Series 11 of The X Factor is almost upon us. Yes, series 11. Who’da thunk it? We still want to hear people sing their little socks off in the hopes of becoming X Factor champion.
There’s a few weeks to go until it hits our screens, but I have been out and about interviewing the judges, meeting contestants and getting a sneak peek at the audition and Bootcamp action.
If you want to get ahead of the game (and therefore don’t mind spoilers) here’s a run down of the X Factor so far…
Months of ifs, buts and maybes led to the final placement of this year’s four judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh.
It’s quite the line-up. Cowell has returned after a three-year absence from the show, seemingly with viewing figures in mind after a disappointing final haul last year. When Cowell was on the panel last time they found One Direction. So you know, no biggie.
With him, Cowell has managed to convince Cheryl Fernandez-Versini to return. It follows her rather swift exit from the US version of the show, so while they claim it’s all hunky dory, I’m expecting some fireworks. In fact, Cheryl herself told me it’s easy to insult Simon, as he’s “just so rude sometimes”. She also says she’ll be known as Cheryl on the show, although the VT being shown in the arena lists her by her married name.
Louis of course is as much a part of the show as the X itself. He did say he was going to leave last year, but he’s stuck it out, and claims it’s a very different show this time around. Having sat in on some of this year’s auditions, I can confirm he still does the whole “you look like a pop star, sound like a pop star” thing. In case you were worried.
Then there’s Mel B, the much talked about fourth judge. The former Spice Girl tells me she doesn’t try to be harsh, rather that she’s “just honest”. But there’s certainly been some sharp intakes of breath from the arena crowd as Scary Spice dishes out her honesty. “I know why you walked away, because you’re not good. At some point you need to have a reality check,” was one comment from the panel’s newest member.
Dermot’s back for his eighth stint as X Factor host this year. Or, as he describes it on Twitter, “doing the huggy thing”. Yes, while the contestants make their way through the audition process, Dermot is there to cheer them on, give them a shoulder to cry on and keep their friends and family company. Then, when the show goes live, he’s Mr Saturday Night himself, spinning around (hopefully dancing, I’ve had words) and desperately trying to get the judges to make a decision as acts are voted off week in week out.
Over on ITV2 radio DJ and television presenter Sarah-Jane Crawford is the new face of Xtra Factor. It’s the first time in three years that Caroline Flack hasn’t been on hosting duties, and it’s also a switch-up to see Crawford present solo. She’s happy on her own, but if she was to get a co-host, Crawford says former contestant Rylan Clark “would be fun”.
As with last year, the audition process has returned to the initial in-room auditions. This sees each contestant perform on their own in a room to the four judges, before they head to the arena.
This year the bigger stage is set at Wembley Arena where contestants have to perform in front of around 5,000 audience members. Once they’ve performed again on their own, the budding hopefuls are split up into groups for Bootcamp. Here they have to work together to perform a song, each getting a solo section to show off their vocals.
If they make it past this stage it’s onto last year’s new addition, the six seat challenge. This is where it all goes a bit Hunger Games-esque as each category battles it out against one other to win one of six seats. With 17 contestants, the odds aren’t really in their favour. See what I did there? Anyway…
The idea is that a judge can award an act a seat, but can later swap them out if a better singer comes along. This isn’t always plain sailing, with Simon Cowell having to remind a booing crowd how difficult it is for the judges and contestants at this stage during yesterday’s filming.
Once they’ve made it past that, and probably had a few cups of tea, they’re off to Judges’ Houses. Here the six acts get to enjoy the glamorous location picked for each judge, while they battle to make the top three.
Then of course they’ve simply got to face the live shows, win over the public, get bundles of votes, perform a whole heap of different songs and win. Easy, right?
This year’s categories have been chosen and (drum roll) Cheryl will mentor the girls, Mel B the boys, Simon Cowell gets to mentor the over 25s, while Louis is looking after the groups.
Time will tell who has the best haul…
Judges’ Houses is a glamorous swap from the bright lights of the studio to warm sunny climes. Locations have included Vegas, Barbados and Antigua in the past, with rumours this year suggesting Mexico and Nice could be on the cards for some of the contestants.
Louis has revealed he’s going far away, so another trip to Ireland isn’t on the cards. There’s been no news on Simon Cowell’s chosen location. Could he be heading back to his Barbados abode, or will he head to his common stomping ground of LA? It seems pop star and long-time X Factor guest judge Sinitta could appear next to Simon. And while Mel B caused an internet storm by posting a picture of her and fellow Spice Girl Victoria Beckham on Twitter, she tells me there’s plenty of people in the pipeline.
Unlike last year, shows won’t swap between in-room auditions on Saturday night and arena auditions on Sunday. Rather, we’ll see all the in-room auditions in a row before switching to the arena. Seems simple enough, eh?
It’s thought the action will kick off on Saturday August 30th but this is yet to be confirmed. Until then, check out the action-packed trailer: