The X Factor – Series 11 Episode 14

Five contractually-obliged-hastily-compiled things about the last episode of Judges’ Houses so I can get it it out of the way and hopefully have the final written up before series 12 starts.

1. No Country For Old Women: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the previous episode’s cliffhanger where Mumsy Helen was on the verge of being medevaced with a suspected panic attack turned out to be a false alarm, since it turned out to be…a panic attack, from which she recovered. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had more than my fair share of panic attacks and they are horrible, but probably not something to build an entire trailer hook for your next episode around. So as soon as we’d established that Helen was okay, a slightly sweaty-looking (phwoar, etc) Ben Haenow was the first one summoned to see Simon, wearing jeans so tight they were practically leggings. Simon toyed with him briefly, expressing a concern that Ben doesn’t know what sort of artist he wants to be, but considering Ben was one of only two artists not to entirely biff his performance in this round, he was of course through to the live shows. Ben celebrated by starting what will go on to be something of a tradition: giving Dermot a big kiss. Ben’s success was followed by two relatively swift boots for both Stevi (who is kind of an ugly crier) and Sister Pattinson, and then Fleur was another obvious one to advance because for all of Simon’s “you left it awfully late to make your mark in this competition young lady” chastising, she clearly wiped the floor with everyone else. So it came down to Fainty Helen and Jay for the final spot – both of whom were terrible in their performances, but Jay’s had a lot more airtime, so he got the last place with a gentle scolding to step his act up in future. And that’s that for the Overs. (At least until the WILDCARDS arrive.)

2. Nice To See You, To See You Nice: After that, it was time for the final destination of the weekend – off to Nice with Cheryl, because she’s all French these days. I half expected her to be wearing a beret and riding a bicycle with a baguette in the basket and a string of onions around her neck. Also, I’m not wishing to throw shade, but judging from their reactions I’d be willing to bet that several of these girls had no idea where Nice was and needed to have it explained for them off-camera. Cheryl brought along bezzie mate (it says here) Tinie Tempah to help her judge, and he got absolutely mobbed by the girls upon his arrival and looked faintly terrified as a result, which I found rather endearing.

3. Crisis Of Confidence: The main theme of Cheryl’s sessions seemed to be that her girls had the vocal chops but lacked the confidence to present themselves properly. (I think that’s up for debate in one or two cases, but I can see that enough girls fit these parameters for the edit to basically construct itself, so I’ll let it go.) Lauren Platt was the first of them, with her introverted demeanour, talking about how this is the most important thing she’s ever done, which strikes me as kind of tragic, but I suppose she’s still young. She sang ‘Beneath Your Beautiful’ (argh) and was decent enough, and Cheryl mumbled something about her being an “old soul”. Either that, or I misheard and Cheryl was being very rude. For reasons that I doubt will ever make sense to me, Chloe Jasmine was also included in this category, even though a) she’s already had a vote of approval from NAOMI CAMPBELL, which flies in the face of her claims that nobody ever thinks she’s good enough for anything, and b) she’s already applied for this show twice, which would suggest that at least on some level she believes in her own abilities. She sang ‘Over The Rainbow’ straight down her nose and Cheryl’s clenched grin throughout was highly entertaining. Tinie liked it, but wondered whether she’d be able to do contemporary. Finally, Stephanie Nala told us the story of how she was on Britain’s Got Talent in a band that dissolved shortly after the show was over, and now she’s here. I don’t watch BGT so I cannot offer any insight into whether this show is any better a fit for her, but she does seem so incredibly timid that I find myself unsure that being a solo artist is really the way forward for her. She sang ‘Careless Whisper’ over what seemed to be the melody from Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’. She has a lovely tone to her voice, but it’s so thin that it ought to be put on a drip, and I don’t know if that’s nerves or technique at fault there.

4. You Betta Work, Bitch: First and foremost, Emily Middlemas doesn’t really fit into either of my categories, but I think that’s mostly because she was the most obvious boot of all in this category. She hadn’t had much of a build-up, and she didn’t have much of a story besides “nice Scottish girl with a decent voice”. Based on her performance of One Direction’s ‘Story Of My Life’, she was probably one of the better singers in this particular batch – Tinie even singled her out as his favourite – but I think she’d have needed to do something phenomenal, Fleur-level, to have any chance at all of advancing at this point, and she never quite reached that level. More fitting of the second category, which is essentially “people who had promise but fucked up”, was Kerrianne Covell, who I assumed was a lock for the live shows, especially since she’s pretty much ruined her chances of ever getting a stable job in retail again, but then she massively sank her ship with her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Hurt’ which, while not the worst version I have ever heard on a reality show, certainly came close. Closing things up (rather than slicing them open, for a change) we had Fishy Lola, who – to her credit – admitted that she properly biffed up her boot camp performance and somehow made it to this stage regardless, but knew that she had to really deliver on this one to prove to Cheryl that she deserves to be here. She sang John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ for what felt like the 95th time we’ve heard it on this series alone, and was definitely an improvement on her boot camp performance, but also sounded kind of breathy and bunged up, like she was singing through a cold.

5. Going Live?: All that remained was for Cheryl to deliver hers (and Tinie’s, assuming she listened to him, which is doubtful) verdicts to the contestants, and predictably little time was wasted in sending Emily straight back home. Emily took the rejection like a pro, and I even found myself hoping she auditions again in the future and has better luck next time, which I suppose is a pretty decent compliment at this stage. Chloe Jasmine was given a place in the live shows, and immediately responded with “oh my god, why?” Oh girl, sit the fuck down. I try not to call people fakes on shows like this, because it’s such a cheap and baseless accusation to throw at someone, but everything Chloe does feels thoroughly inauthentic so I feel like maybe on this one occasion it’s justified. Lauren also got through, and Cheryl called her an old soul/arsehole again, while Kerrianne was sent back to the shoe shop. It’s a decision that was entirely justified based on her performance in this round, but I was still quite surprised it actually happened, especially considering Simon kept Jay around. So the final spot was between Fishy Lola (good singer, but inconsistent) and Stephanie (ready-made pop star, but plagued with self-doubt), and Cheryl decided to give it to Stephanie. Strangely for a show that usually likes to keep things upbeat at this stage, the episode ended with Fishy Lola on the phone to her nan saying she didn’t get through. (Of course, this was immediately followed by a trailer for the live shows informing us that there would be WILDCARDS, so that would be why.)

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