Monday, September 25, 2006

Audition THIS, tool!

Programme 6: 23rd September 2006

Finally we're at the end of the auditions. I should probably be feeling more excited, and yet I'm entirely bored at this stage. I really hope they're going to show us some actual good people at boot camp or I'm going to get horrendously bored for the rest of the series. Indeed, I think my video is equally bored of this show because it decided to start midway through the show. (And I forgot it was on entirely! Gosh, this show is gripping.-Joel) I don't think I missed much, but I will endeavour to catch a repeat to check for you. I'm nothing if not thorough. (And true to my word, I did check the Sunday night repeat on ITV2. All I missed was the usual blather about the categories and the location, so it's all good.)

Anyway, it's a new day...somewhere, and Simon is feeling confident. The judges talk to the waiting crowds. Oh, we're in Birmingham, apparently. First up is 20-year-old shop assistant Leonna, who's brought her family along for support. Her entire family, that is. I'm surprised no one popped to the graveyard to dig up the deceased members of Team Leonna just for a bit of extra support. They're all wearing 'Go Leonna' t-shirts with Xs on the front, which is kind of cute. Although I kind of feel that ought to be a pun of some kind, like "Go Leonna or go home!" Leonna's family are very confident, which is nice for them. She enters the judging room to whoops and applause - from her family, not the judges. Louis asks her who she aspires to be, and Leonna says Christina Aguilera. Leonna sings 'Son Of A Preacher Man', and sounds a bit like a cross between the aforementioned Christina and Amy Winehouse. She sounds fine, but it's nothing you wouldn't hear at a karaoke session. Simon likes part of her voice, but thought the top end was "iffy", but with work she could show promise. Sharon thought she was trying to be too Christina-esque. Louis thinks she needs more work than she realises. It's a yes from Sharon. It's a no from Louis. 'The Voice Within' kicks in on the soundtrack and we all know Simon is going to say yes. Which he does, and outside Leonna's family quickly go mental before realising that they're not sure if she got through or not. It's quite cute. Then Leonna joins them, and there is much celebrating.

Segue to montage of yesses. One chap sings a song about "the way you stole my heart, you must be a crook", or something, which is...nice? One girl sings En Vogue's 'Don't Let Go (Love)', which is a song I love and she does it as well as can be expected, so I have no beef with her. A redheaded girl sings 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)', and consequently makes me want to punch her in the face. Nothing personal against her, but THAT SONG. Jee-zus.

Next up is 46-year-old David, who looks like Ming the Merciless. And he's got a guitar, which he wears on a strap so ludicrously high that it looks more like a banjo. (Next year, I am so turning up with a banjo. Or even a ukelele.-Joel) Louis asks David why he's here today, and David says that it's because he wants enormous bags of cash. I can't fault his honesty, I suppose. Sharon tells him he has an air of anger. "Just wait until I start rapping," David replies, which is hilarious. David begins, and I don't know what on earth it is that he's reciting - I suspect someone will be able to tell me - but he instantly reminds me of the annoying Scouse evangelist on Oxford Street. Simon tries to stop David, with some difficulty, and admits that he's thoroughly confused. "You're not singing; this is a singing contest," Sharon reminds him. "It isn't, actually," David retorts, and this would be the perfect moment for a scatching deconstruction on the show citing the cult of personality and the way the show frequently implores us not to listen to the quality of someone's voice, but to focus on their tragic life story or bland but pretty face. That's what I would have said, but David rather impotently follows up his comment with "this is my special approach". Boo! Wasted opportunity, table for one. Simon likens the performance to someone entering a cat for Crufts. Louis says that no one would vote for David. David disagrees, and so do I, to be honest. But it's three nos for David, and a quick "up yours!" from the safety of the X Factor pod.

Montage of bad auditions from hopeless losers, including a man singing 'You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman', and one man called Alan attempting to sing both parts of 'You're The One That I Want'. Next up is 16-year-old Jamie, who looks like Mickey from Doctor Who, and has apparently been singing from the actual moment he was born. I'd like a large side order of "hmmmmm" to go with that statement, please. (Not quite sure what's going on with all the restaurant metaphors here today, sorry.) Jamie talks to the camera about how much he wants to win, and I'm totally not repeating it because we've heard it all before. Jamie sings Stevie Wonder's 'Knocks Me Off My Feet' for the judges. I'm...not sure about the performance. There are nice moments, but there are also very wobbly and off-key moments too. And perhaps I've been spoilt by Elliott Yamin's performance of this on American Idol, which was several leagues above this. Louis thinks Jamie could be good, in a year or two with a lot of work. Sharon likes Jamie's look and personality, but he doesn't have a great voice. Simon thought everything was great until Jamie started singing. It's a no from Louis. And a no from Sharon. Jamie tells the judges that he's very disappointed, but thanks them and leaves. He's polite, I'll say that for him. He goes outside and wells up, and I get a bit misty too. Then: weirdness. He goes over to his parents, and buries his face in his dad's shoulder and everyone else in the holding room...applauds? Dear God, why? That was just really, really random. And I doubt it made Jamie feel any better, either. (Yay! You failed! Maybe it just means they fancy their chances now there's one person fewer to compete with.-Joel)

Still to come: somebody effortless who can sing the phonebook, somebody rude and petulant who gets a snot-on with the judges, and the judges find out who they're mentoring this year.

The auditions have moved on (or back?) to London. 23-year-old receptionist Gemma is first (next?) in. Gemma sings Ella Fitzgerald's 'Summertime', and wow, she has a nice voice. Still not sure if this is the contestant to validate this entire series for me, but that was lovely. Sharon says how nice it was to hear someone not do an impersonation. "Absolutely effortless," declares Simon. "You could sing the phone book." Louis like her personality and warmth, and Simon thinks they're just scratching the surface at this point. Sharon asks Simon for his vote, and Simon votes no. Gemma, bless her heart, genuinely thinks he's serious for a second and then does a total facepalm when Simon corrects his vote to a yes. Hee. I like Gemma. It's a yes from Sharon, and a round of applause from the judges. After Gemma leaves, the judges squee about her in private for a bit. (Someone good and I miss it. Typical.-Joel)

Next up is 26-year-old music student Dennis (Denis?), from Russia, or "Rocha", if we're to believe Kate's pronunciation. Dennis greets the judges: "I'm so happy to see you in real life and not just in museum of Madame Tussaud's, you know?" HA! That ruled. Dennis will sing 'Escape' by Enrique Iglesias for the judges. There is some scary, scary dancing going on here. He rubs his thighs a lot, and let's just leave it at that. Sharon calls his performance "very camp"; Dennis argues that he's trying to make people happy. He didn't make Simon happy. Louis pronounces it "different". Simon calls him a horrible singer, and it's three nos for Dennis. Dennis leans out of the exit door and vows "Next time!".

Montage of foreign auditionees, including Alicia from France, who gets trois nons, Katya from Poland, who doesn't get through either, and somebody whose name I didn't catch, but who's from Brazil, and he doesn't get through either. This competition? Xenophobic? Surely not. Next up is Debra, who's 47 and from San Antonio, Texas. Ooh, I wonder if she knows Jared Padalecki. What? Okay, never mind. Debra macks somewhat grossly with her husband David in the queue, and then tells us that they met on a Christian internet chatroom. They got engaged before they'd even met, and now they're married. Debra puts everything down to her voice, saying that " voice brought David"., if you met him in a chatroom? Your fingers brought you David, but let's not pursue that concept too far, shall we? Sharon asks Debra if she's Canadian. Debra looks mildly affronted and tells Sharon she's Texan. "So, you're representing the Americans, Debra?" Simon asks. "That's what God told/chose me," Debra replies (I couldn't quite make out what she was saying. I really need to watch this programme with subtitles). Debra tells the judges that she met her husband on the internet and Simon's jaw drops. Then Debra explains that they met when she was singing in a Christian chatroom and...okay, now I get her comment from earlier. (I still...don't. A chatroom with audio capabilities?-Joel) But they could perhaps have edited this in a little more of a linear fashion, non? Debra sings LeAnn Rimes's 'How Do I Love' rather flatly, and turns to face David while she sings. Louis and Sharon think there's a market for Debra - not so much in the chart, but in Christian music. It's a yes from Louis, but a no from Simon. Sharon jokes about not wanting to go to Hell again and having a VIP pass. Debra promises to give it her all, and Sharon says yes. At this point, Jesus wept. Literally. Debra gleefully exits the room and vocally thanks Jesus. Jesus is all, "Don't pin this one on me, lady." Happy, hugging montage.

