Louisa Johnson Is a Superstar-in-the-Making: Don’t Sleep on the Best ‘X Factor’ Winner Yet
Should you be paying much more attention to Louisa Johnson, the lion-voiced 20-year-old who won Season 12 of the UK's X Factor in 2015?
In a word, and to borrow from her new single:
Johnson, who became the show's youngest-ever winner at 17, blew judges away with her boundless belts and husky tone from the moment she stepped on the X Factor stage to sing "Who's Loving You." Week after week, and under the tutelage of mentor Rita Ora, Johnson made fellow competitors look like amateurs, and stole the show by singing the hell out of songs like "God Only Knows," "Billie Jean" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World."
Johnson's dominance was so pronounced, in fact, that by the time she won the competition in December 2015, she had placed first in voting six times out of the final rounds' seven weeks.
And Johnson, whose debut single "Forever Young" dropped shortly after her victory, was eager to make her mark, even if that meant standing up to executives.
“Even down to the littlest things, I want to know what I am doing and be in control,” she told The Sun. She added to Digital Spy: "I'd have to make sure I like [my debut album] 100 percent and if I don't like it, no way is it going out. People are going to know me through that album, so it needs to be perfect."
Sadly, since Johnson's win, things haven't exactly stacked up in her favor. Though Simon Cowell called Johnson the best contestant in the show's history (he showered her with praise and accused her of being "not human" upon her finale performance), "Forever Young" peaked at No. 9 on UK charts, and marked the lowest debut of any X Factor winner's debut track. Cowell eventually chalked up the flop to a case of the wrong song going to the wrong singer. Nevertheless, "Forever Young" proved to be an unfortunate signal for things to come.
Though Johnson managed a Top 5 hit as a feature on Clean Bandit track "Tears" (the song would eventually go platinum, too), she couldn't seem to find a winning formula for charts otherwise. "So Good," released toward the end of 2016, was precisely that — it plays like a sure-thing pop hit — but it only managed to peak at No. 13, and follow-up "Best Behavior" would only ever climb as high as No. 48 after dropping in March 2017.
By contrast, previous X Factor winners Matt Cardle, Leon Jackson and Leona Lewis all reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom immediately upon their respective wins, and Little Mix has been a tornadic force across the country's radio waves. The Season 8-winning girl group have had notched four platinum albums in the country and 11 platinum singles, four of which have reached No. 1.
(And, while they weren't winners, need we mention the success of One Direction?)
But just a few weeks ago, Johnson delivered convincing evidence that she's not giving up until she manages a smash, and "YES," which dropped on March 27 and features 2 Chainz, has all the makings of a proper pop-launchpad. Immediately, listeners deemed Johnson the second coming of a "Dirrty"-era Christina Aguilera, and Johnson, herself, told TellyMix she'd felt like she'd finally found her footing as an artist.
“As soon as I recorded 'Yes' I knew it had to be a single. It instantly became my favorite song I’ve ever worked on," she said. “You can’t help but move when you hear this track, I hope everyone is ready.”
So far, though, it appears as though they aren't — the song has peaked at No. 65 and seems stuck.
It's not totally clear why Johnson's massive popularity on X Factor hasn't translated to commercial success, or why she still hasn't dropped her debut album more than two years after her win on the show. But lovers of big-voiced bops and raise-your-pulse anthems still have an chance — nay, a responsibility — to keep her from falling to the wayside. Pop may have become an echo chamber of feckless humming and gutless grooves, but if we're lucky, the lion's voice will still eventually manage to silence the drones.
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