Hello children. Given that this was, to all intents and purposes, one long (long, long) episode, you are going to get one long recap. Sans Ant and Dec in the middle. It’s like literary Tivo. Well. ‘Literary.’
Carmina Burana plays in the background, as per usual. Ridiculous overkill, as per usual. Sorry, producers, X Factor really isn’t that dramatic. And certainly not at the very beginning of the episode when nothing has actually happened. We’re treated to flashes of the contestants. We see people squeal when Simon says they’re going to Miami while others look totally underwhelmed when Sharon says they’re going to the Dorchester in London. Well, you would be, wouldn’t you? ‘Ooooh, London!’
Cheap-ass credits. Kate in a turquoise muu-muu in Miami. It is Not A Good Look. She tells us that the contestants get to go to Miami for Simon, a castle in Ireland for Louis, and the aforementioned Dorchester for Sharon, where she’s living since the fire in her house. Most people would go to a B and B, but I guess Sharon Osbourne isn’t most people. (I also loved how the show implied at this point that it took longer to bus the 25 and overs to Sharon at the Dorchester than it did to fly the 16-24s to Simon in Miami. I know traffic in London is terrible, but let's get real here.-Steve)
There’s a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t matter at all and isn’t remotely informative. Simon has got to find four people, and find the winner out of the four. He is ‘cautiously optimistic.’ People talk shit about being eager. The groups are in Ireland. Avenue dance up the stairs. People, again, are eager. One of Avenue says it ‘could’ changes their lives. Well it will, one way or the other. I think crushing disappointment probably does change your life. 25+s. Sharon advertises the Dorchester for a bit, saying how wonderful and opulent, yet homely and comforting it is. The 25+s, too, are all eager. How terribly exciting. I’m glad we could get this piercing insight into their psyches. BLAH. We’re reminded that Katie is Nikita’s aunt. (And once again, we get to the first ad break without ANYTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENING. Jesus.-Steve)
Kate is at the Dorchester in a cute belted red dress. For once she looks good. Sharon has vocal coach Mark, (that twat with the multi-coloured beard) and a record executive called Adrian, who is bald. Sharon says, ‘I don’t care about before,’ and that these performances matter a lot. She chose songs for the contestants and they only have one shot. We get to Ben, the 26-year-old marquee erector. We know, amazingly. Given that this series has devoted itself almost entirely to hopeless no-marks embarrassing themselves and being told to fuck off, it’s always astonishing to actually recognise someone. He sings ‘A Little Help From My Friends.’ Sharon’s face is completely rigid, with a vague smirk. This does not change throughout the auditions, so it’s impossible to tell whether or not she’s pleased. Perhaps Botox helps you get over your house catching fire. I don’t like Ben very much. It’s like, dude, you can sing in a raspy voice. We get it, tone it down. And also hit the notes. (Totally. This performance was absolutely dreadful. The world already has one Chris Daughtry, and that is one too many.-Steve) For someone who sings so gruff, he talks quite camp. He’s a sweet enough guy.
Katie had no confidence and didn’t think she belonged there. She’s grateful to Sharon for bringing her so far. ‘I just to sing and make an honest living,’ she says, which is a nice change from the fame whores and fortune whores. She sings ‘Anyone who had a heart‘ and completely loses her timing and her words, though it‘s nice when she‘s actually on. She has a very Scottish singing accent. Sharon has rigid-face. Katie says, ‘I wouldn’t have put me through’ and takes responsibility for her own nerves.
Jonathan, he of the sick mother, is next. He’s still quite cute and thinks his mum will be proud whatever happens. He sings Maroon 5’s ‘This Love’ and sucks, really. Nothing special at all. He’s a sweet boy and would get far if he were in the final 12, because of the fitness, but his voice isn’t remarkable. He will be devastated if he doesn’t get through.
