Northern Ireland singers line up to wow X Factor judges
Saturday night socialising will be off the agenda for the next few months as the biggest show on television returns to its prime-time weekend slot tonight.
And the new-look X Factor judges are predicting that a Northern Ireland contender could go on to win this year's show.
Joining the last man standing Louis Walsh — the only original judge — will be new panellists: Take That's Gary Barlow, N-Dubz star Tulisa Contostavlos (pictured) and former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland.
The trio was brought in to replace outgoing judges Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole and the show's creator Simon Cowell, who is concentrating on launching the X Factor Stateside.
Amid huge hype in the run-up to the new series, the judges have been hinting that a hopeful from Northern Ireland could steal the show and walk away with the top prize, a record deal said to be worth $5m (£3.02m) with Cowell's Syco record label.
Despite no auditions being held this year in Belfast, a number of local singers auditioned for the show across the water, making it through to the boot camp stage. They are 16-year-old Janet Devlin from Gortin in Co Tyrone, Portrush man Roger Boyd, north Belfast girl Jolene Burns, 17-year-old Magherafelt student Niall Sexton, and Belfast mother-of-one Stacia Salmon. However Stacia told the Sun newspaper earlier this week that she'd been rejected at boot camp before being given a chance to sing.
Roger Boyd, who auditioned in Liverpool and cites Susan Boyle as his idol, impressed the judges with an original rendition of Meatloaf’s ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’.
And Janet Devlin received a standing ovation when she auditioned in Liverpool, singing the Elton John classic ‘Your Song’. Her performance had Kelly Rowland in tears and sources say she will go far in the show.
Speaking to UTV Live this week, Gary Barlow said that he was keeping his eye on someone “interesting” from Ireland, whom he predicted to go “right to the end”.
He refused to reveal the gender of the potential star, but when pressed confirmed the singer came from Northern Ireland and not the South.
And at the Press launch of the new series Louis Walsh echoed Barlow's comments. He said: “The Irish girls from the north are phenomenal. I really can't tell them apart — because they are fantastic.”
Tyrone man Sean O'Kane, who was compere at the Glenelly Rockin At The River festival two years ago at which Janet Devlin performed, said: “She has a lovely voice and great potential.
“She was due to perform this year again but had to pull out due to contractual issues with The X Factor.
“We were disappointed to lose her, but are delighted that she is getting to showcase her talent on a bigger stage.
“The whole of Tyrone will be behind her.”