Six of the best contestants on 'The X Factor' UK: from One Direction to James Arthur

As the music reality show comes to an end, we take a look back at some of the best singers to have emerged from it

James Arthur, left, and Harry Styles of One Direction found fame through 'The X Factor' UK. Courtesy Zero Gravity; EPA
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Simon Cowell's reality singing competition show The X Factor has officially been axed after 17 years. Although the show hasn't actually aired since 2018, ITV confirmed the cancellation on Thursday.

Last February, before the pandemic led to worldwide lockdowns, it was announced the reality show would be taking a break for 2020 but was possibly slated to return for 2021. However, that's no longer the case.

“There are no current plans for the next series of The X Factor at this stage,” an ITV spokesperson told Variety magazine.

Created by Cowell, The X Factor began airing in 2004 and 445 episodes have been watched by avid fans over 15 series, with a number of superstars emerging from the show. From groups such as Little Mix and One Direction to solo acts like Leona Lewis and James Arthur.

Here's a look at some of the best music acts to have launched from the talent programme.

Little Mix

The most famous girl group to come out of the show is Little Mix, a four-member band whose artists originally auditioned as soloists on The X Factor in 2011. After debuting originally as Rhythmix, they changed their name to Little Mix and the rest is history.

They went on to win the show (becoming the first group to do so) and top the music charts with hits such as Cannonball, Wings and Shout Out to My Ex.

On Thursday, it was revealed they've even been immortalised as waxworks for Madame Tussauds London, including former member Jesy Nelson.

One Direction

The boy band are so synonymous with The X Factor, most people don’t even realise that they didn’t win the show in 2010. Instead, they finished third, behind Rebecca Ferguson and winner Matt Cardle.

However, they are still one of the most successful acts to come from the reality show, selling more than 70 million records worldwide as of 2020. Although they’ve been on hiatus as a group since 2015, the members have all found success as solo artists, too.

Leona Lewis

Appearing on the third season of The X Factor in 2006, Leona Lewis was a clear favourite to win early on, thanks to her powerful vocal range.

While she found success with the winner’s single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This, it was 2007’s Bleeding Love that made her a household name. She was also nominated for a Grammy and a Brit Award for the single and has since released four other studio albums.

Sam Bailey

Appearing on the show’s 10th season in 2013, Bailey is one of the oldest contestants to win The X Factor. The former prison officer surprised in her audition but proved to be the real deal after her performances received praise week after week.

Her winner’s single, a cover of Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper topped the UK Singles Chart as did her debut album The Power of Love, which featured mostly cover songs she did on the show.

Olly Murs

Essex boy Olly Murs might have come second on the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009, but has certainly overshadowed winner Joe McElderry. The now singer, songwriter, dancer, voice actor and director has even gone on to present the show and be a coach of The Voice UK.

His first single Please Don't Let Me Go debuted at No 1 on the UK Singles Charts and he's gone on to release six albums.

James Arthur

James Arthur, who spent a few years living in Bahrain, wowed judges from the very beginning when he sang an acoustic version of Tulisa's Young at his first audition in 2012. He went on to blow them away at almost every audition until he won with winner's single Impossible, which went on to become one of the top-selling singles of the time.

While Arthur parted ways with Cowell's record label Syco in 2014, he signed a new deal with Columbia Records the following year, releasing his second studio album Back from the Edge to much acclaim in 2016. He's since released a third album and is reportedly working on a fourth.

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