Sunday, November 26, 2006

Like the one in a film I'd seen

Performance Show 7: 25th November 2006

I had another of my X Factor premonitions this morning: I woke up with this really vivid feeling that I knew who'd gone out of the show last night. My gut instinct was telling me that Eton Road and Leona would be in the bottom two, with Eton Road going home. It was so vivid that I was visualising news reports talking about it, and everything. Now, I'm not going to say at this point whether my vision was right or not; I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to the deleterious effect this show is having on my sanity. Seriously: it can't end soon enough. (And yes, I'm aware that a vision of something that happened in the past is more of a postmonition than a premonition, but I believe my point still stands, so be quiet.) Anyway, on with the show.

Last week: Louis threw a hissy fit with the acts who were in the bottom two; Simon voted to send Robert home, and not before time. This week there is destined to be drama aplenty, with Leona falling ill, and other stuff like that there. The exuberant voiceover welcomes the judges, and Sharon is wearing some kind of alarming wrap-type thing that makes it look like she could smother you without moving her arms. The finalists come onto the stage, and Ray is wearing another 1950s style suit, so we can "look forward to" more Twat Packery from him. Sharon's group looks rather small now that it just consists of Gentle Ben, obviously. The MacDougall Brothers are still there, despite all known laws of probability. Kate's top appears to be the evil offspring of Sharon's wrap, and is slinking ever closer to the optimum position to wrap its golden tendrils around her neck and throttle her. Careful there, Kate. Kate tells us that it's getting tough, and tonight's theme is songs from the movies. Each act will have to perform two songs: one ballad, and one uptempo number, to prove their versatility. Two songs? Oh, crap. Just when I thought they might actually start making this damn millstone around my neck a little lighter, they whack on another slab of granite.

This week we're starting with Simon and the 16-24s, namely Leona. Simon VTs that Leona has an aura that lights up a room. Maybe Leona's aura could get together with my visions and have a full-on new-age party. Leona is shown attending a film premiere, and people are cheering for her. Sharon VTs that Leona's voice is perfection, and that she's a young Mariah Carey, "but we have a Mariah Carey. I want to see Leona." That's fair enough, I suppose. Incidentally, Sharon pronounces "Carey" like "Kerry", which makes me think back to an imaginary conversation Sharon might have had with one of her other finalists: "we have a Mariah, Kerry!" Louis thinks Leona's capable of giving an awful lot more. I can't really take Louis seriously at this moment in time because just before I sat down to write this, Katy and I were watching an episode of Charmed with leprechauns in it and they kept reminding me of him, so I keep expecting him to pop out a walking stick and shoot off on the end of a rainbow. Leprechaun - sorry, Louis - says that Simon's playing it safe with Leona, which Simon immediately pooh-poohs, and then there's a lovely grainy black-and-white VT of Leona coughing her guts up. Seriously. There's no glamour like reality TV, is there? Leona has been to the doctor this week, and is not meant to be singing because she's got tonsillitis. Why is everyone on this damn show ill at the moment? Leona assures us, via the medium of VT, that she's not going to give up and will continue on and do her best, because that's what she has to do. Sympathy vote thus assured, the VT ends and she heads onto the stage to perform 'Lady Marmalade' from Moulin Rouge. There's a point where her voice kind of disappears altogether, and she does generally sound a bit croaky, and OH MY GOD. They've changed the lyrics to "voulez-vous chanter avec moi ce soir?", which renders the whole song nonsensical. Also: if the kids watching this show before the watershed are old enough to speak French, they probably already have a fair idea what sex is as well. I think Leona's illness and/or nerves are getting to her on this one: she sings of "black shat-in sheets", which isn't quite such a sexy image as "black satin sheets". However, it's nice to see her doing something a bit more uptempo than usual, and once she gets into her runs in the middle she starts kicking all kinds of ass, again. And if I may be shallow, she looks adorable in her strapless top/jeans/sneakers combo, all casual, like she just found time to pop in to the show between yoga classes. She kind of swallows the last note, and this wasn't her best performance by a long shot, and maybe it was the tonsillitis and maybe it wasn't, it's not my place to make excuses, but somehow I still have my suspicions it will still end up being one of the better performances of the evening. Sharon says that it's great to hear Leona singing something uptempo, and says that she looks "age-appropriated" in the jeans, and that it was fresh, young, and she loved it. Louis agrees with Sharon, and then says, hilariously: "you got it all goin' on, girl!". Louis is from the streets, y'all. Fo' shizzay. I mentally reserve Louis a place on the "learning to accept that you cannot pull off hipster lingo" workshop I attended once. Simon calls it "on the money" and a great start to the show, and says he can't wait for her second song. There's no time to talk to Leona, as everyone's singing twice tonight. Leona kisses Kate on the cheek, the better to ensure she keeps her germs to herself, and exits.

We're back from the ads, and Louis pulls off a bizarre Eurovision homage by announcing primly "Good evening Kate, and good evening Scotland" in what I think is an attempted RP accent. It's weird, and with that and Louis's earlier attempt at being ghetto fabulous, I wonder if he's been drinking before the show. Or possibly during. Lord knows that's the only way I can get through it. It's the MacDougall Brothers. Simon VTs that everyone thinks he hates them, and that's not true. He says that for them "to reach the top five on a show of this scale is phenomenal". I'm not sure if that's meant as a good thing or not. Blond MacDougall says that they didn't expect to make it this far after their many tongue-lashings from Simon, apparently oblivious to the fact that Simon's treatment of them is probably precisely what helped them to get this far in the first place. Does the other one ever speak, by the way? And which one is Craig, and which one is Brian? I mean, I can tell Eton Road apart but I still don't know which of these guys is which. Louis VTs that they need to up their game and show more personality. They also went to the "fillum premiere", and I'm trying to figure out which film, but they're not making it hugely obvious. They get photographed with some fans, for whom I feel sorry. I'll start a charity to try to cure them, I think. They're singing a rather lispy version of 'When You Say Nothing At All' from Notting Hill, and for one moment of insanity I actually think they're going to do some kind of Hi-NRG version or something, because the music slows right down to the point where you half-expect some kind of enormous dance beat to kick in. That doesn't happen, of course, although it would have been brilliant, and would have convinced me to vote for them. Instead, they bland their way through one of the blander songs that modern music has to offer, and their continued presence in this show must mean that more empty-nesters watch this show than I previously expected. Silent MacDougall fluffs his words at one point, and the camera cuts to Sharon clutching her hair for some reason, which is quite funny. Eventually it ends, just as boringly as it began. Is "boringly" even a word? Simon calls it "dreary", and the audience boos him even though he's completely right. Sharon says they look "really wicked" tonight. I suspected there was something demonic that contributed to their tenure on this show. Sharon's probably got contacts in Hades, after all. She calls it a "pleasant song, well sung", but admits it won't set the world on fire. Except in the aforementioned demonic pact, naturally, wherein we shall all perish. Louis tells them they've proved "someone" wrong, and they make the final, and Simon's making the "natter natter natter" gesture with his hand throughout, which is supremely childish but still not wholly unamusing. Kate reads out the voting numbers, and Silent MacDougall looks a bit like he's going to cry.

Sharon introduces "Big Ben". Oh, EW. I don't want to learn the etymology of that nickname - I'm going to stick to calling him Gentle Ben, thanks. Gentle Ben VTs that he was the most nervous he's ever been last Saturday. Simon thought he was very good. Sharon thinks he's raised the bar. Simon doesn't want him to wash his hair for a week because he's looking a bit Farrah Fawcett at the moment. I swear to God I did not just make that up. Sharon thinks he's back on track. Gentle Ben also went to the Great Unnamed Film Premiere. He reminds us that he used to erect (snigger) marquees. Sharon says he's what the contest needs, and Gentle Ben says that if he leaves on Saturday, the red carpet gets swept away from under his feet. Nice to see that Legit Music Boy has his eyes focused on what really matters, eh? Simon points out that Sharon's got one act left, Louis is "on the ropes", and now he's enjoying himself. Sharon doesn't care because her remaining act is a "diamond", which I'm sure is very reassuring to Robert as he sits at home waiting for that next child to pop out and wondering how he's going to feed it. Gentle Ben is going to give it everything, apparently. Oh God, the damn piano's back. He's singing 'Live And Let Die', because it was inconceivable that this week would pass without someone doing a Bond theme, although I'm sad because I wanted Eton Road to do 'License To Kill'. Not-So-Gentle Ben attacks the chorus with what some might call vigour, but what I would call ill grace. It's a bit too raucous, I think. And then it all goes completely crazy and whoever's really playing the piano appears to be having a fit of some kind. I mean, I know that part of the brilliance of this song is the fact that it's about three different songs rolled into one, but this is just noise. Also, he gets the words wrong. I happen to know the words to this song very well, because people mishearing the line "and if this ever-changing world in which we're living makes you give in and cry" is one of my friend Fraser's biggest musical pet peeves. (Gentle Ben sings the urban legend grammar-defying version, i.e. "and in this ever-changing world in which we're living", in case you were wondering.) These shows always get the words to Bond themes wrong, because I remember Laura Doherty getting the words to 'License To Kill' wrong the week she was booted off the original Pop Idol. But I digress. The song ends, and it was kind of bizarre. Louis tells Gentle Ben that it was another powerful performance, and that he's a great piano player. Simon tells Gentle Ben the song choice was brilliant, and he loved that he put on a show, "like Bonfire Night". Sharon tells him that he progresses each week, and she thinks he'll be incredible in a year's time. Jesus, this show isn't going to run for THAT long, is it? Kate, voting numbers, no talky with contestants. You know the drill.

