The 14th series of The X Factor kicks off this weekend and we were given access to an exclusive screening of the opening episode hosted by Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and of course Dermot O’Leary.
We can reveal the first show features exciting new talent and has scaled back its penchant for sob stories, extreme novelty acts, and boring covers of Ed Sheeran hits. Hurrah!
Here is everything we discovered about the new series and we seriously can’t wait to get stuck in.
1. More acts will sing their own songs
The first episode makes it very clear that this series is looking for raw singing AND songwriting talent. The montage of acts singing bland covers of mainly Ed Sheeran songs – ‘Shape of You’ being the most popular – as Simon rolled his eyes for the hundredth time, while they cheered for joy at the musicians who belted out their own lyrics, gave the game away.
Nicole also told us at the screening: “My biggest thing that I’m excited about is artists being able to sing their own material. That’s when the true colours come though and the authenticity. There’s a couple of times when I’ve cried and Mrs O has cried and that’s only when you hear someone’s original music. The person is more transparent than ever.
“It’s been really awesome. So I’m excited about that.”
2. Which means they could push through songwriters over manufactured acts
Louis insisted: “You got a taster tonight, the bar is definitely higher than other years.”
Dermot agreed, adding: “People are actively encouraged to come with their own stuff this year. The contestants are very empowered, they’re given a lot more responsibility and the judges are given a lot more responsibility to deal with that. That’s a good thing.”
3. There will be fewer sob stories
“Why does almost everyone on the X factor ALWAYS have a sob story”, is how one viewer put it on Twitter during last year’s series.
The X Factor thrives off sob stories; laying talent and tears together like peas and carrots on screen. We were expecting much of the same in this episode, but there wasn’t a tear-jerker tale from any of the acts and we were truly surprised. The episode focused on the talent. Is this a sign of things to come for the show? Some will love it, but others will miss the excuse for a good old cry along with the acts on TV.
4. Harry Styles IS returning!
Dermot confirmed the rumours that the One Direction star is returning to the place where it all began, but wouldn’t say in what capacity. We assume Harry will perform tracks from his self-titled solo new album and hopefully be a guest mentor.
5. Simon steals Nicole’s lines
When asked if Simon has scolded the other judges yet on this series, Nicole said: “He’s stealing all of my lines!
And Louis added: “What a lot of people don’t realise is that she’ll say something very intelligent about a song or an artist and then Simon will repeat it and he will say to Nicole ‘Guess which one they’ll use’.”
6. They’re avoiding extreme novelty acts like Honey G
Last year Sharon’s act Honey G divided fans when she stormed the show dressed as a hip hop rapper, with many insisting she was being insulting toward black music culture and, according to Lily Allen. she was a perfect example of cultural appropriation.
Even X Factor winners Little Mix spoke out against Honey G and claimed she was simply “an actress”.
The first episode didn’t feature any extreme novelty acts, though Dermot promised we’ll still see good old fashioned “British eccentrics” on this series. Yay!
Dermot told us: “For me at least we start as a great celebration of British eccentrics but when we get to the live shows it has to be a celebration of great British talent, and I think if someone is good enough to get to the live shows that’s fantastic. All the music team said no one worked harder than her. That is the most important thing.”
7. Nicole IS NOT LYING about her age
Not that it even matters, but it just so happens that stunning Nicole is 39 years old and earlier this week Louis claimed she was lying about her age. Discussing the former Pussycat Dolls singer with Heat magazine, the cheeky manager said: ‘It’s great that she can still do all of it at her age. Nobody knows what age she is, but she’s older than she says she is.’
With a glint in his eye, Louis insisted during our Q&A that he was, in fact, “joking,” as a bubbly Nicole screeched back: “I wish I was lying about my age! I wish I started lying about my age years ago! You know what, I’m just really grateful that Louis is still here with us today.”
8. The love between the judging panel is real
We’re not sure if it’s fatherhood, old age, or Sharon annoucing that she might retire, but the opening scene in the first episode sees the judges list off each other’s amazing achievments and gush about how much they get on, love, trust, and respect each other, and it’s actually really sweet.
9. Shhhhh! Sharon has got the Overs category (we reckon)
Sharon let slip during that Nicole desperately wanted her group. Later on, Nicole told us that she really wanted the Overs category. We have cleverly deduced that Sharon will lead the Overs into battle in the live shows.
10. Nicole is friends with her acts after the show ends
Be warned, if Nicole is your mentor you are almost guaranteed to make a friend for life. What a legend.
She revealed to us: “James Arthur, Rylan Clark-Neal and Jahmene are still my boys. We are still on WhatsApp every single day. We haven’t missed a beat.” Aw.
11. The Six Chair Challenge is different this year
It’s tougher for the judge, because this year they are being made to watch their acts away from the other judges, so that they can not be swayed by the judge’s opinions. This year, Sharon cried when she had to pick her final six.
Dermot is not a fan of this round and slammed it last year by saying, “I don’t think it’s a particularly nice bit of TV” so we’ll see how that goes.
12. Louis’ favourite X Factor moment was winning with Shayne Ward
The longest running judge told us that he loves “every year, every series”, but his favourite moment ever was when Mancunian hunk Shayne Ward won the second series in 2005. His face above says it all.
13. Nicole is the best at discovering talent but doesn’t get a cent when she finds a future chart topper
Louis sang Nicole’s praises and said she “doesn’t get the credit she deserves” for discovering James Arthur and steering him to stardom, adding that “she believed in him right from the start” when everyone else had their doubts. She also says she helped put One Direction, together and moaned at the screening that she doesn’t get “even one per cent” of their millions.