The 10 best X Factor first auditions

leona lewis

Since 2004, thousands have stood on the X to impress the judges - some good, some not so good. So, in honour of the new series, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the best first X Factor auditions...

As The X Factor returns for its 13th series on Saturday night, thousands more hopefuls will audition to prove they've got what it takes to be the next big thing.

Many people have stood on the X since 2004 - and while some haven't got a hope in hell of becoming a singer, we've also seen real stars being born right in front of ours eyes - so here we give you our round-up of the best first X Factor auditions.

Note, that while there are of course LOADS of great singers to choose from, we have chosen the ones who we feel made the biggest impact when they first stood in front of the judges...

Leona Lewis (Series 3) Many still regard Leona as the best X Factor winner ever, and we first got to hear her stunning vocals when she auditioned 10 years ago, singing the classic Somewhere Over The Rainbow. One epic performance after another saw Leona sail through to the final, where she beat Ray Quinn, and she's enjoyed a successful career since, selling 20 million records worldwide. She is currently treading the boards on Broadway, playing Grizabella in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats.

Alexandra Burke (Series 5) There was a time when it seemed every female that auditioned for The X Factor would sing a Whitney Houston song – and when 19-year-old Alexandra from London sang Saving All My Love For You in 2008, she showed everyone how it was done. Having missed out on a place in the live shows in 2005, Alexandra returned determined to go all the way – and she did, beating a certain boy band called JLS in the final. Speaking of which…

JLS (Series 5) With their good looks, colour-coded shirts, boyish charm and perfect harmonies, JLS stood out right from their first audition with their rendition of Shai’s If I Ever Fall In Love. As they made it all the way to the final, it looked like a group could finally win The X Factor. But then Alexandra Burke sang THAT duet with Beyonce and clinched the title.

Although they’ve since gone their separate ways – Marvin presented The Voice UK, Oritse turned to management, Aston continued with music and JB became a farmer - yes a farmer! – JLS will always be remembered as one of the best groups X Factor has ever seen.

Danyl Johnson (Series 6) When Danyl revealed he was a teacher from Reading, we really weren't expecting what came next as he performed Joe Cocker’s version of With a Little Help From My Friends. As well as some impressive vocals, as Danyl's confidence grew throughout the performance, he flirted with judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue, played with the mic and jumped around on stage like a kid on Christmas morning - our teachers NEVER did that!

Simon said: 'That is, singlehandedly, the best first audition I have ever heard.' Danyl made it through to the live shows, where he came fourth.

Olly Murs (Series 6) When he turned up to audition for The X Factor in 2009, this 25-year-old cheeky chappie from Essex – with his good looks, bundles of charisma and personality not to mention a not-half-bad voice – really did have it all as he performed Stevie Wonder's Superstition. He even gave us THOSE dance moves. Likeable Olly made it through to the final, coming second to Joe McElderry, though he has definitely enjoyed the more successful music career out of the two. And after a stint hosting The Xtra Factor with Caroline Flack, the duo then fronted the main show last year. Though probably the less said about that the better. Sorry Olly.

Cher Lloyd (Series 7) The 16-year-old from Worcestershire looked all sweet and innocent when she first took to the stage in 2010. But she soon unleashed her inner diva as she performed Keri Hilson's version of Soulja Boy's Turn My Swag On. With plenty of, well, swagger, a great voice - and she could rap too! - Cher had the kind of stage presence we'd never really seen before on The X Factor. The audience went wild with judge Cheryl Cole saying: 'You are right up my street!' Finishing fourth that year, Cher has since enjoyed great success in the US.

Matt Cardle (Series 7) OK, so this is not strictly a ‘first audition’ but just humour us for a minute. The bootcamp stage of the competition is where the judges really sort the winners out from also-rans and, in our opinion, Matt Cardle’s version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face at boot camp was when the painter and decorator set his stall out as the winner of 2010’s series – and win it he did! Matt's enjoyed some moderate chart success since winning and, most recently, starred in the West End musical Memphis, alongside Beverley Knight.

Janet Devlin (Series 8) Janet, 16, from Northern Ireland was a shining example of 'less is more' when she auditioned in 2011. Janet was painfully nervous but her shyness was part of her charm and really made her stand out from the rest. But as she sang Elton John's Your Song, it was her sweet vocals - complete with some perfect imperfections - that had the judges and the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. A serious contender at the live shows, Janet came fifth.

Misha Bryan (Series 8) Misha certainly commanded R.E.S.P.E.C.T when she performed the Aretha Franklin hit for the judges. With her own sense of style and bags of attitude, the 19-year-old gave a performance older than her years boasting powerhouse vocals and some slick rapping to boot! A real diamond in the rough, Misha finished fourth in the competition - unfortunately some unfounded allegations of bullying scuppered her chances of going all the way.

Jahmene Douglas (Series 9) With his smart suit, nervous laugh and the revelation that he worked in ASDA, Jahmene was an 'unstarry' as you're ever likely to get and it's safe to say the judges weren't expecting too much. But they say you should never judge a book by its cover and as Jahmene started singing his version of Etta James's At Last it was obvious that this buttoned-up boy had some serious soul! Loveable Jahmene made it all the way to the final, getting pipped to the post by James Arthur.

Sam Bailey (Series 10) The X Factor has always prided itself on being the show that turns Joe Public into stars - and that certainly was the case for 35-year-old prison officer Sam. And the seemingly ordinary mum-of-two soon proved she had some extraordinary vocal talent as she belted out Beyonce's Listen - the judges, the crowd outside the audition room and host Dermot couldn't believe their ears! Sam may not have looked like your typical pop princess but her consistent, powerhouse performances saw her sail through to the final and win!

4th Impact aka 4th Power (series 12) These four charming sisters travelled all the way from the Philipines to audition for The X Factor in 2015. And we're certainly glad they made the trip because, as far as first auditions go, we'd never seen anything like this! Shy, sweet, giggly and very nervous as they introduced themselves to the judges, all that disappeared as they kicked off an epic version of the Jessie J/Nicki Minaj/Ariana Grande hit Bang Bang - they were sassy, sexy, they could dance and we're pretty sure they took the roof off with their vocals. These girls really had it all and eventually came fifth in last year's contest, which was won by 17-year-old Essex girl Louisa Johnson.

Who'll make the best first impression this year? Tune in when The X Factor kicks off on Saturday August 27 at 8pm on ITV.


Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!