The fifth series of X Factor has kicked off, with some of the best – and worst – auditions from around the UK being screened.

More than 180,000 people applied to take part in this year’s series and have the chance to win a £1m record contract – and this year they have to impress a new judge, Girls Aloud‘s Cheryl Cole, as well as returning panellists Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue and Louis Walsh.

Auditions kicked off in Manchester – but as usual, many acts fell by the wayside, including enthusiastic boy-girl duo Dreamtime.

Teenagers Nathan and Elizabeth were a flop with the judges, with Simon describing their singing as “like going to a zoo”.

They’re one of the worst acts I’ve ever had on this show,” he said afterwards.

Truck driver John May was also given short shrift despite telling the judges he could “sell more records than Britney Spears”.

It was better news for the auditionees in London, however, with four-piece boy band JLS among the first to really impress the judges. “You just made this competition exciting,” Dannii Minogue told them as they sailed through to boot camp.

Girl group Chaos and Essex boy Austin Drage also made it through. “I think this competition needs someone like you,” Simon Cowell told Austin after his rendition of Boyz II Men’s End Of The Road.

And mum of five Rachel Hylton wowed the judges, who unanimously put her through to the next round. “I love this girl,” Simon Cowell said, “my favourite audition so far.”

It was a different story in Cardiff, where the judges struggled to contain their laughter at the audition of sibling duo Ant and Seb. “It’s more like Ant and Deaf,” Simon told the disgruntled pair.

After a string of similarly bad auditions the quartet were prepared to give up on the city – until Bridgend native Alexandra Davies came along.

“What you can’t give someone is passion,” Dannii Minogue told the 16-year-old, “and you’re the first person who has walked in today who is aboslutely oozing it.”

Finally, the auditions returned to Manchester – and there was a surprise for Cheryl when former Popstars: The Rivals finalist Nikk Mager turned up to perform for the judges.

The 24-year-old – who was a part of boy band Phixx, formed from the five male runners up in the 2002 show – now works as a club singer, and admitted to the judges that The X Factor could be his last shot at stardom.

However, his audition failed to impress Simon, Dannii and Louis – while Cheryl left the set, admitting that she was unable to judge her old friend.

“I don’t think I can do this,” she said, “it would be like a biased, weird thing” – and she stepped forward to give him a consoling hug as he was unanimously rejected by the other judges.

“That was awful,” she said afterwards. “I can’t imagine how he must be feeling. Today has really reinforced to me how powerful a yes or no can be – you can totally make or break somebody.”