Ex Factor: The top 20 singles by former X Factor contestants

After what feels like a decade away from our screens, The X Factor returns to ITV this weekend to search for the next Leona Lewis or (more likely) Leon Jackson. Over its 14 years (!) on the air, the show has produced an amazing selection of acts who have gone on to had considerable sucesses, with some certified bangers coming from former contestants. Before we give you the low-down on the non-negotiable, definitive, bottom-line-cut-and-dry list of top 20 singles by X Factor UK’s wondrous alumni, please note:
  •  This list has a distinct lack of males. In the words of singing lady Demetria Lovato, sorry not sorry.
  • We'd all very much like it if list this included nothing but Little Mix’s entire discography, but for the sake of variety, it doesn’t. As singing man Justin Bieber once said, sorry.

20. Little Mix, Black Magic (2015)

One of those songs, Black Magic would sound just as brilliant had it been released in 2006, or equally in 2024.

19. Aiden Grimshaw, Is This Love (2012)

Despite Aiden Grimshaw defying the laws of punctuation by failing to follow this song title with a question mark, Is This Love is approximately 77 per cent better than any of us expected it to be. Plus, he's hot.

18. Louisa Johnson, So Good (2016)

Sorry pop gays, So Good is better than Best Behaviour.

17. Leona Lewis, Collide (2011)

Remember when the good sis Leona Lewis ‘beefed’ with Avicii because he accused her of whacking some terrible lyrics over the top of his song Fade Into Darkness and renaming it Collide? The Taylor and Katy of yesteryear.

16. Amelia Lily, You Bring Me Joy (2012)

You Bring Me Joy, the first and best single by “Northern lass" and Celebrity Big Brother extraordinaire Amelia Lily, manages to repeat the word ‘you’ approximately 120 times without being even momentarily annoying. Incredible work.

15. Alexandra Burke, Start Without You (2010)

This video knew I was gay before I knew I was gay.

14. Little Mix, Salute (2014)

A single that includes an air raid siren, lyrics of female empowerment and a slight nod to Beyoncé’s Run The World was always going to be in the top 20, wasn’t it?

13. Diana Vickers, The Boy Who Murdered Love (2010)

I wonder what Diana Vickers is doing at this very second?

12. Cher Lloyd, Sirens (2014)

Everyone moaned when Cher Lloyd released nonsensical garbage track Swagger Jagger but when she released heartfelt griefgroove (?) Sirens, it was left to shrivel up and die at the bottom of the charts. It’s a cruel world, kids.

11. Leona Lewis, Forgive Me (2008)

I think we were supposed to be fooled into thinking that the good sis Leona Lewis had cheated on someone? Infidelity aside, Leona served us a straight-up BOP and we’re all the better for it.

10. Fleur East, Sax (2015)

For all its faults (a little arrogant, slightly clamorous, about 40 seconds too long), Sax is an undeniable banger. Not just a banger, it’s a saxobanger. Not just a saxobanger, it’s a saxobanger titled Sax that includes not one type of saxophone, oh no, but TWO. That, everyone, is how you do a debut single.

9. Cher Lloyd, With Ur Love/Want U Back (2011/2012)

These are equally as good as each other and that is that on that!

8. Misha B, Do You Think Of Me? (2012)

There's a parallel universe out there where this went to number 1 and Misha B became the UK's third best pop star.

7. Little Mix, Move (2013)

I’ll be honest – there was a time where ‘Little Mix’ didn’t really fly with me. Perhaps it was because they came about at a time where Girls Aloud, the greatest girlband to ever exist, were saying an untimely goodbye. Maybe it was simply because they were once called ‘Rhythmix’. Anywho, it was Move, a song, that changed all of that and the rest, as they say, is a whole lotta history.

6. Alexandra Burke, Bad Boys (2009)

Looking back, Bad Boys is potentially the most relatable song on this entire list.

5. Leona Lewis, Better In Time (2008)

You don’t get songs like Better In Time in 2017, do you?

4. Ella Henderson, Ghost (2014)

All together now: Ella Henderson did THAT. And the best thing about Ella Henderson doing THAT? No one expected Ella Henderson to do THAT. What a stomper of a chorus.

3. Little Mix, Hair (2016)

That version without Sean Paul, I hasten to add. It’s almost as though, when creating this pop masterpiece, Little Mix had the gays™ at the forefront of their minds – sweaty, slightly intoxicated gays, coming together to lose their shit on the podiums of unsuspecting bars up and down the country.

2. Little Mix, Touch (2016)

On first listen, everyone thought that Touch was a very good song indeed. After the sixth listen, we were all convinced it was the second coming.

1. Leona Lewis, Bleeding Love (2007)

Bleeding Love was written by Ryan Tedder and Jesse McCartney. Bleeding Love features an organ. Bleeding Love is a pop-laced power ballad. Bleeding Love features a euphoric high note. Bleeding Love has a video in which Leona Lewis sings under a fire sprinkler. Bleeding Love is the third best song of 2007 (Call The shots, Foundations – I’m looking at you). Bleeding Love is a winner. Words by Marcus Wratten