Sunday, December 04, 2005

For those of you who still care

I have suggested to Joel that this should be our next blogging project. It's early days, of course, but it sounds like car-crash television of the highest order.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I'm still not watching

And I'm certainly not watching, watching again, then spending three hours writing about it.
You guys totally have to watch, because I've seen the song list for this weekend and it promises to be an absolute fucking trainwreck. None of them will be able to cope with their songs.
It. Will. Be. Awesome.

(Also, all the comments that were left when he decided to quit were absolutely amazing, and meant SO much to us. Thank you!)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A premature end

Transmission date: 12 November 2005

It is with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this, for this will be our last update on the show. Joel and I have talked it over, and despite our commitment to see the whole sorry charade through to the bitter end, we just cannot face watching this show again after what happened tonight. We're sorry, and we hope you all understand and won't hold this against us, but we've both absolutely had it. [Yup. I suddenly understand why Television Without Pity has to pay its recappers, because there is no way I could continue watching this piece of trash for fun. - Joel]


We get the usual "tonight on The X Factor" intro, and it's very swift this week. I wonder if that's because the show's running time has been cut, AT LAST. Kate comes onto the stage, and for once I don't think she looks like ass on a plate. I am, sadly, to be proved wrong once we get a wider shot of her. She's wearing this strange top with what looks like a large sheet of silk wrapped around her middle. If you're familiar with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode entitled 'This Year's Girl', it looks not unlike that horrible massive-horizontal-banded blouse that they forced poor Amber Benson into that made her look three times her usual size. Similarly, it does Kate no favours.

Kate introduces the judges, and Sharon has apparently come as Austin Powers for the evening. Seriously, what is with all the ruffles and velvet, Sharon? It isn't a flattering look. We're introduced to the contestants, and I could write a bit about this, but really you know who's left, you've seen this bit before, so let's skip ahead.

First up is an act from the 16-24 category. It's odd; I assumed they would make Sharon go first as she's the only one with four acts left. But no, it's Shayne, who Louis informs us, in something of an exclusive revelation, is from Manchester. No! Really? I am very surprised. In his VT intro, there is some talk about Simon's criticism from last week, and Shayne and Louis seem quite angered about it. This just serves to make them both look stupid, because Simon was right. Also making Shayne look stupid? That beanie. Take it off, Shayne. Shayne is nervous because he is going to have to dance this week. There are some new glamour shots at the end, and where they were against a glimmering back blackground before, now the background is white. Shayne is also wearing white, and white on white really suits him. He should take up fencing. He comes onto the stage and stands upstage rather than downstage, which seems unusual. The backing track for 'Cry Me A River' (Justin Timberlake, not Julie London) kicks in, and I sigh with the sheer inevitability of this song choice. I think it's a bad choice because it doesn't do much from a vocal showcase point of view, it's all about the production. Shayne gives it a good shot, but to be honest this song was a mistake. He doesn't do a good job of transposing from the low notes to the high notes, and his high notes are squeaky and off-pitch. Also, he's not much of a dancer, and when he dances with his hands on the hips, he looks quite, quite gay. I also feel compelled to express my disgust at the omission of the second verse, because the "don't act like you don't know it" line is the best part of the entire song, as established by me and my sister back in 2003. The key change is extremely awkward, both in the backing track and in Shayne's singing. [Plus there’s no way to sing this song without it being ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Justin Timberlake.’ He even had the ‘oh!’ and stuff in the same place. - Joel] Judges' comments: Simon welcomes Shayne back to the 21st century. He says that Shayne has the potential, with the right songs, to be within two to three years one of the most successful male solo artists in this country. While I usually love to agree with Simon, I think this is absolute horseshit. It took Will Young that long to achieve the same thing, and Shayne is Will Young as purchased from TK Maxx. Sharon is pleased to see Shayne acting like a 21-year-old and looking like a 21-year-old. I wasn't aware he'd done anything else. I know Louis picked him a few songs from the dark ages, but it wasn't like Shayne came out in a pair of comfortable slacks and sang them in an armchair whilst listening to the World Service. Now, do you remember the thing that Sharon had for Shayne that was warm? She's brought it in and wants him to see it. The ITV compliance team start biting their nails. Sharon whips it out (steady) and it is, I think, a little wolfhound, although I'm happy for experts on breeds of dog to correct me here. [I think it’s one of her dozens of Pomeranians. - Joel] Basically, all you need to know is that it isn't her minky, thank sweet merciful crap. Louis babbles something supportive that I didn't really care enough to listen to properly, and Shayne tells the judges (in his big gay voice, TM Joel) that he wanted to show people how much he wants it (DRINK!) and that he hopes people vote for him.

Next up is Maria, and I'm starting to cry a little just thinking about it. Don't ask me why, but I had a horrible feeling that this wasn't going to be a good week for Maria. I think I may be psychic, but more on that later. Sharon says that this week's song choice is "from the left field" and Maria says it's a tough rock song. She also states that she's had a lot of trouble learning it and that the lyrics don't stay in her head which, well, that isn't good. Couldn't she have just done 'Since U Been Gone' if she wanted to go rocky for this week? She already knows the words to that one. Maria's song for this week is 'Brown Sugar', [Making me very glad that’s Sharon’s intro about a big cup of brown sugar wasn’t just some horrible race-pimping. - Joel] and while she's giving it 100% as always, it's simply totally the wrong song for her. She's struggling to be heard over the backing, and I think another big mistake that Maria made tonight was wearing trousers and thus hiding her awesome legs. It's not her best performance, but it's still a good performance because it's Maria and she's incapable of delivering anything but [And she was still as sexy as hell. - Joel]. Louis says that she reminds him of Tina Turner, and that it wasn't an obvious choice of song for her but that she gave a great performance and deserves to be here (DRINK!) I'm going to buy Louis a word-a-day calendar for Christmas, in the hope that he might extend his vocabulary if there's a third series. And as well as the calendar I will also buy him a pitbull trained to sic people called Louis Walsh, for reasons that will become clear later. Actually, I wonder if Backup is available for hire? Simon disagrees totally with Louis, and says that last week Maria stole the show, where this week she was brought down to the level of a singer at a New Year's Eve party. A good New Year's Eve party, he qualifies, but a New Year's Eve party nonetheless. Ah, New Year. When the thoroughly-deserving winner of this show will be freshly crowned, and there will be much rejoicing in the streets, except from those of us, like Joel and me, who no longer give a tiny rat's ass. Simon says that you have to be dirty to sing that song, and Maria is not. Sharon: "You'd like to know if she is." Hee! Simon protests that Maria is a married woman, and her husband is a lucky man (and judging by tonight's edition of The Xtra Factor, a really cool and sweet man, so a big aww to that). Sharon says that she pushes Maria each week to rise above people's expectations, and that Maria delivers and that she's proud of her. Excuse me, I have something in my eye. Sniff. Maria thanks the judges, and talks about how she's still developing and learning and finding her niche. She thanks Sharon and Mark (Sharon's musical director or nearest equivalent thereof, I believe) for pushing her, and urges people to vote for her. Sniff.

After the break: the Conway Sisters, Andy, Journey South and Chico. My excitement here is tangible, obviously.

Back from the break, and Simon does an unusually sarcasm-free introduction for the Conway Sisters, who in their VT discuss how betrayed they felt by Simon's critique from last week, and that they don't believe they fell apart in the middle. In the nicest possible way, suck it up and get over it, because what you're doing right now is not going to make you better performers. [Exactly. They were all ‘We were wounded, wounded by Simon’s words!’ and it’s like, well, stop being shit, then he might say something nice about you. - Joel] Wondering if Simon might have a point, and doing something about it? Yeah, that might. They say how they chose their own song this week, and I'm pleasantly surprised to discover that it's En Vogue's 'Hold On' (which is not so much by En Vogue as it is by Wilson Phillips, an embarrassing mistake to have made, and my thanks to the kind-yet-anonymous commenter who pointed this out), a song that I love. Laura is playing the piano for this performance, and well done to them for playing an instrument that isn't a goddamned guitar. I am pleased to report that this is their best performance on the live show by a long shot - the harmonies are nicely judged and they keep it together much better than usual. Even Holly enjoyed it, and she hates this show (good news, Hol, you'll never have to watch it again after this week if you don't want to). Louis is a fan of the girls, he says, and this performance was much better than last week, even though it was a hard song (DRINK!), they did well. They're good Irish girls (CHUG!) and he wants them to fight. Presumably not each other [OMG that would be awesome. Wrestling in mud. Or potatoes. Did you know they’re Irish? - Joel], but rather to stay in the competition. Sharon takes issue with Louis's comment that the girls have "more talent than a lot of people here", by which Louis cheerfully admits he means Chico. He adds "not in my category", and yeah, Shayne and Nicholas are real finds, you jackass. Totally unique, and not in any way poor copies of Will Young and Craig David. Sharon tells the "King of Pop" to shut up, and seriously Sharon, don't feed that man's ego. Louis Walsh has done nothing for pop except deliver a few swift kicks to its rapidly decaying corpse with each successive Westlife album. Simon enjoys the bitchfight, as well he might. Sharon loves the song and loved the performance, which is all very nice. Simon wants to clear up that he doesn't think he picked the wrong song last week, and that he'd pick it again. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there is no love lost between Simon and the Conway Sisters. Just a crazy theory of mine that came out of the left field. He thinks that they made the right decision in choosing this song and wishes them luck which, while all positive stuff, is still very cold when you think about it. Compare it to how he talks to Journey South and see what I mean. The girls thank the judges for giving them the chance to sing a song of their own choice.

Andy is next, or as Sharon puts it, "the SECOND of my FOUR acts". If I may quote from my notes, "One of hers is so going this week". I just wish I'd been proven wrong now. Andy in his VT: "I had a chat with Sharon and she thinks I need to raise my bar even more." Hee, because I'm 12. His song this week is one written for a four-part harmony, so we all know at this point that he'll be doing something by Boyz II Men, and sure enough, he goes for the very interesting choice of 'I'll Make Love To You'. He does an okay job on it, but he suffers from comparison to the layered harmonies of the original and his rendition sounds very thin by comparison, although he does kick ass a little bit when he starts ad libbing at the end. [Can I just say that I really didn’t enjoy this, purely because I really, really do not want Andy to make love to me, and that overshadowed vocal quality etc. - Joel] Louis says that Andy is a terrific singer, and that this was a hard song (DRINK!) because four people normally sing it. I really hope that they invent one of those pocket Louis Walshes on a keychain - you press a button and he tells you one of eight things that you already know. Fun for all the family! He does add that he prefers Andy doing Nat King Cole songs. Yes, Louis, but there is a chance that Andy might run out of famous Nat King Cole songs to sing, so do you not think it might be a good idea for him to have a Plan B? Simon admits he "thought Madame had gone nuts" when he heard this was to be Andy's song for this week, and suddenly I think how awesome Sharon would be in the lead role of Mother Clap's Molly House. He thinks Andy appealed to his target audience and gave them what they want. I hate how everything on this show is geared towards flogging your wares to the lowest common denominator, but the audience holler and stamp their feet dementedly in apparent support of this comment, so Simon doesn't finish his comment other than to say he thought it was great, and I bash my head against a supporting wall. Sharon just wants to let Andy's voice do the talking for him. Well, yes, Sharon, that is how most people operate, the deaf-mutes aside. "Give him a rock song to sing, that'll screw him!" pipes up Katy, and knowing what I know now, I cannot find enough word in the world to express my feelings here.

Kate, to the audience: "You're a rowdy mob tonight." Hee. Still to come, Journey South, Chico, Nicholas and Brenda. Brenda can't be on my screen soon enough, let me tell you.

An advert for a new variety of horse perfume. Oh, my mistake; it's Sarah Jessica Parker. She's called her new fragrance 'Lovely', so she's clearly as inventive as she is beautiful. A trailer for the Take That documentary, which is an excellent way of reminding me how much most of these losers suck.

