Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Addendum re: midget

Where the FUCK is my midget?

At least twice in the 'Coming Up's we were shown a midget with an engagement ring, getting down on one knee and saying 'Will you marry me?'

And now?

Now the auditions are over?

There was no midget forthcoming.

Where the FUCK is my midget?

I'll get you, ITV.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

And now, the end is near

Transmission date: September 24th 2005

Coming Up, to Carmina Burana as per. Kate’s wearing her Adam Ant jacket, and we’re in London AGAIN. The repetition of jacket and location means I officially call bullshit on the scheduling of this programme [I know. I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out that when she says “this week” she means this week on the show, not this week of filming. I feel so cheated. And dumb, for that matter. – Steve]. She’s got a t-shirt under the jacket though, so we’re mercifully spared navel.
47-year old James has been singing all his life and knows he can sing. He knows that the judges will put him through. He sings ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, gets the words wrong, and is horrible. He claims to be a soul singer but Simon and Sharon tell him he has no soul. By which they mean he’s not really an engaging, soulful singer, rather than ‘you’re a vampire.’ He tells the Booth that he knows, and people in East London know, that they’ve made a mistake.
A funny bald guy sings ‘Tutti Frutti’. A rat-faced girl sings ‘Stop’, but she’s completely making up the tune. A fat girl sings Madonna’s ‘Hanky Panky’ while smacking her own arse. Except she’s not really singing the whole song, just saying ‘spank me’ lots of times. Callum is 42. He sings ‘Killing Me Softly’, in a voice that sounds like if Larry The Lamb were Moroccan and singing in an earthquake, and Simon says ‘you are!’ When told no, he takes it very well.
Next up is 38 year old Ryan. He’s dressed in an ill-fitting, badly cut purple suit. He sings – I think it’s a James Brown song - and, after a fashion, dances. His voice is good, but he just keeps doing the splits and spinning round. Again and again. Which is all very impressive, I’m sure, but doesn’t really count as a dance routine, and gets kind of tedious. Simon likes his voice, but says the dancing was ‘hideous’. Sharon, of course, loves the dancing and Louis says ‘it works for James Brown’, which is so insanely beside the point that it makes me laugh. [Perhaps James Brown was this week’s guest judge, but he declined to be filmed? – Steve] Anyhoo, he gets through unanimously (Simon specifically stating that it’s on the voice and not the dancing), and the judges point out that his vigorous dancing has made the heel come off his shoe. On his way out, he does the splits to pick it up, rather than bending. Tosser.
A couple of little gay twinks go through. They’re boyfriends, I think.
A horrible shit boy called James go through. As he runs out of the audition room, we see he’s brought his guitar with him. He can die. Don’t bring your guitar and then not play it, and don’t bring your guitar to prove that you’re a ‘real musician’ or something. You won’t be allowed to write your own songs even if you do win, and if you think you’re a musician you’re unlikely to be pliable enough for the judges to let you win. This isn’t Fame Academy.
A blonde girl who can’t sing hollers really loudly and gets through. Never, ever underestimate Blonde Blindness, especially when Simon Cowell’s opinion is being asked. You know Blonde Blindness, yeah? It’s when the simple existence of blonde hair renders people incapable of seeing your flaws – like when people think Jessica Simpson is attractive despite the fact that she’s been whittled out of a block of wood, as indicated by her enormous jawline and, well, intellect.
There’s a big lead up because, what’s this?, Madonna is auditioning for the X Factor. Oh my gosh, superstar singer Madonna is here to prove she’s talented! Oh no! ITV you fooled us! It’s just a girl who happens to be called Madonna. Really, how stupid do they think their viewers are? It’s actually mildly offensive. This Madonna is 17 and has the surname Blackmore. She’s terrible. Simon says ‘Madonna, you can’t sing,’ to my delight and the probable indignation of thousands of pooves (well, if leaf becomes leaves in the plural…) up and down the country, who can’t bear even to hear that sentence spoken. There follow more deluded people who think they’re like someone famous. A chubby girl with a bad bleach job [She’s Kelly Osbourne. The face? The voice? Kelly Osbourne, and I will not be swayed on this. – Steve] [Oh god! Yeah, I see it. But as Jack popped up in Xtra Factor as a joke contestant, I think this poor chubber was for real.] and a black newsboy cap says ‘Britney Spears? She IS my inspiration.’ This girl is terrible, of course, and Simon tells her that she’s got ‘lose the infatuation.’ Then a bloke who wants to be Bryian McFadden, ex of Westlife. He sings ‘Flying Without Wings’, although he renders it thus: ‘you’ve found that special fing, you’re flying wivout wings.’ He claims that he wants to follow in Bryian’s footsteps, and Simon, in an awesome double-burn, says, ‘ironically, you might be.’ [Hee! Best burn of the series, I think. – Steve] None of these deluded simpletons go through. A professional Ronan Keating impersonator comes in and auditions. Brilliantly, Sharon doesn’t know who Ronan Keating is. He’s not through.
Footage of the holding area, to the accompaniment of Josh Stone (©Sharon Obsourne) singing ‘Don’t Cha Wanna Ride’. I fucking hate this song. Firstly, it’s either ‘Don’t ya’ or ‘Dontcha.’ Secondly, the line ‘a car this fine don’t come your way every day, babe, don’t cha wanna ride?’ is either disgusting (if she’s comparing herself to a car) or inane to the point of creating a tiny little rip in the space-time continuum because that much mediocrity in one place is too much for the universe to bear (if she’s actually singing about that nasty-ass VW beetle she drives in the video). [I’m a lot more simplistic about this – I just hate Joss Stone with a fiery passion. I can’t believe they’ve pimped her out in one way or another pretty much every episode this series. Just stop it already! – Steve] We now return you to your scheduled programming. Haifa is 25. She has a perm. Actually, she has a PERM. She sings that ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, baby, I love you’ song that I think was in a KFC advert and annoys me. ‘She’s awful.’ says Scott. Her voice is kinda jazzy. But she’s trying way too hard and forcing herself to be louder than she should and I just really did not like it one little bit. She reminds the judges of Josh Stone. Well, she’s already pissing me off, so maybe they’re right there. She goes through, unanimously, and makes me laugh by saying in the Booth that she wants this ‘200million percent.’

Richard is an 18 year old performing arts student. He has another notable characteristic, if you get what I mean. He comes in and sings ‘All That Jazz’ from ‘Chicago.’ Can you tell what it is yet? He’s terrible, very nasally up in his nasal, and at first I feel sorry for him, but then I get angry with him for being so stupid. 1) You’re a boy – don’t sing a song about rouging your knees and rolling your stockings down, for crying out loud. 2) You’re rubbish. 3) Even if you were a girl, and good, you still shouldn’t sing All That Jazz. It’s from a musical, and very much part of that musical. People often don’t get through in these shows, rightly, because they have voices suited for musical theatre, not a pop career. You could sing something like ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story (if you have an extremely good voice) or ‘Losing My Mind’ from Follies (if you have an extremely good voice and are unbelievably gay) because these are well-established as songs in their own right and make sense out of context. ‘All That Jazz’ really doesn’t, and by singing it all you prove is that you misunderstood the assignment. The judges, with some difficulty, swallow their laughter, and tell Richard he’s not right for the show. He comes out of the audition and says ‘I was going to listen to their comments, but,’ huffy exhalation of breath, ‘is what I think now.’
Anyway, a montage of insane, self-deceiving losers. We see another of the dreaded boy-girl duos, and AGAIN they’re insisting on singing to each other rather than to the judges. Boy sings to girl, ‘give me just one more night,’ resulting in a brisk ‘No!’ from Simon. A guy sings ‘Mammy’ in a fairly close approximation of Al Jolson’s voice (which, in my opinion is one of the most hideous noises in the history of recorded sound. Really. Al Jolson’s voice really, really freaks me out. It’s horrible.) and Sharon joins in, making me love her a bit. Three middle-aged ladies sing ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ and look nice in their suits, and are harmonising really well. We don’t discover their fate, but they’re good, so I presume they failed. Two blonde larger ladies are twins, aged 47. On discovering this, Sharon gets strangely excited and drawls ’middle-aged twins’ as if it were the sentence ’20 year old twin poolboys, carrying chocolate and martinis’. [I know. What the hell was that about? Does she recruit for niche porn on the side or something? – Steve] They sing Waterloo, and do the back to back motions, exactly like the Abba girls. They then say that they didn’t do an Abba routine, despite the fact that they clearly did. Vocally, they’re not horrible but they’re nothing special. Simon says no and (you can see where this is going, can’t you?) Sharon and Louis put them through. IDIOTS. Once the ladies leave, Simon berates the others for the poor decision of putting ‘Flabba’ through to the next round.

18 year-old Daniel has cerebral palsy. He looks like Fred Savage from The Wonder Years. He’s very cheerful, pleasant and confident. [I think he’s really cute, too. He has lovely eyes. – Steve] He auditioned for a play at school, because at age 7 he was told he wouldn’t succeed because of his illness (his right arm is fairly withered). He got the lead, which inspired him to pursue what he wants. He sings ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Josh Groban. He’s very good, actually. His voice is powerful and nicely in tune, and is distinctive. The judges compliment him, which he receives with immense good grace. I agree with Simon’s 7 out of 10 on the vocals. He’s through unanimously, which brings him close to tears, and I’m so glad because 1) it’s not just the sympathy vote and 2) it’s nice to see someone with a good attitude, given how many arrogant deluded tosswits you see in this show.

Now Kate has the same t-shirt and jacket as at the beginning of the show, but now we’re back in Manchester. What?! Oh, I give up. Anyway. Christopher is a hospital porter. He’s there with his gran and sister, and he has no lips. He’s all ‘I’m looking for a girlfriend,’ which is irrelevant and annoying. He sings and, quelle surprise is awful. He claims he’s got a cold, and Sharon says it’s been going around. There follows a quite amusing montage of people claiming they’ve got colds and/or viruses, with the judges getting more and more amused and saying ‘that’s going around.’ [Hands down, my favourite montage of the series so far. It was so much fun to see the judges give each other the look, and have the contestants have absolutely no idea what they meant. – Steve] We also see Simon say ‘it’s not the virus dear, you can’t sing very well.’

There’s a lad who’s kind of fit, in a scally sort of way. His arm is in a sling. He broke it when he fell down the stairs after catching his boxer shorts on the baby gate at the top of the stairs, which is possibly the best story I’ve ever heard. I mean, seriously, how?. He sings ‘Lean On Me’, during which his eyebrows dance independently of each other, but his voice is pretty good. He goes through. [I liked how Louis said he “liked the image”, and I wondered if he needed it pointed out to him that the broken arm would heal at some point. Unless…well, people do bizarre things for fame, I guess. – Steve] [But you can just see Louis: 'This poor guy's come here and worked so hard, and he's got a broken arm for crying out loud!' I'd be watching my back if I were this boy, Louis might be too keen to maintain the sexy yet vulnerable image.] Some skanky twins (male) sing ‘Lean On Me’ too and also go through. A lady with braids goes through, and sidles through the door, singing ‘I did it’ I a ‘Go Ricki!’ kind of voice. A girl sings Fontella Bass’s ‘Rescue Me’ and goes through.

Michelle is 27, and I fucking hate her. She’s got a big square face and really pale blue eyes that make her look evil. She says that she’s got what it takes to become one of the biggest stars in the world because: 1 I am a star 2 I can sing 3 I’ve got soul 4 I write my own songs 5 I’m a pretty girl. Skanky arrogant bitch, say my notes. She sings ‘Natural Woman’ and gets the words wrong. She has a good voice, but as Simon says ‘when you sing you become unattractive’. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and she’s all ‘I’ve got so much more to give!’ and her excessive confidence has seemingly deserted her. Sharon tries to speak and Michelle keeps interrupting her with all the ‘I’ve got more to give’ bullshit. ‘Will you shut up!’ snaps Sharon. There’s something about Michelle that Sharon doesn’t like. Ooh, I know! Me, me! It’s that she’s a horrible conceited bastard! Simon says no. Yay Simon! Louis says yes. Boo Louis! Sharon says ‘I’m sorry but…I have to say yes.’ Oh Sharon. Although, I’m taking the positives. I’m quite looking forward to Michelle going out straight away in the next round. That’ll learn ’er. Once Michelle leaves the room, Louis says that she can sing. Sharon and Simon, both of whom have a better understanding of this contest than Louis, remind him that it takes more than that.

23 year old Eartha makes boxes in a factory in Skegness. ‘Oh god, it’s like something from Dickens,’ says Scott. She dances about like a loon in the holding area. She sings Reach by S Club 7. She’s terrible, apart from the very last note, which is actually very clear and quite lovely to hear. I think that was an accident. Simon, having perfected the double-burn, says, ‘phone up Geri Halliwell and become a duo.’ Eartha, bless her, takes this on board like it’s a serious piece of career advice. [So does Geri. – Steve]

We meet Nicholas who tells us ‘I’ve been singing since I was a baby.’ On his arm, there’s a tattoo of microphone and the inscription ‘All about the music’ That’s possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen this week. Yes. Even funnier than Jordan’s wedding photos. The judges ask why he entered and he says ‘because you lot said you wanted the X-factor.’ I like that as a reply. He sings ‘End of the Road’ and he’s very good. He actually seems to invest the song with some emotion, without being too over the top chest-beating about it. Simon says he’s got raw talent. Sharon says the rawness is appealing. They all agree that he needs training, but that he’s got a lot to work with. Simon mentions the all-important ‘likeability factor’, which Nicholas actually has, Michelle. Sharon says ‘yes, sweet thing.’ Simon says he’s in a totally different league from most of the people they’ve seen. Ending on a high note, then.

Kate voiceovers that, ‘the X-Factor auditions are over.’ THANK GOD. What an incredible journey it’s been, blah blah blah. Take That’s ‘Never Forget’ plays, which in a way is kind of unfortunate, because it shows what can happen when pop stars are actually talented and are singing a good song. ‘Never Forget’ is an awesome song, with the choir boys and the hand-claps and the massive key changes and stuff. And it’s unlikely that any of the contestants from this show will produce anything nearly as good. We get MORE repetitions of what has already happened. Again and again and again we see the same people. Stop putting this shit in, producers. Although, much like before, I take the rough with the smooth because at least this way I get to see Sharon throw coke on Louis again, and the immortal ‘sing ’em a song Della’, and Erica being all scary and saying ‘can I hug you Sharon?’ and Tony Blair saluting Big Brother and the tiny wonderful Trevor. And just when I’ve forgiven them, they end the montage with Fucking Toothless Kerry and my rage returns.

It’s gone down from 75,000 contestants to 200. Which: two questions. 200 is not divisible by three, so which categories get more people? And also? Was this 200 a pre-set limit? So did they have to reject people towards the end because they’d reached the limit? Or put people through to make it up to 200? Woo, question marks galore! Barber’s Adagio for Strings, I think, plays. It’s all so heart-breaking and emotional, like.

The judges are in a waiting area, waiting to be told which category they’re getting. Sharon says that they all want the under 25s. Simon agrees, but says it might be difficult because there are so many good people to choose from. Simon’s happy that the over 25s aren’t all just a bunch of failed singers. Sharon says the category is much stronger than last year. This being the last year where someone from the over 25s won the competition. So is that admitting that the whole contest is a pointless joke? Cos it seems to be. [It could have been a subtle burn on Sharon’s part, I guess. She’s not exactly Steve Brookstein’s biggest fan, is she? – Steve] Simon wouldn’t be too upset if he got the groups, he says. Right.

Louis has got the 16-24s, obviously. God. He has no idea. Suddenly my hopes for the people I like, like Trevor and Alexandra, have withered and died. Sharon has the 25+ catergory. Of course. She and Louis do a little dance because Simon has the groups. [Which I totally called last week. This show is hopeless at producing any kind of suspense. – Steve]
Simon goes into the room with the producer, saying ‘thank you for keeping me waiting for one HOUR and 10 MINUTES.’ God, he’s such a queen. It’s fantastic. The producer tells him he’s got the groups and he says it’s the wrong decision because he could have done something with the under 25s. Of course, he won’t admit this to Sharon and Louis, and tells them he’s happy, congratulating them on their categories. As they go off in their limos, Sharon and Louis gloat about their categories and Simon says, ‘it’s a disaster. It’s the worst possible scenario.’ I kind of agree, and kind of don’t. It bothers me that it was so obvious that Simon would get the groups, because he’s evil blah blah blah and needs to be punished. And it worries me that Louis will completely fuck up the decision-making for the under 25s. But that said, because the groups aren’t great, Simon will be ruthless at cutting all the people who are shit (bye bye Flabba!) and I think he’ll end with some people who aren’t too awful. [Plus, there were some good groups. The Brothers, 4Tune, the Conway Sisters, and Eskimo Blonde were not entirely devoid of merit. Also, that group who sang ‘Free Your Mind’ in last week’s rules, whom we never got to see, assuming they got put through. – Steve] I’ll be quite entertained if Sharon brings through Dorothy, Chico, Penotlope and Justine. And Louis will bring Spongebob Squareface. Idiots.

There’s a whole big ‘coming up’ thing, but I’m too busy despairing of Louis to bother to tell you what’s in it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Boy/girl duos are a fundamentally bad idea

Transmission date: 17th September 2005

I sit down to write this update feeling slightly the worse for wear, having spent last night in one of my local homosexual boozers, singing and dancing loudly and ineptly to the likes of 'I'm In The Mood For Dancing' by The Nolans. The funny thing is, I suspect that even in that state I still displayed more talent than half of the people I will be writing about.

No "previously on the X-Factor this week", just a "tonight" teaser. And I'm not writing about that because I'll cover everything within it later on, won't I?

Cheap science-fiction movie credits. I think they get worse every week.

Kate welcomes us to Edinburgh. The judges are optimistic that they will find someone who fits the bill. Kate explains the rules again, for the uninitiated. (A girl group that I don't remember seeing before sings En Vogue's 'Free Your Mind' during the 'Groups' segment, and they look awesome. I hope we get to see them properly later.)[They were so good. We’ll never hear from them again. - Joel]

20-year-old Jenna (I think; it might have been Jemma, or indeed Gemma. How about some name astons, editors?) is from John O'Groats. She wants to prove to people that you can come from a small town and still have talent. Wasn't Will Young from Hungerford? I mean, that's not exactly on the map for anything else, is it? She sings a song that I have to admit I do not recognise. Joel, any ideas? [I can’t remember her, her singing, or her song. So that's a 'no'. - Joel] Her diction is poor, and she misses quite a few of the notes. The song contains the line "I've always been a dreamer", which is Simon's cue. He tells her she was appalling. The judges agree that she's not a singer, and she doesn't get accepted. Jenna, for her part, takes the news well.

Montage of losers. I'm hoping that this means everyone else we see on tonight's show will be awesome, if they're getting all the terrible people out of the way at this point barely four minutes into the show. Mad carousel music accompanies the montage, and reminds me of bad TV movies based on Stephen King novels. A guy sings the middle eight of 'Teenage Dirtbag' (why? Aren't you supposed to do a verse and a chorus? If that's all that you have to work with, why would you choose that part of that song? It beggars belief.) Sharon cackles at the mention of Iron Maiden, who are presumably close friends of hers [Wasn’t it them that she banned from Ozzfest, because Bruce Dickinson said his dad could beat up Ozzy’s dad, or something? - Joel]. Possibly even servants; she is the Queen of Darkness after all.

A boy band whose name I didn't catch (it may have been Whitestar) are next. They sing an acapella version of 'Back For Good', which is pitched a little too high for my liking. Plus this seems to be another one of those group setups where the majority of the singing falls to one person, and the others are required merely to go "ooh ooh" in the background. I think there are some basic flaws in the Groups category of this competition; more on that later. Simon likes the lead singer's voice, but thinks they look dated [If 'dated' sufficiently describes the crime that is a white boy with cornrows. - Joel]. Louis likes the two boys on the right. (Nah, too easy.) It's a no from Sharon, who pronounces it "not her thing", and while I suspect that her role as judge requires her to be slightly more open-minded, I do get where she's coming from. A yes from Louis. "I'm sorry," says Simon, and the desperate begging starts. Fortunately Simon hasn't finished: "...but I'm going to give you one more chance." Much celebration and unexpected elevating of Thornton. In the X Factor jet, Sharon is disappointed by the lack of talent in Edinburgh.

It's the next day, says Kate, and the auditions are back in London. Excuse me? I don't pretend to have a production schedule for this show, but it seems awfully odd to have some auditions in London, dash around the country and see some other cities, then come back to London. My guess is that the London auditions were held together, but that they wanted to spread them out a bit over the course of the show. It had to be in the opening episode, of course, because London is the most important city in the country 4evah omg omg. Anyway, quibbles of chronology aside, a car covered in painted bats arrive, carrying within it Meg and her black-clad family. The soundtrack cues up the theme from The Addams Family. Kind of an obvious one there, guys. Some of Meg's kids, by the way, are freakin' adorable. Can we just have a show about Meg and her kids? That would rock. Kate tells Meg that she has a very strong look and image (Meg has long dreadlocked hair, which is by parts white-blonde, blue and black, and she wears a lot of eyeliner and black vinyl and fishnets. That's pretty much it.) "What brings you here today?" asks Sharon. Meg replies that she wants to be able to sing. They're not singing tutors, Meg. Meg sings yet another song that I've never heard before (I'm shaming myself today), and her voice is pretty. [I really liked her voice a lot. It actually seemed to convey emotion. - Joel] I can't say a lot about it other than that, but pretty I will concede. Louis informs me that the song might be called 'The Fields of Ethenright', but I'll need to look that up (and look it up I did, but I found nothing, so I must have misheard Louis. Sorry everyone). He was impressed. Meg's lisp reminds Sharon of Toyah Wilcox. (It'th a mythtery! Oh, it'th a mythtery! Sorry. I used to have a lisp too, and I was bullied about it for years, so I'll shut up now.) It's a no from Simon, but yeses from Louis and Sharon. Simon throws his pen down in disgust. Meg is overcome and runs out to hug her family. Back in the audition room, Simon asks "are you out of your mind?" And I hate to say this, but on this occasion I'm actually with Louis and Sharon; I don't see what Simon's problem is. Actually, I think I do see what Simon's problem is, I think he's staring at a marketing nightmare because Meg's image and Meg's voice are unlikely to appeal to the same audience. But she could sing, and she was definitely different, possibly even had the mythical "X factor" and they've put people through for far less than that, so I'm afraid that Simon has made a rod for his own back here. So I'm actually supporting Louis and Sharon over Simon, and if you're wondering what that cold sensation around your toes is, it might just be Hell freezing over. Meg returns to the Batmobile, like, well done Kate, but I suspect that joke has been made many times before. I suspect that you didn't come up with it yourself either.

Still to come: Elvis Presley. A suggestion someone won't like. Someone singing badly. Buy a Nokia, kids!

Next up is 18-year-old Peter, who works in a cake factory. This is Sharon's dream job, because she is A Woman. Simon asks Peter who he aspires to be, and Peter replies Justin Timberlake. And what will Peter be singing? 'Cry Me A River'. Big, big mistake. You should never attempt to sing this song acappella because it's ridiculously overproduced, and is practically tuneless without any kind of backing. It's the same reason they (rightly) slammed all the people who sang Ashanti's 'Foolish' at the Popstars: The Rivals auditions. One of the things you'd do well to learn before attempting to become a popstar is which songs work without accompaniment, and which ones don't. Peter's rendition is squeaky and flat and tuneless, and his performance lifeless. Sharon cracks me up by asking if his wrist was itchy. It's a unanimous no, but the judges dismiss him politely, which was nice of them. [They’re generally not that evil when people would clearly fall apart from it, which is…good? - Joel] I suspect that someone as nervous and shaky as Peter is too easy a target for most people's withering sarcasm. Even mine.

Next up is girlband Stiletto, and Britney help me, but I think that's the first group name that I've liked all series. It's trashy, it's jokey, it just about works. [You think? I just get the knife and the shoe all muddled, and start thinking about prostitute assassins. Which has its own appeal, I guess. - Joel] They are Becky, Emily and Laura, and they begin a rather nice harmonious rendition of The Corrs' 'Runaway' which, by the way, is totally one of the two songs I would pick as my audition piece for a show like this (the other being Sam Brown's 'Stop!', if anyone cares), were I suddenly to take leave of my senses and believe that I had any kind of talent. They're good audition songs, is what I mean. Simon pronounces it "not great"; he likes Becky but thinks she has the wrong partners. Simon's going to suggest something, and Becky is not going to like it: he wants Becky to come back and audition on her own. Hey, wait a minute, isn't this exactly what Joel and I were suggesting for some people last week, and wondering why the judges weren't thinking of it? They're totally reading this, that's why. [In their time-machines. - Joel] Becky sits on the fence for a few seconds, before saying loyally that she doesn't want to do it on her own. The group protest that they are a group and that they work together, to which the judges respond that, well, they don't so much. It's a no to the group, but Simon reiterates that he would see Becky on her own, and tells Laura that she has vocal problems. Again, I don't see this. Maybe I've developed tinnitus after last night and everybody just sounds like a mildly pleasant faint ringing to me. In a far better music cue than earlier, one of the editors lines up Radiohead's 'High And Dry', and I take my hat off to him or her, while Becky says that she's not willing to go back on her own. Back in the judging room, Simon calls Becky "a nice Britney Spears". Isn't that Cockney rhyming slang for something? Becky phones her Dad for advice, and Emily and Laura wait nervously to see if she's about to put the boot into Stiletto.

We're left hanging here and we move on to the next group, Deaz (pronounced like Cameron Diaz), comprising best friends Dean and Shaz. See what they did there? The alternative was Shed, Shaz tells us, which Simon prefers. Me too. Hee! They sing 'Up Where We Belong', and Dean's voice annoys me because while technically proficient, it's wobbly and affected, like he's heard what a singer is meant to sound like and is trying to replicate it. Stop it, Dean. And they turn to face either other while they sing, which - no. Sharon tells Shaz that she has a nice voice. Sharon tells Dean that he has a phoney American accent. Ha! I don't even know what to do with that. On the one hand, I want to say "good call, Sharon", but on the other hand I suspect that if anyone knows from phoney American accents, that person will be an Osbourne. Dean confesses that he is indeed from Lincolnshire, and asks if it's a bad thing that he "sometimes" slips into that accent. Yes, say the judges, and the entire viewing audience. "Could you imagine Elvis Presley slipping into a Rotherham accent on 'In The Ghetto'?" asks Simon, and demonstrates. Ha! And with that, I love Simon again. Sharon pees her pants. Sharon also points out that when Dean sings, he "does that", and demonstrates a jaw reminiscent of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. Dude, they are having a field day with this guy! It's a no. [They would save themselves a lot of time if they just had a big sign in the lobby saying 'Boy-girl duos will NOT be considered.' - Joel]

My problem with the Groups category, by the way? I just think it seems like a very cunning way of improving your chances. Judging by what we've seen so far, very few of the groups get through because most of them are so fundamentally dreadful, so for the most part, you only need to be relatively okay to get through. Think back to last year's final. I know most of the finalists weren't that special, but the only group they found that looked anywhere near capable of winning were G4. Two To Go and Voices With Soul just looked like they were there to make up the numbers.

Becky returns! She kind of looks like a younger, slightly prettier Rachel Stevens. She sings 'Runaway' again, solo this time, and it's rather lovely, I think. The judges all tell her that she has good qualities, that she's pretty and likeable. Becky, bless her little heart, asks uncertainly, "so what do I need to do?" Simon's reply is "get confident". She gets a unanimous yes, and Britney Spears's 'Lucky' plays. Ha! Sometimes the soundtrack to this show is just so perfect. Also, to their credit, outside the other members of Stiletto look genuinely pleased for Becky. Aww.

Next is 19-year-old single mother Cadice(?) with her daughter Kashika (? - seriously, get some astons up here so that I can at least spell these names correctly). Cadice is just doing this for her daughter. Cadice and Kashika enter the audition room; "it's another duo", quips Simon. Having established that Cadice is the one auditioning (like, Kashika is still sucking a dummy, I really don't think she's sixteen. She looks too old to be sucking a dummy, mind, but that's none of my business), Simon invites Kashika to be a judge. She goes up and sits on his lap, and it is officially the cutest thing ever. Cadice sings the Whitney Houston version of 'I Will Always Love You', and has an annoying habit of making all of her words end in "ow". This is one of those songs that I think ought to be banned from auditions, purely from the point of view that it tells you very little about someone's singing ability. Either they cannot keep up with it, in which case fair enough, you boot them, or they do keep up with it, in which case all you've learned is that they can sing loudly and hold a note, but have very little concept of nuance or subtlety. It leaves you with Rowetta, basically. Cadice keeps up, but I'm not entirely sure she's in tune. Sharon calls her a "rough diamond". Simon asks Kashika if they should put her mother through. Kashika says no. Hee! Cadice goes through. After she leaves, Simon admits that he couldn't tell if it was a good voice or not, and I agree, hence my earlier point. "I'm doing it all for my baby," Cadice tells us, and - again, none of my business, but long hours, lots of travelling, complete financial and professional instability..., okay if you say so. Kashika waves goodbye and it is almost illegally cute. [I love Cadice. She will go the way of all black girls in talent contests (Simone in Fame Academy; Rowetta last year; Trenyce and Vonzell in American Idol) and lose despite being the best one there. I know Fantasia won, but that was in America. I’m convinced this country is still too fundamentally racist and sexist to let a black girl win. It makes me mad. - Joel]

After the break, the judges tell us who they think has the X Factor. Simon: Destiny's Child. Sharon: U2. Simon: Madonna. Sharon: Josh Stone (I swear to God, that's what she says! [She absolutely does. - Joel] Also, can this show please stop being a Joss Stone promotional vehicle? I cannot bear the girl). Simon: Britney Spears. Louis: I'm looking for the genuine X factor. I don't think he understood the assignment.

