Guest Column – Can you have a career in music after The X Factor? by Janet Devlin

Possibly better known by some for her stint on 2011’s The X Factor – and Courtney Love’s claim that she might be a distant relative of Kurt Cobain – singer-songwriter Janet Devlin released her debut album Running With Scissors last month, opting to crowd-fund the record rather than accept the deals that went along with the show. In a guest column for Q, the she examines whether the talent contest is a good think for talent…

They never fully prepare you for a life such as the one you live on television. Especially not if it’s one of the biggest television shows known to mankind. They make out that every round is of benefit to you, but the hilarity within this is the fact that it is not for you, but for them. It is an endless process of planting seeds and such seeds then being watered with the fluid that is the deception on which they base a television show around. How does one even begin telling a stranger about the experiences, memories and inner turmoil I withheld during this period of time?

Many industry and media people still tell me, “You stood out and you were never right for that show”. But so many of them don’t want to risk their reputation and get behind me. I also understand that the industry is saturated with TV talent show contestants all wanting the same thing. I could write the world’s best album tomorrow and it wouldn’t change anything! Being on the show has also made me struggle with my own identity, because when I hear my name I can still hear the voiceover guy from the show announcing it. I can imagine how Craig David feels when Bo Selector came out.

Being a naive 16 years-old, I wrongly thought I could be a glorified karaoke singer one day and be taken seriously as a singer-songwriter the next. What was most saddening about this situation was the fact that I’d been writing, singing and playing for years and somehow this was forgotten within the process. The focus gradually became more about my personality, hair-colour and terrible song choices – more so than my passion for music. I can’t forget that I’m also responsible for such TV crisis’s like MMMBop [she covered the Hanson song in “Guilty Pleasures” week], but having a mouthful of nervous sick appear from nowhere did nothing to help my performance that night. Even though I was terribly strong willed and knew what I wanted from the experience, it was hard not to fall under pressure at times. I once said in an interview, “I went on a TV show to find out whether or not I could sing and it all went terribly wrong from there.”

A difficult concept to grasp is the fact that everyone wants to jump on the back of the media coverage and publicity you receive from the show. People will want to stunt your growth as an artist and fast-forward to payday. However by then you’d be a washed up unprofitable product of greed in the music industry. Maybe I was being arrogant in trying to prevent history from recurring, or maybe I was being courageous, either way it wasn’t easy. To this very day I still can’t overcome this stigma. People don’t want to be guilted with being a fan of mine and lots of people in the music-industry don’t want to be tainted by giving me a chance. I may have focused a lot of energy into creating my debut album, but I’m pretty sure I’d get more praise from getting someone’s order right in McDonald’s.

I persistently have people berating me with the questions about the show, as if they’re on the verge of discovering some new uncovered dirt. Although I’m pretty sure that those who have gone before me have already lifted the veil on the shenanigans that occur during the conveyer belt series. The question most prominent is “Do you regret it?” My answer though remains the same and I have no regrets. I’ve made my bed and I’ll lie in it, but thankfully I’ve gained some amazing fans along the way and I’m not sleeping alone. I’ve been writing songs all my life and working in the industry for three years now. I was only on the show for three months. I’m not X-Factor’s Janet Devlin. I’m Janet Devlin.
Janet Devlin @JanetJealousy

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  • Braeden

    Well said Janet, stay strong willed and focused.
    Your fan,

  • John Sleath

    Fabulous honesty – you are Janet Devlin and we certainly are your devoted fans!

  • Andreas Halonen

    Love the article. Straight forward and honest. I’m a devoted fan trying to spread your music to all my friends and people around me. Thank you for being you.

  • barryispuzzled

    Mmm … Sorry to learn that you suffered on the show. I think Cher Lloyd also had a particularly difficult time trying to retain her own identity on X factor. Even three years later, she still feels the need to apologise for her reaction to the massive pressure she was under to be someone she wasn’t, at such a crucial formative period in her life, too. I think it’s highly commendable that you took time out after X factor to retain control and make the album you wanted. Of course, this has meant having to recover the publicity that X factor provided. I really hope you do, because I think ‘Running with Scissors’ is excellent and deserves more attention.

    OK, so you took risks on X factor and some didn’t work out, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think the public only cares about what succeeds (unlike the tabloids … oh, and one or two mentally unbalanced contributors to social media sites). After all, on ‘The Xfactor UK’ youtube channel, over 15 million people have watched Miss Devlin’s ‘Your Song’ X factor audition, but only 350 thousand MMMBop!

    What constitutes success anyway? For me, if I have a handful of people who say they like my work then I’m glowing! If that suddenly turned into thousands then sure I’d be rich but I’d also be suffering from perception overload! :)

  • skeptical-guy

    Shows like these want what they call “Good TV”, which usually means train wrecks, drama and a close-up look at other people’s pain. Even though the singers get used up and spat out, the shows have very little to do with music. Ms Devlin has gained much wisdom from her experience. That’s more than most contestants leave with. I wish her luck and happiness.

  • Timothy Beck

    On the one hand, I get that X factor doesn’t care about its contestants and questions their identity. That’s true of auditions in general. But surely everyone goes on X factor looking for fame, don’t they? It’s not like it’s forced on you. You get a chance at auditions and bootcamp to see the process at work and can decide not to join the live shows. But Ms Devlin willingly bought into it, and evidently got enough fame from the program to crowd fund her own work. OK, fine. So why is she not grateful for that? How has X factor obstructed her career in music? Surely, she couldn’t have funded an album without it. I really don’t get the lack of gratitude. But anyway she’s talented and I hope she succeeds with her own project.