Feature: The X Factor v. American Idol v. The Voice

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The Voice

Three of the most talked about television shows this year all share very similar formats -- and all have transplanted to the U.S., American Idol and X Factor are both versions of U.K. shows, and The Voice got its start in Holland. Here Chloe Trogden compares the trio of reality hits...

With The Voice and X Factor being relatively new to the U.S. (The X Factor won't even premiere until this fall), it's still too early to tell how they will fare against long-running giant American Idol. Here's how the three shows compare:


American Idol has consistently favored younger contestants, and it even lowered the age limit for performers to 15. At the same time, it raised its upper age limit to 28. However, neither X Factor nor The Voice have any upper age limits. X Factor is open to contestants as young as 12, and The Voice is open to those 16 and older.

Older contestants have proven to be a hit on The Voice and on the U.K.'s version of X Factor. Fans of Idol are often disenchanted with the efforts of inexperienced teens trying to interpret classic songs or to sing about heartbreak and pain. X Factor's younger contestants (as young as 12) may prove to be too young for viewers' palettes.



Each show has a different judging format, and each has had varying success.

Idol has the most rigid format, with the judges whittling down the contestants until the final 24, at which time the viewers decide. The Voice takes on a similar format, with judges making the original selections. However, The Voice introduces "blind auditions," in which the judges do not see those auditioning -- a bit too gimmicky.

X Factor has the most hands-on approach to the judging, with the judges acting as coaches for different groups throughout the early stages. The judges offer advice on everything from song choice to wardrobe. Judges determined who is eliminated until only the finalists remain, at which point the viewers help decide the outcome.

X Factor clearly wins in the judging category by fostering more mentoring relationships between the judges and the contestants. Idol judges have little advice for the contestants (especially this season) and offer more platitudes than constructive criticism.

However, the judges on Idol fare better for professionalism, as the judges on X Factor often get caught up in petty rivalries that result from their competing groups. It is yet to be seen how the U.S. judges will fare.


Both X Factor and The Voice allow for more showmanship: duets, group performances, choreography, and stage gimmicks. X Factor excels in these categories, even grouping the contestants together during the first half of the show according to different factors such as age, gender, and more. Idol has allowed contestants to use instruments during their performance, but allowing for duets or group performances would undermine the show's mission (and title) to find a single winner. The closest that Idol comes to themes are its weekly genres, which lock the contestants into tired old catalogs that aren't always relevant to today's audiences or to the types of music they want to create.

Overall, the U.K.'s version of X Factor has dominated the other two shows in its flexibility and relevance. It has also been a long-running hit in the U.K. However, it is yet to be seen how the show will translate to U.S. audiences. Idol's predecessor, Pop Idol, fared poorly in the U.K. but became a phenomenal success in the U.S.

What are your thoughts? How do the three shows compare? Which is your favorite?

About the author

Chloe Trogden specializes in research involving adult education grants. She has compiled thousands of resources including Virginia college grants along with many others. She is currently attending UNC Chapel Hill and is entering her Junior year in the fall.

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