Back from the ads, and Simon introduces Journey South, whom he refers to as "a group that you can just push push push". Yes, off a cliff cliff cliff. Just kidding. They're unsure about their song for this week. Isn't everyone? Apparently this was the first time they'd disagreed with Simon about the song choice, and he had to "have words". I wonder idly if thumbscrews were involved somewhere. Carl looks good in the new glamour shot; like Shayne, white is his colour. Um, except for the white jacket that he wears when he walks onto the stage, which looks like it spent its previous life restricting the movements of asylum inmates. [Seriously. White leather with a mandarin collar is not a look you want to be sporting unless you’re a villain in seventies sci-fi. - Joel] The flipping guitar is still there, electric again this time, and a mealy-mouthed rendition of 'Living on a Prayer' follows. Shock confession time: I actually quite enjoyed this performance. I mean, I still don't see anything in these guys that resembles the so-called X Factor, but I liked seeing them do something uptempo and singalong rather than more worthy acoustic crap. [Heh. Horses for courses – they completely lost all the goodwill they’d gained from me last week by this piece of bellowing nonsense. - Joel] The audience sings along, which is quite cool. Sharon liked the song and the performances, but points out that Carl (I think) looked uncomfortable on stage. She tells him to enjoy it because it's rock and roll, and I think she's channeling Gene Simmons here. Louis says something inconsequential. Simon spouts out yet more stuff about how much you can push Journey South and how they're willing to take risks, and how this risk paid off. Yeah, you're a hero, Simon, no doubt about that. I'll commission that commemorative plaque in your honour first thing in the morning. Andy says that he enjoyed himself, that this was their "most toughest" (sic) week yet, and that they hope to be back next week.

Back to Sharon and "oh dear, oh dear, those three little words again: it's Chico time". I really hate the expression on Chico's face when he hears that he's safe, as shown in the VT. He can't do anything subtly? Stupid question. Chico feels the slate is wiped clean now that Simon apologised, and that he's got as much chance as anyone to win. Sure, as much as anyone who's been in the bottom two twice. He says that he wants to prove to the country that he can sing, and that with this song it will be all about the vocal. By rights, this ought to have been his ticket home right here. Chico walks out in an open shirt and a vest that's tucked into his trousers and looks so much like a girl that I can't really do it justice. His song this week is Enrique Iglesias's 'Hero', and I am severely spooked because I had a premonition of this very moment earlier on today. Not knowing what anyone was singing this week, I was crossing the road in Ealing Broadway and halfway across I was suddenly struck with the knowledge that Chico would sing 'Hero' this week. It kind of sucks, because as I've made it clear on several occasions, if I'm to be given the powers of one of the Charmed ones, I want Prue's, not Phoebe's. Much as you'd expect, Chico's vocal is thin and wobbly and not at all suitable for a performance in the final eight of a talent contest. [It wasn’t quite as unbelievably hideous as I thought it would be though. It wasn’t Hollyoaks acting bad. - Joel] There's an awesome shot of the judges and Sharon's head is in her hands, like, tell it sister. Chico does a little twirl because he is a ponce and can't contain himself. There is a smoke machine which is totally overkill, and I fantasise briefly of a parallel universe where Chico chokes. Louis thinks that he thought Chico was crazy to do a ballad because the dancing is what sells him. I wouldn't even say that, I'd say it's the ego that sells him. Simon says, "Chico, we're friends now, so we can be honest with each other. You doing that ballad is like casting Ricky Gervais as Rambo." Heh. He says that Chico is an entertainer (and seriously, who in this day and age makes their living as an "entertainer" outside of a holiday camp?) and that he'd keep Chico in for another week so that he can go back to what he does best. Sheep farming? My mistake. Oh yes, do let's prolong the agony. I also have a full set of teeth that you may pull out with rusty pliers if you wish. Sharon says that Chico restrained himself; "I only saw one twirl." Hee. Chico thanks the judges for their candour, and does another twirl, standing on Kate's foot in the process. Hee, again.

Louis: "He's young, cool dude. It's Nicholas." I add Louis Walsh to my list of people who need to be reminded that the phrase "cool dude" is over, and has been since the mid-1990s. Nicholas talks in his weird robotic voice about the travesty that was his appearance in the bottom two last week [It was letting his family down. Woe! - Joel] and rubs the bridge of his nose to get the sympathy vote. It was a nightmare decision for Louis, and he went with Nicholas because he's a boy. Whoops, because "he can do a lot better on the show". Silly me, got that waxy buildup in my ears again. Nicholas VTs that he's picked a good song this week and has to step up and deliver. For a weird moment I want him to do well, and I have no idea why, since I don't care for the guy. He sings R Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly'. Coincidentally, whenever this record comes on, I too am convinced that life is nothing but an awful song. Funny that. He's better this week, but I still find him a boring and cold performer. I still feel like he's holding back, although on a technical level there's nothing specifically wrong with his performance. His run at the end is off, and ends abruptly and uncomfortably. I'm not sold, but I bet the judges and public will be. Sharon calls him "Nickeh" in a way that makes her sound like every single person I went to grammar school with. She approved of the song choice this week and likes his new, preppier look. He'd ditched the rhinestone belt, THANK GOD. Simon says, "it was good". He likens the performance to dinner with Louis Walsh: pleasant but forgettable. I thought he was going to go with brief and uncomfortable, but there you go. Simon says that there was no effort put into the song choice, that it was boring and had been done before. Louis tells Simon to shut up because he's "boring now". I miss the next bit, because all I can hear is the sound of a pot calling a kettle black emanating from my kitchen. Louis tells Nicholas that he sang like a star, and that Simon is just jealous. Oh good, we've officially reduced ourselves to the "you're just jealous" level of maturity. I'm so glad that happened. I must be very jealous of all these people, because I think this show sucks like and that everyone responsible for it ought to be executed without trial. Nicholas robots that he's glad he impressed Sharon and that he hopes to come back "one more time" and impress Simon, by which I really hope he means "once, in the results show, after which I will be voted off", except I know that's not how it goes.

Seriously, what is the point of that laptop on the judges' table?

Sharon introduces Brenda thus: "apart from singing great (sic), I should publish her diet because she looks fabulous". Heh. She really does, too. Brenda does the typical Brenda cackle at the end of her VT, and I'm getting a little bit bored of that now, but she looks stunning in the new glamour shots, so I'll forgive her. She sings Dionne Warwick's 'Heartbreaker' [Heh. I know it as Dolly Parton’s ‘Heartbreaker’, but it suddenly makes a lot more sense being sung by Brenda. - Joel], which is one of my favourite songs, and she does it justice. She's a little bit screechy in a few places, notably the "suddenly everything I ever wanted" line, but I can overlook that. Simon calls Brenda the most improved contestant since the contest began, and says that Louis would love her. I think we all know what he means by that, so I shall move on. Simon's only problem is that he thinks she will get work in the West End, but he's not sure if she's a recording artist. Sharon: "Why?" Simon: "Gut feeling." Sharon: "Gut feeling of what?" Simon: "Gut feeling." Sharon makes a long speech which basically boils down to: why did you create the only TV show in the world with no age limit (really? I know some people aged 15 and under who have a bone to pick with that theory) if you're going to say that Brenda is too old to succeed. Simon says that it's not a matter of age, and that he thinks Andy will sell records, because Andy has been preordained as the winner of this show and needs to be plugged on a regular basis. Brenda thanks Louis and Sharon, and invites Simon to put her in a studio once the show's finished so that she can prove herself as a recording artist. Classy comeback there, I think. [Seemed kind of petulant to me, but I guess there’s nothing you can say when Simon’s just said that. - Joel]

Kate reminds us that we're voting for our favourite. I think we got that by this point, Kate. Kate urges us all to vote, yada yada yada.

Results show

Earlier tonight! 8 acts sang live for your votes! For Louis, Shayne and Nicholas! For Sharon, Maria, Andy, Chico and Brenda! For Simon, the Conway Sisters and Journey South! But tonight one act must leave the competition for good! Well, that was a massive surprise. Thank you, Voice Over Man.

For the last hour we've been voting and apparently we're "painfully close" between the bottom three. Kate can't stress enough that this is our last chance to vote if we don't want to see our favourite in the bottom two. I've already voted, but still feel disturbingly nervous for Maria. The montage, and why are they still putting text vote up on the aston when that voting method is closed at this stage in the game?

One minute to go, and Kate announces that there have been over one million votes tonight. I don't remember her saying this last week, so I wonder if last week's vote tally was lower than usual. The lines close and Kate reveals the vote, in no particular order. The audience start shouting, because they are dimwits. Nicholas. Louis is overheard saying "bloody hell, fantastic". Hee. Brenda. Andy. Maria looks devastated at this point, and I think she knows what's coming. Shayne. Chico. "What time is it?" he yells. Fuck off and die time, you talentless buffoon. The one other act definitely coming back next week is going to find out after the break.

Most unwelcome ad break ever. I truly fear for Maria at this point.

The final act definitely coming back next week is Journey South, to no one's surprise. FUCKING HELL. I call my lawyer and officially file to divorce myself from the general public because they are morons. Seriously: Chico is safe and Maria is in the bottom two? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU? Simon tells the Conway Sisters to enjoy themselves. Sharon tells Maria to own it. Louis tells both acts to sing it like they really really mean it. Stellar advice from all three mentors there, except for the “stellar” part. And the “advice” part. Singing for the possibly the last time on this show, Maria. She's really amped up the volume since her first performance, and while she's bringing it, she looks as gutted as I feel that she's here while Chico is enjoying a free ticket to the next show. This was a bad song choice for her. A better song and she would have been absolutely fine. It is a good performance though, and it's much better the second time, I think. [Totally. She gives it absolutely everything. - Joel] She looks thunderstruck at the end, and I don't blame her.

Some people walk behind Kate to set up the stage and it's quite funny. Kate brings our attention to the fact that neither act has been in the bottom two before. I know, and it sucks, because Maria doesn't deserve to be in the bottom two ever, and this is the Conway Sisters' best week so far. One of the Sisters (Sharon, I think) tells the audience that she wants to see them dancing, and Marie hits her lightly on the arm to get her to shut up. Hehehe. I think that they're not quite bringing it for the second time in the same way that Maria did, [Also totally. If this is the best they can do, when their place in the competition is at stake, well, that’s a bit sad, really. - Joel] but that Louis will save them because they're Irish. There is a shot of Chico clapping in the audience and I am filled with seething rage.

The audience start to shout a lot, and it sounds as though they're backing Maria. I'm still not terribly hopeful. Sharon votes to send home the Conway Sisters, unsurprisingly. Simon votes to send home Maria, which again is unsurprising (I think had they been anyone else's act he would never have saved the Conway Sisters, but with only two of his acts left in the competition I respect his decision even if I don't agree with it), but not in any way a popular choice with the audience. Louis shakes his head. Kate asks for the act he's sending home, and the audience shouts "Maria", which makes me think they want her to go home, even though I'm sure that's not what they mean. Louis says that the act he "has" to send home is Maria, and the audience is massively outraged, as am I. There is a mass of booing, and I don't think I've ever seen a reaction this strong on a show like this before. Even Kate is outraged, as she expresses her disbelief that "one of our biggest talents" is leaving the competition. Maria is emotional and so I am. I'm on the verge of tears just writing about it. We see Maria's X Factor journey. They show Maria singing 'You're Beautiful', which is just adding insult to fucking injury as far as I'm concerned. They end with her "goodnight" closing line from 'Emotion', and oh my god I'm crying again. Maria thanks Sharon for getting her that far. Sharon calls it a travesty and rages against the "Irish mafia" and says she's "had it". Kate asks Louis to explain his decision, and he says that he went with his heart. The audience boos him. Kate: "Maria: Louis says he followed his heart, Sharon says he went with his passport. What do you say?" Ha. Maria doesn't have anything bad to say to Louis, because she's awesome. Sharon says that Maria is going nowhere but into a recording studio, and I really hope that's true. What's awesome is that I have never seen so much time spent in shocked disbelief at someone's eviction from a talent show before. [I got the impression they extended the show just to get across more ‘people are disgusted’ footage. - Joel] I think the team behind this show never expected Maria to go so soon, and I’m not surprised. Clearly Kate is outraged, Sharon is outraged, the audience is outraged and everyone is baying for Louis's blood. As much as I hate to say this, he's only partly at fault here. Neither Maria nor the Conway Sisters should have gone this week, the voting was an absolute mess. Well guys, you'll get the winner you deserve with voting tactics like that. I sincerely hope you enjoy the rest of the series, because I am done with this fucking show for good. That's it. No more.

