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The right direction


Crossover appeal: One Direction's Niall Horan is now an international

Crossover appeal: One Direction's Niall Horan is now an international heartthrob

Crossover appeal: One Direction's Niall Horan is now an international heartthrob

Veteran singer Tom Jones put the knife into TV talent shows this week. He's just taken on the role of mentor on the BBC's version of The Voice -- but was scathing about other shows.

"I stayed away from them on purpose," he said. "In those other ones there's stuff involved that I wouldn't want to be involved with."

The Voice, he reckons, is different as it focuses solely on singing ability, not the sob stories, big productions and novelty acts that have become an integral part of Britain's Got Talent, The X Factor and American Idol.

But in spite of the 'stuff' that Jones finds so distasteful, there's no denying that those other shows have thrown up some genuine lasting talent.

Snooty critics who say they never produce real stars are being proved wrong time and again. In the past week alone we've had X Factor alumni making headlines -- Mary Byrne publicising her tour with Phil Collins and One Direction turning down tea at the White House.

And Simon Cowell might be the biggest winner. His ownership of hit reality show formats like Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor saw him rake in an estimated £28m (€33.9m) last year.

But he's not their only success story.

Among the forgotten Eoghan Quiggs (debut judged "the worst album in the history of recorded sound") and Steve Brooksteins (last seen playing pub gigs with an entrance fee for a couple of quid) there are many contestants who go on to forge a successful career, and even a few who hit the big time.

Leona Lewis

Age: 27.

When: X Factor winner 2006.

Why: Lewis honed her singing skills at stage school before stepping on to the X Factor stage and revealing a voice to rival Mariah Carey. Her talent prompted Simon Cowell to describe the Londoner as "one of the best singers we've had in this country for 20 years".

The record-buying public agreed, with her second single 'Bleeding Love' hitting No 1 in more than 30 countries. Critics are predicting her third album, due for release later this year, will be her best yet.

Money-making power: She's one of the richest top 30 under 30 according to Heat magazine, with earnings of £13.3m (€16m).

Cool factor: Reality TV stars don't tend to be 'cool' in way that one might label Radiohead or Nirvana cool but Lewis has a mass appeal that's only growing. 8/10


Age: 20.

When: Sixth in The X Factor 2009.

Why: Where thousands of people, including Simon Cowell, saw two irritating individuals, Louis Walsh saw potential.

Now their manager, Walsh has used the Lucan twins' hyperactive energy, clean-cut image and gravity-defying hair to market everything from cereals and sweets to phone networks and hotel booking sites.

The prolific nature of the twins -- they've also launched a book, starred in panto and represented Ireland at Eurovision -- has helped maintain their profile despite their questionable singing ability, and with a second Eurovision stint, a Euro 2012 song and more TV appearances on the cards they're not going away any time soon.

Money-making power: Projected to be worth €2m each by the end of this year.

Cool factor: We're scared of offending their thousands of screaming teen fans so. 10/10


Age: Between 13 and 26.

When: Britain's Got Talent winners 2009.

Why: The 11-man, London-based, dance troupe was described by Simon Cowell as "sheer and utter perfection". Since winning they've gone on to produce a hit 3D film, StreetDance 3D, and sold out tours across the UK, most recently their Digitized production.

Leader Ashley Banjo, now a judge on Sky's Got to Dance, has been dancing since he was five. Their motto is 'dream, believe, achieve'.

Money-making power: Rumoured to make £25,000 (€30,000) per performance.

Cool factor: Cool music, cool moves and the little one is a crowd favourite. 9/10

one direction

Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne and Ireland's own Niall Horan

Age: 18-20.

When: The X Factor 2011, came third.

Why: No mystery -- they're young, floppy-haired, fresh-faced and teenage girls love them on both sides of the Atlantic. The singing's so-so, and they're not big on dancing -- but they're already a brand as their sellout tours, No 1 hit and three best-selling books prove.

Money-making power: Their £2m (€2.4m) record deal is the tip of the iceberg.

Cool factor: Celebrity backers like Robbie Williams and Justin Bieber earn them some kudos as does Harry Styles' romantic dalliance with older woman Caroline Flack. 8/10

susan boyle

Age: 50.

When: Britain's Got Talent 2009, runner-up.

Why: Dubbed the 'Hairy Angel' Su-Bo's appeal came from her 'great things come in unlikely packages' story. She generated a swell of sentiment around the world and remains a multimillion selling artist. This year the legend continues with the launch of Dreamed a Dream: The Susan Boyle Musical.

Money-making power: Some £11m (€13.3m) in the bank -- but still prefers to live in her council house in West Lothian.

Cool factor: Her charity duet with Peter Kay showed she can laugh at herself. 6/10

girls aloud

Cheryl Cole, Nicola Roberts, Sarah Harding, Kimberly Walsh and Nadine Coyle

Age: Twenties and thirties.

When: Popstars: The Rivals winners 2002.

Why: Officially 'Most Successful Reality TV Group' thanks to 20 consecutive Top 10 singles. The manufactured girlband owe considerable success to Xenomania, who helped pen their catchy hits. The fact that they're easy on the eyes probably did them no damage either.

Money-making power: By the time they split in 2010 they were estimated to be worth £25m (€30m).

Cool factor: 4/10 But wait until there's a reunion tour.

connie fisher

Age: 28.

When: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria winner 2006.

Why: Fisher won Andrew Lloyd Webber's quest to find a Maria for his Sound of Music production because she had the voice.

The singer had a first-class honours degree in musical theatre and a range of two and a half octaves. Her talent is impressive enough for the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre Company to cast her in its current show, Wonderful Town.

Money-making power: Went from £150 (€180) a week in a call centre to £3,000 (€3,600) a week as Maria.

Cool factor: Thanks to the likes of Glee, musicals are in. 7/10

jennifer hudson

Age: 30.

When: Came seventh in American Idol 2004.

Why: She persevered after Idol getting a role in Dream Girls that earned her an Oscar. She's become America's sweetheart by using the same grit and determination to shed weight and cope with the tragic shootings of her mother, brother and nephew in 2008.

Money-making power: An estimated $18m (€13.7m).

Cool factor: 8/10 Loses two points for turning down the lead role in Precious.

Indo Review