Five increasingly-far-behind things from the fifth round of auditions.
1. Italian Scallion: Apparently Andrea Faustini’s success in last year’s series (up until the point where it looked like he might win and then people started getting a bit UKIP about it) has encouraged more of his countrymen to try their luck on The X Factor here in the UK. One such example was Papasidero, an excitable 24-year-old who tried entering the Italian version of the show previously but said that “it was hard to be myself”, and I think we can all read between the lines on that one considering he turned up here in wings and with a falsetto that could shatter windows all the way to Finland. He sang ‘Respect’ with various other things thrown in – a rap, some scat, the actual kitchen sink – and was kind of endearing in his wide-eyed eagerness to impress the judges. That’s not to say I particularly enjoyed his performance, but he has the right sort of eccentricity to be a decent comedy contestant on the live shows for a few weeks if the judges decide they want to carry him that far. And they’re certainly carrying him at least a little bit further, because he’s through to the next round with the following endorsement from Simon: “I thought it was nuts…but I love nuts. Wait, let me rephrase that!” I’m sure it was all scripted as hell, but they all committed to the joke so I feel compelled to let them have it.
2. Silent Treatment: The groups had a surprisingly generous amount of screentime in this episode, and their first representatives were male/female duo Rock & Rose. They did not get off to the most promising of starts, since they refused to engage in any pre-performance banter with Cheryl. Normally this would endear an act to me automatically, but every time she asked them a question they just stared at her blankly, which seemed a bit rude even after they blamed it on nerves. If you can banish your nerves enough to actually perform, you can banish them enough to say “hi”, “fine, thanks”, “I think I’ve got what it takes to win The X Factor” etc. Anyway, after Simon realised this was making for stultifying entertainment and intervened, Rock & Rose performed ‘Heaven’ by Emeli Sandé and turned out to be…well, I want to say “good”, but I’m not entirely sure I mean that. He played the guitar and she sang, but do we really want a group on this show where one of them doesn’t even sing? And even her singing wasn’t that great, it was all a bit breathy. Still, the judges liked the performance enough to forgive their lack of interpersonal skills, so they made fun of them for being miserable fuckers and sent them to boot camp.
3. Just Popped Back: Our inspirational woman of the episode was 30-year-old Jade McGuire from Glasgow, whom you almost certainly don’t remember from being in the group Pop! about a decade ago. She tells us that Pop! “were supposed to be the next big thing” (lol no you weren’t, you were a half-hearted Steps retread at best) but then it all fell apart and she gave up singing to focus on her family. “Are you still married?” asks Simon, which is an incredibly odd and inappropriate and staggeringly inelegant question that makes it abundantly clear that he already knows she isn’t, so Jade tells us that it is hard being a single mum and that sometimes you think you might never be happy again. That escalated quickly, didn’t it? Jade sings ‘Chains’ by Tina Arena, a little flatly in places, but mostly competently, and the judges love it, as do her adorable kids, and she’s a shoo-in for boot camp and perhaps the live shows and then probably back to obscurity again, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. (Sidebar: I met the boys from Pop! at a launch once. Well, I say met, they were mostly strutting around waiting for people to recognise them, so I went and had a canape instead.)
While We’re Here, Can I Just Say: White people, please stop singing ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, now and forever. Yes, Charli Beard, this includes you.
4. Care In The Community: RIVAL GROUPS is not really a thing we’ve had on this show for a while (/ever?) so it was quite exciting to have both BEKLN and Silvertones audition this week. Both of these groups met through the London Community Gospel Choir, and one of the guys in BEKLN is the brother of one of the girls in Silvertones, so it’s all very friendly. They’re all joking about how only one of them can win, but at the same time they want to be able to go through the competition together. Silvertones auditioned first and sang ‘Rather Be’ with some lovely harmonies, but the whole thing was a bit uneven somehow. (Cheryl told them that they weren’t polished enough to compete with Little Mix, let’s all ask ourselves how we came to live in a world like this.) Rather than reject them outright, Simon and Rita asked them to go off and prepare a gospel song and come back. In the meantime, BEKLN (it’s their initials, you see) came on and did ‘Hold Back The River’ by James Bay to universal acclaim and earned themselves an easy pass to boot camp, but of course they wanted to wait around and see how their friends/rivals/sister and her mates got on. Eventually, Silvertones returned and sang a gospel version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, a performance that was far, far superior to their original audition, and which prompted Rita Ora to be all “well done me, I made that happen”. So gospel has now been established as Silvertones’ USP, and I assume it will invariably become the millstone around their neck when they inevitably become too gospel/not gospel enough/not relevant enough because gospel. Also, I don’t necessarily trust this show’s idea of what any act’s USP is, because I still remember Simon telling Ruth Lorenzo early on in series five that the only way she was going to make herself stand out was to sing in Spanish.
5. Return Of The Monica: And because this show is some sort of Stockholm syndrome where people who it has abused keep believing it is somehow on their side, Monica Michael came back. Remember Monica? She was great at the Six Chair Challenge last year, and then Cheryl sent her home for absolutely no reason, and the audience booed the living shit out of Cheryl and Cheryl kept hooting “ESS MAY CHOICE!” at them. (Drag alter-ego idea: Cheryl-inspired queen called Esme Choice.) ANYway, Monica decided to come back, saying that of course her confidence was knocked, but everything happens for a reason. Plus she mentors young kids and didn’t want to teach them to give up easily. She also – and I feel this really backs up my Stockholm syndrome assertion – says that the public gave Cheryl a hard time last year, and she hoped Cheryl wouldn’t hold it against her. Monica, you hoped CHERYL wouldn’t hold a grudge against YOU? Good grief, we’ve lost her, you guys. Monica is gone. There is only X Factor. Anyway, Monica came back for another go and sang ‘Impossible’ by Christina Aguilera, leading Cheryl to say that Monica was stronger and better than last year, and say that losing Monica was the biggest regret she had from her category last year. (Even more than Fishy Lola? Even more than Boring Lauren getting upstaged by her own brother? Even more than Chloe-Jasmine? Even more than Stephanie Anal? Even more than–well, you get the point.) So Monica advanced in the competition, and it’s a bit like watching someone you love return to the Church of Scientology, insisting it has their best interests at heart and that they’re definitely going to go clear this time. Ah well. It was nice while it lasted.