After you've gotten over the shock of Simon Cowell leaving American Idol after this season (for real this time!), you may begin to wonder what the hell The X Factor is and how it's any different than Idol and if you should actually care about it. The answer is: sure. Without Cowell and Paula Abdul, Idol is going to be painful to watch, but X Factor offers some interesting features that Idol currently doesn't, which might actually result in a higher quality of talent coming out it. This basically means that instead of people voting based on cuteness, we might actually get some real vocalists, in the vein of former UK X Factor winner Leona Lewis.
Personally, I've been looking forward to this show for years, as I've always heard the buzz around it, and am constantly jealous that the UK has had several seasons of it already. Those Brits get everything, including Celebrity Big Brother! Anyway, here's the basic gist of X Factor: it has auditions, like Idol, but opens them up not just to solo singers under a certain age, but also duos, larger groups and -- wait for it -- older contestants. In some ways, it's like America's Got Talent, but without the stupid jugglers. This is just a singing competition, and making a star is the sole goal.
Once the bulk of the auditions are over, things start diverging from Idol. In X Factor's equivalent of Hollywood week, the judges hold their auditions and whittle down the contestants to the finalists and then put them in categories based on whether they are soloists or based on their ages. Then it's off to boot camp. This is the aspect that I'm most excited about, as it reminds me of the Any Dream Will Do/How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria shows that Andrew Lloyd Webber produces. It basically gives the judges a chance to really work with the contestants and help mold them into better singers. Mentoring, what a novel idea. Far better than just having someone tell them they are pitchy or not edgy enough and then letting them flounder on their own until voters put them out of their misery.
The boot camp segues to smaller performances at the "judges' houses" (also something done on the Webber shows), which then finally leads to the live shows where the contestants perform, the audience votes and people get eliminated.
I'm actually pretty excited since the Idol format has gotten quite a bit stale and, honestly, I'll follow that cranky Simon Cowell wherever he goes. Rumors are swirling that he's also asked Paula to be a judge, which would just be the crazy icing on the cake. Now if he could only get Cat Deeley to host the whole thing, I'd be overjoyed. Let's just hope Simon picks other industry types who know a thing or two about music to join the judging panel, instead of, you know, a comedian whose musical knowledge is based on her love of dancing around to pop tunes.
What do you think of The X Factor? Are you looking forward to it, or are you going to remain an Idol loyalist?
Watch TWoP's editors discuss American Idol and The X Factor in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop cable news channel:
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