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What is the X Factor?

November 10, 2010

No, I mean, I know what it is as regards Mr Cowell’s entertainment programme. What I’m talking about is what he’s seeking to discover. The thought was triggered by the events of Sunday night.

As a West End theatregoer, I’m constantly amazed by the talent on display. Many actors do a wonderful job, yet never become household names – remembering of course, that so are Andrex and Domestos (nice little girls, even if my neighbour does have peculiar tastes in kids’ names).

Either way, names like Linzi Hateley, Alexander Hanson and now Victoria Hamilton-Barritt seem destined to be known only to the musical theatregoing public who bother to take note of such things. Yet all are magnetic, electric on stage – and capable of holding thousands in thrall for as long as their performances last.

The “X Factor” is what they have in spades. It’s something unique and special within them, that makes an audience want to watch and trust them totally to deliver something memorable. It’s different for each performer; that’s why X is used to represent a variable that can’t be quantified (yes, I do have exam passes in mathematics and economics, thanks for asking) yet is as exciting and addictive as a Fry’s Chocolate Orange bar to any keen ‘talent finder.’

The biggest thrill of all is thinking you’ve spotted one on a TV show – and that is what keeps me watching two C’s an M and a W every week ‘til Christmas each year. In 2008, I was delighted that I figured out Diana Vickers so quickly – and can’t say how pleased I am to read of her career since. This year, Rebecca Ferguson can safely count on my CD order. Where she finishes in the contest doesn’t matter, I’d say – just a voice I could listen to for hours, and seemingly a temperament to match.

Paragraph 6, and I make my point… Katie Waissel confused me. Watching the auditions, I thought there was something very special there. One of the few who had obviously thought about presentation, her Madonna look was an instant hit. Her ‘little girl’ pleadings to be allowed another try rang a bit false – but then these things are edited and nerves are at work. From then until now, well, press stories are put out to keep the show in the public eye and the show itself is an entertainment event, not really a talent contest at all (Ben Elton’s “Chart Throb” is about right, probably too close for comfort in fact). Katie Waissel’s actual performances have varied for me – loved “I Wanna Be Like You,” not keen on “We Are The Champions” etc.

And then on Sunday Ms Waissel melted on stage during the elimination contest… and it confused me. Just how good a performer is she? Her timing and action were impeccable BUT why didn’t the sincerity come across too? Maybe the fact we saw it on TV, rather than felt it from the judges seats in the studio were the reason they saved her… but what is the blockage? An able entertainer with a unique quality should be able to hypnotise an audience at will – at the moment she doesn’t always, but when she does, it’s great. Is she as good as I think she is? I had hoped so, but like I said – I’m confused. Still, worth remembering that when all is said and done, she is young and taking a lot of personal abuse at the moment, and really, it is all just a game.

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