X Factor began in 2004 as a replacement for the popular TV talent contest Pop Idol. The winner each season earns a one million pound sterling recording contract. The current judges for X Factor are music executive Simon Cowell, Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole, music manager Louis Walsh, and singer Dannii Minogue. The winner's first single is released just before Christmas and in recent years has been successful at becoming the Christmas #1 hit.
Each season begins with a series of audition shows. Next is "bootcamp." In the final phase judges mentor contestants who perform live before public voting.
Season One - 2004
The judges for the first season of X Factor were Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, and Sharon Osbourne. The final came down to Steve Brookstein and the group G4. Steve Brookstein won and went on to hit #1 on the pop singles chart with his cover of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds," and his first album Heart and Soul also reached #1. He has had little subsequent success. G4 performed in the popera style combining pop and opera sounds. Their version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" hit the top 10 on the pop singles chart and their first two albums were also top 10 hits.
Watch Steve Brookstein sing "Against All Odds"
Season Two - 2005
The judges for the second season of X Factor were again Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, and Sharon Osbourne. The final came down to Shayne Ward and Andy Abraham. Shayne Ward won and has gone on to have four top 10 pop singles in the UK and two albums which reached #1 and #2 on the album chart. Both have been certified platinum for sales. Andy Abraham reached the top 20 with one single and his debut album hit #2.
Watch Shayne Ward sing "That's My Goal"
Season Three - 2006
The judges for the third season of X Factor were again Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, and Sharon Osbourne. The final two contestants were Leona Lewis and Ray Quinn. Leona Lewis won and has become an international superstar. She has five top 10 singles in the UK including three #1's. Her single "Bleeding Love" hit #1 in the US and in countries around the world. Her debut album was also a #1 hit around the world. Ray Quinn's debut album in the jazz style reached #1 on the album chart. He was a winner in 2009 of the UK reality series Dancing On Ice.
Watch Leona Lewis sing "A Moment Like This"
Season Four - 2007
The composition of the judges panel generated controversy for season four of X Factor. When the dust settled the four judges were Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, and Dannii Minogue. The top two of season four turned out to be Leon Jackson and Rhydian Roberts. Leon Jackson won and has gone on to release two top 10 pop singles. His debut album reached #4 on the chart. Rhydian Roberts' debut album reached #3 on the album chart.
Watch Leon Jackson sing "When You Believe"
Season Five - 2008
The judges for season five of X Factor were Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue, and Cheryl Cole who joined after Sharon Osbourne left the show. The final two contestants were Alexandra Burke and boy band JLS. Alexandra Burke's winning single became the fastest selling victory single in the history of X Factor Her debut album is due in stores in October 2009. JLS have also reached #1 with their debut single and group's debut album is expected in November 2009.
Watch Alexandra Burke sing "Hallelujah"
Season Six - 2009
The judges for season six of X Factor were again Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue, and Cheryl Cole. The show ended up with arguably the strongest final four contestants yet. Joe McElderry ultimately was named the champion. However, his winning single, a version of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," failed to debut at #1 due to an Internet-based campaign to deny X Factor the traditional Christmas #1.
Season Seven - 2010
Season seven of X Factor took place with the same lineup of judges as the previous season. However, due to Dannii Minogue's absence on maternity leave and Cheryl Cole missing a number of auditions battling malaria, a series of celebrity guest judges made appearances. The show adjusted the rule on age groups and extended the upper limite for the boys and girls groups to 28 with an intent to put more similar performers together. Ultimately the final came down to a battle between Matt Cardle and Rebecca Ferguson. He took home the title becoming the fifth male performer to win out of seven seasons.