Where fun went to die.
The show has a nasty habit of undercutting its own intentions this year. Remember a few weeks ago, when Simon decided that he was going to punish the contestants for their poor performances in the sing-off by staging a double elimination where the lowest vote-getter on Saturday would be booted automatically without even getting a chance to sing for survival? (That logic sounds increasingly shaky the more I think about it.) The show decided to implement that mechanic again this week, despite the judges seemingly being much happier with the way the sing-offs have been going, purely because we needed to trim the numbers a bit because of all those wildcards. Still, this can’t possibly backfire, can it? It’s definitely not going to result in the loss of an act that Simon thinks is an important part of the competition or anything…
Cheryl Cole and Lauren Platt
I mean, I’m not going to say that Lauren Platt repinned your pin is still really struggling to develop any sort of interesting personality whatsoever, but her announcement this week that she was “so honoured to be invited along to the Frozen singalong event at the Royal Albert Hall had a definite whiff of Leona Lewis about it. I was just waiting for her to explain how much she identified with the strong female protagonist. I mean, sure she got to sing on the stage at the RAH, but she was singing mostly for an audience of distracted mums and small children who were more interested in soiling themselves. Aim higher, Lauren! If you remember last week, we met Lauren’s street-dancing champion younger brother, and heard Lauren’s dream that one day she would be singing on stage with him dancing alongside her. Well, she didn’t have to wait long for that to happen, because Brian Friedman decided it should be part of this performance. It’s just as well, really, because there was nothing else particularly good or memorable about it: Lauren sang Whitney’s ‘How Will I Know?’ and squeezed all of the life out of it by slowing it right down to the point of boredom. I mean, it’s not like there aren’t enough Whitney songs that are tedious ballads to begin with, without taking the fun disco ones and rendering them inert instead. She did bring the tempo up a little bit after the first chorus, but the damage was already done by then. Lauren was also given some very Cheryl-esque choreography here, because Cheryl likes to mould her acts into mini-mes, and despite Lauren’s previously expressed phobia of dancing, she seemed to cope well enough with it – and again, it’s just as well because the look of sheer blankness on her face throughout the performance couldn’t have sustained this number all by itself. Her brother seemed to be enjoying the whole experience far more than she was, and was practically elbowing her out of the way to get centre-stage. Also, just to add insult to injury, they cut the bridge out of the song, so we didn’t get any “OOH, HOW WILL I KNOW (don’t trust your feelings)” whatsoever. I mean what is the bloody point.
Simon Cowell and the Overs
I think the show went slightly overboard with the Ben Haenow: Working Class Hero stuff this week. I mean, I like Ben, but I don’t think I need to be reminded that he’s a van driver every single week, and the point was really rammed home by the addition of his mates with a load of BANTS about how he’s, like, well gay now he’s a media personality, and the theme from Minder playing in the background while they ate SAUSAGE CHIPS AND BEANS in a greasy spoon. Seriously, calm down, X Factor, WE GET IT. Simon gave him ‘I Will Always Love You’, saying that he has never heard a man sing this song. Bollocks to that, say I. This was probably the first week in quite some time that a Ben Haenow performance didn’t work for me on any level: he slopped on stage in a baggy t-shirt and leather jacket like he’d overslept and missed his wardrobe call, and tried to find some sort of halfway point between the Dolly Parton version and the Whitney Houston version that fell uncomfortably between the two, and the judges were fairly lukewarm on it as well. Cheryl told him it was far too big a risk for this stage of the competition, which tells you everything you need to know about Cheryl, really. Meanwhile, FLEUR! is every woman, it’s all in her. Apparently this was the first song that she learnt with her singing teacher, who we met and who seems like a very nice woman. Not to be outdone by Lauren, FLEUR! decided to invite her mum, her sister and her best friend to come on and be her backing singers for the evening as part of the unofficial Family Night the show seemed to be having. It was a decent but unspectacular performance, nothing particularly memorable but good enough to survive on a night where nobody else’s performance standard exceeded “decent” anyway. Meanwhile I just found myself wondering why Tulisa never got Little Mix to perform this song. Maybe it would’ve been a little bit too on-the-nose, even for her standards.
