“The X Factor” U.K. has come under fire in 2011 for losing viewers, feuding judges, exploiting contestants, and for contestants “butchering” songs made famous by other artists, with the songs’ original artists sometimes objecting to how their songs are performed on “The X Factor.” In addition, “The X Factor” U.K. judge Louis Walsh has been at the center of many of the show’s controversies, which has led one tabloid to predict that he will be fired from the show in 2012.
This is not the first year that “The X Factor” U.K. has been heavily criticized, but the scrutiny on the show has been pretty high in 2011 because the judges’ panel experienced a major shakeup this year: Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole all left the show’s judging panel and were replaced, respectively, by Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos. Walsh is the only judge on the show who has been with “The X Factor” U.K. since its 2004 debut. (Cowell remains an executive producer of the show.)
After the show’s first few episodes of 2011 drew more viewers than in the previous year, the ratings have been on a steady decline. For example, the episode that aired on October 23, 2011, had 12.5 million U.K. viewers, compared to 15 million U.K. viewers for the same period in the previous year.
British rock band Primal Scream is the latest act to blast “The X Factor” U.K. After finalist Frankie Cocozza sang Primal Scream’s 1994 hit “Get Your Rocks Off” in a widely panned performance on the October 22 episode, Primal Scream posted this message on its Twitter account: “Sorry to hear ‘Rocks’ was used on ‘X Factor.’ We don’t endorse this.”
Based on comments that people are making on the Internet, “X Factor” U.K. viewers seem to be tiring of novelty or “freak” acts being selected as finalists and more talented singers being eliminated by the judges. Walsh in particular has been the judge on the show whom viewers think is the most guilty of this practice. He was also blasted in the media by former “X Factor” U.K. contestant Terry Winstanley, who said that Walsh is an absentee, uninterested mentor.
In October 2011, Walsh and Contostavlos sparked controversy when, on live TV, they accused finalist Misha Bryan of being a backstage bully. Walsh later apologized for the remarks.
Walsh has also come under fire for insulting his “X Factor” colleagues in the media: He called Cowell a “fool” and said about Barlow: “Don’t forget he was the tubby one in Take That.” Behind the scenes, Walsh and Contostavlos have been feuding with Barlow and Rowland.
Even without all of the criticism directed at him, Walsh has had a rough year. He was accused of sexually groping a 24-year-old man, but when the accusation was made public in June 2011, Walsh was cleared of the accusation after a thorough police investigation, and the accuser was arrested for filing a false complaint. Walsh gave interviews saying that he was so traumatized by the humiliating accusation and the subsequent ordeal that he is struggling with insomnia and panic attacks.
Walsh’s career as a personal manager is also in a downward spiral as his client roster continues to shrink. In 2011, he parted ways with Boyzone. His biggest cash cow, Westlife, announced that the group is breaking up after a farewell tour in 2012. Meanwhile, Jedward (an “X Factor” U.K. finalist act from 2009) had its second album, “Victory” (released in 2011), fail to reach the sales heights of its 2010 hit debut album, “Planet Jedward.”
British tabloid The Sun is now reporting that Walsh could be fired from “The X Factor” U.K. in 2012. An unnamed “insider” tells The Sun: “The likelihood is that Louis will be gone next year.” (The Sun is currently being sued by Walsh for reporting the sex-abuse accusation, so take The Sun’s report for whatever you think it’s worth.)
Although it is highly unlikely that Cowell will return to “The X Factor” U.K. as a judge as long as he is too busy being a judge on “The X Factor” U.S., time will tell if The Sun’s story is true about Walsh being dismissed from the show. Walsh was briefly fired from “The X Factor” U.K. once before in 2007. He was replaced by choreographer Brian Friedman, but Walsh was back on the show after Friedman was shown as Walsh’s replacement in just two episodes.