LONDON (Reuters Life!) - She had poor reviews and Michael Jackson in her way, but singer Cheryl Cole swept all aside to hit the top of the album charts and underline the influence of "The X Factor" TV show on British pop.
Cole, who rose to fame as part of the Girls Aloud girl band, is a judge on the singing talent show, which regularly boasts peak viewing figures of over 10 million people.
"Record labels have been using it more and more in the last two to three years, it has grown in influence and is now reaching the peak of its powers," said Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company (OCC) which compiles the weekly pop rankings in the world's third biggest market.
The show helped Cole, 26, record the fastest-selling single in Britain so far this year when "Fight For This Love" sold more than 290,000 copies in the week ending October 25.
That followed a performance of the track on the X Factor show which drew widespread criticism followed by lukewarm reviews for her debut solo album "3 Words," released by Universal Music's Fascination Records on October 26.
Pete Paphides of the Times gave the record two stars out of five and wrote: "If this is really the best that her 'team' can do, then another 3 Words spring to mind. Sack them all."
In addition to the poor critical response, the album was released in the same week as Michael Jackson's posthumous record "This Is It," which Sony Music promoted as a tie-in to the heavily marketed concert movie of the same name.
The film fell short of industry forecasts in the North American market, but its global tally of $101 million in the first five days left Sony Corp. "ecstatic."
Less impressive was the album's performance in Britain, trailing not only 3 Words but also Canadian singer Michael Buble's "Crazy Love," which came second.
Buble featured on The X Factor last month as an adviser to contestants and also performed a song on the show. The week before Cole's album triumph, the top-selling record was by Alexandra Burke, X Factor winner in 2008.
Talbot said the program's impact was exaggerated by technological advances, with viewers often having immediate access to a song or album via a laptop or mobile phone device.
"The whole digital revolution plays into the hands of programs like The X Factor," he said. "Ten years ago they would watch 'Top of the Pops' and have to go to the local shop the following morning and try to remember what the song was."
The X Factor has the clout to attract some of the biggest names in pop, with Robbie Williams, Whitney Houston and Bon Jovi recently appearing. The success of the similarly themed "American Idol" means U.S. acts need little convincing.
Despite The X Factor's recent domination of the charts, which few see weakening in the key run-up to Christmas, Talbot said it was not monopolizing pop music in Britain.
"There are lots of records around that are doing very well without The X factor and that will continue to be the case," he said. Talbot added that album sales in Britain this year were likely to be lower than in 2008.
Editing by Paul Casciato