The X Factor – Series 11 Top 12: Movie Week

Once again, a disappointing lack of representation for the soundtrack to 8 Femmes. (Insert Stereo Kicks joke here.)

One of the problems with Movie Week in recent years is that it feels a bit archaic. Maybe it’s just me getting old and not paying attention to the charts any more, but it seems like a long time since it was a regular thing for soundtrack songs from the latest blockbuster movie to have a stranglehold on the number one spot. (The three-part punch of Whitney’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, Bryan Adams’ ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’ and Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Love Is All Around’ in the early 90s was probably the high point for this.) So it was reassuring to some degree that three of tonight’s performances came from films released within the last two years – but we still had to endure a fairly workmanlike slog through all the songs that get wheeled out year on year in addition to that.

And if you were hoping for a better quality of distraction in between the songs, then I’m afraid I can only disappoint you: Dermot had a little chat with Fishy Lola’s boyfriend in the audience and it turned out he’s as dull as she is, everyone laughed at the story of a woman in the paper who claimed she was allergic to Simon and then Cheryl claimed that SHE MUST HAVE THAT TOO so she swapped seats with Louis and suddenly the nausea subsided TOP BANTZ. (Although honestly, putting some distance between Simon and Cheryl on a permanent basis might not be such a terrible idea, because as much as I’m no great fan of Cheryl’s, Simon was being super-awful to her this week and I think the dynamics might actually be better with Cheryl and Mel on one end and Louis and Simon on the other. Look into it, producers!) My hopes were briefly raised when Dermot went to speak to my favourite celebrity couple Rochelle and Marvin, but it turned out that Rochelle’s favourite act this year is Fishy Lola. Oh, Rochelle.

Mel B and the Boys

For the third week in a row, the task of opening the show fell to Ms Brown’s Boys, with Jake Quickenden leading the charge this week. Much like last year’s pretty-but-couldn’t-really-sing contestant Sam Callahan, Jake admitted in his VT that his initial ambition in life was to be a footballer, but since that hadn’t worked out, he decided to go for music instead. However, he’s still not managed to give it his undivided attention, because despite Mel’s instruction last week to stop getting his tits out all the time, Jake accepted an offer to pose naked for Cosmopolitan. Jake was fairly unrepentant about this, saying that he likes getting naked. Yeah, nice try Jake, but that argument didn’t work for Stephen Gough and it’s not going to work for you. Mel made him eat spicy chocolate as a punishment, and I would like to go on record at this point as believing their relationship to be…weird. In a bid to disprove the commonly-held theory that invoking Dirty Dancing on reality television will grant you immunity in the public vote, Jake sang ‘She’s Like The Wind’ absolutely appallingly. None of it was pleasant, but everything that happened after the middle eight was absolute garbage, and somebody should, at some point in the process, have advised him not to even attempt head voice. Ever. It ended up landing him in the bottom two and subsequently going home, but on the bright side, it totally looked as if he kissed Jack Walton full on the mouth during the results show, if you like that sort of thing. Jake had mentioned that he wanted to prove Simon wrong for criticising him last week, which was also a feeling expressed by Andrea Faustini, who decided to give Simon what-for by…singing yet another sassy power ballad. This time he went for ‘Listen’ from Dreamgirls, and sorry, if your performance of that song doesn’t involve Alexandra Burke sobbing all over Beyoncé, then I don’t really have any use for it. One point of interest, however, was Andrea saying that he thinks his biggest competition on the show is Paul and Lauren. Wouldn’t that be a terrifyingly soporific final? Also a scarily plausible one? We must act now to prevent it. And speaking of Paul Akister Girl And I Liked It, he spent more time on his ongoing confidence issues this week, talking extensively about how he’s not used to performing in front of an audience, and how nobody ever noticed him as a child, like boo bloody hoo. Mel decided to tackle his ongoing charisma issues by giving him a lesson in how to work that stage. Unfortunately, the end result was a tacky gold-lights-and-girls-in-leotards performance that looked like something you’d see between courses at a Las Vegas dinner theatre, and Paul’s mediocre performance of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ still made him feel about 20 years older than he actually is. Finally, Jack Walton continued the thread of shaky beginnings to pop careers by talking about one gig he played where only one man turned up to watch. “He enjoyed himself though,” said Jack, and it’s basically like he wasn’t even trying to imply that the sole audience member at that particular gig didn’t spend the entire time pleasuring himself. In a confusing development, Jack also got his tits out for a magazine this week, and it wasn’t made clear whether this was a Mel-approved activity or not. Jack sang ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ from Rocky III and delivered the first half of it in a whiny acoustic way that seemed to fly in the face of everything the song is actually about, and then in the second half the staging seemed to turn into Hang Tough from Gladiators, which was all a bit baffling.

