13 Of The Most Successful Singers From The X Factor UK

Written by Dan Farrant

The X Factor UK, a show that’s been a stepping stone for many aspiring singers, is more than just a talent competition. It’s a platform where dreams are nurtured, and stars are born. Since 2007, this show has sought out the next big singing sensation and has been instrumental in shaping the music industry.

In this article, let’s explore the captivating stories of some famous voices you might not know were once contestants on this popular show. So tune in, turn up the volume, and get ready to be amazed by 13 incredible singers from X Factor UK. Let’s get started!

1. Harry Styles

First on our list is a name that resonates with millions of music lovers worldwide. Harry Styles is an English singer and actor whose journey to stardom began on the stage of The X Factor UK. His career took off in 2010 when he joined the boy band One Direction, formed on the reality TV show.

One Direction quickly became a global phenomenon, selling millions of albums and touring worldwide. In 2016, after five incredibly successful years, the group announced a hiatus, giving Styles an opportunity to embark on a solo career.

Since then, he has released a host of charting hits, including “Sign of the Times,” “Watermelon Sugar,” and “As It Was.”

Fast forward to the present day, Styles is still making waves in the music industry. His third studio album, Harry’s House, was recently released (2022) and has already raked in several awards, including three Grammys.

2. Leona Lewis

Born and raised in London, England, Leona Lewis first captured the world’s attention when she won The X Factor UK in 2006. After her victory on the show, she signed a recording contract with Simon Cowell’s record label, Syco Music.

Her debut single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This,” was released immediately after her win and broke a world record after it was downloaded over 50,000 times within thirty minutes.

In 2007, Lewis released her debut album, Spirit, which included the hit single “Bleeding Love.” The song topped the charts in over 30 countries, including the UK and the US, making Lewis the first British solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 in over 20 years.

Lewis has also diversified her career by venturing into acting, debuting on Broadway in 2016 with the role of Grizabella in the musical Cats. Her performance was well-received, proving that her talents extend beyond the music studio.

3. Olly Murs

Telemarketer turned chart-topping pop star, we have Olly Murs. This British singer-songwriter got his big break after winning runner-up on The X Factor UK in 2009.

After the show, Murs signed a record deal with Epic Records and Syco Music. His debut single, “Please Don’t Let Me Go,” released in 2010, reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart. This was followed by his self-titled debut album, which peaked at #2 on the UK Albums Chart and produced two additional top 20 singles.

Over the years, Murs has released several more albums, consistently staying in the public eye with his infectious tunes and energetic performances. His music, often characterized as a blend of pop, reggae, and ska, continues to top charts and resonate with fans worldwide.

Currently, Murs continues to create music and engage with his fans. He remains a beloved figure in the British music scene and shows no sign of slowing down.

4. James Arthur

Before becoming a star, singer-songwriter James Arthur was working independently to put his music out there. This all changed after he won the 2012 X Factor UK.

Following his victory, Arthur released his debut single, a cover of Shontelle’s “Impossible.” The song was an instant hit, taking the #1 spot on the UK Singles Chart and selling over 1.3 million copies in the UK alone. It remains one of the best-selling singles ever released by an X Factor winner.

In November 2013, Arthur released his self-titled debut album, which reached #2 on the UK Albums Chart. However, Arthur faced some challenges following his initial success.

This did not stop him, however, as he made a triumphant return in 2016 with a second studio album, Back from the Edge. It featured the #1 hit single “Say You Won’t Let Go,” which won Arthur a BMI Pop Award.

5. Alexandra Burke

Hailing from Islington, London, Alexandra Burke joined The X Factor in 2005. She did not win the show, but this did not stop her. She joined again in 2008 after honing her craft; this time, she succeeded in winning the series.

Burke released her debut single soon after, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which became the Christmas #1 on the UK Singles Chart that year. The song sold over a million copies in the UK.

In 2009, Burke released her debut album, Overcome, which debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart. The album produced several hit singles, including “Bad Boys,” “Broken Heels,” and “Start Without You.”

Beyond her music, Burke has also made a name for herself in the world of theater. In 2014, she made her West End debut in the musical The Bodyguard, playing the lead role of Rachel Marron, a part originally played by Whitney Houston in the film version.

6. Matt Cardle

Before Matt Cardle was a superstar, he was already making his name known in the music scene as part of the bands Seven Summers and Darwyn. This all changed in 2010 after he won the seventh series of The X Factor UK.

Soon after his victory, Cardle released his debut single, “When We Collide.” The song was a smash hit, reaching #1 on the UK Singles Chart

A year after his win, Cardle released his debut album, Letters. Also a success, it peaked at #2 on the UK Albums Chart. Following this, he released three more albums, though none of them reached the same success as Letters.

Cardle has also ventured into theater. In 2015, he made his West End debut in the musical Memphis, playing the lead role of Huey Calhoun. His performance was well-received, earning him the Best West End Debut award.

7. Shayne Ward

Hailing from Manchester, England, the British singer-actor Shayne Ward was first part of the band Destiny before he rose to prominence in 2005 after winning the second series of The X Factor UK.

