Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

X Factor stars prepare for the final

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon and Joe McElderry

"It's been fun, it's been unpredictable and these guys - well particularly my artist - is a fantastic entertainer," says Simon Cowell.

The music impresario is, of course, referring to this year's X Factor, which comes to an end this weekend.

For anyone who has managed to avoid a television, newspaper, billboard, radio show or conversation for the last four months, the X Factor is one of the biggest TV shows in the UK. In the past, it has produced huge stars such as Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke.

The latest winner of the ITV1 singing show will be crowned on Sunday and awarded a sought-after recording contract.

Cowell and his fellow judges - Dannii Minogue, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole - have, over the past 17 weeks, whittled down the thousands of wannabe singers to just three.

They are the talkative and exuberant Stacey Solomon, from Dagenham; angel-faced Geordie teenager Joe McElderry; and Olly Murs, the Essex boy best known for his idiosyncratic dance moves.

With millions expected to tune in to the final, the trio seem calm and collected as they face the press, just 48 hours before the biggest night of their lives.

"I feel like I've come right to the end of this whole thing. I'm at a nice level now, I'm really happy," Stacey says breathlessly.

They must think I'm a right pig as it's got every single topping on there. The worst thing is that my picture goes out on every single pizza box. That's all you need to see before you eat
Stacey on having a pizza named after her

Olly agrees: "I think this week all the nerves have gone, really.

"We're in the final, we've just got to enjoy it, have fun and have a really good night, and let the best person win, basically."

It is only Joe who admits to pre-show jitters, confessing that he normally "hyperventilates" before he takes to the stage, then tries to "put all the nerves into my performance".

As usual, this year's X Factor has featured heavily in all the tabloid newspapers.

From early reports of a contestant with Asperger's, to the phenomenon that was Jedward, every scrap of gossip has been hungrily devoured by fans of the show.

There are currently rumours of a relationship between Stacey and Olly - but any attempt to get to the bottom of that story are quickly shut down by a zealous X Factor press officer.

On the other hand, there's no problem asking Olly about reports he is refusing to wear his trademark tight trousers on Saturday (he is "sure" he will be able squeeze himself into a pair, in case you wanted to know).

Performance buzz

Meanwhile, Stacey is, for some reason, being quizzed on whether a pizzeria in Dagenham has named a dish after her. It's true, she confirms, and she is thrilled about it.

"It's got everything on it," she laughs.

"They must think I'm a right pig as it's got every single topping on there!

"The worst thing is that my picture goes out on every single pizza box. That's all you need to see before you eat!"

Unsurprisingly, the Stacey Pizza has not been the highlight of her X Factor journey.

Stacey, Joe and Olly speak about their nerves

"I thought swimming with dolphins was amazing... and singing in Dubai - even though I was so hot I was sweating the whole time," she gushes.

Joe says the first live show sticks in his mind because the "buzz of performing to that many people was just fantastic".

Less charitably, Olly cites an infamous clip of runner-up Rachel Adedeji falling head-first onto the floor as his favourite moment of the series.

Cowell, meanwhile, chooses Cole's "circles dress" as his.

In fact, that little black dress with silver discs across the bust, made headlines all by itself.

Columnists and fashionistas were shocked that Cole, who is normally immaculately presented, had got it so wrong.

Looking back, the Girls Aloud star cannot believe what she was thinking.

"If we're going on worst bits, then that was my worst bit," she laughs, as she mentally prepares to burn the dress.

'Genuine interest'

For Simon, there remains the question that crops up at this time every year - will the X Factor return for another series?

"We'd always said that we'd stop making the show when people don't want to see it," he says.

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell is confident his act, Olly Murs, will win

He is being disingenuous. Ratings this year have peaked just north of 15 million - so there is no question that the singing competition is still very much in demand.

Despite that, Cowell refuses to say for sure what plans he has for the programme.

"Where we stand, we have no deal next year for the X Factor," he says.

"Generally we make these decisions when we've had a break from the show - because you get too immersed into it, and it's a long show.

"So we take a break, we sit down, and then we decide what we're going to do.

"I do think, however, with the changes on the show this year, there has been genuine interest from the people who like the show, to bring it back.

"We've just got to make sure that if we do bring it back it's going to be better than this year."

But before any budding pop stars panic, the adverts for next year's auditions have already aired on ITV1 - so the chances of the show being scrapped are next to nothing.

The X Factor final takes place on 12 and 13 December on ITV1.



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