Back from the ads, and Louis forgoes the Eurovision intro for Eton Road. In their VT, James says that last week they didn't know what happened, and Daniel says that they felt they'd let everyone down by landing in the bottom two, including Louis. We flash back to Louis's Terrifying Face Of Inner Turmoil at that moment, and we learn that certain moments in life were not intended to be freeze-framed. Shudder. Louis wonders if maybe they tried too hard, and perhaps they should've played safe "like everybody else". Oh, so that's this week's dog-with-a-bone, is it? Simon says that he could see they were terrified: "Louis had them all wearing Spandex, I'd be terrified." Hee! Louis sent the boys back to Liverpool to drum up some support, because he seems to think that only people's hometowns vote for them. Some days I really want to know what the inside of Louis's brain looks like. Does this mean they didn't get to go to the premiere of the Famous Anonymous Film? Wouldn't that have been better, exposure-wise? They did get to turn on the Christmas lights in their hometown, though, and they look gleeful and proud while they're doing it, and I just want to adopt them all because they're so darn cute. David says that their trip home showed them they have support, and they're going to come back fighting this week. Oh, there we go: they're at the premiere, hugging fans. That makes me feel better. They're singing 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' from The Blues Brothers, and...oh dear. Poor Eton Road. Their vocals sound really weak on this song. And it's been rearranged to put some more harmonies in it, but the harmonies just sound weird. They're very, very cute and I love them to bits, but this really isn't very good at all, and I feel bad for them, because I don't think it's their fault. It all kind of falls apart in the middle as well - there's a bit where I think it was just left for them to ad lib, but it's rather messy. There's one bit that I love, where the music cuts out and then they just go "whoooooooooah" on a rising note back into the song, but that's pretty much the only high point. Oh, boys. I'm so sorry. Sharon opens the judges' comments by saying that their harmonies were much better than last week, "unbelievably good, really spot-on". Simon says it was fun, but it was a very weird choice of song, like Louis just picked it randomly out of a hat. Simon tries to continue his comments, but Louis talks over him by saying that the audience loved it and they deserve to be here, so Simon gets out of his chair and totally Clay Aikens him so that he can finish his point, which is: he thought it felt as though Louis had given up on them. Louis sadly does not pull a Kelly Ripa of his own by telling Simon that he doesn't know where his hand has been (which would have left the door wide open for Sharon to be Rosie O'Donnell and declare that comment "homophobic" and open up a whole 'nother can of worms). Instead, Louis says "Can I say one more thing? Simon said something about spandex - he is Mr Spandex. You are, Simon!" Wow. That plumbs a whole new level of nonsense and pointlessness for a judge's comment on this show. I didn't even think that was possible. In breaking news: Louis is rubber and Simon is glue. Kate exhorts us to vote for them, and they rather adorably point to themselves when she mentions their individual names. Seriously: can they come and live in my house? It'd be cramped, but they'd be well-fed and they'd want for nothing.

Ray's VT is vomitous, because he smugs on about how this experience is so incredibly awesome, meeting celebrities and having your hair shampooed for you and then going out to perform on stage. I have now passed the stage of merely wanting to punch him and have graduated to wanting to drown him. In a bath of his own urine. Flashback to last week's godawful performance of 'Livin' La Vida Loca' and Sharon calling him "panto boy", which Ray disputes. Simon calls the panto thing "today's insult", and then there's another shot of last week's performance which was definitely not Ray doing pelvic thrusts, because I poured a whole bottle of neat Domestos into my brain to remove all memory of that. Simon says that whether they like it or not, Ray's made the final five and he wants to win. Yes, and I want to find Jensen Ackles under my tree at Christmas wearing nothing but a red ribbon and a big smile, but it doesn't mean that's going to happen, or indeed that it ought to happen. The point, you say? Right. Footage of Ray at No-Name Premiere, where he was all "Yeah, baby! Quinny's arrived!" Again, I am quoting verbatim. I couldn't make that shit up if I tried. He looks all pudgy, and like he just walked off the stage in a low-budget production of Oliver! He's determined to show Sharon that he's an "entertainer", not a panto boy. Yes, because the difference is so pronounced. He's singing 'The Way You Look Tonight', which is from some film at some point in time. How interesting that Ray chose to perform some more swing music in the week where the contestants have been asked to demonstrate their versatility. There's something really creepy about the whole thing - like there's so much grease oozing out of him that it could turn into some kind of omnivorous monster and devour us all. Louis calls it Ray's best performance yet, and Sharon agrees, and says that he's hugely talented and a great entertainer. Simon says "good for him" for that performance, and says that it felt like Ray chose the song rather than someone choosing it for him, blah blah blah looked and sounded great, and oh my God am I the only person in the world who was so skeeved by that performance that my insides actually crawled out of my skin and curled up in the foetal position? In Australia? Jeez.

Interestingly, the voting lines open now, although the performances haven't finished (you were hoping it was over too, right?), so I guess they must want to make as much money out of this as they can. Adverts, and the M&S Christmas advert prompts me to think the deeply unsettling thought that Ray and Erin would have the smuggest-looking babies in the world. Hold on, I just need to pop out for some more Domestos.

Okay, I'm back. We're back, and thankfully there are no second sets of VTs, just Simon introducing Leona who will be singing 'I Will Always Love You' from The Bodyguard. It's more subdued than Whitney's version (possibly again due to the tonsillitis) and actually reminds me slightly more of the infinitely superior and way less creepy Dolly Parton original. Even when Leona's vocals might not be on top form, one thing she continues to do is utterly nail the emotion behind the song, and that's pretty hard to do in my experience. It's a shame that towards the end it turns into complete Whitney karaoke, and I wonder how well Leona will do with songs that no one has sung before her (but then, given that this year's winner's song is rumoured to be a cover of Kelly Clarkson's 'A Moment Like This', perhaps she'll never have to worry). Whoops and cheers for Leona as she finishes. Sharon: "Bravo, Leona. Another faultless performance." Louis tells her it's a difficult song to sing, and she made it her own (not quite, if you ask me), and he declares it "as good as the original Whitney version". Whitney's version wasn't the original, Louis. Do your research. Simon thanks the other judges and calls Leona a "trooper" for taking on the song when she didn't have to, and says that it's the best version of that song he's ever song. Leona tells the judges that their comments inspire her, and she loves singing, which I think is stuff we've all heard before. Leona's talented and everything, but she's maybe a little dull. This was probably her worst week vocally, but now that I've seen everyone else I'm less worried about her.

MacDougall Brothers, singing 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' from Benny And Joon. Heh, for the obscure choice of movie, but I'm not surprised they made these two do a Proclaimers song at some point. The Journey South Memorial Guitar Of Irrelevance returns in its electric form, and this song is so completely hilarious. They're enjoying themselves performing it, and it's perhaps the first performance of theirs that can genuinely be called "fun", but I still don't quite see how they fit into the modern pop music in any way at all. Oh, and the Creepy Incest Vibes make an unwelcome reappearance at the end, as well. Sharon says for the first time they owned the stage, and thinks that performance should see them into the final. Simon: "I'm gonna hate myself for this - that was very good." Louis claps himself and draws attention to the fact that "somebody here is backtracking". Kate gives Blond and Silent the opportunity to respond to their first real praise from Simon, and Blond responds to it...the same way he responds to Simon's negative feedback, by saying that he hopes Simon can see how hard they're trying. Well, that was anticlimactic.

Sharon completely fails to read the autocue with any skill whatsoever, and makes a big deal about how she only has one act left and really needs the votes, which is the sort of thing that she said she wouldn't do last week. Things Sharon forgot to mention there: the name of her act, the title of the song, and the movie it's from. No wonder nobody watches her chat show. Allow me to enlighten you, since I have more professionalism in my left nipple than Sharon has in her entire body, apparently, and I'm not even being paid to do this: Gentle Ben will be singing 'Your Song' from Moulin Rouge. Hmm. Given that Moulin Rouge made a virtue of using existing pop songs to comment on its story, isn't it rather a cop-out to use those tracks in songs from the movies week? I mean, I know the rules are all open to interpretation and all, but...oh, never mind. As if anyone cares. This show (and Leona and Gentle Ben, specifically) owes Baz Luhrmann a drink at some point, and we'll just leave it at that. The song's a little bit low for Gentle Ben's vocal range, although he uses the gravelly stuff to hide it as best he can. Where I said earlier about Leona always managing to pick up on the emotion of a song, I think that's exactly what's missing here: there's nothing terribly romantic about Gentle Ben's interpretation of this track. It's just kind of workmanlike and dull, and I don't really believe it. The volume gets amped up by a major factor at the end which helps a little bit, but it's too little too late from where I'm standing. Louis's comments: "Ray, you know I think you're a very talented singer and musician..." That's not a mistake on my part; Louis actually called him Ray. Louis says that this will be the beginning of a great career for Gentle Ben, although he preferred his earlier performance. Simon thinks Gentle Ben had a really good night on both songs, and that's really all he has to say. Sharon agrees with Simon, and tells Gentle he should be proud of himself. Gentle Ben says that he's had a tough week (sorry Gentle, if you want the sympathy vote, we want footage of you at the doctor's, or at the very least a note from your mum. WHO IS DEAD. Sorry, old habits are hard to break) and says that the only way he's not coming back next week is if he doesn't get enough votes. Well, it's nice to see that after all this time he's grasped the basic mechanics of this show's elimination process. Good for him.

Is this still not over? Bloody hell. Eton Road will be singing 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight?' from The Lion King. The opening note is the same as the opening note of 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)', which amuses me. Their vocals are wobbly, and James sounds notably flat. When they harmonise on the chorus, it's also pretty off-sounding. This hasn't been a good night for Eton Road at all. There are some points where their harmonies are absolutely bang-on, and it sounds lovely, but the points where the harmonies are off are pretty hard to ignore. At the end of the song there's a great moment where a wide shot of the studio catches one of the production staff grabbing something off the front of the stage under the dry ice and hurling it backwards, but I can't quite tell what it is. The audience chants for them, but Simon calls the performance "painting by numbers", and says that he genuinely believes Louis has decided to back the MacDougalls and he doesn't care about them any more. He thinks they should have been showcased better at this stage in the competition, that in effect they are better than the songs, and he thinks they're vulnerable. Sharon says it was "nice" but not great. Louis tries to cut her off, and Sharon shrieks like a banshee to shut him up, not that what she has left to say is particularly noteworthy. Louis tells them that Simon's trying to mess with their heads and turn them against each other, and is this season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or have I missed something? Louis takes the opportunity to publicly declare that he wants to work with them after the show and turn them into the next big boyband whatever happens, which does kind of imply that he thinks they're going home tonight. Daniel and David tell Kate that they were really happy with Louis's song choices for them this week, and Kate waves them off.

Ray will be singing 'Jailhouse Rock' from Jailhouse Rock. It hasn't even started yet, and already I can't bear it. I can only assume that Ray hasn't bothered to learn the words to this song, because he sure as hell can't be bothered to enunciate them. Seriously, to listen to it, it's like "nananananana county jail, nanananananasomethingail". He does the pelvic thrust again, and there just isn't enough bleach in the world. I hate this show. Some sadistic cameraman actually does a close up of it, because this show hates me back. It keeps almost ending and then starting up again, and must they actually make me cry? I think that was arguably the worst performance of the entire series. All three of them. Sharon calls it a "very good performance" despite the old song. Louis says that Ray gave it 100%, and says he loves the "choreoke". I think he's just invented a new choreography/karaoke hybrid craze there, but we'll assume he meant the choreography, which by the way was exactly like something out of a painful school talent show. Louis then tells Ray that Simon believes Leona is going to win, because he has to fight bullshit with bullshit. I want to bang their heads together, but the worst part of this is that Louis is making out like it's him trying to do Ray a favour, instead of the stupid fake feud that they insist on ramming down our throats because they think it's what we want to see. Simon asks Louis why he insists upon being obnoxious and I neither know nor care. Simon avows his faith in Ray and calls him "fearless", while failing to point out the many other things Ray lacks: modesty, decency, talent, relevance, and a good smack in the face being just some of the examples that spring to mind.

