How The Hell Is James Arthur On The Cusp Of A UK Number One?

Unbelievably, disgraced former X Factor winner – he of the bizarre Twitter rant, he of the homophobic rap – is on the cusp of UK Number One with his acoustic ballad ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’. He’s also recently re-signed with Syco, having been dropped by Simon Cowell’s label at the height of his erratic behaviour in 2014. How on Earth has he managed it? We look back at how James Arthur rose, fell and rose again.

Winning The X Factor in 2012

Mentored by Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls fame, James won The X Factor in 2012 and presumably anticipated a One Direction-style rise to immaculate stardom. His debut single ‘Impossible’ – an identikit winners’ song – went to UK Number One, but things soon took a turn for the bizarre.

Rapping about Rita Ora in November 2013


By this point, Arthur had already mocked X Factor mega-success One Direction, calling them a “marketing product” and snarkily, sarkily claimed that Louis was his “favourite member”. Yet things got even worse. James Arthur made an ill-fated move into improvised rap. Having allegedly dated Rita Ora, he appeared on Charlie Sloth’s 1Xtra show and freestyled a rhyme about her: “Some people’s Oras and demeanours can deceive us, but what they really want is a piece of your penis.” Ew.

Rap battling in November 2013

Continuing his habit of engaging in rap battles, Arthur released a weird hip-hop song in which he tackled Croydon rapper Micky Worthless. The latter musician had used the track the track ‘Stay In Your Lane’ to make a swipe at the X Factor winner’s previous rap attempts. In his freestyle, Arthur referred to Worthless as a “fucking queer”, causing outrage.

Apologising in December 2013

Arthur appeared on The X Factor with his tail between his legs, telling host Dermot O’Leary: “I want to say sorry for abusing my position as an X Factor winner because I owe everything to this thing.”

Feuding with a fellow X Factor contestant in February 2014

Singer Lucy Spraggan published a text conversation in which Arthur seemed unapologetic for his slur against Worthless and told Spraggan: “My album sold 10 times yours in its first week so you can fuck off with your career shite.” iTunes offered fans a refund for his album in light of his behaviour.

Comparing himself to a killer whale in March 2014


Tilikum was the name of the killer whale featured in the documentary Blackfish. Tillikum attacked a crowd after it was pushed too hard to perform. Arthur was tweeting about his mixtape ‘All The World’s A Stage’ and discussing what he’d like on the cover.

June 2014: Dropped by Syco

Arthur’s single ‘Get Down’ failed to break the Top 40 and he was dropped by Simon Cowell’s record label, Syco.

Attacked on a night out in August 2016

Arthur stepped away from the limelight after being dropped by Syco in mid-2014 (though did tweet that he was working on a new album with Columbia in September 2015). He was hospitalised after being attacked during a night out in Redcar last month. A police spokesperson said: A 28-year-old man received a head wound after he was reported to have been hit with a bottle. The man was taken to James Cook University Hospital for treatment.”

Releasing comeback single ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ on September 9 2016

Arthur came back with a bang with the epic ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’, which went straight to number one in the iTunes charts. He appeared on This Morning to talk about the depression and anxiety he’d experienced after being thrust into the spotlight by The X Factor. It’s currently the most downloaded track of this week, and has leapt 23 places, landing it at Number Two. Which just goes to show that you can’t ever write someone off.