Saturday 21 October 2017

X Factor: Why Fleur East was better off coming second to Ben Haenow

X Factor finalist Fleur East
X Factor finalist Fleur East
The X Factor finalists and Take That are seen on stage at the X Factor final in London
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Although all-round ready-made pop star Fleur East was the bookies' favourite to win X Factor this week, 'ordinary guy' Ben Haenow beat her to the title.

It's not all that surprising given Ben's 'story' and likableness were arguably stronger than Fleur's. 

He could sing, yes, but his vocals were never the subject of the judges' praises.  They consistently commended him for being 'the nicest guy in the house' and being a nice guy counts for everything in this televised popularity contest.

He was also shown being an 'ordinary' white van man with his brother and Simon repeatedly talked about him playing pubs and clubs in an effort to make his 'dream come true'.

The public fell for his 'ordinary' charm and although we were told it was the closest competition ever, the voting results of each week, revealed last night, showed otherwise.

Ben topped the voting leader board every week from the fourth week.  There was never anybody else in the running, not even Fleur when she gave that series defining 'Uptown Funk' performance in the semi-final.

Fleur, with her great voice and her washboard abs and her ability to dance like Tina, had it all going on, as Louis would say, but being the perfect package doesn't particularly endear you to the voting public.

However, as the likes of Olly Murs, Ella Henderson, and One Direction have proved, winning at least in the X Factor universe, is not everything.  In fact, it can be a poison chalice, as poor ole Steve Brookstein discovered.

Ben was undoubtedly thrilled to win last night, but he has a tough year ahead of him.  As X Factor winner he's contracted to perform as such for the next 12 months, and the endless rounds of publicity will be nothing short of gruelling. 

He'll also release that appallingly bland, forgettable single in time for Christmas.  Was it just me or did he look almost embarrassed to be crooning it last night?  Wasn't he supposed to be the show's resident rocker?  You can't help but feel his rough edges have already been chipped away.  Will he get a chance to develop into the kind of artist he wants, or should, be?

If anyone can make a good stab at being an X Factor winner, Ben can.  But chances are Fleur has dodged a bullet. She knows what kind of artist she wants to be.  She won't be contracted to do the appearances, the publicity, the sponsorship deals, the album.  Instead, she has time to focus on what she really wants to do, and what's best for her career.  She'll undoubtedly be snapped up by Cowell's Syco label, but if not, by another.  Either way she's already a fully-fledged artist. 

Ben will be back for X Factor next year, to pass on the microphone to the next winner.  Fleur may well be back too, like Ella Henderson.  She came sixth in 2012, took 18 months to get an album together, and is currently riding high in the charts.

Eighteen months from now, will both Fleur and Ben be doing the same?  My money's on the girl from East London.

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