Video recap: Leona was ill, but still worked her Christina-impersonation mojo, the MacDougall Brothers were dull but invincible, Gentle Ben played the piano standing up, Eton Road had what I can only describe as "an off week", and Ray was sick in an entirely different way to Leona. They, for some reason, go through everybody's numbers twice rather than seguing the two performances together while the number's up once, but who am I to point out how utterly stupid that is when there's time to be filled in an already insanely bloated show? Kate tells us the vote is tight, and promises us a performance from Il Divo (sigh) during the results, then it's Thornton: out.

Results show

Okay, I'm going to shorthand this because I've already spent far too long writing about this horrible, horrible programme: earlier tonight, people sang on your television. Perhaps you voted for them. Perhaps like me you watched Strictly Come Dancing instead and went to the pub afterwards, barely giving this show a second thought. Still, apparently two million votes were cast, but ITV and Fremantle Media still want your money, so Kate tries to convince us to vote again. The clip of Leona that they use in her 'Lady Marmalade' clip is one of the moments where the note gets stuck in her throat, which may or may not be deliberate. Then there is Il Divo. Do you care? I don't, so I'm skipping ahead. Afterwards, Kate throws backstage to the contestants. Leona has been sick all week, but tried to give it her best this week. She admits her first performance was "a bit shaky", but hopes she did enough. The MacDougall Brothers got praise from Simon, but hope that they've got the public vote. Ben thinks everyone did well, but hopes he got through. Eton Road were in the bottom two last week, but hope they've done enough to avoid being there again. Ray says he's feeling scared, but that implies he is capable of feeling human emotions and therefore is an obvious and shameless untruth. Ad break!

Back from the break, and Kate tells us that the voting lines are almost closed before welcoming everyone back to the stage. See, I actually typed that before it happened, because this show is formulaic. Apparently tonight's vote was the biggest vote at this stage in the history of the show, for what that's worth. The lines close, with the same whoosh that we had last week, and Kate wishes everyone luck. The acts definitely coming back next week are: the MacDougall Brothers, Leona and Ray. Apparently Ray actually has to eat an endangered animal and then defecate on a live baby onstage before people stop voting for him. Kate asks Gentle Ben why he thinks he's in the bottom two, and he replies it's because he didn't get enough votes. He's ever so literal. Eton Road are going to fight for it as ever. Simon does the smug "I don't know what I'm looking for yet" thing which I hate and find completely disrespectful to the contestants, and I expect more professionalism from him. Eton Road sing 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight?' and while David's opener is stronger than the first time, James is flat again and also fluffs his words. There are some missed harmonies again, and this doesn't look good for them. Ben sings 'Your Song' again, and it's pretty much the same as before, in a technically proficient but uninspiring way.

Louis says that he thinks both of these acts will be having hit records this time next year, and he doesn't think this is the end of either of them. He votes to send Ben home, eventually. Sharon doesn't say anything for ages, but we all know she's going to say Eton Road, so this is totally stupid. She eventually votes to send them home in a choked-up voice. Simon is enjoying this far too much and I lose a lot of respect for him as a result. Seriously: show some compassion and wipe that smirk off your face. Don't make me hate you like I hate Louis. Simon says that he's got a decision to make, and wonders if he should vote to send home the biggest threat to his own artist, and the audience rightfully boos him. He is being such a jerk tonight. Kate hassles him for a decision, and eventually Simon votes to send Eton Road home. Ben launches into a big manhug and gays them all up real nice, and Kate consoles them by pointing out that they nearly didn't make it to the live shows at all. We see the famous point in their best moments VT where Louis breaks it to them that they're in the live show after all, and Anthony and David almost totally make out with each other. I'm going to miss linking to that. James says they're happy to have got that far, and Kate tells Anthony to see how much they're loved because Sharon's in tears. Anthony says he's not crying because he's sad, but just because of how great the whole experience has been. Louis vows to get them a recording contract, and I kind of hope that this isn't the last we see of them because I think they're adorable, as I've already mentioned, although I'm not sure if they necessarily have a recording career ahead of them. Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy the show a lot less without them next week, where I shall be dealing with Leona and three other acts I can't really bring myself to like. Kate tells us they're fighting for a spot in the semi-finals, which means there are three more weeks of this crap. Just kill me now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

One is the boringest number

Performance Show 6: 18th November 2006

I have to begin this recap with some bad news, I'm afraid: Joel's busy this weekend and sadly will not be able to join me in bracketed comments like he usually does. However, being the responsible sort, he did his best to make sure someone was available to cover his position for me, knowing full well how I struggle to cope with this stupid show on my own, so he rang round a couple of temping agencies and as luck would have it, he found someone who was free. Not only that, he actually found someone who's totally the target demographic of this show. So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to our guest commenter, the lovely Lois Common-Denominator. Hi, Lois! (Hi Steve! I'm so excited about this. I really hope Ray does another swing number tonight - he's so cool and unique!-Lois) And now, on with the show.

Last week on the show: Simon had the "unenviable" task of choosing between two of his own acts, Ray and Nikitta. I can think of a lot of people who'd be envious of the opportunity to shitcan Ray's ass. Nikitta went, of course, because she can't do swing-by-numbers and anyway, the public totally hates black people. (Kidding! Don't e-mail me.) Sharon and Louis were smug, unsurprisingly. Louis is determined not to lose another act, but indeed another act must go home. Your Saturday night starts here, unless you're watching Strictly Come Dancing, in which case it started on BBC One 45 minutes ago.

The judges are welcomed by the annoying voiceover, and so are the acts. It makes for a far less dramatic entrance when there are only two people trooping out from behind the giant splitting screens, doesn't it? This week Kate's dressed in a very modest red dress, and the hair is still good, but the dress is bad. It makes her look like she's going to a Christmas party. In the 1940s. Sorry, Kate. Still, after the revelation in this week's Holy Moly that Vernon Kaye has been lined up to replace you, we're only going to say positive things about you, because no matter what our differences may have been in the past, this is very much a case of better the idiot you know. This week's theme is Number One singles, so who better to act as mentors than the act who proved that a Number One single is not a sign of quality over and over and over again? That's right: Westlife. (Squeeee! I love Westlife! Kian is omg liek so fit!!!11!-Lois) Westlife break with last week's tradition by actually bothering to appear on the main show. Fishlips Mark lies to Kate that every act is really talented, because this is what happens when Louis Walsh owns your soul - let that be a lesson to anyone considering entering. Kian, last seen at boot camp (and I'd totally forgotten he was even there, so huge was his contribution), bigs up Eton Road. Kate asks them to pick between Louis and Simon, since both of them are responsible for this pop travesty, and Shane wisely plumps for Sharon. Westlife will be back later, performing with Delta Goodrem, who apparently STILL hasn't learned her lesson. Oh, Delta. (That homewrecking tramp!-Lois)

Simon's category starts the show, which means Ray is on first. Wow, that's risky for someone who was in last week's bottom two. Ray didn't like it, because he wanted to be the best. Can I suggest he joins the Territorial Army then? That would be more up his street. Sharon thinks it's good for someone to have a taste of the bottom two. Simon says he picked Ray last week because he believed that's what the audience wanted him to. Well, given that he was in the bottom two, the audience probably didn't give a flying fig one way or the other. (But Ray's a unique talent! It's a travesty that he was in the bottom two last week.-Lois) We flashback to Simon's terrible decision at boot camp to call Ray back after rejecting him. Simon says that Ray's used eight of his nine lives, and if he's in the bottom two, he's got a problem. Ray remembers being told to do something different this week: "I don't want to be remembered as a one-trick pony because I'm not a one-trick pony." Bit late to be worrying about that, Twat Pack. Oh dear - Ray will be singing 'Livin' La Vida Loca'. He shakes hands with Westlife, and says that he wants to be in the final more than ever. He walks onto the stage in a tight black shirt that shows off what would be his cleavage if he had any. He then proceeds to do an exact mimicry of Ricky Martin's dancing, and it's every bit as horrifying as it is unsexy as it is faintly child-pornesque. He's also singing incredibly flatly, and on come the dancing girls just to prove the point that Ray needs a gimmick of some kind every week. It's a terrible, terrible karaoke performance, and I'm not even giving him points for not doing a swing track. (I will! He's really shown his versatility this week! He deserves a spot in the final now.-Lois) Seriously, every single time he thrusts his crotch at the camera, I get the feeling that I've somehow been horribly violated. That was quite possibly the most disgusting performance of the entire series, but of course the audience goes nuts for it, because they're morons. Sharon congratulates Ray for being confident and having great stage presence, but tells him he doesn't have a recording voice: "Why is it that when I look at you, you remind me of Panto Boy?" Hee. Louis then embarks unwisely down the "oh no he isn't!" route, and tells Ray it was great to see him not do a swing song, and compliments Ray's smile/dancing/work ethic/shoes/eyebrows/GCSE History results in order to sugarcoat the message that his voice sucks. The audience boos, again. Louis tells him he'll work "forever" in the West End, but he doesn't have a recording voice. Ray smugs that he was offered a job in the West End before he came here. Well, they always need lots of people to hand out the London Lite, I suppose. Simon bitches that it's rich of Louis to complain about vocal quality on this show, and Louis demands that Simon explain. (Oooh, I love Simon's feud with Louis - it's so dramatic!-Lois) Simon tells Ray he had to do something different this week and gives him an A for effort, saying that Ray's not the best singer in the competition but he has to work with what he's got. Simon calls it "a better performance than last week" and predicts the audience will keep Ray in this week. We go to what I suspect will be the first of many breaks, with the promise of Robert and Eton Road when we get back.

Sharon can barely be bothered to introduce Robert properly, which is good because hopefully the rest of the public feels similarly fed up of him. Flashbacks to last week, where apparently Robert owned the universe, despite still not really being that good, and having no visible emotional connection to the song, no matter how much they threw that sob story about his sister at us. Simon says that he now sees Robert as a threat, which I highly doubt (I've been in the bottom two twice! Ph3@r my mad contest-winning skillz!), and Robert refers to Westlife as "cool guys". He hopes that if he works hard, he may have half of what they've got one day. Lofty aspirations indeed. Robert sings 'You Are Not Alone', which I swear to God I thought was 'I Believe I Can Fly' until the chorus. If there's one thing I've learned from this show, it's that there are only about three melodies in the known world, and two of them are horrifically dull. This performance is so boring that I set up a caffeine IV to keep me awake. If it got any worse, I'd have needed a caffeine enema. A choir comes in after the key change, and Robert loses all semblance of the tune and indeed the plot. Louis tells Robert that he thought Robert stole the show last week: "This week you come out and sing a Michael Jackson song; not a lot of people can do that." Not even Michael Jackson himself, if the recent World Music Awards are anything to go by. Simon gets clarification on what Louis just said, and Louis informs us all that Simon is jetlagged, having just returned from LA. Simon says that Robert had another very good week, although he's not sure it was the perfect song for him. Simon credits himself for Robert's progress after he told Robert to stop running around the stage. Sharon tells Robert not to thank Simon just yet, and says that Robert gets better and better and better every week, and that so many people in the contest stay on one level (that level being "shit", presumably), whereas Robert's getting better (presumably having started off being "worse than shit" and having just recently caught up with everyone else). Robert thanks everyone for the opportunity he's been given. Yawn.

