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The X Factor final


Little Mix, winners of  The X Factor perform Cannonball, their single

Little Mix, winners of The X Factor perform Cannonball, their single

Little Mix, winners of The X Factor perform Cannonball, their single

The final weekend of the singing contest was held at Wembley Arena and saw girl band Little Mix crowned champions

It took four long months of television, another interminable four hours this weekend and what seemed like several billion ad breaks but tonight girl group Little Mix won The X Factor (ITV1), deservedly beating singing Scouse hairdresser Marcus Collins into second place and becoming the first group to ever win the competition.

Saturday night’s show spent two hours whittling down three finalists to two. They each performed a duet with their mentor – shame, then, that Louis Walsh didn’t have an act left – plus a big stage production. Despite displaying the most powerful voice on the night, Amelia Lily was eventually eliminated. The right result, bearing in mind that the Middlesbrough teenager had been sent packing already and later reprieved, but Collins could still consider himself lucky after an anaemic evening.

That left Collins and Little Mix to compete for the crown on Sunday’s show. They each performed their favourite number from the series so far, plus a Christmas song and their version of the winner’s single: a cover of Cannonball by Damien Rice.

Little Mix’s performances were markedly superior to Collins’, whose breezily pleasant vocals were exposed as lacking power in the arena environment. Little Mix were the bookies’ favourites and consistently winning online polls all weekend, so their victory came as no great surprise.

Instead, Sunday night’s star turn was Coldplay, who impressively managed to turn the venue into their own concert, thanks to a clever lighting effect with luminous wristbands and an anthemic two-song set.

There were mutterings, meanwhile, about the fact that four of the six guests performers over the weekend – namely Westlife, One Direction, JLS and Leona Lewis – are signed to show svengali Simon Cowell’s record label.

Cynics might also point out that there were also several Take That songs used – penned of course by Cowell’s replacement as head judge, Gary Barlow – plus guest acts’ albums advertised during the commercial breaks, with host Dermot O’Leary providing the voiceover. The money-making machine gets ever more shameless.

The singing contest transferred rather better to the vast arena environment than arch rival Strictly did three weeks ago. Its bigger scale and bombastic style suited the echoey space and provided ample spectacle.

However, with the judges yelling their comments over the excitable crowd, VTs full of screaming fans during the finalists’ home visits and increasingly shambolic cuts to a vox pop area – to meet such luminaries as “someone who used to work with one of Little Mix” or “a man who made Marcus’s face out of Marmite on toast” – there was an awful lot of shouting. Subtle, nuanced broadcasting this certainly wasn’t. Cowell should have provided complimentary Nurofen for viewers.

Still, the right act won, while in the likes of Collins, Amelia Lily, Misha B and Janet Devlin, the series has unearthed a few potential pop stars. If only it could do so in half the time and with less shouting.

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