Post scriptum

So that's it for us then. We hope you enjoyed reading these updates as much as we had fun ripping the show to shreds. Maria, if you happen upon this page, Joel and I would like to say that you were awesome and that your premature elimination was nothing short of an absolute joke. We wish you every success for the future. [And hope you take some solace from the fact that you got 11,000 text messages of support, and 92% of a poll on Xtra Factor saying Louis was wrong, and the general disbelief of the audience. - Joel] We also wish the best of luck to Brenda, who is about the only act we could stomach winning the thing now. If anyone still wishes to read recaps of the show, as far as we know Talent in a Previous Life will be continuing to do them, and they're funnier than us a lot of the time, so why not take your custom there? [We might be back in future for other stuff. Hopefully shows where we hate all the contestants, so there’s none of this disappointment stuff. - Joel]

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Can you say 'Mediocre'?

Tonight, I will be introducing some more categories for an X-Factor drinking game. You know the rules – when a cliché for the show appears, a shot must be downed. I’m glad I didn’t actually perform this tonight, or I’d be clutching the toilet bowl, cursing God for giving me two kidneys but only one liver. Apparently, we’re pressed for time, as the moody montage of black clothes and turned heads flashes by without so much as a by-your-leave. We are informed that ‘your Saturday night starts here’ and I think that I’ll be the judge of that thankyouverymuch. Apparently tonight’s X-Factor is being broadcast live from the Fifties, judging by Kate’s dress, which is horrible. (Drink!) It’s lemon yellow, and ruffly, strapless, with an enormous bell skirt and a red sash at the waist. She looks like pudding. She introduces the judges and the contestants and as the audience hollers and wails and generally orgasms over the mere existence of some people on a stage, I notice that Kate’s autocue is in the middle of the audience and about fifteen feet across. I just figured they’d have put it to Louis’s right, off camera, but you live and learn. Anyhoo. Sharon’s lot are up first and she says ‘What better way to start the show than with Brenda?’, which is kind of dumb. I like Brenda lots, but I can think of things I’d rather see. Strippers, for example. Or Louis Walsh being eaten alive by fire ants. But I guess as this is a family show (though perhaps not a family recap), Brenda’s as good as any. She talks to camera about how Simon compared her to Shirley Valentine, and then we learn that she’s lost one and a half stone since entering the contest. Brenda tells us that the song she’s singing has an 11-second note at the end, and she hopes her lungs are big enough. [And cackles, as usual. Brenda and Rustie Lee – separated at birth. – Steve] The song in question is ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ and she pretty much rocks it. She struggles a bit in the middle where it speeds up, and her phrasing there isn’t entirely clear, but in terms of hitting the notes and injecting it with energy she does really well. She breaks into a little dance at one point (for dance read ‘kick her leg out and splays her arms’) and the audience woohoos. The long note at the end she hits perfectly, but she certainly does not hold it for 11 seconds. I mean, that’s a hell of a long time and I know I couldn’t do it, but don’t draw attention to the fact and then not deliver. Judges’ comments: Simon says to Sharon: ‘your artists are supposed to screw up at this point!’ He tells Brenda it’s her best performance yet and, ‘now I’m feeling depressed.’ Louis says that it was energetic and fantastic, and that she could have a hit with it. (Drink!) Sharon says it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Simon makes a joke I miss, and Sharon says ‘no, I pluck those!’ In the course of her comments, Sharon mentions her Favourite Expert award. (Drink!) [Seriously. Next week I almost expect her not to turn up at all, and just to have her National TV Award sat there in her chair instead. – Steve] Brenda says that she knew the song would be a challenge and was praying ‘lungs open up and help me!’

Next! Louis says, ‘He’s young, he’s cool, it’s Nicholas.’ They’re really not putting much effort into these introductions any more, are they? [I’m fairly sure he’s used that intro for Nicholas at least twice by now, so no. – Steve] ‘They’re some girls. The Conway Sisters!’ ‘He’s a man. Andy!’ ‘They breathe oxygen – it’s Journey South!’ Apparently, when Nicholas was a kid, his parents bought him a karaoke machine and he used it so much he broke it. He says singing is what he’s ‘destined to do’ and I hate him a bit. Seriously, shut up about destiny. It’s what you want to do. Not the same. In the VT, Louis says ‘I’ve given Nicholas a really tough song this week’. This difficult song is ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5. As expected, Nicholas straps his falsetto on and is really fucking dreadful. He’s wearing the NICHOLAS rhinestone belt. (Three weeks in a row – I think that deserves a Drink!, don’t you?). You can barely hear him over the music. He sounds bored out of his mind and has no energy at all. He does a little spazzy dance. (Spellcheck wants that to be ‘snazzy.’ No, Word, it was not snazzy. It was definitely spazzy.) The high-pitched ‘All I neeeed!’ at the end doesn’t get a ‘woo!’ from the audience, and as we’ve established that these people will cheer for Brenda kicking her leg out and for Andy getting off a stool, I think that indicates just how poor this performance is. Even the audience loons don’t care. Sharon says that she’s never heard that song sung in a low register, and that it didn’t really work. She asks Nicholas if he chose it himself and he says, firmly and a little too quickly, that he did. Louis then jumps in and says that they chose it together. This despite the fact that Louis JUST SAID in the VT that he’d given Nicholas a difficult song, which to my mind totally precludes Nicholas’s participation in choosing. Louis, are you really still proceeding with that blatant lie? Your cover was already blown on this subject so give up. Besides which, even if they do choose the songs together, or if Nicholas suggested this song, then Louis should really be good enough at his job to advise against it. Either way, he just looks unprofessional. Sharon says that she likes Nicholas, but he’s not really nailed any of the songs he’s had, and that she’s ‘sure it’s Louis’s fault.’ [Hee. – Steve] Simon says that Sharon was being polite, and that it was terrible. Louis tries to jump in and gets a ‘Shut it Louis!’ from Simon, who goes on to say that Nicholas has great potential, but that ‘Louis is killing you in this competition.’ In response to the comments, Nicholas thanks them and says ‘I’ll take it on board.’ (Drink!)

Kate tells us that coming up are, well, the rest of the contestants, and someone called Joanie South, whoever she may be. Added to the prizes for the competition are X-Factor DVDs. Which: ow, my ears, the sound of barrels being scraped is deafening. [I thought it was Nicholas doing a quick reprise. They sound very much alike – screechy and painful. – Steve] Adverts. Is it really a good idea to advertise Craig David’s album in this show, thereby reminding us just how totally surplus to requirements Nicholas is? There’s a trailer for The Bill, with the tagline ‘Real Crime. Real Close.’ Well, apart from the fact that it’s, you know, fictional crime. On my TV. We come back and see that Myleene Klass is in the audience. Andy’s next and he says ‘I’ve worked so hard to live up to expectations.’ Scott: ‘You were a bin man til you were 40, you’re not living up to ANY expectations.’ Andy’s mum died (this week? another week? it’s not clear) and he’s been back in Grenada arranging things, but came back to the competition. I’m going to burn in hell for being a horrible cynic, but he didn’t seem particularly upset, and they were totally milking this. That doesn’t stop his mum’s death being incredibly sad for him, but if they’re going to use it so blatantly, then I’m going to comment on it in the same fashion. He sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and my word it’s boring. It is, in fact, boooooooooooooring. The intro goes on and on. And on. Then when it finally goes up a notch, Andy goes ‘Woah! C’mon!’ and it’s totally forced. You don’t get to do that, Not King Cole. In what seems to be a fairly common thing in this contest, the speed’s wrong – it’s gained half a beat. Towards the end he starts to make up the tune and sing his own one, which always fucks me off. Grace notes are one thing but don’t just start making it up. Louis says that ‘everybody likes you!’ Speak for yourself, leprechaun. [I vote we start a petition. People who don’t like Andy need to have their voices heard! – Steve] Simon says that Andy’s a grown-up who takes criticism well, (really?), and that he gave it 1000%. (Drink!) Sharon says that Mrs O. is very proud of him, and mentions her judging award. (Drink!) Kate talks to Andy about how he’s had a tough week, and he says that it was. He starts talking about how his fans have been a help. Fans, already? Yeah, this guy’s totally humble. Dick. His eyes are going side to side as he says it, and given what I noted above about Kate’s massive autocue, I swear that he’s reading his response.

Next up, Louis tells us it’s a ‘young girl with a great smile, it’s Chin Eye.’ Great as in massive, yes? And for god’s sake, learn to pronounce the poor girl’s name. It’s not difficult: there’s a soft ‘ch’, like in chassis, which is what you were using, and was wrong. There’s a hard ‘ch’, like in ‘church’, and at least you’ve got that bit right now, but it doesn’t necessitate splitting the syllables of her name into two entirely separate words. Goon. She’s wearing a velour bolero jacket with studs on it and singing Elvis Presley’s ‘You Are Always On My Mind.’ Yeah, well done Louis. Make Chenai compete with Elvis. That’ll work. It doesn’t. Her phrasing is still flabby and terrible, (all ‘satithfied’, and ‘always on mamind’) and the song has been slowed down too much, which is giving her trouble. It’s a ballad, yes, but it’s not a fucking funeral march. A couple of times, Chenai breaks out the high notes, and these are much clearer and more successful. It makes me wonder if she’s singing too low for herself, but surely the vocal coaches would have picked up on that? It’s really not very good at all. Sharon says that it’s time for Chenai to act like a young girl, because she’s got a lovely voice and needs to show some personality. Simon compares Chenai to a Chinese takeaway, in that you’re left wanting more and there’s nothing memorable about it, pleasant though it may be at the time. [I didn’t really get that analogy, at least not the way he described it. I do agree that Chenai is like a Chinese takeaway in that she leaves me feeling uncomfortable and nauseated. – Steve] He says that she wasn’t fun and energetic, and that it kind of put him to sleep. Louis says that she made the song her own (Drink!) and that the public will like her (Drink!). Chenai says something about the fact that she can’t have been that boring because Simon wasn’t dropping off, and then Louis says that Simon is ‘breaking in his new teeth.’ This seems to be a complete non sequitur, but Simon laughs and laughs and laughs, so I guess I missed the joke. Chenai says she doesn’t know what to make of the takeaway comment. Scott: ‘It’s not a compliment! I know Chinese takeaway is quite posh where you come from…’ Kate says ‘Do you fancy a takeaway?’ and makes it sound really sexual, even though she’s just exhorting us to vote for Chenai.

