Why? Well, aside from the obvious--Simon Cowell's involvement--there are several easily X-plained reasons, all worthy of X-clamation points:
A WIDER, DEEPER TALENT POOL!
While the age range for "Idol" is 15-28, age ain't nothing but a number on "The X Factor." (Contestants can be as young as 12, and as old as, well, the hills.) Said Simon in a press release this week: "I like the idea that a 12-year-old on this show can compete with an older singer...I've never believed there should be a cutoff age for talent." This means that "The X Factor" may find the next Bieber, or the next Boyle. And at the very least, seeing a tween and a senior battle it out on the "X Factor" finale would make for some X-tremely watchable TV.
On "The X Factor," the contestants aren't the only ones in competition; so are the four judges, who mentor the finalists (each assigned a category like Boys, Girls, Groups, and "Over 25's") and rally for their respective protégés to prevail. Lucky are contestants who get Simon for a mentor (imagine how that could've made a difference during "Idol" Season 9, if the singers had been coached by him instead of, say, Miley Cyrus), and brave are the judges unfortunate enough to compete with Cowell. Regardless of which contestant--and, by association, which judge--wins in the end, the real winners are the viewers, who get to witness plenty of in-judge catfighting on a weekly basis.
With the exception of singers like, say, Adam Lambert, Blake Lewis, David Cook, and Siobhan Magnus, most of the time "Idol" contestants are pretty safe and un-envelope-pushing. Heck, they couldn't even push an envelope if they worked for the post office, to be honest. So how are they supposed to compete with the Katys, Gagas, and Ke$has of the world, who are out there spraying fireworks and whipped cream from their bullet-bras, attending award shows with their privates barely concealed in butcher scraps, and engaging in drag-queen chainsaw brawls in their NSFW music videos? But on "The X Factor," the contestants really are a little cooler. (I suppose this is unsurprising, considering that most British bands are cooler than American ones. Come on, you pick up a copy of NME and argue otherwise.) Whether it's the broodingly guylinered Aidan Grimshaw deconstructing "Thriller"; latest champion Matt Cardle releasing a cover of Brit-rockers Biffy Clyro's "Many Of Horror (When We Collide)" as his first single; hirsute pub-rocker Jamie Afro lighting up Kings Of Leon's "Sex On Fire"; or (my personal favorite) Cher Lloyd totally getting her swag on (the it-girl of Season 7 even made NME's 2010 "Cool List," ranking higher than Matt Bellamy and Rivers Cuomo, and is now rumored to be recording with will.i.am, RedOne, and Rihanna)...well, it all makes the average "Idol" episode look like a "Lawrence Welk" rerun. Let's hope the American equivalents are this interesting.
Every talent competition needs nutty contestants. It's all part of the fun and the formula. The big difference between "Idol's" wackos and "X Factor's"? Some of the "X Factor" ones actually make it to the finals. The result is some truly awesome television. Season 6 wouldn't have been the same without Irish twins John & Edward's matching madcap antics, and Season 7's Brazilian blowhard Wagner was the contestant all Britons loved to hate last year. Will the American "X Factor" bring the crazy? I sure hope so (and I'm sure Vote For the Worst does, too). Norman Gentle, if you're reading this, please audition for "The X Factor U.S." this year. You owe it to your country.
COSTUMES! DANCERS! THEMES! MEMES!
As the clips above readily attest, Brit viewers don't mind a little fine English CHEESE. Sequined showgirls, overactive fog machines, the entire contents of the ITV Network prop house spilled onto the stage at once...it's all fair game, and not just on the finale, but just for a regular semifinals episode. Let's hope the U.S. shows are equally entertaining X-travaganzas. If so, Fox better rent out a bigger prop house, stat!
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