Speaking of on-the-nose, Stevi Ritchie sang ‘I’m Still Standing’ this week, because Simon thought it would be funny. Stevi’s week involved him preparing for Saturday by doing bicep curls (yes, much more important than practising your singing) and going on Loose Women, where Coleen Nolan declared her support for him (but then she does love a Ri(t)chie). After endless amounts of comparisons of Stevi to underdogs and Rocky “Balburra”, he made it on stage as a pharaoh in cheap gold drapes with his chest out, while the dancers poured honey all over his chest. This was not enough to save him from elimination, but I suspect we’ve probably reached peak Stevi by this point, so I’m okay with it.
Louis Walsh and the Groups
This week Only The Young were let loose in Hamleys to meet their public, because the show repeatedly insists that their target demographic is children. It’s odd to me that this show seems to just assume that Only The Young are basically Same Difference without the incestual overtones, when their entire aesthetic, dynamic and approach to music are entirely different. To their credit, Only The Young did seem to have fun meeting all their adorable teenybopper fans, but the crowd they were performing to did seem rather small, which I suppose should’ve been a sign of what was to come. They sang ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight’, which they performed at their first audition, with a new arrangement done by Mikey. Some of the singing was a bit marblemouthed, and it had a general air of maybe needing a couple more hours’ rehearsal, but I enjoyed the hand-clappiness of it and it was a solid overall performance. And once again it was fun, in a way this show rarely is. Simon said that he thought that performance would save them from elimination this week, and that the competition would be a poorer place without them, and then WHOOPS they polled the fewest votes and got auto-booted on Saturday night. Well, that’s what the show gets for pulling dumbass twists for the sake of it. (Full disclosure: I voted for Only The Young this week, and to give you an idea of how rare an occurrence that is, the last contestant I voted for was Alexandra Burke. And given how well it worked out, I don’t think I’ll bother voting again.)
Octocock were given the pimp slot, and Louis decided (about four weeks too late) that it was high time the public learned all of their individual names, so he took them off to Winter Wonderland with their names printed on t-shirts and tried to get the public to remember what they were called when the names were covered up. Then they promptly undid all that good work by giving themselves nicknames (“Naughty Kick”, “Diva Kick” etc), which seems like a terrible thing to do when you’ve spent such a long time getting the public to learn your ACTUAL NAMES. (Hopefully one of them will get sent to jail, then he can be “The Kick Inside”.) They sang ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, and among their many ongoing problems, they still haven’t learned how not to mill around aimlessly on stage like Blazin’ Squad, and I suspect it’s far too late in the day to fix that now. Still, one of them was wearing a lovely jumper, so perhaps there’s hope after all.
Mel B and Andrea Faustini
This week Andrea Faustini went to the Italian embassy, where the reception was “incredible”. We didn’t see the Ferrero Rocher being handed out, but I’m sure that was an oversight. Mel gave Andrea ‘I Have Nothing’ to sing this week, and arranged a special guest-mentor slot for Alexandra Burke.com, who basically turned up just to say “I WAS IN THE BODYGUARD AND I HAD TO SING THIS SIX TIMES A WEEK”. (Whatever happened to “eight shows a week”, anyway? Did the BBC’s Andrew Lloyd Webber reality shows die in vain?) Despite Andrea’s torch-song diva image, I think this was a bad choice for him – I’ve been unmoved by his performances before, but this was the first time I found him to be uncomfortably off-key. Also, he’s clearly not paying any attention to Simon’s surprisingly valid critique about the faces he pulls when he sings. Surprisingly, because I assumed that Andrea was Teflon at this point, this resulted in Andrea being in the sing-off against Stevi on Sunday, and one of our very few sing-offs this year not to go to deadlock, which makes me wonder if Stevi actually got more votes than Andrea did. Well, we’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. (If so, presumably that means that without the twist, the sing-off would’ve been Andrea vs Only The Young, so they might well have been screwed even without it.)
Next week: audience jukebox week, or “the public have been conditioned to vote for the least interesting option week”, if you prefer.