The X Factor was back with a bang last Saturday when the ninth series kicked off, featuring a sensational singing supermarket worker, along with an aggressive rejected contestant and feisty stand-in judge Melanie Brown, who shocked viewers with her unflinching honesty.
At the show’s press launch in London, the judges were clearly proud of the singers they’ve discovered. “This year, we really do have some homegrown musical talent,” said Tulisa Contostavlos, as she sat beside fellow judge Louis Walsh and new full-time judge Nicole Scherzinger. Last year’s winners Little Mix performed their single Wings at the launch and spoke about the massive impact the show has had on their lives: “We wake up and do something that we love every day.”
Judge Gary Barlow missed the launch, as he spends time with his wife Dawn following the loss of daughter Poppy, who was recently stillborn at eight and a half months. “We’ve all spoken to Gary, we’re all in touch with him all the time,” said Louis.
Gary, who has three children – Daniel, 12, Emily, nine, and Daisy, three – with Dawn, issued a statement thanking fans for their support. “I’ll be watching the show at home on Saturday with my family,” he said.
Gary has also decided not to take his final batch of contestants to Majorca for the judges’ houses round. Filming will take place in the UK instead, with Robbie Williams as his sidekick. Nicole will be joined by US rapper Ne-Yo when she selects her finalists, while it’s rumoured Tulisa will be joined by either Tinie Tempah or 50 Cent.
The first episode featured Welsh Pink tribute act Zoe Alexander, who was so furious
at being turned down by the judges that she shouted and swore, threw her microphone and shoved a camera and other parts of the set. Were the judges scared? “I didn’t fear for my safety, I feared for Louis’,” laughed Tulisa.
Nicole was a judge on the first series of the American X Factor last year, alongside Simon Cowell. She was dropped from the US version before being recruited for a permanent role on the British show. Will she do anything different this time round? “I put 110 per cent in last time, so I’ll do that and will go with my heart,” she said.
“Be honest,” interjected Louis. “You’re working with nicer judges now. You’ll have fun on this show.” He then quipped that it was okay to joke about Simon Cowell “because he’s not here”.
The talent contest was criticised for having lost its spark last year, but Tulisa has no qualms about this series. “It was the second biggest show to the royal wedding last year,” she said. “I’m not worried about it at all.”