Five delayed-by-my-holiday things about the third round of auditions.
1. Imperfect Ten: There’s nothing inherently wrong with turning up to your X Factor audition with an air of spontaneity about you: remember in series two, when Brenda Edwards decided to audition because she and her husband just happened to be having a dirty weekend in the hotel where the auditions were being held? That grand tradition was continued in this episode by Ten Senah, who was so excited by the thrills that Manchester had to offer that she went out on the lash all night, got home at 6am and decided it wasn’t worth going to sleep before heading out to her audition. The show decided to portray her as a cautionary tale, soundtracking her arrival with some Ke$ha and suggesting that her approach to the whole thing was entirely unprofessional. I’d say this was a total double-standard from a show that lionised Frankie Cocozza, but then I remembered that the only member of the current judging panel who was present for any of that was Louis Walsh, and it’s not as if Louis’s opinion has carried any weight so far this year anyway. For what it’s worth, I liked Ten’s audition – it was a little chaotic and affected, but she’s clearly got talent and her self-penned song seemed decent enough. If that’s what she’s like on no sleep, I think she could be really strong when she focuses. Although eight years of watching Strictly Come Dancing makes it very weird to hear the judges saying “Ten” and it not actually being a positive thing.
2. Akister (And It Felt Like A Hit): Maybe I’m misremembering the auditions I’ve seen so far but it does feel like not a week goes by without a former contestant of some sort turning up for another bite at the cherry, to the point where I’m expecting Carolyn Poole to turn up with another new surname, this time claiming that she’s always been a death metal girl at heart. In this episode it was the return of Paul Akister, who apparently got to Judges Houses last year but was deemed inferior to Wee Nick, Luke’s Friend and Shirtless Sam Callahan. “Who was the judge?” demanded Cheryl, only for Louis to intone dramatically “it was me!” and for the entire panel to turn and glare at him. Because, of course, when Louis fails to take someone through to the live shows it’s because he’s an idiot who can’t be trusted to breathe without swallowing his tongue, whereas if Cheryl rejects someone, it’s because she always had their best interests at heart. Also, Louis had the runner-up AND the third place contestant last year. If you’re seriously trying to tell me that he’d have had a better result with Paul Akister on board, I will laugh heartily in your face. The others blasted Louis for making a terrible mistake in not picking Paul last year (although personally I thought that his whiny rendition of ‘Jealous Guy’ showed Louis to have been entirely in the right), so he’s probably a lock for lives this time around. Sigh.
3. Good News For Monica!: Contrary to popular belief, I am not a cold-hearted cynic who hates everyone and everything on this show – every so often somebody turns up to audition who actually appeals to me. That was very much the case with Monica Michael, whose day job apparently involves driving around in a van giving underprivileged kids a chance to learn how to MC, which is both random and oddly heartwarming. She talked about having gone off the rails as a kid and clawed her way back through music, which is something that a lot of people claim on this show but seemed to be legitimate in her case. She also mentioned having a younger sister, Natalie, who she didn’t want to see make the same mistakes that she had, so Monica had written her a song called ‘Pretty Little Sister’ which she was going to sing for her audition. The song was a little on-the-nose for my tastes, but it was well-constructed and well-sung, and Monica came across incredibly well, so I’m determined to enjoy her until the inevitable moment where she gets booted out in ninth place and we never hear from her again.
4. Where’s Dermot?: Seriously. Is he even on this show any more?
5. A Tale Of Two Newcastles: The final quarter of the show took us to Newcastle, so if you thought the overarching narrative had been a touch Cheryl-heavy prior to this, you ain’t seen nothing yet. We even got a personalised tour of Cheryl’s Newcastle as she pointed out such landmarks as where she went to her first job, the estate she grew up on, and the spot where the boat she was educated on sank. As a reminder of the different paths Cheryl could’ve gone down, we met two young women with big hopes and dreams: Chloe and Lola. Chloe told us the story of how she fell in with a bad crowd but was SAVED BY MUSIC (told you that story gets used a lot), and then sang Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ pretty atrociously and failed to advance to the next round. This carried the unfortunate implication of “oh well, now music’s failed you too, might as well go back to the streets”, but we weren’t really given the time to dwell on Chloe’s fate as we moved straight on to Lola the fishmonger who lives with her grandparents and sang ‘Make You Feel My Love’ competently but boringly, which is much more what this show’s about. Naturally the entire thing was framed in Cherylvision, giving us ample opportunity to watch her beaming at Lola with near-maternal pride. If Lola makes the finals (and I suspect she might) and Cheryl is her mentor, there’s going to be an insane amount of “mawliddle”ing going on.