Five things about the second round of auditions.
1. Look, Forget Everything We Said About Dannii And Sharon, Women Can Totally Work Together: I don’t think it’s unfair to me to suggest that The X Factor has, in the past, not been particularly friendly to the feminist cause. Sure, we had the occasional moment like Alexandra BURKE and Beyoncé standing together and slaying all who opposed them, but for every moment of female triumph like that, there was “Sharon thinks Dannii is a hideous she-beast and won’t be in the same room with her, isn’t it awful how women can’t work together?” Or that time that Kandy Rain got put through to the performance shows just so the entire panel could call them sluts on live TV. Or all those times that Tulisa compelled us to vote for Little Mix because they represented all women by having no self-esteem. This year, however, the show seems to be at least attempting to fare better on that front by convincing us that Cheryl and Mel B are best buds. This took the form of an entirely spontaneous conversation backstage where Cheryl asked Mel which Spice Girl she would be, and Mel replied that she’d be Posh, “because you’re sophisticated” (/”because you can’t really sing at all but you look nice and people seem to like you anyway”). Then Mel asked Cheryl which Girl Aloud she’d be, and Cheryl said Kimberley, although “she’s not as party animal as you” (/”because neither one of you should ever have attempted a solo career, what the hell were you thinking?”). Then they had some BANTER. It didn’t look particularly convincing, but I’m going to put that down to both of them being fairly abysmal actors, rather than assume they secretly hate each other. For now, anyway.
2. Disappointingly Unthreatening Spice: While we’re on the subject of Mel, when exactly did she become one of the pod people? Most of my excitement when Mel was announced as a permanent judge for this year came from her memorably stroppy stint as a guest judge back in 2012 when she repeatedly told people that they were shit, that she didn’t give a toss about their sob stories, and she didn’t really give a fuck if the audience booed her for it. That sort of honesty is all too rare on reality television, but something appears to have gone a bit wrong between then and now, because tonight’s episode featured Mel first going all gooey and putting through Stevi the über-cheesy call centre worker from Colchester who forgot the words to ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ in his audition because “I have to see you again, you’re a sweetheart”. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to forget an Olly Murs song is a highly laudable quality in anyone, but let’s not get carried away here. Then when dealing with someone who’d already been chewed up and spat out by the fame machine (see number five) Mel again went all wistful and voted yes because everyone deserves a second, third, fourth, fifth, eleventh chance. MEL. DO NOT FORCE ME TO STAGE AN INTERVENTION. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS SUPPOSED TO TELL THESE PEOPLE TO GIVE UP AND GO HOME. Come on now.
3. Safety In Numbers: The treatment of the Groups category tends to go one of two ways during the audition stages – either it gets almost entirely forgotten apart from a handful of very quick clips, usually shown as part of a montage, or the show goes entirely the other way and says “hey, the Groups category is really strong this year, it might not be a waste of everyone’s time after all!” This year appears to be going down the latter route, as we’ve been treated so far to a variety of groups – mainly boybands, but also a mixed boy-girl group called Only The Young who look like they’ve stepped right out of the pages of Shoreditch Twat, but I blame Kingsland Road for opening up the floodgates on that one. They didn’t seem to be quite as good as the show wanted me to think they were, but honestly I’ll be grateful for any groups who might stand even a ghost of a chance, since Louis is clearly going to get the Groups this year and I like it when he’s got something constructive to work with.
4. Hip Replacement: Here to fulfil the contractual obligation for at least one contestant per series to Judas their loved ones were Kitten And The Hip, aka 28-year-old accidental Cher Lloydalike Scarlett and her 53-year-old husband Ashley. The show tried to make us all feel disgusted by the age gap (pfft, I don’t scare that easily, I watch Channel 5), but when their audition performance of ‘Shut Up And Dance’ was about as joyously-received as an Ofsted visit, the judges opted to suggest that Scarlett had some potential but Ashley was a millstone around her neck. Scarlett put up a brief, spirited defence of her husband, but when Cheryl asked Scarlett if she’d consider going it alone, Scarlett answered in no uncertain terms that she absolutely would do that, whatever it takes. So Scarlett’s going through as a solo act and, to his credit, Ashley took the news pretty well. Perhaps this was because, as Mel pointed out, despite being an old coot he’d managed to score some sweet, sweet twentysomething tail, and no one can take that away from him.
5. It’s The End Of An Era And She’s The Last One Standing: It would appear that The Big Reunion 2014 wasn’t the career-booster many of its participants hoped it would be, because just a few short months after Girl Thing were reunited and trying not to look too furious at Jodi Albert being married to one of Westlife and owning half of Ireland or something, Linzi Martin was here auditioning for the show. Of course, Linzi was managed by Simon back in her Girl Thing days, and he (along with many others) had told her she was going to be an international superstar, which we all know is not how that story ended. Auditioning for this show wasn’t about to change that either, because Linzi could only muster an off-key rendition of ‘I’ll Be There’, which she delivered while standing at a 45-degree angle and clutching the side of her face like she was experiencing meth psychosis. She put the poor performance down to nerves, which undeniably played a part, but there were clearly problems here that ran a lot deeper than that. For a moment it seemed as though the show was going to give her the “this wasn’t a good audition, but we believe in you” treatment as both Louis and Mel led with their emotions. Cheryl, in a rare moment of self-awareness, acknowledged that she could very easily have ended up in Linzi’s shoes, and said that she didn’t feel it would be fair to Linzi to put her through. So it was down to Simon to give the casting vote, and he eventually told her that her voice wasn’t good enough and he didn’t want to give her false hope. Linzi took this surprisingly well – perhaps, despite all the water under the bridge, they still have a professional history and she trusts his judgement – and Simon gave her a hug as she was ushered out of the door, telling her “I wouldn’t lie to you”. Apart from that time he told her she was going to be bigger than the Spice Girls. That one didn’t count.