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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Idols, X-Factors and More

by Rachel Devitt

Cheat Sheet: Idols, X-Factors and More


Once upon a time, pop stars were born the old-fashioned way: they endured pushy stage mothers who signed them up for baby commercials, lived in their vans and played at the local coffee shop, or walked around a local mall somewhere until a manager or scout "discovered" them. Times have changed. We want our burgeoning pop stars to sing for their supper while we watch them compete against each other, gladiator-style, in the karaoke Hunger Games of reality TV. And guess what? It works -- even if sometimes the "winners" don't actually go on to earn much more recognition, and sometimes the second or third or seventh runner-up is the one turns out to be One Direction or Jennifer Hudson

The point is, competitions like American Idol, X Factor, The Voice and their predecessors (like ye olde Star Search) have given us not only some of current pop music's biggest artists, but also a whole new narrative for the path to pop stardom. So here's our Cheat Sheet guide to the beloved artists who got their start in these would-be celebrity death matches. For the sake of brevity, we're focusing primarily on American and British programs, though these suckers are everywhere, including Idols from the Arab world to Australia, Eurovision pre-contests and competitions of every variety throughout Latin America. Enjoy.

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