Next up is Chico. He says that he’s been preparing physically (close up of his tits on a treadmill) and voice-wise. Sharon says that ‘if you’re going out for a night’s entertainment, who would you buy a ticket for?’ Maria, actually. But even if I were to answer ‘Chico’, the fact remains that that is not the point of this competition. You want to sell records, and particularly albums, because singles make no money. Chico will never be more than a novelty act. He might do well doing PAs in nightclubs, and could possibly have one hit single with a ‘vida loca’ cover, but he will never, ever sell albums. Chico sings Prince’s ‘Kiss’, and is trying to do a Prince? Impression? Maybe? Because he’s all high-pitched. Scott: ‘What, has he got a cold?’ He makes kissy noises on the break between ‘your extra time and your…Kiss!’ Second verse he breaks out the growls, and the dancing. Even Chico’s dancing, which is pretty much all he’s got, isn’t really working this week. I think Phillip must have coughed up a cloud of spores as he left last week, and infected them all with Twitchy Plague. It’s the only explanation. Anyway, you can imagine this performance, I’m sure. At the end, Chico sings ‘kiss’ and sounds like a goat. Louis says that Chico’s getting better every week. Which: what? Simon says that ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me, I’m liking you!’ He seems genuinely quite freaked out. The first half was horrible (a predictable ‘OI!’ from Sharon, who, like Louis, cannot take any criticism of her acts, even if it’s in the framework of praise, and a ‘Get real!’ from Simon in response), but Simon apologises for what he said early in the competition, and is glad Chico’s there. Kate says ‘you’ve been waiting for those words to spill from their lips.’ Stop making stuff sexual, Kate! Chico is extremely humble, and says ‘let the flabbergastedness continue!’. He apologises for not taking criticism well earlier in the competition, (which I think he did, generally), and seems to genuinely mean it. He says that the whole experience has been really rewarding, but then ruins all the good will that he’s garnered from me by saying ‘It’s Chico time!’ Scott likens the fact that we both seem to find ourselves liking Chico a little bit to the Jade Goody effect, and it’s true. So egregiously awful, but so good-natured you can’t hold it against them. [It’s true. Then again, I watched this on video and fast-forwarded through his entire performance, which I find to be the viewing method of choice for maximum enjoyment of Chico. – Steve]

Next up are Journey South. Simon says that they’re up with no gimmicks, no choirs, no backing track. Performing acoustically IS a gimmick, Simon. They sing ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’ Just the two of them on stools, with a guitar. Long-blonde-hair-chip-eyes one starts off (I refuse to learn which one is which), and just as I wonder how he’ll manage the ‘sun rose in your eyes’ sustained note on ‘eyes’, he chickens out and makes a little run out of it, but it’s quite successful. It pains me to admit, but they really are pretty good. I’m sure Steve will disagree. [I have a Pavlovian reaction to people sitting on stools playing guitars that makes me fall asleep, so I don’t really remember anything about this performance. – Steve] Sharon says that they took a risk and did extremely well, and that ‘it’s the hardest song to cover’. The hardest? Out of all the thousands upon thousands of songs in the world? What a strange thing to say. Louis says ‘you’ve proved to me you’ve got real, real talent.’ Simon says that he’d rather someone left the competition taking a risk than played it safe, and besides that the risk paid off and they proved they’re really good singers. I do think it worked. They’ve got good voices, and harmonise well, when they’re not trying to prove that they’re ‘cred’ by singing U2 songs, and having to bellow to be heard over the backing track. More low-key stuff from Journey South in future, please.

Strangely, Maria is towards the end of the contest again. Not that I mind, because everything that helps her is good in my book. She’s taking Simon’s advice and singing a contemporary song. It’s a huge risk and she prays she can pull it off. She’s wearing a black minidress, and looks hot as ever. [Hell yeah. When she walked on at the beginning of the show, I found myself shouting “Fucking hell, Maria!” somewhat involuntarily. I knew she had fantastic boobs, but tonight I realised her legs are awesome to. If she weren’t married, and I weren’t gay…well, still nothing would happen, but you get the idea. – Steve] She’s singing James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’. Dear god I hate this song. Haaaaaaate. Hate. And, lord, even Maria can’t make it good. Her voice is still beautiful, and she’s still gorgeous, but I don’t like this performance that much. She’s hard to hear over the backing track, and at the end a load of backing vocals come in and she’s even harder to hear. This song kind of leaves her stranded – there’s nothing she can do with it. Apparently, the judges disagree with me though. Louis says that she was by far the best last week, and she came back just as good. She made the song her own (Drink!) and deserves a record deal (Drink!). Simon says that not only was it her best performance to date, it was the best of the night. He believes she’d have a hit record with it. (Drink!) Sharon says that it was totally effortless (which is true) and great. Simon brings in what Girls Aloud said in the papers about there being no talent in the show, and challenges them to come and sing live on the show next week if they’re so great. Louis looks shocked, and throws his hands up, and kinda looks like he’s got an ice-lolly rammed up his rear-end. That Girls Aloud thing makes me mad. You CAME from a reality audition show, girls, what gives you the right to criticise them? I think their comments were aimed at Chico more than anyone else, but hello? Maria? Brenda? Shayne (some weeks) and Andy (some weeks)? Complete lack of awareness. But that said, they won the show because they can all sing, so they could certainly cope with coming on and singing live. It’s all very weird. [My $0.02 here – it was ill-advised of Girls Aloud to make those comments, even if to some extent I do see where they’re coming from. But Simon really needs to pull that Girls Aloud-sized bug out of his ass and accept that there is a successful and critically-acclaimed act out there who launched off the back of a reality TV show that he had nothing to do with. Also, Simon, there’s absolutely no point asking Louis to give a message to them; I believe he saw them last in December 2002. – Steve] Maria is completely overwhelmed and thanks the judges lots and says she’s having such a great time.

Shayne is a young guy from Manchester. (Louis mentions contestant’s home - drink!) The VT is totally not worth recapping, other than to mention that Shayne really does have the gayest speaking voice I’ve ever heard. He comes out wearing a stripey blazer and jeans. You’re not Will Young yet, dude. I eventually realise he’s singing ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, and I swear that it is the most boring song in the entire history of music. Plodding dirge of hell. He sings well enough, avoiding getting nasally up in his nasal for the most part, but there are points where he warbles like a cartoon bluebird and a point where he tries and fails to howl like Prince. It’s difficult to judge, though, because the song is so unbelievably boring. Simon says that Shayne is potentially a great artist, but that you can’t put diesel in a Ferrari, and Louis is giving him terrible songs. Louis says, ‘it’s a talent contest, not a song contest!’, all pleased with himself. And it’s like, yes, but it’s a contest that involves singing. And they sing…songs? So the songs are kind of relevant. Sharon says, ‘Oh Louis, please’ and Simon calls him obnoxious. Simon tells Shayne to ‘plead with Idiot-face to give you a good song’ next week. Hee! Idiot-face. [I like that the audience cheered at that. I hope there’s a National TV Award next year of “Most Popular TV Idiot-Face”. Louis will be a shoo-in. – Steve] Shayne apologises if he seemed to have a bad attitude last week, but then proceeds to have a bad attitude by saying ‘your compliments only make me better’ and simpering. No, Shayne. Their criticisms in general are what you use to work on, not just the compliments. I’m starting to want to smack Shayne in the face. Uppity little bastard. Simon says that Shayne hit the bullseye two weeks ago, and has to do so again. Louis says that he will, and Sharon shouts ‘not with your bloody songs!’, which was kind of awesome.

Oh thank god, only one more performance. Blah blah Conways blah about they’ve got a challenging song. They’ve barely got a personality between the four of them, so I can’t be bothered to recap what they say. [Simon really seems to hate them; he’s always so dismissive when he introduces them. – Steve] They’re still helping River Island and Monsoon make a fortune. They’re singing that ‘One Voice’ song, about ‘one voice, singing in the darkness’ If I took my job seriously I’d google it, but I don’t think I can be bothered. I don’t get paid to do this. They’ve made up Marie very prettily, but it’s a shame about her snaggle teeth. The audience has been given glowsticks to wave because it’s one of those songs. Oh, it’s really not very good. There’s a big bit in the middle where they just go badadadadada lalalalalala bahdadadada and…just…no. They really don’t have the power to do this song. Their voices are lovely, when they’re being low-key, but when they try and go for these really big songs it just doesn’t work, and they end up sounding a bit screechy. Towards the end, a fucking 40-person choir comes out and joins them. SIMON! You said about half an hour ago that a choir was a gimmick, and now you’re using one! Bad man. I can’t really fault him though – he knows that the Conways are never going to win this show, so he’s pulling out the stops to get them as far as he can. It’s not terrible, tactically, but he could have saved it for later. It gets better when the choir comes in, mainly because you can’t hear the girls so much. Louis says to the girls that ‘we’re from the same country’ (Drink!), and that he likes them, but it was an ‘awful, awful song. Bad song. Bad mentor, actually’ and once again, looks all pleased with himself. It’s so glaringly obvious that it’s a direct response to Simon and Sharon slagging off his song choices a moment before that it’s just funny. Vile little cunt. Sharon said she prefers it when the girls do little folky songs, and that this one was like a Broadway song that she couldn’t sing along to. [I really, really want Sharon to show up wasted one week and start singing along to everyone’s performances. – Steve] Simon says that they gave it 1000% (Drink!), but unless he’s honest the audience won’t respect him or the Conways. So he tells them it didn’t quite work, and fell apart in the middle. Louis and Sharon pounce on this, saying ‘You’re criticising yourself. You chose the song. You’re criticising YOURSELF!!’ Yes, of course he is. He just said as much and because he’s good at his job he can recognise when things he tried didn’t quite work. The Conways are a little pissed off, this time, because they tried their best, really really hard, but it still wasn’t enough for Simon. I can understand why they’re annoyed, but stop trying and start being good.

Recaps of performances, numbers, you’ve got an hour to vote. You know this bit.


Sorry, but I can’t do this is any detail, it’s just not worth it. Safe are The Conway Sisters. Brenda. Then a close-up of Nicholas’s sweaty scalp, shining through his cornrows. Journey South. Maria. Andy. Then, in a shocking break with convention, Kate goes to the ad break when there are four people left. Which is to say, Chico and all of Louis’s acts. HAHAHAHA!! Shayne is definitely safe. This is great – it means that someone shit is definitely going home. Finally safe is…Chico! Hah! How strange. Simon says that he’s going to judge it solely on the performances that they give right now. Sharon says it’s a great chance to sing again. What? I might have missed something, there. Nicholas sings first. He’s still terrible and flat, but seems to be delivering it with a little bit more energy. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chenai. I stayed sat down. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. [You scab. I totally always do what Kate tells me. – Steve] I think she was a bit better the second time. Not great, but she just seemed to be enjoying it more. So, Nicholas was awful, and Chenai was merely bad. Sharon is sending Nicholas home. Simon says Chenai was better in the performances just then, but Nicholas has better prospects. Then, completely giving the lie to what he said about three minutes ago, he sends Chenai home, despite the fact that her performance was better. This also has the advantage of making Louis decide, which was totally part of Simon’s thinking. Louis goes on about how difficult it is and that he was in the position of choosing between two of his acts twice last year. Then stop putting shit acts through and then giving them shit songs to sing, you fucking moron. He knows how much they both want it. (Drink!) Eventually, Louis decided to send Chenai home. Clearly this is because she’s a girl. She goes ‘I get to go home!’ [to the crack den she keeps telling us that she wants to escape from – Steve] and tries to seem excited. We see her journey, from her great first audition to her gradual descent into sucking like a mother. Her little glum face is in the corner of the screen. Chenai thanks Louis for bringing her this far, and thanks everyone who kept her in by voting for her. She asks if she’s got any regrets, and says ‘Not at all. Not. At. All.’, and actually sounds like she means it. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chin Eye, and it’s all over.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ding dong, the twitch is dead!

Transmission date: 29th October 2005

Performance show

We began, as usual, with some darkened studio pre-show guff from Kate. I should point out here that I watched the first five minutes or so of tonight's show in my bedroom, where the TV reception is generally appalling at best, especially on ITV1. The picture jumps, twitches and frazzles out (much like Phillip) and the sound only stays on for about two seconds out of every ten. You might think that this is in fact an ideal situation to be watching The X Factor in, and on one level I'd be inclined to agree with you, but it's not so great when people are relying on you to provide a detailed commentary. Suffice to say I gave up and went to watch it on the properly-connected TV downstairs midway through the first performance, but if the commentary prior to that point is somewhat sketchy, that would be why.

Kate Thornton Fashion-Sense-O-Meter: set to perilous this week. She was wearing a hideous, shapeless purple dress that makes her resemble a giant Quality Street, and prompted more than one person watching the show with me to enquire if she's pregnant. To the best of my knowledge Kate is not pregnant, and so she really, really needs some assistance in outfit choice. I think Joel and I would happily offer our collective service at this point. [And what the HELL was the giant X-Factor X dangling round her neck? Dear god. Next week, I would like to see Kate in a cream suit, with a dark blue silk roundneck t-shirt underneath it. She can chose her own shoes. - Joel] We're both gay, so we're extremely well qualified. Kate tells us that we're down to our final ten acts. Katy looks utterly distraught and asks me if that means we've still got another nine shows to watch. I confirm this fact, and do a bit of mental arithmetic, realising that, including tonight's, I will have five episodes left to write up, while Joel only has four. Swizz! Anyway, Kate introduces the contestants are "your X Factor finalists", to which I say "don't pin the blame on me for these losers, I'd've given most of them the boot the second they walked in." Kate introduces the judges: Simon is looking suave as ever in a nicely tailored suit, Sharon is wearing a white suit that gives her the appearance of just having walked off the stage in a touring performance of A Few Good Men, and her hair has kind of collapsed this week and isn't looking so great. Louis is wearing another suit (or possibly the same one) that appears to have been pulled out of the back of the wardrobe (insert your own "dragged kicking and screaming out of the closet" joke here, I'm not going to cheapen myself) for one of the very few occasions each year when he actually needs formalwear, not especially caring that it doesn't fit him particularly well.

