They sang some love songs, and then they looked at the ratings.
After one whole week of a theme with fairly defined boundaries, we’re back to another theme that might as well just say “the entirety of pop music”. And Cheryl still thinks these are too creatively stifling. Anyway, this week’s double elimination came with a SHOCK! TWIST! that actually wasn’t that much of a shock twist, it was just the return of the flash vote, and the only shock there is that they persist in returning to this well when nobody really seems to find much merit in it. Still, they had to do something to fill up those 100 minutes of airtime on Saturday, considering all the performances had been completed with still about 30 of them to go. This show, honestly.
Oh, and after last week’s deadlock debacle, Olly tried to see the funny side of it all by informing us at the top of Saturday’s show that “the act with the fewest votes will be elimitate–eliminated! But don’t worry, because I won’t be doing it!” Ever again, by the sound of it.
Also, remember the days when The X Factor didn’t need to tell us how successful it was because the big-name guest stars it attracted spoke for themselves? Well, Sunday’s big guests were Olly himself and the little one from The Wanted. Oof. Anyway, shall we?
NICK GRIMSHAW AND THE BOYS
This week Ché Chesterman was torn between whether to sing ‘Ex Factor’ by Lauryn Hill or ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles. My vote would have gone to the former because a) meta! and b) it’s not one of the most overplayed songs of all time, but Ché is really dull and so is Nick, so of course they went with ‘Yesterday’ – though they decided to rearrange it into this strange smooth-jazz remix, which was positively jarring. I mean, if you’re going to desecrate the Beatles (and I say this as someone who really doesn’t give a shit about The Beatles anyway), at least do it properly. In his pre-performance VT, Ché talked about how much he missed his girlfriend and took her to Gilgamesh (I think I recognised the escalator), where he then talked about the death of his grandfather and how hard it’s been to process all of those feelings. I’ve clearly been underestimating straight men all these years because I didn’t think “talk about dead grandpa” was the first thing they wanted to do with their girlfriends the first time they met up after an extended separation. The judges loved it, and Simon said that he’d be AMAZED if Ché went home this week and then quickly followed that up with “BUT DON’T THINK HE’S SAFE, VOTE VOTE VOTE” etc because Simon’s instincts aren’t quite so laser-sharp these days. Case in point: Ché ended up in the bottom two against Anton on Sunday night, and may even have been bottom since the judges decided not to risk taking it to deadlock on this occasion.
Meanwhile, Mason Noise continued his strive towards relatability by reflecting on all of the times he’s had his heart broken, and by thinking about his old job as a barman. Of course, this being The X Factor, this had to be juxtaposed with the immeasurable success Mason is currently experiencing, which this week came in the form of…performing at Westfield. I go through Westfield on a near-daily basis, I have seen a lot of people perform there, and none of them were exactly being hounded by paparazzi when their sets finished. For this week’s performance, Mason sang ‘Jealous by Nick Jonas while surrounded by sexy ladies, so I think he missed the part where the entire point of Nick Jonas is to act as gaybait. I thought this was the most he’d sounded like an artist in his own right since the live shows began, but that might just be because I wasn’t in any way familiar with the song beforehand so it sounded original to me. Anyway, the audience clearly wasn’t feeling it because Mason finished last in the flash vote and was dispatched to the Good Morning Britain sofa to face the sneering disdain of Piers Morgan. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. (Also the best part was his exit interview with Caroline, where she said “you’ve had a bumpy ride, but it finished on a high!” He finished seventh, Caroline.)
SIMON COWELL AND THE OVERS
There was just Anton Stephans left in Simon’s category this week, but he made up for it by providing enough drama for at least three contestants. While Ché got a tearful reunion with his girlfriend, Anton got to reunite with the most important person in his life…his dog. Oh, the gays. You could tell that Anton was a ticking timebomb all week, right from the moment he was given Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men’s ‘One Sweet Day’ and started pass-agging about how he was going to channel the thought of SOMEONE in his personal life. The entire performance was a melting pot of barely-contained emotions, which led to Anton going to that place where he tends to swallow the words as he sings them, which is a tragic waste of his lovely tone. At the end of the performance he had a little bit of a moment and turned his back to the audience (and judges) for a few seconds while he composed himself, and Nick somehow decided that this was an opportune moment to tell Anton that it all “felt like an act”. Anton did not take this well, snarling back: “This is real. This is not an act. THAT [the performance itself] might be an act but this is real. There is NOTHING FAKE about me. I’m not being aggressive, I just want to put you straight.” The best part of this absolute meltdown was Rita Ora going “Anton? Anton? Anton?” in an increasingly strained voice for the last half of it like she was trying to sooth a spooked horse. She offered the criticism that Anton is talented but the song was wrong and the emotional connection just wasn’t there, and Anton responded “I appreciate that, at least you weren’t calling me fake.” Then he had a second meltdown, having realised that this was live television and he probably wasn’t coming across very well, and spent Cheryl and Simon’s comments and Caroline’s post-performance interview repeatedly apologising to Nick if he’d come across as disrespectful. This frantic backpedalling was enough to save him from elimination in the flash vote, but not enough to keep him out of the bottom two on Sunday, or indeed from going home. Well, that Meghan Trainor bus from week two might not have turned up on time, but I guess it flattened him in the end.
