I’m watching this in repeat, because on Saturday night I was at Tobias and the Angel at the Young Vic. It was rather wonderful and the singing was so beautiful it moved me to tears. Of course, X Factor voices also move to me to tears sometimes, but for a different reason, Ray. So, yeah. Given that I spent a night watching absurdly beautiful singing, I might give this bunch of losers even shorter shrift than usual. (Ditto. I was watching Strictly Come Dancing instead, which was way better, and watched this all on video. And since I didn’t have to watch it in recap-worthy detail, I will give some performances the Steve FF-ometer reading, for how far into the performance I got before fast-forwarding to the end.-Steve)
Thank god it’s the performance shows. These are so much easier to recap - the same thing happens for three or four minutes. It’s a lot less demanding. Voice-over man says ‘Just 11 acts remain.’ Just?! Sit through it and then tell me that 11 acts isn’t a lot, assface. They actually start Carmina Burana from the beginning for once, I think, though it’s hard to tell over the insanely cheering crowd. Judges and their contestants are introduced. Kate’s got a jade-green belted dress on, which is fine. The slash to the waist exposing gaping cleavage? Not so much. Tonight’s special guest is Rod Stewart. 140 million albums. 40 million singles. Big successful etc etc etc. Oh, Rod! No. He’s wearing a white dress shirt and a black jacket. But the jacket is spangly. It looks like it’s made of wet tarmac. It is Not A Good Look. Rod thinks the judges have picked good songs for the finalists. Rod says it’s all up to the Great British Public and Kate agrees that it is. Except for the part where it’s totally not because the judges have final say in who goes.
Simon says we’re kicking off with a bang, with ‘the amazing Leona.’ Simon, ever averse to the adverb, says she did ‘brilliant’ last week. Leona is shy. Blah blah. Rod came into rehearsals and tells her he can’t sing in front of small groups and couldn’t sing in the studio as well as Leona just did. Leona is wearing a shiny leopard-print dress. Hmm. She’s singing ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest.’ Not, as most people believe, sung originally by Rod Stewart, but by the goddess-like PP Arnold. PP Arnold’s version is incredible, every one since then is a mess. Especially Sheryl Crow’s. Leona’s fine. She’s hitting the notes but she doesn’t really put any passion into it - there’s no sense of the heartbreak this song should have. Oh dear! She does a hiccup-note at the end and it goes all over the place. (Steve FF-ometer: I watched the whole thing, but largely in a state of ‘oh dear, what is Leona doing to one of my favourite songs?’-Steve) The audience cheer very loudly. Louis says it was great and that as the competition goes on she’s ‘definitely going to be safe.’ Until she gets booted, presumably. Sharon says it was great and Leona will only get better as time goes on. Simon says, ‘I didn’t like it…I loved it.’ He says that every show needs someone like her. Leona was worried being first up but is thrilled with the judges’ comments. At Kate’s prompting, Leona says what an all-round brilliant person Rod Stewart is.
Next up is Sharon and ‘the unstoppable Kerry.’ Unless you stick a broom-handle in her spokes! Ha! Hell for me, yes, I know. (Bad Joel! Bad!-Steve) Kerry was upset that Simon said she was a bar singer last week. She goes on and on about it. Then, in the studio, goes on about it even more to Rod. Oh, boo-hoo, did Simon burst our little bubble of self-belief? Kerry wants to make Scotland proud, just like Rod Stewart. She’s sat on a stool. I didn’t notice how she got there. There are little dishes of fire about the stage. She sings ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It.’ Again, vocally perfectly nice and hitting the notes, but it sounds like she’s concentrating so much on that she’s forgotten to put any real personality into it. (Yep. I kept comparing her unfavourably to Susanne on Pop Idol 2, and thinking how Kerry’s completely lacking the raw, gravelly emotion of Susanne’s version. She only got an ‘until the start of the second verse’ on the Steve FF-ometer.-Steve) Singing really is about more than hitting the notes. Louis says that she raised the bar on last week, which was a little bit bland. Even though he didn’t say that last week. Sharon also says she was better than last week, and thanks Simon, who chose the song. Simon says it was better but thinks she can do even better and that she’s ‘better than she knows.’ He think it sounds like she meant it, which, see above for my complete disagreement. Kerry agrees and says that ‘I know I’ve got so much more to give.’
