Tonight, I will be introducing some more categories for an X-Factor drinking game. You know the rules – when a cliché for the show appears, a shot must be downed. I’m glad I didn’t actually perform this tonight, or I’d be clutching the toilet bowl, cursing God for giving me two kidneys but only one liver. Apparently, we’re pressed for time, as the moody montage of black clothes and turned heads flashes by without so much as a by-your-leave. We are informed that ‘your Saturday night starts here’ and I think that I’ll be the judge of that thankyouverymuch. Apparently tonight’s X-Factor is being broadcast live from the Fifties, judging by Kate’s dress, which is horrible. (Drink!) It’s lemon yellow, and ruffly, strapless, with an enormous bell skirt and a red sash at the waist. She looks like pudding. She introduces the judges and the contestants and as the audience hollers and wails and generally orgasms over the mere existence of some people on a stage, I notice that Kate’s autocue is in the middle of the audience and about fifteen feet across. I just figured they’d have put it to Louis’s right, off camera, but you live and learn. Anyhoo. Sharon’s lot are up first and she says ‘What better way to start the show than with Brenda?’, which is kind of dumb. I like Brenda lots, but I can think of things I’d rather see. Strippers, for example. Or Louis Walsh being eaten alive by fire ants. But I guess as this is a family show (though perhaps not a family recap), Brenda’s as good as any. She talks to camera about how Simon compared her to Shirley Valentine, and then we learn that she’s lost one and a half stone since entering the contest. Brenda tells us that the song she’s singing has an 11-second note at the end, and she hopes her lungs are big enough. [And cackles, as usual. Brenda and Rustie Lee – separated at birth. – Steve] The song in question is ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ and she pretty much rocks it. She struggles a bit in the middle where it speeds up, and her phrasing there isn’t entirely clear, but in terms of hitting the notes and injecting it with energy she does really well. She breaks into a little dance at one point (for dance read ‘kick her leg out and splays her arms’) and the audience woohoos. The long note at the end she hits perfectly, but she certainly does not hold it for 11 seconds. I mean, that’s a hell of a long time and I know I couldn’t do it, but don’t draw attention to the fact and then not deliver. Judges’ comments: Simon says to Sharon: ‘your artists are supposed to screw up at this point!’ He tells Brenda it’s her best performance yet and, ‘now I’m feeling depressed.’ Louis says that it was energetic and fantastic, and that she could have a hit with it. (Drink!) Sharon says it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Simon makes a joke I miss, and Sharon says ‘no, I pluck those!’ In the course of her comments, Sharon mentions her Favourite Expert award. (Drink!) [Seriously. Next week I almost expect her not to turn up at all, and just to have her National TV Award sat there in her chair instead. – Steve] Brenda says that she knew the song would be a challenge and was praying ‘lungs open up and help me!’
Next! Louis says, ‘He’s young, he’s cool, it’s Nicholas.’ They’re really not putting much effort into these introductions any more, are they? [I’m fairly sure he’s used that intro for Nicholas at least twice by now, so no. – Steve] ‘They’re some girls. The Conway Sisters!’ ‘He’s a man. Andy!’ ‘They breathe oxygen – it’s Journey South!’ Apparently, when Nicholas was a kid, his parents bought him a karaoke machine and he used it so much he broke it. He says singing is what he’s ‘destined to do’ and I hate him a bit. Seriously, shut up about destiny. It’s what you want to do. Not the same. In the VT, Louis says ‘I’ve given Nicholas a really tough song this week’. This difficult song is ‘I Want You Back’ by the Jackson 5. As expected, Nicholas straps his falsetto on and is really fucking dreadful. He’s wearing the NICHOLAS rhinestone belt. (Three weeks in a row – I think that deserves a Drink!, don’t you?). You can barely hear him over the music. He sounds bored out of his mind and has no energy at all. He does a little spazzy dance. (Spellcheck wants that to be ‘snazzy.’ No, Word, it was not snazzy. It was definitely spazzy.) The high-pitched ‘All I neeeed!’ at the end doesn’t get a ‘woo!’ from the audience, and as we’ve established that these people will cheer for Brenda kicking her leg out and for Andy getting off a stool, I think that indicates just how poor this performance is. Even the audience loons don’t care. Sharon says that she’s never heard that song sung in a low register, and that it didn’t really work. She asks Nicholas if he chose it himself and he says, firmly and a little too quickly, that he did. Louis then jumps in and says that they chose it together. This despite the fact that Louis JUST SAID in the VT that he’d given Nicholas a difficult song, which to my mind totally precludes Nicholas’s participation in choosing. Louis, are you really still proceeding with that blatant lie? Your cover was already blown on this subject so give up. Besides which, even if they do choose the songs together, or if Nicholas suggested this song, then Louis should really be good enough at his job to advise against it. Either way, he just looks unprofessional. Sharon says that she likes Nicholas, but he’s not really nailed any of the songs he’s had, and that she’s ‘sure it’s Louis’s fault.’ [Hee. – Steve] Simon says that Sharon was being polite, and that it was terrible. Louis tries to jump in and gets a ‘Shut it Louis!’ from Simon, who goes on to say that Nicholas has great potential, but that ‘Louis is killing you in this competition.’ In response to the comments, Nicholas thanks them and says ‘I’ll take it on board.’ (Drink!)
Kate tells us that coming up are, well, the rest of the contestants, and someone called Joanie South, whoever she may be. Added to the prizes for the competition are X-Factor DVDs. Which: ow, my ears, the sound of barrels being scraped is deafening. [I thought it was Nicholas doing a quick reprise. They sound very much alike – screechy and painful. – Steve] Adverts. Is it really a good idea to advertise Craig David’s album in this show, thereby reminding us just how totally surplus to requirements Nicholas is? There’s a trailer for The Bill, with the tagline ‘Real Crime. Real Close.’ Well, apart from the fact that it’s, you know, fictional crime. On my TV. We come back and see that Myleene Klass is in the audience. Andy’s next and he says ‘I’ve worked so hard to live up to expectations.’ Scott: ‘You were a bin man til you were 40, you’re not living up to ANY expectations.’ Andy’s mum died (this week? another week? it’s not clear) and he’s been back in Grenada arranging things, but came back to the competition. I’m going to burn in hell for being a horrible cynic, but he didn’t seem particularly upset, and they were totally milking this. That doesn’t stop his mum’s death being incredibly sad for him, but if they’re going to use it so blatantly, then I’m going to comment on it in the same fashion. He sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and my word it’s boring. It is, in fact, boooooooooooooring. The intro goes on and on. And on. Then when it finally goes up a notch, Andy goes ‘Woah! C’mon!’ and it’s totally forced. You don’t get to do that, Not King Cole. In what seems to be a fairly common thing in this contest, the speed’s wrong – it’s gained half a beat. Towards the end he starts to make up the tune and sing his own one, which always fucks me off. Grace notes are one thing but don’t just start making it up. Louis says that ‘everybody likes you!’ Speak for yourself, leprechaun. [I vote we start a petition. People who don’t like Andy need to have their voices heard! – Steve] Simon says that Andy’s a grown-up who takes criticism well, (really?), and that he gave it 1000%. (Drink!) Sharon says that Mrs O. is very proud of him, and mentions her judging award. (Drink!) Kate talks to Andy about how he’s had a tough week, and he says that it was. He starts talking about how his fans have been a help. Fans, already? Yeah, this guy’s totally humble. Dick. His eyes are going side to side as he says it, and given what I noted above about Kate’s massive autocue, I swear that he’s reading his response.
Next up, Louis tells us it’s a ‘young girl with a great smile, it’s Chin Eye.’ Great as in massive, yes? And for god’s sake, learn to pronounce the poor girl’s name. It’s not difficult: there’s a soft ‘ch’, like in chassis, which is what you were using, and was wrong. There’s a hard ‘ch’, like in ‘church’, and at least you’ve got that bit right now, but it doesn’t necessitate splitting the syllables of her name into two entirely separate words. Goon. She’s wearing a velour bolero jacket with studs on it and singing Elvis Presley’s ‘You Are Always On My Mind.’ Yeah, well done Louis. Make Chenai compete with Elvis. That’ll work. It doesn’t. Her phrasing is still flabby and terrible, (all ‘satithfied’, and ‘always on mamind’) and the song has been slowed down too much, which is giving her trouble. It’s a ballad, yes, but it’s not a fucking funeral march. A couple of times, Chenai breaks out the high notes, and these are much clearer and more successful. It makes me wonder if she’s singing too low for herself, but surely the vocal coaches would have picked up on that? It’s really not very good at all. Sharon says that it’s time for Chenai to act like a young girl, because she’s got a lovely voice and needs to show some personality. Simon compares Chenai to a Chinese takeaway, in that you’re left wanting more and there’s nothing memorable about it, pleasant though it may be at the time. [I didn’t really get that analogy, at least not the way he described it. I do agree that Chenai is like a Chinese takeaway in that she leaves me feeling uncomfortable and nauseated. – Steve] He says that she wasn’t fun and energetic, and that it kind of put him to sleep. Louis says that she made the song her own (Drink!) and that the public will like her (Drink!). Chenai says something about the fact that she can’t have been that boring because Simon wasn’t dropping off, and then Louis says that Simon is ‘breaking in his new teeth.’ This seems to be a complete non sequitur, but Simon laughs and laughs and laughs, so I guess I missed the joke. Chenai says she doesn’t know what to make of the takeaway comment. Scott: ‘It’s not a compliment! I know Chinese takeaway is quite posh where you come from…’ Kate says ‘Do you fancy a takeaway?’ and makes it sound really sexual, even though she’s just exhorting us to vote for Chenai.
