OK, so before we begin, we all know that The X-Factor has much more problems than positives. The format is designed in such a way that people who go through the process are more likely to fail than they are to succeed: find a selection of people who were blessed with above average vocal chords and give them songs every week to perform. The problem with this as a concept is that these people are not singer/songwriters, they are performers. Very few of them actual have a background or talent in writing songs. This ultimately means that they are unable to continue to forge a career after the initial support from Simon Cowell and The X-Factor fades away. This unfortunately leads to many acts falling by the wayside. Is 2006 winner, Andy Abraham, still making music? Who knows?
However, every now and again, it provides a genuine platform for a properly talented musician to get their name out there and forward their music career. This has been demonstrated by the careers that Matt Cardle, Olly Murs, and the boys in One Direction have managed to forge since they were on the show. Back in 2012, another such artist seemed to be James Arthur. The tattooed singer/songwriter from Middlesbrough had a voice that demonstrated raw vocal ability, and an understanding of how to hold an audience while he performed. He immediately seemed to be one of those rare X-Factor personalities who was more than just somebody who happened to be born with an excellent voice, Arthur had been writing and recording music since he was fifteen and was involved with numerous bands in his younger ears before even releasing a solo EP under the name, The James Arthur Project in 2012.
This was another positive sign that perhaps Arthur would be to use the platform that the show was presenting him with to forge a proper career regardless of whether he went on to win or not. As the weeks went by on the show Arthur continued to demonstrate an ability to reinvent popular songs to fit his own vocal range and performing style – as exemplified in this performance of the ABBA classic, SOS.
James Arthur would go on to become the winner of the ninth season of the show, beating Jahméne Douglas in the final. His version of the Shontelle song, Impossible, would be released as the winner’s single and would top the UK charts in its first week becoming the fastest selling X-Factor single of all time. It would be the lead single from the 2013 self-titled album.
However, the next few years for Arthur would not be as straightforward. November 2013 would see the Middlesbrough singer-songwriter involved in controversy as Arthur released a diss track, entitled Hey Mickey!, in response to criticism by Croydon battle rapper, Mickey Worthless, who mocked Arthur’s rapping ability. The controversy was as a result of the nature of some of the lyrics that were considered homophobic by some listeners. Arthur would deny these accusations. The incident would lead to online campaigns to have his upcoming appearance on the X-Factor cancelled, and would also cause iTunes to offer refunds to customers who had already bought the album. Further controversy would follow in April 2014 when Arthur would be accused of glorifying terrorism with lyrics on the track Follow The Leader off his self produced and released rap mixtape, All The World’s a Stage. Arthur would again deny these accusations, but shortly afterwards he would announce that he and his label, Syco, had parted ways.
Things would go quiet for the next before on 6 September 2015, James Arthur would announce that he had signed with Columbia Records and that he was in the process of recording his new album. The aptly titled Back From The Edge was released on 28 October 2016, after being proceeded by the single, Say You Won’t Let Go.
The album would be greeted with positive reviews from many critics who lauded it as the album that showcased the sound that Arthur should have insisted on making after winning the X-Factor.
James Arthur, as stated in the opening paragraph of this article, is the perfect embodiment of everything good about TV music talent shows, but also everything that can be wrong with them. It has become clear in recent years that the Middlesbrough man has the necessary talent to make it in the very competitive music industry but it is debatable as to whether he would have gotten the chance or the exposure without the X-Factor. However, the difficulty that Arthur experienced in the immediate aftermath of his victory demonstrates the lack of support that such shows provide for their winners and very often these people who are catapulted to fame are left to fend for themselves in the full spotlight of the media.
You made me feel as though I was enough