And the winner is…


James Arthur was crowned as the X Factor 2012 winner last night after fighting off fierce competition from runner-up Jahmene Douglas and third placed Christopher Maloney.

After performing on Saturday night with his mentor Nicole, he stole the show with his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s get it on” and his winner’s single “Impossible” which was released by Shontelle in 2010. All profits from the single will be go to the charity, Together for Short Lives, which gives support to children with life threatening conditions.

After being announced as the winner, James was lost for words and praised his fellow contestant saying, “I think it’s just a blessing to share the stage with such a talent.”

To conclude, I have been blogging about talent shows, X Factor in particular and their ability to create lasting superstars. It is clear that these shows are declining in popularity and credibility. Although they do provide a platform to gain a huge amount of exposure and give talented artists a place to be spotted by various A&R people, ultimately they are entertainment shows. Novelty acts are needed to generate media buzz and encourage people to watch. Its no longer about finding the next biggest thing in music as much as it used to be but rather about entertaining the audience by including ridiculous acts, judges bickering and getting superstars to perform at result shows. Nevertheless, I am still a fan and will continue to watch these shows but I have to admit that X Factor this year lost me as a regular viewer.

To finish of here is James performing the winner’s single “Impossible” which is predicted as a 5 -1 favorite to be Christmas number one. I’m glad James won – he is unique and ready to sell records like now!

X Factor Finals Preview

x factor final 3


With the stage set for this weekend’s X Factor final, let’s preview the potential winners:

  • Christopher Maloney

He will be singing with his mentor Gary Barlow in the finals tonight. He has been criticised by the judges week after week and been receiving abuse through Twitter but all this has not stopped him from getting to the finals.

He was voted back into the show as a wild card by the voters which resulted in Gary giving him the title “The People’s Choice.” Clearly he is seeing how he has outlasted acts like Ella Henderson who was a favourite to win the show but was voted out a few weeks ago. In response to being voted onto the show, Chris said “The public chose me and have kept me in this competition from the beginning. The support and loyalty have been unbelievable.” I just think that having a mentor like Gary has been his saving grace in this competition.

He can come off a bit cheesy but he is definitely good at what he does. He may not have a “pop” career but he could definitely do something in theatre.

  • Jahmene Douglas

He has been one of my favorites from the beginning. He delivers outstanding vocal performances each week but he has been criticized for not managing to connect with the audience. He has a very shy personality which is often overshadowed by the other acts and it has been difficult for the audience to get to know him. This is probably the biggest challenge for him in terms of winning the show. We all know that the audience needs to feel some sort of attachment to the act if they are going to vote.

Nobody can deny that he has the best voice in the competition as he belts out ballads every week. He is similar to Leona Lewis with a great voice and quiet personality and even if he doesn’t win, he is going to go far.

  • James Arthur

He is another one of my favourites. James has been wowing the judges and audience week after week. Every time you think you’ve seen his best, he comes back the following week and delivers a performance better than the week before. He kind of has it all – looks, swag, unique voice, confidence, versatility and he can play the guitar!

James is the favourite to win this weekend’s final and he has 3 judges rooting for him. My prediction – James has this in the bag!

Have a look at the trailer for tonight’s X Factor final:


Simon Cowell

Since my blogs have been focused on X Factor, it’s only fitting to write about the man behind the show.

Simon Cowell’s earnings as of May 2012, according to Forbes was $90 million! That makes him 9th in the money rankings, behind heavyweights like Oprah at no. 1, Michael Bay at 2, Steven Spielberg at 3, Jerry Bruckheimer at 4, Dr. Dre at 5, Tyler Perry at 6, Howard Stern at 7, and James Patterson at 8. What surprised me was that he is ahead of people like George Lucas and Donald Trump. I knew Simon had money but I didn’t think he was up in the top 10! He comes in at no. 18 on the celebrity 100, no.19 in TV/ radio, 28 in press, 79 in social and 84 in web.

