Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jai McDowall, a Scottish man who works as an assistant to disabled individuals and performs a singing act, has been declared as the winner of the fifth series of televised talent competition Britain’s Got Talent, broadcast on ITV1 in the United Kingdom. The final took place on Saturday night. As the winner of the show, McDowall will receive a prize of £100,000 (US$164,270, €112,252), as well being able to participate at the Royal Variety Performance – which will be attended by British Royal Family senior members – later this year.

In the final, McDowall – who lives in the South Ayrshire village of Tarbolton – had sung To Where You Are, which was originally performed by Josh Groban. McDowall’s victory was calculated via a public telephone voting system. The number of votes he received was a margin of under three per cent greater than the act who achieved second place: a 12-year-old male singer named Ronan Parke. According to BBC News Online, Parke had been considered the most likely act to win this series by bookmakers. A short time after his victory was announced, McDowall commented that he was feeling “absolutely amazing, fantastic…it’s so much more, absolutely so much more”. When interviewed afterwards, Parke said he “loved it, thank you to everyone who voted. Congratulations, Jai.” Simon Cowell acknowledged “there was going to be a shock result” and that McDowall “wasn’t one of the favourites coming in but tonight we could feel he nailed the song. He came in believing that he could win and I think he’s a worthy winner.” Meanwhile, on-air, judge Amanda Holden admitted that she “really, really wanted Ronan to win.”

[I feel] absolutely amazing, fantastic … it’s so much more, absolutely so much more.

The finale consisted of one programme featuring the finalists performing, which was broadcast from 1900 – 2100 BST (1800 – 2000 UTC) and a second programme, announcing the positions of the finalists; the latter was broadcast later in the night, from 2130 – 2200 BST (2030 – 2100 UTC). The programme also featured performances from two guests. Jackie Evancho, who achieved second place in the fifth season of America’s Got Talent, performed Nessun dorma on the first programme. US singer-songwriter Nicole Scherzinger, scheduled to appear as a judge on The X Factor (U.S.), appeared in the second show and performed Right There, the latest single to be released from her.

In the run-up to the final, five semi-finals were broadcast live on ITV1 each night from Monday to Friday. A total of 41 acts appeared between them. British stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre and American actor David Hasselhoff made their debut appearances on the show’s panel, alongside British actress Amanda Holden, who has judged for all the series so far, and British music executive Simon Cowell, who only judged for the semi-finals and the final.

Earlier in the week, an unidentified Internet blogger, who stated that they were an employee of music corporation Sony Music UK, claimed that the programme had been unfairly pre-arranged due to Parke allegedly being familiar with Cowell and Syco for two years, already having a record contract, as well as prior arrangements being made for his appearance, including his clothing, hairstyle and behaviour. Parke achieved the largest number of public votes in the semi-final he appeared in on Monday, allowing him to earn his place in Saturday’s final.

On the fifth Britain’s Got Talent semi-final on Friday, Cowell addressed these allegations and publicly denied them, stating: “There has been an allegation made in the papers – not in the papers actually, on the internet by somebody – that Ronan Parke had a previous recording contract with my record label, that I’d met him beforehand, both of which are complete and utter lies. The first time I met Ronan was the first time he appeared on this show. He entered the show of his own accord. He’s 12 years old. This is a deliberate smear campaign.”

In a statement, Syco – a British entertainment company which Cowell is the chief executive officer of – responded by claiming that “[t]here is no truth in this story whatsoever. Ronan first came to Syco/Sony’s attention when he entered this year’s competition. Syco/Sony Music will not hesitate to take whatever legal action is appropriate to prevent further publication of these unfounded allegations.” The Metropolitan Police Service have also reported that “[a]n allegation of malicious communications was made to Kensington and Chelsea police on Thursday 2 June” and that “[t]he allegation is being considered.” In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Maggie Parke – Ronan’s mother – called the allegations “laughable” as there “couldn’t be further from the truth”. “There’s no foundation in it whatsoever,” said Maggie.

In the final, Parke performed a cover of the Kelly Clarkson song Because of You and placed second in the contest, behind McDowall. However, British tabloid newspaper News of the World has reported the intentions of Sony Music Entertainment to provide a record contract for the 12-year-old singer, allegedly valued at £1,000,000 (US$1,641,681, €1,123,711). Speaking to the paper, a source familiar with Cowell commented: “We are not going to let malicious claims about Ronan impact his entire career. That would not be fair. The fact is, he is a little star. He’s like our Justin Bieber. He launched his career on the internet. He is self-made.” Musical manager Jonathan Shalit claimed that Parke “will be the most successful BGT winner ever, bigger than Bieber. I’d take him to Hollywood, straight to Disney.” A source related to Britain’s Got Talent cited the aforementioned fix allegations for Parke’s failure to win the series, mentioning: “Sadly, the result had nothing to do with Ronan’s talent. A lot of people believed the completely false smears on the internet and wanted to punish Simon as a result. The public are against him at the moment. This was their revenge.”

A London-based act named New Bounce achieved third place in the competition. Their act consists of four male singers: Mitchell, aged 16, 12-year-old MJ, Kuan, aged 13 and James, aged 12. In the final, the group performed a cover of the Bill Withers song Ain’t No Sunshine. Simon Cowell subsequently compared their potential to that of JLS, who have achieved number 1 on music charts, claiming that “[t]his is a group that would work in the real world”.

Other acts who appeared in the final included Michael Collings, who is also a singer and plays a guitar for his act. Razy Gogonea performed a form of breakdancing known as body-popping. James Hobley was also an act who danced, performing contemporary dance routines. Steven Hall was another dancer, albeit one who performed for comedic effect, dancing to the sounds of various famous pop music tracks and lip-syncing the lyrics. Les Gibson performed a comedy act involving him making impressions of various celebrities, with Cowell, McIntyre and Hasselhoff amongst them, as well as Ant & Dec, who host the programme. Paul Gbegbaje and Jean Martyn were both musical acts, with the former playing the piano and the latter using an organ to make music. Gbegbaje played piano music which he had composed himself, while Martyn performed a medley of songs, amongst which was the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John song You’re the One That I Want. Martyn sang along to the song but was not clearly audible due to the absence of a microphone during her performance. She later explained that her performance had been previously rehearsed without the singing included.

Who do you think should have won Britain’s Got Talent?
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Below is a table addressing the rank the finalists of the fifth series of Britain’s Got Talent achieved in Saturday’s final.

Rank Artist Act
1 Jai McDowall Singer
2 Ronan Parke Singer
3 New Bounce Singers
4 Razy Gogonea Breakdancer (body-popping)
5 Michael Collings Singer / guitarist
6 Paul Gbegbaje Pianist
7 Steven Hall Comedic dancer
8 James Hobley Dancer
9 Les Gibson Impressionist
10 Jean Martyn Organist

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  • 3
  • 4

This map illustrates the location of South Ayrshire, where McDowall lives. Image: Ordnance Survey OpenData.

Stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre, seen here in April 2009, judged Britain’s Got Talent for the first time this series. Image: Damien Everett.

File:Hoff Wiki.jpg

American actor David Hasselhoff, seen here in November 2006, also became a permanent judge from this series. Image: Tylermiller805.(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Simon Cowell, seen here in June 2010, judged only for the semi-finals and the final for this series. Image: Alison Martin.