Talent shows and egos: The X Factor spotlight

One Direction

As The X Factor juggernaut prepares to come to a halt and crown the year’s ‘next big thing’, Russell Iliffe takes a look at the acts which have already made the leap from small screen to international chart success.

Prior to The X Factor there was Popstars – the 2001 show which put together Hear’Say, a group that initially enjoyed huge success but saw their star fade by the end of the year. Then in 2002, Will Young won the first series of Pop Idol, a new show which introduced a public vote and brought the now infamous judge Simon Cowell into the nation’s living rooms.

Young went on to score 11 UK top 10 singles – four of which were number ones including radio favourite Leave Right Now written by Eg White. He has also racked up six UK top 10 albums with most recent, last year’s Echoes, becoming his third number one album.

Later in 2002 Popstars: the Rivals assembled all female group Girls Aloud and boy band One True Voice to release singles on the same day and compete for the coveted Christmas number one position.

Girls Aloud - Ten

While the boys’ Sacred Trust was tipped for the top spot, it was the girls’ edgier Sound Of The Underground which shot to number one and ignited the group’s career. They went on to place 21 singles in the UK top 10 and sold over 4.3 million singles and 3.3 million albums. The Official Charts Company (OCC) has since declared them the UK’s biggest selling 21st century girl group.

Their four UK number one singles to date include 2008’s The Promise, which won the Brit Award for Best British Single and was written and produced by the Xenomania team. This songwriting machine has been responsible for most of the band’s string of hits, many of which can be found on their new greatest hits set Ten.

Cowell’s The X Factor launched in 2004 and by series three had found an international superstar in Leona Lewis – she enjoyed global album sales exceeding 10 million and three UK number one singles including transatlantic chart-topper Bleeding Love.

It also became clear that you didn’t have to win the talent show to become a star. Susan Boyle, the runner up in 2009’s Cowell show Britain’s Got Talent, became a global sensation with her debut album I Dreamed A Dream. It sold nine million copies worldwide and turned her into an overnight singing sensation

And, despite coming second to Joe McElderry on the 2009 edition of X Factor, Olly Murs has become a big selling pop artist. He now has two double platinum albums and four number one singles (including current OCC number one Troublemaker) under his belt. Moreover, his new album Right Place, Right Time should be a best seller over the Christmas period.

No talent show round-up would be complete without mentioning the all conquering boy band One Direction. Despite finishing third in the 2010 final of The X Factor (which was won by Matt Cardle), they are the first British group in US chart history to enter the charts at number one with a debut album. They also achieved the highest first week entry position for any single by a UK group with Live While We’re Young, which entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number three earlier this year.

With second album Take Me Home also hitting number one in the US and giving them their first UK number one album, it is indeed evidence that exposure on Saturday night TV really can change an act’s life forever!