Hundreds of contestants take it in turns to sing by themselves for an inscrutable panel of judges in an episode that’s every bit as thrilling as that sounds.
1. By My Actions You Should Know, I’m Going Solo: After the excitement and drama of the group round last week, the challenge this time was far more straightforward: each contestant had to sing solo for the judges from a list of pre-approved songs. No bells, no whistles, just stand there and show them you have what it takes. Now, this is a pretty essential part of the selection criteria, because this is what these people will have to do both in the live shows and in their future careers if they make a success of this, but if I’m perfectly honest: two full hours of people walking up to a stage, singing, and walking away again while the judges say things like “I thought he was good”, “I was disappointed”, “I just don’t know who’s going to vote for him” makes for rather dull television, and the gimmick of everyone being gathered in another room watching the performances on a TV screen didn’t really lead to any notable drama or pathos. Even a lot of the people who’ve had a lot of camera time so far – Lauren Murray, Ché Chesterman, Kiera Weathers, Simon Lynch, Joseph McCaul, Havva Rebka etc – didn’t really offer much other than being nervous, fretting that they hadn’t done enough, hoping the judges would be lenient etc. That said, there were a few people who managed to make an impact, for good reasons or for bad. So let’s have a look at how things went for them.
2. He’s Just Being (Seann) Miley: Of course Seann Miley Moore was memorable, because he can’t not be. His raison d’être is to make sure that he’s the guy who you talk to your friends about the next day. Before his performance he reminded us how he got here: he grew up in Australia and his dad’s a banker, so Seann’s dad was naturally alarmed when Seann said that he wanted to be a performer (though if Seann’s standard attire on this show is his standard attire at home, his dad probably shouldn’t have been too surprised). One of the reasons I like Seann is that I think beneath the theatricality, there’s a sensible head on those shoulders – and this was evidenced by Seann talking about how it’s hard to put yourself out there, “especially with how I am”, though in this day and age it’s easier to be yourself. Note his use of “easier” rather than “easy”; he clearly knows that for every Tumblr gif with a “SLAYYYYYYYY” caption underneath it, there’ll be someone wanting to know why he dresses like that, why he’s so flamboyant, calling him names. So I just hope he’s steely enough to contend with all of that, and I suspect he probably is. What I also liked was that he demonstrated how he’s not just a one-sided act with his performance in this round, a take on ‘A Song For You’ by Donny Hathaway that was comparatively subdued both vocally and sartorially – though whenever he sings, I still get this vision of a crowd holding their lighters in the air, and that’s no bad thing. His voice cracked a little at the end, which prompted Olly to remark “wow, that was emotional”. Yeah, thanks Olly, we got that. So he showed a little versatility, and a little vulnerability, and of course the judges ate it all up with a spoon. Well-played, Seann Miley Moore.
3. Falling Without Wings: I felt bad for Papasidero, because if there were ever a contestant who really needed Louis Walsh to still be on the battle, he’s the one. Louis would’ve fought his corner. Louis would’ve taken him to live shows. But sadly it was not to be. Papasidero’s performance got perhaps the biggest build-up of the episode, with considerable attention going on his clothes and how he likes to be provocative with his stage attire “like Lady Gaga”. We saw him don a giant set of black wings, and we saw everyone get very excited about what they were about to see, from the other contestants sitting in the holding room to Cheryl Fernandez-Versini herself. After a bit of chat with the judges about Papasidero’s outfit, Simon decided to slip in a little dig at Rita by asking if the two of them were related. Rita snotted back “no, we’re just both creatively confident”, a statement that I’m sure she came to regret approximately five minutes later. Papasidero promised to tell his story with his performance of ‘Titanium’, and as he sang he removed his wings, and then attempted to remove his cloak as well – except he couldn’t quite get it off, and after some conspicuous fiddling with the back of his outfit, he had to just give up and focus on the singing. Unfortunately, the singing (which had been decent enough up until this point) became an unpleasant screech at this point, and no amount of “creative confidence” could justify it. Rita seemed to be sinking into her seat with each passing second. At the end Papasidero apologised thus: “sorry I didn’t succeed in getting my clothes out”, and Nick reassured him that even Madonna had trouble getting her cape off that one time. Papasidero finally managed to remove his cloak and slunk off with “BE YOURSELF” Sharpied on the back of his t-shirt, and didn’t even bother to pretend to Olly and Caroline that he wouldn’t be going home for that one. It’s a shame, he could have been great fun in the live shows.
4. Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk: While not quite on the same level, impact-wise, as Seann and Papasidero, I appreciated the presence of Mason Noise in this episode for his glorious hubris alone. Really, I only want an X Factor contestant to demonstrate one of three qualities: considerable talent, considerable showmanship, or considerable arrogance. Mason Noise didn’t really register on the first two, but he’s coming along nicely on the final quality – before his performance he declared his ambition to be so famous that he’d never have to introduce himself again (I don’t claim to be a friend to the stars, but in my limited experience of meeting A-listers they’re quite often the ones who are quickest to introduce themselves. Just saying), and mentioned that he’d spent £100k making videos and definitely felt himself capable of winning Grammys and Brit awards (oh god, aim higher, please aim higher). After all that build-up, along with a promise to be one of the most memorable acts we’ve ever seen when he makes it to live shows, he went out and performed a medley of Aaliyah’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ and ‘Uptown Funk’, which was…fine? It was okay. It wasn’t anything special. God bless Mason Noise for his true talent: over-promising and under-delivering.
5. Cutting Crew: Eventually the moment came for the judges to determine who would advance to the next round and whose journey would end here. I won’t bother to list the people who got through because we’ll be seeing them again, but notable boots at this stage included Olly Murs-alike Jamie Benkert, Ankush Khanna who’s super-cute but has just messed up one too many times at this point, Gifty Louise who was so upset that she wouldn’t even stop to talk to Caroline and Olly, and Andre Bachelor who was probably responsible for my favourite moment of the episode when he forgot the words to ‘No No No’, made Cheryl cry with laughter and then inexplicably called Caroline “Auntie Carol”. And then there was Holly Johnson, who originally got kicked out because Simon thought she was boring, only for Rita to protest after she’d left, leading to Holly being called back and being told she was being kept around after all. And will probably get ditched pretty early in the Six Chair Challenge, but hey, every second counts, right?
Next: the ever-popular Six Chair Challenge, please kill me now.