Over to Louis with the groups, and Eton Road. David says in VT that last week wasn't good. Simon singles out Anthony's high-pitched bit in the middle as being very weird. Anthony feels like he let the boys down last week, but they assure him that he didn't. Aww. They'll be singing 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin'' this week, which is the sort of übergay moment I've been waiting for from them all series. Notwithstanding the time they almost totally made out with each other, of course. Anthony's dressed like Kelly Osbourne again - sigh. There are some definitely questionable moments in the vocals, although they give the really high note to James rather than Anthony, which is a brave choice, and he just about pulls it off. The problem with this performance is the same thing that's wrong with most of their performances - there are too many moments when nobody seems to be quite sure who's meant to be singing. Also, this performance is marred slightly for me by the fact that I'm the only gay in the entire country who thinks that, 'Filthy/Gorgeous' notwithstanding, the Scissor Sisters are massively overrated and actually a little bit shit. Simon says he's been in America for a week, and they've obviously been spending a lot of time with Louis. Heh. Louis, of course, pounces on this and says that he's been mentoring his act, while Simon hasn't been with his at all. Well, we see who gets the last laugh when the results come in, won't we? Sharon claps, because she has no independent brainpower. Simon tells them that it kind of worked, but that there were individual vocals which just didn't come off. Sharon gets on the rag, telling Simon that if he'd been here, he'd know they'd all been sick this week. And that's Simon's problem...why? Seriously, what the fuck has that got to do with anything? Shut up, Sharon. The judges all bicker (Yay!-Lois), and Simon tells them that he's not sure it was strong enough. Sharon goes on again about how she was here all week, and Louis pipes in with his "me too!", and really all that says to me is that Simon's really famous and in demand across the globe, whereas the other two aren't really of much interest to anyone, because I don't believe for a second that Sharon "Please recommission my low-rating chatshow" Osbourne and Louis "I've been on any TV show would have me this week, and all they wanted to do was talk about how shit the MacDougall Brothers are" Walsh would have done anything differently had they been in Simon's position. Sharon says it's just about entertainment value, which: not, and tries to win cred points by saying how much she loves the Scissor Sisters. Louis blathers on about them bringing glitter and sparkle and the public love them. Kate speaks to Anthony, who wisely keeps schtum and basically just says he respects the judges and their comments. Another break, and Kate tells us that we'll return with Gentle Ben and "the last woman in the competition", Leona.

Back from the break, and Simon would like to introduce "...a singer. Leona." Heh. Nice subtle burn there on the other acts. Simon VTs that he's concerned about how, historically, girls do not win this competition, and he's seen this happen before. My mum, incidentally, informed me this week that she hates Leona, because she's "full of herself", so it looks like this is another victory for the "she's young and talented and attractive - who the hell does she think she is?" brigade. (Burn the witch!-Lois) Leona's characteristically shy around Westlife, because she had posters of them on her walls growing up. Oh, Leona. I didn't need to know that. Shane reminds us that they've duetted with Mariah Carey, and that Leona could easily have done Mariah's part in that song. Er...hooray? Fishlips Mark thinks it would be a shame if Leona, as a girl, didn't go further because the girls are voting for the lads they fancy. I'm sure he's very familiar with that strategy, although there's not even anyone hot this year to vote for, with the possible exception of some of Eton Road, and I can't really see that eating into Leona's votes too much. Simon says that voting for Leona is like having a hand in her career, and just as easily we could snuff it out. "That's what this show is about." What, snuffing out careers? Somewhere, Steve Brookstein's watching this, and that penny is slowly dropping. Leona is singing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', which I think we all had our fill of during Popstars, didn't we? She's perhaps not as good as usual this week, being noticeably wobbly in a few places, although I maintain that even a mediocre Leona performance is still head and shoulders above everyone else. The Choir of Gimmickry comes on to join Leona towards the end of the water, and actually seems to salt her game for a few seconds, but she's a pro and she claws it back with one hell of a glory note near the end. I'd love it if Leona taught Anthony Eton Road how to control his voice, because together they could rule the world. Sharon calls it "another flawless performance", and Louis thinks she has star quality, but has a problem with the fact that she always sings "the ballads". Not that it ever did Westlife any harm, of course, so Louis is talking out his arse again as usual. And yes, I know I bitch about Ray doing swing every week, so this is a complete double standard, but Ray is shit and Leona is good, and that is my justification. He wants her to do something more upbeat next week, and thinks Simon is in a time warp, because she should be moving into Christina/Beyoncé territory. That concerns me. I kind of imagine Leona being forced to do 'Crazy In Love' next week, or that famous reality show kryptonite 'The Voice Within', and it ultimately killing her. Don't you listen to him, Leona. The audience boos Louis's comments and cheers for Leona. Louis also gets in another dig about Simon not being there all week. Simon calls Louis "pathetic" and tells him to "shut up", which gets a cheer from the audience. Simon admits he's been in America all week long, and claims that there's an incredible buzz about Leona out there. Okay, I call bullshit. Seriously, I love Leona and everything, but I don't believe that for a second, and I actually think stories like that will do Leona more harm than good. (Absolutely. Who does she think she is? Too big for her boots! She'd steal my man as soon as look at him. I don't like her!-Lois). Simon says that it's rare for (a) a British singer and (b) someone from a (British) reality show to make such a splash over there, and I can't help thinking it's entirely a Simon-generated splash. I mean, I've said all along that Leona and perhaps Maria are the only contestants from this show who could've held their own on American Idol, but every single year of Idol is full of girls as good as Leona, and I can't see why anyone Stateside would give two shits about The X Factor anyway. But I digress. Simon says that she took a classic song and made her own version of it, and urges the audience not to assume she's safe, and not to throw their vote to someone who ostensibly "needs it more", but to "vote for the talent, please". This makes me wonder if Leona's polling totals aren't really that high. Boo, if that's the case. Sharon takes affront to Simon's comments, and Kate asks Leona how she feels about Louis's criticism. Leona says that she'll take whatever she's given, because she loves singing. (Bitch!-Lois)

Sharon isn't going to do the teary-eyed "vote for mine" routine, because he doesn't need it, apparently: it's Gentle Ben. He's finding it hard after last week's comments, and Sharon thinks Ben's scared of losing the limelight. Louis thinks Ben needs to continue to give those "big" performances that he gave in the first few weeks if he wants to make the finals. Meeting Westlife made Gentle Ben realise that we always have pressure on our shoulders, so basically he learned to just suck it up and get on with it. Hooray! Gentle Ben will be singing 'With A Little Help From My Friends', and he will be at the piano again. Still, at least the Journey South Memorial Guitar of Irrelevance isn't with us this week. It's not vastly removed from the Billy Bragg version, if I'm being honest, and I'm not crazy about parts of the arrangement, but it's all very confident and professional in the way that Gentle Ben generally is. And I'm not making any claims of cons here, but I'm fairly certain I saw a few points where what his hands were doing on the piano did not match what was on the soundtrack. I'm just sayin'. Louis calls it a return to form, and says it was a "powerful performance" that could land Gentle Ben a spot in the finals, and he could fill the gap in the UK market that exists for a young Rod Stewart or Joe Cocker. Seriously. How is Louis Walsh a successful pop music manager if he goes around saying things like that? Simon declares the performance "very good", and thinks that a Ben/Leona final would be the best final EVAR. Sharon thinks he did brilliantly, but he's not perfect, because perfect is boring. I don't really get that, but okay. Gentle Ben rather brazenly begs for votes, but it's kind of cute so I'll let him off. Kate warns us that the MacDougall Brothers will be singing one of the UK's biggest number one hits after the break. I hope it's 'Candle In The Wind', Diana version, because that would be hilarious.

Back from the break, and we're ending the show with the MacDougalls. They talk about how Simon's coming round on them, although he VTs that he still doesn't think they should be in the competition. He thinks the more he criticises them, the more the public votes for them. FINALLY. Jesus, Simon, the rest of us figured that out weeks ago. The MacDougalls will be singing 'Love Is All Around' (kill me now) and are determined not to cock it up. It's a noble ambition, I suppose. The performance is as wedding-singery as you'd expect, and these two still have no stage presence, but there's nothing I can say about them that hasn't already been said, like, a thousand times over, so I'll let you fill in the blanks yourselves. Your opinion probably depends on your amount of residual affection for this song. Mine's somewhere in the negative thousands, which obviously doesn't help. The arrangement is totally screwy, by the way, and has all kinds of weird repetitions in it, and sudden jumps that make no sense and don't scan. They're wearing matching outfits, too. Simon calls it "one of the most boring songs of all time", and Louis goes on about it being number one for 16 weeks, of course, and Simon says that within the context of the show it was "utterly pointless". Blonde MacDougall bitches that they get this every week, and that the public obviously like them enough to keep them around. There's the usual stuff about Simon not being anti-Scots, including him volunteering the fact that his mother's maiden name was Dalgleish (hee). Simon claims it's a sympathy vote. Louis goes on again about how he was with them all week while Simon was in LA (note to Louis: repeating the same point over and over again only serves to make you look like a buffoon who can't think on his toes. Please work harder.) and does the whole schtick about how they're lovely boys who work hard and Simon's just mean. (Simon is SO nasty to those boys. I'm going to go and vote for them now - boy howdy, that'll show him!-Lois) Kate asks them if they care, and Blonde MacDougall says that of course they do. They live in hope of winning Simon over. Good luck to them, I guess.

Performance recap: Ray's crotch should be locked away for the cause of public decency, Robert has the ability to make a boring song even duller, Eton Road were gayer than Christmas, again, Leona was too good for this stupid show as usual, Gentle Ben got by with a little help from a fake piano, and the MacDougalls showed no evidence that they're trying harder to be relevant, despite their claims to the contrary. Kate asks who shone, and Simon says that the best two singers by a mile were Leona and Ben. Sharon, ever the petty one, says Robert and Ben, and Louis, ever incapable of not following a bad example, plumps for the MacDougall Brothers and Eton Road. Okay, that does it: Louis and Sharon are cunts. I'm sorry, but they are the cuntiest cunts that ever cunted, and their complete disregard for the viewing public and the few contestants in this contest (okay, fine: Leona) who actually have talent. I honestly don't get how Simon is the one who's meant to be the demonic figure when he's the only person capable of admitting an act other than the ones he's mentoring did a good job. On the plus side, this means that Ray was the only person not listed as someone who shone. Hee. They will continue to bicker, of course, because the public love it, like the slags that they are.