Louis Walsh and the Remains of the Groups

There was an insight into the day-to-day operations of Only The Young this week and it wasn’t hugely encouraging, to be honest. Apparently their typical week involves Louis picking a song for them (or indeed picking several songs for them), the whole group trying the songs out, and Charlie having a grump because he thinks what they’ve been given is too cheesy. The group admitted that they have a tendency to bicker – goodnaturedly, but bicker nonetheless – among themselves, and then decided to stake their claim for the “best impression of Fraser from Bad Education” competition (in which I’m fairly certain they were running unopposed) by shouting “THE BICKER OF DIBLEY!” and “IF IT AIN’T PUNNY IT AIN’T FUNNY!” I still have a lot of goodwill for this lot, but if they’re still here in the run-up to Christmas and one of them so much as thinks as mentioning Banter Claus, that will be it for us. Anyway, eventually on Thursday they settled on ‘Boom Clap’ from The Fault In Our Stars (or “Da Fault In Da Stars”, if you’re Louis), and I’d got myself fairly excited by this song choice when it was first revealed ahead of the weekend because I thought it had potential to be a game-changer for them. Sadly, it wasn’t the Moment that I’d been hoping for – the choruses were anthemic, but the verses were flat and it was obvious that they hadn’t had enough time to rehearse it properly. Simon called them, and by extension Louis, out on this and said that it would cause them trouble going ahead in the competition – which it did, because they landed in the sing-off against Jake, and their rendition of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ was pretty appalling, but they got saved for having more long-term potential. Elsewhere, Octocock had a falling out with Louis as well, because apparently he claimed on The Xtra Factor that the band had too many members, that he’d never wanted an eight-piece boyband in the first place, and that maybe it was time FOR A CULLING. The group responded to this by deciding to pick their own song and perform it acapella to prove that they’re Good Singers, because obviously that’s what viewers are looking for in a boyband. What their Beatles medley of ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’ ultimately pointed out is that this boyband has too many Louis Tomlinsons and not enough Liam Paynes, because I counted around six of them who could barely hold a damn note. However, the audience had been given glowsticks ahead of time, so this was clearly a scheduled Moment for them, actual performance quality be damned.

