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?


Anonymous said...

I thought Sharon said Josh Stone as well...

Anonymous said...

I have never watched this programme, but I can pretend I have because I read this every week. Yay!

Stiletto and Eskimo Blonde would be my girlband names if I were a girl, in a band, and could sing.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog - I can now give up my saturday struggle with the video, and happily go out, safe in the knowledge I will not miss a minute of X Factor.

I soooo hope Simon gets groups as would be v amusing, and that they prove to be rubbish, but he STILL wins over Louis’ act, which was actually better…just like last year, really...