Next up is Chico. He says that he’s been preparing physically (close up of his tits on a treadmill) and voice-wise. Sharon says that ‘if you’re going out for a night’s entertainment, who would you buy a ticket for?’ Maria, actually. But even if I were to answer ‘Chico’, the fact remains that that is not the point of this competition. You want to sell records, and particularly albums, because singles make no money. Chico will never be more than a novelty act. He might do well doing PAs in nightclubs, and could possibly have one hit single with a ‘vida loca’ cover, but he will never, ever sell albums. Chico sings Prince’s ‘Kiss’, and is trying to do a Prince? Impression? Maybe? Because he’s all high-pitched. Scott: ‘What, has he got a cold?’ He makes kissy noises on the break between ‘your extra time and your…Kiss!’ Second verse he breaks out the growls, and the dancing. Even Chico’s dancing, which is pretty much all he’s got, isn’t really working this week. I think Phillip must have coughed up a cloud of spores as he left last week, and infected them all with Twitchy Plague. It’s the only explanation. Anyway, you can imagine this performance, I’m sure. At the end, Chico sings ‘kiss’ and sounds like a goat. Louis says that Chico’s getting better every week. Which: what? Simon says that ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me, I’m liking you!’ He seems genuinely quite freaked out. The first half was horrible (a predictable ‘OI!’ from Sharon, who, like Louis, cannot take any criticism of her acts, even if it’s in the framework of praise, and a ‘Get real!’ from Simon in response), but Simon apologises for what he said early in the competition, and is glad Chico’s there. Kate says ‘you’ve been waiting for those words to spill from their lips.’ Stop making stuff sexual, Kate! Chico is extremely humble, and says ‘let the flabbergastedness continue!’. He apologises for not taking criticism well earlier in the competition, (which I think he did, generally), and seems to genuinely mean it. He says that the whole experience has been really rewarding, but then ruins all the good will that he’s garnered from me by saying ‘It’s Chico time!’ Scott likens the fact that we both seem to find ourselves liking Chico a little bit to the Jade Goody effect, and it’s true. So egregiously awful, but so good-natured you can’t hold it against them. [It’s true. Then again, I watched this on video and fast-forwarded through his entire performance, which I find to be the viewing method of choice for maximum enjoyment of Chico. – Steve]
Next up are Journey South. Simon says that they’re up with no gimmicks, no choirs, no backing track. Performing acoustically IS a gimmick, Simon. They sing ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’ Just the two of them on stools, with a guitar. Long-blonde-hair-chip-eyes one starts off (I refuse to learn which one is which), and just as I wonder how he’ll manage the ‘sun rose in your eyes’ sustained note on ‘eyes’, he chickens out and makes a little run out of it, but it’s quite successful. It pains me to admit, but they really are pretty good. I’m sure Steve will disagree. [I have a Pavlovian reaction to people sitting on stools playing guitars that makes me fall asleep, so I don’t really remember anything about this performance. – Steve] Sharon says that they took a risk and did extremely well, and that ‘it’s the hardest song to cover’. The hardest? Out of all the thousands upon thousands of songs in the world? What a strange thing to say. Louis says ‘you’ve proved to me you’ve got real, real talent.’ Simon says that he’d rather someone left the competition taking a risk than played it safe, and besides that the risk paid off and they proved they’re really good singers. I do think it worked. They’ve got good voices, and harmonise well, when they’re not trying to prove that they’re ‘cred’ by singing U2 songs, and having to bellow to be heard over the backing track. More low-key stuff from Journey South in future, please.
Strangely, Maria is towards the end of the contest again. Not that I mind, because everything that helps her is good in my book. She’s taking Simon’s advice and singing a contemporary song. It’s a huge risk and she prays she can pull it off. She’s wearing a black minidress, and looks hot as ever. [Hell yeah. When she walked on at the beginning of the show, I found myself shouting “Fucking hell, Maria!” somewhat involuntarily. I knew she had fantastic boobs, but tonight I realised her legs are awesome to. If she weren’t married, and I weren’t gay…well, still nothing would happen, but you get the idea. – Steve] She’s singing James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’. Dear god I hate this song. Haaaaaaate. Hate. And, lord, even Maria can’t make it good. Her voice is still beautiful, and she’s still gorgeous, but I don’t like this performance that much. She’s hard to hear over the backing track, and at the end a load of backing vocals come in and she’s even harder to hear. This song kind of leaves her stranded – there’s nothing she can do with it. Apparently, the judges disagree with me though. Louis says that she was by far the best last week, and she came back just as good. She made the song her own (Drink!) and deserves a record deal (Drink!). Simon says that not only was it her best performance to date, it was the best of the night. He believes she’d have a hit record with it. (Drink!) Sharon says that it was totally effortless (which is true) and great. Simon brings in what Girls Aloud said in the papers about there being no talent in the show, and challenges them to come and sing live on the show next week if they’re so great. Louis looks shocked, and throws his hands up, and kinda looks like he’s got an ice-lolly rammed up his rear-end. That Girls Aloud thing makes me mad. You CAME from a reality audition show, girls, what gives you the right to criticise them? I think their comments were aimed at Chico more than anyone else, but hello? Maria? Brenda? Shayne (some weeks) and Andy (some weeks)? Complete lack of awareness. But that said, they won the show because they can all sing, so they could certainly cope with coming on and singing live. It’s all very weird. [My $0.02 here – it was ill-advised of Girls Aloud to make those comments, even if to some extent I do see where they’re coming from. But Simon really needs to pull that Girls Aloud-sized bug out of his ass and accept that there is a successful and critically-acclaimed act out there who launched off the back of a reality TV show that he had nothing to do with. Also, Simon, there’s absolutely no point asking Louis to give a message to them; I believe he saw them last in December 2002. – Steve] Maria is completely overwhelmed and thanks the judges lots and says she’s having such a great time.
Shayne is a young guy from Manchester. (Louis mentions contestant’s home - drink!) The VT is totally not worth recapping, other than to mention that Shayne really does have the gayest speaking voice I’ve ever heard. He comes out wearing a stripey blazer and jeans. You’re not Will Young yet, dude. I eventually realise he’s singing ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’, and I swear that it is the most boring song in the entire history of music. Plodding dirge of hell. He sings well enough, avoiding getting nasally up in his nasal for the most part, but there are points where he warbles like a cartoon bluebird and a point where he tries and fails to howl like Prince. It’s difficult to judge, though, because the song is so unbelievably boring. Simon says that Shayne is potentially a great artist, but that you can’t put diesel in a Ferrari, and Louis is giving him terrible songs. Louis says, ‘it’s a talent contest, not a song contest!’, all pleased with himself. And it’s like, yes, but it’s a contest that involves singing. And they sing…songs? So the songs are kind of relevant. Sharon says, ‘Oh Louis, please’ and Simon calls him obnoxious. Simon tells Shayne to ‘plead with Idiot-face to give you a good song’ next week. Hee! Idiot-face. [I like that the audience cheered at that. I hope there’s a National TV Award next year of “Most Popular TV Idiot-Face”. Louis will be a shoo-in. – Steve] Shayne apologises if he seemed to have a bad attitude last week, but then proceeds to have a bad attitude by saying ‘your compliments only make me better’ and simpering. No, Shayne. Their criticisms in general are what you use to work on, not just the compliments. I’m starting to want to smack Shayne in the face. Uppity little bastard. Simon says that Shayne hit the bullseye two weeks ago, and has to do so again. Louis says that he will, and Sharon shouts ‘not with your bloody songs!’, which was kind of awesome.
Oh thank god, only one more performance. Blah blah Conways blah about they’ve got a challenging song. They’ve barely got a personality between the four of them, so I can’t be bothered to recap what they say. [Simon really seems to hate them; he’s always so dismissive when he introduces them. – Steve] They’re still helping River Island and Monsoon make a fortune. They’re singing that ‘One Voice’ song, about ‘one voice, singing in the darkness’ If I took my job seriously I’d google it, but I don’t think I can be bothered. I don’t get paid to do this. They’ve made up Marie very prettily, but it’s a shame about her snaggle teeth. The audience has been given glowsticks to wave because it’s one of those songs. Oh, it’s really not very good. There’s a big bit in the middle where they just go badadadadada lalalalalala bahdadadada and…just…no. They really don’t have the power to do this song. Their voices are lovely, when they’re being low-key, but when they try and go for these really big songs it just doesn’t work, and they end up sounding a bit screechy. Towards the end, a fucking 40-person choir comes out and joins them. SIMON! You said about half an hour ago that a choir was a gimmick, and now you’re using one! Bad man. I can’t really fault him though – he knows that the Conways are never going to win this show, so he’s pulling out the stops to get them as far as he can. It’s not terrible, tactically, but he could have saved it for later. It gets better when the choir comes in, mainly because you can’t hear the girls so much. Louis says to the girls that ‘we’re from the same country’ (Drink!), and that he likes them, but it was an ‘awful, awful song. Bad song. Bad mentor, actually’ and once again, looks all pleased with himself. It’s so glaringly obvious that it’s a direct response to Simon and Sharon slagging off his song choices a moment before that it’s just funny. Vile little cunt. Sharon said she prefers it when the girls do little folky songs, and that this one was like a Broadway song that she couldn’t sing along to. [I really, really want Sharon to show up wasted one week and start singing along to everyone’s performances. – Steve] Simon says that they gave it 1000% (Drink!), but unless he’s honest the audience won’t respect him or the Conways. So he tells them it didn’t quite work, and fell apart in the middle. Louis and Sharon pounce on this, saying ‘You’re criticising yourself. You chose the song. You’re criticising YOURSELF!!’ Yes, of course he is. He just said as much and because he’s good at his job he can recognise when things he tried didn’t quite work. The Conways are a little pissed off, this time, because they tried their best, really really hard, but it still wasn’t enough for Simon. I can understand why they’re annoyed, but stop trying and start being good.
Recaps of performances, numbers, you’ve got an hour to vote. You know this bit.
Sorry, but I can’t do this is any detail, it’s just not worth it. Safe are The Conway Sisters. Brenda. Then a close-up of Nicholas’s sweaty scalp, shining through his cornrows. Journey South. Maria. Andy. Then, in a shocking break with convention, Kate goes to the ad break when there are four people left. Which is to say, Chico and all of Louis’s acts. HAHAHAHA!! Shayne is definitely safe. This is great – it means that someone shit is definitely going home. Finally safe is…Chico! Hah! How strange. Simon says that he’s going to judge it solely on the performances that they give right now. Sharon says it’s a great chance to sing again. What? I might have missed something, there. Nicholas sings first. He’s still terrible and flat, but seems to be delivering it with a little bit more energy. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chenai. I stayed sat down. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. [You scab. I totally always do what Kate tells me. – Steve] I think she was a bit better the second time. Not great, but she just seemed to be enjoying it more. So, Nicholas was awful, and Chenai was merely bad. Sharon is sending Nicholas home. Simon says Chenai was better in the performances just then, but Nicholas has better prospects. Then, completely giving the lie to what he said about three minutes ago, he sends Chenai home, despite the fact that her performance was better. This also has the advantage of making Louis decide, which was totally part of Simon’s thinking. Louis goes on about how difficult it is and that he was in the position of choosing between two of his acts twice last year. Then stop putting shit acts through and then giving them shit songs to sing, you fucking moron. He knows how much they both want it. (Drink!) Eventually, Louis decided to send Chenai home. Clearly this is because she’s a girl. She goes ‘I get to go home!’ [to the crack den she keeps telling us that she wants to escape from – Steve] and tries to seem excited. We see her journey, from her great first audition to her gradual descent into sucking like a mother. Her little glum face is in the corner of the screen. Chenai thanks Louis for bringing her this far, and thanks everyone who kept her in by voting for her. She asks if she’s got any regrets, and says ‘Not at all. Not. At. All.’, and actually sounds like she means it. Kate tells us to be on our feet for Chin Eye, and it’s all over.