Simon got his break into the music industry as an A&R through his dad’s connections (his dad was a music industry executive at EMI). He has created his wealth through television mainly. His time as a judge on American Idol helped him break into the US where he was known for his bluntness and insults. He started his X Factor franchise which has spread across the world and has signed chart-topping acts such as Leona Lewis and One Direction. His other show Britain’s Got Talent has generated other Got Talent shows and the show found acts like Susan Boyle who made a global impact. He also has numerous other shows. All of the acts from his shows are signed to his label Syco which is affiliated with Sony BMG.

Simon Cowell can smell money from a mile away. Where he sees an opportunity he jumps right in and makes a “killing.” He milks that particular project (or cow) until there is absolutely nothing left (e.g. X Factor UK, it really is dying). His most recent project is the Sony X headphones, yes, Simon Cowell has turned his hand to the consumer electronic market. This range of headphones has been seen at every possible opportunity during the X Factor USA shows and they are the official headphone partners of the talent show. His reason for making headphones is simply because he wanted something better than what is in the market today, as if there aren’t enough celebrities making headphones!

Another deal that he stuck is the partnership with Pepsi. Pepsi recently announced that it will be offering the X Factor USA winner a $5million Syco record deal AND a Grammy ad video!! This video will debut during the 2013 Grammy Awards which is the perfect opportunity to launch an artist’s career, on one of the biggest nights in the music calendar. Last years winner (Melanie Amaro) starred in a Pepsi commercial for the Super Bowl which was big but this is not only big but better as it’s music’s biggest night and introduces you to the whose who in music. Pepsi is one of music’s most powerful brands second only to Coca-Cola on Billboard’s 2012 Maximum Exposure chart which ranks the 75 most effective platforms in music discovery (something I will be writing about in my next blog). Pepsi have invested $60 million in X Factor marketing support alone.

Although X Factor UK numbers are dwindling week by week, his American version has been renewed for another season by Fox. It looks like Simon will be laughing all the way to the bank for a few more years.




The X Factor Brand part II

The X Factor is a global brand.  On this map, dark blue shows the countries where they have their own version of X Factor, the light blue shows countries where they are participating in an international version and the grey shows countries where X Factor has little or no presence.

This blog is a continuation from last one on how X Factor has become this massive brand that has dominated TV for almost 10 years.

3. Focus on what you are good at

X Factor singers are criticised if their performances lack personality and are too similar to the original. Judges comment that they “sound like…” which is not always a compliment even if the original was amazing. Judges look for personality and a voice that is distinct to that one performer. With brands, the ones that stand out are the ones that have authenticity that genuinely reflect distinct values. Brands reflect the personality of an organisation, think of Apple.

4. You only have a few minutes

Contestants put in hours of practice and only get a few minutes to prove themselves on stage to the audience and judges. The short attention span of today’s audiences makes it even more important that messages are clear and get to the point quickly. In terms of brands, this can involve creating an emotional memory or something simple and repeatable.

5. Consistency matters

There’s nothing worse than seeing the performance of someone you’ve been rooting for ruined by inconsistency! When you listen to your favourite artist, their style may not always be the same, but there is something in their tone of voice or delivery that makes you a fan. Consistency means a lot.

For a brand, it’s about repeating your distinct message, logo, voice and identity. While brands evolve as markets change and new products are developed, brand equity is built on consistency and customer loyalty.

6. Taking criticism

It’s easy to pick out the difficult over-confident performers in talent shows. They brushoff the advice of the judges and respond defensively even when they know that the performance was bad.

Brand’s face criticism through social media and other outlets. It is very important not to “shoot the messenger” but rather use the feedback to improve. Sometimes the greatest opportunities for improvement lie in criticism that hurts a little (or sometimes a lot!)

7. Your fans are your best followers

There are loads of X Factor fan sites. All these fans have opinions and are ready to fight for them. These fans can even change the way the competition is judged.

Social media is now an integral part of most brand strategies with good reason. They present an opportunity to rally the most passionate fans and involve them. Social networks provide a great way to listen in and ultimately enable you to establish what is really important to the customers that you want to engage with.

For me X Factor and other talent shows are about the entertainment value. Here you have 12 contestants battling it out for a £1 million recording contract and practically overnight fame. Why not? Results are manipulated, judges bicker meaninglessly, novelty acts create a media buzz…the formula works even though ratings are down.


