Whenever the X Factor live shows roll around, controversy is always guaranteed. At the heart of the hullabaloo this series is the one man who, despite the perpetual game of musical chairs that plays out in the tabloids all year round, refuses to be budged from his seat - Louis Walsh. But I believe the recent criticism for the twinkly-eyed Irishman has been grossly unfair. It's time to pay homage to the fairest, finest and most charismatic talent show judge of them all. Here are 10 reasons why I love Louis:
- His pop credentials are unrivalled. His illustrious CV speaks for itself. In his management career, Louis has notched up 28 No. 1 singles, a mammoth figure that dwarfs Simon Cowell's 17 pre-X Factor chart toppers and makes Gary Barlow's tally of 14 look positively paltry. In the 80s, he unearthed Johnny Logan, whose three Eurovision wins make him the most triumphant act in its history. In the 90s, he tapped into the zeitgeist, creating Boyzone and then Westlife, the most successful group since The Beatles. And in this century, he gave us Jedward, whose everlasting appeal is proven by their ubiquity. There's no doubt about it - Louis Walsh is a bona fide pop guru.
There's a reason why Louis is the longest-serving judge on any TV talent show in the world. Not only was he the first X Factor mentor to win the show twice (in 2005 with Shayne Ward, swiftly followed by Lucy Benjamin in 2006's Battle of the Stars), the X Factor acts he has coached have gone on to achieve greater post-show success than those of any other judge. After Louis led him to victory, Shayne Ward shifted 750,000 copies of debut single That's My Goal in five days - a record unsurpassed by any subsequent talent show winner. From G4 to JLS, Jedward to Mary Byrne, acts mentored by Louis Walsh have achieved a combined total of 13 Top 40 albums, compared to Simon Cowell's 10 and Cheryl Cole's eight. The proof of the pudding is in the eating - and Louis Walsh's mentoring skills are certifiably delicious!
Bringing a carefree sense of fun and mischief to a judging panel that can otherwise take itself too seriously, Louis's cheery demeanour and puppyish enthusiasm balance out the dour judgements of Gary Barlow. He can take anything the other judges throw at him and cut them down to size with his trademark one-liners. He says what he thinks, is honest to a fault and knows how to generate moments of pure TV gold. Let's face it, if you don't have humour or fun on your judging panel, you end up with The Voice UK.
Time waits for no man and age catches up with all of us in the end - unless you're Louis Walsh! As each year passes, Louis looks ever more youthful and fresh-faced. The bags under his eyes have spontaneously vanished and his hair has flourished, in opacity, colour and sheer lushness. The man is a medical miracle, aesthetically and follicly. What is your secret to eternal youth, Louis? He must surely have a portrait in his attic.
Many have tried and most have failed (mentioning no names, Gary Barlow) but Louis proved his transatlantic appeal with his recent appearance on X Factor USA. Our American cousins enjoyed the cheeky Irish talent-spotter's stint behind the X-adorned desk, with co-judge Britney Spears gushing "I love Louis, he's absolutely adorable". Demi Lovato agreed "Louis killed it," and L.A. Reid gave his seal of approval: "I find him fascinatingly quick and remarkably entertaining". Audiences loved him too, his debut appearance breaking ratings records for the show, making him the most popular home-grown export since Piers Morgan.
Today Cheryl Cole is the nation's sweetheart but, until Louis Walsh came along, she was just a humble girl from Newcastle. On Popstars: The Rivals, we saw him spot her indefinable gifts and pluck the pretty Geordie from obscurity, creating and guiding Girls Aloud to enormous success. Without Louis, Cheryl's talents may never have come to the fore and the world would have been deprived of her sparkling personality and unique singing voice.
When Made In Chelsea's Diego Bivero-Volpe was mugged outside a Mayfair nightclub in May, SuperLouis came to the rescue. He called a taxi for the shaken victim, paid the cab fare, tipped the driver and managed to note down the details of the muggers' vehicle - a rare act of heroism that proved angels do exist down here on earth.
Over 2000 people have taken on Channel 4's Deal Or No Deal over the last seven years, including Sarah Millican, Jimmy Carr, McFly and Olly Murs (twice), but few have handled it with such aplomb as Louis. When he took the Walk Of Wealth, Louis well and truly spanked the Banker, playing a perfect game and scooping £70,000 for charity ISPCC Childline, putting him in the top 2% of all winners on TV's toughest game show.
Many of Britain's most eligible bachelors have tried their hand at wooing Miss Flack - from Prince Harry to Harry Styles - but it took Louis to finally put a ring on it, quietly marrying the Xtra Factor host in Las Vegas this summer, taking the 48th sexiest woman in the world off the market in the process.
While other judges may come and go, X Factor without Louis Walsh would be like peaches without cream, Laurel without Hardy, John without Edward. Louis, you really are what the X Factor is all about - I salute you!