While the talent show brings in the fans, how do its contestants succeed in their careers?
With the mega-stardom of Justin Bieber and the novelty success of Rebecca Black’s manufactured single “Friday” both stemming from Youtube, it would seem that pop stars discovered on television talent contests could be a thing of the past. However this is not the case for the Seven Network’s The X-Factor, an exciting and refreshing adaptation of the British singing program that looks for the next Australian pop sensation.
The program is a ratings smash, with viewers glued to the talent of the formerly unknown artists who grace the screen. The show constantly brought upwards of a million viewers a night during its tenure; at its peak in last year’s third season Seven brought in around 1.5 million viewers a night. As a result of this, The X-Factor was the most watched program 18 out of the 32 nights it aired and lead the metro ratings for 4 nights in a row during August/ September, with the finale brining in over 1.9 million metro viewers.
For its contestants, the show has been life changing, helping them to find immediate success in their respective careers. 2010 winner Altiyan Childs’ single “Somewhere in the world” sold over 15,706 copies and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association after debuting on the final episode. Similarly, recent champion Reece Mastin’s single “Good Night” being certified quadruple platinum after spending four non-consecutive weeks at number 1 on the Australian charts. But with so many flash in the pan reality shows debuting and countless equally talented singers auditioning with no chance at equivalent success, what makes the x-factor and its applicants stand out from the crowd?
One reason for its success could be that the show doesn’t pigeonhole itself into any one demographic by allowing for various categories of applicant. Contestants belong to one of four collectives, either Under 25 Boys (males aged 14–24), Under 25 Girls (females aged 14–24), Over 25s and Groups. Winners are selected by the viewing audience after performing live on air in front of the program’s judges/mentors, each an elite performer or music personality who aid the performers in developing their talents. Last year’s judges included two returning judges, singers Guy Sebastian and Ronan Keating, as well as a two new faces replacing 2010s stars, such as performer and actor Natalie Bassingthwaighte replacing radio personality Kyle Sandilands and “scary spice” Mel B replacing singer Natalie Imbruglia. By diversifying its stars and talent pools, the show can appeal to a range of viewers as well as produce a program who’s contestants can truly express themselves without being coerced into to conforming to one type of sound.
This highlights an additional factor to the X-Factor’s success: the contestants are amateur preformers who are selected not simply on their vocal skills alone like similar programs but by showing the judges that they possess talents as performers that set them apart from their peers. Anyone can sing, but only so many can sell gold or platinum records, as to do so a performer must have an appealing quality that resonates with their audience. This is exemplified in the famed audition process, which selects talent not only by their vocal ability but by the contestants’ background and character. Potential contestants must complete an application pack and outline their strengths before appearing before the selection committee. Questions asked include “What makes you a star?”, “Tell us ‘your story’ from childhood to now?”, and “Have you had any health issues either physically or emotionally?” For Reece Mastin, overcoming a temporary deafness in his childhood to go onto play a multitude of instruments shows his audience that he possesses a sense of perseverance and endurance necessary to become a performer. In similar style, while 2010 champion Altyian Childs performed poorly in auditions, the unparalleled emotional delivery of his work legitimised his place as the leading man of the competition, as it showed that he possessed the ability to present his talents in a way that strongly resonated with his audience, a skill that few would-be music artists hold.
Essentially the success of a contestant on The X-Factor is not based simply on their skill, but on their talent. Contestants do not succeed based solely on their vocal skill, as it would very hard to say that one singer in the group of the final contestants is any more a skilled than the other. Rather, their talent as a performer is what is assessed, as talent is fundamentally an unparalleled ability that the contestant possesses. It is what defines and draws people to the performer, be it a charismatic delivery or an emotionally resonating persona. While many contestants may be skilled, few are truly talented, as talent, unlike skill, cannot be taught, only expressed to an audience by the few who possess it. The sooner people acknowledge their talent and are able to harness and express it. the sooner they themselves can be successful. Effectively that is what The X-Factor has done for those who have appeared upon the program; it has served as a medium for the expression of the talent that each successful performer possesses, and can only continue to do so while it is on the air. Season 4 of The X-Factor is scheduled to appear on Chanel Seven in the coming months
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