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.


Julia said...

The song that Katie sang was 'A Song For You', which Elliott did on American Idol several thousand times. (Well, at least twice).

I feel like this year more than ever we're given sob stories for every. single. contestant. that we're supposed to like, and it pisses me off no end. As far as I'm aware, people in the real world tend to care more about what the music sounds like than the plight of the performer.

Paul said...

yay i am so glad that the bitch factor is back! I have missed you guys :)