From Will Young To Little Mix: 5 Of The Most Exciting Battles In Reality TV Music Competition History
With an election on the way, we’re taking a look at five of the popstars that we voted to reality TV victory...
On June 8th 2017 the UK will vote in a snap general election.
The announcement came as something of a surprise.
As we recover from the shock of it all, MTV UK is reflecting on simpler democratic votes.
Times when the UK got it right in some of the most exciting elections in history.
Yes - that’s right. We’re taking a look at five of the popstars that we voted to reality TV victory...
1. Winner: Will Young, Runner-Up: Gareth Gates
2001 gave the UK its first taste of the modern day reality TV music competition. Popstars aired first but Pop Idol was the big phenomenon. Its first season saw the entire nation go crazy over Gareth Gates, the sweet boy with a golden voice, and Will Young, the cheeky chappy with pipes to match. Right until the final, Gates was the favourite to win. His shy demeanour and ability to overcome his stutter through song seemed to be more marketable than Young’s tendencies to talk back to the judges and disagree with his own critiques.
Episode after episode Young would let Simon Cowell - then a new face to reality TV - and the other judges know if he thought that their comments were out of line. However, with over 8.7 million votes cast, 53.1% of Idol viewers chose Young as their winner. Speaking up worked in Young’s favour.
While Gates enjoyed lots of immediate success, Young managed to sustain a career - one which is over 15 years long. Not to mention, his winner’s single ‘Evergreen’ sold 1.1 million copies in its first week - the largest debut in UK music history.
2. Winner: Girls Aloud, Runner-Up: One True Voice
After the crazy success of Pop Idol, Popstars decided to up its game for its second season. Instead of creating a mixed group as it did in 2001, it formed a boy band, One True Voice, and a girl group, Girls Aloud - with its members voted for by the public. Officially, the two groups were winners - they did not compete against each other on the show. However, a couple weeks after the show finished airing, each group released a single in the hopes of it becoming Christmas Number One. Popstars then ran a final episode, as the bands found out who had performed better on the charts.
Like Will Young, Girls Aloud were not the favourites to win. Boybands were all the rage at the time, while girl groups were struggling to gain fan bases. Nevertheless, the boys were given a boring ballad, whilst the girls were given a corker of a pop song. Music won out and ‘Sound of the Underground’, not only stayed at number one for four weeks but went on to define Girls Aloud’s sound.
Five critically acclaimed platinum albums later, the group cemented themselves in pop history. Oh and Cheryl was a judge on the X Factor, sold millions of solo records and became the nation’s sweetheart too.
3. Winner: Leona Lewis, Runner-Up: Ray Quinn
After ratings took a toll in its second season, Pop Idol was cancelled. However, Simon Cowell used the opportunity to launch his own music competition: The X Factor. Two seasons in and it wasn’t certain that it would outlast its predecessor. However, as ratings grew and Leona Lewis auditioned in season three, those doubts vanished.
The show needed a global superstar and Leona was that. Her voice echoed the great divas of the eighties and nineties. That being said her victory wasn’t set in stone. Jazz crooner, Ray Quinn, was a favourite with mums and grannies. He lacked the popstar potential and international appeal of Leona but was the kind of contestant that reality TV adores.
Still, Leona’s voice managed to snatch her the X Factor crown with 60% of the vote. Quinn went on to have a number one album and lots of Westend success but Leona released the incomparable ‘Bleeding Love’ and had number ones across the world. Not bad for a former Pizza Hut waitress.
4. Winner: Alexandra Burke, Runner-Up: JLS
By the time that The X Factor had reached its fifth season, it was a reality TV king. Attracting guest performers and mentors such as Céline Dion, while being watched by over 10 million viewers an episode. 2008 saw Alexandra Burke face JLS in the final - both exciting pop entities in that, unlike many talent show contestants, they could dance and perform as well as they sung. Up until the end of the show either could have won.
The final ensured Burke’s triumph though. With the help of her mentor Cheryl, she managed to snag a duet with Beyoncé. She also transformed Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ into the gospel ballad that it was always destined to be. Burke won with 58% of the vote and her single sold over 1.2 million copies.
As far as popstarring goes, JLS have had the more successful career but Alexandra ruled the radio with her debut ('Bad Boys', 'Broken Heels', 'All Night Long', 'Start Without You') and is now a musical queen. Catch her as the lead in Sister Act today.
5. Winner: Little Mix, Runner-Up: Marcus Collins
It’s hard to believe now that there was ever any doubt that Little Mix would win The X Factor. As one of the biggest girl groups in the world today, they have seen their success leap from strength to strength. However, in 2011 no girl group had ever won The X Factor. In fact no group had won the show. Not even One Direction. So expectations for Little Mix were low. These were quickly turned around though, as Jesy, Jade, Leigh-Anne and Perrie out-performed their competition week after week.
Also their mentor, Tulisa, campaigned for them like some sort of political mastermind. As the series drew to a close, it became clear that as talented as Marcus Collins was, he was no match for our girls. Ill-fitting winner’s single aside, they have gone onto release some of the best music in pop, whilst also becoming the most successful live act in the country.
From ‘Wings’ to ‘Move’ and ‘Black Magic’ to ‘Shout Out to My Ex’, they have created an incredible discography. One which will no doubt keep getting better, as they work on and release album five, six, seven, eight, nine etc.
By Sam Prance
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