X Factor: Why Scottish votes for Nicholas McDonald are setting him up to fail

by Gerard McGarry

nicholas mcdonald

Louis Walsh is the master of snagging the local vote, persuading people from his contestant’s area to vote en masse to support ‘their contestant’. And judging by tonight’s shock news that Nicholas McDonald is in the final two for the X Factor finale, the ploy is working. Scotland seems to be voting in their droves for Nicholas.

Here’s the thing though: If you’re not prepared to buy Nicholas’s records when they’re released next year, stop voting for him. Now. You’re setting him up to fail.

Long-time X Factor watchers have seen this scenario before. A handsome, non-threatening young man will sail through the competition backed by a strident voter base. I’m thinking Joe McElderry, Leon Jackson and (almost) Eoghan Quigg and Ray Quinn. All powered their way through the competition and all failed to set the pop world alight.

The problem is, when these guys flop, they’re often not forgotten. Their names are remembered in the national press as “X Factor flops”. And it’s often not their fault, because what people will vote for on a national talent show is not what they’ll buy when the singer releases their records.

nicholas mcdonald

And that’s what’s about to happen with Nicholas McDonald. The kid could barely believe it this evening when he found himself standing next to Sam Bailey as the final two in this year’s X Factor. He’s totally outclassed vocally, and the Sam he was closest to in vocal skill was Sam Callahan. If Nicholas wins tomorrow night, I can confidently predict that his music career will sink without a trace.

So I’ll say it again: if you think you’re helping Nicholas by voting for him to win tomorrow night, ask yourself “Will I buy his record?” And honestly, if the answer is no, stop voting. Because here’s what’ll happen:

nicholas mcdonald

  1. Nicholas will win X Factor tomorrow night. Glitter will rain on the stage, judges will say nice things about him and the press machine will go into overdrive.
  2. Almost concurrently with this, all of social media will be underwhelmed. This will be decried as one of the lamest, most forgettable X Factor finals ever. More people will predict failure for Nicholas.
  3. Six months will pass. As the X Factor rumbles back to life for auditions next summer, people will start wracking their brains to remember who won.
  4. Live shows will begin. Nicholas will return for his ‘homecoming’/debut single performance. Unless it is a thoroughly amazing piece of music, the public will be thoroughly underwhelmed.
  5. Sales of the record will falter, Nicholas will get dropped from his record company and the “X Factor fail” label will haunt him for years.

I’m not saying this to upset people or to talk Nicholas down. From what I’ve seen on the show, he’s a nice guy, but he’s not the best singer that’s ever been on the show. There’s no One Direction or JLS buzz around him. And because he’s a nice guy, the worst thing that could happen is that people make him the winner and then fail to support him as a recording artist.

Sure, people think they’re doing the right thing helping him win. But what they’re really doing is saddling him with high expectations. If he walks away the winner, I just hope that the fans who are supporting him now will be still with him next year. Sadly, experience doesn’t suggest that they will be.

Gerard McGarry is a jet-setting, world-renowned Reality TV critic. In real life, Gerard works with web and social media strategy. His personal blog is at GerardMcGarry.com or follow him on Twitter @gerrybot


  1. Sandy on December 15, 2013 at 12:32 am

    You are so weird at unreality tv. One day you say you love joe mcelderry. The next you say he’s a flop.
    You know damn well that he is doing well. The only xfactor winner with 4 albums out… Surely if he was a flip no record label after syco would have given him the opportunity to have 3 albums with them and working on a fourth. Universal/Deccan are not that stupid, I don’t think. They are just one of the biggest record label in the world… Joe also has a full on tour next year all a round the country with 50+ shows between March and June. You know that! You are having a competition on your own website for your readers to win a varsity jacket from his extensive range of merchandise. So why pretend and be two faced?
    And if Nicholas wins and doesn’t set the pop world alight but still gets the same dedicated fan base as joe, or if he gets even half of the amount of offers Joe gets, he will still be very happy to be able to live from his passion! Same for Sam. If she wins but doesn’t get the back up that is needed to make it to international superstardom then she will still be doing what she loves. Singing. You don’t need to go around the world on arena tours to be able to make a living from singing and performing. They can do it without being shoved down our throats every 5 seconds with tv adverts. And they will probably be happier for it if they cut the crap that the industry brings with fame

    1. Gerard McGarry on December 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      I just want to address this comment from Sandy – there is more than one author on this site, and we all hold different opinions. I know that Joe McElderry has a very strong and loyal fanbase, and you’re welcome to defend him, but the fact is he hasn’t set the music world on fire and I think he’d be the first to admit that the negative press can be devastating.