Back after the break, there seems to be booing among the cheers. I think the audience are confused. Louis introduces the McDonald Brothers, promptly getting their name wrong by saying, ‘the McDonalds!’ Rod Stewart tells them to worry about singing first and stage presence will come later. Hmm. Oh dear god. They’re in red t-shirts and black kilts. Tartanless kilts (because there’s no McDonald tartan? Give me a break) kind of just look like pleated skirts. They should be playing hockey. They sing ‘We Are Sailing.’ The dark one is cute. (I’m glad it wasn’t just me thinking that. Also, Steve FF-ometer reading: end of the first verse.-Steve) They kind of suck. The dark one gives a little electric guitar solo. There is an invisible choir of backing singers. The boys aren’t harmonising with each other or with the BVs. It’s a little chaotic. Louis says they have personality and he doesn’t care if Simon doesn’t like them. Sharon likes their sporrans and in a completely scripted bit, they lift their kilts to reveal, well, the second layer of the kilt. Sexy! Sharon thinks they were a lot better than last week and that personality will come. Simon says they’re nice guys but that it was ‘absolutely terrible’ and ‘verging on insane.’ There were ‘all these weird key changes.’ Simon says ‘there is not a cat in hell’s chance of you winning this competition.’ The audience boo half-heartedly, because they know Simon is right. Louis, hopeless as ever, says they’re young and trying hard and all that other shit that doesn’t matter. The boys are quite gracious in receiving the comments.
Next up is Ashley. He gets arsey again about not liking the songs. But to be fair he’s talking about Rod Stewart, which is fair enough because Rod Stewart is shit. Rod loves singers ‘who close their eyes when they sing.’ Ashley is…dressed kinda like a girl. He’s singing…something. Oh! ‘I Would Rather Go Blind.’ They mentioned it not being a well-known Rod Stewart song. I think the version I know is Freda Payne’s. Ashley is rather good, in my opinion. He divides people, but I think his voice is lovely. Soulful - he actually puts something into the song rather than just hitting the notes. Louis says ‘praise be to God’ Ashley is in the competition. Sharon says he’s great and ‘will be a handful’ and then gets the giggles about her own innuendo. Simon says ‘lesson one in who to stay away from.’ Simon says that Ashley still has a long way to go but the performance was ‘mesmerising.’ (Not for me: I didn’t even get to the end of the first verse before fast-forwarding. Also: Ashley sounds like Madeleine Peyroux. I don’t mean that as a compliment.-Steve) (Shut up! You’ve ruined it now!-Joel)
Sharon introduces ‘The Big D, Dionne.’ Dionne was devastated to be in the bottom two and it was a blow to her confidence. Sharon says it was a blessing in disguise because it may have made Dionne realise you need more than just a voice. Rod Stewart says that Dionne is good and that it’s ‘in the lap of the gods.’ Dionne is looking forward to proving she can do it. She’s wearing an indigo dress, which is rather pretty, and singing ‘Tonight’s The Night.’ She’s sounding a bit like Tina Turner, kind of brassy. She’s also moving a bit like Tina Turner, clomping about the stage. She doesn’t have the beginning nerves that she did last week and is good the whole way through - coping with loud bits and quiet bits and not batting an eyelid at the key change. Louis says he doesn’t know why she was bottom two last week and says he reminds her of Tina Turner. Nooooo!! I’m agreeing with Louis! Sharon says that Dionne ‘owned the stage’ (no) and has ‘a great, soulful voice’ (yes). Simon says that he was very surprised to see Dionne in the bottom two because she has a ‘very, very good voice’ but lots of backing singers have very, very good voices. He says she doesn’t need to practice on the voice and should spend the next week getting into performing. Sharon goes absolutely psycho at this, saying , ‘just admit that you want her out!’ Louis dives in as well. Given that Sharon rejected Dionne at the first audition, saying she had nothing original, and it was Simon and Louis who put her through, I think Ms Osbourne could afford to be a wee bit less precious about this. Simon says he’s trying to help Dionne (which I think he is, because he’s right - she’s a bit lumpen on stage) but Sharon keeps screeching and jabbing at him with hatpins, crying ‘you’re trying to get rid of her!’ (I apologise for hijacking the recap, but this is the point where I wanted to reach into the TV set, grab Sharon by the lapels, dunk her into a vat of water and shove her headfirst into the nearest electrical socket. How dare you, Sharon. How fucking DARE you put your stupid, petty rivalry with Simon and your asinine attempts at manufacturing drama above Dionne learning a lesson that someone desperately needs to teach her. Simon was not being rude, he was telling Dionne that for her own good, because God knows you weren’t going to. I don’t know how on earth you command so much money to appear on this show, but I do know why you never win: because you are about as adept at artist management as I am at speaking Swahili, you stupid, shrewish, immature, stupid, hateful woman.-Steve)
We’re introduced to ‘four cool guys from the Midlands.‘ Stop with the origins Louis. 4 Sure, apparently, had ‘butterflies in their stomach’ last week. They have a collective stomach? They talk about how they can’t be doing with a Rod Stewart song because it’s not R’n’B. They come on stage in black suits. One woman in the audience screams like she’s dying. They sit on stools. Oh, Louis. I don’t know this song but I think it’s called ‘You’re In My Soul.’ It’s dreadful and twee. They’re almost worse. Their harmonies are just not on. They get off the stools. Oh, Louis. It’s not good at all and I’m glad when it’s over. (I got as far as the first line of the chorus, but by this point I’d already seen it twice on the results show. Spoiler!-Steve) Louis says they did a good job but will have to do more to stay in the competition. Sharon asks who did the arrangement and says it was good. Which it wasn’t. The arrangement was the problem - it was all over the place. Sharon says she knows it wasn’t a song they’d pick. It wasn’t a song anyone would pick. I’ve heard it about four times now and within five minutes I can’t remember how it went. Bad, Louis! Bad! Simon says the arrangement was bad and that if you heard it on the radio it would sound like ‘four 80-year olds.’ Sharon gets all smug and says, ‘but they won’t be singing it on the radio will they?’ Simon laughs and says, ‘No! They won’t!’ clearly meaning ‘because they’re too shit’ but Sharon completely misses the point and settles back into her smug, all ‘that’s right. They won’t.’ Simon says it was rubbish. Kate, rehashing Simon’s comments, turns to 4 Sure and says ‘wet, ploddy, not for him. What do you say to that?’ Ouch. A little tact goes a long way, Kate. They say the normal take it on board stuff.
Nikitta, whose mum is dead, talks about how she knew she had the support of her mum, who is dead, and that her mum, who is dead, was there because she felt confident like she did when she was with her mum, who is dead. Simon says she’s having fun, which is great and what you want for a 17-year-old. Nikitta says the same thing - she’s loving it and having the time of her life. She’s singing ‘Bring It On Home To Me.’ She looks kinda foxy in a black dress and one black leather glove. They must be worried because Simon’s already played the gospel choir card. Seems a bit early for that, Si-Si. (Isn’t this the sort of thing he clearly identified as a gimmick last series? I guess Simon doesn’t have that much confidence in Dead Mother Girl after all.-Steve) She’s perfectly good. She does a big showstoppy bit toward the end. I just don’t have much to say about it, but it’s fine. The choir drown her out a bit Louis says the song is rubbish and blames Simon, but it really does seem like sour grapes. Sharon says the same, Simon’s ruined you blah. She makes a completely inappropriate OJ Simpson joke about the glove. Louis tells Simon the dress is wrong. Simon says ‘what do you know about fashion?’ Louis responds, ‘more than you! I don’t wear my trousers up here’ and spins his head in little circles because he’s SO pleased with himself. (Ooh, a height-of-trousers joke! How very current!-Steve) Simon just cuts him down with ‘you’re hardly Giorgio Armani, darling, are you?’ and carries on to say Nikitta dressed herself anyway. Sharon and Louis harp on and on ‘we love you, Simon is awful, he’s ruining you.’
Robert. Sharon introduces him by saying that ‘he’s very shy’ and you can hear Simon mutter disgustedly, ‘no he’s not.’ Hee! We’re treated to a rehash of the complete lie that Robert was good last week. He knows he can’t afford to be complacent. He wouldn’t normally sing Rod Stewart. He’s in a burgundy suit, sat on a step, singing ‘Try A Little Tenderness.’ It’s better than last week. He’s not honking so much. Oh! I take it all back. He just said ‘Come on, let’s party!’ and has made it a disco version. Fuck me it’s dreadful. I don’t care if it’s like Rod Stewart’s version, which I doubt anyway. He drops to his knees and spazzes around. ‘Sock it to me sock it to me sock it me!’ ‘Love! Hug! URGH! Tenderness!’ What the fuck was that? That’s one of the worst things I have ever ever seen on one of these shows. (I fast-forwarded through the whole wretched thing, having already seen it on the results. Whoops! I’m just dropping spoilers everywhere today.-Steve) Louis calls it the best performance so far tonight, which it wasn’t. Sharon says he shouldn’t be so shy and Robert does a little jig. Twat. Sharon tells him to watch his tuning when he’s running around. Simon says Sharon is right. The audience loves him, but there’s ‘a slight desperation’ to his performance. He says it’s like a Chippendales show, with all the running around, and, anticipating Louis’s stupid ‘have you seen them?’ joke, says ‘Louis’ll know. You’ve got a season pass, Louis!’ HA!
We’re introduced to ‘four young boys from Liverpool’ because Louis is obsessed with contestants’ towns of origin. Eton Road never expected to be in the competition. They think being different is what they need to focus on and Anthony says meeting Rod has made them believe ‘being different will always go in your favour’ and it’s ‘opened
Simon says ‘my last artist, because I do have four, is Ray.’ I can’t believe Ray is getting the pimp slot. Oh, he’s not! I keep thinking it’s the last one and it’s not. So many people. Ray loved it last week. He say he doesn’t want it to end and talks about the audience and the cameras and once again doesn’t actually mention singing. Little shit. Obeying the letter, if not the spirit, of the theme, Ray is singing ‘What A Wonderful World.’ I mean Rod Stewart’s done 4 American Songbook albums now - you’re going to find something to fit Ray’s shtick in there. Oh my god. I hate this song. I mean really really hate. And I really really hate Ray. But this is actually quite good. I’m managing to listen to it without wanting to destroy things and he’s not disgustingly out of tune. That’s actually one of the best performances of the night. Ew. (Meh. This was the first performance I saw when I switched over after Strictly, and I thought it was so dreadful I couldn’t bring myself to watch any more and switched the TV off. Sorry!-Steve) (I guess it’s just because my expectations were as low as the Marianna Trench, I was pleasantly surprised.-Joel) Louis says it was better than last week and ‘if it was a smiling contest, you’d win.’ He likens him to a young Robbie Williams and says ‘the song was a bit boring.’ Sharon says it’s hard for him to be young and be in that style. She doesn’t think it’s a bad thing, but it’s weird. Simon very astutely points out that at his first audition, Ray sang a Dean Martin song, which was 50 years old and they both said they’d want Ray in their category, so he’s just putting Ray back in his comfort zone. Simon says Ray’s got the confidence and style to pull off those songs. Ray thanks them for their comments. Kate prompts Ray to say how awesome Rod Stewart is.
Ben was stunning, says Sharon. We see Louis saying Ben is like ‘a young Rod Stewart.’ Ben meets Rod and calls it an honour. Ben has a bad feeling and doesn’t want to be seen as a Rod Stewart impersonator. Ooh, he’s got a piano. He’s singing ‘Maggie May’ and at the beginning is keeping the gruffness under control and is just singing very well. He gets up from the piano, the band kicks in, oh, there you go, growly growly. Because this song is so associated with Rod Stewart and because Ben does have a fairly similar voice it’s hard to think he’s doing anything different. He does the stupid wander around the back of the judges’ table. The audience do that incredibly annoying thing of clapping on and off the beat so it just sounds like co-ordinated applause. Louis says Ben owned the stage an is brilliant. Ben gave Robert a run for his money in terms of performance of the night. Louis says Ben will make the final ‘with probably one of my acts.’ Sharon says ‘not that I’m biased’ but it was fantastic. Simon says what I did, that Ben’s in a difficult position - singing Rod Stewart’s most famous song. And that he should have done the whole thing as he did at the beginning, sat at the piano. Simon says it would be ‘a miracle’ if Ben wasn’t in the final. Ben says he loves it and was overwhelmed by Rod and is generally very sweet.
