By guest-contributor Daniel Hall
To say reality-show music-competition The X Factor has been a global phenomenon is definitely a huge understatement. Unlike its predecessor, the now-defunct Pop Idol (a UK spin off of the American Idol franchise), the Simon Cowell brainchild enjoys massive success not just in its home nation but also globally. Since its debut in 2004, The X Factor has amassed commercial success annually, running for 13 seasons and counting.
The X Factor UK created superstars out of winners such as Shayne Ward and Leona Lewis—even non-winners like English-Irish boy-band One Direction. Furthermore, the singing contest has cast its net far and wide and even has a British online iteration in the form of The X Factor Games. Around the world, the television show has made waves in countries like Australia, Denmark, and Italy, going strong for eight seasons, 10 seasons and 10 seasons, respectively. With so many revenue streams, the franchise has become one of the most lucrative in television.
On the flipside, there are certain countries where The X Factor isn’t well received. One of those is, of course, the United States. In the US, where singing competitions such as NBC’s The Voice and the aforementioned American Idol dominate (or dominated) the airwaves, The X Factor didn’t quite find its niche. As a matter of fact, it only ran for three seasons from 2011 to 2013. However, like the majority of reality-television programs, it was also the ideal platform to showcase artists’ impressive talents—and in some cases, odd personalities. With that, here’s a look back at the former, X Factor contestants from the United States—the good, the bad and the ugly side.
These types of programs give a glimmer of hope to ordinary people with extraordinary dreams. It offers voiceless singers a chance to show a bigger audience what they can accomplish when given a break. One such artist is Panda Denice Ross. In The X Factor US’s second season, the then-42-year-old barista instantly captured the judges’ hearts with her vibrant personality—she even joked about Simon Cowell being her baby daddy. By the time she belted out her audition piece, Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me,” Cowell, along with L.A. Reid, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato couldn’t help but fall in love. Though she began and ended her day feeling sick, Panda Ross gave everyone one of the most memorable, audition pieces (not to mention first names) in reality-television history.
If American Idol was proud to have country-crooner, season-10-winner Scotty McCreery, The X Factor US (season one) had the opposite in Kentucky-born Dylan Lawson. At the start, Lawson had the aesthetic and makings of a young, country star. In addition to looking the part, he said practically all the right things complete with emotional moments like being a small-town kid taking his first step toward achieving his lifelong dream. In just a blink of an eye, however, Dylan Lawson transformed from a bona fide country boy to (what seemed like) an exorcism victim. He jolted, convulsed and garbled words during his audition, capping it off by lying still on his belly. It, of course, led to the ire of judges—particularly show-creator Simon Cowell, who said it was time for him to leave the stage.
While some contestants, like Panda Ross, leave a positive impression on The X Factor and those (including Dylan Lawson) who create unwanted noises, there are others (such as Vino Alan) who cover all the bases. The budding artist had a strong start to his reality-show journey. Behind the head tattoos and rugged demeanor, he gave everyone a heartfelt rendition of Ray LaMontagne’s 2004 hit, “Trouble.” Week after week, Alan impressed the judges and was often one of the frontrunners of the competition—thanks to his spunky, hard-rocker appeal. But after a sudden change of song on week six of The X Factor US (season 2), Vino Alan was eliminated in 7th place. Speculations ran rampant during his quick fall from grace, with some fans claiming he was deliberately sabotaged by the show. Vino Alan detailed the aftermath of this controversy in full during a 2012 interview with Yahoo! Music’s Lyndsey Parker.
*This is a guest-contributed post from Daniel Hall.