And also some songs not from the movies for rather regrettable reasons.
I know Cheryl’s on record as having fought for the removal of theme weeks because she feels they’re too restrictive to the artists and not representative of how the real world works (as opposed to everything else on this show which is positively cinéma vérité when it comes to depicting the music industry), and while I don’t really want to go back to the dark days of series two where every contestant found their niche in week two of the live shows and mined it every single week until they got eliminated, this week did flash up one significant problem with the format. In light of the terrorist attacks in Paris the previous evening, the show rather sensibly decided to ditch Monica’s and Lauren’s original song choices (‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ and ‘Licence To Kill’ respectively, meaning they had to pick new tracks on the day of the live show. I imagine there wasn’t really time to clear songs that fitted the theme, so the tracks that Monica and Lauren performed ended up being entirely outside the theme, and presumably tracks that they’d pre-cleared either for a future theme week or a final showdown performance. It’s not anyone’s fault, and you’d have to be pretty heartless to hold it against Monica or Lauren, but it did kind of make Simon’s annual “is that even from a movie?” rant (this year’s recipients: Reggie ‘n’ Bollie/Cheryl) super-extra-pointless this year.
Speaking of super-extra-pointless: oh, Olly. The results show did not go well for you, did it? Apparently lacking the ability to count to three, Olly mis-tallied the judges’ votes and informed Monica that she was going home, only to be swiftly corrected by Caroline that they were in fact going to deadlock. It could’ve been worse: it’s not quite as bad as announcing the wrong winner, for example, and since Monica did end up going home after the results of the public vote were revealed, it’s not even as if he was factually incorrect, he was just…premature. And it happens to us all, EH LADS? Still, it’s just unfortunate for Olly that the slip-up happened at a point in time where the sharks are already circling the show, and those hankering for its demise can now point to the amateurish presenting as a symptom of how far the show has fallen, while murmuring that this would never have happened to Dermot. (No, he’d just have accidentally called Monica a cunt.)
NICK GRIMSHAW AND THE BOYS
If Nick is to be believed, the problem that Mason Noise has on this show is a lack of confidence. Personally I’d say it’s a lack of a clear purpose: since the show can’t seem to decide whether to commit to giving him a villain edit or portraying him as a genuine talent whose vision is occasionally obscured by his ego, it’s not really his fault if he can’t get a shot between the constantly-moving goalposts. I’m not sure this week did much to clarify who he really is, even though he was given the same “home visit” VT that almost everyone got, the purpose of which is surely to help humanise them all. Really all we learned from this is that Mason’s dad John is proper Brummie, and that his dad calls him “Mason Noise”. Mason got very excited about getting to do ‘Men In Black’ this week, even though it’s not really a song that you can do much with to put your own spin on. Certainly his performance felt a bit lifeless, and I don’t think trying to sing parts of it that were rapped in the original version was the best idea, but the judges seemed to think it was a return to form, and he got a bottom-two bounce, so *shrug*.
Meanwhile, the most interesting thing about Ché Chesterman’s home visit this week was the revelation that his father is also called Ché Chesterman. Honestly, you wait ages for a Ché Chesterman and then two come along at once. Apparently Nick and Ché both independently came up with the idea for Ché to sing ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, and since it’s Ché Sr’s favourite song, that’s what they went with. Rita stopped by to eavesdrop on his rehearsal and got cross because it was just too amazing, and then Ché sang it in the studio and Simon gave him a slightly bowdlerised version of the “think how much pussy you’re going to get” speech that Harry Styles gave to Matt Cardle when he won. So if the show does end up getting cancelled after this series, I suppose that’s a nice coda of sorts.
SIMON COWELL AND THE OVERS
While reggae Adele and unattributed Israel Kamakawiwo’ole covers weren’t enough to sink Max Stone before, apparently all that was needed was to lumber him with a really boring song that nobody has ever heard. Simon insisted that Max should sing ‘Secret Garden’ by Bruce Springsteen (which apparently is played during a crucial moment of Jerry Maguire, but I can’t confirm or deny this because that film was so awful I fell asleep in the middle of it). The vocal coach didn’t like it because it had no chorus, Max didn’t like it because he didn’t think the audience could connect with it, but they eventually found a way to make it work (after Simon told them to put up and shut up). Max’s home visit was, a little sadly, a visit to one of the pubs he used to gig in so we could all see how far he’s come since then, and where he’ll be heading back to in about a month. If that. The performance got mixed reviews: Nick wanted more emotion from it, and Cheryl was unfamiliar with the material but liked what she heard. Oh, and Simon told us all that Max was singing it to his girlfriend, which may have been the final nail in his coffin that led to him getting the fewest votes and getting an immediate dismissal on Sunday. The only redeeming part of the whole thing came afterwards, when Olly tried to get some ladz bantz going by telling Max he wanted to go for a pint in that pub, and Caroline responded that Olly wouldn’t know what to do with pints because he’s a piña colada drinker. It was so strange and unprompted and borderline hostile that it ended up being the best part of Saturday’s show.
