Something happened on “The X Factor” a few weeks ago: the show, which had been quietly trucking through its third season, suddenly started getting the word-of-mouth chatter usually reserved for buzzier shows like “The Voice” or “American Idol.” Starting with a spectacular cover of “Say Something” by folky duo Alex and Sierra and continuing with the entirety of the semifinals episode, “The X Factor” is finally hitting its stride — it just happened to take three years to do so.
Simon Cowell is thrilled that things have finally started coming together for FOX’s lower-rated singing competition. “I think last night something clicked. It really, really did. We might’ve been watching a different show, to be honest with you,” Cowell tells reporters following the announcement of the three finalists competing for the Season 3 title: Alex and Sierra, rocker Jeff Gutt, and Latin pop singer Carlito Olivero.
All three artists “started to look and sound like proper recording artists and then we saw it on the iTunes chart,” Cowell says — Alex and Sierra have had two No. 1 singles and three songs on the iTunes top ten, while Jeff Gutt has six singles on the rock chart. “When you’re competing with real artists who have got careers, something [is working]. A few weeks ago I’m sitting there thinking, ‘This isn’t working.’ And then last night it was like ‘We’re back on track.’ They’re ready for the real world.”
While the U.K. version of “The X Factor” has churned out dozens of superstars overseas, the U.S. version hasn’t quite spawned its own Kelly Clarkson — or, perhaps more aptly, a One Direction (they finished third on the U.K. “X Factor”). Now, though, the singers are finally charting on iTunes and getting the viral buzz they weren’t before.
“I always say this about these shows — you don’t want to end the year thinking ‘I’ve just got a winner and so what?’ You want to think it’s the birth of their career and all three of them, I’ve got to be honest with you, are really starting to focus on that,” Cowell says. “I feel that we have recording artists competing with each other and I like this feeling.”