Ok, the X Factor has been around for eight years now, debuting in September 2004 on British TV channel ITV, and is now into its ninth series, becoming the biggest television talent show in Europe – and spawning numerous versions in countries all over the world.
The very first winner of the show was Steve Brookstein – who has incidentally become one of the biggest critics of the show, often taking to Twitter to voice his annoyance and frustration with each new series. Steve feels he was let down by Simon Cowell and the show’s producers after being dropped by record label Sony BMG, only eight months after his X Factor victory.
He famously backed the “Rage Against The Machine” anti X Factor christmas campaign in 2009, and claimed the show was staged – an outburst which subsequently saw him removed from the official X Factor website.
Some of his more infamous Tweets include: “I’m gonna have to get my Breivik Starter Kit” – an infamously hand-over-mouth humorous threat towards MTV, going on further to say: “I only have a paint ball and stink bombs but I think we can make quite a mess.” in a reply to a fellow Twitter user.
Brookstein also heavily criticised Louis Tomlinson of One Direction for having “no talent”, as well revealing that two of Simon Cowell’s ex-girlfriends got their breasts out and “performed” for him! Steve is certainly an interesting chap.
Cowell attempted to take the competition over to America in 2011, a move which saw the series panned by critics amidst a sea of flaws, and which ultimately struggled to oust American Idol from the top spot in the minds of US audiences.
Common accusations include mis-casting presenter Steve Jones – with audiences failing to connect with him, problems with the judges – notably the on-off issue of Cheryl Cole and the annoying & apparent staged favouritism of the judges, and a notable “dragging out” of shows.
Simon’s pre-show predictions of 20 million viewers failed to materialise, something which he has aimed to set right in the second series.
The Voice on the other hand is a mere toddler of talent shows, and one which was created with aim of fixing all the flaws with the latter, with a firm aim to put “the singing” right at the forefront of the show – and an attempt to avoid the obvious marketing impetus of chosen contestants.
Originating in the Netherlands as “The Voice of Holland” in 2010, the show has quickly gained popularity with many countries, becoming a proper rival to the X Factor.
The obvious difference between the shows is that on The Voice, contestants are judged purely on their singing abilities alone, with each judge facing away from the singer, only turning around once they have cast their approving vote, or when each performer has finished.
Judges choose ten singers each at the beginning of the show, as opposed to being randomly assigned groups on the X Factor.
The live stages of each show also differ, with contestants on The Voice battling against each other, before TV audiences vote who to save – leaving each judge to decide which contestants they want to keep. The absolute final stage pits performers from each judge against each other, with the last person standing being named “The Voice”.
The show is into its second series in the USA – the first one being won by Javier Colon, with the judges comprising of Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton. It proved a hit with critics and saw very good ratings throughout, gaining more viewers than already popular shows “Dancing with the Stars” and “Glee”. Rolling Stone’s Mallika Rao spoke highly of the show, saying: “Could this concept be the best Dutch import since tulips and Eddie Van Halen”.
In the UK, the rights to the show were bought by the BBC for £22 million, despite ITV offering more money. Simon Cowell declared the show as “competition” for Britain’s Got Talent – a series well into maturity which would be aired at the same time.
The Voice UK went on to gain more viewers than rival BGT – prompting bosses to move the latter to a later slot. The four judges consist of Tom Jones, Jessie J, Will.i.am, and Danny O’Donoghue from The Script. Commenting on the reception from audiences, the BBC have stated they are delighted at the show so far, and from a unbiased point of view, it looks like we finally have a valid competitor for the X Factor.
Speaking about the quality of contestants on The Voice, judge Danny O’Donogue said: “The talent on show after the first auditions on the first day beat out any talent in any finals I’ve ever seen on television. The hair on the back of my neck and arms was standing up. 16 and 17-year-olds were up there killing it”.
Many viewers of the X Factor feel that more often than not, poorer contestants are put through ahead of more talented ones, with eventual marketability being key. With winners receiving a record contract at the end of the series, bosses are keen to make sure profits and longevity are secured – something which has become more important with each passing series.
Previous winners such as the aforementioned Steve Brookstein, as well as flops Leon Jackson and Joe McElderry have strengthened this.
Interestingly, contestants who have finished second and third have often gone on to do better in subsequent years, with JLS, Olly Murs, Rebecca Ferguson and most importantly One Direction enjoying huge success.
The global rise to fame of One Direction possibly assisted Little Mix in going on to win last year’s series by a combination of the judges backing and positive spin (and yes, a lot of votes!), and in doing so become the first ever group to win the competition.
Cowell made no hiding of the fact he wanted groups to do well on the first USA X Factor, something which didn’t materialise, but with the apparent rebirth of boybands such as The Wanted and One Direction, we have no doubt this will again be an important category when the second series airs.
See Melanie Amaro perform her final song on the US X Factor:
The initial stages of the X Factor have always featured a mix of terrible and great contestants at the same time, however many people have tired of watching bad singer after bad singer receiving airplay.
This is possibly the biggest difference between the shows. On The Voice there are simply no bad singers. Every contestant is good, and it’s simply down to each judge to decide whether they think they are good enough for their team.
Another difference is that The Voice also features singers who may have already had careers, in fact during the initial stages of the debut UK series we saw Deniece Pearson from Five Star, Cassius Henry (who had a former hit and featured on Top of the Pops) as well as a host of individuals who had fairly successful west-end careers.
Personally, we don’t feel that a singer who had a career as successful as Deniece Pearson should have been featured – but then it’s all good for the ratings right? For a new series fighting for its survival, TV ratings are the most important thing around.
As things stand in the UK, the show has got off to a belter of a start, and as long as viewers stay put, it looks like we do indeed have a true competitor to the X Factor’s dominance of reality talent shows.
American Idol still has a huge stranglehold on US audiences – something which may possibly be countered by the second series of X Factor, but in The Voice we have an alternative which may attract viewers who previously felt such shows were less about the talent, and more about selling records.
Watch Jaz Ellington’s audition for The Voice UK – one which moved Jessie J and Will.i.am to tears!
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