Five still-catching-up-from-holiday things about the fourth round of auditions.
1. Best Foot Forward: Okay, I get that The X Factor is first and foremost entertainment. It’s fluff. It is not meant to be a gritty, warts-and-all look at the harsh realities of trying to eke out a living while breaking into the music industry. And yet at the same time it makes me very uncomfortable when we meet contestants like Kerrianne Covell (distantly related to Simon Cowell through some eastern European branch of the family tree?) whose story for the day was that she’d bunked off from her job in a shoe shop to attend her audition, because her future career potential as a pop star is more important than her nine to five. Maybe this is just me getting old and grumpy in my old age, but I think it’s kind of stupid to go on national television and boast about going AWOL from work when you have absolutely no guarantee that it’ll be worth the risk. In Kerrianne’s case, admittedly, the outcome was favourable – she impressed the judges and got through to the arena auditions, and having Simon Cowell ring up her boss and apologise for her absence will probably stop her for getting fired for this particular transgression, maybe? – but however much Simon and Cheryl might repeatedly attempt to tell me how likeable Kerrianne is, I don’t really see her being much of a vote-winner if she makes it as far as the live shows. Let’s hope her boss is super-understanding.
2. Orange Is The New Bland: There were a lot of hopefuls trotting through the audition room this week who were all pleasant enough, competent enough, but considering the title of the show is The X Factor, dear god some of these folk were so generic that they might well have been 3D photocopies of previous contestants. Take 16-year-old Michael Rice, for example. Not only was his sob story (working in a chip shop, coming home smelling of fish) near-identical to that of Lola who was only on the show yesterday, ffs, but everything about his demeanour suggested Craig Colton’s mini-me, from his shy pre-performance demeanour to his decision to sassily sing Whitney Houston to the judges’ gasping that they just didn’t see that coming at all.
Janet Grogan from Dublin, to be fair, doesn’t necessarily remind me of a particular previous contestant, but her wistful rendition of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ is something I have seen a metric fuckton of times on this show or American Idol. There just wasn’t anything new or exciting there. Then there was Lizzy Pattinson, who seemed so familiar that Simon swore he’d already met her, though Lizzy claimed otherwise. Personally I thought that vocally she reminded me of series three’s Kerry McGregor, except Kerry had a wheelchair and that was pretty much the only thing about Kerry that was memorable. Lizzy does not have a wheelchair. (Special mention to Lauren Lovejoy, who didn’t remind me of a previous contestant but was eerily reminiscent of the theoretical lovechild of Sarah Solemani and Cora Cross.)
3. The Raign In Spaign Stays Maignly On The Plaign: This week’s obligatory showbiz blowhard was 31-year-old Raign, who claims that everyone thinks she looks 19 (suddenly I can only think of Chandler Bing: “on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the dumbest a person can look, you are definitely 19”). A peculiar mix of closed-off body language and unshakeable self-belief, Raign got the rare Geri Halliwell Edit: Contestant Edition where her ceaseless prattle was mined for maximum humiliation. She talked extensively about knowing herself as an artist and her army of Twitter followers, mentioned that she (allegedly) had a #17 single in Russia, then proceeded to get Cheryl’s hackles up by claiming that ‘Titanium’ was Sia’s first hit. Simon seemed similarly unimpressed at first, pointing out that she was 31 and really ought to have made it on her own by now. (Which begs the question of why bother having an Overs category at all, but I think Simon only ever intended it to be for tearful housewives who gave up on their desires of fame and fortune so they could stay home and look after the kids.) Eventually Raign sang ‘Clarity’ by Zedd ft. Foxes, fairly poorly, though Louis and Mel still voted to send her through despite her lack of obvious talent and her toxic personality. (Part of me wonders if Mel and Louis were instructed to say yes to her purely to set up what’s about to happen, but this show would never do something like that, would it? *innocent face*) Simon opted not to vote her through to the arena auditions, and Raign said she was sorry. An openly-hostile-at-this-point Cheryl asked why she was apologising, and Raign said it was because she thought Simon was the most important person to impress. This was incredibly foolhardy of her, because obviously CHERYL is the most important person in any room. Bad Raign, no biscuit. So naturally Cheryl immediately snarled “no!” and Raign was dismissed. Of course, that couldn’t possibly be the end of the story – Raign wanted to come back in and sign an original competition, and in true Katie Waissell fashion sang all about how they mustn’t let her go. Personally I didn’t think this was much of an improvement (the song sounded like something that would get knocked out in the semis at Eurovision), but you could tell the show was gearing up its redemption narrative, however half-arsedly, and Simon reminded us all that he loves a trier with self-belief and changed his vote to yes. Cheryl, of course, still hates Raign’s guts, but the good news is that Cheryl hasn’t got the Overs this year (lol like Cheryl’s ever getting the Overs), so Raign might advance quite far into the competition and they can continue to fightzzzzzz.
4. The Comeback Kid: Poor Geoff Mull. Even though this year is all about the comeback contestants redeeming themselves, and even though he had a story all about getting cut at last year’s unloved Six Chair Challenge, he didn’t get that much screentime (though he did get a pass through to the next round). Instead all the focus was on Jake Quickenden, who got as far as Judges’ Houses in 2012 with Nicole Scherzinger, but didn’t make it to the live shows. (LOL, remember that year, when everyone was like “oh WELL DONE NICOLE, you’ve just guaranteed that you’ll be the judge who loses all their acts first” and then she ended up having both the winner and the runner-up? Nicole <3) Since then he’s kept himself very busy taking his clothes off working hard at breaking into the music biz, and now he’s back for another go. The judges weren’t impressed with his lively John Legend cover at first, and Simon “spontaneously” suggested that he sing ‘Say Something’ instead, as though we haven’t heard that enough already this year. Then Mel asked if he’d ever experienced any heartbreak, and Jake talked about his younger brother dying shortly after he was cut from the show in 2012 and whaddaya know, suddenly everyone was thrilled by his emotional connection to the material. Then Jake left and Simon was like “I admire him for not selling us that story” and Mel was all “yeah, he didn’t even mention it until I brought it up”, as though it hadn’t been their entire purpose to goad him into talking about it from minute one. We know your tricks by now, X Factor.
5. Mind Your Manners: Kayleigh Manners is from Harehills in Leeds. Mel B just thinks she is. That was the basic crux of this audition, as Kayleigh talked about how Harehills is a rough area without many prospects, but Mel B grew up near there and she’s an international megastar, so she’s given people like Kayleigh hope to get out. And then Kayleigh went into her audition and Mel was all “woo, Harehills, Leeds represent!” Except it turns out that Mel’s not from Harehills at all, and her mum’s actually quite cross at the very idea. Poor Mel. She waits four whole episodes to be a relevant component of anybody’s audition, and then when it does happen it’s riddled with geographical inaccuracies. 😦
Next up: the arena auditions, for our sins.