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I've already fallen under the spell of the X Factor and its judges

THERE'S that great urban myth that claims there are satanic messages embedded in some heavy metal albums, but they can only be detected when the record is played backwards at a particular speed. Well, I say there's something similar going on with the X Factor signature tune. There's some strange hypnotic spell that we all fall under the minute the opening credits get going.

I'm already under the influence, and, really, not much has even happened yet.

Series eight, episode one, kicked off on Saturday and more than 12 million of us took advantage of the shortening evenings to tune in and get set for a winter of tantrums, tunes, sub-plots, contestants and ... of course ... judges.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm all about the judges, so I was particularly interested in seeing how the panel of 2011 would fair. In the past few months, there's been a lot of hopping off and on the X Factor hot seats and I was curious as to how the new line up of Kelly Rowland, Tulisa Contostavlos and Gary Barlow would fill the places left vacant by Cheryl Cole, Dannii Minogue and Simon Cowell; and how Louis Walsh would adapt to his new crew.

Well, the boy did well and Louis has now elevated himself to the position of elder lemon judge. In episode one he was calling the shots, although it was interesting to see that Gary showed no fear about making himself comfortable in Simon's place.

Gary's all set to be the bad cop. He's going to be tough, and he's not going to suffer fools. We know this by his default expression. Looking a cross between Action Man and David Beckham, he's channelling his inner Joey Tribbiani and working that "smell the fart" expression.

In fact, the only time he really seemed to break from character and beam with smiles was when watching Northern Ireland's Janet Devlin, already an X Factor sensation.

But whatever about the male judges, let's be honest here, the reason why so many of us devote our autumn and winter Saturdays (and then Sundays, too) to the show, is to cop a look at the girl judges.

I have no shame in holding my hand up and saying I had a monster girl crush on Dannii. From hair to Botox to clothes to jewellery, I made notes, every single week. And younger women put Cheryl up on such a pedestal, a nosebleed could come before the closing credits rolled.

Both are now gone, leaving a massive void, and it's going to take more than big, beautiful shoes to fill the space.

Saturday night's show introduced us to Tulisa and Destiny's Child star Kelly. Kelly's the Dannii -- she's a bit older and, on first impression, the more nurturing, motherly of the two. She's loud, like Americans are always portrayed. Lots of whoops, air punches and shouts of "oh yeah". Perhaps this is a ploy to draw attention to herself, but, if it is, she's going to have to brush up on the style stakes.

I didn't like her yellow lace crop top, and the rest of what she wore had no uniqueness or elegance. Nope, Kelly, you're going to have to get your stylist to try harder. I also didn't like her long hair curtains, hanging either side of her fringe. Too heavy and blocky.

Tulisa's the baby judge at 23, but why am I not surprised when I reckon her age has never held her back? "Am I gobby?" asked the rap star in the show's intro on Saturday. My reflex answer to the TV was "Am I bovvered?" but something tells me I'm going to get interested in her. You can already see the transformation taking place to her appearance as each audition sequence is filmed and shown.

On Saturday, her transformation from chav to style princess was already well underway. I spotted some amazing pieces on Tulisa, including a Vivienne Westwood dress and a Marc Jacobs jumpsuit. There were also some great beauty looks, too. Of course they're trying to make her the new Cheryl, but in my opinion they should go less WAG and more vintage with this girl -- lady from ladette.

And so, a new hobby for winter ... judge spotting and style vetting. While I sit in pyjamas eating Pringles. Bring it on.

Pat Stacey on X Factor, Page 39


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