Kate thanks the audience for nominating them for a National Television Award. She then also singles Sharon out for having won the "Favourite TV Expert" award, and I can't believe that anyone was sufficiently coked-up to come up with such an asinine category. Does being a judge on The X Factor really qualify you as an expert? We're talking about the woman who brought Chico through to the finals here, let's not forget. Anyway, lots of back-slapping goes on.

The first act of the night is Phillip. I am far more pleased to see him than usual, because as a general rule, being one of the first people to perform is likely to land you in the bottom two because people will have forgotten all about you by the time they actually come to vote. Phillip's VT features lots of references to last week where he says that he wasn't comfortable with the song, and that it really wasn't him. Louis waxes lyrical about how much of a find Phillip is, and how Louis let Phillip choose his own song this week. Those of you who watched last week's show will remember Phillip saying that he wanted to do a bit of rock 'n' roll, so Phillip gets down with his badass muthaphukkin self and sings...'Johnny B. Goode'. It wasn't really what I had in mind when he said he wanted to do rock 'n' roll last week; I assumed his emphasis was on the 'rock' element, not that he actually wanted to be Buddy Holly. Then again, if I were his manager, I wouldn't have given him anything too taxing. 'Come Clean' by Hilary Duff would have been my choice, since I suspect that's a vocal range he could just about handle. Mind you, Hilary Duff probably makes the more convincing badass of the two. And seriously here: did somebody here have an aneurysm for breakfast? How is 'Johnny B. Goode' relevant in any way to the modern commercial music market? Tell me, please, exactly who would consider actually releasing this song and expect to have a hit with it (not including, obviously, "ironic" cover versions such as might be done by the White Stripes). Because I for one am perplexed here. Rock 'n' roll of the clean-cut 1950s variety hasn't shifted units for a long time. Phillip looks about as comfortable in his performance as I suspect he would look on Mastermind - the twitching is back in full force, and can somebody please increase his dosage? Or possibly lower it. He slides across the floor during the axe solo, and it's just terrible. The boy can't dance, he can't particularly sing, and he's really having trouble getting the words out. What's worse is that since we now have two fewer acts than we started with, and yet the same duration of live show, the songs are longer than before, so the pain is almost doubled. I think it's a relief for everyone when it's over. Sharon gets all cackly and calls Phillip a closet rocker. Well, actually she makes an ill-advised comment about him "coming out of the closet" tonight, and on the basis of his dancing (in)ability, I'm still fairly certain he's heterosexual. Kate throws to Simon, and Simon is decidedly less than complimentary, likening the performance to Shakin' Stevens at a dodgy wedding. Louis calls across that Shakin' Stevens sold a lot of records. Yes, yes he did. IN THE 80S, YOU MORON. 20 years down the line, I'm really not sure that's relevant. He might have won Hit Me Baby One More Time this year, but the amount of record sales he got off the back of it was negligable at best. Philip says Shakin' Stevens is "the man", because Phillip really doesn't understand either. Louis makes a ridiculous comment about how he works with his acts and doesn't tell them what to sing, to which I say bullshit. This week, perhaps, but considering that was only a knee-jerk reaction to having been CAUGHT OUT ON LIVE TV last week saying you choose the songs alongside your contestants when that's actually a blatant lie, I really don't know what kind of credo Louis is expecting to get from that. Kate talks to Phillip, who says that it's a compliment to be compared to Shakin' Stevens, and that he enjoyed himself this week, and I really think he's beyond help by this point. Wave bye-bye to Phillip, children. [I eagerly await his appearance in Neighbours as Toady’s new best friend, following the honorable tradition of Lance and Connor. - Joel]

Next up is Brenda, and I breathe a sigh of relief because I might be slightly less inclined to kill myself whilst watching Brenda. Tonight she's singing 'Midnight Train To Georgia' and wow. I cannot describe how awesome it is to hear Brenda singing a song that doesn't require her to bellow it, but requires subtlety, empathy and passion, and to hear her knock it out of the park all the same. [Also, she looked hot in her pin-stripes. - Joel] It's also interesting to hear her singing this song after Louis compared her to Gladys Knight last week. For my money, this is exactly the sort of song that Brenda needs to be doing; I think she looks so comfortable on stage and she's never sounded better. I also like the fact that she sings "oooh oooh" rather than doing a trainlike "whoo whoo!", which is something I've never heard someone do in this song before. She gets the thumbs-up from Louis, who says that this is one of his favourite songs, and that she sang it beautifully. And as much as I hate to disagree with Louis, I think it must be almost impossible to dislike this song, so this is an excellent choice of song, although I don't know whether Brenda or Sharon gets the credit for that one. Simon is similarly full of praise for Brenda, saying that it was a great performance, and that the best thing he can say about it is that it didn't feel like she was singing somebody else's song, and again I really agree with him on that one. Sharon calls Brenda "spectacular", and tells her how much she admires her for living out her dreams. Brenda thanks the judges for their comments, and says that this is the first week she's had positive feedback from all three of them, and how proud she feels for having achieved that, and how she hopes to still be back next week to "rock it". I would advise Brenda to be cautious with language like that after what we just saw from Phillip. Kate asks Brenda if she feels unstoppable, and Brenda says that she's learning something new every week. I would like to note here that Katy, John and Dave are all wearing "awww" expressions on their faces, in direct contrast to their "oh, fuck off" looks throughout Phillip's performance. Despite being in the danger zone at the very beginning of the show, I don't think Brenda's in any danger this week.

We cut to the adverts, but not before Kate promises us Shayne and Chico after the break. I am momentarily "wtf?" wondering why we haven't got any groups on yet, until I realise that Simon only has two acts left, thanks to Louis, and that it was probably decided that putting them towards the end of the running order would give them more of a chance.

Coming back from the break, Louis introduces Shayne. Louis really isn't good at the introductions, by the way, since for everyone he just seems to say where they're from and how he thinks they've "got it". Shayne's VT is not very interesting; he talks [In his big gay voice. - Joel] about how he thought he'd be selling shoes in Manchester forever, but now his life has changed and he doesn't want it to end. Shayne's song for this week is 'Summer of '69' by Bryan Adams, or rather 'Shummer of '69', as Shayne sings it. Maybe turning the 's' sounds into 'sh' is Shayne's way of branding his songs, Chico-style. I'm quite disappointed, in all honesty. He was so good singing 'If You're Not The One' last week, but there's very little about this performance that's compelling in any way. He's quite nasal again, and I can't help wondering if maybe this might have been a better song to give to Phillip this week. This style of song just isn't Shayne's niche at all, he should be singing charming songs and making your mum fall in love with him. Also, I take issue with his personal grooming this week: he either needs to have a shave or grow his hair a little bit, because when his stubble is the same length as his hair, he goes from adorably-unkempt to sort-it-out-scruffy and I don't approve. The camera cuts to Louis bobbing his head in time with the music, and Katy giggles. The final note is a little iffy, and generally I think Shayne looks uncomfortable here, although I will credit him by saying he's trying very hard to look as though that isn't true. Kate asks Sharon for her comments, and Sharon is momentarily lost for words. Then she tells Shayne, "I've got something to give you. It's warm, it smells nice and it feels good. When can I give it to you?" Sharon needs to stop reacting quite so rabidly every time she sees Shayne, and Shayne needs to file a restraining order post haste. Anyway, Shayne's answer to her question is "right now" and they both start doing that testicle-grabbing gesture from last week. There's a silence, and then Simon goes "but what is it?" Hee. Louis asks if it's a cup of tea. Hee, again. Louis, stop making me like you, albeit momentarily. "Okay, well it is Hallowe'en," says Simon, rolling his eyes. HA! Sharon declares the performance "fabulous", while Simon is not quite as moved. He says that last week he felt that it was a one-person competition, whereas this week it was merely okay. He doesn't think Shayne has enough "grit" in his voice to carry this song. Shayne starts spouting off about how you don't need gravel in your voice to sing this song, about how he really likes the song, and was really feeling it, and loved performing it, and how that's all that matters. Except that none of those points really justify why you don't need a gravelly snarl to pull this song off (which you totally do, Simon's right as usual). I've said it before, Shayne: be quiet and look pretty. Sharon says that Shayne can get away with singing whatever he wants, and that he could get away with singing naked. Unless I misunderstood, and she actually wants him to sing 'Naked' by Louise, which might be fun.

What time is it? Tool time! Oh, sorry: Chico time! Well, you say potato. The VT shows us the moment last week when Kate revealed that the public had voted to save Chico. "Wow," says Katy. "When he throws his head back like that, he really looks like Nigel Havers." Hee. Sharon tells us that Chico's been working really hard to stay in the contest. Chico walks onto the stage and has four girls in red dresses as his backing singers. For one horrible moment I think he's going to sing 'Lady in Red'. I also wonder just how soul-destroying it must be to be Chico's backing singer. Anyway, the music for 'Livin' La Vida Loca' starts up, and Chico mugs along. He's speak-singing again, and really, isn't the joke over now? Can we not let this guy go home with what little dignity he has left? I really don't know what percentage of people are laughing with him as opposed to at him, but the whole thing is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. He really is a one-trick pony, and he's not doing a good job on this song; he fluffs his words several times, and on the occasions where he does actually try to sing, it's painfully evident that he has a week voice. I guess that he can't do such a number on this performance when you don't have the very exciting possibility that he'll be electrocuted at any given moment. In one of the instrumental breaks, he stagedives into the audience and dances with a conveniently-placed cute toddler, in a manner that is no way staged or contrived. He then proceeds back onto the stage and makes some alarming masturbation-esque gestures. [With a cut right back to said toddler, in a horribly paedo-friendly fashion. - Joel] I would try to argue that this is a family show, but I think Sharon's testicle-obsession killed that concept some time ago. If pushed to say something complimentary about this performance, I could mention the fact that I didn't notice any abortive runs or references to Sharon, which is a mild improvement, I suppose. Louis says that it was great fun and a great performance, and that Chico looked like he was enjoying himself. Chico says that he really enjoyed himself for the first time this week, and why does everyone insist on saying that all the goddamned time? If we're going to create an X Factor drinking game, I suggest you drink everytime someone says that. You'll be shitfaced before the programme is halfway over, and I'm sure it'll be far more enjoyable that way. Simon mentions Chico's entertainment value again, but compares the performance to "the Armenian entrant for the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest". Hee. "Did they win?" asks Louis. "No, they got nil points," replies Simon. Louis tells Simon that the public must like Chico because they're voting for him. Yes, but only one week out of two, you dimwit. He's only still here because your pathetic vendetta against Simon saved his ass in the first live show. Simon comments that the contestants are getting lippy this series. They are, and what's more Simon, they are doing themselves no favours, let me tell you. Sharon says that this song was written for Chico. I'd like to see documentary evidence of that, please. Kate asks Chico what he would like to say to the judges, and Chico wants it to be known that he loves Simon. Yawn. He then says that Madonna is no Aretha Franklin, Ricky Martin is no Stevie Wonder, and that Chico is no Michael Jackson. To which I respond that Madonna is extremely talented at writing, producing, controlling her own image and setting precedents for future music trends [but her voice still sucks - Joel], and that Ricky Martin brought a fantastic ass and lots of speculation regarding his sexuality [-but his voice still sucks - Joel]. What exactly would be Chico's lasting contribution to popular culture ? [A voice that sucks. - Joel] Chico starts to wander off the stage and Kate calls him back because she hasn't read out the voting numbers yet. Kate, if you need the person on stage in order to give out the numbers, you really should have just let Chico go, since by encouraging people to vote for him you are wasting your time and mine.