Our next auditionee is called Elvis Presley. He changed it by deed poll, and that is officially so pathetic that I am saying absolutely nothing else about him other than he doesn't get put through. Stop wasting my time, show! A montage of Elvis impersonators proves that my pleas are falling on deaf ears.

More complete time-wasting filler, and my patience is running short. Erica is Sharon's number one fan, and the show goes all-out to make her look creepy, which, to be perfectly honest, she is doing very well on her own. There is one admittedly amusing sequence where they slow everything down, including her voice, and you see this shot of a terrified Sharon gulping as this insane woman (well, this other insane woman) heads right for her. [I totally loved this bit. 'Caaan Iiiii huuuuug you Shaaarooooon?' was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. - Joel] Erica heads for the X, and hyperventilates. For some reason she feels the need to present a brief history of the song, but being in Sharon's presence has made her forget the name of the woman who sang it. "Gloria Gaylord!" she finally remembers. "Gaynor", Simon corrects. Hee! Okay, in spite of myself, I find this funny. Sharon pronounces the performance "very Shirley Bassey-esque", and if I were Shirley Bassey, I would sue for defamation of character. "I can see you're influenced by her," Sharon continues. "Oh, I think there's only one influence in this girl's life," Simon grins. He is really enjoying this, and just to really make Sharon uncomfortable, he makes her be the first person to decide whether Erica gets through to boot camp. Sharon, being utterly devoid of spine, says it's an absolute yes. Mercifully, it's a no from Louis and Simon. [I swear Erica was one of the Three Non-Blondes girls. If she’s not, they need to recruit her. - Joel]

Next up, 52-year-old Monnie, who has had a recurring dream since last year's final of being pronounced the winner. We're treated to a cheapass mockup of said scenario. As a result, he gave up his day job 7 months ago and has practised singing every day. While I feel I ought to admire his commitment, that's really sad. Also: he could have used a couple of weeks of that to work on his posture. He sings 'You'll Never Walk Alone', pretty much atonally. He doesn't get through. Hey, the cheapass mockup cheated me!

Girl trio Eskimo Blonde (another name I actually quite like) [It makes me feel like I’m missing a pun. - Joel] formed after watching last year's show. One of them looks like a young Davina McCall. They sing 'Freak Like Me'. Simon asks where they're from. "Liverpool?" Tallest member Gemma says they are, "but we're not the next Atomic Kitten." "I don't want that," says Simon. "I don't want that. Nobody would want that!" adds Louis. Ha! I still hate Louis, but I have to admit that was well-said. Eskimo Blonde get a unanimous yes, and rightly so. I could just about see this lot in finals, actually. Montage of good people. Why didn't we get to see them in more detail, when we wasted so much time on Erica and Deaz?

6'8" dad-of-one Sam sings Van Morrison's 'Moondance', and is very sweet and likeable. Simon pronounces him "interesting" and "memorable". Louis, incidentally, is wearing fugly shirt that Sharon drenched with Coke two weeks ago. Ahhh, good times. Sam does a little dance outside. Bless. [Sam is teh sex. So, so hot. And actually talented. He’s kind of like what Steve Brookstein would have been if he was good. - Joel]

We're back in London, even though I'm sure we were elsewhere before the break. They never said, but it looked a bit like Manchester. Chronology be damned! A montage of duos, who are scary almost without exception. Next in to see the judges are Adam and Steph, who have been singing together for "a week and a bit". Apparently Adam was due to enter with a friend who pulled out at the last minute, so Steph stepped in. Steph admits that they "only have Psychology together" and that they barely spoke before apart from to say hi. Simon tells Stephanie that he thinks Adam likes her. Hmm, maybe. I'm not convinced. He's a bit shiny. Steph starts singing 'One Day In Your Life' by Anastacia pretty powerfully, and it all goes well until Adam joins in on the chorus and is awful, and I'm actually embarrassed for him just watching this. Again, the judges suggest Stephanie comes back on her own. Adam seems fine with that. Simon asks Stephanie what she thinks of Adam, and she waves her hands around as though surrounded by invisible flies and pronounces the situation "horrible", not wanting to be nasty. Aww. Being pushed to be brutually honest, she admits that she'd say no to him if she were judging. The judges put Stephanie through as a solo entrant. "This means you can date now," Simon tells Adam. Hee! "You can be her manager!" adds Sharon, which...not so much. That's what you're there for, Sharon. Remember? The rules? Hello, McFly? Just checking.

A five piece male vocal harmony group who are not, sadly, One True Voice, sing 'When Doves Cry' and get through to the next round. [Or were these the ones that had cornrows boy? - Joel] A boring man who looks like Daniel Bedingfield gets a yes. A girl who looks Jamelia-esque sings 'Stop!' (Yes! 'Stop!' singing all my audition songs, you bastards!)

Having seen a bunch of promising people get bunched together in all of 30 seconds, next auditionee Chris gets one all to himself, so he must be brilliant, right? He tells us he has a voice like Michael Jackson's. He later expands on this to "Justin Timberlake, Peter Andre, Michael Jackson". Do they all sound very similar? And would you really compare yourself to Peter Andre and expect people to see that as a good thing? Okay. He says that he's got what it takes "to be the X factor", and once and for all, it's not something you are, it's something you have. Ay-yay-yay. He sings 'Billie Jean' and moonwalks like only a white man can. Louis calls it unoriginal, and he has a fair point. Peter says that it's his dream to get there, wherever "there" might be, and he's not going to give up. "No, you shouldn't," says Sharon. "I'm going to disagree with you there," Simon chips in. "I think you should give up, because this is going to lead to nowhere." Chris calls it "ambition" and "destiny", and Simon says he can understand the first but not the latter, because Simon paid attention in English lessons at school, unlike Chris. It's a unanimous no. "It was nice to meet you. I'll see you next year," Chris says, because he has learnt nothing from this. Egad. These people can actually elect our government, that's what scares me. I mean, they probably don't bother, but they can. Simon tells him they won't see him next year, and Sharon points him to the exit.

Montage of people who refuse to give up. It's pathetic, and I don't care.

20-year-old Kelly Clarkson lookalike Michelle takes her cue from this, as she auditioned last year, but didn't get past the initial meeting with the judges. The judges immediately recognise her as she walks in, and are all "ohhh, Miiicheeelllleeee!!!" having had no prompting from the producers whatsoever, I'm sure. Simon thanks Michelle for making the entire country hate his guts last year. No, that was the other Michelle. Y'know, McManus. I hated you for quite a long time after that mediocre-and-nasal-but-fat-and-thus-marketable contestant won Pop Idol 2, but I'm over it now. Honest. Anyway, this Michelle sings Mariah Carey's 'Hero' in what is pretty much a carbon copy of the original. It's a yes from Sharon. It's a no from Louis, who doesn't think she's improved from last year. Simon, who is all heart, decides to give her a second chance and puts her through to the next round. What an excellent example to set Chris for next year!

Next week: the last of the auditions. A girl who looks a bit like Kelly Osbourne in disguise. Also, the judges find out which groups they have been allocated, and Simon is not happy at all. Anyone else think he gets Groups?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Episode 4 or The Death Of Talent

Transmission date: 10th September 2005

Ridiculously, we get a big spurt of ‘Previously’ action. I won’t complain too much though, because it means I get to see Louis Walsh have Coke thrown on him again. They’re still using Carmina Burana to make it seem evil and raise the tension, which is kind of ridiculous for events that have already happened. Then we get a ‘coming up’ section. Then we get the titles. The big ‘X’ floating in space makes it look like the credits to a school maths programme. I keep expecting a plus and a minus and a division sign to come whooshing in. [Seriously. Such cheapass credits. The titles for Pop Idol were corny, but at least some thought had gone into them. – Steve] Here’s Kate. She’s wearing a white vest, under a red vest, under a black waistcoat. She looks ridiculous. At least one of those articles of clothing should have sleeves. Louis is the ‘King of Boybands’, Sharon is the ‘Queen of Rock’, Simon is just ‘legendary.’ All this repetition and introduction? Has taken 5 minutes. A twelfth of the programme is wasted before it even begins.

Anyway, we’re in Manchester, with a lady named Jackie, who is 40. She has bright red hair that is very very flat. She sings The Reason by Celine Dion. She starts off quietly, and her voice is quite rich and tuneful and perfectly nice. Then she raises the volume and just…well, bellows and it’s horrible. Simon calls it ‘extraordinary’, having to explain that that’s not a compliment, and Jackie is told she sounds like she was ‘screaming at a neighbour.’ As soon as I heard that, I imagined Jackie in East is East yelling ‘Wash your bastard curtains, you filthy cow!’, so I have to agree. Jackie isn’t going through. We get a montage of people singing loudly, and see Sharon say, ‘you were actually shouting, not singing.’ Which was quite probably true, but it doesn’t do Shirley Bassey any harm.

Kate voiceovers that we’re in the ‘holding area.’ Which makes it sound like they’re either criminals, cattle, or immigrants at Ellis Island, waiting to be allowed into America. Because of how my brain works, I’m now going to be singing There Are No Cats In America from An American Tail all day. Anyway, in the holding area, is a girl who got through pretty far last year. Her name is Shenay, I think. I’m going to spell it differently every time, in the hope that one of them is right. Shanay is 19. Gennai sings Wishing On A Star by Rose Royce, and while she’s no Gwen Dickie, her voice is really very good. [Would it kill her to pick up the pace, though? I loved her voice, but she made it sound so boring, and that song should be anything but. – Steve] So last year, Sharon told Zhenai no, and put Tabby through. Sharon is an idiot. Jenay is ‘sailing through.’ On their lunch break, the judges discuss how they admire Shennai and her tenacity, and the fact that to come back this year shows she has ‘a hunger’ that they’re looking for.

