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I love Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (or, for the benefit of those of you who just can’t get over it, Cheryl Cole). She’s my favourite Girl Aloud; I like her solo music; I’m mesmerised when I look at her (especially when she wears purple and orange); and I was excited to hear she was returning to The X Factor. But is it just me, or has she turned into a bit of a madam on the judging panel, now that she’s back.

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the oddly enticing sadistic characteristic of shows like this, which see the judges turn into harsh critics with no mercy. The nation (and actually the planet, as it’s a global franchise) like to pretend that we all sit down on a Saturday night with a take-away rather than venture out into the increasingly chilly nights, to watch a lovely show about lovely people singing lovely songs. But actually we don’t give a ruddy fig about the music. That can be proven by looking at the show’s championship board. Year after year, we select winners who it’s clear will never go on to an actual successful career in pop music. With the exception of acts like Little Mix, the winner is always some dull acoustic-singing young man who plays a ukalale and wears a flat cap, or a jolly nice boy whose first album will inevitably flop consequently sending him packing to the next series of Tumble, or an overworked mum of three who wears leopard print blouses.

What we DO care about is watching the judges rip the awful acts to shreds. Then, when they’re eliminated during the audition round, we relish watching the good acts being ripped to shreds too. “That rendition of Careless Whisper wasn’t good enough because you didn’t evoke the memory of your dead long-lost labrador,” says one judge to the buff guy showing his sensitive side; “that cover of One Thing by Jamelia sounded even more like someone swinging a bag of cats around than the original version did,” says another critic to the drunk girl in hot-pants.

Cheryl, on her triumphant return to the show (which I’m surprised didn’t feature her being lead to the auditions atop an elephant, surrounded by a parade of baton-twirling cheerleaders and chiseled men in loin Cheryl-Fernandez-Versini-on-The-X-Factor-UK-2014cloths) appears to have changed her judging persona. She is no longer the nation’s sweetheart; she is not the one you can turn to for a hug after Simon Cowell has slagged you off. No, no, no. Mel B, of all people, has dished out more hugs than Cheryl has this season so far. Cheryl has become a hardened version of her past self. Simon is now one of the nice ones! Cheryl can now be seen rolling her eyes, looking bored, at loggerheads with the audiences, passing snide comments about certain acts and positively scowling at certain auditionees. Her interchanges with the ultra-annoying Raign has shown Cheryl in a rather unattractive light. She wouldn’t put her through the first audition, despite the rest of the judges seeing potential. Then she spent her arena audition very obviously trying to make a point of not being bothered. In turn, this made her look like a bit of a dick.

What Cheryl Fernandez-Versini-née-Tweedy-formerly-Cole is attempting to do is assert some form of power having formally been fired by Cowell for wearing purple Princess Jasmine trousers and ultimately being re-instated as the golden girl of the programme – the one everyone really tunes in to watch. Let’s face it, whether you’re male, female, halfway through a sex change, gay, straight, bi or Thai, we all want to look at Cheryl’s face. But here’s a warning to you Chezza – your new image is a little ugly. She is suddenly exuding an air of superiority, in which she quite obviously thinks she has Cowell wrapped around her little finger. And this is transmuting into a high-and-mighty attitude towards the talent. Be careful honey bunch – all it takes is one turquoise and pink costume change and you could be back on the cutting room floor…

PS: Literally love you!

– A

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