“That song could be number one,” said Louis Walsh on this week’s X Factor after 20-year old Lucy Spraggan was met with a standing ovation for her self-penned comedy ditty Last Night (Beer Fear).
And he was right; it almost reached the top of the iTunes download charts as excited punters flocked online to buy the track that was released independently as part of Spraggan’s album Top Room At The Zoo in 2011.
However, just as it looked like Spraggan’s work would topple the mighty X Factor winners Little Mix and take the top spot… her music mysteriously became unavailable on iTunes.
“Oh dear 🙁 the album is coming offline guys, in preparation for some things coming up… Not my call to make, get it while you can!” wrote Spraggan on her official Facebook page.
But if it wasn’t Lucy’s call, who was calling the shots?
“All contestants have been asked to remove their recordings as it is essential that all the contestants are treated fairly during the competition and, where possible, receive the same exposure,” an X Factor Spokesperson told RadioTimes.com.
Indeed, it seems the X Factor weren’t ready for a standout star to take the charts by storm quite yet. And although contestants in the past have already had music of their own for sale in the digital ether (Katie Waissel in 2010, for example), this is the first year artists have been allowed to showcase (and therefore directly promote) their own compositions on the programme.
A source explained, “Execs have decided that all previous material must be taken off the shelves while singers are involved in the competition.”
However, it does seem strange that bosses didn’t think of the implication of having artists’ material on iTunes before the series began. Especially as the programme has already insisted that live finalists’ performances, which are released for sale during the main programmes, not be eligible for the iTunes charts in the interest of not influencing voting.
A show insider explained: “It’s a difficult one because on the one hand, we’re delighted for Lucy, and it’s testament to how great the song is and also what a huge impact this year’s X Factor is already having on the pop scene. But on the other hand, The X Factor is a competition and it has to be a level playing field for all contestants.”
This is borne out by the fact that other 2012 contestants with material available for sale also seemingly have to remove content, including James Arthur, who appeared on the same show as Spraggan. However, it doesn’t fully quell the conspiracy theorists claims on Lucy’s Facebook page that X Factor bosses were scared she’d knock Little Mix off the top of the charts, and the Cowell empire weren’t making a penny from the deal.
But our insider provided an upbeat take on the matter: “It proves that The X Factor is a great showcase for any singer and the rule changes in particular mean that songwriters are getting themselves and their material noticed. Lucy getting to number two is just proof, if proof were needed, that X Factor is as relevant as it has ever been.”