While we've spoken about the new X Factor panel a lot over the past month we've not yet given a full review of the new bunch of judges, so here it is. We're half way through The X Factor auditions now so those first show nerves have gone and the judges have settled into their new roles, but are they any better than Simon and Co?
Gary ‘Head Judge’ Barlow
Poor Louis Walsh. Eight years on the show and just when he thought it might be time he'd get to sit at the top end of the table, Gary Barlow comes along. The Xtra Factor-appointed head judge not only adds a heap of credibility to the panel but also a surprisingly large amount of dry wit and humour. The Take That star is very quick with the auditionees and can’t help but be polite, wishing even the most bonkers of hopefuls good luck in the future.
Voted Britain’s best song writer recently, it certainly seems that it's Gary's opinion most acts are after, more than fulfilling the role Cowell played on the old panel. Gary also takes over from Simon in another role; that of the panel's "Mr Nasty" - but only far, far worse. He tells one act: "You're everything this competition doesn't need. You've come on with this look and dyed your hair and it's because you have no talent at all."
We weren't too sure of Gary when he was first announced, and while his monotone voice can be hard to get enthusiastic about the dry sense of humour combined with a honest and constructive approach to the contestants make him a great X Factor judge.
Kelly 'Girl Allure' Rowland
This girl is full of sass and, just like Gary, surprisingly funny. Other than knowing she was a part of Destiny's child and loving a few of her songs, we didn't know too much about Kelly before the auditions started. Going in with an open mind the US singer really, really impressed. In fact, we love her. She may well be our favourite judge!
One of Kelly's great qualities in the auditions has been her willingness to lead by example, belting out songs from the judges desk to show the hopefuls how it's done. "I do vocal warms up every day because you never know when you'll need to sing," she jokes. Among the tracks the singer 'performed' from her seat were Beyonce's Irreplaceable, Jennifer Hudson's One Night Only and her own 'Invincible' (a must watch audition when the show airs)
However Kelly has a heap of slang that seemed to confuse her fellow judges just as much as the audience, including the term "Girl Allure" which was uttered to no fewer than three auditionees in a row. None the less the 'What A Feeling' singer seems to be absolutely loving her role on panel and isn't one to shy away from getting involved enthusiastic about the contestants, getting up to dance along from the desk!
Tulisa ‘New Nation’s Sweetheart’ Contostavlos
N-Dubz star Tulisa Contostavlos was perhaps an interesting choice when announced for the panel at the end of last month. At just 22 years old some suggested that the she was far too young to be a judge, but from what we've seen she's arguably better than the previous panellists!
Tulisa, to us, is a tougher and far more honest version of Cheryl Cole. The singer is empathic with the hopefuls, going up on stage to help one nervous singer just like Cole did before her. However where Tulisa differs from her predecessor is in the bad contestants. Where a media managed Cheryl would try to keep up her 'nicey nice persona' with useless critiques, Tulisa isn't shy of telling it how it is. "The vocals were disgraceful!" she rants at one auditionee.
It's possible that one of the reasons that Tulisa joined the show was because of her background in rap and hip-hop, a genre that's never been particular popular on the show despite its success in the charts. Tulisa has made it quite clear however that she knows what she's after: something original. "Rap is about expression, it's about you and who you are. It's poetry with rhythm and flow," she explains. If you're going to be performing another rapper's lyrics then be prepared for a stern telling off from the N-Nubz 'Female Boss'
Overall we really like Tulisa and despite fears from some that she might not be able to mentor older contestants, we saw no sign of problems or nerves when faced with some confident auditionees in their forties having to be turned away or giving hard hitting advice on how to make it.
Louis 'Still There' Walsh
Louis Walsh is once again back this year. We're not really sure what to say about Louis this year other than telling you to watch the other seven series! "Do you race your pets?" He asks one auditionee, before telling another: "You had a nice day out at least". We love Louis!
The X Factor 2011 airs on ITV1 from this August and it's set to be a great series.