Next is Robert, not Robber, as Kate would have you believe. Enunciate, damn you. He’s the hospital worker with the enormous pregnant wife. Robert thought he was going after boot camp but sadly he was wrong. He claims that, ‘today I’m gonna rock’ and promptly proves himself wrong when he sings Gnarls Barkley‘s ‘Crazy.’ He has nothing on Cee-Lo and sounds like he’s singing down a kitchen roll tube. No! He sounds like, you know when people get all deep and loud and pretend, like ‘Listen to me siiiing!’? Like Geri Halliwell in ’Look At Me’ with the ’My little white lies…’ bit? He sounds like that, ie, shit. (I did like Sharon's obvious attempt to pick a song that it would be impossible for him to forget the words to, though.-Steve)
Tiwa is next. Not Tina! We really wouldn’t have this trouble if they just put the fucking names up on the screen. Maybe their budget doesn’t stretch to, like, an Acme Text-o-Matic. She wants to make them think ‘she has to be in the final four.’ Sings Hero, and melismas all over the place. Warble warble warble. I liked her in Boot Camp when she just held a note for ages and didn’t waver. I didn’t like this so much, but she’s still got a good voice. She cries (Drink!) and says it ‘wasn’t as good as the other times.’
Lynne is 62 (and looks bloody amazing on it.). Only singing for eight years. She says that ‘vocally I believe I can do this’ and that her succeeding would be a shot in the arm for OAPs. She sings ‘Downtown‘ and is kind of awesome. Petula Clark wouldn’t be offended. And believe me, you don’t want to offend Petula Clark. Petula Clark will cut a bitch. Rigid Sharon.
Dionne. She says that it’s ‘one big rollercoaster’ and‘I really believe that I can do it.’ Oh sweetie. You’re a black girl. You’ve no hope. I would love love love to be proven wrong, but I maintain that a black woman will never win one of these contests. Unless she’s an overweight lesbian in a wheelchair for the sympathy-vote triple whammy. She gets all flustered and her warm-up notes are the best bit of the performance. Sharon lets her come back when she‘s composed herself. Adrian is disappointed. Sharon says it was fear. Mark asks if she can come back from it.
Wheelchair-bound Kerry is determined ‘as much for herself as for her family.’ Other way round Kate, unless you‘re implying she‘s more determined for family than for her own sake. Her mum ‘has been her backbone.’ Not a very good one then! Thank you, I’m here supporting Jim Davidson all week. Try the fish. (I don't know you.-Steve) Kerry talks about her mum and cries (Drink!). She sings ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ and is fine but nothing special at all. Pleasant at best.
Dionne is back. She sings ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It.’ It’s not the best but is still kind of awesome. Steve disagrees, I think, but I love Dionne. I really enjoy her performances, even if the vocals could improve. (It's not that I don't like Dionne, it's just that I don't see anything special there. I am, of course, entirely open to being proved wrong.-Steve)
People are happy with themselves. Want to go through. Blah blah blah. Make up some quotes yourselves, I’m sure they’d be just as informative. A big montage of the judges pointing at photos and choosing ‘this one.’ How mysterious and suspenseful! (I bet they were ordering pizza.-Steve)
We‘re in a castle in Ireland. Some Oirish music plays, so that you know where we are. ‘Hooray!’ say the contestants. ‘We are in Ireland, and are auditioning for the X Factor. What could be finer?’ Louis claims that he’s ‘only gonna pick the best four acts.’ Yuh-huh. He has vocal coach Evie and Kian from Westlife. (According to the Radio Times, her name is actually spelt Yvie, but how the hell were we supposed to know that, eh?-Steve)
The reduced-in-size Brothers sing Tony Rich’s ‘Nobody Knows’ and absolutely fucking maul it, so much do they change the tune. Not good.
The McDonald Brothers don’t want to be wedding singers for ever. Singing with your brother means you get more support that singing with a friend. They sing ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ because now and then Louis suffers from the delusion that it’s still the ‘50s. Louis says they have ‘great harmonies’ (Drink!)
