The X Factor – Series 11 Episode 6

Five getting-closer-to-being-caught-up things from the second round of arena auditions.

1. Going Rouge: There’s a slight format issue with these blog posts that I’ve discovered when it comes to the Sunday night shows: given that these shows are shorter and only run to approximately an hour, there’s pretty much only room for five contestants per show, which means that I don’t really get much choice about what to discuss for my five points. Still, we’re nearing the end of these audition episodes now which should give me a bit more room for editorial judgment. Anyway, to business: up first were six-piece girl group Rouge Kiss. The six-member part of this is intriguing to me, because apart from the Pussycat Dolls (and at a stretch, short-lived Irish Popstars winners Six), I can’t think of many successful pop groups with six members. I can’t imagine Rouge Kiss will be the ones to change this either, especially since they’re going to struggle to develop any sort of coherent branding with their current attitude: Simon hated their stripperific image at their room audition, so they decided to come back with a new look for their arena audition. Essentially they’d changed everything about the act in order to win Simon over; I’d call them sellouts, but I think that ship sailed long ago anyway. They also told Simon they’d picked a more modern song for this audition as requested, and then launched into Iggy Azalea’s ‘Fancy’ (released in 2014, as opposed to their previous audition song, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ by Arctic Monkeys, released in…2013), and despite all the alleged improvements, they still look awful and sound terrible. But, y’know, Groups, so the standards for approval are demonstrably lower, and they still got three yeses.

2. A One-Way Ticket To A Mad-Man Situation: Cheryl seems to be waging a constant war of passive-aggression against Simon. I don’t know if this is the result of some focus group agreement that people like it when the two of them are needling each other, or if this is how she’s getting her revenge for the X Factor USA mess, but either way there’s a lot of footage of the two of them snipping at each other this year. Case in point: as five-piece boyband Overload came in for their audition, Simon quite needed a pee, so Cheryl took great delight in noisily pouring water in front of him, and stretching out their introductory chat for as long as possible. Quite how the show expects us to forget that Simon is both the creator and executive producer of this series, and therefore can surely halt filming for a wazz any time he damn well likes, I’m not entirely sure but there you go. Overload, meanwhile, look uncannily like a botched attempt to clone One Direction, and had a self-penned song called ‘No No No’ about trying to sleep with a girl who doesn’t think she should sleep with you. Because the word definitely needs more songs endorsing that worldview. Their harmonies are hideous and the song is a load of piss, but the show clearly wants us to think they’re amazing, so I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of them. (Also, so much for trying to make it on their own, eh?)

3. No Jacket Required: There’s something weird going on with the male Overs this year, in that there are several deeply mediocre performers who the show seems bizarrely invested in nonetheless. I mean, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the show to promote the mediocre as being exceptional, but the fact that this year’s biggest offenders all seem to be men in their 30s is noteworthy, I guess. Two of the worst examples cropped up again in this episode, the first one being Stevi Ritchie, who was engagingly awkward in his room audition. Here the show seemed determine to sell his as a charismatic performer capable of winning over a hostile audience, which they did by clunkily editing the arena crowd to be improbably silent during his entrance. Like, pin-drop silent. I’ve been to a lot of gigs over the years, and even the surliest of crowds has never been that quiet. And even if they were, they certainly weren’t won over simply by someone holding out a mic and encouraging them to sing along to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. Stevi’s daughter was also paraded around for bonus points (at this point I’m beginning to think they just have one generic telegenic moppet that they wheel out for everyone in this scenario). Stevi whirled his jacket into the crowd like the absolute worst kind of bar singer, but Simon applauded him for being a “trier” and he’s through to boot camp. I can sort of get on board with the show trying to sell Stevi on the basis of his personality, because he’s sweet and well-meaning, but I’m absolutely lost as to how they’d market this guy with anything other than a quickly stitched-together album of covers for Mother’s Day.

4. Judgement Jay: The other Awful Over, the truly toxic one, was of course Jay James, who came back to remind us that he had to leave the Navy following some sort of emergency owie, at which point he discovered a love of music and not wearing any socks. Like Stevi, Jay got his young daughter out for sympathy, and wittered on about whether he’s really supposed to be doing music, because “I need to put my wife and child first.” There seemed to be a big “but…” hanging in the air after this thought, though. (Heh. “Big but”.) He then went out and sang ‘Fix You’ for the crowd, because he is gross and so is this show. Simon declared the whole thing a success: “we make shows like this to find people like you.” I’d ask how he sleeps at night, but the answer is obviously “on a big pile of money”.

5. Nerve Centre: Finally we had the prompt return of Kayleigh Manners, the one who may or may not be from somewhere quite near to where Mel may or may not have grown up. Kayleigh is plagued with nerves, having apparently missed the memo that this is territory normally reserved for Scousers. I mean, “ME NEHHHHHHVES” just doesn’t sound the same in a Leeds accent, does it? Kayleigh attempted ‘Here Comes The Sun’ squeakily, playing the guitar tunelessly and staring at the floor. Cheryl pounced on her immediately and gave her the full “get confident, stupid!” treatment, so Kayleigh ditched the guitar and the song, and instead went for ‘Your Song’, giving it all of 0.03% more self-belief than she’d had previously. Still, context is everything so for the sake of the narrative, the judges declared this to be a huge success and encouraged her to believe in herself (although conflictingly, Louis likes that she isn’t all full of herself on stage). It’ll be interesting to see whether Kayleigh ends up morphing into a giant egomaniac or having a nervous breakdown by week three of the live shows. I fear the latter.

Next week: more arena auditions, as Simon tells a contestant “it was like you’d swallowed somebody else.” Note to self – Simon doesn’t like it when contestants swallow somebody else.

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