When we first decided we wanted to do a blog, one of the things I came up with was a regular segment on UK gossip called “Who the fuck is Gary Barlow?” Once we decided on the blog name, this wasn’t really possible but it’s not stopping me from writing about my favorite UK celebs all the time.
Today starts a four week series on the current X Factor UK judges: who they are, what their musical backgrounds are, and how they are uniquely (un)qualified to judge contestants on a singing competition show.
I’m starting with the aforementioned Gary Barlow. Gary is a member of Take That, the boy band who had a minor hit here in the US with “Back for Good,” spawned the greatness that is Robbie Williams, and became a huge sensation in England. Gary is the leader and main songwriter.
This is one of my favorite boy band videos of all time.
While I can’t speak to his musical abilities, I can talk at length about his skills as a UK X Factor judge.
Gary took over the “lead judges chair” from Simon Cowell, who left in 2011 to start the US version of X Factor. He’s not as full of as many pithy catch phrases as Simon, but he’s very professional, and takes his job seriously, unlike Simon who likes to have hot girls to sit next to him that he wants to sleep with.
After the city audition rounds, the top contestants are brought back to “judges houses” (AKA giant manses the producers rent for the occasion) and each judge has a friend to help them weed through the contestants. Now here’s where Gary has proven himself to be one of the smartest people on the show: he brought Robbie fucking Williams with him. Gary knows what makes good TV and it’s Robbie being a total asshole.
All the judges this year have only one season under their belt except for Louis Walsh, so I can only post videos from 2011. If you don’t know the difference between American Idol and X Factor, the judges also serve as mentors, helping the contestants choose the best songs and do creative staging and performances. I have chosen my favorite performances from Gary’s top four contestants of 2011.
This guy, James Michael, was the first to be eliminated so we didn’t get to know him very well. Gary was forced to eliminate someone the first night of live shows and said the other contestants had “more star quality.” I did like his version of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” at judge’s house.
Marcus Collins came in second place last year, and it’s easy to see why in this video. He’s charming, has a great voice and is really enthusiastic. He was formerly a boy band member (Eton Road, who got their start on X Factor) and used to date David Heath, one of his bandmates. This did not stop host Dermot O’Leary from asking Marcus really uncomfortable questions about the female dancers. Dermot, he’s not interested! Anyway, this is “Reet Petite,” a Jackie Wilson song that Marcus absolutely killed.
Marcus has since appeared on the cover of “Attitude,” a UK gay lifestyle mag, and released his first record, which I have not heard.
Cutie Craig Colton made it to the top six. He has a beautiful voice and he and Gary tried to pick contemporary songs for him but it didn’t always work. Really, who would buy Craig’s record? Lady Gaga vs Queen night was his best performance, “Paparazzi.” I really like his small changes to the melody.
Frankie Cocozza was the most ridiculous and useless contestant. He had the names of all the girls he slept with tattooed on his ass, was seen out at clubs every night during the competition and could not sing for shit. He was often in the bottom and it seemed like much of the UK press hated him. For some reason Gary LOVED HIM and kept calling him a “rock star.” Advancing Frankie was Gary’s dumbest move of the season. Frankie was eventually eliminated for doing drugs, which gave the producers the idiotic idea to bring someone back, which I’ll talk about in my bonus post about former judges. Anyway this is the best Frankie performance, “Rocks” by Primal Scream. See how into it Gary is!
Ok this is horrible. I’m sorry, maybe I’m clouded by my love of that song.
Finally, this is 8 minutes of Gary’s best moments on X Factor. As you can see, Kelly Rowland wasn’t the only one that acted like a giddy little girl around this hot Brit. You will fall in love with Tulisa Contostavlos if you watch it, be warned!
X Factor season 9 begins airing in the UK in August and Smart Ladies Love will be covering it every week. Wikipedia is a wealth of knowledge, including all performance lists and most excitedly, the percentage of votes per contestant per week (posts after the season finishes).
Next week: Tulisa!