Damon is 18. He claims his voice is a combination of Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder. It’s a shame, then, that he looks like a combination of Ross Kemp and a member of the Hitler Youth. As soon as Damon enters the room, Sharon looks vaguely disgusted. He sings Signed, Sealed, Delivered (my notes say ‘deliverded’, which I prefer) and it’s not completely without merit, but is no way near good enough. [And totally under-enunciated. Dear Damon, there is so such word as “annuuurress”. They are two words, and they are “I’m yours.” I made fun of Gareth Gates for his poor diction, and I will do the same to you. – Steve] And then things get very weird. Louis tells him no because he wouldn’t make it past boot camp and to do so ‘would be giving you false hope.’ Why, yes it would Louis. As I have extensively ranted at earlier stages in these recaps. But that’s what you always do. Don’t suddenly try and claim that this is a talent contest and all you care about is putting the best people through when it’s blatantly false. Dick. Better late than never though, I guess. Damon’s not going through, and interviews with Kate that ‘they’ve let themselves down, because I’ll be there.’ Given that Damon’s a little scary, when he said ‘I’ll be there’, I thought ‘there’ was behind the judges’ bedroom doors, dressed all in black, with a hockey mask and a meat cleaver. But as he goes on to say I’ll have number ones blah blah blah no you WON’T you idiot, shut up, I guess ‘there’ is the charts, if we’re being charitable, or the bargain bucket full of Driving Hits and M People CDs at a service station near Tring, if we’re being realistic.

‘Still to come’, followed by Nokia sponsorship, followed by adverts, followed by Nokia sponsorship, followed by ‘still to come.’ [Stop previewing the toothless woman! Aieeee! – Steve]

It’s raining, and Kate has an umbrella that matches her hideous, hideous outfit. A girl does a dance. We meet Amanda, who’s 24, and I’m afraid my notes say ‘big big pikey.’ [My notes just said “eyebrows”. Or they would have if I’d made any. – Steve] She wants to win so she can be a millionaire, which is refreshingly honest. She thinks she’s a combination of Xtina and Joss Stone. She’s not. She sings What A Feeling and to be honest, she sounds like she’s deaf. She doesn’t form the words properly and it’s full of pauses and glottal stops. She’s not through, but I quite like her because she sounds thoroughly shocked when told she can’t sing, and in the booth says ‘I might be a bit, but I’m not totally tone deaf.’ Like I said, refreshingly honest.

Oh dear. Oh god. We meet a boy and a girl called Meant 2 B. Yes you read that right. Change the name, change the name, change the name, I know. The girl looks a bit like Cate Blanchett and the boy looks like a generic homosexual. I’m sorry, but he does. When asked if they’re a couple, they both say ‘We sing together!’, which is quite adorable. They sing Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (Off You? Mental block.) and they’re not horrible, individually, but they really can’t sing together at all. Plus they do this weird dance routine, which ends with Homo dipping Cate while they look at the judges. [Rule number one of auditions: never do a song that Denise Richards has performed to a Jesus on wheels, because you cannot compete. – Steve] Simon says they’re more Torville and Dean than Sonny and Cher. They are ‘bizarre’, ‘quaint’, and ‘old-fashioned.’ They’re also going home. Then, in a really cheap and insulting bit of editing, we see the queue for the audition ‘grow’ and ‘grow’. But given that there’s a girl in the queue dressed in luminous pink, including a big pink wig, and we can see her moving farther down the queue, it’s horribly obvious that they’ve just taken shots of the queue as it gets shorter and reversed the order. I don’t know why they bother with things like that. It’s not as if we don’t realise a lot of people auditioned.

Joanne is 24 and quite sweet. [I liked how they introduced her as a “full-time mother”. The only part-time mothers I know are the ones who had their kids taken away from them by social services. – Steve] She says she’s auditioning because she has ‘Nothing to lose but my pride.’ Here I must point out that Scott is sitting on the couch reading Chekhov with one eye and watching X Factor with the other. He pipes up, ‘Pride’s worth keeping, honey.’ Anyway, Joanne sings Fields Of Gold. Louis says yes because he has such a hard-on for that song that you could probably turn up for the audition talking about how your Dark Master requires you to bathe in the blood of virgins, sing Fields of Gold and get Louis’s vote. Oh, also because Joanne has a nice voice. Simon says that Joanne has the ability to ‘make songs more soulful.’ She’s through and starts crying, saying ‘I’m cryin’!’ I like Joanne. [Me too! – Steve] Then a montage of good people. Well, I say good. People who get through might be more accurate. There’s a funny old woman who sings Cabaret. She’s got on a black jacket with gold brocade. It looks like she went back in time and mugged Phyllis Logan while she was on the set of Lovejoy. She shows no reaction to getting through, at all, telling Kate ‘I don’t get excited darling, I’ve been in the business 60 years.’

Two skinny girls and a fairly large one are a three-piece ‘vocal harmony group’. Scott: ‘three and a half!’ They’re called Taboo, because it’s their favourite drink. That made me want to cry a little bit. The big girl sings Amarillo, of all the weird choices, and is very good, while the skinny ones stand there and click their fingers, then join in half-heartedly for the chorus. It’s obvious that the big girl has no confidence and brought her mates along for a boost, but none of the judges tell her she has a nice voice, rather criticising the group as a whole. Now the group was a joke, but what would it have harmed them to say ‘you should have auditioned by yourself’? [Totally. I’m sure they did that to some people last year, but evidently rational thinking is so 2004. – Steve] They’re not going through, clearly.

‘Still to come’, followed by Nokia sponsorship, followed by adverts, followed by Nokia sponsorship, followed by ‘still to come.’

We’re in Cardiff. We meet Total Eclipse, two girls. I say a quiet thankyou that they’re not called Twotal Eclipse, because you can never be sure with these people. X Factor contestants, I mean, not the Welsh, before people try to assassinate me for being a racialist. They sing Summer of ’69. Simon tells the shorter, dumpier one that she looks like Vicky Pollard. She gets understandably annoyed and asks if he’s saying she looks like a man. Simon says, ‘No no no, you don’t look like a man. You look like a man,’ and here he does a funny little hand gesture, ‘dressed as a woman.’ He then tells the tall one, ‘you look like a stretched version of her.’ During this conversation, Scott has yelled ‘oooh, BURN!’ gleefully about five times. The tall one talks about their performances and says, I swear, ‘it’s going everywhere…lipstick…’ I really do not know what she means by that. In a surprise to no-one, they’re not going through.
Montage. A boy has his hair spiked up in about three feet in one spike on the back of his head. ‘Can I ask about the hair?’ ‘No, not at all.’ hee! A weird looking boy. A vampire. An old woman. A boy sings while his friend/brother does an interpretative dance next to him. They’re told they have the personality of two undertakers. Sharon says to someone that they’re ‘a little sheepish’ and then she bleats. Point one where I like Sharon. A weird man growls a bit. Scott says ‘I’m presenting this to the Prime Minister as a ‘Bomb Wales’ briefing.’ Then we get Richard. He’s kind of fit, and 17. [I thought he was fit, for about five seconds, and then I realised it was just the haircut. They shouldn’t be allowed to give ugly people nice haircuts. – Steve] He sings for old ladies, apparently. He sings Dance With My Father and isn’t bad at all. He’s told he’s ‘good, not brilliant yet’ and says ‘A yes is what I’m looking for’, which I think is the exact right level of cheekiness without spilling into being a cocky idiot. Simon says no. Louis and Sharon say yes. Richard thanks them, and as he walks out Sharon says ‘Thank you very much, love’ in a really bad Welsh accent. Point two where I like Sharon. Another montage. I think I’ll just give you my notes directly:
bad hair minger goes through. girl in a pink bed jacket oversings somewhere over the rainbow. scary girl with blue bits in hair. goes through on simon and louis’s word.

Kerry used to be in a choir. She’s 48 and Simon looks appalled, because she looks about 60. She sings Greatest Love Of All in a horribly wispy, high pitched, wobbly voice. She sounds like she’s standing in one of those big rubber belts that vibrates your middle to make you lose weight. Sharon asks ‘Have you ever tried singing with teeth?’ Simon says something completely innocuous like ‘it’s a no, I’m afraid’ and Kerry gets all uppity and says ‘you’re being very mean.’ TO SIMON. Sharon just told her she’s got no teeth, and Simon is the mean one. Shut up and fuck off, Kerry. Then she’s told that there are better singers than her and she says ‘Better singers than me? Excuse me, there’s not, I can sing a range of songs.’ Yeah, like I said. Shut up and fuck off, Kerry. [She ought to be congratulated on some level, I think. I mean, I never thought I’d hear a worse rendition of that song than when Cordelia “sang” it on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and yet she proved me wrong. – Steve] Obligingly, given that she’s clearly not through, she does eventually shut up and fuck off.

Still to come. Nokia competition. Nokia sponsorship. Adverts. Nokia sponsorship. Still to come. SO MUCH FILLER.

Kate voiceovers that ‘it’s all about mind over matter.’ Scott: ‘and singing’. We meet a guy called Moon, who’s a psychic. He sings Barcelona loudly, but not especially tunefully. I can’t be bothered to recap this because it goes on and ON. Stupid jokes about being a psychic and mind tricks on the judges. And ON. He’s not through, but they ask for his prediction about which judge will win. He says it’s between Sharon and Louis. Yeah, because Simon is mean. BLAH!

Rachel is 20. She says, somewhat nonsensically, ‘music is everything I stand for.’ She then says, also somewhat nonsensically, that she wants to be the voice on ‘other end of the stereo.’ Hey, it’s that girl!. God, they put their teasers in early. She sings Son of a Preacher Man and makes a fair stab at it, given that it’s a Dusty Springfield song. Louis says yes, Simon says no, Sharon eventually says no because she thinks Rachel won’t cope with the pressure. Given that Rachel is already in tears, she’s probably right. Rachel actually takes the rejection very well, and Sharon goes and gives her a hug. Point three where I like Sharon. [It was at this point that I decided I’d quite like Sharon to be my mum, but only if I’m not obliged to also have Kelly and Jack as my siblings. Aimee? Eh, I got nothing against her. – Steve] Montage of people being rejected in the booth, including people who say, ‘I thought I had something special, but I don’t think so any more’ and, ‘It’s just I’ve got nowt to look forward to, really, now.’ It’s kind of heart-breaking.