Sob story alert! Roxanne, in attendance with her husband David, is looking to regain the singing confidence she lost 33 years ago. She was involved in a bomb explosion at the age of 14 and put a lot of her life on hold as a result, including her singing career. She's got a fear of crowds but being at the auditions is proving to her that she can do it. And as much as the sob stories this series have irritated me beyond belief, I can understand how difficult that must be for her. Doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to go easy on her audition, but I thought I'd just say that, at least. Roxanne says she's looking to see if it was meant to be or not, and I can understand that mentality. She tells the judges her story, and Simon calls her a brave lady. Roxanne sings 'Show Me Heaven', and it's...not bad. Again, not exactly a showstopper, but not bad. And this series has really left me running out of synonyms for "okay". Sharon tells Roxanne she looks amazing for 47. Simon says it was hard to judge her properly because she was so nervous. It's a yes from Louis, but a no from Simon, who doesn't think she can cope with the stress. Sharon looks thoughtful. They can draw this out all they want, but the fact that they're already playing 'Show Me Heaven' on the soundtrack makes it totally obvious that Sharon's going to put Roxanne through. This show? So predictable. Roxanne gets a hug from her husband outside and wells up. I think I'm pleased for her. I hope that her voice is stronger when she's worked through her nerves, I think.

The judges take their seats for the final auditions. Hooray! Waiting to see them is "self-confessed karaoke addict Frankie", wearing an outfit that is a crime against humanity. Frankie tells the judges that people keep telling him he's too professional to sing karaoke. Simon asks which people, Frankie replies "all my friends, three, four thousand fans all across London." What. Ever. Frankie sings DJ Otzi's 'Hey Baby', and it's every bit as atrocious as you'd expect. It's a never from Simon, an "I don't get it from Sharon", and a no from Louis. "Frankie doesn't go to Hollywood," quips Simon. (Ooh, it's like an 'American Idol' joke! This is where I came in.-Joel) Next up is male four-piece band Eton Road, who have only been together five days. This bodes well, doesn't it? For their part, they joke about the unprofessionalism of it, and Simon is goodnatured about it, pointing out that everybody has to start somewhere. They sing something from a film, which again I didn't catch the title of. (It was 'Leap of Faith' I think. That one with Steve Martin as a fake preacher. Weird.-Joel) One of them has a bizarre Mohawk and keeps wincing every time he sings like he's just screwed up massively, even though he hasn't noticeably. (He was funny! He had a cardigan and rosary beads on.-Joel) Simon loves the song, and likes their look. Crazy Mohawk Dude looks like he's about to lose his lunch. Sharon likes their youth and individuality. Louis was surprised, because when they walked in he thought "oh my God, four hairdressers." Hee! Man, I can't believe I'm laughing at something Louis said. At least, something he intended to be funny, anyway. Simon thinks they're one of the best groups he's seen, and it's a unanimous yes for Eton Road. (They were a LOT better than I expected.-Joel)

Montage of Yes. A mature lady with lots of bows on the strap of her dress sings 'Cry Me A River' (Julie London, not Justin Timberlake), a not-very-attractive boyband sings 'Yesterday' and a cute, excitable, but slightly shambolic-sounding girlband sings 'Say You'll Be There'.

Part-time warehouse worker Steve is next. Guess what? He's wanted to be a singer since he was a kid. This story is a REVELATION. He's going to sing 'Sleeping With The Light On' by Busted, except I don't recognise this tune at all. Simon cannot think of a single positive thing to say about the performance. Steve has been trained by professional vocal teachers, he tells us. Louis calls it "Mission Impossible", which is our next music cue for a montage of losers. It's dull, notable only for the fact that Louis says "it's Mission Impossible" to someone else, and Simon asking Louis if he had sour milk on his cornflakes this morning. It's the last audition, and it's been a disappointing afternoon for the judges, but it's hopeful that 18-year-old Debbie could turn that around. Except she's the one who we've seen in the previews getting a gob on in the audition, so I doubt it somehow. Thank you for teasing all the surprise out of this, guys. Debbie tells us she's brilliant and has stage presence, etc etc etc. Debbie sings Whitney and Mariah's 'When You Believe'. It's not awful, but it's rather over breathy and affected. Sharon tells her that she has no star quality or charisma, and Simon calls her a pub singer. Louis tells her that she's not very good. "You know what? You were the one person I didn't wanna see today because I really wanna slap you now," Debbie replies, wagging a finger at Louis. And while I'm normally all in favour of violence against Louis, if you don't want to see him, don't audition for The X Factor. It's dat simple, yo. Debbie rants. "That's why I've been a singer since I was six years old, and everyone I've ever met, people who don't even like me, have told me I've got an amazing voice. You can't bloody sing, mate." "I don't want to be a singer," Louis replies. And, well...yes. This is a really stupid line of criticism to take with the judges. I can't build a digital camera; it doesn't mean I haven't got the right to ring up Kodak and complain if mine doesn't work. "I don't care what you think. You can't sing, you have no talent, get out," Debbie finishes. It's a no from Louis, surprisingly enough, who tells Debbie she'll never be a star in the music business. "I'm already a star, sweetheart," Debbie snots. Then why are you on this show, Debbie. Your words, they ring hollow. Sharon escorts Debbie from the room, but Debbie announces that she wants to throw Sharon's water all over Louis and stomps back in. (Interestingly, Sharon makes no attempt to restrain Debbie, or if she does, it's incredibly half-arsed. Heh.) Awesomely, Louis sees what's coming and throws his water over Debbie before she can get in first. I never thought I'd back Louis in a fight, but that was ace. Debbie does get to throw her water on Louis afterwards, but the moment's rather lost. "I'd throw the glass at yer, but it's not mine," Debbie pouts. Wow, she is the worst badass ever. Advantage: Louis. Simon thinks it's hilarious that Louis threw water over a contestant. "You're not supposed to do that," he says in awe.

Coming up: who's mentoring whom? I can barely contain myself.

The auditions are over, and we see lots of people we've already seen, and I'm not going to recount this bit. You can read the old entries if you're that botherd. Wow, this goes on for ages. Still, less work for me, so yay!

The judges leave the auditions. Ozzy's there to meet Sharon, which is sweet. Simon really wants the 16-24s this year. So does Sharon. Louis doesn't want the groups. "Some of the groups we've put through this year, they just don't have the X factor." Then why did you put them through, you enormous fool? "I think Simon should get the groups," Louis finishes. Yes, because it's not like he had them last series AND in the celebrity edition or anything, is it? Give the man a break. Sharon thinks she'll get the groups because it's her turn. Simon wants Louis to get the groups because he knows it would make him unhappy, and he was so smug last year. Hee! Louis says that he's had the groups and the under-25s (stop calling them that! They're the 16-24s!) but he hasn't had the over-25s yet. Except during The X Factor: Battle Of The Stars, which apparently no one must mention. The judges await their calls: Louis and Simon in their offices, Sharon at her hotel. Simon's narky because the call is late. Simon's call is first: he's got the 16-24s. "No! Are you sure?" Simon asks. The producers confirm this. "I'm going to say goodbye before you change your mind," grins Simon. Hooray! Let's hope this means Rudy's out on his arse ASAP. Wanker. "If I can't win with this lot, I can't do my job, it's as simple as that," says Simon. I'll remember that come the finals. Sharon gets a call on the Blurphone. Guess the sponsors weren't happy that she doesn't use a Nokia, eh? She's got the 25 and overs again, and is equally gleeful: "I can't believe it! I'm going to get out of bed now!" Louis gets the call, and obviously Louis has the groups. His face falls (albeit goodnaturedly) when he hears. The producer making the phone call says Louis is the best man for the job. We'll see. Simon rings Louis, and laughs uproariously when he hears the news. Louis tells Simon not to mess up the 16-24s. Simon sincerely wishes Louis the best of luck. Louis hangs up, and declares Simon "so obnoxious". Hee. Simon calls Sharon and they cackle like the little coven that they are. Sharon signs off with "let the battle begin". (She didn't get out of bed though. Filthy slattern.-Joel)

Next week: two programmes? Holy mother of God. It's boot camp. The 16-24s are excited to see Simon, the 25 and overs are excited to see Sharon, and Louis gets a mixed reaction from the groups. There are cheers and there are tears. And Simon utters the classic line: "I think we've got the weakest category, Sinitta. I think we've got the short straw." Hee! I have to say, I'm not really sure why everyone was clamouring for the 16-24s anyway. I didn't really see much there to get excited about.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rudy Punchable

Programme 5: 16th September 2006

Just to set the scene before I get going, I am writing this update on a laptop with several broken keys that doesn't give me any warning when the battery's about to die, in a poorly-lit house that has recently suffered a spider infestation (the poor standard of lighting serving only to convince me that I'm seeing effing spiders everywhere). I am not in the best of humours, so this show had better bloody entertain me. Also of note: I am writing this between instalments of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, which once again I chose to watch live instead of this pile of reheated cat vomit, because it's actually managed to be entertaining, fun, and revelatory - three things I've found sorely lacking in this series. Siobhan has just come third, by the way, and has been asked to meet a major record label to discuss signing an equally major deal. Third place, folks. And she's still a far better singer than every single person I've seen on The X Factor so far this series. Maybe she tried out for the wrong show: she was never going to beat Connie, but I can't help thinking she could have sleepwalked her way through to the top spot on this tired old format.

Anyway. Tonight on The X Factor: Having utterly failed to find any true stars so far this series, the producers choose to tease with a mass of terrible auditions, a handful of good ones, some complaints about the failure of talent to emerge, and an emergency at Casa Osbourne. Oh, goody. Roll the cheap credits!

Kate runs through the examples of good and not-so-good talent from the show. It speaks volumes for the sheer averageness of the contestants this series that I can't put names to half of them, and I've been watching the show intently for the purposes of recapping almost every week. (Who ARE they? Where did you FIND them?-Joel) So yes, good luck uncovering star quality in this lot, bitches. We're in Dublin, home town of Louis Walsh, and unsurprisingly Louis is convinced this is where the talent's at. I note with interest that he refers to finding "this person, this megastar" in the singular, thereby implying that even having a groups category is a waste of everybody's time. Great. Kate links through to a 21-year-old factory worker whose name I can't hear clearly and feel certain I can't spell, but his name sounds like Cole, and anything that makes me think of Julian McMahon instead of this pile of dreck is an improvement, so Cole he shall be. Cole loves Shayne Ward. Like, stalker-level amounts of loves him, it would seem. He gets all misty talking about Shayne, and I'm an emotional wreck at the best of times, but seriously fella: grow a pair already. Simon asks Cole who he'd compare himself to, and of course Cole says Shayne Ward. Cole sings a wavering version of 'That's My Goal', and Simon stops him mid-chorus because he's laughing. "Who did you sing this song to before you got here today?" Simon asks him. "My family," replies Cole nervously, conveniently omitting "the production team of this show, who see all applicants before deciding who the judges get to see, though the viewers at home aren't meant to think that." It's three nos for Cole, and he shimmers out to look for Phoebe Halliwell, or whatever.

Next up are a duo called Mission, who are apparently on a mission from God to spread a message to the world. Sharon displays note-perfect comic timing with her response of "...okay." Mission sing, and sound more like minions of Satan. More losers, because this show loves to kick off by showcasing the utterly hopeless. Next up is 24-year-old waitress (and again I'm guessing how to spell this - please, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, can we have some FUCKING name astons please?) Cutlowana. She considers herself beautiful and confident, and she has a really cool necklace on (that's my opinion, not hers). Cutlowana sings Roxette's 'Listen To Your Heart', sounding rather like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Simon tells her she sounds like a sheep, not like a human. It's three nos for poor Cutlowana and her awesome necklace.

Yet another sequence of the judges lamenting the lack of talent they've managed to unearth. You know what? We don't need to see these any more. We seem to be getting them every week, and we don't need them. Watching the show is proof enough that whatever hidden talents are out there, they want to remain hidden. Can't we all just pack up and go home? Please? If I promise to watch Sharon's terrible chat show, will you make it happen?

Shots of Dubliners in good spirits. Next up is 23-year-old shop assistant Morgan, who looks like a porcelain doll version of Cheryl Tweedy. She tells us that she wants to be a great songwriter and entertainer, and these little pieces to camera are cute and everything, but which of the contestants doesn't want that? Porcelain Cheryl sings Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', and sounds nice but is kind of offputting because she moves so much above the neck and so little beneath it. Three yesses for Porcelain Cheryl. Montage of good people, because having just shown us that you've lost confidence in finding a star, why on earth would you bother showing reasons for that faith to return? That would just be crazy. Someone with a dodgy fringe goes through, as does a blonde girl, and four girls who look like they should live in a windmill in Denmark. (They were fun. I liked their matchy-not-matchy outfits.-Joel)

The judges break for lunch, but oh noes, there is a disaster. We see tabloid headlines telling us about the fire at Sharon's house that we all heard about in the news ages ago, and Sharon asks if she can leave. (I liked how it was edited to seem like it was in the papers when they found out. Like, Sharon looks at the front page, and is all, 'Shit! I should go home!'-Joel) Simon offers to get her a flight, and he and Louis kiss her goodbye. Still to come: some idiot bitches about there not being three judges. Just shut up, idiot. I hate you already.

Back from the ads, the newly-tuned in and the chronically forgetful are informed of Sharon's absence. Next up is 18-year-old Latvian singing champ Elena, whose motivational speech is punctuated by an eerie acoustic version of Coldplay's 'Clocks'. Elena starts to sing, and I start to wonder if Shakira is her less-insane sister. Seriously, there is growling and bellowing and dramatic sinking-to-the-knees. It's fairly well sung, but it's kind of...well, scary. (I'm going to assume that she was singing the Latvian folk tradition, perhaps, where emotion and bellowing is required. I liked her and wished she could have toned it down.-Joel) Simon pronounces her OTT, and Elena gets two nos. Montage of new BFFs Simon and Louis getting the giggles, especially when somebody manages to stand on the X and face the wrong way. WTF? I don't even understand how you can get into that room and not see the enormous table of judges opposite you. Lots more bad people. I wonder if suicide really is painless, because if so it has to be preferable to this.

News of Sharon's absence has filtered through to the holding room, Kate's voiceover tells us. The contestants are now anxious that they need two out of two yeses to get through. So what happens if one says yes and the other says no? Couldn't they have brought back Paula for this bit? Or called me? I'm sure I was available, and I could have mothered those contestants just like Sharon. The idiot from before the break is the aptly-named 19-year-old Rudy. (Though it's probably spelt Rhoidaigh or something.-Joel) (Until this show gives me MOTHERFUCKING NAME ASTONS, I officially absolve myself of all responsibility for correctly spelling people's names.-Steve) I'm not going to recount what Rudy's piece to camera tell us because it's boring and we've heard it all before. Rudy sings 'In The Air Tonight' for the judges. It's not bad. Simon doesn't get it. Louis thought he was okay. "Yeah, that's what I mean - okay," says Simon. Louis reiterates several times that Rudy is okay, and Rudy asks Simon what he wants to hear. Simon starts getting tetchy at this point and informs Rudy curtly that this is not a request service. "You delivered nothing," Simon informs him. "I've seen you be wrong with people in the past," Rudy replies, to which Simon responds that it hasn't happened often. It's a yes from Louis on potential, and a no from Simon, which appears to be the final word. Rudy pouts and says it's not fair because Sharon isn't there. Simon tells him to send a letter of complaint, then. Heh. "Sharon would've said yes," said Louis, but Simon disagrees. I happen to be of the opinion that Sharon probably would have put this guy through, but because he's acting like such a petulant child, I think Simon's right to say no regardless. Rudy leaves, and Simon and Louis bicker a little bit. (He wasn't bad, but Louis's yes clearly came from the fact he fancied Rudy.-Joel)

Montage of people who miss Sharon, soundtracked by The Knack's 'My Sharona'. Remember last year when I had a premonition that Chico would sing Ricky Martin? I had a premonition today that this show would use this song to accompany a Sharon-themed montage. I hate how I'm psychic when it comes to this show. I'd rather have a precognitive gift that I could use to fight evil, but beggars can't be choosers. Some of the people in the montage are sympathetic. Some are not. Rudy is in there again, glowering and pouting some more, determined to stretch out his fifteen minutes. 16-year-old trainee hairdresser Wayne is neck. (Was that just a particularly fortuituous typo? He was a bit thick-set.-Joel) (Hee! Yes it was. I'm going to blame my dodgy laptop for that one. Honest.-Steve) He has brought along his entire family for support, and looks a bit like a thinner version of Damien from Mean Girls. If he mated with Wayne Rooney, anyway. Ew. Can somebody pass the brain bleach? Thanks. His parents seem relatively normal, which is hopefully a good sign. He sings R Kelly's 'The World's Greatest', and sounds quite nice. (Dreadful song, but there was something very attractive about his voice.-Joel) Simon umms and ahhs about whether Wayne has the x factor (which Simon enunciates really weirdly, putting the emphasis on the "fac" instead of the "x"), noting Wayne's nerves. Louis breaks out one of his trademark "he's sixteen!"s. It's a yes from Louis. Simon purses his lips and thinks, while Louis cajoles him. I nearly wrote "cagoules" there. Eventually, it's another yes for Wayne (and we learn now that the rule in Sharon's absence is that you need two yeses, so presumably if Simon said yes to someone and Louis said no, they wouldn't get through either. Interesting). Montage of successful auditionees whom we have not seen audition, because why?

Adverts. The Mail on Sunday is giving away a free Wet Wet Wet CD. It's nice to see a convergence of the world's primary sources of evil, I suppose.

We've left Dublin behind, and headed to Birmingham. Again. Kate tells us that following the fire at home, Sharon has rejoined the judges. Or, y'know, all this was filmed before the fire and you're just taking continuity roughly up the arse without a condom once more. More people get put through, despite us only getting to see the merest snapshot of their auditions. One woman is very pretty (I'm such a sucker for lustrous red hair on a lady, I really am) and sings Faith Hill's 'There You'll Be'. Simon says she looks like "an attractive Geri Halliwell", and we learn that her name is Alexandra. She gets through to the next round. I hope she fares better than last year's Alexandra. A girl group sings 'Let It Be', and gets through. Next up is 21-year-old student AJ who has loved music all his life, but never had an appropriate showcase. Sense of impending doom. He sings Alicia Keys's 'If I Ain't Got You' in a falsetto, and sucks. That's right, folks - we've had all these montages that ushered the good ones through with indecent haste, but this talent vacuum gets a whole sequence. This show blows. The judges' feedback is predictably negative, and AJ is adamant that he can sing. It's a shame he's so talentless and deluded, because he's actually very attractive. But hey ho. Also, his talking voice is very similar to Will Young's, so it's a shame he didn't manage to get the singing voice to accompany it. Sharon tells him that he's "raised the bar on bad", and babyvoices "No, Abraham." Hee.

Some wannabe groups sing for the camera. Don't waste your time, folks! Louis thinks you're all thoroughly negligable! Next up are a male-female duo (and what did we learn about those last year?) called Dramatics, who manage to sing like Daleks even before they've entered the room. The fey-sounding male says that they take songs and harmonise them differently, which is what will give them their edge. Wouldn't harmonising imply harmony? And wouldn't that, in turn, imply a pleasant sound? You're barking up the wrong tree, dude. The female one blathers on about how she's a singing teacher and can ensure all the technicalities are correct, like them having the right starting note, and I'm sensing a little bit of hubris here. Just chalk it up to my psychic abilities again. They are going to sing 'What I Did For Love' from A Chorus Line, and there are bum notes aplenty. Simon cuts them off and Louis is lost for words. He calls them "different", which female auditionee agrees with, and one-ups with "unique". Louis pronounces them "a very odd couple". Simon says that he can imagine them outside his house at Christmas, singing 'Silent Night'. "And not getting any money," adds Louis. Ha! It's weird, I was just thinking how I don't really feel the hate for Louis this series. I frequently disagree with his comments and decisions, but the hate is just not there. Perhaps I'm just so tuned out of this show that I can't even get my dander up anymore. Either that, or my hatred for the entire predictable format has given Louis a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Sharon calls them "Dickensian" (hee!) and it's a unanimous no for Dramatics, who don't seem that upset about it. (If my kid got singing lessons from that talentess wretch, I'd be demanding my money back.-Joel)

Kate's voiceover tells us that the day only gets worse, and...what? How? Isn't there supposed to be one point in the programme where you relent from the otherwise endless cavalcade of hopelessness and misery, if only to stop us all from topping ourselves? Oh well, at least I can watch the final of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, this godforsaken show presents more losers, and more dumbfounded judges. We see various people outside telling us how much they want to be famous, and wanting to be famous does not mean this show is right for you, for crying out loud. Go on Big Brother instead. If you act sufficiently repellently, you'll get your own show. Speaking of repellent, nobody wants her name in lights more than 16-year-old Chloe, whose musings on fame run thusly: "It's something that everyone wants because it's easy. There are no obstacles. There's no working, you're just in the limelight and wow, everyone wants a piece of you. It's amazing." What's amazing is that nobody's invented Slap-O-Vision yet, because I have a fiery itch to smack this bimbo's idiotic head clean off her shoulders. She's wearing a glittery pink cowboy hat, if you need another reason to hate her. Chloe tells Sharon that her dream is to be a singer on The X Factor, which is clearly a barefaced lie. Sharon asks Chloe to liken her style to somebody. Chloe's response: "Let's go for Motown: a bit of Mariah Carey, a bit of Whitney Houston, a bit of Aretha Franklin, a bit of Alicia Keys". Ah yes, that well known Motown artist Mariah Carey. Christ on a bike. Chloe then proceeds to utterly obliterate 'Killing Me Softly'. Sharon tells Chloe that Chloe has no idea who she is yet, but is heavily influenced by all the divas out there. Simon thinks she was bred in a laboratory as some kind of singing creation that didn't come out right. "Can I try again please?" asks Chloe, and thankfully Simon replies in the negative. "You represent millions of 16-year-old girls in this country today" (and Chloe nods at this point, as if she thinks she's being called a role model or something) "who just want to be famous like that." And Simon snaps his fingers. It's a unanimous no for Chloe, who cries as she leaves and declares that the judges hate her. Which: no. They were actually fairly constructive in their criticism. Sharon just said you weren't ready. Simon apologised and called you "sweetheart". Grow up. After Chloe leaves, Simon calls her "every parent's nightmare". I have no children, and I'm awake. Why have you forced me to deal with her?

38-year-old Ian is hoping to turn around the current dire state of affairs. He's been given a little teddy bear for luck by his four-year-old daughter, and has had so many knockbacks that he's prepared to give up his lifelong dream of singing for a living if he doesn't get through this audition. Isn't that roughly what Lisa Scott-Lee promised to do? So I guess he'd be fulfilling our 'charming everyman who deserves a break' quota this year, yes? Ian sings 'Let's Get It On' for the judges, and has a very nice voice. (I really didn't expect him to be as good as he was.-Joel) Sharon says yes. Simon thinks Ian is a good singer and a very nice person, but doesn't think he has "it", so he's going to say no. The show tries to ramp up the tension, but even people in comas know Louis is going to say yes. 'Up Where We Belong' plays on the soundtrack and everything gets kind of mawkish as Sharon chuckles affectionately and Ian kisses the goodluck bear.

After the break, we're in Glasgow, for like the 95th time this series. 31-year-old civil servant Karen is very convinced of her talents. I'm not convinced by her hairdo or her lipstick, however. Karen sings Kelly Clarkson's 'Because Of You', and it's just a weeny bit out of her range. As it is most people's, in fact, and anyone would sense would choose a different song. Simon declares it "a bit of a struggle", and Karen defiantly responds "I don't think so." Louis didn't like it and calls it a desperate performance. "I was uncomfortable watching you perform," he adds, and Simon chimes in: "I agree with that. You were getting redder and redder and redder, Karen. It was like a kettle boiling over. I thought you were literally going to explode by the end of that song and I didn't like the sound of your voice." So that's a no, then? Karen blames it on a viral infection, but the judges are not swayed, and it's three nos for Karen, who looks crestfallen.

Oh, GOD. You are fucking kidding me. Rudy is back to audition again, because he wants to know what Sharon would've said. Rudy, you can hear what I'm going to say instead: IT DOESN'T MATTER. YOU WERE REJECTED. DEAL WITH IT. PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GET INTO SHOWBUSINESS ARE REJECTED AT AUDITIONS EVERY DAY, AND THEY LEARN TO COPE. All you are doing now is just shedding what little dignity you have left. Of course, now I expect Sharon will put him through, because the universe hates me. Rudy goes in to see the judges; Louis recognises him rightaway, Simon takes a little while longer to cotton on. Rudy explains that he's there to see Sharon, and that he didn't know at the time the reason why Sharon was absent, and if he had known, he wouldn't have been so argumentative. I note with interest that he falls short of actually apologising for being a snotty little child about it, but I suppose we can't expect miracles. I'm not sure what Rudy sings, but a train is involved somewhere. Sharon notes that it must mean an awful lot to him to travel all this way. Louis likes that he's passionate, and that he came all the way from Dublin for a second audition. I think Louis just likes the fact that Rudy's from Dublin, to be honest. No doubt we can look forward to Rudy being kept in at the expense of someone more deserving when Louis gets the casting vote in one of the live shows, eh? Simon is less impressed: "Oh, okay. So all you have to do is get on a plane and everything comes your way?" Louis denies this, but applauds Rudy's "try try again" attitude. Rudy's definitely trying, that much I agree with. Very fucking trying. It's another no from Simon. After a Pinteresque pause, Sharon agrees with Louis. FOR FUCK'S SAKE. Louis hopes Rudy is not in Simon's category. I hope he is, and gets canned on his entitled, obstinate arse at the earliest opportunity. Louis claims that Simon's ego is out of control today. Simon's ego is out of control most days, why should this be any different? It doesn't make him any less right, anyway. I'll admit that Rudy has one of the better voices we've heard on today's show, but I still don't consider him anything above average, and I have a seething hatred for him on a personal level to boot. I cannot make that clear enough. If he wins this competition, I'll...I'll...I'll do something really fucking bad, I tell you. (I liked his cardigan.-Joel) (So did I, if I'm honest. But damned if I'm saying anything positive about that whining crybaby.-Steve)

Another montage of good singers that we haven't got time for a proper introduction to, because that would have cut into all the precious Rudywank time. Fuck's sake. When we get to boot camp, I will have absolutely NO FUCKING IDEA who these people are. This programme is going to give me a cardiac arrest. We do get a bit more time with Brian and Craig, aka the imaginatively-named McDonald Brothers. They sing a Beach Boys song which I suspect may be called 'Don't Worry Baby'. They are dressed in matching black t-shirts and pinstripe trousers. The dark-haired one is cute. They get put through to boot camp. The last person in to see the judges is 31-year-old full-time mum Kerry. Kerry broke her back at the age of 13 and now uses a wheelchair. She has very shiny hair and is very pretty, and I like her. Sharon asks Kerry about the wheelchair, and Kerry tells Sharon what she told us about five seconds ago. Quite why the editors felt the need to include this information twice, I'm not sure. Kerry sings Maria McKee's 'Show Me Heaven', and sounds pretty good. Louis likes that she sang it like she meant it. Sharon likes her voice and her face. Simon likes her voice too. It's yeses all round for Kerry, and Simon opens the door for her on the way out, which may be very polite or very non-PC, I'm never quite sure. Kerry's parting words are "it can only get better from here". I predict Louis saying something incredibly patronising about her being a wheelchair user if she makes it to the live shows. (She's very pretty, and is pleasant, and sings nicely. Finally someone who'd have got through, even without sob-story. Or perhaps 'triumph over adversity' story.-Joel)

Next week: the auditions draw to a close. Finally! Louis has a waterfight with a contestant. And the judges find out which category they'll be mentoring. Woo, and indeed, hoo.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Insert witty title here

Hello, boys and girls. I’ve girded my loins and finally the time has come for me to write a full recap, rather than wittily parenthesising Steve’s (and a very fine job you were doing too.-Steve). Be gentle. There are various coming up bits which I can’t be bothered to write down, other than the fact that PAULA ABDUL IS BACK! The rest pales into insignificance. Even though she’s clearly only ‘back’ because they’ve totally messed with the running order throughout the season, I don’t care. I take my Paula fixes where I can.

Credits. We’re in Leeds and Kate looks surprisingly nice in a simple black top and black trousers. Bravo. Leeds. There are three categories. We know. For fuck’s sake. Blah. We see an Elvis impersonator. For fuck’s sake. We’re introduced to the judges again. BLAH. Sharon, in a car, says how it’s a new day and a new city and she’s excited. Given that she doesn’t mention Leeds by name, I’m not convinced that the day and the quote pair up.

First up are three, well, I was going to say girls, but it’s Mum Cheryl, Aunt Siobhan and daughter Debbie. They all look about 16. ‘We are Family’ plays in the background. Danielle likens herself to Alicia Keys, and her mum and aunt to Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. I think we all know how this is going to turn out, don’t we? They claim that they’re going to be singing ‘Fever’ but it’s not any song by that name that I’ve heard. (Judging by how they sang, I think I was quite glad of that. It’s always better when they ruin a song you’ve never heard before and stand no chance of hearing again, isn’t it?-Steve) It goes, ‘he’s so sweet, he’s so good to me.’ They’re atrocious. Far too high, wispy and with absolutely no control. Simon says, ‘What. The Hell. Was That?’ Sharon says‘A bee, I thought it was a little bee!’ Hee. Louis says it was like ‘cats at night.’ In a surprise to no-one, it’s a no. We then get a montage of no no no. There’s a girl in cat ears. A couple of women who can only be described as broken, so misshapen are their faces. A boy with long hair and a girl’s voice. Simon says ‘I’ve had enough.’ The Funeral March by Chopin kicks in and the images fade to black and white.
We meet so-called Rocking Rick. He’s been a dishwasher and chip-frier at Butlins for 30 years. He is, as you might expect, bequiffed. ‘I wish I could be on the stage not in the kitchen.’ It’s not even funny, it’s so sad. He sings ‘Love Me Tender’ and wobbles all over the place. His eyes closed all the while. It’s a no, of course. I don’t feel that bad for him, really. I mean, at least he’s been on the telly, which is more than the majority of talentless (because, make no mistake, he’s talentless [and fuck you, Word, talentless is totally a word so don’t give me that little red undersquiggle]) Butlin’s dishwashers.

Ooh. Sharon’s had some more surgery. She’s looking softer and plumper. All the better to cultivate the Sharon = contestants’ mother thing, I guess. We see a no. No. No. No. Lots of noes. Empty chairs, black and white, funeral march. Apparently on that day, they put absolutely no-one through to boot camp. At first I think, okay, they finally have an excuse for only showing hopeless no-marks. But then it occurs to me that a) there would have been some mediocre or semi-good ones among the dross, so they could have shown them and b) the producers choose who goes through to the judges, so they are entirely responsible and have engineered a talentless day. Therefore, the X Factor can bite me. Me too. Given that virtually everyone on the entire series has sucked so far, all this has done is make me question whether I want to waste another three months of my life watching this sorry saga play out.-Steve) Louis says, ‘they’re all so unprofessional and amateurish.’ Yes, Louis. This is a contest for amateurs. Do try to keep up.

Adverts. We’re in London. Apparently with Simon, Sharon and Gluey. Enunciate, Kate. And who else is there? PAULA! Yeah baby. Apparently she’s sold 50million albums. Wow. I mean, even if she only made a dollar from each one, that’s some money, right there. First up 38-yearold receptionist Linda. She’s a black lady with black hair, but a massive extension of blonde curls in a pony tail. It is Not A Good Look. She comes in, cackling away, and greets each judge personally with a handshake and a kiss. She says she’s ‘going to ATTEMPT to sing’ Alicia Keys’s Fallin’ and I like her a little bit. She’s not bad at all. There’s one note that’s painfully off, but she’s great. All the judges say basically the same thing: okay voice, going through on personality. Ladies and gentleman, I think we’ve found our Brenda. (Meh. I don’t like her. She’s totally Brenda Redux, and I thought her singing sucked.-Steve)
Sharon fans herself with a red fan. Montage of people going through. (One of them totally looked like Steve Brookstein’s kid brother, I thought.-Steve) Of course we don’t see them sing. What do you think this is, a singing contest? A really bad trio of girls go through. Now, it’s either another day, or Paula keeps changing her outfit, because she’s wearing something different. A boy goes through because Louis and Paula want to fuck him. A girl called Kim goes through. Next up is 26-year-old Dionne. She has, of course, brought her whole family along. (‘Say a little prayer’ plays in the background. For some reason.) She’s pretty enough, but either has bad hair or a bad wig, and has a massive gap in her front teeth. She’d benefit from the later-stages makeover, certainly. She sings ‘Natural Woman’. She’s a little bit mannered, perhaps, singing how she thinks it should be sung rather than how she wants to, but is totally awesome. (Really? Oh God, I hated her too. I thought she was disguising some terrible singing with clichéd vocal affectations. It sounded like there was a good voice in there somewhere, but I didn’t think she was using it.-Steve) Powerful and clear. Sharon says no because her voice is good, but unoriginal. Or rather, I think Sharon says that she’s on the fence, because Dionne’s unoriginal, and then doesn’t make a decision. Louis and Paula say yes. Simon says that if Dionne had sung James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’, Sharon would have been raving about her because it would have sounded so different, and gives her a yes. Hooray! Although I’ve a feeling that Dionne will be my Maria for this season, where I become so disgusted when she leaves early that I can’t put up with the show any longer. (Heh. Such is my total apathy to the contestants this year that I can’t see anyone’s ouster causing me to quit in disgust. Whether I can find anyone to spur me to care enough to actually make it to the finals is another matter.-Steve)

Paula’s in another outfit. Factory worker David thought if Shayne can do it, he’ll give it a try. Simon tries not to laugh. I didn’t take many more notes, but what do you need to know? He was deluded and shit. Plus ça change. Now Paula has the fan. David storms out, but redeems himself a little by saying, ‘they know more than I do, so what can I say?’ A girl called Linda just honks. A dude in a shiny shirt and fake tan (or a skin condition) sings ‘Old Before I Die’ and is rubbish. A girl who looks like Big Brother winner Nadia, but squished in a vice, sings ‘I will survive’ and is rubbish and waily Paula says ‘never in my life have I seen anything like it.’

Next up is 26-year old Ben, who’s a marquee erector. However, that ‘just keeps me alive’ and he loves singing most in the world. He has long hair and is wearing a suit jacket. He’s cute, if you’re the kind of person that would find him cute. Paula is wearing another outfit. Ben sings ‘Bring it on Home to Me’ and all the judges cream themselves. Somewhere in America, Michael Bolton is struck dumb halfway through ordering sashimi because his voice is currently coming out of Ben’s mouth. Husky and raw, but still quite pleasant. Simon says ‘it sounded like the real thing!’ and that it’s rare to find a white man, especially an English white man, who can sing soul. (Poor Steve Brookstein. How quickly they forget.) Ben is really sweet. He says ‘Oh stop it!’ and gets all nervous when the judges compliment him. Ben and Dionne for the final, please.

We’re still in London. Kate says that ‘everyone’s excited about seeing the judges,’ which is a shame, given that most of them won’t. 56-year old Janet broke her spine by falling down the stairs by tripping over a ‘large dog’ that was there. She doesn’t say ‘my dog’ but ‘a dog’ as though one just appeared. Maybe her house is haunted. Anyway, she’s rather posh. The theme from Romeo & Juliet, the sad ‘Our Tune’ plays, in order for us to better understand that it’s sad that she broke her spine. Which it is. But the fact she made a full recovery and is now walking and talking (and soon to be singing and dancing) rather makes it a little less poignant. (And the fact that we’ve had sob stories of all shapes and sizes rammed down our throats this year has entirely desensitised me to the various woes of the contestants. They could wheel in a guy on his deathbed and I wouldn’t give a shit at this stage. In fact, I fully expect them to do just that next week.-Steve) She sings, of all things, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.’ Scott: ‘Jesus Christ! She bumped her head on the way down.’ She’s dancing too. After a fashion. She’s wafting about like one of Pan’s People, if she were struck by a fit of indecision about whether to buy focaccia or ciabatta that today Paula’s totally into it. She’s really not very good. Simon says ‘I absolutely adore you Janet’ but it’s a no. Paula says yes. As do Sharon and Louis. Just in case we’d forgotten that Simon the only sane one. (At this point I began to wonder if they’re actively trying to make the show lose what little credibility it has. I mean, for fuck’s sake.-Steve) Janet thanks them and leaves. Simon asks what they’re on. ‘Do you know what we did that?’, asks Sharon. Then goes, ‘Da-da-da, da-da-da-da’ and she, Louis and Paula sway in unison. That was pretty funny. An old man sings ‘Moonlight Becomes You,’ fairly well, and goes through. Sharon has her glasses on and an old woman in polka-dot silk flashing her legs gets a yes.
We meet 31-year old security guard Trevor. It’s a given that he won’t be as good as The Lovely Trevor from last year. Speaking of whom, why hasn’t he re-auditioned? Sad face. He sings ‘Let Me Entertain You’ in a dreary, toneless fashion and please can we have a complete embargo on Robbie Williams? Not his songs in auditions. Just a complete embargo on Robbie Williams. Simon says it ‘possibly the most inappropriate song’ given that it was in no way entertaining . Paula, of course, is totally into it, bobbing along. Paula Outfit Update: another one, a dusky pink blouse with a bow at the collar. Noes all around.
Now Paula’s in a fuchsia blouse. She’s bobbing along to some other loser. Sharon has the fan again. A montage of losers and I seriously can’t be bothered to provide any more detail than that.

Paula is now in a mint dress, with polka dot cummerbund, for the benefit of 37-year-old hospital worker, Richard. I heard 37, but he must be 27 by the look of him. Which is to say, Craig David but a little darker, and to quote Scott, ‘his cheeks are full of nuts.’ He has a dead sister and a dead dad. Can you hear the tiny violins? When he sings his problems are at bay. His girlfriend’s pregnant, also. The tiny violas join in. His main reason for entering the competition is to provide a better life for his family. No. That is not a good reason. You could do that by working hard, getting promoted at work and earning a steady wage. Plus that wouldn’t subject you to the vagaries of fame and take you away from your newborn child that you’re claiming to do it for. Grrr. He sings Stevie Wonder’s ‘Lately.’ I like the song, but he does nothing for me. It’s not as good as Melissa McGhee’s from this year’s American Idol. And when you consider that she totally fucked up the words, it’s not good to be worse than that. (I hope my recognition nishes too!-Steve) The judges love him and he’s through unanimously. I can foresee that my hatred for him will swell throughout the series. He shakes the judges’ hands sand says ‘thank you very much.’ That’s something at least. Outside we see his fiancée. Scott: ‘Oh Jesus fucking Christ he’s a chubby-chaser. Look at that mountain!’ She is, indeed, on the large side. Of a hippo.

Adverts. In come some boyband boys. They get one of the little introductory movies so they’re clearly important. They’ve been at the straighteners, especially one blond one who has this creepy fixed grin. They’re not great, but they’re not awful. I like the fact that while the main boy is singing his bit, the rest of them are doing ‘bah-bah-bah’s rather than all just singing the same lyrics. If you’ve got several voices at your disposal, do something interesting with them. (But the harmonisers need to learn how to not drown out the person who’s singing the melody, otherwise it’s just a mess.-Steve) ‘I don’t get it’ says Simon and gives them a no. They do seem to be a boyband in the Boyzone mould, and as we all know, that’s completely dead these days, so he’s not wrong. Louis and Sharon say yes and Avenue go through. Avenue! I think I saw them on the cover of the paper, but I didn’t pay any attention. They were put together by a management company, for the purpose of auditioning, and didn’t declare it. Simon, he is angry. We’ll see if anything comes of that later.

A tiny little gay with a pierced eyebrow sings Patti Smith’s ‘Because the Night’ and goes through. If I recall correctly, my exact words were: ‘Awesome! Awesome awesome awesome!’ (Mine too! I hope he wins!-Steve) A fat chick says ‘I am the X factor. Definitely.’ I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve screamed at the screen that X factor is something you have, not something you are. It’s like someone saying ‘I’ll win this competition because I am talent.’ It makes no sense. (Ich bin ein X Factor.-Steve) 20-year old petrol attendant Anthony wants to be the new Shayne Ward, but better. What? At least he knows X factor is something you have. Though not something he has. He’s a little mole-like and has a big widow’s peak. His glass are all cloudy. He says ‘I see myself…’ and Scott interjects ‘as a young Minnie Driver.’ After a massive pause, Anthony says, ‘I see myself abroad.’ What? He sings ‘Angels.’ Embargo, people. Embargo. He sucks arse. Simon cuts in with, ‘Thank you Anthony. I think we’ve got the measure of you. You couldn’t win this competition if you were the only one it.’ Ouch. But fair. He doesn’t go through. Round about here there was a split-second flash of red on the screen. Subliminal advertising? Maybe. Steve recorded it, so can do a frame-by-frame check if he can be bothered. (I did record it, but if you think I’m watching this pile of crap a second time, you’ve got another think coming, missy.-Steve) Anthony says that the judges have ‘broken my heart, literally.’ Oh, and he was doing so well with knowing what words mean.

Oooh!! Harry from last year’s group Eskimo Blonde is back by herself. Eskimo Blonde were three girls, who got to the final cut when seven went down to four for the live shows, but didn’t make the final hurdle. At the time, Simon said he liked Harry but the other girls let her down. They split after the contest last year and ‘haven’t seen or spoken to each other since.’ Oooh. Of course, Eskimo Blonde are there with a new member, sat just across the room from Harry. (And this is entirely coincidental and not remotely contrived by the producers, OF COURSE.-Steve) The Spice Girls’ ‘Goodbye’ plays. Harry says it was a hard decision to leave the band. And so on. She sings. Mariah Carey’s ‘Sweetheart’ and is, to be honest, not good at all. She’s very nasally up in her nasal. I’m not sure she was even hitting the notes. I really didn’t understand the appeal, or why she got three yeses. Sharon tells Harry that she doesn’t like r’n’b and Harry should sing country. Harry comes out and tells Kate, ‘I’m now a country singer, apparently.’ Kate asks a country singer who’s going to bootcamp? and Harry says ‘oh, yes,’ very matter-of-factly. Eskimo Blonde stare daggers at her. (Bitches. Although I still like them more than I like the Conway Sisters.-Steve) Their audition is up. They sing Spice Girls’ ‘Viva Forever’ and I actually prefer it to Harry. Again, they’re not all barbershop and are actually making some attempt at counterpoint to the main vocals. They’re not brilliant, but they’re as good as Harry and certainly better than the likes of Janet. Simon says they see it a thousand times a day, which is not fair at all. He basically tells them that they’re nothing without Harry. Louis says yes, Simon no. Sharon also says no. So one of them unfolds a picture of Sharon’s face that she’s been carrying in her pocket. I don’t understand under what possible circumstances that would be looked upon as a good idea. ‘Hi Sharon! I’m a tiny bit creepy and keep your face in my pocket. Please let’s spend more time together. Oh, do let’s!’ (If they were the webmasters of her official fansite, however...-Steve) The girls all wail and moan and beg Sharon to let them through. Simon and Louis walk off, saying they’ll leave Sharon to it. ‘Please, PLEASE!’ go the girls. Sharon tells them that ‘the standard this year is so high,’ which is absolute bullfish. (Word. At least find a convincing excuse, Sharon.-Steve) This is spliced with scenes of Louis and Simon making themselves a cup of tea, and one for Sharon, and basically giggling like children. More crying and they’re eventually escorted out. It’s silly, because why do you think that begging and pleading is a good idea? If you have to wail and rend your garments just to get to the next round, they’re going to cut you at the earliest opportunity. Harry is sat right outside as they go out. Ooh, they’ll cut a bitch. etc. Confession booth of the Eskimo Blonde girls saying they’re disappointed, and Harry saying she’s happy for herself but gutted for the girls. Sharon tears a strip off Simon, saying he shouldn’t have left her alone to make the choice. He’s the one who has a relationship with them and ‘I don’t know who they are.’ I can actually see her point, Simon should have asserted himself a bit more, but she brought it on herself by being such a soft touch for crying people other times. Sharon leaves, without even taking the proffered cup of tea. Louis and Simon pause. And then burst out laughing some more.

Next week. MORE AUDITIONS. Bootcamp? Please? A girl in a wheelchair, who clearly has her sob-story built in, but seems to have a nice voice too. Some sort of crisis at the Casa Osbourne means Sharon has to fly away. Ozzy probably got turned around and locked himself in the linen cupboard or something.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

It's a hard knock life

Programme 3: 2nd September 2006

So! Three episodes in, and I'm your guide once again. Joel is experiencing extreme X Factor fatigue, and I can't say I blame him, so I shall attempt to be as witty and amusing as I can during his convalescence. On with the show: 100,000 people with one dream. Except not one dream, because one girl's dream is "to be on that stage", and another man's dream is "to be Shayne Ward", which I think are very different dreams - and both equally futile. (You'd think Shayne might have something to say about the latter.-Joel) The typically dramatic intro tells us to expect thrills and spills, and oh just get on with it already. It's The X Factor! And yes, we did notice how the graphics for 'Wales Vs. The Rest Of The World' on The Charlotte Church Show were a total ripoff of this show's graphics, and it would have been a funny joke if this show's titles weren't so thoroughly uninspiring. Note to the producers of Charlotte's show: if you're going to copy, try not to copy the kid who sits at the back of the class and fires spitwads when he should be working.

Tonight we're in Glasgow. A man says how nice it is that The X Factor has come to Scotland. The Welsh population seethes silently. Somebody flashes what's worn underneath his kilt, and you can make your own joke about that. Kate explains the categories: Ashley is the good example for the 16-24s, Shiny Dancer is the bad one. For the 25 and overs, Sarah is good, and I think Steven from last week is the bad one. For the groups, 4Sure are good, and two ladies which we will see later in tonight's show are bad. Way to build the suspense there, editors! The judges scowl into the camera.

First up is 29-year-old engineer Alan. He's wearing a kilt of some description. Sharon does her best impersonation of a Scottish accent as Alan enters the room, and they engage in Scottish stereotype banter. Fun for all, there. Sharon calls him handsome, and Alan sings 'My Girl'. Alan's voice is quite nice, if not exactly groundbreaking, but it's enough to get him through to the next round. Outside, Kate hugs him, and a male friend bears Alan aloft and exposes Alan's bottom, which he then smacks. It's a fairly decent arse, so I'm not going to complain. (I thought this was a family show, not The Homoerotic Corporal Punishment Hour.-Joel) Next up is 17-year-old fast food worker Michael, who thinks he has the image and the voice. I haven't heard his voice yet, but he's already failing on one count. Michael sings 'Leave Right Now' (asking for trouble, surely) and forgets his words. The editors fuck with him by blending the track into other songs on the soundtrack, which is actually one of their more amusing techniques. Louis cracks the obligatory "I think you should leave right now" joke and Michael's reality TV dream is over. 'Leave Right Now' then becomes the soundtrack to another loser montage.

Kate VOs that morale is low despite the early promise, and the judges head out to give the contestants "a stern talking-to". Ooh, is daddy going to spank me? Sorry, I don't know where that came from. (Steve!! It's NOT the Homoerotic Corporal Punishment Hour.-Joel) It's not actually that stern in the event; Simon just tells them that Scotland has not produced a single star so far in this competition, and Sharon informs them that they'll be expecting more professionalism from everyone else. I'm not feeling too sorry for the judges at this point: if they didn't want a bunch of people to come in and strip off in the hope that it will get them through, they shouldn't have opened the Pandora's box that was Chico last year. 44-year-old factory worker (at least that's what KateVO calls her, Katie later introduces herself as a "supervisor for a plumbing manufacturer's firm", which sounds more impressive) Katie is next, and feeling nervous after the lecture. Katie sings a song that I recognise but don't know the title of (it goes "I've sung a lot of songs, but I've made some bad rhymes" if that helps you at all). She sounds great, and Sharon agrees with me. Louis says that if Katie was in his category, he wouldn't know what to do with her. Louis says that about everyone who isn't an attractive 16-24 year old boy, in fairness, because if he can't market someone to pre-teens, he's sunk. He doesn't think Katie would sell many records. Fine, but if that's your criteria, then call this show The Record Seller, not The X Factor. The two don't always add up to the same thing, especially if Shayne Ward's last chart placing is anything to go by. The votes are in: it's a yes from Sharon, and a no from Louis. Simon explains that the point of the show having no upper age limit was to give people of Katie's age a second chance, and says that he thought her singing was "exceptional", so it's a yes for Katie. Awww. I like Katie a lot, but if she makes it to the final, I bet you anything she gets Maria-ed and ends up coming around seventh in favour of some novelty act.

Coming up: lots of people who can't sing. WOO! Adverts. The trailer for Sharon's chatshow looks hella stilted. Girlfriend can't read an autocue naturally to save her life.

Now we're in Newcastle. We see the judges getting ready (I did NOT need to see Louis's unkempt bedsheets, THANK YOU VERY MUCH) and Sharon expresses her urge to find a new rockstar. Because Peter Brame and Tabby were such shining examples of this kind of show's ability to unearth new rock talent? Leave it to the NME to hype the rockstars, Sharon, and why don't you do something about the dire straits that pop music has found itself in lately? First up is 21-year-old barmaid Laura, who is - gasp! - a young, attractive wannabe rockstar. What are the odds of that happening? She tells Kate that her mum sent her here to prove rock's not dead, or something. Hilariously, Laura sings Sandi Thom's 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)' for her audition, which is not only the least rock a song can possibly be, but is also a surefire contender for the worst song in the history of forever. Laura's punk rock cred suddenly seems about as contrived as, well, Sandi Thom's. It's a shame, because Laura does have a nice voice, if a little bleating. Louis is disappointed with her voice, but Laura still gets a unanimous yes. Montage of rubbish wannabe rockers (including a girl who claims to love rock music, and then informs the judges she'll be singing Mariah Carey's 'Hero'). The section serves to remind me just how awful rock music can be when people set their minds to it.

A girl in the audition room says "If you cut me in half, you would see 'SINGER' inside." Ooh! Ooh! Let's put that to the test! Then let's see what Louis's got written inside him! We see several people telling us how much they want it, then Kate says "but no one wants it more than 18-year-old barmaid Tina". Again, I assume this is the result of a thoroughly scientific study and not just hyperbole on Kate's part. Tina has a heart condition, and had an operation recently but discharged herself to come to the audition. Rihanna's 'Unfaithful' cues up on the soundtrack, for some unknown reason. Simon says, "I wish you hadn't told me that." "Why?" asks Tina, then realises, giggling, "you've got to put me through now!" "Exactly," says Simon. Except not. Heart condition or no heart condition, if she's shit, send her home. Tina is going to sing 'Killing Me Softly' and Louis laughs. "That's a rotten choice," says Simon in semi-amused disgust. "Why, have you heard it a lot?" asks Tina. Oh, boy. No, Tina, it's a rotten choice because of what you've just told them. Surely that's obvious? Anyway, Tina sings, and has a nice voice, if a little uncontrolled. She gets lukewarm feedback from Louis and Sharon, but Simon loved her. "Putting you together with that voice just worked for me," says Simon, and I really hope this doesn't mean he's only putting her through because the heart condition story is such a marketable selling point, because really that's kind of sick. Three yesses for Tina, and she runs out jumping for joy. (They really are getting the sob stories in early this year aren't they? At least Andy waited for the live shows for his mum to die. Oh, what's that? My bus to Hell is here? Okay, be right with you.-Joel) Montage of good people doing well, but of course no one wants to see that, do they?

Next up are 25-year-old twin sisters Gemma and Hayley, otherwise known as Identical. Gemma says "we've got a bit of a routine, but hopefully we'll do it right, because it's singing AND moving our heads at the same time." Gosh, yes, that is tricky. Hilariously, one of them does that "we wanna be together!" bit from that advert that was on years ago, but I can't remember what it was for. Note to self: conduct study on the longterm effectiveness of advertising. They sing 'Sweet Dreams', and it starts off sounding sort of okay, but then descends into ad libbed oblivion fairly quickly. They look scary when they sing. Kind of...animatronic. Simon agrees with me, actually going as far as to tell Gemma she looks "demonic" when she sings. Gemma apologises meekly. Simon tells them that they don't sound or look right, so he can't put them through. Hayley is upset: "I thought you were half-decent and what you say sometimes is right, but you have proved me so wrong today." In the sense that you thought you were talented? Looks like it, yes. Sharon and Louis protest, with Sharon pointing out that their harmonies are really good, which is a fair comment, I suppose. Gemma and Hayley attempt to change Simon's mind by breaking into 'Lean On Me', wherein some of the harmonies are on-point and others are...less so. Simon just starts chanting "no no no no no no" over it and they continue relentlessly. However, Sharon thinks there's something there they can work with (and in fairness, if they can clean up the harmoies, put an end to the crazy dances, and stop Gemma doing demon faces, they...still won't really be marketable, but they'd be a lot better, so I can see her point here). Simon's loud resouding now is drowned out by yesses from Sharon and Louis, and Identical go through. (And I whip out my first 'change the name change the name change the name' of the season.-Joel)

Next up, 23-year-old Gemma brought her boyfriend, beanie man Joe, along for moral support, but when he got there he decided to audition himself. I have to say, I've been in this position before (auditions are crazy, drug-like things that give you this sudden urge to make a complete twat of yourself despite your better judgement), so I hope Joe does better than I did. They paw each other in the audition room. Kate asks them who is the better singer, and they point in unison to the other one. Speeyack. Gemma is in first. Gemma sings Heart's 'Alone' in a weird Anastasica-like way that I don't really care for. Sharon is unsure, thinking it's cabaret-ish. Simon is sort of with her on that one. Gemma, quick as lightning, says they can train it out of her. "You are what you are, Gemma," Simon replies. Sharon: no. Louis: yes. Simon prevaricates. Gemma begs. Simon agrees with Louis.

Coming up: Sharon tells Joe to "take that baby's bonnet off". And monkey noises!

Back from the break, we're still in Newcastle, and Joe's in to see the judges. For some reason his entrance makes Sharon cackle with laughter. Joe totally looks like Darren from Hollyoaks. Joe sings 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight?' and actually has quite a nice voice. Sharon tells him to take the hat off as we saw in the previews. Simon liked the audition, but thinks Joe could've chosen a better song to show himself off with. It's three yeses for Joe, but it's bittersweet, or so the show would have us believe, because they'll be going up against each other at boot camp. The judges discuss Gemma and her cabaretness, and Sharon says that Gemma thinks she's better than she actually is, which sounds about right. Simon thinks Joe would be very commercially-successful in America because he's a very good-looking guy. And...what? Do we only buy the records of ugly people in this country? I don't understand why Simon's implying that Joe's somehow more suited to the American market than the UK market. (Given that last year's winner was the
moderately-talented, but rather fit in a greasy-faced sink-estate sort of way, Shayne Ward, I don't get his point.
-Joel) Montage of 16-24s. Someone sings 'Under The Bridge'. Someone else sings Enrique's 'Hero' rather breathily. Someone else sings 'True Colours'. Her family hugs the judges.

Next up is 35-year-old forklift truck driver Champagne. He is wearing a white hat not entirely dissimilar to Joe's, and holding a bizarre plastic microphone. He believes he's the complete package. Champagne sings 'I Believe I Can Fly', totally mumbling some of the words in a vain attempt to disguise the fact that he doesn't know them, and he sings into that ludicrous plastic microphone. Simon's judgement: "you came in, you called yourself Champagne, and you sounded like house wine." (HA! I was going to comment on the name. Now I don't have to.-Joel) Champagne kind of twitches. Sharon asks him to take his sunglasses off so they can see his eyes. Simon says there's no point in them sitting here pretending that someone who's a bad soundalike is going to do well. So how do they explain Shayne's Stars In Their Eyes turn as Justin Timberlake last series? Louis likes Champagne's image. Simon: "He looks like he works in a poultry factory, he's got two pairs of sunglasses and a plastic microphone. How can you say the image is good?" Hee. Simon tells him it's not good enough. Champage starts singing 'Amazing Grace', and Simon calls for a vote. Champagne keeps singing. "Champagne. Champagne! CHAMPAGNE!" Simon yells. Champagne eventually stops long enough for Sharon and Louis to give him a no vote, and for Simon to declare: "Champagne, you're flat." Montage of weird and bad people.

32-year-old mature student Agnes is next, singing Roxette's 'It Must Have Been Love'. She sings not so much with vibrato as with the aural equivalent of a willow tree in a force nine hurricane. The judges giggle. Agnes is tuneless to boot, but she keeps going. Sharon admonishes Simon and Louis for laughing at Agnes, because of course, she's SO above that. In a break, Sharon tells Simon to be professional and hold it back. Next is 21-year-old mum of two Samantha. She's very pretty and looks a bit like a blonde Jill Halfpenny. Samantha sings 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You)' in a surprisingly controlled fashion. Simon declares it "really good". She reminds Sharon of a young Olivia Newton-John, although I have to say that in the closeups she kind of looks like Geri Halliwell. Simon says that Samantha has the potential to be very special. Samantha goes through. The judges get on a plane to their next venue, and talk about how much they loved Samantha. It's nice, but I can't help thinking it would be significantly more entertaining if there were some motherfucking snakes on that motherfucking plane. (You had Louis. What more do you want?-Joel)

Coming up: catwomen, and somebody familiar!

Back from the break, and Kate tells us "the auditions have moved back to Glasgow". O RLY? I don't believe you, Kate. I believe you just did one session in Glasgow and you're showing it in several parts, because that would make more sense from a logistical point of view, so how do you like them apples? 18-year-old Richard "wants it more than anyone", except presumably Tina. Seriously, it's bad enough that you use that expression without any kind of evidence, without using it twice in the same episode. Sheesh. Anyway, we know Richard. We like Richard. Richard auditioned in series two, but a series of memory flubs at boot camp led to Louis sending him home. Now Richard is back with his boyband, Junction 4. And one of these days, we will get a group on this show whose name is not the least bit risible, but until then I roll my eyes so hard that I lose my contact lenses somewhere in the back of my skull. The other members of the group talk, and one of them looks like Lee Ryan. The judges recognise Richard from last year, and Junction 4 sing 'Till There Was You', which is completely ingrained in my head as the song that every member of Hear'Say had to sing about twelve million times during Popstars. The judges are unimpressed, citing the group's dated look and lack of relevance to the current music scene. And I know it's cheap of me to invoke Chico here, but still: WTF CHICO OMG. Simon tells Richard he is better than the other three, and asks him to come back in an hour and audition on his own.

Next up are Glaswegian duo Twice As Nice, the catwomen from the preview. The fact that they talk about how they think their leopardskin gimmick is a good idea just shows how doomed they are. They tell the judges they'll be singing 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight', and Simon and Sharon both say "oh, great" with entirely different inflections. I'll leave you to work out which was which. It shouldn't be hard. One of them does monkey noises to start, and the other one stares at the floor the entire time. I suspect she doesn't really want to be there. I once sang this song at university as part of a play, and I kind of sucked, but I was still better than this. Simon declares them the "worst group we've ever had". Sharon calls them "FANTASTICALLY bad". It's a no for Twice As Nice, but Sharon asks for one more monkey noise before they go. Simon grumps, "that just about sums up today: 'can I have one more monkey noise?'" Outside, Twice As Nice dejectedly mourn their loss, citing that the judges are looking for a more versatile group who can sing ballads, and that they're in a different category altogether. And it would be easy to rip into them here, but part of me kind of admires them for being so philosophical about it. Admittedly, they're not a patch on Dot, but it's still an approach I wish more people would take.

Montage of bad groups. Two Les Battersby-alikes are rejected, as are the two women we saw at the beginning in the "good/bad groups" examples. Kate tells us that Richard was rejected last year as a soloist, came back with a group who got rejected, and now has to audition on his own. WE KNOW! WE JUST SAW THIS HAPPEN! IT WAS UNDER FIVE MINUTES AGO! THERE HASN'T EVEN BEEN AN AD BREAK SINCE THEN! Holy crap, this show sometimes. Richard returns. "Aha, you've abandoned the other three," says Simon, and - woah, harsh. "Make me feel worse about it," mumbles Richard, who clearly does not wish to be reminded. And I have to say, that was uncalled-for on Simon's part. Richard sings Lionel Richie's 'Hello', and has a very nice voice. Simon tells Richard his outfit is hideous (even though I'm seriously coveting his jacket), and Sharon tells him that he'll need to work on his personality now he's a solo artist. Louis tells him to lighten up, and Simon tells him he's a bit like a beaten dog at the moment. I hope to God that Simon, renowned dog-lover, doesn't know what a beaten dog actually looks like. I kind of wish no one knew what one looked like, actually, but this is a blog, not a PETA rally. Richard says that his heart was broken last year, and that he thought it was going to win. It's kind of arrogant, I suppose, but he says it so meekly that I can't really hate him for it. Simon tells him he doesn't meet many 18-year-old boys with a voice like Richard's. It's a yes from Louis, and an absolute yes from Sharon. Simon puts him through to the next round.

We're close to the end in Glasgow, and next up is 17-year-old Nikita (at least I think it's Nikita. It could be Miquita, which would be cool, because she totally looks like Miquita Oliver), whose mother recently died of cancer. Nikita tells the camera about the loss of her mum. Nikita sings 'Dimming Of The Day' by Bonnie Raitt. Nikita has a very powerful and very pleasant voice. It'd be nice if she sang with her eyes open, though. Louis liked the choice of song, and asks if it's a gospel song. (I confess I didn't hear it, but Bonnie Raitt? Gospel? Not so much,
-Joel) Nikita explains that it was her mum's favourite song, and that she and her auntie recorded it and played it at the funeral so it means a lot to her. And I don't want to make light of the issue, but I do rather feel I'm being emotionally blackmailed into liking Nikita when it really isn't necessary, because she seems like a lovely girl even without the tragic backstory. But I digress. It's a yes from Sharon and Louis, and Simon tells her the song was beautiful, her voice was fantastic, and that her mum would be very proud of her. Awww. I'm such a pushover. Needless to say, she goes through. Simon tells us that he likes how she sang from the heart.

Next week: some more people who suck. The return of Paula Abdul! Yay! Someone giggling. The woman in the polka dot dress flashing Louis, whom we were promised last week and didn't get. I call shenanigans! Simon condescends to Sharon, and some girls beg Sharon to say yes, which we've also been promised before. Stupid misleading previews.