It’s about Entertainment NOT Singing

The X Factor started off as THE utmost singing competition on TV but it has now become a hot mess. All the judges have their claws out as they set their eyes on the final prize and producers know from the start who they want to win and any voting is pointless. They want to achieve maximum ratings and give the most commercial act a record deal. How do they do this? The inclusion of controversial acts, judges voting to save themselves and win the competition, meaningless bickering, the sham called a “sing-off” and producers telling judges how to vote – it’s a winning formula or at least it used to be. Ratings are going down on a weekly basis. It’s become a joke! But I’m still watching, why? It’s entertaining.

Since the airing of the live shows, it has been thrashed on a weekly basis by rival show Strictly Come Dancing. X Factor needs to do something to save itself but what? Controversial act NOT singer, Rylan Clark, represents everything that’s wrong with the show, he is like marmite. Talented acts are eliminated at the expense of joke acts like Rylan but at least he is living his dream. He even admitted “I don’t reckon I can win in the slightest. If I were to win this society would sink under water – but weirder things have happened.”

Although he has been entertaining 3 of the four judges on the panel, Gary Barlow is not impressed. He has been pushing for Rylan to go ever since the first elimination show where his act was sent packing and Rylan was saved after the judges decided to take the vote to deadlock (with a little help from the producers whispering in Louis Walsh’s ear). Gary called the outcome an ‘absolute joke’, telling his act that she had “lost out to joke acts.”

The last thing Simon would want is for Rylan to be thrown out. The show thrives on controversial publicity, and why not? It is only entertainment right? It’s traditional for X Factor judges to save “the entertainer” over “the voice.” You’ll probably find that Nicole was instructed to take Rylan through to the live shows. These novelty acts are the ones that get people watching because it gets people talking about the show. There is always outrage after a talented act is sent packing instead of the less talented act, however how many of these outraged viewers actually voted for these acts? Many people assume that the worst acts will be eliminated first, but every year there are examples that show not enough people voted for the act that they think will be “safe” because they assume enough people will be voting for them.

The outrage over Rylan comes from the fact that many people think that he shouldn’t have made it to the live shows in the first place. Nicole Scherzinger, his mentor, eliminated more talented contestants in order to keep Rylan in the competition, and she is getting a lot of the blame. But Nicole obviously didn’t learn her lesson after she was fired from “The X Factor” U.S. that if too much of the public turns against her, Cowell and company will dump her from “The X Factor.”

Ironically, she stated in an interview “I must be making Simon Cowell proud because controversy is his favourite word. I chose Rylan because the show is about having the X Factor and he has the X Factor. It is not just a singing show. Rylan has already said he is not trying to be Whitney Houston or a big ballad singer — he wants to be a dance artist.”

Let’s talk about the controversial “sing-off”. Some judges base their decisions on factors other than the sing-off, so what’s the point of having it if judges aren’t going to base their decision on it?  It’s no longer an opportunity for the acts to remind the judges of what they can do as ultimately their decision will be somewhat tactical so that their own acts can advance further in the competition by eliminating a threat or an act who takes a share of the votes from their act.

This is where music and media collide. Viewers may think they are watching a singing competition but they’re not. They’re watching an entertainment show were producers have already got songs lined up for the act that they know will win. The music industry is somewhat forced to accept these talent show manufactured acts and attempt to turn them into global superstars. The X Factor has lost the little credibility it used to have over the past 2 years. More than ever it looks as though the show is tired and ready to throw in the towel. I guess at some point everything becomes old.

Since this blog has mostly been about Rylan, watch him murder 3 songs in just over 2 minutes!

The New Generation of Superstar

Admittedly, I was losing hope in the ability of talent shows to produce stars. Perhaps this is because the UK version of X Factor has been dodged by countless controversies not to mention the “novelty” acts that are put on the show just to piss people off.


