Five whoops-the-series-is-nearly-over-so-I’d-better-finish-this things about the second round of Judges’ Houses.
1. Let’s Hear It For (What’s Left Of) The Boys: We picked things up halfway through Mel’s careful consideration of the boys, having already seen Andrea Faustini and Jack Walton in the previous episode. Sandwiched into the middle were the designated bland twinks with no particular edit who we all knew were going absolutely no further: Danny Dearden and Jordan Morris. Bonus points to you if you can remember anything at all about them, because I bet Mel doesn’t. Still, having made it this far at all allowed them to pad out their parts a little bit, so Danny got to talk about how he comes from a family of joiners, because people don’t become popstars where he comes from. (That’s probably just as well, since he’s not about to become one either.) He sang ‘Beautiful Disaster’, and it was definitely one of those things. Jordan followed with OneRepublic’s ‘Apologize’, and Emma and Mel squeed about how they wanted to marry him, or something. Then we rounded things off with the Unfinished Business round, as Jake Quickenden and Paul Akister returned to prove that Nicole and Louis made the wrong choices in not picking them for the live shows in previous years (lest we forget: Nicole had both the winner and runner-up that year, and Louis finished second to an obvious favourite, so I challenge the idea that either of these people could’ve produced a better result for their mentors). Jake sang ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’, and was decidedly not good, but at least he had the story of his terrible family tragedy that happened last time he auditioned for this show, since that’s worth more than a thousand correctly-pitched notes. Following him, Paul sang ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Emma expressed her disappointment that Louis didn’t pick him the year before (and honestly, if Emma Bunton wants to open up the Inadequate Judging On A Reality Show can of worms, I am more than ready for that fight), while Mel wondered if Paul maybe needed a smidge more personality. Gosh, it’s almost as if he’s not actually the chart-ready pop superstar the show’s been selling him as all along, isn’t it?
2. Teenage Wasteland: So let’s get down to business: Mel wastes little time in cutting Danny and Jordan, because duh. Still, perhaps they’ll return in 2015 and everyone can pile on Mel for being SUCH AN IDIOT for not taking them through to live shows and we can all pretend to care about them then. Despite a brief feint in which Mel worried that no one would be able to relate to Andrea because he’s Italian (he wore an “I LOVE PUGS” jumper to his audition, Mel, people are going to love patronising the shit out of him whether they share his cultural heritage or not), she of course announces that she’s going to take him through to live shows. (There was kind of a fun, probably scripted, moment after this when Dermot asked Andrea if he was looking forward to being in London, and Andrea replied “I’ll be-a the perfect English!” Mamma mia!). Paul Akister also finally got the approval that he’s been seeking for the past 12 months when Mel took him through the live shows as well, where he can get eliminated in eighth place and achieve his destiny as the male Laura White. (HISTORICAL REVISIONISM SIDEBAR: This is quoted verbatim from the notes that I took when this episode was originally broadcast, I swear to God, so I was only one place out in my prediction.) That left it down to Jake and Jack for the final place in the competition, with Jack raising the stakes by reminding us that he quit college to come on this show (lol whoops). Mel gave them the standard talking-to, wherein she made the cogent point that Jake is not the strongest singer of the bunch, but people will want to fuck him, so Jack went home and Jake got the final place. Job done.
3. Fun With Cultural Appropriation: Contestants come and go, the seasons change, but one question remains eternally relevant: what will Sinitta wear to Judges’ Houses this year? While we all know she’s never going to top the palm fronds, this year’s effort was probably a bit of a misfire: an enormous Native American headdress, hair extensions covering up her tits, and very little else. I don’t want to be that guy on the internet that ruins everything, but there’s a whole lot of baggage that comes with donning one of those, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s worth contending with all of that for the sake of a cheap sight gag. Even Simon was like “what the fuck is that?” and once everyone had stopped laughing, Sinitta went and changed into some comfortable sweats, because even she’s phoning it in these days.
4. Putting The “Over” Into “Overs”: Simon had arguably the most disastrous judges’ houses round of anybody, with two-thirds of his contestants crashing and burning and Simon finding himself in the bizarre and unprecedented situation of actually having to explain to Sinitta what these people were still doing in the competition, and when Sinitta of all people is questioning your taste, you know that you have gone very wrong somewhere. Stevi yodelled his way through ‘I’m A Believer’ doing everything that a credible X Factor contestant should never even consider – talking to the audience, having a spontaneous Austin Powers dance breakdown, etc. This was the first of Sinitta’s “wtf?” moments, and for all that Simon attempted to counter that Stevi is “likeable”, Sinitta pointed out that to actually use one of your three finalist spaces on this guy is certifiable. Lizzy Pattinson was chiefly memorable for Sinitta getting briefly excited about her being RPattz’s sister, but that was about it: Simon told her she’d need to have A Moment with this performance (the song being the somewhat obscure ‘Leavin” by Shelby Lynne), and she didn’t. So that was that. Helen Fulthorpe had a bit of time to share her sob story (her son got diabetes, she had to give up her job to look after him, now she has no money and winning this show would really turn her life around, so I can only assume she didn’t see Sam Bailey’s house on Through The Keyhole), but it might have been time better spent rehearsing for her performance of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, which was absolutely all over the place. At this point, Simon was grimacing “three more to go” and Sinita was all “just three? GREAT. There must be someone really amazing though, right?” Sinitta <3. And dropping the biggest deuce of all was Jay James, who for all of his NAVY and SECOND CHANCE and WIFE AND BABY narrative angles gave a disastrous rendition of ‘Everybody Hurts’, which actually became funny as he threw ad lib upon riff at the end with clearly NO idea of just how terrible he sounded. Even Simon, Jay’s biggest cheerleader, had to call him out for being all nasally up in his nasal throughout, though to be honest that was the least of Jay’s problems. And I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a soul in the land who thought that this performance, however diabolical, had jeopardised his chances of making the finals in any way.
5. Rising In The East: You might well think that Simon was getting quite worried at this point, and salvation came from the most unexpected source: barely-shown former Addictive Lady Fleur East, who came out and sang ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J/Ariana Grande/Nicki Minaj and absolutely effing nailed it. NAILED. IT. She seemed like the most obvious choice to be cut at this stage, but when you consider how badly everyone before her fucked up and how perfectly-judged her performance was, you really could not have dismissed her without an outcry of Gamu-esque proportion. (And I imagine by this point Simon was just grateful to have one act capable of holding a tune for 90 seconds, even if he didn’t particularly expect the public to vote for her.) In the uncomfortable position of having to follow Fleur and prove that she wasn’t a fluke was Ben Haenow, who sobbed a bit about being nearly 30 and therefore ON THE SCRAPHEAP OF LIFE, and then sang ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. It was nice and gravelly, and if you can ignore that one obvious botched high note, it was a fine performance – not up to Fleur’s level, but clearly enough to stick him far ahead of everyone else. Also, he was really badly sunburnt throughout this entire segment, which was quite funny. This all left Simon very confused, because all the people he expected to be slam-dunks were atrocious, and one person who he was clearly planning to cut ended up being the best of them all. What a time to be alive!
Next: Helen is maybe medevaced with a panic attack, Simon makes his decisions, and oh god we still have to sit through Cheryl’s girls. Hold me.