary Barlow to claim that Frankie Cocozza was good.

9. Cut-throat approach to sing-offs

A few years ago Cheryl got no end of criticism for refusing to choose between two of her contestants in the bottom 2. Last series it appeared to be expected the mentor would refuse to choose. This is not how it should be. This is your job, you should have to choose. And there is no need to be loyal to your own mentored contestant; pick the one you genuinely think is better. These are people's lives and future music careers at stake.

10. Good, varied contestants

Last but not least, I want some One Directions. I want some Cher Lloyds, I want some Tesco Marys. I want people that I can connect to, people I can envisage myself being fans of after the series. I want contestants that inspire me to pick up my phone and vote, which I have only ever done for one contestant (Little Mix, natch). I don't want a Christopher Maloney. I don't want a James Arthur. I definitely do not want a Steve Brookstein.

PS: The main thing I want is them to call me tomorrow and offer me the job of managing the whole thing. I could save this country.

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