Michelle is 30. She says, ‘I’m not stupid, I play the piano, guitar, and write my own songs.’ I don’t think the two parts of the sentence are necessary mutually exclusive, but I see her point. They ask what she does and when she says, ‘I’m a glamour model’, I have never seen a better illustration of ‘the cat who got the cream’ than Simon’s face. When she says she does page three modelling, Simon just says, ‘good.’ The whole time, je t’aime is playing, and whenever Sharon or Louis speak to Simon, his reverie breaks and we get the record scratch noise. [It amused me how Sharon was trying to paint Simon as a boob-hungry lech here, considering she told the papers that he was gay last series. Make your mind up, Sharon! – Steve] It’s actually pretty funny. Michelle sings I Will Always Love You and she’s not too bad. Sharon likes it. Simon says, ‘I like the older category.’ A no from Louis, a yes from Sharon. Michelle says, brilliantly, with a little pout, ‘Do you like me, Simon?’ She knows exactly how to work him, and I love her a little bit. Simon says yes and she’s through. In the booth, Michelle cries because she didn’t expect to be taken seriously and I love her a little bit more. [Michelle? You’ve seen She’s All That, right? Dye your hair brown, put it up in a bun, wear some giant smocks and a pair of geeky glasses, and then people will totally take you seriously. It worked for Rachael Leigh Cook. – Steve]

We get a coming soon. There’s still a midget with an engagement ring to come. We hear Simon say, ‘I’m going to suggest something and you’re not going to like it.’ Scott: ‘come back in a dress!’

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I sang for Simon Cowell, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

Transmission date: 3 September 2005

Such is our involvement in the show at this point that, despite not watching it in the same place, Joel and I do often text each other when something alarming happens during the show. Suffice to say that last night, a lot of texting took place, so outraged were we. If Joel will permit me to quote one of his texts, "so much rage for this entire episode. I don't envy you your recap job." Oddly enough, though, I was looking forward to it. I need to write this update just to get some closure on the seething hatred that enveloped me for large sections of this programme. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Previously, on The X Factor". Are you kidding me with this? Since when do we need "previously"s? I'm not summarising this bit, you can read the previous two entries if you want to know what happened so far.

Titles. Is it just me, or do they look kinda cheap? [It’s not just you. I think it’s something about the extremely limited colour palette - Joel.]

Kate welcomes us to The X Factor, and has mercifully forsaken that nasty belly-button revealing jacket this week. Some cameramen are clearly feeling our pain and have filmed her in a nice tight shot so that even if she chose to suddenly break out her navel, still we would be spared. We're "treated" to some preview shots, but why should I waste time talking about them now when I'll only have to repeat myself later?

We're in Belfast tonight. Kate explains the categories. Oh, Kate, we've been through this before. Seriously, there is so much filler in this show. I'm sure they could have edited it down to 45 minutes if it weren't such a mammoth exercise in greed. The judges appear. Simon has over 100 million album sales to his name, and probably a number of tight black sweaters not far short of that total. Louis is far more vaguely referred to as "one of the most successful managers in pop". Sharon is "the queen of darkness". Blah blah blah.

At the front of the queue is 36-year-old Londoner Brenda, who came to Belfast with her husband for the weekend and just happened to be staying in the same hotel that is being used for the auditions. It's like a fairytale! "He took me away for a dirty weekend, and it turns out that I'm gonna be singing," confessionalises Brenda. "It can't get better than that, can it?" And then she cackles, Rustie Lee-style. I think I love Brenda. A nervous Brenda enters the audition room. Simon asks Brenda if she lives in Belfast, and Brenda, bouncing off the walls with nervous energy, replies, "no, we came away here for a dirty weekend, and so far it's been quite successful." Brenda to win! "What a romantic," quips Simon. Brenda sings 'River Deep, Mountain High' in a voice that makes up for in melody what it lacks in subtlety. "You do everything with gusto, don't you?" says Simon. What, even the dirty weekend? I wonder if her husband knows that Gusto came along for the ride. "Yes...unfortunately," replies Brenda, and cackles. "You're great fun, and quite an okay singer," says Louis. "I don't think you're a star." Louis, the woman just told 8 million viewers that she's having a very successful dirty weekend with her husband. Heat magazine is going to adore this woman. I know that your experience of stars like Ronan Keating is that boring sells, but seriously - live a little here, 'kay? Sharon loves Brenda's confidence. It's a yes from Sharon, and a no from Louis. Simon agrees with...Sharon! Brenda screams with delight, and launches herself (breasts first) across the table at Simon to kiss him. She kisses Louis as well (you'll want to retract that when you see what he does later, Brenda), and Sharon too before running out into the corridor and almost knocking Kate off her feet. Brenda to win!

Our next hopeful is 24-year-old barmaid Gwen, who kind of looks how I imagine Shirley Manson will look on Garbage's 40th anniversary comeback tour. It's not pretty, people, let's just leave it at that. Gwen starts singing (if you can call it that) in a terrifying rasp that comes from the back of her throat and is clearly a severe case of nodules waiting to happen. "It sounds a bit like the Exorcist voice," muses Sharon. Hee! Gwen assures Sharon that this is her natural singing voice. "What would happen if you sang with Louis, and he chose a Barry Manilow song?" asks Simon. Loving the way he manages to slip a simultaneous burn onto Louis and Gwen at the same time here. This man's clearly a professional. Simon asks Gwen to sing the chorus of 'Can't Smile Without You'. Gwen rasps it back back at him. Simon declares it "hideous". "That's what The X Factor's about, being different," says Gwen. [Though before she completes her sentence it sounds like she means The X Factor is about being hideous. Which: fair point. - Joel] Because Steve Brookstein was such a breath of fresh air? Okay. Louis tells Gwen she has a strange voice. "Thank you!" perks Gwen. It's not a compliment, Louis informs her, but Gwen chooses to take it as one anyway. It's a no from everyone. In the X Factor confessional, Gwen tells us (well, rasps at us) that she's unique, and that there's only one of her. And I think we'll all sleep a little more soundly tonight with that reassurance (those of us who aren't in Belfast, anyway), so cheers Gwen.

A parade of nobodies tell us their dreams through the medium of the pod. One says that his dream is to a concert at Knebworth in front of 125,000 people. I can't imagine where he got an idea like that from. A plea to the producers: please automatically eliminate anyone who aspires to be Robbie Williams. One is more than enough. For the purposes of seguing, our final confessor is 17-year-old Aaron, who shall henceforth be known as Spongebob Squareface. He looks a bit like the bastard lovechild of Will Young and David Sneddon, and I hope I never have to use that phrase again, because I've already had three cold showers since thinking it and I still don't feel clean. Spongebob sings 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay' in an annoying, Will Young-impersonator type voice. It sounds so unnatural and affected that already I kind of hate him. He also appears to have stolen a lot of Will Young's performance mannerisms. Spongebob, a tip: it didn't work for Sam Nixon, and it won't work for you. Louis calls it "pleasant" and "nice", because he is an idiot. Sharon says it was "okay", but she wasn't "crazy about it", and I think she's being rather generous there. It's a no from Sharon, and Aaron (lazy of me, but it's quicker to type than "Spongebob") starts to cry, because he's so thoroughly prepared for the lifetime of struggle and rejection that is the life of an entertainer. It's a yes from Louis - see above re: idiot. Aaron begs Simon to say yes, saying that he will really try hard. Simon says no. "Please can I have another go?" asks Aaron. Again, Simon says no. Why would you ever want to give Simon Cowell a second opportunity to reject you? It's hard enough the first time. He won't return my calls and he doesn't sing me love songs, so I speak from experience here. Aaron, a skilled manipulator under his naive exterior, turns his focus to Sharon and begs for a reprieve. "Please don't say that", says the alleged queen of darkness, and I begin to think that the queen is dead. Long live the queen! Aaron continues to beg, and we segue into a montage of people who thought that begging shamelessly for a second chance was a good strategy. I hate them, uniformly. We return to Aaron, still begging Sharon to put him through. "Ask Simon, don't ask me!" says a frustrated Sharon. Oh, Sharon, he won't do that. I'm afraid he's an emotional rapist, because he believes that when you, as a woman, said no, you clearly wanted to say yes. True to form, Aaron does not beg Simon but continues to harass Sharon. Just fuck off, Aaron. "Sharon, can you not say yes?" he continues. Since when was stalking a crime? I'm yours, and you're not mine. I'm gonna be with you all the time! Since when was stalking a crime? "Why me?" squeals Sharon. An excellent question, Sharon. Like I said, because you're seen as the soft touch, and we're about to see why. "Sharon?" "Please, Aaron, don't say my name again!" begs Sharon, because saying Sharon five times in quick succession will raise the body of Den Watts from the grave and we all know what a disaster it was last time that happened. [Good thing her name’s not Candyman, really. - Joel] Aaron breaks down. "Please say yes and go home!" says Sharon, somewhat nonsensically. "Please say yes," begs Aaron, the stuck record. "I've said yes, now go home!" yells Sharon. Well, you did say yes, but you said it in the sort of context that made it impossible to understand what you were saying, Sharon. Not that I blame you, because I imagine that being stuck in a room with Aaron begging you to say yes will rob you of your verbal dexterity far sooner than the drugs that got Ozzy. "You're through!" says happy-yet-still-idiotic Louis. "Go away, Aaron, go away! Go on, yes, go home!" says Sharon, now not so much the queen of darkness as Good Witch Glenda. [It’s actually Glinda. God I’m gay. –Joel] I'm so disappointed in you, Sharon. You're not a badass. You're fired, and I'm replacing you with Janice Dickinson. She wouldn't take this kind of shit, she'd just throw his heart medication out of the window and have done with it. An emotional Aaron kisses Sharon goodbye, while a frustrated Simon bangs his fist on the desk. Sharon tugs at her hair and wails "why is it me? Why does everybody always beg me?" Er, because you're the one who changes her mind and lets people through because you're a total soft touch? [I hate Aaron. Especially because he probably had a decent voice if he’d sung normally rather than being Not Will Young. Plus he was doing that thing I really hate, where people sing in a lower register than they are comfortable with in the mistaken belief that the low notes are easier than the high ones. HATE. – Joel]