Results show

Earlier, people sang for our votes, and the judges bickered for Strictly Come Dancing's audience share. Kate tells us that we've had the biggest vote tally of the series, with 1.25 million votes (and shamefully I'll admit that I voted: twice, for Leona). Performance recap, again. Kate reminds us that Westlife have had 14 number one hits, and are currently number one in the singles chart, just in case this show hadn't already made us all sufficiently ashamed to be British. They will be singing 'All Out Of Love', with Delta Goodrem. Or possibly 'All Out Of Love With Delta Goodrem', which would have been interesting. It's typically Westlife and dull, of course, although I feel honour-bound to point out that there are no stools. Whatever will they do in the key change? Delta appears in a virginal white dress for the second verse (nice try, Delta) and attempts to rescue her career. Shame she didn't bring Bryian back with her, with his tail between his legs. That would've been awesome. It makes me sad that the woman behind the utterly awesome 'Innocent Eyes' has come to this, but there you go. (Serves her right for breaking poor Kerry Katona's heart.-Lois) There's quite a funny bit near the end where the cameras on Fishlips Mark, who is neither singing nor looking like he has any plans to sing for the rest of the song, which I quite enjoyed. Kate asks for their opinions on who shone. Fishlips Mark thinks Leona. Kian plumps for Eton Road. Delta says it's hard to make a choice, but goes for the MacDougall Brothers. Oh, Delta. I stuck by you through the whole McFaddengate fiasco, but that's it. You're dead to me now. Shane also goes for the MacDougalls, as does Nicky, who redeems himself slightly by also citing Leona. Shane says that Leona was even better than tonight than she was in rehearsals. Kate thanks Westlife for all their help, and Delta for "prettying the place up". Wow, burn on yourself there, Kate. There's no need for that. After all, that's my job.

After the break, Kate claims the voting tally is now up to 1.5 million and the bottom two is "too close to call", which is what they say every time and I've never believed it before and I don't intend to start now. She welcomes back the judges and their acts. The phone lines close (with a whooshing sound effect, no less) and in no particular order, the people coming back next week are: the MacDougall Brothers, Ray, Gentle Ben, and...Leona, who of course bursts into tears at the news. I think she genuinely thought she was in the bottom two this week, actually. Either that or she's a very canny woman indeed. Kate asks Eton Road how it feels to be in the bottom two for the first time, and why they think the public didn't support them. Danny avoids saying "we were probably too gay for Saturday teatime" and plumps for the safer "well, you never know, do you?" Kate asks Robert if it's "third time lucky" for him, and...Kate? I know I said I wouldn't criticise, but the whole "third time lucky" thing doesn't really stand if you were already lucky on the first and second times. Unless you're suggesting that it'll be third time lucky for the audience and he'll finally be going home, in which case: word, Kate. Kate asks Simon what he's looking for, and he replies "major grovelling". He says he'll be judging on the best performance, and tells Robert he's slightly in the lead, which is kind of a dickish move really, and I thought Simon was better than that. (Also: maybe Louis and Sharon should've gone to LA all week too, if that's what it does for the success of one's acts.)

Robert the Favourite comes back on for his third "final showdown" performance. It's in no way improved from the performance he gave the first time around, which makes me question how much he really wants to fight for this. Yawn. He also does one of those ill-advised "whoo!"s when the choir come out, which is all a bit too Taylor Hicks for my liking. That's really all there is to say about his reprisal, so we'll move on to the lovely if slightly shambolic Eton Road. There are still some tuning issues, I'm not going to lie, but they've definitely ironed out some of the problems from earlier. Also, they've clearly got one bitch of a song to try to sing here, compared to Robert's snoozefest of a cakewalk. Unfortunately, they still have the whole "umm..who starts the second verse, and what are the words again?" problem, which they totally need to get fixed by next week.

Robert comes back on, and there are hugs, of course. Kate throws to the judges for their votes, and Sharon says she can't believe that either of those two are in the bottom two. She says Eton Road are the fun factor, and Robert is a "very gifted special entertainer". Not "singer", you'll note. Anyway, Sharon votes for Eton Road to go, though she's not happy about it. Louis echoes Sharon's thoughts on how they shouldn't have been in the bottom two either, and how it's "not fair" (and I'd be interested to hear who he did think a "fair" choice for the bottom two would have been, especially since he wouldn't have wanted the MacDougall Brothers there either). He votes for Robert to go, and is practically crying. Kate asks him if he's okay, and he replies that he's not. I attempt to care less, and find myself incapable. There's a shot of Eton Road, and Anthony's crying but gamely smiling, which kind of breaks my heart a little bit. It's Simon with the casting vote again, and he begins by saying that he didn't appreciate Louis's comments from earlier about him being out of the country. Simon says it's pretty level based on those performances, that Eton Road were better the second time around, and that he thought Robert was good tonight. He makes the decision based on who he thinks could progress further. Therefore the act he's going to send home is...Robert. Hooray! Eton Road breathe a huge collective sigh of relief, and go over for hugs. Awww. Whatever I think of their vocals, I can't help thinking they're cute as a bunch of buttons. Robert tries to shout something to Simon, who apparently isn't looking at him. Hehehe. We watch Robert's journey, and in the corner of the screen he sings along to 'Anytime You Need A Friend'. Heh. Kate tells Robert that he came on wanting a better life for his family, and he says that he's so happy to have been given this opportunity, that it's enriched him(?), and that this isn't the last we've heard of him. Au contraire. Sharon says she won't be saying goodbye to Robert because he's not going anywhere, even though she definitely said that to Tabby and Cassie, and probably also to Roberta, Maria, Chico, Brenda, Andy, Dionne and Kerry, so it isn't worth the air it was spoken into. Kate wishes Robert luck with the new baby, and tells him to keep singing. Don't spoil the moment, Kate. Next week the battle continues, but no on-air plug as to what the theme week will be. I'm still holding out for death metal week, of course. My thanks to Lois Common-Denominator, whose help this week has been invaluable. (My pleasure. Vote MacDonalds!-Lois) Until next time!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Le Fin Nikitta

Performance Show 5: 11th November 2006

LAST WEEK! Louis disobeyed Simon and sent Ashley home. Simon claimed it was personal. Sharon and Louis bitched back. No one actually believed any of this pantomime bollocks. Lots of contestants cried, because that's what the audience loves. Your Saturday night starts here, apparently. Shame it's Sunday morning when I'm watching this, then. Or does that mean I've developed the ability to project myself back in time? Because that would be kind of cool.

There are judges. Simon is not wearing a suit this week. There are contestants. Simon has three acts left, Sharon and Louis have two each. The MacDougall Brothers and Ray are both still here, for reasons I can't figure out. Kate's hair is in a similar manner to last week's 50s bouffant, and still looks good. Her dress is a demure black number with long sleeves that completely covers her cleavage, and she has a giant poppy tucked in the top. It's all very modest, and she doesn't look even remotely like some kind of confectionary. Are we in bizarro-world or something? Kate tells us that the seven remaining finalists will be singing "some of the greatest love songs ever written for your votes." People write love songs for our votes? Now there's a TV competition that could be interesting. Or perhaps Kate needs to learn how to use her voice to punctuate her sentences properly. Tonight's special guest is that staple of the modern pop industry, Julio Iglesias.

We're starting with Sharon this week, and for some reason all of the shots of the judges are weirdly bleached out, like someone screwed up the lighting or something. Ben is first to perform, and says that last week didn't go well for him, what with Simon hating his performance and everything. Sharon says that it wasn't his best week, and knows that he needs to step up. Simon: "When he's great, he's great. When he's terrible, he's dreadful." Okay, last week's performance wasn't that bad. Seriously, Simon, when you gave us Ray's swing version of 'Waterloo', you need to be very careful re: stones and glass houses. Ben went home this week to se his family. His mum seems lovely, and hugs him a lot. Sharon reminds us that Ben erects marquees (snerk) for a living. Ben starts to cry and says that he had a great time doing that, but he wants to be a proper musician. Sharon tells us that Ben's tried every avenue and had doors slammed in his face. So, you're trying to encourage us to support Ben by telling us that he's a loser? Interesting strategy. Ben takes to the stage, and it's his turn to carry the Journey South Memorial Guitar of Irrelevance this week. He'll be singing Aerosmith's 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing', a song I really hate. His attempt at making it his own seems to be That said, I can't deny that he does have a lovely voice when he really lets it loose and stops all that gravelly affectation, and he does sound lovely on the choruses. He puts the guitar on the floor at the beginning of the second verse, by the way, because as we established earlier, it's completely irrelevant. I think there's a wind machine at work here, as well. He goes up to a girl in the audience and basically starts groping her, and I really hope that's his real-life girlfriend or something, because otherwise he's kind of a sex pest. Seriously - there's such a thing as flirting with the audience as part of your performance, and there's basically unzipping and sticking your cock in their mouth, which is what Ben was veering dangerously close to there. Louis tells Ben that he was a little worried at the beginning because Ben seemed unsure of himself, but he got it back and it was a great ending. He still thinks Ben will be in the final. Simon tells Ben he needed that after last week, and he says his only criticism is that the film clip was corny, and singing to the girl was corny, and the wind machine was corny. He tells Ben that he doesn't need all those props (interestingly, he neglects to mention that Ben doesn't need the Journey South Memorial Guitar of Irrelevance either, since that was just as corny as the rest of it), because he's one of the best singers they've ever had. He also tells Ben not to diss building marquees. Sharon calls Simon "Darth Vader" for some reason, and tells Ben that she too was worried about him at the beginning, but it was a great performance. She tells Ben that Simon has to go for the low blow and can't just be nice, and well, isn't that his job? If we wanted someone whose entire job was to be nice, we'd get Paula Abdul back. There's no point in having judges if they don't point out things that don't work, Sharon. Stop stirring. The judges bicker pointlessly, and Kate cuts them off. Ben says this was the first time he's opened the show, and it was nerve-wracking for him. He panicked when the fan came on, apparently. He says "these are emotional times", somewhat portentously. Kate closes the segment with "Not afraid to be emotional: it's Ben." Hee. Can we call him Gentle Ben from now on? Yes? Good.

