That’s right folks, it’s that time of the year again where, for the next three months, we see thousands of hopeful singers go through several gruelling stages before 12 of them battle for 10 weeks of live shows in order to be crowned this year’s winner and win that elusive one-million-pound recording contract. Yes, that’s right: it’s the X Factor 2016, and this year it’s all change. After attending the live recording of this year’s series, here is what to look for as the series returns to our screens!Firstly, after a mishap year as presenter, Olly Murs is gone and fan-favourite Dermot O’Leary is back on centre stage. It’s good to see him back and it honestly makes it feel like X Factor is back on track after losing its way last year. Alongside restoring Dermot, the panel is reminiscent of X-Factor’s high history as last year’s flop Nick Grimshaw has left, alongside Cheryl and Rita Ora. In fact, the only remaining judge (and it’s good to see him back), is Mr. Cowell. Joining him and making victorious returns in their own rights are Louis Walsh (for his twelfth year), old-favourite Sharon Osbourne, and the forever wild and wacky Nicole Scherzinger.
In my opinion, and as will come across as the series begins, the new panel is perfect. It combines everything that has made the X Factor so successful in the past: sarcasm, sass, silliness, and a little bit of stupidity (yes the last one is covered by Louis!). The Xtra Factor also has two new faces as Matt Edmondson returns, joined by Big Brother host and previous contestant, Rylan Neal-Clarke. Personally, I’m delighted to see Rylan back as part of the X-Factor family but I can imagine he will become much like marmite; you’ll either love him or hate him (just like his performances back in Series 9).
Away from the change in personnel, it’s all change in structure this year too. The arena auditions have gone completely, for the first time since Series Seven, and are now exclusively held in the more intimidating ‘room’, where the contestants only have the panel to keep them company. This should make for some excellent moments, if previous years are to go by. Trailers are also looking very promising, including one where Nicole Scherzinger ends up dancing on the table to one artist’s new original song. Boot camp has also changed, with last year’s ‘country house’ style being axed – but producers are keeping exactly how the new format will work under wraps. All we know is that it was filmed at Alexandra Palace at the beginning of July and, according to Dermot O’Leary, is a ‘back to basics approach’.Best of all though, will be the return of the controversial six-seat challenge, which I attended the filming of earlier this month. Firstly, there were some exciting (though predictable) category choices – but no spoilers! What I can say is that this year is 100% the most dramatic six-seat challenge yet, as the audience of the SSE Arena berated the judges on several occasions – leading to two dramatic sing offs and controversial changes of mind! Louis specifically struggled to make his choices, constantly changing his mind and causing recording to be stopped at one point as the audience’s booing was so loud that the next act could not come on. Cowell ended the evening saying: ‘Louis is on Twitter… harass him there’.
There are a lot of good acts to look out for this year too. I think the strongest category is set to be the boys, with a good array of unique vocalists which culminated in a tense sing-off for the final chair at six-seat challenge and one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever seen, as one guy sang Little Mix’s ‘Secret Love Song’ to fight for his place. The groups are also interesting, as the judge in charge of them let some excellent acts go during the six-seat challenge, and kept others which could either go far, or completely flop. Also look out for what I can only describe as ‘Jedward II’ – trust me, you’ll realise as soon as you see it! Judges Houses will stay as they are, with Cheryl confirmed to be making a return as Simon’s guest judge. The other guest judges have not yet been revealed but we can only imagine that either Sinitta or a member of Westlife will join Louis! Details of the exact format of the live shows are also not yet revealed, but it is expected to return to the 10-week format culminating in the final at London SSE’s Arena in mid-December.
This year’s X Factor, therefore, shows a lot of promise. It’s returning to its roots with the return of the best judges from the last decade, who will all work well together. This, alongside the return of room auditions, the six-seat challenge, and some very exciting acts means that this could be one of the best years yet!
The new series of the X Factor will begin airing on ITV on the 27th August.