Reality Rocks - Archive

‘X Factor’ Winner Joe McElderry Goes From Popstar To Opera Star

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Season 6 "X Factor U.K." winner Joe McElderry has already been dropped from Simon Cowell's Syco record label, only a year and a half after triumphing on the show but failing to ignite the U.K. charts. (His third single sold only 7,000 copies--ouch!) But a new victory on another British reality TV competition, "Popstar To Opera Star," just may give 20-year-old Joe's career a new lease on life.

This week, Britain's ITV network wrapped up the second season of "Popstar To Opera Star," a genius twist on the whole celebrities-making-fools-out-of-themselves reality formula popularized by shows like "Dancing With The Stars" and, um, "Skating With The Stars." On the program, pop stars--including Joe, Erasure's Andy Bell, Ultravox's Midge Ure, and the Pussycat Dolls' Melody Thornton--learned to sing opera, a style of music obviously WAY out of their comfort zone. (Last season, Alex James from Blur and Jimmy Osmond competed, and Meat Loaf was a judge--no lie.) The results were always entertaining, and in Joe's case, unexpectedly impressive.

Joe established himself as a frontrunner in week one, belting out "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from L'Elisir d'Amore by Donizetti. And I must say, he did a pretty good job, especially since I always thought he had a fairly thin and limited voice before. Surely even Simon would admit that Joe excelled.

And this weekend, it came down the Joe and British pop singer Cheryl Baker, she herself a talent show veteran (her old group, Bucks Fizz, won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981). It was Joe's surprisingly solid version of the show-stopper "Nessun Dorma," a performance from earlier this season that he reprised for the finale, that gave him the edge--and Joe took home the second reality championship title of his young life.

"My voice has been refreshed. For a singer, and for me, that is just so exciting. This is not the end of opera for me. I will definitely sing more opera and who knows, let's see what happens," Joe said on the show.

It remains to be seen if this "X Factor" casualty can use this victory to relaunch his stalled career--I don't really think he has the voice to be a full-fledged OPERA star, but I certainly see a bright future for him in musical theater. Plus, he revealed that he's already signed a new record deal. So maybe his popstar days aren't totally behind him yet.

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