Just when you were thinking talent shows no longer have the ability to create stars, enter Carly Rose Sonenclar and Diamond White. Whether or not they each have lasting careers is irrelevant right now, the girls can sing! They are both only 13 years old so can only get better! Carly’s audition and progress through the X Factor USA competition is remarkable. Shocking audiences with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in her first audition where L.A. Reid said “remember this day everybody. A star is born!” She went on to further stun audiences during her judges houses performance where Will.I.Am went as far as saying she is “possessed” with some crazy talent. See for yourself below:


Carly Rose Sonenclar performs at judges’ houses

Let’s not forget Diamond White, talk about a superstar name! She is out-of-this-world talented. She sings like a baby Whitney and is also only 13 years old! L.A. Reid told her that she truly is a “diamond.” When she sings, her competition might as well quit in my opinion.


There are some similarities between these girls and Christina Aguilera in terms of vocal talent at a young age. Christina auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club at the same age and stunned audiences with her soulful performance of Whitney Houston’s “I have nothing.” If managed correctly, maybe they can individually have lasting careers like Christina’s (she is a bit off the music radar at the moment but manages to stay in the public eye through being a judge on The Voice). What does it take to manage young talent like this? Anyone lining up to manage the careers of Carly and Diamond, have the task of shaping their careers to build something long term since they are so young. How do you do this in an industry that is churning out music without meaning and sounds the same? How do you build a sound so unique and be a superstar all at once?


The age to audition is creeping lower and lower, with X Factor US allowing children as young as 12 to audition. Is it really fair to put a kid through the stress of these shows? Remember Rachel Crow’s breakdown when she was eliminated from X Factor US? But then, look at the talent of these young kids! Some of them sound like they’re 30 something with so much experience, it amazes me. I guess it’s a bit of a trade off, youth sells: look at Justin Bieber and One Direction fans, they’re kids.


Seeing as both these girls are super talented, here is Diamond White singing  “I have nothing” by Whitney Houston at bootcamp:


PEPSI knows it! Since first partnership with Michael Jackson, back in 1983, PepsiCo, Inc. has launched several campaigns using music as a storyline or music artist who have helped the company building its brand’s identity and personality.

Here’s an example of pioneer commercial campaign (1980s)


A brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them) and how it relates to key stakeholders: customers, staff, partners, investors… Others may say a brand is more than that: confidence, passion, belonging, action, security or a set of unique values.

We tend to think of branding as a modern day phenomenon; undoubtedly branding has evolved over the late 1990s and early 2000s, but certain studies argue that branding started even before (around 1800s) when companies that sold patented medicines and tobacco realized the importance of their product’s association with a brand.

History provides some insight and perspective on modern day branding, and curiously have dated the branding phenomenon and first evidence of advertising even to ancient Babylonian civilization back in 3,000 BC!

Coming back to PEPSI’s strategy, a recent deal with the late King of Pop’s estate will allow the brand to use the music legend’s image for a new global marketing campaing. In order to amplify the company’s strong ties with popular culture and win market share from its main competitor (Coca-Cola Co), Pepsi will release a series of new TV ads, will launch an special-edition can with the artist’s image and will give the chance of downloading remixes of Michael’s most famous songs by scanning codes that will be placed on the new cans. Going a bit further, the company is also considering other ways of attracting the customer and will give away tickets to Cirque du Soleil shows along with special leather jackets inspired by the artist genuine style as a reward.

Music is everywhere and Pepsi has created another campaign called Live for Now pushing another strategic partnership with Nicki Minaj

During 2012 spring, Pepsi also joined The X Factor and embarked on The Pepsi Flavor Audition Tour, giving contestants and fans at more than 20 locations in 15 cities, the exclusive opportunity to sample four new Pepsi flavors and be the judge of which one earned the right to be called Pepsi X.

Eric Whitehouse, director of marketing for Pepsi has mentioned:

Our partnership with ‘The X Factor’ has given us the opportunity to further engage with our passionate consumers, and continue the Pepsi legacy of supporting aspiring musical talent With Pepsi X, we put fans in the judge’s seat — giving them the power to select our next limited-edition flavor — the Pepsi with ‘The X Factor.'”

Allowing consumers to be part of the product experience is also crucial, and with such Flavor Auditions Pepsi is getting even closer to the society.

Monica Manubens