Pure Liberty, three sisters, who are also all mothers (I care because why?) sing Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ and, well, aren’t very good. I think these are the ones I compared to En Vogue waaay back. I take it back. (I got angry at them because they made such a stupid mistake. Rather than all three of them trying to do all of the layers of the original track at the same time and flail around trying to keep up, why not arrange it so one of them does the melody and the other two fill in the rest? Stupid, rookie mistake, ladies. I'm sorry, but it was.-Steve)
‘No-one wants it more’ (Drink!), says Kate, than the Dolly Rockers. The editors chose to show the girls talking over their own singing for Louis, which doesn’t exactly bode well. One of them acknowledges that they are ‘not the strongest’ vocally. When we finally get to hear, they’re singing Sugababes’ ‘Round Round.’ I love them, but they suck. (And they got the words wrong.-Steve)
The Unconventionals. Lead singer Drew messed up at Boot Camp and we see him crying. (Drink!) They sing ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’ and have changed it a LOT. And I get that changing arrangements is their whole bag, but it was too much. And they won’t ever compare to the Shirelles. Also, they need to learn to dress. I get that they’re ‘unconventional’ but seriously. There’s not even the vaguest sense of co-ordination of their clothes. Not in cut, not in colour, not at all. It’s distracting. They look like they were waiting for a bus and just decided to set up a vocal group.
Kate introduces ‘vocal harmony group’ (oh, Kate) For Sure. Though it’s almost certainly Four Sure or 4 Sure, because what’s an X-Factor band without a bad number-related pun? They sing ‘I Swear.’ I don’t like them. One of them has a very deep bass voice. They end on an atrocious high note. One of them claims it’s an ‘opportunity for record labels to see us.’ Hmm. Surely your eyes should be on the prize, not just aiming for a publicity stunt?
Boy-band Avenue, who include former Pop Idol contestant and Pop! member Jamie Tinkler (and why did they not acknowledge this? Surely Simon would know who he was?), sing Take That’s ‘Back For Good.’ It’s pleasant enough. Louis doesn’t know if they’re special.
Eton Road are the funny rabble of boys who were awesome in audition and fucked up royally at Boot Camp. The only one I care about is Anthony, who’s the funny skinny one who wears, like, a cardigan and rosary beads, who screwed up so badly at Boot Camp. Today, Anthony is dressed like when they visit a planet in Star Trek - all waistcoat and earth tones. They sing The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ and change it up, but I quite like it. It was ‘too much’ for Kian.
Kate’s wearing a hideous blouse with an enormous bow at the collar. Phew! Normal service is resumed. The same old crap. People are excited. The judges pick ‘that one.’ Evie asks ‘will they be huge recording stars?’ and I think that David Sneddon, Alex Parks, Michelle McManus, One True Voice and Steve Brookstein will all attest that that’s not necessarily a pre-requisite (post-requisite?) to winning one of these shows.
Miami. Ray is up first. Horrible little shit. Swing-singing Scouse-talking cheeky-chappy smug-faced little shit. (Hateful, hateful, hateful. I vocally object to the Cullumification of perfectly good songs, and if that‘s the kind of direction Ray’s career is going to take, then I for one fully intend to hire a sniper and finish the job now.-Steve) I like his trousers though. Simon said no at Boot Camp and then changed his mind. We know. Sinitta is in a swimsuit and holds a parasol. She’s so fucking awesome. Simon only has Sinitta to help him decide, but when you’ve got Sinitta with a parasol, you don’t need anyone else. (Hell yes. Sinitta's parasol cracked my shit up throughout this entire sequence.-Steve) Ray sings ‘Smile’ and sets my teeth on edge. Clicks his fingers, all bop-a-doo-bah-ZOW!. Hate. HATE. Simon says he’s ‘back in the race again.’
22-year old Stacey. Got criticised for her appearance by Simon, so she kept changing it. We get a little montage of her different looks. For some reason she settled on an awful bleached straggly bob. (She looks like the girl from Lazytown.-Steve) She sings ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It.’ It’s nice enough. Sinitta looks on the verge of tears.
Ashley got George Michael’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ He says ‘I HATE that song. I don’t know, it just does my head in’ and gets a bit pissy about it being a hard song. It’s not exactly a shining example of a can-do attitude. (And here’s where I lost whatever goodwill I held towards Ashley. The winner of this contest is going to have absolutely no control over his/her/their career anyway, so suck it up and do as you’re told, Hair Bear Bunch.-Steve) Simon tells him off and to get a grip. He sings. His voice is weird, kind of bleaty and alien, but I really like it. It’s very well suited to wine-bar soul. I expect him to sing some Sade or Omar before the competition is out.