After the ad break, we're back with Louis and the groups, two boys from Scotland who are "fighting, fighting, fighting to stay in the competition." They're called the MacDougall Brothers, right? He also adds: "Simon owes them an apology." No he doesn't; you owe us an apology for inflicting them on us, you idiotic little smarmpot. Flashback to Simon telling the boys they cannot win. Blonde MacDougall tells us that Simon wants them gone, but the audience keep voting for them. Simon: "Ashley goes, the MacDougalls stay in, it's like the world's gone completely mad." Yep, I can't understand why it wasn't Ray who went home either, but let's not let that distract us, shall we? (Note to self: never pause video on a freeze-frame of Louis Walsh again. It's really not good for my stress levels.) Louis blathers about the public making the decision and that's what counts. The MacDougalls go back to the hotel where they used to be wedding singers (presumably they will soon be making this journey on a more permanent basis) and comment on how small it is. Simon thinks Scotland is watching the show with the volume turned down. Renate, the hotel manager, tells us that if Simon Cowell turned up on the doorstep of their hotel, he'd be murdered. That's true, that area did look rough as arseholes from what we saw. Mother MacDougall tells us how hard it is listening to Simon ripping into her boys. Simon refuses to believe that they're still in this show because they're good singers. No, they're in the show because you hate them, and the audience love being contrary. When are you going to learn that and damn them with some faint praise already? Simon thinks they can just stand on stage and bark and they'll still stay in. Hee. The audience boos this part of the VT. Sharon says that she wants some "ooomph" from them, but no one complains about Sharon not liking them because she's The Nice One. The MacDougalls say they came in feeling like wedding singers, but now they feel like pop stars. Well, I'm glad two people are convinced, at least. They're singing 'She's The One'. On stools. Betcha couldn't guess Louis Walsh is their mentor, could you? It's possibly just my recording of the show, but the backing seems to keep going out of tune. Oh, and they get up off the stools! I didn't see that coming AT ALL. The singing's okay (nothing to write home about), but it's still so incredibly dull. Although I haven't spotted any creepy incest vibes this week, so I'm grateful for small mercies. Even if they do insist on gazing meaningfully into each others' eyes all the time. There's no conviction, no stage presence, and I don't understand why they're still here, at all. I'd still rather be rid of Ray, of course, but that doesn't excuse their continued presence when Dionne's at home watching this in her curlers. The audience whoops for them big time at the end, drowning Sharon out (thank you, audience!). Sharon says that she prays that they win, "because Darth Vader here has to pay £1 million for you guys if you win." Urgh. Shut up, Sharon. You're just being a fucking idiot now, not that I ought to be surprised by that. Attempting to say at least one thing of relevance, she says that Mark has said the same thing every week: if the show gave out a purple heart for bravery, they'd win it. Oh, whatever. All this MacDougalls vs The World stuff is pissing me right off now. It's not bravery, it's famewhorism. And yes, I'm aware that isn't a real world. It doesn't make it any less true. Sharon says this is their best "song" so far. Note: not best "performance". Simon's comments: "It wasn't horrible. I'm not saying it's the best vocal I've ever heard in my life, because it's not." He tells Sharon that her comment was stupid, which: duh. But still good to have someone point it out, anyway. He seems remarkably confident they're not going to win, so I just hope he has access to the voting tallies and knows they're getting closer to the bottom or something. Please, God. Simon tells them that the problem is there are better singers than them in the competition (some of the audience clap at this, which is hilarious, especially as there are some confused boos in there as well. Nobody told the monkeys how to respond to that one!). He tells them that unless they raise their game, they will go back to being wedding singers, "albeit at a slightly larger wedding." Hee. Louis tells them it's their best performance yet, and yammers on about how Simon owes them an apology, which: still no. Simon, in this week's cul-de-sac of WTF?, puts his hand up and tells us all he's 25% Scottish. Er, that's nice. Louis makes some joke about that being Simon's head, which falls flat, because Louis isn't funny or clever. Kate gives out the voting numbers, and says "high praise indeed tonight!" Yep, "you were marginally less shit" is very high praise.

Next up is Ray. He says that last week's performance was a risk, because no one's ever done a swing version of 'Waterloo'. Of course, it's not as much of a risk as NOT DOING A FUCKING SWING SONG FOR THE NINETY MILLIONTH TIME would have been, but whatever. Louis says Ray has to do something different this week and prove he's not a one-trick pony. I can't believe I'm saying this, but: word, Louis. Simon doesn't care what Louis thinks, because everyone on this show is a moron, of course. Ray goes home, and his mum says how much he loves performing on a stage. "The bigger the audience, the better he gets." Wow, they must have some deceptively small audiences on this show. Interestingly, Ray's dad is also called Ray, and is the one to blame for turning Ray into Croonsy McSwingpants. He blathers some irritating stuff about how swing is "longevity, never mind that other stuff". Yeah, never mind all those operas that have been around since the 17th century, swing music is the proof of timelessness. Whatever, Ray Senior. Ray's proud of himself for sticking to what he loves. Yes, because diversity of taste is a terrible, terrible thing. Ray goes back to school, where his mum was Bernie Nolan and he was being bullied by a girl called Imelda, whom he then killed. He talks about being on stage at school dressed as a chicken and realising that was where he wants to be. In a barn? Simon calls Ray "a born entertainer" (yuck), and Ray says "it's just put that little seed in me" (EW) "and I want this tree to keep on growing, baby." Okay, I need to clean out my brain with about 12 pints of Domestos. Ray will be singing 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', in a swing style, because he's such a versatile artist. He appears to also be doing some kind of crude Elvis impersonation at the same time, which is bizarre. It's like watching some kind of cringeworthy school talent show, where you want to smother the irritating parents who enabled this behaviour in their child. Also: this would appear to be another example of Ray obeying the letter of the theme, if not the spirit. This should have been an opportunity for Ray to show some subtlety, if not some diversity. Yuck. He even tries to be sexy at the end of the song, and it's so disgusting that I can't even tell you. Ray applauds himself at the end, of course. Sharon tells Ray that he's a natural. Some of the audience start chanting "Ray! Ray! Ray!" and Sharon tells them to shut up. I would have chloroformed them, but that's just me. Sharon tells Ray that he's very polished at what he does, that he's definitely got a future in this industry (like Steve Brookstein, you mean?) but she doesn't know if he's an album seller. She says that Simon's playing it safe every week. Yep, because God forbid Ray should take any responsibility for his own crappy performance or anything. Louis agrees with Sharon: Ray does the same thing every week, and he wants something new next week. You wanted something new this week, Louis, and you didn't get it. Can't you be a bit more forceful. Simon: "If you buy a chocolate digestive, you don't want a Jaffa Cake." Oh, Simon. I always want a Jaffa Cake. Bad example. He says his job is to bring out the best in Ray, and that they're going to continue to do what Ray does best. He predicts that Ray might make the final. Yes, and I might have a coronary.

Kate reminds us that "the last two girls in the competition", Nikitta and Leona, are still to come. I wonder why she chooses this week to remind us of that; was Ashley considered one of the girls? Adverts. Andy Abraham has a new album out. If you buy it, I will kill you.

We're back with Simon, and Nikitta. Rihanna's 'Unfaithful' plays, and Nikitta gets upset about last week. Apparently she's cross because her mentor told her she was out of tune. Please, Nikitta, do not go all Conway Sisters on us. I assure you it will not end well. Louis and Sharon say that Simon doesn't know what he's doing with Nikitta. Simon says he's got it wrong almost every week, and this week he has to get it right. You're going to send Ray home? Good choice! Oh, fine: let's just hope he's finally giving Nikitta a ballad, for fuck's sake. Nikitta goes home to the place where she used to dream about being a pop star. She talks about going home to the empty house. You know, because Her Mother Is Dead. And they'd been doing so well, too. A good couple of weeks, and nary a mention of Nikitta's Mother, Who Is Dead. I guess they're pulling out all the stops for her this week. We see Katie there giving Nikitta a hug (and later reduced to "Nikitta's auntie" on a caption - that's gotta smart), and Nikitta's Nana Pearl. Auntie Karen talks about Nikitta's Dead Mother some more, just in case we weren't up to speed on that yet. Nikitta doesn't want to be just sitting around the house, thinking about "could've beens". So, is she going to bring it this week? She looks lovely in a red wraparound dress, so that's a start. Nikitta will be singing Donna Summer's 'Last Dance'. It's not quite a ballad, but it'll do for now, I guess. On stage are some dancers, of the variety of gimmick that Simon claims a good artist does not need. Hmmm. Also: is it really a good idea to give Nikitta a song with the line "when I'm bad, I'm so, so bad"? Again, this isn't necessarily a song I'd call a love song, but it's closer than Ray's, at least. It does appear to be an incredibly loose theme week, anyway. Nikitta's performance, you say? It's okay. At least there's something for her to get her chops around on this song, but it's still not really that good a fit for her. The last note is, unfortunately, really off, and that's a shame. Louis tells her that was so much better than last week - for the first time in the competition she looked great and sounded great and looked happy. He also says that it's very hard to sing a Donna Summer song that well. And I'm sure Louis has tried it when he's boogying in the disco with his top off. The Bitch Factor holds no responsibility for any mental trauma caused by that image. Nikitta thanks Louis gleefully. Sharon tells Nikitta she was definitely in her comfort zone tonight, and she looks gorgeous. Simon agrees with the others: he tells her it was much better, she looked like she was having fun. Nikitta thanks the judges, and says it feels amazing to have all three of them say something good. Kate asks Nikitta what it would mean for her to make the final, and Nikitta gets the giggles. She says it would mean the world, and thanks everyone for supporting her, including Scotland. See, Simon doesn't hate Scotland! He likes Nikitta, and he's 25% Scottish!

Another ad break? Bloody hell. Can we have some programme to go with our adverts please?

