Following in the footsteps of previous X Factor finalists G4, Welshman Rhydian Roberts wowed judges and viewers alike thanks to his ability to sing pop songs in an operatic style. Born in 1983, Rhydian's first passion was for rugby union -- he played locally and planned to become a professional for the Swansea RFC Ospreys. But after his mother took him to a Bizet opera, he fell in love with music and decided to change his career path. After taking a gap year to teach in South Africa, he won a scholarship to the Birmingham City University Conservatoire to study music and become a classically trained singer. Winning several awards, including the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers, he then auditioned for the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was immediately cast in the role of Morales in their production of Carmen. Following his graduation in 2007, he auditioned for the lead role in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat via the Andrew Lloyd Webber TV talent search contest Any Dream Will Do, but failed to make it past the boot camp stages.
In the same year, he entered the fourth series of The X Factor, and despite initial concerns about his "cocky" persona, which Roberts later told newspapers was fabricated by the show's producers, he was chosen by mentor Dannii Minogue to appear in the live stages. Thanks to flamboyant performances of songs by the likes of P!nk, Pet Shop Boys, and Meat Loaf, he soon won over U.K. audiences and became the favorite to win the series. But despite a well-received duet with Katherine Jenkins in the final, he surprisingly finished runner-up to Scottish crooner Leon Jackson. However, recognizing Rhydian's potential, Simon Cowell promptly signed him to his Sony BMG label in a £1 million album deal. His self-titled debut, featuring material penned by Jim Steinman (who spotted his X Factor performances on YouTube) and a duet with West End star Idina Menzel, was set for release at the end of 2008.
The following year Roberts was still riding high on the popularity of his X Factor appearance and successful debut album when he began work on his classical-influenced second release, O Fortuna, with producer and composer Karl Jenkins. The record, which featured duets with Bryn Terfel and Kiri Te Kanawa, appeared toward the end of 2009, and earned Roberts a Classical Brit Award nomination. Unafraid to challenge music boundaries, Roberts' third record, Waves, came in 2011, and showcased a dramatic combination of his operatic-pop vocals and '80s synth pop covers, such as "The Promise" and "No More 'I Love You's'." In December of that year he released Welsh Songs: Caneuon Cymraeg, which collected traditional Welsh material, sung in his native tongue. The album followed his appearance on Welsh TV, where he scoured the country for talented performers, eight of whom were then given the opportunity to share the stage with a host of special guests and Roberts himself.
Among his solo musical offerings, Roberts also appeared in popular stage productions, making his debut in the European tour of The War of the Worlds in 2010, which was followed by performances in We Will Rock You (2010), Grease (2011), and The Rocky Horror Show (2012). For his fifth studio album, Roberts returned to the flamboyant classical crossover style that initially won over many of his fans. Titled One Day Like This, it was released in 2014. ~ Jon O'Brien & Scott Kerr
- Sennybridge, Wales
- 14 February 1983