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X Factor winners - where are they now?


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ITV has kick-started the reality conveyer belt as the search for Britain's latest singing sensation has hit our TV screens once again. Simon Cowell, kingpin of the show and general musical warlord, has always stressed the priority of tracking down the hidden talent within the country, (the swelling of his bank account from premium rate phone lines a mere bi-product, it seems) indeed ITV's promotion of this years show emphasised their pride in the success of contestants, and with this in mind, I scoured the depths of Wikipedia and entered domains of the internet rarely accessed by any human being in order to evaluate the success of the X Factor's mission.

The show it self these days of course resembles a little too closely ancient Rome. Contestants are wheeled out to the Coliseum, often selected for the main audition (by producers in the initial audition which is not televised) based purely on the eccentricity of their character, potential for controversial reaction, or indeed down right mental instability. Hyped from progressing from the initial rounds, the fall of self esteem is all that harder when its carried not only by people you admire, but often in rude, insensitive and damaging fashion. All of this of course, is lapped up by the hoards of public viewers, chanting and booing the isolated wannabe pop star, a verbal thumbs down from the Roman public, a mental decapitation for the gladiator, who slumps back into their hole, only more vulnerable after the character destroying experience. The fact the show is so often blaringly staged makes the whole ordeal of watching that little bit more tragic.  

All of which makes it all the more incredible a star has indeed emerged from the chaos of the X Factor. Leona Lewis was the winner back in 2006. From there she has sold 28 million records worldwide, breaking into the UK top five seven times, as well being nominated for seven Brit Awards, and three Grammys. Her position as darling of the X Factor props up a procession of other calamitous idols, too which tracking down information on their musical exploits became more difficult than an attempt to access the FBI's best kept secrets.

Beginning with Steve Brookstein (no, me neither). Winner in the very first X Factor in 2004, Brookstein is the first in line when attempting to find the butt to your perfect X Factor reject joke. Dropped after just one studio album under label Sony BMG his fall from grace has been one that even Tiger Woods could have a chortle at. A failed attempted at a second album, promoted by a label he created himself, fell flat, and the result led to a stint performing on a P&O cruise ferry to Bilbao during 2007, alongside none other than musical icon Chico. The fact his Wiki section '2007-present' ends in 2010 does not present much hope of a take that style comeback anytime soon.

Similarly,  Leon Jackson, winner back in 2007, can make a mighty fine case himself for position of worst X Factor winner. In fact, his accolade as '2nd biggest reality flop' by Tellymix in 2010 left him precariously positioned as runner up to, you guessed it, Steve Brookstein. Once describing his X Factor win as a 'curse', Jackson has spent the last few years attempted to find a label for his second album, after a similar split to Brookstein from Sony BMG. 

Aside from the two named above, many other winners have enjoyed fleeting success without ever living up to the role of Britain's biggest new artist. Shayne Ward enjoyed a very fruitful spell alongside Justin Lee Collins in the hit musical 'Rock of Ages' in the West End. Ultimately, its hard to endorse the X Factor as a real door to success, making the shows initial statement of intent somewhat curiously unattained. The very small number of winners remaining signed onto Cowell's label proves his lack of faith.

All of this of course, fails to even mention the herd of X Factor finalists that have managed to loiter around our TV screens like a bad smell, all in increasingly undignified ways. This niche market created by these largely talentless attention seekers has only increased the cycle of reality shows ever greater amounts of normal human beings have come to loathe. Shows such as Celebrity Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, with which these x-listers have become fodder, offer them countless opportunities to embarrass themselves in more pointlessly tedious ways. Similarly, the finalists of TV talent shows have only served to offer greater difficulty to wedding singers across the country, who are inundated with competition fresh from the reality TV dump.

All in all then, its evident that the winners of the X Factor and similar talent shows have done little to progress the human quest for musical perfection. Neither will any trouble writers wishing to compile a comprehensive list of influential celebrity culture icons of the future. All of which of course could add to the debate as to the X Factor's position on UK TV screens today, as the scales tip ever further into the 'just make good TV' direction. Expect to see yesterday's news appearing in your local town this Christmas - Staines's Christmas lights aren't going to turn themselves on, you know.     

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