Sean wants to prove he deserves to be there. He sings something I don’t quite recognise, but it talks about having ‘a friend like me.’ Or, given his vocals, like May, whoever she may be. He’s a sweet kid but he’s totally out of his depth. (The song was Michael Jackson's 'Ben', but I think he kept getting the words wrong. Or maybe I just remembered it wrong. Either way: nice kid, needs to enunciate more.-Steve) Simon calls him ‘the weakest singer by far’ but says you want to root for him.
Gemma is 24 and some sort of business manager. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen her before at all. (This was the reason I liked her. I have no time for people on reality TV shows who pretend they're not interested in winning. Why else would you be there?-Steve) She’s very confident and doesn’t quite topple into arrogance, but it’s close. She sings Syreeta and Billy Preston’s ‘With You I’m Born Again,’ which is one of my favourite songs in the whole of ever, so it’s high praise when I say she’s quite good.
Leona wants to make her family and herself proud. She sings ‘Without You.’ Sinitta looks on the verge of tears. (Oh! Drink!) She’s very good and avoids warbling, which is beyond most people who attempt this song. Simon says ‘when she’s on it, she’s fantastic.’
Carlo’s a student, training to be a PE teacher. I think we saw him for about three seconds, without a name, at Boot Camp. I quite like him. He sings ‘Your Song’ and ends it by going ‘you’re in the worldthankyou’ and running off. Simon says ‘there’s something really good there, but the lights are off.’
Nikitta is seventeen. Her mum is dead, her mum is dead and, oh yes, her mum is dead. Oh, and her mum’s dead. She sings ‘Angels,’ thankfully the Sarah McLachlan one and not the Robbie Williams. It’s rather lovely. Sinitta is almost crying. (Drink!)
Normal comments about excitement and nerves and blah blah blah. Gemma says ‘I definitely think I deserve a place in the final four’ and seals her fate (SPOILER!) because no-one likes a confident girl. Simon is going to sleep on it.
LATER!!! Twelve dreams will be shattered! Well that’s a nice way of putting it you vicious vulture-bastards.
I really don’t like the new Asda food-porn. The M&S ones are bad enough, but this is food-porn plus glossy lips and twisty hair and children singing and it’s just disgusting.
Kate’s in a leopard-print top with a black sash, fully embracing her return to ugly clothing. She tells us absolutely nothing we don’t already know and even says ‘earlier on you saw…’ completely acknowledging that this is pointless filler. People sang, judges had to choose. (I was boiling with rage that they took an hour just telling us who was in the final. Twenty minutes tops, that should have taken. And Saturday's results show is 35 minutes long. Jesus wept.-Steve)
Adverts. After three minutes. Yes, seriously. It’s pathetic. By the by, why do the Nokia sponsorship things have Shabba Ranks playing? I don’t get it. (Shabba!-Steve)
London first. Sharon says it was ‘blatantly obvious’ who should go and stay, which is nice for the ones who went home. Comforting. Tiwa holds a bible and cries (Drink!). It’s the hardest thing Katie has ever done and she can sometimes picture winning, but it’s ‘only a dream.’ Lynne says ‘I can’t believe I’ve reached where 100,000 people haven’t,’ which is a good attitude. Dionne says that if she succeeds, she will ‘definitely show Sharon, Mark and Adrian why they put me through.’ Another good attitude. Kerry talks about her mum and cries. (Drink!) Robert compares fathering a child to doing well on the X Factor. Nice. ‘Daddy, how much do you love me?’
‘Almost as much as doing moderately well on a TV show!.’ Ass. He also says there are ‘so much more songs I wanna sing.’ Ass. Kate says that their X-Factor journeys began months ago. So there’s no excuse for not showing the successful people!!