“That’s My Goal,” his debut single, followed soon after and shot straight to #1 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was the third fastest-selling single of the 2000s in the UK, demonstrating Ward’s immediate popularity.

In April 2006, Ward released a self-titled debut album, which was also a hit, reaching #1 on the UK Albums Chart and going multi-platinum. His subsequent albums, Breathless and Obsession, further showcased his soulful voice and pop sensibilities.

Beyond his singing career, Ward has also found success as an actor. In 2015, he joined the cast of the popular British soap opera Coronation Street, playing the character Aidan Connor.

8. Joe McElderry

Like Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry auditioned twice for The X Factor UK. The first was in 2007, but thinking he was too young, he decided to walk away. Two years later, he auditioned again, breezing it to the finals and winning the series!

Following his X Factor win, McElderry released his debut single, a cover of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” which reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart. He followed this up with his debut album, Wide Awake. A mix of pop and classical songs, the album peaked at #3 on the UK Albums Chart.

Despite parting ways with his initial record label, Syco, McElderry continued to make music and connect with his fans. His subsequent albums — Classic, Here’s What I Believe, and Saturday Night at the Movies — further showcased his talent as a singer and performer.

9. Sam Bailey

Born in Bexley, East London, Sam Bailey is an English pop singer who began her singing journey performing for friends and family, never imagining she was destined for stardom. Her love for singing saw her working the cruise ship circuit, entertaining audiences with her powerful vocals.

Bailey’s life took a dramatic turn when she decided to audition for the 10th series of The X Factor UK in 2013. Impressing both the judges and the viewers, she won the competition.

Following her win, Bailey released her debut single, a cover of Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper,” which quickly climbed to the top of the UK Singles Chart. In 2014, she launched her debut album, The Power of Love, which showcased a mix of covers and original songs. The album debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart, further cementing her status as a rising star.

10. Stacey Solomon

Our next singer, Stacey Solomon, won hearts nationwide when she competed in the sixth series of The X Factor UK in 2009. She finished in third place, marking the start of a bright career in the entertainment industry.

After her successful stint on The X Factor, Solomon released her debut single, a cover of “Driving Home for Christmas,” in 2011. The song was part of an Iceland Christmas advertisement and was well-received by the public. Four years later, she released her debut album, Shy.

In addition to her singing career, Solomon has become a fixture on British television. In 2010, she won the 10th series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and later co-presented its spin-off show, I’m a Celebrity: Extra Camp.

Solomon’s warm and genuine personality has also led to appearances on other TV shows, including Celebrity Juice, The Chase Celebrity Special, and Dancing on Ice.

11. Fleur East

Born in Walthamstow, London, Fleur East‘s journey into music began at an early age. Raised in a multicultural household, her childhood was filled with the rhythmic beats of diverse musical genres that would later influence her sound.

East’s initial foray into the music industry came in 2005 as part of the girl group Addictiv Ladies. The group’s time in the spotlight was brief, but this experience laid the groundwork for East’s future success.

East’s breakthrough moment arrived in 2014 when she competed in the 11th series of The X Factor UK, and she finished as a runner-up.

A year after, East released her debut single, “Sax.” Imbued with her signature fusion of pop, R&B, rap, and soul, it was an instant hit, charting in multiple countries. Her debut album, Love, Sax, and Flashbacks, followed soon after. As she looks towards the future, East is poised to continue making her mark in the music world.

12. Ray Quinn

English singer and actor Ray Quinn began his foray into the entertainment industry through minor roles in British television series. He first gained nationwide recognition through his role as Anthony Murray in the popular British soap opera Brookside.

However, it was his participation in the third series of The X Factor UK in 2006 that catapulted Quinn into stardom. He quickly became a fan favorite, eventually finishing as the runner-up.

After The X Factor, Quinn released his debut album, Doing It My Way, in 2007. The album, which included covers of jazz and swing classics, reached #1 on the UK Albums Chart, further solidifying his status as a promising new talent in the music industry.

In recent years, Quinn has also impressed audiences with his dancing skills. In 2009, he won the fourth series of the British ice dancing show Dancing on Ice and later returned to win the All Stars series in 2014.

13. Dalton Harris

We end this list with Dalton Harris, a gifted Jamaican singer who rose to international fame after winning the final series of The X Factor in 2018. His journey in music began long before this, however, when he won Digicel Rising Star in his home country several years prior.

His X Factor victory was remarkable. Notably, Harris wowed both the judges and the viewers with his renditions of Elton John’s songs. His success on the show led to collaborations with other artists, such as James Arthur, with whom he released a cover of “The Power of Love” that has been streamed over 8 million times on Spotify.

Today, Harris continues to make waves in the music industry with his unique blend of talent, authenticity, and resilience. His journey serves as an inspiration to many, proving that with hard work and determination, dreams can indeed become reality.

Summing Up Our List Of Singers From The X Factor UK

It goes without saying that The X Factor UK gave the world a host of talented singers. Their performances on the show were unforgettable, and their stories of perseverance continue to inspire artists around the world.

We hope that this list has provided valuable insights into the careers of these remarkable artists. With 15 series since its start, we might have missed a few singers who deserve a spot on this list. Let us know who so we can add them here!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.