Beating the Odds on The X Factor

Music reality shows have become a mainstay of popular television over the last few years. American Idol was first introduced in 2002 and quickly became a ratings winner. Long-time talent judge on the show, Simon Cowell, eventually left, deciding to nurture the launch of The X Factor (U.S.), another talent show, which had previously been successfully launched in the United Kingdom.

Format of the show

The U.S. version of The X Factor has retained the same format as its British counterpart. The series comprises a number of key stages, which show how the judges gradually eliminate the contestants to find a winner. Stage one features the producers' auditions, where the contestants are initially screened before being presented to the judges. After stage two, where the singers have to get past auditions in front of the judges, a shortlist is taken to boot camp to undergo various tests and auditions, after which only 32 acts remain. The show then switches to the judges' houses, where further auditions take place, and 32 becomes 16. Thereafter, the show switches to a live format, seeing the final 16 gradually reduced to a single winner.

Eligibility and team structure

The show differs from American Idol in that the competition is open to both soloists and groups. There is no upper age limit, either, which ensures a more balanced range of singers and styles. The contestants are split into four categories at the boot camp stage, where they are each placed with a mentor and the other singers within their age, gender or format. Boys between 12 and 29 are placed together, as are girls of the same age group. Anybody aged 30 or over goes into the third team and the fourth category is dedicated to the groups.

The prize

The winning act is awarded a recording contract with Cowell's music label, including a guaranteed cash payment of $5 million. This differs from other global versions of the show, where the prize money includes the costs of recording and marketing the artist (meaning that the winning singer receives considerably less).

Audience reaction

The first season of the show, screened in 2011, drew a respectable audience size, ranging from 12.49 million people in the premiere to 12.59 million for the season finale. This was enough to guarantee the show a second season but fell some way short of the peak viewing figures seen on American Idol. The season finale for American Idol in 2003 drew a record audience of 38.06 million people. The first series drew a number of controversies. Notably, this included the shocking exit of Rachel Crow in week seven, when the 14-year-old broke down on stage and had to be comforted by her mother when she learned that she wouldn't be going through.

The first winner -- beating the odds

The winner of the first series, Melanie Amaro, was mentored by Cowell. Amaro previously never had aspirations of entering a singing competition but was eventually persuaded to audition by her mother. Amaro was initially eliminated at the Judges' Houses stage by Cowell, but when he decided that he had made a mistake, the judge returned to her Florida home two weeks later and invited her to return to the show. Amaro beat thousands of other contestants from across the country, and has since appeared alongside Elton John at the 2012 Super Bowl.

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