After the break, Kate welcomes us back to Belfast, and we're quickly introduced to sisters Sharon, Sinead, Marie and Laura, otherwise known as the Conway Sisters. They sing 'River Deep, Mountain High' in the queue. Was there a set list of songs to choose from or something? I thought they did away with that idea after the first series of Popstars when all the judges swore that they'd go on a killing spree the next time they heard '...Baby One More Time'. By the way, you know who these people are? They're the girls in the preview from the first episode whom I've been watching out for for ages, and had almost given up hope of seeing. I'm easily swayed, I know, but they sing Kylie Minogue's 'In Your Eyes' and I love that song. They sing, and while they harmonise well, it doesn't sound quite as good as it did in the short segment we saw in the first episode, so I'm kind of disappointed. Simon singles out Marie, who seems to be the lead singer in as much as one can ever be the lead singer in a vocal harmony group (and there's a phrase no one's used since One True Voice bit the big one, I'm sure). Louis thinks they have potential, but that they need grooming. And it's true, they do kind of look like B*Witched's younger sisters at this point, but there's hope for them. The Conway Sisters are put through, on the proviso that they think of a better name, I hope. A parade of winners, and once again we're not actually shown their auditions, which I'm sure pissed Joel off. [Ohhhh yes. – Joel]

21-year-old Philip, who is ruggedly handsome, [So hot. – Joel] sings 'Your Cheatin' Heart', which is a very interesting choice of song that doesn't go with his projected image at all. Simon loves it. Louis agrees with Simon and is pleasantly surprised. It's a yes from Simon and Louis. Sharon cackles and says that it's a "no" from her and that she just "didn't get it", but that it doesn't matter because he's through anyway. And I just want to take a second here to appreciate how gracious Sharon is in defeat, in comparison to Louis later on. HATE. Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself again. In the judge's break room (presumably), Louis says "if you're looking for a singer to make an album, he can do that". And not that I want to spend yet more of my valuable time pointing out just how much of an idiot Louis is, but of course that's what they're looking for, you bonehead. Like, seriously, what were you doing during all the strategy meetings during your time in the music industry? Singles make virtually no money. Oy. I despair. "I hope he's not in your category", Louis bitches at Sharon. Well, God help anyone who's in yours, Louis. What have you done for me lately?

Next? Is 19-year-old chef Thomas, who is wearing a T-shirt that says "Everyone is entitled to be stupid but you are abusing the privilege", because he wants everyone to know that he's witty enough to buy amusing T-shirts. I'm suddenly reminded of the "witty T-shirt" sketch from Smack the Pony, and it occurs to me that Thomas might be better suited to the "I'm a complete fucking twat" T-shirt from that sketch. Thomas sings 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin, and believe me when I say that he is all nasally up in his nasal. He's like the poster boy for adenoids. Simon informs Thomas with characteristic bluntness that Thomas can't sing. It's a no from all the judges, and Thomas looks rather nauseated suddenly. Outside, hilariously, Thomas stands prissily with his arms folded and pouts "they told me that I can't sing, and that I should stick to cooking". No harm, no foul, surely? I mean, they were right. As ever, the brunt of Thomas's anger is focused on Simon, despite the fact that, as Joel has pointed out on numerous occasions, if Simon is the only one who says no to you, you still get through, so if you're angry and rejected, it's the responsibility of Louis and/or Sharon as well. Going for the money shot, Thomas turns to the camera and says "Simon Cowell, read this top (and here he holds up the slogan) and *beep*ing weep. Whatever!" and makes the "whatever" gesture just to ram the point home. See? His T-shirt told us he was witty! [Fucking prissy queen. – Joel]

A montage of Simon chastising insane losers. Marry me, Simon! Montages are my friend, since they require almost no more effort than this.

A slow-mo shot of the judges leaving the audition room is accompanied by Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet', and for a second I wonder where they're going with this. I mean, I know that melody is moody and atmospheric, but it also kind of makes me think that they're going off for some tension-breaking sex, and I really don't want to think about that. Ever. [Though it is the ‘Dance of the Knights’ (I think it’s called that) which is all combative. Oooh! And it was used on an advert for Chanel’s Egoiste years ago ‘Egoiste! Egoiste! You’re SUCH an egoiste!’ so maybe they’re digging at Simon. – Joel]Simon is moody because they have been deluged by crap contestants and he feels that his time is being wasted. Yes, Simon, but you're being paid handsomely for it, so pipe down. You wasted our time with all that filler at the start of the show and we didn't get any kind of recompense for that, did we?

The next contestant is 32-year-old Spaniard Penelope Gomez, who is clearly modelling herself on Penelope Cruz. Penotlope Cruz enters the room and tells the judges that she is from "Barthelona", which Sharon takes great joy in repeating in Louis's ear. Ew. Penotlope sings 'Over The Rainbow' in a thick Spanish accent and is barely three words in before Louis turns an unattractive shade of beetroot and starts laughing, which sets Sharon off as well. "What's the problem?" asks Simon. Louis takes a few seconds to collect himself and asks Penotlope (who, to her credit, is taking the whole thing very well and laughing along with them, and could clearly teach the other contestants a few things about humility, Aaron) to begin again. This time, she barely gets a syllable into the song before Sharon collapses in a fit of giggles. Simon (who is keeping his shit together, but I suspect just barely) tells Penotlope to sing to him and to ignore the others. She can't, however, because Sharon is bent double laughing and is actually clinging to Louis for support. Sharon gets it together, and they tell Penotlope to start again. "It's a sad song!" chastises Simon of Sharon. This time, however, it's Simon who cracks first, a record-breaking three lines in. Sharon cackles, and then descends into this bizarre kind of laugh that sounds a bit like someone punching a huge ball of plasticine in a confined space. Seriously, it's so hard to describe to someone who hasn't witnessed it. Louis, in a desperate attempt to save the situation, asks Penotlope if she has another song that she can sing, and she opts for 'Fields of Gold', one of Louis's favourites (as anyone who saw Nadine sing it in Popstars: The Rivals will already be aware of). Sharon, however, can't stop laughing and ends up under the table, protesting classily "I'm going to pee myself in a minute!" Hee. Penotlope almost makes it to the end of the first verse before Sharon's off again, and to be fair to everyone involved, she does have a nice voice, but the strength of her accent really does make the songs sound kind of odd. Simon decides that enough is enough, and asks Sharon for a verdict. Sharon is almost crying at this point and can't answer, so Simon hops to Louis, who immediately answers "yes!" "What?" says an incredulous Simon. "It's different," explains Louis. "I was entertained." Oh, Louis. You really don't understand the point of this show, do you? I'm totally having your job next series. It's going to be such an awesome line-up of judges: me, Simon and Janice Dickinson. Book your tickets early, kids! It's a yes from Sharon. The hell? "Oh, for goodness' sake," says Simon. He decides to escort Penotlope from the room before anything else totally lacking in sense can happen. Meanwhile, Sharon laughs in a manner reminiscent of the now-legendary "Sing 'em a song, Della!" moment. Simon returns to the desk and there's this awesome "uh oh, daddy's home" look on Sharon's face. "You can't put her through to the next round! Did nobody explain what the rules of the competition are this year?" Ooh, I know! Simon! Pick me! Kate told us them at the beginning of the episode. Do I get a prize? Outside, Penotlope explains to Kate, "Louis and Sharon, they couldn't stop laugh, (something I couldn't make out), they have great fun, but I don't know is good or bad!" Kate doesn't understand a word of it, but hugs her anyway. I'm starting to like Kate Thornton. This is so, so wrong. Back in the audition room, Simon and Louis go for a break, and a member of the production staff hands Sharon a tissue. Munching on a pastry, Simon chuckles, "I'm resigning."

After the break, we're in Birmingham. Sharon's dogs join the audition panel. Our first auditionee is Keith, who makes tractors. His voice makes Sharon's dogs howl, and that's really all I need to say about Keith. We then get a montage of people who make the dogs howl. Hee! Can I suggest that they make Sharon's dogs the preliminary judging panel next year? They'd save themselves a lot of time. I'm sure they wouldn't have let Chico through. The dogs are sent away. Boo! The next contestant is 46-year-old vicar Tony, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Tony Blair. Has he returned, incognito, after his brush with the cameras in Manchester? The prime minister tells us that singing is as important to him as breathing. He sings 'Time To Say Goodbye' (or 'Con Te Partiro', if you prefer) in a deep, operatic voice. Louis says yes, complete with hallelujah sound effect. Simon says no. Sharon says "I think you could convert me." Hee! I would dearly pay to see Sharon and Ozzy in church - almost as much as I would pay to see Kelly and Jack safely ensconced in Hell. It's a "yes" from Sharon. [Simon said no on the grounds that Tony was a good amateur. I’m sure if I knew enough about opera I could criticise Tony’s voice into next week, but in terms of selling albums to women in twin-sets from Godalming, they might have struck gold here. – Joel] [I think Simon wasn't bothered because he's probably not going to get the '25 and Over' group a second time, and he's already got someone who fills that niche rather nicely in our friend Mr Brookstein. - Steve]

29-year-old cab driver Aaron is next (another Aaron! And, spookily, he kind of looks how Aaron from poor-defunct-and-so-very-gay boyband V might look in ten years' time). He's here to provide a better future for his family. [He has exactly the same haircut as his wife. Its scares me. – Joel] He informs us ungrammatically that this is what he "dream[s] of aspiring to". That's a tautology, Aaron. See me after class. He sings Enrique Iglesias's 'Hero', a song which I do not care for, but he sings it well, if a little too close to the original for my liking. Sharon does not like his jeans. Aaron is put through to the next round, and at this point I wonder what happens to all the people who go through. You never see them being told when or where the next round is taking place, do you? I'm guessing some poor sod has to ring them all at a later date. Rather them than me. Aaron drives his family home in his cab. Awww. [Louis talks about giving Aaron a makeover, and says ‘short blond hair, smart suit.’ Well I think it’s a makeover – he might be telling the gang about the rent boy he’s got lined up for the evening. – Joel]