After the ads, and another opportunity to win a sample of the X Factor lifestyle we're back to the show, and finally it's Simon's turn. The Conway Sisters are up, and in their VT they say that they felt the competition had only just started last week. Well, it had: it was only the second live show, girls. They admit to feeling vulnerable because two groups have already been ousted. Simon understands their sense of vulnerability and admits to being incredibly nervous himself. The girls come on the stage and sing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'. Like a lot of their performances, the first few notes are slightly shaky. I think they really need to realise that they should spend as little time as possible getting one of them to sing solo, because their performances only come alive when the multi-layered harmonies kick in, for they are a thing of beauty. Notably, this time Marie is not the only one who gets to sing solo lines, and the various verse lines are distributed quite evenly among the sisters. Sinead actually gets the lion's share this week, I think. They sing the final refrain a few too many times, but on the whole it was a nice performance. Not great, but nice. Louis plays the Irish card as usual, because the man is obsessed, calls it "a brave song to take on" and says that he thinks Marie has a great commercial voice. Sharon says that this song is a very difficult song to do four-part harmonies on, but that they did it justice. What follows is interesting: Simon is their mentor, but is actually less complimentary than the other judges. He says that there were good parts of the song, but that the middle was iffy. He wonders if he picked a too difficult song for them, and prays the audience will give them another chance. This is refreshing, especially after Louis's constant inane assertions that Phillip is wonderful just because he's too insecure to criticise any of his own acts. The Conway Sisters love having Simon as their mentor, because they find his honesty useful. They say that they're taking the judges' comments on board, and that they're learning and developing each week (another strong candidate for DRINK!). Louis interrupts Kate to call them "the new Nolan sisters". Can we also add a DRINK! for every unnecessary and outdated reference to a successful-a-long-time-ago act that Louis makes?

Louis introduces a girl who we nearly lost last week; "her name is Chin Eye". Er, no, Louis, her name is Chenai. She is not named after facial features, nor is she Chinese. In her VT, Chenai says that she was in the bottom two last week and doesn't want to be there again. She pulls a massive sob story out regarding her family, who apparently live in the ghetto, [A ghetto of detached houses with blond wood flooring. - Joel] and how she wants a better life for them. I remain entirely unmoved, because it's all far too low-budget ITV1 9pm pseudo-documentary for my tastes. She says she's going to give it 200% this week, and I really wish people would learn that it is not possible to give more than 100%. Hyperbole is so annoying. Her outfit is better this week. She sings Mariah Carey's 'Hero', and Joel warned me that she was going to do this. It's a very difficult song to take on, and Chenai isn't doing it justice. The tone of her voice is all wrong - it's too deep, and not fragile enough. Mariah Carey sang this with just the right amount of voice-breaking emotion, and Chenai's performance is lifeless in comparison. She also has a massive mouth, which I hadn't noticed until tonight. [I think it was the make-up job. Dear make-up people, when your artist has lips like two piping bags filled with sausage meat, do not slather on the lipgloss. - Joel] Her phrasing is awkward and mealy-mouthed, and it just feels as though she's fighting against the song rather than working with it. Sharon says that it takes a lot of guts to take on a song like that, and thinks she did well. Does the Queen of Darkness ever really criticise anyone? Simon says that it's difficult to judge Chenai, because he can't help but like her. Which is weird, because during her performance, Katy and I were having a similar conversation about how it's hard to judge Chenai because neither of us like her. We just find her attitude and reliance on sob stories really uninspiring. Anyway, Simon says that the performance was "brave" and "passionate", but that he's not going to patronise Chenai; he thinks the other two girls in the competition are better singers. I assume he means Maria and Brenda rather than any of the Conways. Chenai's response is "yeah, well, they're 15 years older than me!", which goes a long way to explain why Katy and I just don't like her. Take it on board, Chenai, use it and learn from it. Don't just shrug and go "yeah, well, there's nothing I can do about it!" Maria and Brenda are both far better singers than you, and you don't just have to compete with them; you'll be competing against singers of all ages in the unlikely event that you ever release a record, and no one will accept your age as a reason why you don't sing as well as your competitors. I'm wondering if some of Andy's smugness has infected Chenai. Louis goes for the burn: "I know it's Hallowe'en, but does Simon have to be such a witch?" He looks around and appeals to the audience for a laugh, which doesn't follow. It's truly awesome.

Another advert break. I cannot believe this show is STILL ON.

Sharon's turn. "This man has a heart as big as his voice." Yeah, and an ego to match: it's Andy. In the VT, Sharon takes responsibility for the song choice last week. Andy is more humble in the VT than he was on the show last week; I wonder if someone had a quiet word in his ear. He comes on stage wearing a dinner jacket, and there is a stool waiting to be sat on. This bodes ill. He sings 'Unforgettable', and Jesus wept, is this "sing songs that no one in their right mind would dream of releasing in this day and age" week? We're looking for people with x-factor, not lounge lizard factor. I'm already incredibly bored by this performance and we're not even at the end of the first verse. This week has been such a mess, it really has. With the exception of Brenda, I'm this close to washing my hands of everyone who's performed so far. I will admit that Andy has a lovely tone to his voice, but that still doesn't counteract the sheer boringness of the overall performance. He gets off the stool, despite the lack of a noticeable key change [but the audience has this awesome Pavlovian reaction and cheers anyway, simply for the act of moving to a standing position. - Joel]. He hits a long note which I'm fairly sure is sharp, and the look on Andy's face suggests that he notices this too. At the end of his performance, someone in the audience makes this bizarre "beeeewwwwwwwwwwwww beeeeewwwwwwwwwwww beeewwwwwwwwwwww" noise, which sounds uncannily like a missile being primed. Aim it at me, please? I can't take much more of this. Simon says that last week Andy took the criticism like a man and didn't sulk. Really? That's not at all what it looked like to me. He also calls it the best performance of the night? Again, really? Wow, evidently I wasn't kidding when I said what a mess the show has been this week. Simon says that this is the direction that Andy's recording career should take, and I hope I speak for all of us when I say PLEASE GOD NO. Louis agrees with Simon all the way and is typically hyperbolic. Sharon pronounces Andy "unforgettable", and can we can it with the trite puns already? My brain has already switched itself off and gone on dirty protest here. Sharon says she is blessed to have him in her group. Andy is all "no, no, I'm the blessed one", and vomit. Sharon pronounces Andy dignified. Second verse, same as the first: really? Sharon then takes this opportunity to tell the viewing audience that Simon and Louis are not bullying her, and that you shouldn't believe what you read in "those nasty papers". Simon promptly snogs Sharon's face off. Hee! Louis looks jealous. Of Sharon. Andy tells the judges that he takes their criticism on board and learns from it (drink!). He's definitely had a few humility classes since last week. [I have to say I thought he was awesome this week. I still want to smash him in his smug face, but I really really rated his performance. - Joel]

Next up, Simon and the groups. He wants to give a shout-out to The X Factor's biggest fan, Captain Ken Kelwin, who is 95 years old today. If this is what I have to look forward to in my old age, I'm cancelling my pension and going skydiving on my fiftieth birthday with no parachute. Journey South is next; Simon introduces them as his "second and only group". I beg your pardon? How does that even work? And I bet the Conway Sisters feel loved right now. In their VT Andy talks about how they're "almost celebrities" now. Yeah, you're almost a lot of things. He says that it hasn't affected them: "we keep our feet on the ground because we're northerners." Oh fuck off, and take your antiquated regional stereotypes with you. Simon refers to the song he's chosen for them as a massive challenge. Oh God; they walk onstage and Carl's superfluous guitar is back with us [And now it’s electric! - Joel]. They sing 'Angel of Harlem', and a few high notes aside, I fail to see how this song is any kind of challenge for them. It's still pub rock. I'm also willing to bet you that Andy's electric guitar is plugged into absolutely nothing. We're "treated" to a close-up of Carl's gnashers, and I'd recommend he books an appointment with the dentist at his earliest convenience. I went this week, so I can recommend a good one. Louis loves the guys, but isn't crazy about the song. He then proceeds to remind Simon which is which, because that joke isn't old at all. Andy is indignant: "Simon knows our names." Sharon disagrees with Louis: she didn't like this song before, but she loves their rendition of it. Simon turns to Louis: "You do know it's an Irish song, don't you?" ZING! Simon thinks that we have more talent in this competition than in any other competition he's ever been a part of. Whatever, Simon. Then Simon makes this bizarre comment about how he was sitting with them six months ago when they were depressed and wondering where their career was going, and...did he know them before the competition? If not, how long has this damned show been in production? Merciful deity. Carl starts talking about "what's right for Journey South". Stop talking about your band in the third person, you pretentious idiot. Louis says he doesn't see them making a rock album; Carl says he'll be happy with any album at all. Great! Can they make an electropop album? I might care then.

Adverts. You guys, I think there might be a new channel launching called ITV4. I'm not sure, though. If only someone had thought to trail it repeatedly...

The last of Louis's acts: Nicholas. He babbles incoherently in his VT, as per usual. I really find him ever so ineloquent. I'm also fed up of them padding out the VTs with footage of the contestants wandering down the street in big coats looking moody. Nicholas comes onto the stage, and interesting yellow jacket there. He sings 'Let's Stay Together', and I have to admit that I really don't like this song. Katy thinks that Nicholas sounds out of tune. I really don't get the appeal of Nicholas - I just find all of his performances to be dull and lifeless. There's no connection when he looks into the camera, and I get the distinct impression that he's tuned out mentally for the most part, already wondering what sort of bling he can afford with the winner's contract. He's wearing that fugly rhinestone belt with his name on it again, too. He namechecks Sharon at one point, and stop that right now. Do you really consider Chico a good role model? Because right now I'm severely tempted to vote for everyone else in the competition once just so that it counts as a negative vote against you, kiddo. If you want to be in the bottom two that much, it's all yours. And don't say "thank you" in the middle of the song either. The performance goes on forever and ever and everzzzzzzzzzzzz. Simon pronounces the performance "good" and says that Nicholas is growing on him. While he thought last week's performance was "sensational", however, this week's was "lazy" and "predictable". He thinks Nicholas is someone who needs to be tested every week so that he doesn't get complacent. Judging by the song choices he's made, I think Louis thinks the audience's patience is what needs to be tested each week. Sharon's comment: "Move over Craig David." Yes please, move over Craig David. Over there, a long long way. Unless it means that Nicholas is mean to replace you, in which case come back Craig David, and UHU your feet to the floor. Louis says that he doesn't know of anyone else that could go up on stage each week and sing Al Green and Marvin Gaye songs in the way that Nicholas has. I see no reason why Trevor or James couldn't have done precisely that. Kate asks Nicholas what he thinks, and Nicholas attempts to sass Simon. There's an awesome shot of Simon doing a facepalm. Word, Simon. Nicholas disagrees with the claims that he needs to be tested, and says that there's no point giving his best now because that leaves him nowhere to go later. Assuming you'll still be here later, you arrogant nitwit; now kindly leave the stage and take your enormous sense of entitlement with you.

This week's final contestant, and I swear to God they put her at the end because they know it's the only reason that will keep me from turning this shit off and watching Strictly Come Dancing instead: Maria. Sharon quotes West Side Story in her introduction, which would be cute if I hadn't been planning to do that at some point in the future. Curses. In her VT, Maria says that she's "stepping outside of [her] comfort zone" with this new song, and that it's a huge risk, but reiterates how much she loves being in the competition. The song in question is '(Take A Little) Piece of my Heart', and for once I actually see the risk in choosing this song. I needn't be worried, because Maria is awesome, as usual. I love the control she has over her voice. Like Brenda, she's making the song her own and I love her for it. She rocks the key change, and throws in a couple of runs just because she can. Hear it and weep, Chico. It's a fantastic end to a pisspoor show, I think. My only problem is that going last this week means she's very likely to be in or near The Spot of Doom next week, and I hope she survives. The audience goes absolutely nuts when she finishes. Simon nods appreciatively and tells Maria that it was a great song and "fantastically sang" (sic) and that Maria, like most of the over-25s, shows a very strong desire to win the competition. He adds that she's fighting for her votes and that she gave it 1000% (sigh), but that he'd like to see her sing some contemporary songs and show how she fits into today's market, rather than singing standards all the time. And while I get that this is important for all new artists, I have a massive problem with that comment being made here for the following reasons:

1. This entire show has been filled with "old standards". If you want to hear how people will sound in the current musical climate, then give them more recent songs to sing.
2. Many acts have been singing old standards every week, not just Maria. Andy, Brenda, Nicholas, Chenai and Phillip are also repeat offenders.
3. At which point precisely did Steve Brookstein demonstrate an ability to sing modern, envelope-pushing music? Likewise G4.
4. It's such a ridiculous double-standard to say that Maria needs to sing more modern material when less than half an hour ago you said that Andy's recording career should consist entirely of Nat King Cole songs.

