Love it or hate it, come October everyone is talking about The X Factor. We clamour for information about the finalists, we try to predict who will battle it out in the Sunday night sing-off and tweet our way through each show. Then the winner is announced and we promptly forget everything about the people we cared about so deeply for three months. Yes, it’s the ultimate in throwaway television, but it works.
Yet after seven seasons and hundreds of contestants, I can’t help but notice some patterns emerging. “Chasing Cars” or “Run” by Snow Patrol are played when someone promising is about to be turned down. Finalists and Nutcases (more about them later) will get the most camera time. The people who eventually get through to the live shows will always have a sick grandmother/goldfish/pet rock that “really wanted them to do this.” But these are just little things.
The biggest pattern is The X Factor’s habit of reusing contestants. Well, not literally. Certain types of contestants. Take Jonjo Kerr, one of the final 16 acts of this year’s competition. He’s broody yet sensitive and wears a hat. Who does he remind you of? Only last year’s winner, Matt Cardle. And it doesn’t end there. Here’s a list of four types of X Factor contestant to watch out for.
The Shy Girl
Examples of Shy Girls: Janet Devlin, Diana Vickers
A relatively new type – the earliest Shy Girl, Diana Vickers, appeared in 2008. These girls are just so shy. So naturally, they want to perform in front of millions of people. They hide behind curtains of hair, sing lispy renditions of Damien Rice songs, and are promptly branded a revelation by the judges, who have obviously never heard Ellie Goulding before. Did they mention that they’re really shy?
Examples of Nutcases: Goldie, Wagner, Jedward
These are the ones who appear to be absolutely batcrap crazy at the auditions, but through some bizarre twist of fate wind up at the Judge’s Houses stage or even the live finals. For some reason, their mentor is always Louis Walsh. Probably because Louis has gone past caring about actually winning and just wants to have the best craic possible. Can’t say I disagree with him.
Examples of Egomaniacs: Kitty Brucknell, Katie Waissel, Rhydian
The Egomaniacs are extremely talented contestants, but by God do they know it. There’s something inherently dislikeable about them; the hungry, desperate look in their eyes, the uncomfortable intensity of their performances, and the manes of bleach-blonde hair…but maybe that’s an unfortunate coincidence. They will be in the sing-off every week, but are somehow saved by the judges each time. Sadly for them, the audience is not so forgiving, and takes great pleasure in sending them packing. That’ll learn them.
The Cheeky Chappy
Examples of Cheeky Chappies: Frankie Cocozza, Olly Murs, all of One Direction
The girls just love the Cheeky Chappies. Maybe it’s the flippy hair or the winning smile…or maybe it’s the reek of “I’m actually a douchebag” that rolls off them in waves. These guys may not win the competition outright, but they will probably have the best selling single out of all the contestants. That’s the power of the tween market, folks.
So The X Factor is a ridiculous piece of trashy TV that makes Simon Cowell richer while making our brains slowly turn to mush. But will we stop watching? Not at all. As long as there are Cheeky Chappies to drool over and Egomaniacs to scoff at, I’ll be watching it. And live tweeting it. And talking about it constantly. Formulaic? Maybe. Addictive? Totally.