Meanwhile, Anton Stephans got to use the Product Placement TalkTalk Catchup Viewer to watch back Simon’s attempt to destroy him with camp last week – and having seen what this all looked like from a viewer’s perspective, Anton promptly cringed himself inside out. Thankfully, Simon decided that it was time to put Anton back to what he does best – crooning musical theatre. So much so that Anton’s “home visit” for the week was meeting up with his bestie for a walk through the West End to look at all the theatres he may or may not have performed in. He stood on the stage of…wherever Mamma Mia! happens to be at the moment and talked about how on stage he’s used to playing to the deaf guy at the back of the room, though I’m not sure how that differs from The X Factor in any real sense. He sang ‘I Have Nothing’ from The Bodyguard, which brought so many of his bad habits (his strange phrasing, the crooning, that scrunchy face he does) back to the fore, and promptly landed him in this week’s bottom three where he squared off against Monica. Despite choosing ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ and giving it the full David Brent, he still survived – thanks in part to Voice Of Youth Nick Grimshaw deciding he couldn’t live without Rosemary Crooney over here. Oh, Nick.
RITA ORA AND THE GIRLS
“I feel like I’ve just eaten the best roast dinner of my life,” said Rita after Louisa Johnson gave her first performance of ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’ in rehearsals, and not for the first time I found myself wondering if there’s such a thing as an English-Rita Ora dictionary, because I haven’t got the faintest clue what that was supposed to mean. Did she feel sick? Flatulent? Thirsty? Those are the sensations I’d be expecting after a big roast, but maybe things work differently in Rita’s house. Sadly I did not feel that Louise’s performance on the show itself was all gravy (flawless segue, right?) because however this song may have been performed by Quindon Tarver in Romeo + Juliet, in my head it should always be an absolute club banger, so hearing Louisa doing it as a big gospel ballad just left me utterly cold. I’m really struggling to connect to Louisa, in much the same way that I can’t really enjoy ballet: I can sit back and appreciate the artistry and the expression and the years of training that went into it all, but rather than having any sort of emotional connection, I just tend to sit there feeling cold and bored and wondering when it’s the interval so I can stretch my legs and check my phone. Still, it was enough to make Rita cry, but perhaps she was still a bit full from that big roast dinner.
It turns out that Simon wasn’t the only one who didn’t really care for Monica Michael’s Beyoncé performance last week, as it turned out that Monica herself wasn’t really feeling the dress and the shoes and the cleavage, so she returned to her trademark black outfit for this week’s performance (soundtracked by Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’, yes, thank you editors). Speaking of returning, she also went back to the youth centre where she teaches kids to rap – although the rap that one of her students had written to celebrate her X Factor success so far didn’t seem like the best endorsement of her teaching skills. But they all clearly adored her, that much was obvious. Her last-minute song change was to ‘What Is Love?’ by V Bozeman, which is at least from Empire even if it’s not from a film (though obviously I was slightly disappointed it wasn’t ‘What Is Love’ by Haddaway – which is actually from a film and everything). It’s a big song and I think Monica struggled with it, though it was a valiant effort all the same. Simon assured us that this is exactly what Monica should be doing, because it’s just her and no gimmicks. Apparently the general public disagreed.
CHERYL FERNANDEZ-VERSINI AND THE GROUPS
We got an insight into Cheryl’s sense of humour this week when she suggested that Reggie ‘n’ Bollie should sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ as their Movie Week song, because hahahaha! Singing! And a ballad! What an insane idea! (Apparently they were so in love with this idea that not only did they run the joke in the VT but they also got Bollie to sing a few bars in the performance itself.) However, their actual song choice for this week was Baha Men’s ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’ from Rugrats In Paris: The Movie – a film that Simon refused to believe actually exists, since he hasn’t even heard of Rugrats, let alone them having a movie. He’s got so much to learn as little Eric grows up, hasn’t he? It was the usual enjoyably ebullient performance from Reggie ‘n’ Bollie, though I’m not sure the bit of choreography where the dancers got down on all fours and lifted up one leg as if to suggest a dog peeing was entirely necessary.
For those of us who thought getting the groups might finally stop Cheryl from patronising the hell out of her mentees, hard luck: she’s decided to start referring to 4th Impact as “mawliddle dollies”, which is kind of gross and othering of her (at least when Gwen Stefani did this it was more about dancers playing a part in her visual concept), but I don’t know why I expected any better at this point. Their “home visit” VT didn’t allow them to go back to the Philippines for obvious reasons, so instead they stayed at the contestants’ house and cooked their favourite food from home while Lauren interviewed them about their lives because she’s the nice, relatable one. Most of the drama around their performance of ‘Work It Out’ focused on the fact that Celina had fainted backstage during the show and bravely refused the offer for the show to run their dress rehearsal footage while she went to hospital, vowing to perform instead. As a result, all eyes were on Celina during the performance to see if she’d actually make it all the way through – which she did, but she looked rather dizzy at times, and the post-performance group hug turned into the other three having to forcibly hold on to her to stop her from passing out again. I know I said last week I wanted more of a sense of them being terrifying performing automatons, but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Seriously, Celina, it’s fine to seek medical attention if you’re genuinely unwell. Kelly Rowland took that week off and she wasn’t even sick.