Much like the Conservative Party, I am slipping this out quietly while everyone else is distracted by a big shiny event and hoping that no one notices how embarrassingly out of date it is.
Yes, with just hours to go until the commencement of The X Factor 2016, the completist in me insists on getting this finished even though nobody can possibly care about this any more. (This also seems to be as good a time as any to announce that I will not be blogging The X Factor on any sort of regular basis this year as it’s clear that I don’t have either the time or the motivation to do it properly. I may, however, dip in and out for the occasional blog post if anything exciting happens.)
Anyway: back to 2015! We all know, of course, that Louisa won and Reggie ‘n’ Bollie finished as runners-up, though I dare say we all knew that right at the beginning of this episode when Louisa was described as “the voice” and Reggie ‘n’ Bollie were called “the party boys”. As much as this show likes to pretend it’s not just a straightforward singing competition and that it’s looking for someone with star quality, when push comes to shove it would always rather have a proto-Mariah take the crown than anything that looks even remotely like a novelty act.
All the stars, darling, all the stars
Every X Factor final needs its slate of celebrity guest appearances, and this was no exception. On the music front, we had a trio of big hitters who hit that demographical sweet spot: Coldplay, One Direction (now with 100 per cent less Zayn) and Adele. But! There were also cameos from Mariah Carey (via pre-record, wishing everyone good luck and telling them not to listen to Simon, very much heartily endorsing this event and/or product), Will Ferrell (doing a strange and not terribly funny or relevant potted history of the show), and a special tribute to One Direction featuring recorded testimonies from Simon, James Corden, Robbie Williams (telling them to “come back fitter and stronger than ever”, like they were going off for keyhole surgery rather than a year’s break and four abortive attempts at solo careers), Wayne Rooney, Danny Devito (I love his work), Jack Whitehall, Little Mix, 5 Seconds Of Summer (apparently, I had to look that one up), and David Beckham, who was singing along to ‘Steal My Girl’ in true embarrassing dad fashion.
What of the performances themselves? Well, Coldplay sang ‘The Adventure Of A Lifetime’ and had four dancers dressed as monkeys who sat in the judges’ chairs (too easy?), and by far the best bit of the whole thing was when Caroline went to talk to Chris Martin afterwards and immediately recoiled, squealing “oh, you’re so sweaty!”. One Direction sang ‘Infinity’ and ‘History, and aside from the tribute video that served as the intermission for their performance, my favourite part was Resentful Direction’s lovely blush-coloured jacket, for which I have been searching in vain ever since. And just before the results, Adele turned up to sing her global megahit ‘Hello, It Me’, and proceeded to be thoroughly delightful in her post-performance chat with Olly, cackling about how she’d wanted to burst out laughing the whole way through, and how Lauren was her real favourite because of that interview where she’d said she couldn’t afford new knickers. One of the things that baffles me about Adele to this day is how on earth someone who has such spark and such life in conversation constantly produces SUCH BORING SONGS, but there you go. It was a coup to get her, and you can’t argue with that.
You may remember me from such performances as ‘The Clapping Song’
The involvement of the former contestants was kept to a minimum, as they were all brought out at the beginning to sing ‘Downtown’. At first this seemed curiously throwback to me, and I wondered if it was intended as some kind of tie-in to the last series of Downton Abbey, but then everything started to sound terrible and I realised that there has in fact been a recent bastardisation by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, of which I was previously not aware because I am old and tragically unhip. The main takeaways from this performance were that 4th Impact and Seann Miley Moore are clearly still seen as the biggest stars of the acts who didn’t actually make the final, and that Reggie ‘n’ Bollie still sound unfortunately outclassed in group numbers.
There was no parade of returning losers, thankfully, unless you count the clips of hilariously wacky contestants shown during Will Ferrell’s little skit. Of all the many things The X Factor got wrong this year, its failure to troop out a load of people who won’t realise that the audience are laughing at them, not with them, is not one.
A burning question
Has Louisa always looked uncannily like Ghost Of X Factor Past Kate Thornton, or was it just her make-up and styling tonight?
Just the three of us
Our two finalists eventually got around to giving us a reprise performance of their favourite performances of the series. Reggie ‘n’ Bollie were up first, with their mash-up of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ and ‘Cheerleader’ – the first time they did it, they got a standing ovation, so they felt the need to up the ante this time. BUT HOW? Well, mostly by fitting in as many backing dancers as they possibly could, to the point where Reggie and Bollie themselves kind of got a bit lost in the shuffle. They sounded a bit tired on this performance, though that lifted when they segued into ‘I Like To Move It’ – it would seem that their strengths lie in songs where they can just shout, rather than songs that require any sort of vocal subtlety.
After that, Louisa had another run at ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’, which she loved the first time around because she got to strut and be sassy and also because she nailed the high note that she claims she always missed in rehearsals. She gave the song the full Christina-Aguilera-in-Moulin Rouge! this time around, but it all felt a little bit hollow – she’s got the pipes, but I can’t help thinking that she just doesn’t quite have the maturity as a performer to pull it off just yet.
Just like last year, though, the decider came when the winner’s single was revealed and it became instantly apparent that it was far more suited to one act than the other. Reggie ‘n’ Bollie went first with their take on Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone sound so utterly defeated on the final performance of the series as these two did. The song clearly hadn’t been selected with them in mind, the tune constantly got away from them and even the vague attempt to dancehall it up didn’t save things. They sounded curiously unenthused about the prospect of eternal youth as well. The judges knew this too, and gave them only faint praise afterwards, with Simon practically eulogising them. Then Louisa performed the same song immediately afterwards, looked a lot more comfortable with it and had a far more sympathetic arrangement to boot. The judges responded in kind, telling her what a star she was as Rita cried prettily and Reggie ‘n’ Bollie stood somewhere backstage trying to find out if it was too late to get cast in January’s Celebrity Big Brother.
What the font
I suspect that the chosen font for Louisa’s winner’s single demonstrates just how little anyone cares about anything to do with this series at this point.
A winner is you
After Adele departed the stage, Reggie ‘n’ Bollie and Louisa (and Cheryl and Rita) were called back up to learn their fates, as if anyone was still wondering by this point. Louisa was declared the winner and promptly dissolved into ugly cry face, briefly becoming an internet meme in the process. Reggie ‘n’ Bollie were gracious in defeat, saying that they arrived empty-handed but left fully-loaded, and then Louisa had to sing ‘Forever Young’ one last time while still sobbing before getting mobbed by her fellow contestants somewhere near the middle eight and disappearing from view, which is a pretty suitable visual metaphor for an X Factor winner I suppose.
The X Factor 2015: A Retrospective
Well, you don’t need me to tell you that the scattershot scheduling did the series no favours, or that the judging panel never really clicked. It’s a shame, because I think if we’d had a bit more time to get to know this particular group of contestants they could have been quite interesting, but because everything had to be rushed they still mostly feel like ciphers and archetypes. I feel slightly sorry for Caroline Flack, whose skills as a host we never really got to establish because she spent so much time babysitting Olly, though as we approach the dawn of series 13 and the return of Dermot, I am quite enjoying his attempts to distance himself from the comments he made last year about how the 6 Chair Challenge is evil and manipulative and he wouldn’t have any part of it (“no, it’s different this year! It’s much nicer! Honest!”). It’ll be interesting to see whether the back-to-basics approach of the upcoming series manages to right the ship or not – I have a feeling that the damage is already done at this point, but perhaps people really just do love Louis Walsh that much that they’ll all come back for him. I guess we’ll find out tonight.