And breathe. He suggests that Maria sing a more contemporary song last week. And the thing is, there are loads of songs from the last year or so that Maria would do a brilliant job of: 'Since U Been Gone' by Kelly Clarkson (if Chico can repeat the songs he performed at boot camp, I see no reason why Maria can't), 'Dip It Low' by Christina Milian, 'Caught in a Moment' by Sugababes, 'No Good Advice' by Girls Aloud, 'Some Girls' by Rachel why do I get the horrible feeling that Maria's inevitable "contemporary" song next week will be 'Angels' or 'Flying Without Wings' or some other pile of MOR, overplayed, schmaltzy turd? Dear Sharon, please, please, please let Maria do 'Since U Been Gone' next week. Louis thinks it was a "powerhouse" performance, and one of his "top three" performances tonight, and sweet God above, if he's ranking her below Nicholas I am going to kick his ass so fucking hard. He does, however, add that she deserves a record deal and that he wants to see her here next week. Sharon thought Maria was great anyway, but that she was unbelievably good tonight, and reiterates that Maria needs to be here next week. Maria thanks the judges for their comments, and says that she does fit in to the modern music scene because she can write her own songs, and I don't really see how that's relevant to the projected career of the winner of this show, nor do I like being reminded of Arrogant Michelle but I love Maria so I'll let it slide. Maria gives a gushing speech that wouldn't look out of place in the hands of an Oscar winner, but again, she's so darned cute that you can't help but forgive it. She says that she's doing everything she can every week to show what she's got. An interesting concept there, huh Nicholas?

A montage of tonight's performances. I think the editors hate the Conway Sisters, judging by the clip that they chose. Maria doesn't do very well out of it either.

Results show

I miss the beginning of the show due to a last-minute toilet dash. There's professionalism for you. We're treated to the montage all over again, and very few people come out of it well. This really was a poor week by most people's standards. Brenda was by far the best of the night, I think. Maria did a good job, but I expect that of Maria anyway. Ed, who arrived somewhere near the end of the episode of Peep Show that we were watching before the break, asks me to explain what the categories are. Dave then makes us all suicidal by pointing out that we're all either in or almost in the upper age group. [That bastard. - Joel] Kate welcomes back the contestants and judges, and it's alarming how much they all look like they're about to be thrown into a volcano. Even Chico looks depressed. Who's safe this week? Chenai. Maria. Nicholas. Andy. Shayne. Journey South. Brenda. "The final act coming back next week is..." Oooh, the Conway Sisters! No, Phillip! No, Chico! The second half of that sentence couldn't possibly be "...going to find out after the break", because they've done that the past two weeks and this show is never predictable! Oh, wait: "...going to find out after the break." Well, colour me shocked.

Adverts. We return, and Kate thanks us for casting over a million votes tonight. Not that impressive when you consider that's like one in seven people who watched this show actually bothered to vote, and that's not even bringing into account people who voted more than once. Somewhat shamefully, I admit to voting three times: once for Maria, once for Brenda and once for the Conway Sisters. The final act coming back next week is...the Conway Sisters. Hurrah! It doesn't matter who goes, we're all winners! Yay! Phillip and Chico are the bottom two, in case anyone wasn't paying attention. Phillip starts to wander off stage; Kate has to call him back. Sharon asks Louis and Sharon to give their contestants some advice, which they do in a roundabout, not-really-helpful sort of way. Kate asks Simon for his advice, and he says that he can't really offer any, but that what he promises to do is make his decision based on who has performed the best tonight. What a novel concept, Louis.

Phillip's twitchy rendition of 'Johnny B. Goode' is first, and really hasn't improved at all. Chico performs 'Livin' La Vida Loca' again, and the staged dancing-with-toddler moment is gone (perhaps it was past her bedtime) but little else has changed. Kate joins the boys on stage and goes to the judges for their votes, emphasising, due to the confusion of recent weeks, that the judges must specify the contestant they wish to send home. Sharon opts to send Phillip home, and Louis opts for Chico, so no real surprises there. It's up to Simon to cast the deciding vote, and it must be good for him to be in this position at long last. I'm not in any doubt that he is well aware of who he wants to send home, but he takes some time to mention that seeing these two performances back to back has been a "bizarre" experience of the night, and that he believes the right people were in the bottom two tonight. Judging by the absence of a pantomimic "boooooo!!!", I suspect the audience agrees. Simon has made his decision based on who he thinks the public would like to see back next week, and I think it speaks volumes for Phillip's appeal when everyone in my living room was begging Simon to keep Chico. Simon opts to send Phillip home, and it's all very sad, except for those who, like me, neither like Phillip nor care about his fate. We see his X Factor journey, including his cute first audition and subsequent rapid plunge into crapness. Louis joins Phillip on stage to say that "it's not the end" and that Phillip will be the new Shakey. Louis, the final appearance on this show is generally the end for the act that wins the damn thing, so I'm fairly certain this is the end for Phillip. Smell ya later, Twitchy! [Hooray! Phuck off back to the Phifties, Phillip! - Joel]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

What. The. Hell. Was. That?

Kate comes onto the stage. She looks dreadful. She’s wearing an emerald green blouse which is ruffled in the bodice, has gauze sleeves and solid cuffs with brass buttons that go halfway up to her elbow. Her black trousers have an unfortunate puckering at the front, so she looks like she has a penis. Or a shenis, if you will. She introduces the contestants and the judges and the audience screams. Sharon’s blouse has big dangly cuffs like a witch. Simon’s suit is really well cut and fits him perfectly. Louis’s is not and makes him look even podgier than he is.
First up are the 25+s. Sharon has on some enormous earrings that looks like diamond-studded Quavers. It’s Andy first. We have some to-camera stuff about how he takes confidence from the judges’ nice comments, and how it means a lot that his wife and kids are proud. He sings ‘You To Me Are Everything.’ It’s note-perfect and completely effortless, of course. At one point his mic fucks up and the sound level drops totally. He gets to sing a lot more than one verse, one chorus but given that this show is lasting about thirty-seven hours tonight, I guess it’s not that surprising. Simon says that he hated the song, and that last week Andy was fantastic but this week it was a bit karaoke. Louis agrees, saying that he’s wasted on the song. Sharon, missing the point entirely, says ‘He’s trying to intimidate you!’, even though they’re saying that Andy is great and that the song is far too easy for him. Which it totally is. Kate asks what Andy thinks and he straps his smug on and says ‘I’ve done tremendously well!’, which is entirely beside the point. He makes dialling motions as Kate feeds us the numbers. I’m starting to dislike Andy a bit. [Me too. The dialling motions are kind of ironic, because he was phoning it in this week, big time. – Steve]
Next up is Chenai. Louis introduces her by saying ‘She didn’t get through last year, Sharon.’ Which: we know, Louis. Shut up. Chenai says it’s overwhelming to be there and she’s worked really hard for it. Her outfit is much better, a black top and jeans, though there’s a big glittery patch on the thigh. It looks like the Tin Man came on her. Also, her boobs are kind of hanging out. I take it back, it’s not a good outfit. I say ‘her tits are hanging out,’ and my viewing-mate Kali says ‘so they should be.’ She sings ‘Young Hearts, Run Free.’ Louis is a dick and can’t choose songs. [This song is getting a really poor rap on talent shows. I remember Susanne destroying it on Pop Idol 2. I mean, I loved Susanne but even she knows she sucked that week. And Chenai isn’t doing much better. – Steve] Chenai sounds panicky and rushed. Her phrasing is awful, all hiccupy. She hits several bum notes and kind of runs out of breath. The last note is lovely and flawless, however. Sharon says that Chenai looks great and has come a long way in a week. Simon says she seemed nervous and desperate. Chenai said that up there was the most confidence she’s ever had, which is kind of sad. Louis, of course, says ‘she wants this so bad’ and ‘I hope everyone in Bradford votes for you.’ I like Chenai a lot but Louis is doing her NO favours with these totally trite and irrelevant comments and abysmal song choices. [Enough about Bradford, why should the rest of the country vote for her? Is Bradford the Florida/Ohio of the UK or something? - Steve]
4tune are up. Simon says that Louis will have to eat his words. They’re all in jeans and white shirts. The lead guy (I think it was Michael) was singing very high, but wasn’t up in his nasal. The vocal arrangements are extremely clever, and it sounds like there are dozens of them there. I just noticed that I’ve been switching tenses in this recap. Oh well, just call it breaking the boundaries or something. Anyway. Sharon says that they looked relaxed and that she loved it. Louis says he still noticed some tuning problems and that ‘I don’t think anyone’s going to make a fortune on 4tune,’ to which Simon responds, ‘that wasn’t rehearsed at all, was it Louis?’ Burn! (There’ll be more of those later.) Simon says that the competition is better for having them in it. Then Louis gets Simon to name the 4tune boys, which it seems he can’t do. If he can’t, that’s really piss-poor of him, but it’s also completely irrelevant to the standard of their performance and only matters in Louis’s little world of point-scoring. [Also, one year on from the first series, you just try to find me someone who knows which member of G4 is which, and who doesn’t refer to them as the fat one, the gay-looking one, and the other two. – Steve]
Sharon says that next contestant is ‘the black sheep of the show but he’s really not that baaad.’ Oh Sharon. [That was the joke? I didn’t even realise she’d said it like that. Sharon, your comic timing is wretched. Sorry. – Steve] Chico, for it is he, feels low and says ‘I am not a joke,’ and just wants Simon to say ‘that wasn’t bad.’ And so, how does Chico prove he’s not a one-trick pony? He stands and sings a flawless rendition of ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story. HA! Not really. He confirms everything we think about him by singing ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’; doing the splits; playing with the mic stand; doing growls; saying ‘check this out!’; trying to do runs that he really cannot pull off, vocally; and ending the song by saying ‘It’s Chico Time.’ Dick dick dick dick DICK. Louis says that Chico’s a great entertainer, and lots of people in the chart can’t sing. Simon interjects, saying ‘I disagree Louis, I think Girls Aloud can sing.’ Burn! Though I’m not sure who on. [I didn’t think that burn worked at all. For one, as I pointed out last week, Louis has about as much involvement with Girls Aloud on a day-to-day basis as I do with the Danish pharmaceutical industry. For another, Girls Aloud were put together by a public vote on a televised talent show not entirely unlike The X Factor, so to use them as an example of unimpressive popstars completely discredits this entire show. Speaking of which, back to Chico. – Steve] Simon says that Chico is a nice guy, he takes it seriously and that the competition would possibly be dull without him. Sharon cackles with glee, all ‘Yay! I love Chico’s cock!’ Being remarkably humble, Chico says that he’s going to work, give it his ‘bestest’ and that he really appreciated Simon’s comments. He’s still an insane loser who can’t sing, but at least his attitude was decent there.
Next up is Nicholas who says how weird it is to be there, and talks about how a few weeks ago no-one looked at him in the street and now they’re voting for him. Non-sequitur but never mind. He’s wearing a belt that says NICHOLAS in rhinestones. It’s hideous. He sings Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ and is awesome. He has a lot of energy, and has clearly been reading this blog because he only falsettos for a couple of notes. [Someone from the show is totally reading this blog. How else do you explain Kate and Simon specifying that you don’t get Ozzy and Kelly as part of Sharon’s lifestyle earlier on? – Steve] Simon calls it the best performance of the night, and says that he takes some credit for making Louis chose a decent song. Sharon and Louis agree that he was great. [I just couldn’t agree with this at all. I find Nicholas alarmingly cold as a performer, and I remain unmoved by his performances so far. – Steve]
The Conway Sisters are next. Simon names them as they come out, in a complete ‘Suck it, Louis’ moment. He admits that the song choice was wrong last week. The lead vocalist (Marie) is in a red dress, and the rest are in the same River-Islandy get up as last week. I can see what they were aiming for, but the division between lead and backing singers doesn’t work, style-wise. They sing Josh Groban’s ‘You Raise Me Up’, which is soon to be Westlife’s You Raise Me Up, which explains the hideous pimping of it on this show. They sit on stools, the better to get off them in the key change, which they duly do. They’re really very good. They go from singing with immense power to singing very softly in one breath, which is not an easy thing to do. Louis says they were much better than last week, Sharon says they sang beautifully, Simon apologises for letting them down last week and says he thinks they were fantastic. It may have been here that he said ‘you performed fantastic.’ The entire judging panel, and indeed all the contestants, has immense trouble with adverbs. [Fucking hell, yes. That annoys me even more than Louis, believe it or not. – Steve]
Maria’s next. Yay, Maria! She was very excited to get votes, she interviews. She’s wearing knee high boots and a silver mini-dress that’s got this Peter Pan-style thing going on at bottom, it’s all pointy. She looks as hot as ever. She sings ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ by Michael Jackon and is pretty great. I wasn’t blown away, but she really does have awesome stage presence. I honestly could not look away while she was on stage. And it occurred to me afterwards that no-one else in the contest could even have got close to pulling off this song, (I think even Nicholas, the obvious candidate, would have had trouble with it) so kudos for that. Simon says ‘I love you, you are one hell of a talented girl. Loved it.’ Louis simply says ‘You are a star.’ Sharon congratulates her for coming back after not making it last year and doing so well. Maria says that ‘coming from such significant people’ the comments mean a lot to her, and she thanks the judges (and the audience) for the opportunity.
Apparently, Phillip has no confidence, which is why he’s so terrible. [He also says in the intro VT that he wants to be “a star”, and that “that’s all it’s down to”, which, especially when coming directly after Maria’s comment that all she wants to be is a singer, really doesn’t do him any favours in my book. – Steve] He sings ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ and, well, ow. It’s awful. He’s still all hunched up and jerky shoulders. [Totally. He’s got a twitching habit that puts Rose McGowan to shame. – Steve] His voice is really deep and sounds American. He hits some truly horrendous notes, missing the target by a country mile. His phrasing is awful too – he keeps singing ‘I can fly higher than an Igor,’ which gives me brilliant images of sewn-together hunchbacks flapping through the sky saying ‘Yeth, mathter.’ There are a couple of moments where you can see that he’s capable of an excellent performance, but in a contest like this ‘good in parts’ is nowhere near good enough. Simon says it was ‘as flat as a pancake’ and when the audience boos he says ‘don’t boo me, I’m not the one who was singing!’ Burn! Simon’s really on form tonight. Simon goes on to say that Louis can claim Phillip’s nervous, but so is everyone else and it’s not a good enough excuse. Louis says that it’s different because Phillip’s REALLY nervous, and that ‘you weren’t in his dressing room, I was.’ Simon deadpans ‘I’d be nervous if you were in my dressing room!’ BURN! I told you Simon was on form. [At which point I started absent-mindedly doodling Steve Heart Simon on the back of my hand. – Steve] The entire audience cheers. Louis makes some stuttering comeback about having to get through the make-up artists, but it’s dumb and pointless. Sharon says that she doesn’t know about flat, but the song was far too big for Phillip. Simon agrees. Louis says they chose it together. Simon then totally sticks the dagger into Louis by saying ‘If he was my artist, what would you be saying?’ and Louis really has no way to respond to that so he faffles on about nervousness some more. Sharon then asks Phillip what he thought of the song and he says ‘I didn’t particularly chose that song,’ and that Louis suggested it and Phillip didn’t disagree. Thus the complete sham that is Louis’s managerial style is totally exposed and it’s kind of hilarious. God, he’s vile. [And I like to think that this backs up my comment from last week about how this was also true of Nicholas but that he’s too much of a pussy to admit it on TV. – Steve] Phillip would like to sing rock and roll, is the upshot of all that.
One of Journey South has a baby that he’s leaving at home to be there. Simon says they’re special because they’re so close. They come out on stage and one has a guitar. I still don’t know, or particularly care, which member of this particular shitshow is which. They sing ‘Desperado’ and while it’s much better than when they sang it at Simon’s villa, with some clever vocal layering where they join in mid-line and stuff, I still don’t like them. [And halfway through I realise that I’m fairly sure this is the song The Conway Sisters sang at boot camp that I didn’t recognise at the time. Journey South? Meh. – Steve] They mistake volume for vocal quality. Sharon says they’re natural and appeal to everyone. Not me! Louis says they deserve their break, and that they’re better than Robson and Jerome, who Simon had a lot of success with. Well yeah, they are, but that’s kind of like saying they’re better than the sound of a rusty tin can being fed into a waste disposal. It’s not exactly high praise. Simon says they have no gimmicks [except the entirely surplus-to-requirements guitar that they had tonight – Steve] and no chips on their shoulders. They do seem like nice guys, but musically, they can still bite me.
Brenda got a taste of being on stage and ‘I have to say I quite like it!’ (cackle). She sings Fontella Bass’s ‘Rescue Me.’ She starts off very low-key and doesn’t really go from there. It’s flawless, in terms of hitting the notes, phrasing and good breathing technique, all that. But it’s kind of boring to my mind, which is very weird for a version of ‘Rescue Me.’ Didn’t make sit up and take notice, at all. Simon says that Brenda sums up ‘the reason we were right to let older contestants in.’ He says she’s infectious and a great performer, but ‘I don’t think you’ll win.’ Sharon: ‘OI!’ Simon: ‘I’m normally right.’ They get into a big fight about what Simon said (which is totally right, I would be stunned if Brenda won this contest, and I do really like her) and Simon, for the idiots in the audience and at home, has to reiterate that he thinks Brenda is ‘very, very good.’ Louis says Brenda reminds him of Gladys Knight, because that’s the only black woman he can think of and as far as Louis is concerned they’re all the same. Seriously – ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ compared to Brenda belting out ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ and ‘Rescue Me.’ Not that similar. They talk about how Brenda’s left her kids and she says ‘I’m missing my babies a lot…but Mummy doesn’t want to come home!’ which was kind of great.
Last up is Shayne. Getting through last week was the best day of his life. He gives a little wink and a wave as he comes onto the stage. (Not like that! Ew.) He sings ‘If You’re Not The One’ by Bedingfield (Male) and is really rather good. He nails the high notes. He’s a wee bit nasal, maybe, and perhaps sings a bit too softly, but he does really well. [I have to admit something here: I really, really hate this song. I just find it cloying and emotionally manipulative in the worst possible way; it’s the musical equivalent of crocodile tears. I had a massive argument about that with my sister once when she tried to put her new Daniel Bedingfield CD on on Christmas Day – not one of my finest moments. So yes, I hate this song. And yet Shayne made it bearable, which is high praise indeed. Also, as much as this shames me to admit, I’ve developed something of a boycrush on Shayne. He reminds me of Will Young in his Idol days. Contented sigh! – Steve] Sharon asks him to do the high notes again, ‘so that I can hold your private parts.’ Strange woman. He obliges (with the notes, not the parts-holding) and manages it totally acapella. Sharon tells him to change his shirt next week because she doesn’t like the one he’s wearing, and Shayne says ‘shall I take it off?’ There’s a very strange bit where the crowd is screaming ‘Off! Off! Off!’, but he doesn’t. Simon says ‘Shayne, young man, that was outstanding,’ and gives credit to Louis for a good song choice. (Which it really was, much as it pains me to admit it. Two out of four this week, Louis. You’re getting there!) For some reason I really don’t understand, Shayne gets really aggressive and says stuff about how he knows he won’t always get good comments, and the negative comments, when he receives them, will only make him stronger. It was bolshy and weird, and not what you’d call good grace. [Yep. I can only assume this was a pre-rehearsed speech devised when he was expecting to get bad feedback, and to unleash it here was bizarre. Just be quiet and look pretty, Shayne. – Steve]

Results or What The FUCK Was That?

Right. I’m going to rattle through this. The ones that are definitely, in no particular order are: Chico (what the FUCK, part 1), Shayne, Maria (yay!), Journey South (boo!), Brenda, Nicholas, The Conway Sisters and Andy. Andy gets this awful smug ‘well, of course,’ look on his face and I become more convinced that I’m starting to dislike him. So adverts before we find out who the final safe one is. We come back and it’s Phillip (who was dreadful this week and dreadful last week), Chenai (who was kinda crappy this week and good last week) and 4Tune (who were great both weeks). The voting public being what it is, of course it’s Phillip who is safe (what the FUCK, part 2). [And I lost respect for the voting public at this precise moment. Phillip sucks so hard I’m surprised he hasn’t turned inside out. – Steve]
Louis says that all Chenai can do in the sing-off is do her best. Simon is really surprised that 4tune are there and thinks that they just need to do what they did before. Chenai is weeping away at this stage. I worry for her – if this is her reaction just to being towards the bottom of the votes I really don’t think she’s going to be able to make it in this contest. Anyway. She sings ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’ again and is SO much better. For some reason, now is the time she sings with confidence and enjoyment. Her volume is better, her phrasing is clearer, she’s in much better control of her voice, and she just looks like she’s loving it. [Really? I thought she was absolutely horrendous the second time around. She sounded like she was being strangled the entire time, to my ears. – Steve] [How odd. I did only hear it once. I maintain she seemed to be less nervous, if nothing else.-Joel] 4tune come out and sing exactly the same as they did before, but that’s mainly because they didn’t really have much room for improvement.

Simon says that it’s not personal, but he’s sending home Chenai. Louis says it’s not personal, but he’s sending home 4tune. Of course and of course. Can’t really fault either of them. It’s down to Sharon’s choice and she’s super-distraught. ‘Do I break one person’s heart or four people’s?’ Louis says ‘I did it last week’ and Sharon wails ‘you stuck up for me, you kept my act in.’ The audience hollers and wails and is generally insane. Sharon says ‘Chenai, we have a history.’ Louis says something about Chico, and Simon says ‘Shut up Louis.’ Louis says ‘Chico, I kept you last week.’ My notes say ‘grinning cunt.’ Simon says, ‘Shut up Louis, it’s got nothing to do with it.’ Louis starts saying ‘Keep Chenai’ over and over and over again. Simon says, ‘Louis! Sharon, just do it.’ Kate threatens to go to a public vote unless Sharon makes a decision. Louis is still chanting ‘keep Chenai.’ Simon says ‘say the name’ to Sharon, and it’s really obvious from his tone that he doesn’t have any hope for 4tune. Sharon goes on to prove him right by saying Chenai, which leads to confusion, just like last week, because this programme’s format is dumb and it’s much more instinctive to say who you want to keep than who you want to send away. 4tune are distraught, Chenai is ecstatic. We see the judges and Sharon and Simon are both turned away from the stage, hunched and looking totally devastated. Louis is smiling and clapping and looks like nothing so much as toddler that’s proud of himself because he’s just done his first big boy poo on the grown-up toilet. Fuckingsmugcuntbastardcocknasty. [Seriously. How did this man get so successful? Katy and I were discussing just how, in a professional environment, we would have absolutely no respect for a man who behaved like that. It’s utterly insane. – Steve] We see 4tune’s ‘X Factor journey’, and Simon approaches them on stage and says ‘I’m really sorry.’ I was so excited last week, because I thought for once the public weren’t going to be insane losers, given that Chico was in the bottom two. But given that he’s safe, and that Phillip got through on a horrible performance, and that it came down to Chenai and 4tune SO early in the competition, that idea’s gone. This series is going to be as much of a joke as the last one. Thus I predict the final three: Chico, Phillip and Journey South. You people had better prove me wrong.