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 Pink, 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. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi