With her per­form­ance of 'Sax' on last night's X Factor results show Fleur East delivered what was probably the show's most exciting ever alumni launch per­form­ance, and it def­in­itely contains the best one-second moment in recent pop TV history.

That moment is all about the look Fleur gives just after she's launched herself backwards off a platform by the judges' desk, performed an assisted reverse somer­sault, and tossed back her gar­gan­tuan hair.

It's a look that says: "Right. I've done it."

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There are two ways of reading this look.

First, there's the practical element: if you've just pulled off that move on live tele­vi­sion without shitting yourself or dropping the mic, you're doing pretty well.

Second, there's the actual mic drop element of what's just happened: Fleur East has worked for a decade to get here. It's all gone wrong on more than one occasion. But she's made it work and now — as of right this moment — it's finally happening.

As you know, Fleur first appeared on The X Factor in 2005, as one third of Addictiv Ladies. Addictiv Ladies weren't very good, and they went out in the first week of that year's live finals. Fleur was 17. We tend to judge artists on the decisions they make when things are going well, but you can often judge a popstar better by how they behave when things go wrong.

When Addictiv Ladies fell apart, Fleur wasn't ready to give up. But she also wasn't a bloody idiot. It's inter­est­ing and not insig­ni­fic­ant that when she went to uni­ver­sity she chose to study journ­al­ism and con­tem­por­ary history: we met Fleur for the first time a couple of months ago and what we found (apart from the fact that she's as exciting just sitting down and having a chat as she is when she's standing in front of a wind machine with fireworks going off) was that she clearly has an interest in the world around her, and a com­pul­sion to ask questions. Qualities infuri­at­ingly rare in the self-obsessed world of the average pop artiste.

Anyway Fleur went to uni­ver­sity and got her degree, but she didn't give up singing and per­form­ing. There was another girlband, and a couple of spinoff solo releases. She became a session vocalist and live singer for people like DJ Fresh, and at one point chucked all her savings at releasing her own EP. (Most of this stuff is still online; some of it's pretty good.) The point is that where a lot of artists wait for good things to happen to them, but Fleur was doing everything she could to make it happen.

There's more to Fleur's rise than just the easy route of turning up one day at an X Factor audition, just like 'Sax' itself is smarter than you might imagine — you'd never guess from all the 'this sounds like Uptown Funk' comments on social media, but while the Mark Ronson song was obviously on the brief sent out to producers, the song runs for a full minute before anything sounds at all like 'Uptown Funk'. And that's a pretty amazing minute.


Fleur's per­form­ance couldn't have come at a better time for The X Factor, after Saturday's news that The Voice would be moving to ITV and that The X Factor's days on ter­restrial TV could therefore be numbered (although we're not convinced ITV wouldn't find room for both). The show's sig­ni­fic­ance seemed par­tic­u­larly pre­cari­ous after last year's winner Ben Haenow trotted out such a mediocre per­form­ance of such an under­whelm­ing launch single the other week. If Ben Haenow is the best the show has to offer, what's the point?

But when we accept the sometimes com­pel­ling narrative sur­round­ing The X Factor's demise (the viewing figures are down, the audition stages are boring, there's an inev­it­able sense after over a decade that we've seen this all before) we forget — until someone like Fleur comes along — that the show really can deliver superstar per­formers. And a pop moment like Fleur's 'Sax' per­form­ance just would not exist without The X Factor.

This is partly The X Factor's fault — along with Popstars and Pop Idol it was, for a while, so suc­cess­ful at pro­pelling so many acts into the charts that big, immediate impact pop launches were effect­ively out of bounds for major labels unless there was a big TV platform, and labels therefore backed away from big pop launches.

This left all the power in the hands of The X Factor. Which was fine in theory, but the reality is that when you're leaving so many decisions to the producers of a light enter­tain­ment show and an audience whose voting decisions are fre­quently just wrong, rel­at­ively few actual pop super­stars have been created by the show. And of course because the labels had decided to back away, the UK ended up producing rel­at­ively few actual pop super­stars full stop.

It hasn't all been bad news. Pop was forced to find a new way to express itself, so we have inter­est­ing acts who've found their way to fame and success through a more leftfield approach. So you've got your Charlis and Marinas and Lordes and Ellies and people who've managed to engage taste­m­akers and bloggers and come in through the back door.

More recently, we've seen the music industry back itself into another cul-de-sac: just like they decided you couldn't launch an act without a big TV platform, labels (partly due to radio nonsense) have decided that you can't launch an act without landing them a guest vocal on a dance track. It works if you're Sam Smith or Jess Glynne, but there's such a huge backlog of featured vocalists each waiting for their 'solo moment' that pop just can't support everyone. A clever marketing idea three years ago is a straight­jacket in 2015. And again, you're relying on taste­m­akers to 'approve' an act before the public get to hear them.

Basically, you wouldn't get many of that lot launching them­selves into backflips, or doing the whole "HOLD TIGHT — LEAN BACK!" thing with fifteen dancers.

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The camera was on Fleur — how could it not have been — when she back­flipped and stared out over the crowd last night, taking that short moment to soak up what had happened to her, and what she'd made happen. But if the camera had been on Simon Cowell we might have seen a similar look of triumph. He usually seems to have a bit of a look of triumph on his face, to be honest, but this time it would have been com­pletely justified: it's moments like this that make all the nonsense seem worth­while.