Our girl Janet Devlin a hot tip for X Factor crown
The most talked about talent search on television returned to our screens on Saturday night amid early predictions that a Northern Ireland teenager is set to steal this year's show.
Millions of viewers tuned in for the eagerly anticipated return of the X Factor, which unveiled its new-look judging panel, dubbed the Next Generation.
Replacing head honcho Simon Cowell and former judges Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole were Take That's Gary Barlow, Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos of N'Dubz. They were joined by sole survivor Louis Walsh, kicking off the first round of auditions in London and Liverpool.
While the faces might be new, the format remains the same — with the usual mix of weirdos, wannabees, attention-seekers and genuinely talented singers hoping to win a multi-million pound contract with Cowell's Syco record label.
And following Saturday night's performances, the bookmakers are already tipping one young girl from Co Tyrone as an early favourite to win.
Sixteen-year-old Janet Devlin — who comes from Gortin, outside Omagh — won praise from all four judges with her version of the Elton John classic, Your Song.
The Drumragh Integrated College pupil, who will find out her GCSE results this week, seemed nervous and overwhelmed as she took to the stage. But her performance brought the audience to its feet.
Within an hour, Janet, whose voice has been compared to Diana Vickers and Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan, was trending on Twitter, attracting a number of celebrity fans.
Footballer Wayne Rooney tweeted : “Wow, what a voice. Not many people can sing that song that well. Amazing.” His Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand agreed. He tweeted: “This Irish girl has pure star quality... Well she is one of the finalists this year on X Factor, she just don't know it yet.”
And Lily Allen said: “Janet!!!!!” She added later: “I love her.”
Janet told the show: “I've spent a lot of time by myself in my room, reading, writing and singing since I was seven. It is a pretty small town.”
Rowland described Janet's voice as “beautiful” and said she was “entranced” by her. Barlow, who has stepped into Cowell's shoes as the 'Mr Nasty' of the show, had only positive words for the Tyrone teenager. He told her: “We are trying to find people who will eventually sell records and albums around the world. You are one of those people.”
Louis Walsh added: “I don't think you have any idea how good you are.”
But Barlow and the rest of the judges were not so keen on some of the other auditionees.
One woman — whose version of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights failed to impress — was told by Barlow: “I think it would be too much hard work to get you ready for this year ... and next year.”
One of the most hilarious moments of the opening show was a bizarre performance by Goldie, from Hong Kong, whose dance moves left head judge Barlow unmoved.
He joked: “It's been a long time since I had a stranger's leg around my neck.”. He refused to put Goldie through, but the three other judges voted her through to the next round.
Maybe I judged the new panel too soon
By Maureen Coleman
I was prepared not to like it.
Without Simon and his caustic remarks and Dannii's warmth and common sense, I reckoned the X Factor just wouldn't be the same. Cheryl's departure didn't bother me too much - I'd grown tired of her need to take centre stage.
I even considered boycotting in protest when the new-look judging panel was unveiled.
Kelly Rowland? Well she's hardly Beyonce. Mr Nice Guy Gary Barlow in the role of Mr Nasty? And who cares about Tulisa with the unpronounceable surname?
But, I might have been wrong. Gary Barlow was straight-talking and came out with some very funny one-liners. Who knew? I think he might be my new crush. Tulisa, who claims to be ‘feisty and opinionated' held her own, especially when under fire from one angry young man.
The jury's still out on Kelly Rowland though. She had plenty to say, and I hope she doesn't resort to too much American clap-trap. But so far, so good. I'm already looking forward to next week.