It's time for Eton Road. They loved last week. Louis says they have the full package. Simon says that last week was the week they emerged as possible winners. There's a clip of Anthony's mum Henrietta, who looks awesome, and tells us that her son is "lovely". Awww. We see the Eaton Road Dance School where they met, and they admit they changed the spelling to look a little bit more funky. And also: more Berkshire, less Merseyside. What? Don't tell me you weren't thinking it too. There are some hilarious pictures of them as kids. There's a freeze frame of them walking across the road, Abbey Road-style, as they tell us that Louis has picked a Beatles song for them. Because that's probably the biggest mental stretch he can make when asked to choose a song for four boys from Liverpool. James's parents (okay, James is the blond one - this helps!) say they're excited from them to be doing a Beatles song. David's dad (and David is the one with the spiky brown hair, whom I might fancy a little bit) says the emotions will be sky high. We don't see the other one's parents, but at least now I can go on the website and do a process of elimination (the other one's Daniel, I now know). Knowing my luck, now that I know which one's which, they'll get eliminated. They'll be singing 'From Me, To You'. They keep singing to each other in that really gay way that the boybands on this show seem to have. It's kind of cute, though. There's a bit of choreography, although it's kind of cheesy. They sound okay, if not amazing, but there's just something incredibly cute about them as a package that makes it really hard for me to dislike them. They include a bit in the middle for Anthony to do a falsetto, which sounds odd and kind of weird and I think they'd have been better off leaving that out and just allowing him to harmonise with the melody, but what do I know? I have to admit, despite myself, I enjoyed that. Simon's comment? "What was that bit in the middle? I just didn't get that." Told you so. Simon thought it was a bad choice of song, "and it looked like Louis had sent you back to boyband school in 1986. The routine was lazy, there was no real attempt to share the vocals, the choreography was fifteen years out of date, the track sounded dated, you can't do a Beatles sound justice, the bit in the middle was just weird. I thought you were really good last week, and you were completely and utterly average tonight. Sorry. You're better than that." Ouch. But look at David's lovely smile! Sharon calls them "her darlings" and says they can do no wrong for her. She does admit that the choreography was dated, but that it wasn't their fault, and says they made the song their own. "No they didn't," interjects Simon, and not for the first time this evening, Sharon morphs into Nikki Grahame and bawls "I LIKED IT, IF YOU DON'T MIND!" Louis agrees with Sharon. He thinks Simon is jealous because they're trying something different, UNLIKE SOME OF HIS ACTS (oh good, we're pulling each other's hair now), and says that it's good for Anthony to show off his amazing vocal range. Not like that, it isn't. I like Anthony and all, but there's a time and a place. Daniel says that it's impossible to do a Beatles song, but they tried to make it their own. Anthony says that he really respects Simon, and they've had a hard week because he's had a chest infection for the past four days, not that he's making excuses, "and I haven't even told me family about me throat because I don't wanna upset me nan." HA! That's brilliant. Louis starts yelling and drowning out the rest of Anthony's comments, because this show doesn't give a shit about the contestants.

Leona says that last week was incredible. Simon reminds us that we've never had a girl win The X Factor (to which I say, dude, it's only on its third series. It's not like saying you've never had a woman win a Nobel Prize), and he thinks Leona could change that. I hope so. Louis says that Leona has done really well so far, "but the only way you can go from the top is down." God, he is such a cunt. I'm sorry, but he is. Leona goes home to see her family, and her mum says that Leona's wanted to be a singer all her life. Leona's father (and again, both of her parents seem pretty cool) says that he's incredibly proud of her. Leona wells up again on VT. Leona's older brother Bradley (who's kind of hot) says that he's proud of his little sister, and she's just doing better and better. Leona goes back to where she used to work as a receptionist, and her old boss says that he advertised her job after he saw her on the programme because he knew she wouldn't be coming back, and that it was the happiest cause he's ever had to advertise a job. Hee. Leona says that she used to wear a headset for work, and when no one was looking she used to pretend she was singing at her own concert. Ha! I totally used to do that too, when I worked in the Gap. I suspect my attempts were less impressive than Leona's, mind. Leona says her life has changed, but at any time it could be here today and gone tomorrow - she could be back at her desk, daydreaming again. And while I applaud her sensible attitude here, she did hear that they've advertised her job, right? How galling would it be to be eliminated and unemployed in one fell swoop? Leona sings 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word', and her hair's been kind of straightened on top and curled at the end, and looks lovely. It's another effortless performance from Leona, and I'm biased because I really like her, but she absolutely knocks everyone else onto this show into a cocked hat. Which means, she'll probably be eliminated any day now, because this show does not like its contestants to actually be talented. Admittedly, it is still a bit like listening to Christina Aguilera, and it'd be nice to have a week where I didn't have to say that about Leona, but name me another British singer her age who can do this, because I can't think of any right now. She does a run at the end (a vocal run, not a literal run across the stage), which threatens to get away from her, but she keeps it under control because she's awesome. Simon gives her a standing ovation. Sharon tells her it was a very emotional performance, that she told the story of the song, and it was beautifully sung. Louis tells Leona that she delivers every week without gimmicks ("no sax players, no silly dancers" - heh). He calls her a class act, and says for the third week running "I think you could be the first winner. Female. Of X Factor." That's a sentiment. Lovely. To hear. Leona gushes her thanks. Simon tells her: "Honestly, that was world-class." He talks about her overcoming her shyness, reminds us again that we've never had a female winner, and says that she's a role model for every little girl in an office who dreams of being a popstar. Um, shouldn't the "little girls" be in, you know, school? Do we need some kind of exposé on the exploitation of minors in British offices? Kate tells Leona that every week her comments get bigger and better. Leona thanks the judges, and says that they inspire her to get better, and thanks everyone for supporting her. Awww. I love Leona.

Back from what is hopefully the final ad break, and we're closing with Sharon and Robert. Sharon claims she's "saved the best for last". Oh, please. Robert whines about being in the bottom two twice, and the public not thinking he's as good as he'd like to believe he is. I break out the world's tiniest violin. We go back to Homerton Hospital, where Robert used to change the beds and do the lunches, and occasionally sing to his captive audience. I bet that made them want to get better a hell of a lot faster. Going back was "bittersweet", because he doesn't want to go back there, and doesn't feel it's where he belongs. Yep, because attending to the sick is such a worthless vocation in comparison to reality TV. Shut up, Robert. He says he'll be honouring them with the song he'll be singing tonight. He sang it at his sister's funeral (oh good! A new sob story!) and it means a lot to him. I hope he'll be honouring his family with his presence permanently after this week. Sharon says that it's hard for a man to stand up and let his emotions run the way Robert has. Robert's mum (who continues to follow the trend by looking awesome) says she's proud of him, and Robert says he's going to sing and show his soul and show people what real love is all about. Robert's singing a song that I think is called 'Always And Forever', and it's one of those low-key performances without the stupid ad libs that he usually throws in, which means he's probably here to annoy me for another week. Snore. And I could do without him looking so constipated on the high notes. He throws in some of that stupid grinning bouncy shit at the end, because he can't not, and what little goodwill I have prompty vanishes. Simon says he wants to judge Robert purely as a singer, leaving his story aside: "That was your best vocal by a mile." He tells Robert he's just put himself back in the race. Louis tells Robert he doesn't know why he was in the bottom two last week. Because he was shit? He says he's glad he saved Robert, and Robert has a lot of soul. Sharon says Robert gave her goosebumps, and that he nailed it. Robert says he's glad to have had the chance to show off what he can do, and there's a lot more that he can do. Kate asks him if it was a hard song to sing, and he says it wasn't, he just had to keep his emotions in check. Kate says it was really fitting and beautiful. Kate asks Robert what he would like to say to the voting public. Robert: "It's better to spend 70p than £32 for a ticket." Oh, as if you'll ever be worth that, you tool. Seriously, shut up. But the sob story and the above average performance means he's bound to still be here next week, I'm sure of it.

Performance recap: Gentle Ben bored his way through Aerosmith, the MacDougall Brothers were slightly less shit than usual, Ray was obnoxious as ever, Nikitta reminded us that this was her last chance, Eton Road were cute but slightly dull, Leona was head and shoulders above the rest, and Robert sang for his sister. Who Is Dead. At this rate, we'll have to rename the show The Death Factor. Kate asks the judges who they loved as a standout performance tonight. Simon's was Leona. Sharon's was Robert. Louis's was Robert and Eton Road. Kate reminds us to tune in for Julio Iglesias and the results. Thornton: out.


Tonight! People sang for your votes, although the clips are all from previous weeks as far as I can tell. Suxx0rs. Kate tells us that tonight's vote was the biggest and closest of the series, and for the first time actually says that "a million votes have been cast". Interesting that it's so low, considering the show gets six million viewers and most of the people who vote probably vote more than once. Performance recap, as we've seen. Kate finally gets around to introducing Julio Iglesias, "the undisputed king of romance". Easy on the hyperbole there, Thornton. Apparently every 30 seconds, one of his records is played somewhere in the world. That's kind of scary. He's also the highest-selling male Latin artist ever. Julio sings 'I Want To Know What Love Is', and as non-PC as this may sound, I giggle when his accent leads him to sing that he has to "read between the lions". Hehehe. Anyway, we know what this is like, so let's skip ahead. Interestingly, Julio is not invited to talk to Kate or give his opinion on the contestants. I'm kind of glad they've dispensed with that, to be honest.

Back from the ads, and Kate claims that "more than a million of you" have voted. Hmm. I'm not sure all of those votes came from different people, as I said above. Anyway, Kate gives the one-minute warning and welcomes back the judges and contestants. Kate wishes the contestants luck and we get the results, as ever, in no particular order (with lots of people screaming for Leona): Robert, Leona, Eton Road, Gentle Ben and...the MacDougall Brothers. I am lost for words. But hooray! Ray is in the bottom two! I mean, Nikitta's clearly the one who's going home, but hooray all the same! Simon is utterly and literally lost for words at what happened tonight. Kate asks Nikitta how she feels, and she says she'll do her best. Ray claims he was ready to be in the bottom two (bullfish). Kate throws to Sharon and Louis, who both have all their acts coming back, and asks them what they're looking for. Sharon, drinking leisurely from a glass of water with her feet on the desk: "Ooh, I don't know yet!" Okay, I'll admit: I laughed at that. Simon shoots them both a stink-eye. Kate: "Well, Simon, look on the bright side: only one act has to go tonight." Hee. Ray delivers a carbon copy of his earlier performance, so I shall be skipping through it. Kate introduces Nikitta, singing for what could be her final time, blah blah blah. Obviously her song takes on a whole new meaning in this context. I actually think she's slightly better the second time around. She moves about as gracefully as, well, Dionne, though. I think Nikitta's performance is both the better and the more improved of the two, but unless Sharon and Louis vote tactically in her favour (i.e. if they don't give Simon the casting vote), she's so going home.

Sharon gets the first vote, and she's suddenly all business, telling them that just now when she had her feet up, she was laughing at Simon not at them. Yeah, it's a bit too late to suddenly pretend to respect them now, isn't it Sharon? Sharon tells Ray that he owns what he does, his confidence with everything he does, "even though everything you do is very swingy." Hee! Sharon tells Nikitta that the second time she sang she was fighting, and she wished she'd seen that before because it really made a difference. Sharon votes to send home Nikitta. Louis tells Nikitta she was great tonight and she nailed it, and he thinks Ray's great too. Louis votes to send Ray home, so the vote is with Simon, unsurprisingly. Bet pounds to pennies he sends Nikitta home. Simon says he thought he'd made up his mind until the final performance. He says it's difficult because he put Nikitta in ahead of Ray initially, and she was much better in the auditions and boot camps than Ray was. And turning to Ray, he says: "Maybe we've got it wrong. Maybe the audience are bored of you, I'm not sure." The audience yells emphatically that they are NOT bored of Ray. I would like to know how they managed to get the only people in the entire country who aren't sick of Ray into the same room on the same night. Simon says this is his problem, and appears to be really deep in thought. The audience shouts, and it's kind of a mess, so you can't really hear who they're rooting for. Simon says he's changed his mind, and sends Nikitta home. Yeah, like that wasn't his plan ALL ALONG. Gah. Oh well, at least we were close. And hopefully this means Ray won't win. Ray kisses Nikitta's hand, and Nikitta kisses...the back of his neck? Okay, that was weird. The audience gives Nikitta a standing ovation, and we see her journey on the show. She was great in the auditions, and kind of ropey in a lot of the live shows. Simon tells Nikitta he's sorry, and Nikitta thanks Simon for taking a chance on her, and says that if it wasn't for the songs he'd given her, she wouldn't have been there at all. That doesn't make a lot of sense, but is a nice sentiment all the same. Kate asks Simon why he sent Nikitta home, and Simon dodges the question by saying that neither Ray nor Nikitta should have been in the bottom two, and that he feels he let her down, and he's sorry, but it's been a pleasure to work with her. Awww. Okay, that got me a little bit. What? Shut up. Go away.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bjorn On The Fourth Of July. Or November, whatever.

