Five still-catching-up-from-holiday things about the fourth round of auditions.
1. Caught Up In The Middle, Jumping Through The Riddle, Falling Just A Little Tonight: Without wishing to sound uncharitable, tonight’s episode seemed to serve the purpose of presenting us with with a certain class of contestant: the ones who seem decent enough at auditions, but will probably get lost in the shuffle somewhere between now and the live shows because they aren’t really good or memorable enough to go the distance. Filler contestants, if you will. They included Jasmine from Swansea, who works in a call centre and sang ‘Clown’ by Emeli Sandé and prompted wild overenthusiasm from the judges (Nick: “Your voice needs to be out there!”, Simon: “It was as if you’d written the song yourself!”); full-time musician Max Stone who sang ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and was essentially your standard white-guy-soul-singer contestant (who would go on to be superceded by someone else within this very episode); 47-year-old Laura Johnson from Norn Iron who had the standard “I gave up on my dreams to raise my family but now It’s My Time” story (although she wasn’t actually allowed to say any of this herself, Cheryl kept interrupting her and saying it all on her behalf because Cheryl is the worst), and sang ‘(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman’ in the way that it is generally sung by women in the overs – not particularly tunefully, but loudly enough that it sounds impressive; Jordan Luke Gage who explained that he was “a manny – a male nanny” – so a nanny then? Nick decided that the presence of a male nanny would send the audience’s ovaries into overdrive (ovadrive?), which may explain why his rendition of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’ went down so well despite not even being remotely in the right range for his voice. In the interests of balance and fairness, I should point out that there were even people whose auditions I really liked, but whom I still don’t expect to get past Boot Camp, like 23-year-old Karen Mav who seemed bright and fun, despite singing a Jessie J song I’d never even heard of (‘Sexy Silk, apparently? Good God, Jessie J, what is wrong with you). Simon thought she was special, and I agreed, but I suspect she has that sort of specialness that this competition will eventually crush one way or another.
2. We Can’t Stop, And We Won’t Stop: After a spell of bright, promising contenders (or at least people pretended as such), it was only to be expected that we’d have a parade of weirdos and no-hopers to follow them up. Some were brighter than others: I was quite fond of 43-year-old “Shazpaz” from Manchester who referred to herself as a “basic housewife” and said that she was classically-trained (by which she meant she’d sung in a church choir), then promptly forgot the words to ‘Hideaway’ by Kiesza. Rather than just standing there limply, however, she improvised her own words about having forgotten the words and deciding to make the most of the situation since she was here, and then vamped a bit around the stage and showed off some Quite Good Moves. Maybe she’d be more suited to Britain’s Got Talent? We also had Erwin from Scotland, whose audition song I couldn’t make out because he sings like Ariana Grande (mostly just incoherent vowel sounds), but whose presence was validated by Cheryl criticising his choreography and being told that it had been choreographed by a dancer from her ‘Fight For This Love’ video. The longest part of all of this, however, was 51-year-old hairdresser Joselito Peralta, who apparently used to do Chaka Khan’s hair and sing with her while he did it, and sang ‘Copacabana’ for the judges. This was one of those auditions that existed specifically to troll Simon in the most idiotic of fashions – Simon kept complaining that it was going on for too long as though we aren’t all fully aware that he can stop the auditions whenever he likes simply by lifting his arm. Anyway, the other three voted him through just to annoy Simon, lollerskates, etc.
3. Can’t Teach This: The absolute stand-out audition of the episode came from 28-year-old secondary school teacher Tonatha Raithan. Nick asked whether she was a fun teacher or a strict teacher, and Tonatha essentially replied that she’s a fun-but-don’t-fuck-with-me teacher which, as a former class swot, I can confirm is the absolute best kind. She then went on to sing ‘Work It Out’ by Beyoncé and shook her booty all over the place, which was quite surprising behaviour from a teacher. Simon decided that she was probably the coolest teacher in the country, and her audition left us all feeling a little bit brighter about the world that we live in. This may or may not have been related to the fact that Rita Ora was mysteriously not present for this one.
4. Selling Your Soul: From the almost-certainly-making-it-to-live-shows-and-we-will-force-you-to-love-him department, we had former shelf stacker Ché Chesterman from Essex, who said that he thought he could offer something different to the music industry because it doesn’t have much soul at the moment. This prompted the priceless, slightly offended response from Cheryl: “you don’t think Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith are soulful?” Cheryl’s unintentional comedy may yet prove to be the saving grace of this series. Anyway, Ché kind of stamped on his own point by saying that he was more old-school soul like Stevie Wonder, and then saying that he was going to do a Sam Smith song. Simon stopped him, mercifully, and got him to sing ‘Who You Are’ by Jessie J instead (god, so much Jessie J tonight). It was a decent performance but hardly a revolution (and in fact I thought the falsetto section near the end bordered on actively unpleasant), and Simon called him “a rare find” so expect to see a lot more of him.
5. Animal Pragmatism:That just leaves our designated scandal of the night which came courtesy of Hannah Marie Kilminster, 30, from Cirencester. Hannah was given your standard X Factor backstory of being properly from the back of beyond (which I’m sure was just delightful for the good people of Cirencester, being portrayed as one step higher on the evolutionary latter than Cletus Spuckler) and being told by a teacher at school that being a professional singer wasn’t an option for someone who lives in these parts (this teacher apparently being unfamiliar with the concept of “moving house”). Hannah talked about working on her family farm, singing to the animals, being so uncomfortable in front of a crowd etc etc etc, and then it turned out later that she’s actually got quite a lot of professional experience. Not that any of this really matters, because the important thing is that Simon wanted her to sing Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’ and she sang it like an absolute West End Wendy of the kind that could never win this show in a million years, so it’s all a lot of fuss about nothing. Carry on. (Oh, and Cheryl thought she had a nice aura. I wish this show had a nice Ora. And yes, that is a pun that would work a lot better out-loud than as written words, but I’m having it anyway.)