WITH more line-up changes than the Sugababes, The X Factor panel likes to keep us on our toes.
This year sees the return of Take That’s Gary Barlow, N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos and old-timer Louis Walsh, but taking over from Kelly Rowland is former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger.
Before she joins full-time, there’s a host of other glamorous songstresses auditioning the hopefuls. Here is the low-down on The X Factor panel 2012.
LOUIS WALSH: As the only remaining judge from the original panel, Walsh has eight years of X Factor experience up his sleeve. The man behind boy bands Boyzone and Westlife, and the original Girls Aloud manager, knows a thing or two about the music industry too.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I do,” says Louis.
Having said that, Walsh often gets fobbed off with the worst category and his past tutees have included novelty acts Wagner and Jedward.
Not this year though, he hopes.
“The producers have promised me a good category this year so here’s hoping! I’d like to mentor the boys, there are some really strong singers in that category,” he says.
GARY BARLOW: Despite organising the Diamond Jubilee Concert for the Queen this year, Barlow found time to return to The X Factor for a second year — and he was more than impressed by the people auditioning.
“I think it’s been extraordinary this year,” he says.
“Everybody thinks so. I have even heard cameramen saying to each other that it’s such a massive improvement on last year.”
And Barlow has a tip for which category might provide the winner: “The Overs category hasn’t been taken that seriously in the last few years but it has turned into the biggest contender this year.’’
The standard is superb,” he says.
NICOLE SCHERZINGER: The former Pussycat Doll-turned-solo artist may be new to her role as a permanent judge, but she’s not new to the show itself, having been a guest judge at bootcamp in 2010 and a regular judge on the US X Factor — and she’s a total convert.
“The X Factor is different to the other talent shows because we’re not just about finding a great voice, but that special sparkle factor too,” she says.
TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS: Reigning champion Contostavlos won last year with her all-girl group Little Mix but she says she’s not feeling the pressure any more than the other judges.
“Obviously it was fantastic to win last year, but I’m coming back with a whole new category, so I am going to work just as hard with all my new acts. The pressure is on all of us to do our best each week,” she says.
She doesn’t mind which category she’s given this year, but says she’s been amazed at the standard of the groups.
“I think after Little Mix winning last time it’s made the groups really up their game.
“There are also some great solo singers in the show this year, but at this stage you can never tell who is going to go all the way to the live shows, it’s too early to predict,’’ she says.
The X Factor begins on TV3/ITV1 on Saturday, August 18.