9 Breakout Stars and Bands From the Now-Canceled British ‘X Factor’

Little Mix Leona Lewis One Direction

It’s the end of a musical era: The X Factor, the British reality competition from Simon Cowell that launched an international franchise, is officially done after 17 years.

The U.K. version of the show hasn’t aired since 2018, and broadcaster ITV finally confirmed the show’s cancellation to Variety on Thursday, July 29. “There are no current plans for the next series of The X Factor at this stage,” an ITV spokesperson told the magazine. (The U.S. version of the show, meanwhile, lasted for three seasons on Fox between 2011 and 2013.)

To see the show off, we’re reopening up a particular set of X files and charting the careers of breakout stars and bands from the British original.

Leona Lewis

The X Factor’s Series 3 winner had a No. 1 hit stateside with 2007’s “Bleeding Love,” and the song stayed on Billboard’s Hot 100 for nearly a year. In the U.K., meanwhile, her album Spirit ranks as one of the 25 best-selling albums ever.

Alexandra Burke

The X Factor’s Series 5 winner, meanwhile, has also released three studio albums, and she has performed in the musicals The Bodyguard, Chess, Chicago, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the West End.


Despite narrowly losing Series 5 to Burke, this band—Aston Merrygold, Oritsé Williams, Marvin Humes, and JB Gill—has had three studio albums go Platinum (if not double- or quadruple-Platinum) in the U.K. And come October, they’ll embark on a reunion tour.

Olly Murs

Series 6’s runner-up racked four BRIT Awards British Single of the Year nominations in a row between 2011 and 2014, and his 2012 album Right Place Right Time went 4x Platinum in the U.K. He later returned to The X Factor as co-presenter.

One Direction

You wouldn’t think it from their global superstardom, but the former boy band featuring Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Zayn Malik only placed third during Series 7. Nevertheless, they cemented their legacy after the show, ultimately selling more than 70 million records. Since One Direction’s 2016 split, the lads have all launched solo careers, with Styles earning a Grammy Award for his 2020 track “Watermelon Sugar.”

Cher Lloyd

Lloyd found success after placing fourth in The X Factor’s seventh series, with her 2012 song “Want U Back” spending 20 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100. She also had a featured placement on the 2014 Demi Lovato track “Really Don’t Care,” which hit No. 7 on the chart.

Little Mix

This girl group—Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall, and, until recently, Jesy Nelson—won Series 8 of The X Factor, and that’s just the start of their story. Their 2016 album, Glory Days, had the longest streak as the U.K.’s No. 1 alum since the Spice Girls era, and earlier this year, they became the first girl group to win the BRIT Awards’ Best British Group award.

James Arthur

Since winning Series 9 in 2012, Arthur has released three studio albums—with a fourth on the way—and his 2016 single “Say You Won’t Let Go” went triple-Platinum in the United States.

Ella Henderson

Henderson, who placed sixth in Series 9, topped the U.K. charts with her 2014 single “Ghost.” In fact, she has had seven Top 40 hits across the pond, and she hasn’t even released a second studio album!