On hearing that the X Factor is no more after our 17 years together, I reflected on what a journey it had been, how I’d given it 110 per cent and that I would never hear those four huge ‘yeses’ again. Bravely holding back the tears, I couldn’t help but agree with its founder Simon Cowell that the show had ‘become slightly stale’ – slightly! I’ve seen twice-used tea-bags with more sheer molten stage presence than some of the finalists who made it through in the latter seasons before it was taken off for a ‘rest’ in 2018.
How different it was at the beginning! After a slow start attempting to make stars out of Steve Brookstein and Shayne Ward, I remember Leona Lewis’s breath-taking performances which won her the third series, followed by the formidable Alexandra Burke with season five and Little Mix in year eight. There was once so much commercial appeal going spare on the show that One Direction didn’t even win season seven! It made all the right people cross: ‘Reality TV has killed talent,’ Elton John fumed in 2011. ‘Can any X Factor people cut the mustard?’ To which the answer was, yes, you old clown, even runners up like Amelia Lily and Stacey Solomon could sing you into the ground.
In recent years, however, the peevish old piano-punisher was proved right. From 2013, the likes of Sam Bailey, Ben Haenow, Louisa Johnson, Matt Terry and Rak-Su were hardly troubling the charts. As talent seemed to thin out, novelty acts such as the profoundly awful Jedward, Honey G and Chico the goatherd were promoted way beyond their capabilities, perhaps to rival the vaudeville appeal of the all-conquering Britain’s Got Talent.