Kate: Vote! Vote! Vote you worthless scum! Clips: Leona doesn’t sound very good. Kerry is all right. The McDonald Brothers (or is it MacDonald? I don’t care) are chaotic. Ashley is great. Dionne sounds even better than I remember. 4 Sure are awful. Nikitta gets drowned out by her own gimmick. Robert is a complete twat. They cut a little snip of Eton Road where they actually sound quite good. Ray temporarily makes my loathing abate. Ben undoes his own good work within thirty seconds.
Simon says two stand-out performances were Ashley and Ben. Sharon says there’s something for everyone. Kate doesn’t even bother talking to Louis, unless I dozed off.
We’re reminded, once again, who the contestants are. Then a recap of the performances and the numbers. Rod sings ‘It’s A Heartache.’ He’s wearing a red military jacket, but not like a Pete-Doherty-in-the-Libertines one. More like a pantomime prince once. I’m not wasting keystrokes on this. Kate says, ‘wow, Rod Stewart!’ and then congratulates him on having the number one album in the US. Kate flirts outrageously and they touch each other. Rod says he was proud of ‘the Scottish contingent’ but names no names about who he liked. (I have seen no evidence whatsoever that any of the special guests actually watch the show. You know damn well Rod Stewart was in the bar, or possibly on the phone firing his agent.-Steve)
More Carmina Burana. Judges and finalists are reintroduced. Anthony waves hello very camply, flapping his fingers down to his palm and up again, rather than moving his hand side-to-side. 15 minutes before they announce they results! First back is Dionne. Hooray! She goes crazy. Next are the MacDonald Brothers. I really should have got that from the big marquee lights above the stage. MACDonald. Next is Ray. Ben. Kerry. Kate is waiting about 20 seconds between ‘is’ and the name. It’s dumb. Ashley. Nikitta. Simon says ‘well done, baby.’ Eton Road. Leona. She looks completely overwhelmed. Oh my. Hang on. This means that the two shittest acts are in the bottom two. The public…got it right? *shudder* I don’t think I can cope with that.
Robert’s not surprised but is nervous. Sharon doesn’t know what’s happening, and wishes she has a ‘bloody crystal ball.’ Kate asks what he needs to do to get Louis and Simon’s votes, completely forgoing any pretence that Sharon might vote against her own singer. 4 Sure don’t want to go. Kate says ‘Simon Cowell could well have the casting vote.’ Of course he fucking will! (Hee! I love that Kate at least made a pretence of suggesting that Louis and Sharon wouldn’t blindly vote for their own acts.-Steve) 4 Sure sing again. They’re a lot better this time and seem to have more control over their harmonies. People cheer. Robert sings again. He’s taken his jacket off. He says something about ‘all love, cool’ and pats his chest. The beginning is quite nice and understated. Then it gets all disco and shitter than last time. The music is drowning him out and he’s not enunciating at all. The audience love it because they are drugged up-cattle who only react when the studio managers release the appropriate hormones into the air-conditioning.
Sharon is sending home 4 Sure. Louis is sending home Robert. 4 Sure should stay, on the strength of the two performances just gone. Simon has the casting vote. ‘This may surprise you, but the artist…I…am…going…to…send…home…is…4 Sure.’ We get to see 4 Sure’s best bits. There’s really nothing there to speak of. 4 Sure cry and cry. One of them acts a spokesman and says ‘it’s not the end of us.’ Kate rubs it in that Louis’s lost two acts in the first two weeks. Louis says they’ll still have a career. Kate prompts 4 Sure to thank Louis. Kate tells us that Tony Bennett will be in next week. God, they’re really greasing the wheel for Ray aren’t they? And then we’re done. What a satisfying episode!