      Bear in mind that Nicholas McDonald is 17 years old. That’s a very vulnerable age to be, especially when you’ve got the weight of the X Factor crown on your head and the tabloid press hovering over your shoulder, waiting for you to fail. That’s my point with this post – if his Scottish fans are voting for him to win this competition, they’ll almost certainly not follow up by buying his records. So as triumphant as the win might be, 12 months later the picture could be completely different.

  2. Donovan on December 15, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Sandy, if you are following the tweet from Unreality TV, obviously, “the author” is backing Luke to win. I am sorry to say, it sounds too personal emotion now. Your favourite act did not win, and you are crying like sour grapes. All the best for all!

  3. Bryan L on December 15, 2013 at 1:39 am

    As we saw with Michelle McManus the Scottish vote can be powerful & proportionally unfair & as the leading article precluded didn’t support her career.
    Same with Stephen Brookstein & if he is not careful..James Arthur..winning x factor can mean diddly squat if they have potty mouths.
    IF vocal talent & future prospects were the sole reason to vote then Nicholas should have gone out a few weeks ago.IF Tamara gets industry respected management & good material I think she could be this years show,s real winner.

  4. Bob Keltie on December 15, 2013 at 2:17 am

    All finalists are crap! Luke looks like a bloated Kike Dee who WAS good, Sam is nothing more than a cruise singer and wee Nicky while Scottish like myself has a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG way to go to reach stardom.

  5. cjcsPT on December 15, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Unreality TV this is a very bad and unfair campaing against Nicholas! For one side I partially understand what you’re saying, but comparing Nicholas to Sam Calahan is so unfair and for someone to say that it’s because they are deft! Nicholas is a realy good singer and can actually evolve to be much better! Sam Baily is a powerful singer, but to be honest, who needs another Celine Dion? She will not do well even though she wins, and that’s even more certain than Nicholas flopping!

  6. jo mackillen on December 15, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I agree with Bob Keltie..The finalist are not that good this year…But who ever wins good luck to them..Nicolas is only 17 and has a future ahead of him. His passion is singing, and I have all faith in him to make it big at some point..Michele Mcmanus didn’t record that many songs when she won..but has been on TV doing other stuff..when we don’t see some one it doesnt mean they are out of the spot light, it just means they are caught up in doing something else..not a flop…Susan Boyle has hit the big time..such an inspiration for all..so not every one fails..Nicolas could come out on tops when he gets older..Tamara will return on our screens, 100 times better than she was…it is hard for the young ones, but i can see Nicolas, Luke and Tamara in the top 20..

  7. jo mackillen on December 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I agree with Bob Keltie..The finalist are not that good this year…But who ever wins good luck to them..Nicolas is only 17 and has a future ahead of him. His passion is singing, and I have all faith in him to make it big at some point.Susan Boyle has hit the big time..such an inspiration for all..so not every one fails..Nicolas could come out on tops when he gets older..Tamara will return on our screens, 100 times better than she was…it is hard for the young ones, but i can see Nicolas, Luke and Tamara in the top 20..

  8. jo mackillen on December 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

    no one is a flop..they win..then they dont want to sing for a living..at least they are noticed from this show..X Factor..that small piece of recognition puts you in the spot light for other things. it is getting noticed that’s what it is all about. Sam Bailey, i dont think will sell records either. I personally do not vote for anything that is a TV based show and needs the public to phone in, text in or do it on line, just the way I am, do not see the point..but anyway, good luck to who ever wins, and enjoy the spotlight when you get it..if you make it, that’s fab, if you dont, there is always a chance you will sooner or later..

    1. Gerard McGarry on December 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Jo, if they’re going on this show for pure exposure, then shame on them. It’s a singing competition. If they just want to be a vapid celeb, they should sign up for Big Brother.

      I agree with you that Sam Bailey won’t be a commercial success either. I said as much on an earlier post. The finalists this year have been woeful. X Factor need to have a look at what’s going wrong with their process, because when the final 12 are as underwhelming as what we’ve seen this year, the show’s going to be a waste of time.

  9. Stuart Sutton on December 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Nicholas has a great voice, nevertheless he will do well i bet , 2nd place doesn’t mean no contract, best of luck nicky!

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