CHERYL FERNANDEZ-VERSINI AND THE GROUPS
Rare as it is for this show to miss an opportunity to milk an illness for all it’s worth (remember when Cheryl had malaria?), the exact nature of what on earth was going on with Celina last week was left curiously unresolved in the 4th Impact VT this week as they talked instead about how much they miss their family, but whatever was wrong with her on last week’s show, I think it was probably a bit more serious than acute homesickness. We were told that their dad was ill and unable to travel, therefore he’s been unable to come and see them perform so they’ve had to settle for Skyping him – and I apologise for being so slow, but I think this is the first time I cottoned on that they’re all sisters. I figured some of them were, I just didn’t realise they all were. I know, this discredits me as an X Factor blogger even more than my inconsistent posting schedule. Sorry. Anyway, after a disappointing promise that they are doing this for their family to give them a better life (must we? With this? Still?), they performed ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ by Christina Aguilera, on a set that was apparently recycled from a ‘Lady Marmalade’ Moulin Rouge! routine, because nobody on this show cares any more and so one Xtina song is much like another. This was probably the closest they’ve got to pop automaton perfection since the live shows started, although it still had a few rough edges. The comments afterwards were mostly about Cheryl rather than her group, because that’s the way it must be: Simon claimed that Cheryl hadn’t done enough to mark them out as individuals, at which Cheryl seethed “I HAVEN’T BEEN GIVEN A THEME!”, which…no, Cheryl. I know you like to blame everything on the themes, but that doesn’t make any sense. Then Rita referred to the performance as being very “rehearsed”, which she claimed that she meant as a compliment, but it still spurred Cheryl on to say that ACTUALLY IT WASN’T, THEY HAVEN’T REHEARSED IT AT ALL, THEY’RE SO FAR FROM HOME etc. Cheryl’s knee-jerk instinct to disagree with everything that sounds even vaguely like a criticism is making her look really stupid, I’m sorry.
Elsewhere in this category, the enthusiastic public response to Reggie ‘n’ Bollie so far seems to have inspired the show to throw everything behind them, which is nice. They got a little bit of family time as well this week by going home to visit their wives in time for Reggie’s daughter’s birthday. Much was made of the fact that Cheryl had bought his daughter a present, lest we forget for a second that Cheryl Is Kind And Generous. Meanwhile, Reggie’s wife Edith seemed kind of snarky and fun so I hope we get to see a bit more of her this series. Their song this week was a mash-up of ‘Shut Up And Dance’ and ‘Dangerous Love’. I was a bit leery about the inclusion of the second one, since it’s only one week after Simon made a holy show of respect for the victims of the Paris attacks and changed a bunch of violent-sounding song choices as a result, and going right back to “look at you in that dress, girl you dangerous like a gun…girl you murder everyone, your love is a killer” made it seem like last week’s efforts were just lip service. But as it turned out, they only did about 30 seconds’ worth of it anyway, and as far as I can tell I’m the only person who saw the potential offence in it, so let’s just let that be. They had an entire carnival join them on stage during their performance, and I think we should all be grateful that Rita didn’t feel the need to explain that for all of us afterwards. Meanwhile Simon make the point that, unlike 4th Impact, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie have clearly defined individual personalities which a) I’m not sure is entirely true and b) is probably a lot easier when there are two of you rather than four.
RITA ORA AND THE GIRLS
Apparently Lauren Murray is just working her way through the divas, so now that she’s done Whitney Houston, it’s time for her to do Mariah Carey. Unfortunately she chose to do ‘We Belong Together’, a song that is fairly triggering for me because it was played on a continuous loop in the changing room at my gym for about three months, so even hearing a few bars of it now makes me find the nearest bench and curl up underneath it while regulating my breathing into a gym sock. Rather than spend time with her family, Lauren went back to her old singing school where she started as a student and eventually became a teacher, having apparently stolen Monica’s VT storyline from last week, and then dedicated her track to all the girls that have been heartbroken. I like Lauren and I think she’s easily the most relatable contestant on the show this year, but this VT made me think they’re starting to run out of things to do with her. The song wasn’t a good choice either, as it sent her vocals to the screechy place, but everyone ignored that and focused instead on how she charted in the Top 10 on iTunes last week, so well done Lauren.
Finally, Louisa Johnson continued her strong run of technically excellent but emotionally uninvolving performances with her take on ‘Let It Go’ by James Bay, which she sang barefoot, and I’m amazed it took her this long to be honest. Her family visit involved going to see her dad at the building site where he works, which the producers must have been thrilled about because relatives with blue-collar jobs are X Factor paydirt, although the “Vote Louisa” sign on the building site felt a bit redundant because I can’t imagine it gets much passing trade, as it were. Anyway, as much as I still can’t engage with her at all – when she’s not performing I just find her utterly forgettable – the performance went down a storm with the judges, with Simon saying that this was her equivalent of Leona’s ‘Summertime’ moment or Fleur’s ‘Uptown Funk’, while Cheryl managed to squeeze one last bit of idiocy into the evening by telling Louisa that because she’s only 17, she probably hasn’t experienced heartbreak yet. Yes, if there’s one thing teenagers are known for, it’s their ability to emotionally detach when a relationship falls apart. I hope for many things in this series, but I hope for a new brain for Cheryl more than most.