Like it or not, X Factor is a big deal in the UK music market. The biggest entertainment show on TV is the best place for an artist to promote their music, a performance spot on the Sunday night can take you from mild success to household name within the space of 3 minutes. Now 8 seasons in though, the guest spots have expanded to up to 3 artists to compensate for the plethora of returning X Factor contestants produced year on year. Last year saw the top 4 from 2010 return with performances, with the runners up outselling the winner, Matt Cardle, by a huge margin. And once again the time has arrived to hear the debut singles from the 2011 graduates.
I say that now is the time, but we’ve actually already had a top 10 album and single from runner up Marcus Collins who adopted the Mary Byrne mother’s day release schedule. It’s hard to compare a decent but not brilliant cover of Seven Nation Army to the debut songs from Little Mix and Misha B though, both of which are set to be released in the coming weeks. Misha B was probably my all time favourite X Factor act while she was on the show, despite nothing ever matching her incredible version of Rolling In the Deep. As debut singles go, Home Run is just about everything I could have asked for. It has all of the attitude and personality she delivered on stage, but is it going to be a huge hit? Though I know that Home Run will make it onto my end of year list somehow, the chorus isn’t as catchy as I would want it to be. I understand that it’s difficult when the song you are most known for performing is Adele, but it’s something that holds Home Run back from being the ultimate debut X Factor track. It’s still better than most of the hits from the show but something tells me that Misha B is saving her best for her album.
Wings however, the first proper single from last year’s winners Little Mix is hard to fault. Expert harmonies, a 2nd chorus that literally takes flight everytime it kicks in and a Beyoncé Run the World style ending that exudes ‘Girl Power’. I’m not saying that Little Mix are the new Spice Girls before anyone gets angry with me, but Wings is probably the best girlband record since Girls Aloud The Promise. It’s the sort of thing The Saturdays should have been releasing for the past 4 years if they had the personalities to pull it off. It’s a fantastic pop song, and is sure to kick off the group’s career with a bang.
But is it the best X Factor song ever? After 8 seasons, there have been nearly a hundred singles released by acts from the show. My personal playlist containing 50 songs (which I’m listening to as I write this article) doesn’t even include all of the ‘winners singles’ which are hardly worth considering. I ended up making a top 10 list of my favourites, how unlike me! After putting a rough list together, I compared Wings to the best of other X Factor alumni.
Soon I had my top 5 sorted, including Wings but how high would it be. It’s a stronger pop record than Leona’s second best song the underrated I Got You, but comparing it to my favourite JLS track proved very difficult. Boybands usually get on my nerves, save for Take That of course, mainly because recent groups do little more than jump about to a backing track on stage. JLS may still sing the same pop dance style songs, but they are polished in everything they do. Eyes Wide Shut is the best example of this, even if it does sound scarily close to a certain Calvin Harris song. It’s a slick record, but I do have to go with Little Mix again this time, mainly because of the aforementioned epic section that closes their song.
3 songs left then, all first singles of X Factor winners but which one have I chosen for the top spot? Bad Boys and Bleeding Love are most definitely the best singles from any act from the show, and while my opinion may change down the line Wings just can’t compete. Both songs bring together everything about Alexandra and Leona that made them winners. Bleeding Love is as epic as a song can be, the slick RnB production not only launching Leona’s career but that of Ryan Tedder who would go on to write countless other hits across the world. But Leona isn’t the best X Factor hit, the title goes to Alexandra Burke and Bad Boys.
It’s her Crazy in Love, a bombastic explosion of a song that says ‘I’m here, I’m gonna run the chart from now on, deal with it!’. While it’s nowhere near as good as the Beyoncé classic, it achieves that same goal and promised a superstar worthy of being the queen of UK pop. Where Leona is a shy reserved vocalist, Alexandra is a brash loud all dancing performer and it was exactly what the chart needed. While it’s a shame that 3 years on the same act is scraping the top 20 with her second album, Bad Boys remains a complete tune. Flo Rida isn’t annoying, in fact delivering some of my favourite lyrics from him, and Alex kicks a guy through a brick wall in the video, what more could you want?
I’ve put my top 10 below, along with my top 5 X Factor albums. No matter how annoying some acts can be, there has been some brilliant music as a result of the talent contest.
Top 10 X Factor Singles
1) Alexandra Burke – Bad Boys (Feat. Flo Rida)
2) Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
3) Little Mix – Wings
4) JLS – Eyes Wide Shut (Feat. Tinie Tempah)
5) Leona Lewis – I Got You
6) Alexandra Burke – All Night Long (Feat. Pitbull)
7) Cher Lloyd – Want U Back
8) Leona Lewis – I See You
9) Misha B – Home Run
10) JLS – She Makes Me Wanna (Feat. Dev)
Top 5 X Factor Albums
1) Leona Lewis – Echo
2) Rebecca Ferguson – Heaven
3) Alexandra Burke – Overcome
4) Leona Lewis – Spirit
5) Cher Lloyd – Sticks + Stones