Why ‘X Factor’ Losers Become Pop Music Superstars

Losing on The X Factor can boost a band to stardom. Seems those who win on the show don’t necessarily win afterwards. But X Factor losers have gone on to become some of pop’s top performers.

One Direction met a frenzy of fame over the past five years, but it’s not because of winning on the UK edition of The X Factor. Somehow, coming in third place actually catapulted their careers. Maybe it’s that fans have sympathy for losers with talent. Or maybe it’s because losing equals winning on The X Factor.

One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson explained the X Factor loser phenomenon to BBC News.

“The show can only take you so far and only one person can win, so The X Factor often has other contestants who don’t win who do well.”

He also described to BBC News what artists need to do once The X Factor pries the door open for them.

“You’ve just got to knuckle down and work hard after the show. There’s every chance.”

Another major X Factor success story is all-girl group Fifth Harmony. They’ve had loads of success with their song “Worth It.” Like One Direction, they arrived separately on The X Factor before judges put them together in a group. “Worth It” has spent 26 weeks so far on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Like One Direction two years before them, they came in third place on the X Factor, but on the U.S. version of the show.

Fifth Harmony vocalist Lauren Jauregui told the New York Post why losing was key to later success.

“Coming third stopped us getting complacent too early. It meant we had to prove ourselves that much harder.”

One Direction are getting ready to release their fifth album. The X Factor alumni just released the video for their new single on August 20. They’ve had so much work these past five years. They’ve probably had more success than all the first place X Factor winners combined. They look forward to taking a break from touring and recording as a group in 2016, a well-deserved rest.

Fifth Harmony are also on tour. They released their first full-length album, Reflection, earlier this year. Though both One Direction and Fifth Harmony ultimately came in third place on The X Factor before a steady rise in popularity, finishing third is no easy feat. It means they passed through many rounds of scrutiny by X Factor judges.

One Direction’s Liam Payne told BBC News how he analyzed his X Factor experience.

“You’ve been on an amazing platform and got some of the best teaching you could ever get anywhere.”

So all potential X Factor losers can prepare for a training experience in pop success.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]