The X Factor – Series 11 Episode 1

Five things about the first round of auditions.

1. Also Featuring Some Irish Guy and Her Off Thing: Louis Walsh and Mel B may notionally be on the payroll this year, but don’t go thinking for a second that they’ll be getting to do very much: if the opening episode is anything to go by, it’s the Simon and Cheryl show all the way. I can understand that to an extent, because the original years when Simon and Cheryl’s special relationship was formed were the show’s high point creatively and commercially, so obviously they’d want to return to that, but at the same time, god it just really put me off both of them by the time they buggered off to America. It becomes such an oxygen-suck to the show as a whole when we only get to see things filtered through the perspective of 50 per cent of the judging panel. A case in point: this episode saw the return of Amy Connelly, who apparently made it to Judges’ Houses with Cheryl all the way back in series five. While failing to make the live shows was a serious knock to Amy’s confidence (and honestly, knowing that you’re secondary to Laura Shite must be a tough blow for anyone to recover from), this was of secondary relevance to the show because of course the focus was on how difficult it was for Poor Cheryl to have so say no to somebody, rather than take them all under her wing and guarantee them all stardom in the way that she obviously wants to, being a saint among humans. (Hey, remember that time when Cheryl left Daniel Fox sitting there for ages waiting to hear if he was going to advance into the competition or not because she wanted to go off and have a little sniffle and just generally make the whole thing all about her some more?) Anyway, naturally there have been loads of stories about the return of “Cheryl’s protégé” (lolerama) and oh dear it turns out Amy doesn’t actually get very far anyway oopsadaisy. (I do have to laugh at Amy complaining that she felt like she was “used for entertainment”. On primetime ITV? The very nerve!)

2. Available On iTunes: How very handy that one of the Talk Talk ad bumpers forced us to hear X Factor alumna Ella Henderson’s single ‘Ghost’ on a seemingly continuous loop (sidebar: knowing what we know now about James Arthur, I suspect everyone wishes that particular bottom two had played out slightly differently, irrespective of how you might feel about Ella herself). That’s all well and good – after all, this show needs successful former contestants to justify its continued existence and set itself apart from, just to pluck an example out of the air, The Voice UK – but did we really need an entire montage soundtracked by Cheryl’s noodly papfest ‘Crazy Stupid Love’? Then again, the editors did segue into that particular segment right after Simon said “at least it can’t get any worse”, so I like to think the editors are on our side, deep down.

3. Electrifying. Infinite Time-ime-ime-ime-ime-ime: So there was this one guy called Shayden Willis who wheeled in an entire keyboard rig and talked extensively about his artistry and how he lives and breathes music, so it was pretty much a surprise to absolutely no one when he started to play his heartfelt ballad about being romantically shanked in the back by some woman and it turned out to basically be this, except worse:

Naturally he refused to listen to the panel when they told him to shut the fuck up and get out, so he stayed and ran through his entire repertoire, getting progressively worse. This would all have been a lot funnier if, at the end of the show, we hadn’t had to sit through something every bit as painful only for that particular contestant to be presented to us as a potential winner. But more on that in a minute.

4. Naomi Just Hopes You’ve Still Got Your Notebook And You’re Still Writing Down Everything She Says: “What’s your name?”
“I’m Chloe-Jasmine.”
“And where are you from?”
“I’m from The Face, actually.”

Yep, I was one of the six people who watched The Face and I have zero regrets about this because it was fucking awesome. Chloe-Jasmine ended up on Naomi Campbell’s team, which was mostly famous for a) Naomi tearing strips off her contestants for not carrying the notebooks that she gave them on their person at all times, because everything Naomi says is gold and you’re supposed to write it all down, b) chronic levels of infighting because they all hated each other’s guts, and c) producing the eventual winner of the series because Naomi is the executive producer of the show has an unerring eye for spotting talent. Anyway, Chloe-Jasmine felt like a bit of a retread of everything we went through with Lettice Rowbotham on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year, except where Lettice was kind of goofy and endearing, Chloe-Jasmine is kind of affected and annoying. Also, if my Twitter timeline was anything to go by, she alienated a good three-quarters of the viewing audience by saying that she was going to sing ‘Black Coffee’ and then inexplicably performing this instead of this. I mean, that’s just unforgivable.

5. As If Rebecca Ferguson Hasn’t Damaged The Very Fibre Of Music Enough Already: Before this series arrived on our screens, Simon was at great pains to announce that he’d had it up to here with sob stories and he absolutely wasn’t going to stand for any of them any more. Seriously. Yes, he knows he’s said that before, but he definitely means it this time. Predictably, that lasted all of about five minutes as our final auditionee of the evening was Jay James, who wanted to tell us all about that terrible time in his life during his naval service where he fell over a bit and got an owie on his knee and just had to buy a guitar if he was going to make it through that dark patch. (Other deplorable crimes committed by Jay James: bringing his baby to the audition room, wearing some kind of ungodly t-shirt/jumper hybrid, supporting Rebecca Ferguson on tour.) Naturally this combination of being one of Our Brave Boys (do the Navy count as Our Brave Boys? I’m never entirely sure, but let’s just go with it), while nurturing a sensitive side and also being demonstrably fecund got the dollar-signs flashing in Cowell’s eyes (because he wants an international star this year, remember). The only problem being that Jay’s rendition of ‘Say Something’ sounded like he was having a bowel movement. Actually, it sounded like a bowel movement having a bowel movement. I know this show likes to deploy a sympathetic narrative in the hope that it will neutralise our ears, but I like to think there are limits, and I fear this time those limits have been breached. Also, the Right To Be Forgotten remains a contentious legal issue, but I bet Jay wishes he hadn’t given that interview to Wales Online where he said that it “saddens” him that people use The X Factor as a way of leapfrogging their way to stardom rather than earning it. And I bet he’s a bit concerned that they printed that he was a fitness instructor in the Navy when he told Simon he was a “warfare specialist”.

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