Simon Cowell and the Overs

Jay James wants us to know that he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. I’m not sure why he thought anyone would think that in the first place; it’s not like he ever fucking shuts up about it. Last week’s performance of ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ reminded Jay that he is 500 MILES AWAY FROM HIS FAMILY, so I’m so pleased that he’s continuing to pursue a career as a recording artist, because obviously that’s a job that allows you to stay home as long as you want to. In other “yes, we’ve established this aspect of your personality” news, Jay talked about missing his daughter who said “I love you daddy” for the first time on Skype this week! I suspect the key part of that sentence is “on Skype”, though the show wanted us to focus on “for the first time”. He was singing ‘Skyfall’ and found it an appropriate song choice because James Bond was IN THE NAVY TOO. In that case, I’ve got my fingers crossed for some Village People in the near future. My dislike of ‘Skyfall’ as a song in its own right is well documented, but for all the original’s faults, you can’t deny that Adele at least gives it some welly. James’s performance was just so lifeless, and all the drama was being created for him by the visuals and the arrangement, so anything that was right about it really wasn’t to his credit. Cheryl said much the same thing, and being on the same page as Cheryl about anything remains unnerving to me. Continuing the general thread of beef with the judges that’s pervaded this episode, Fleur! was upset last week about Mel accusing her of cheating because the backing vocals were quite loud on her chorus last week. We were shown snaps of this being reported in the papers to make it look like A Big Deal, and Fleur protested that she “wasn’t cheating at all!” which seemed weird to me, because no actual sensible person would think tha–oh, okay, I get why she was worried now. This was probably the first week since boot camp where I actually felt underwhelmed by Fleur!, and that’s probably only because of the high bar she’s set for herself – her performance of ‘Lady Marmalade’ was entirely competent, but I expect more than that from her at this point. I don’t know if she was just resting on her laurels at this week or whether there wasn’t really much else she could do with such an on-the-nose song choice, but either way this felt like a disappointment. Please don’t let me down, Fleur!. You’re my only hope. Still, the judges were impressed with her mad rapping skillz, which probably goes to show how easy they are to win over at this point. Then we learnt everything we ever needed to know about Stevi Ritchie when he got a tweet from Olly MURS and acted like he had just touched the hand of God. After some ESSEXLADZ stuff in his VT about wanting to take Simon out in Colchester (an invitation that was later extended to Louis from One Direction for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to me, although I’m sure his face would brighten up any evening out), Stevi sang ‘Footloose’ while wearing a lumberjack shirt and waggling his knees about and just generally being very upsetting as a thing that exists. I could be charitable and say that his vocal wasn’t as terrible as it was last week, but I’m still not sure that I want to unleash Stevi on the Butlins PAs and oily suburban nightclubs that are likely to become his bread and butter when this show is over. Finally, Ben OHAENOW pretty much crossed all of this week’s tropes off his bingo card. Upset at a judge’s comment from last week? Check. Didn’t like the song he was originally given? Check. Talked extensively about missing a loved one? Check. (And actually went one further by launching himself so enthusiastically at his girlfriend when she stopped by for a visit that I felt a bit uneasy about the cameras being there.) He rejected ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ because it was boring, and asked to substitute it with…’I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ from Armageddon. God, between Ben Haenow and Caroline Flack, this has been quite the year for people I previously respected suddenly plummeting in my estimation by revealing their love for that song. It’s hard to really do anything with that song that hasn’t been done a million times before, but Ben did at least manage to connect with it, and also it put his voice into that gravelly place that always makes me feel a bit funny. In a good way. So by and large I was on board with it, even though it was a bit unpleasant during the key change, but Simon declared the song swap a failure, and said he shouldn’t have listened to Ben, so that’s Ben’s drama narrative sorted for next week if nothing else.

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and the Remnants of the Girls

This year’s VTs have been noteworthy for the amount of times we’ve seen the judges doing their mentoring over the phone rather than being actively present for the rehearsal process, and I mention this because Cheryl’s song choices for this week seemed particularly phoned-in, even by this show’s standards. Fishy Lola was given ‘When You Believe’, otherwise known as Leon Jackson’s coronation song, so at least it was a track that we were used to hearing out of tune. However, apparently getting Lola to sing in tune hasn’t been deemed as much of a priority as sorting out her self-confidence (even her boyfriend was roped into this during his brief chat from the audience by saying that she doesn’t know how good she is. YES SHE DOES, THAT’S WHY SHE APPLIED), so Cheryl decided to give her a makeover. Lola had a momentary freakout about this because she seemed to be under the misapprehension that she was actually on America’s Next Top Model, where a makeover inevitably means having all your hair shaved off and being given a chin-weave, whereas on The X Factor all it means is “we’re going to make you look a bit more like Cheryl”. She sang her dull song dully, bleating her way through it and never once sounding plausible as an actual pop star – the less said about the key change, the better. And then when it was all over everyone shouted “YOU LACK SELF-CONFIDENCE!” at her in lieu of actually judging her performance, which I’m sure will do wonders to build her self-esteem. And on the subject of dubiously-constructed narratives, Lauren Platt Is Trending On iTunes looked back over her performance from last week and decided that that moment where her voice totally cracked was her “showing emotion”, and therefore it was a good thing. Sure, why not? She was given ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen, except that she decided she was going to sing “the Demi Lovato version”. Who even knew there was a Demi Lovato version? Lauren got a Skype chat with Demi herself, because even though X Factor USA is now a dark and distant memory, apparently Simon still owns Demi’s ass. Weirdly for a show that’s so insistent on showing the contestants “making it their own” every week, Lauren was worried that she had been doing that too much, and decided that she wanted to “keep close to the original” this week, which was even stranger when you consider that she’d already said she was going to sing an arrangement that isn’t actually the original version of the song. She seemed a bit outmatched by the song, and there were some tuning issues, but let’s not pretend she was ever in any danger this week thanks to Cheryl’s nakedly cynical song choice.

Next week: Fright Night, and Cheryl’s performing. Those two things may be connected.

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