Katie goes home. She says ‘that’s fine’ and is going home ‘with a bit of pride and confidence.’ Robert’s in. And cries. Ben is through, of course. Lynne goes home and says ‘that’s okay, really.’ Sharon calls Tiwa ‘a beautiful woman [with an] amazing voice’ but sends her home. Sharon calls her ‘sweet girl’ and hugs her. Tiwa sobs and sobs (Drink!) and collapses on the floor. It’s hard to watch. (I would have kept her over Dionne, but then I would have sent Shayne home at this stage last year, so what do I know? Clearly I am not up to speed with the public's current taste in mediocrity.-Steve) Sharon says ‘How do I tell you Dionne? You’re going to have to stay with me.’ Dionne yelps and falls on the floor. Jonathan is going home, surprisingly. I mean, he’s fit and has a sick mum. That’s X Factor gold. Sharon tells Kerry that the decision has ‘nothing to do with your disability at all,’ which is utter bullshit. Kerry’s voice is nice, but it’s not enough without the sob-story. It simply isn’t.
Then it’s time for Grief Porn! Jonathan, in a car, is fairly stoic and says ‘it’s not meant to be.’ His sick mum will be devastated if he doesn’t go through. So presumably is devastated. Ben’s mum’s happy. I think Tiwa’s must have been pretty dreadful because we see a split second of her crying and a voiceover saying ‘music is everything, everything to me.’ Robert kisses his ginormo-wife. Lynne’s family are all very nice. Katie says ‘No. Sorry.’ which I find kind of touching - as if she needs to apologise! (I'm really going to miss Katie. I liked her lots and lots.-Steve) Dionne’s granddad (?) toasts the camera and says ‘Thank you X Factor!’
Ireland. Blah blah blah we’re all confident but also nervous. How terribly exciting.
4 sure are through because of their ‘great harmonies.’ (Drink!) Pure Liberty are going home, but are fairly positive, saying they need to ‘get back out there.’ The Brothers fall at the last hurdle for the second time in two years, and are going home. Poor things. One says ‘I cannot go through this again.’ The McDonald Brothers have ‘great harmonies’ (Drink!) too and are going through. The Unconventionals make every song their own (Drink!) but have a serious image problem. They’re through. Drew cries. (Drink!) Louis likes the Dolly Rockers but asks if they can perform on the live shows. The answer is obviously no and they’re going home. (Aww. I mean, they were way out of their depth by this point, but they were so cute!-Steve) It’s down to Avenue and Eton Road, and there’s some fairly rapid editing between the two, so it’s not clear which one Louis is talking to. It’s eventually revealed that Avenue are through. Eton Road aren’t and Anthony, because he’s lovely, makes a point of shaking Louis’s hand.
Grief Porn: the Unconventionals pretend to be sad, then go all ‘WOOO!’ Drew cries. Again. Some more. (Drink!) Hugs and tears for the Dolly Rockers. Pure Liberty claim to be gutted, but give it a ‘nah, we’re not through’ with a very ‘Oh well!’ air. The McDonald Brothers and 4 Sure are all ‘woo!’ The Brothers say the hardest part is telling their family again. Avenue are ‘in it to win it’ and go WOOOO!
As we all already knew, Avenue had a manager, ‘a music manager who has involved with the last series of X Factor but is no longer associated with the show,’ Kate Miss-Jean-Brodies. Seriously, she suddenly gets incredibly prim. Louis talks to Avenue and says ‘you broke the rules’ and ‘you lied to me.’ (I thought he was choosing the songs for Cathy Dennis week.-Steve) They’re disqualified and are upset. Obviously. Interestingly, Jamie Tinkler says ‘we were told to keep our mouths shut’ and another one says ‘it’s not X Factor’s fault.’ I have a sneaking feeling they knew all along and only turned on Avenue once they got caught. They would have known Jamie, and the ‘we were told to keep our mouths shut’ could easily refer to the producers as opposed to their manager. CONSPIRACY! Jamie shakes Louis’s hand, because he’s lovely. Poor Jamie. He’s been trying so hard to be a singer. I hope he gets a nice job in musical theatre. (I know! Poor Jamie. He was much nicer than the other one out of Pop!, who once pushed me out of the way at the launch of Britney's Greatest Hits, but that's a story for another time.-Steve)
Louis therefore decides to give Eton Road a second chance. Eton Road were better anyway. He goes to their house. (Apparently, they told them they were filming an ex-X-Factor documentary then sprang it on them.) Anthony has no make up and floppy hair and looks about fifteen times cuter but twelve years younger. They are, obviously, very excited. The boys hug and it looks like Anthony and another one almost make out with each other then remember where they are and pull away. By the way, the email fucked up and Steve didn’t get the full recap, and still wrote entirely independently of me: (Also, Anthony was totally about to kiss the guy sat next to him when they got told they were going through. You just watch where his head goes until the very last minute. Hee.-Steve) So therefore it is totally true. A jury of their peers have decided.