Our final contestant in Birmingham today is 43-year-old dinner lady Laurie, whose childhood dreams of stardom were put on hold by a crippling form of arthritis (she's totally Verity, everyone!) but is back for another shot. She tells the camera tearfully that it's been a struggle, and she will regret this later. She tells her story to the judges and thanks them for giving the "oldies" another go. She sings 'Unbreak My Heart', and it's kind of rough around the edges, but there is potential there, and far worse people have been put through. [Though her breathing technique is absolutely horrible. Huge gasping intakes of breath before every line. – Joel] Judging by her vocal, Louis would have to say no. Sharon likes Laurie, and says yes. Simon thinks nerves got the better of Laurie, who protests "don't say no, I've got through worse than this". Oh don't hate the player, Laurie, hate the game! Simon judges purely on what he heard...and it's a yes! Laurie is ecstatic. Laurie is released into the bosom of her family, who congratulate her. "You went for the sob story!" says Louis back in the audition room. I will come back to this. Kate voices over that Sharon and Louis are leaving to go home, and that Louis can't resist a final word: he announces to Laurie's family that "this is a talent show. We love her. Her voice let her down." Oh. No. He. Didn't! There is a totally awesome silence as everyone struggles to digest the sheer malice of such a remark. Louis, loving his little moment of limelight at other people's expense because he has no redeeming features whatsoever, continues, "they love a sob story!" This from the man of "This is his dream! I'm not going to take that away from him!" Physician? Heal thyself. "That's not fair!" rebukes Sharon. "But it's true!" says Louis, aiming for 'charming' but missing the slip road and taking a detour via 'odious'. Laurie, clearly angry at being humiliated in front of her family, but handling herself with dignity (unlike Louis), replies "I have to prove then that it's not about the sob story." Bravo! Sharon continues, "Louis, I love you, but that's out of order" and walks off, shaking her head. Louis continues his quest to ensure that the public hates him (as if inflicting Westlife on us weren't enough to guarantee that for a lifetime) by oozing "Sharon, are you not my friend anymore?" as he waddles after her. HATE.

After the break, we're still in Birmingham, and we're treated to a brief montage of yeses. [Was this where we saw the three girls in matching polka dot dresses? Cos they must have had some awesome voices on them given that Simon, rightly, likes to reject people on image. - Joel] Brothers Andy and Carl, also known as Journey South (change the name, change the name, change the name) [Word. It sounds like an oral sex roadtrip porno. – Joel] sing 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' quite nicely, I think - not my cup of tea. Simon singles out Carl for praise, but reminds them that there is supposed to be fun in what they do and that they need to lighten up a bit. Louis likes Carl's image, possibly because Carl is the spit of Bryan McFadden in the early days of Westlife. The judges are all impressed, however, and put them through. "I think you did good," says Simon. No, Simon, they did well. Oooh, grammar causes divorce! Best friends Shaz and Az are the next duo to face the judges, and without wishing to start rumours, I think this is one boy-girl friendship where it's clear that the prospect of sex has never been an issue likely to interfere. I'm just sayin'. They sing 'Day By Day', from some musical which I will have to look up later (which turned out to be Godspell, which is what I thought. I know! A gay who knows his musicals - would you credit it?). It's evident from this that Az is the luggage, because Shaz has a nice voice and Az...not so much. Az starts the begging, and Louis responds "you are really, really bad. Have you ever listened to yourself back?" Sharon is outraged: "Louis, don't you start too!" Louis says, "you have no talent". "He's got a nice personality!" says Sharon, which...well, yes, but not the same thing, is it? "He hasn't got any talent!" protests Louis, and I'd be willing to agree with him if he hadn't been so unjustifiably horrendous in front of Laurie earlier. "What were you drinking last night?" demands Sharon. "Too much," mutters Simon. Hee! Oh Simon, let me take you away from all this. Some more begging. "As a group, it's a 100%, categoric no" says Simon. Shaz should totally audition on her own, though, is the subtext here. After they leave, Sharon takes Louis to task, but he just chuckles in his gnomelike way.

Kate introduces a montage where "the loveable Louis Walsh" turns bad. Since when was he "loveable"? I mean, he's not normally this much of a pain in the ass, I grant you, but on my list of loveable people, Louis Walsh features some way below Margaret Thatcher, Ann Widdecombe and Kelly Osbourne. Montage, montage, montage, cunt, cunt, cunt. You can try to convince me that he's a badass as much as you want, but I ain't falling for it. Badasses are intelligent and witty. Louis is just a poisonous little toad.

16-year-old performing arts student Charlotte is convinced she has what it takes. "You're the Whitney Houston diva, aren't you?" asks the woman who I can only assume is Charlotte's mum. "Do you sing a lot for your mum and dad?" asks Kate. Charlotte gets as far as a "yes" before she's interrupted by "she goes to stage school". And I think we've just found our pushy mother of the week. [Year. – Joel] Charlotte's dream is to be a singer. "She is the X Factor! She's not just got it, she is the X Factor!" says her proud mum. And...we'll just see how that goes, shall we? Charlotte sings 'One Moment In Time' for the judges, and it's squeaky and tuneless and awful and wobbly. Bad, bad, bad. Louis starts laughing, and Simon stops her. "Behave," warns Sharon. "No, it was painful!" smugs Louis. Simon explains, tactfully I might add, to Charlotte that to sing a Whitney Houston song sets a high standard to live up to, and just makes it all the more obvious that she doesn't have a good singing voice. Sharon tries to cushion the blow: "You've got a very delicate little voice. You sound like a kitten." "Being strangled," adds Louis. Lalalala. I've decided that I'm going to ignore Louis, in the hope that it will eventually make him fade out of existence. "It was painful!" gloats Louis. "Ohhh, stop it!" says a clearly displeased Sharon. "Sharon, I've got to say he's right," says Simon. Who's right, Simon? There are only two judges, aren't there? Charlotte tries to explain herself, breaking down: "I've been...I just...wanted it so badly." [I really don’t get it all. How can people with such terrible, terrible singing voices have this desperate burning desire to be a singer? Much as I want to be ghetto fabulous – I really, really do, y’all – I’m self-aware enough to realise that I’m never going to be a gangsta rapper. – Joel] Sharon's maternal instincts kick in and she gets up from her seat and puts her arm around Charlotte. "Don't take this abuse, because you don't have to, missus." And I'm kind of liking Sharon here. I don't always agree with her, and she lost a lot of points in the Aaron and Penotlope incidents, and indeed Charlotte shouldn't have been there in the first place, but frankly I'll take anyone's side if it means I'm disagreeing with Louis. Sharon escorts Charlotte from the room, and shoots Louis a Look. At the door, Sharon passes Charlotte back to her mother with a "take care". Simon looks embarrassed and unhappy with the whole situation. Charlotte cries to the camera about the fact that the judges laughed in her face, and to be honest, the blame here I suspect lies with Pushy Stage Mother. Pushy SMother for short. Sharon returns to the audition room, and Louis smirks "have I lost a friend, Sharon?" for the second time this episode because he's too stupid to think of anything else to say in this situation. "Don't even say that word, 'friend'," fumes Sharon. "She's sixteen." "And she's out of tune," replies Louis. Outside, Pushy SMother makes things worse by saying "Charlotte, you can sing, you know you can sing." Quiet, Pushy SMother! Sharon remonstrates with Louis: "I don't like doing this with you like that! It's uncomfortable for me!" Sharon: "She's sixteen." Louis: "She's deluded." Sharon: "Deluded?! Why?" Louis: "Because she's dreadful!" And then, there's this truly, truly awesome moment where Louis totally sets himself up for what happens next, and I am so happy about it. Sharon reaches out for a glass of Coke and goes to drink it. Her hand is halfway up to her mouth when Louis squeals "Don't! Don't throw it at me, don't!" It makes me wonder exactly what kind of torture Sharon has exacted on Louis in the past, since that was awfully jumpy of him, considering that her arm was moving in entirely the wrong direction to throw it at him. Sharon pauses with the drink halfway to her lips, the idea forming in her head. "I like this shirt!" protests Louis. It's fugly, Louis, and you know it. "Don't do that!" Louis begs, and it looks like Sharon's had enough of begging, because with a quick flick of her wrist, she throws the Coke all over Louis. My video of this is a little worn, since I had to watch that over and over and over again. Can this happen every episode? Maybe even after every audition? [Can the beaker contain sulphuric acid? – Joel] Sharon goes out for some air. "What is wrong with her?" asks Louis. Sharon goes out to look for Charlotte, who is already leaving. In the judge's room after the auditions, Sharon vents: "Everybody's pushing it, pushing it!" They're pushing it real good! "These are people. I'm serious!" An unrepentant Louis says "that girl was so, so bad." Sharon: "So what? So what? She deserves to go home, and...you've destroyed her. I didn't sign up for this." As an X Factor judge, or as the Queen of Darkness? "He gets away with it," Louis shouts, bringing Simon into the argument. "That's his schtick," replies Sharon. "He's Simon, you're Louis." And also, Simon knows when to hit out and when to pull back. Louis hasn't mastered that yet, not by a long shot. "Did he apologise?" asks Simon later, sitting with Sharon some distance from Louis. "No. What's happened?" asks Sharon. "It's like you've gone Mr Nice and he's gone Mr Mean." Clearly Simon and Louis were having an argument the night before, and were both touching some kind of magic artefact when they screamed "I wish I could change places with you!" and then look what happened. Be careful with artefacts, kids. [You see? This season is ALL about the contestants, and not at all about the judges and their infighting, just like they promised. Gah. – Joel]

Coming soon: more losers who I hope will be Joel's responsibility. [Including the girl from the ‘bad’ section of Kate’s explanation of the 16-24 category, so we already know how that one turns out. Someone teach the editing team how to do teasers. – Joel] See you next week!