Simon can’t decide. Leona doesn’t want to go home. Carlo has grown in confidence and going home would be devastating.. Stacey says ‘it’s not just a game…it’s people’s lives.’ And…yeah. I actually found this episode really hard to watch. I ended up in tears because of all the miserable people. Ashley has had ups and downs. Gemma is confident. I’m not sure if you knew, but Nikitta’s mum is dead. (If I hear that one more time, I swear to God I will cut myself.-Steve) Ray, who, by the way, already has wrinkles at seventeen is hungry ‘to be a star.’ And there you have it. Little shit doesn’t want to sing, he just wants to be famous. Sean says if he does his best and doesn’t get though no-one will be disappointed. He always feels like he’s letting people down. Crying. Wants to show the best of his ability. ‘Keep thinking ‘I’m ready I’m ready and go out and screw it all up and it’s so hard.’ Crying crying crying. Again, hard to watch.
Carlo doesn’t want it all taken away so close. He’s going home, of course. He cries with Kate. ‘One moment in time’ plays. ‘Leona, you’ve made the final four sweetheart.’ Of course. Stacey thinks she did better than previous auditions. Not better enough, sadly as she hasn’t made the final four. Of course.
‘Ashley Ashley Ashley’ says Simon. ‘Can I be honest?’ ‘Course you can!’ The honesty? Is that Ashley is through. Simon tells Nikitta ‘all of us loved you’ and ‘I am not…going to disappoint you! You’ve made the final four. Your mum would be very proud of you.’ That’s a mean way of telling her Simon!
Gemma had ‘personality issues’ (See? No-one likes a confident girl) but was very very consistent. ‘I think I could rely on you.’ But apparently not, because she‘s not through. BOOO! She was good. It’s Sean versus Ray for the final slot. For FUCK’S sake. Neither of them are good enough. Gemma should be there, and if he was desperate for a boy, Carlo was better. Simon asks Sean, ‘Do you genuinely believe you could sing week after week?’ to which he replies, ‘I always still have doubts’ Ray is all swaggery. It’s a no to Sean. Simon gives him a hug and says ‘You were great. Great.’ Below are my notes, unedited:
RAY IS THROUGH. Spit. SPIT SPIT!! I am so disgusted. HE’S SO DISGUSTING. I HATE HIM. GET RID OF THE SUB DEAN MARTIN SUB ROBBIE WILLLIAMS LITTLE CUNT.
Grief Porn. Dionne Warwick’s ‘That’s What Friends Are For‘ plays. Stacey is very stoic and says ‘four people have to go.’ Her family are nice. Carlo is ‘gutted’ but equally stoic. Ray’s grandma says ‘he’s always been a star in my eyes.’ His dad jumps into Ray’s arms. BLECH. (That…was weird and creepy. And possibly bordering on child abuse. Also, I was very disappointed that Ray's mum isn't really Bernie Nolan. Must TV keep lying to me?-Steve) For Leona there is much leaping and wailing. Gemma won’t give up and says ‘didn’t get through’ with a shrug. Ashley’s mum? Sister? Will be proud, anyway. He squirts champagne. Sean’s parents are like ‘he’s just our little boy’ and say ‘someone like Simon Cowell believing in him has done him the world of good,’ which is sweet.
Auntie Katie is all hopeful. Nikitta doesn’t know how Katie has done. Everyone wails with excitement. Nikitta asks how Katie did and she replies ‘I didn’t get in BUT I’M FINE YOU DID!!’
Like: Dionne, Ashley, Nikitta, Leona, Eton Road
Hate: Ray (could you tell?), Robert, 4 Sure
Indifferent: the rest
Next week they sing. God help us all.