Performance Show 4: 4th November 2006

PREVIOUSLY! There were highs, if you were Ben, Ray or Leona. There were lows, if you were the MacDonald Brothers, Kerry or Dionne. A blustery recap tells us that Simon is the only judge with all of his acts remaining, since Sharon and Louis are both down two. Cue titles!

Y'know, all the pomp that opens this show is actually beginning to look so sad. Now that we've all realised how crap the artists are, and come to the collective decision that the emperor is indeed naked, it all rings rather hollow. Anyway, we are introduced to the judges and their contestants, because let's face it: the majority of them are so dull that if we were left to our own devices we probably would have forgotten all of their names. The show seems to think these people are all still pretty important, though, so we'll humour them.

Kate's dressed as a giant Quality Street again (hazel in caramel, for those of you keeping score) and while her dress seems to be suggesting that all roads lead to Rome (Rome in this case being the upper section of Kate's midriff) and making her hips look utterly gargantuan, her hair actually looks rather fantastic. It's all big and Diana Dors-y, which really suits her, so props to Kate's hairdresser this evening. Tonight the finalists will be taking on the most challenging pop songs ever, because it's Abba night. And Joel and I had this conversation way back when they had an Abba week during the original Pop Idol: these songs were written for two women to harmonise on, so basically no one's going to sound good attempting these. In fact, this might have been the one week where The Unconventionals could have righteously whomped everyone's arses, being the only act in the entire competition with more than one female vocalist, but it looks like we'll never know.

Tonight's very special guest is Abba's Bjorn Ulvaeus (and I hope I've spelt that correctly), whom Kate calls "a musical genius". I'm happy with that definition, so we'll move right on. I am of the opinion that Abba wrote and performed some of the finest pop songs ever, by the way, so I will be particularly unforgiving when recapping tonight's performances. Bjorn tells us that the songs are much harder to sing than we might think. He's been working with them this week, and claims he was "pleasantly surprised" by how they gave their own personality to the songs. In other words: Ray's song will be a fucking swing version, and I will want to kill him more than ever before.

Kate reminds us that Simon still has all four acts left intact, while Louis and Sharon only have four between them. Simon's first act is Nikitta, who doesn't think she's doing very well because she keeps getting criticised for her song choices. We see Sharon and Louis making their usual nonsensical criticisms of Nikitta (I'm still unsure why it's apparently impossible for a person to sing a song written before they were born, especially since Jamie Cullum The Hateful Jazz Gnome makes a comfortable living out of it), and Nikitta thinks Simon isn't getting her yet. Simon tells us that he's trying hard to find that song that suits her perfectly. Louis and Sharon both bitch about Simon's apparently poor mentoring skills, despite the fact that they're both two acts down and Nikitta hasn't even been in the bottom two yet, so whatever Simon's doing wrong, he's not doing it nearly as badly as they are. Nikitta meets Bjorn, and we find out she'll be singing 'Dancing Queen' (oy - let's give her the most karaoke song of the bunch, just in case she doesn't already have enough millstones around her neck) and he says that song suits her, so when Louis claims the opposite later, we can all officially tell him to shove it sideways. Nikitta comes out in an electric blue dress, which is lovely but unfortunately makes her bottom look rather large, and begins the uphill struggle of trying to make 'Dancing Queen' sound fresh and original. A few parts of the song are far too low for her register, and it's really quite a dull performance. Incidentally, her backing singers appear to have more stage presence than Nikitta does, which is rather worrying for all of us. Sharon tells Nikitta that she's already looking worried before Sharon's even said anything, and my response to that is: yes, because now more than ever you and Louis both want to score points over Simon, and Nikitta is the easiest target. I'm not saying that she deserves positive feedback for what was an entirely uninspiring performance, but if I were in Nikitta's shoes, my face would also be saying "oh great, here comes the tidalwave of sideswipes". Sharon tells Nikitta that she has problem with her pitching, and Nikitta mumbles "I wouldn't say it was totally off-key; I think I did all right." Somebody in the audience with a thick Scottish accent (possibly a family member, and it would be awesome if it were Katie) yells "it was brilliant, Nikitta!" and there are cheers. Sharon says that she has to be blatantly honest because there can be no allowances any more, being so close to the final. First of all: not nearly close enough for my liking, matey, and second of all, where precisely was the cut-off point between this week and last, where you decided on The Xtra Factor that it wasn't appropriate for you to criticise Ray's pitch (or lack thereof) on the main show, because that would be too mean? In short: Dear Sharon, shut the fuck up unless you're going to be consistent, you overbotoxed nitwit. Sharon reiterates about Nikitta's pitching problems and says that she looks uncomfortable. Louis agrees with Sharon, and the audience boos. He says the song was too big for her, and given that the guy who wrote it said something quiet contrary, I'm going to tell Louis to shove it sideways. Dear Louis, shove it sideways. Nikitta answers back and tells him the song doesn't fit her. Louis tells it it's not her fault because Simon gave her the wrong song again. Nikitta: "Simon gave me a song, and I changed it to that one." Ha! I love that Nikitta hates Louis almost as much as I do. Louis says that it still doesn't work, and Nikitta looks to her right, all "Kate, a little help here please?" Simon tells her she shouldn't have changed the song because this was the week they needed to transform her into a singer, and this song is a minefield. (Please god let the poor girl sing a ballad. The audition rounds should be enough evidence that's where her strengths are.-Joel) He also says that it was out of tune, and Nikitta looks rather broken. Kate begs the audience to vote for Nikitta, who is now totally crying. The voice from the audience shouts more praise for Nikitta, and this would be the brilliant opportunity for someone to claim it's the unruly spirit of Nikitta's Dead Mother, but that opportunity remains lost, much like the point of this entire show.

Coming back from the break, Kate reminds us that it's Abba night and we're over to Louis with the groups, and Eton Road are on first. We flash back to last week's horrendous performance, and Anthony's still bitter about Simon's criticism. Louis says that they're having more fun than any other act on the show, and that I'd agree with. Sharon thinks that Eton Road have the best chance of pulling off an Abba song out of anyone, and again I agree. They'll be singing 'Does Your Mother Know?', and it sounds good in rehearsals. Bjorn tells them it suits them as a group, but then he said that to Nikitta, so who knows? Their dance routine is hilarious and totally cute, and Anthony's overdoing his harmony lines as usual, bless him. They sound good, though, and I totally need to learn their names properly because I still don't know the names of all the ones who aren't Anthony. The camera cuts to the judges, and Louis is bopping in his seat and singing along. Heh. Anthony's hair looks less Kelly Osbourne-like this week. There are a few bits where it all seems a little shambolic and disorganised, but is it wrong of me to find that slightly charming? They are, as everyone said, having a lot of fun with the song, and it's infectious enough for the odd dropped line not to be that big a deal. Louis applauds heartily at the end, and Simon calls the performance "as camp as a row of tents. Let's be honest: if Louis couldn't get Abba night right, there's a problem." Hee. Simon says that it wasn't the best vocal ever (true), nor was it the best choreography ever (also true), but it was "a million per cent" better than last week (mathematically dubious, but otherwise true). Sharon tells them that she loves them anyway (drink!) and agrees with Simon that it was camp, and says that they made it their own while maintaining the spirit of Abba. She says that they were great to watch. (I loved it. It was ridiculous and funny and actually fun, which is sorely lacking in this show.-Joel) Louis takes the opportunity for a quick shot back at Simon, saying that 'Does Your Mother Know?' is dedicated to him. Hmmm. Let's move on, since I don't want to get sued. Shaven-Headed Eton Road says that they listened back to their performance from last week and agree with Simon's criticisms, which contradicts what Anthony says in the VT, but I really haven't got time to pick up all of the contradictions in this show because I want to finish this before I turn 50. Anthony appears to have really shiny red shoes, and I'm jealous. Kate rubs Anthony's back as the boys walk off. Hee.

Over to Sharon, and Robert. Robert talks about himself in the third person, which is always a treat, and we get flashbacks of last week's overrated performance. Sharon claims that Simon couldn't have said anything negative about Robert without being "pelted". Hmm. Let's hope Sharon doesn't read this blog, or I'm going to have to start wearing extra layers when I go outside. Simon takes credit for Robert's "good" performance last week after telling him to stop running around like an idiot. Robert is excited about it being Abba week because he used to run around singing 'Super Trouper' when he was younger. Plus ça change, right? Bjorn pronounces Robert's dodgy-sounding rendition of 'Take A Chance On Me' "interesting", and Simon basically says that Robert and Abba are not conventional bedfellows. The arrangement of the song is really slowed-down and piano-led at first, which sounds really weird, but then the ultra-disco beat kicks in and we're back to something resembling normal. Robert struts around the stage and adds all of his annoying ad libs, and also has trouble singing some of the lower notes. Again, his backing singers are more interesting and have more rhythm, because Robert sucks. He jumps for joy when he's finished, possibly as glad that it's over as I am. Louis likes what Robert did with the song (because I'm SO sure that arrangement was all his own work) and tells Robert that he's one of the few natural performers in the show. Sadly no one jumps in at this point to say, "so by your own admission the vast majority of this year's contestants are shit, then?" He tells Robert that he looks great. Simon says Robert had a great week last week, but not tonight. Simon says Eton Road made their song sound current in a weird way, but Robert's sounded dated. Sharon talks over Simon and won't let him finish, and Robert obnoxiously talks back to Simon and claims that Simon liked it really. He also claims that he was nervous, but he enjoyed himself, so it's all fine. Yep, the first thing I look for when buying a CD is whether the artist enjoyed making it or not. Sharon tells Robert not to defend himself to Simon because that's what she's there for, and then wheels out the "Simon's just jealous" argument for the infinitieth time. (Yes, Sharon. He wants all the acts that aren't his out. Which is why he just said Eton Road were good. Dumbass.-Joel) She tells Robert to take no notice of Simon, because ignoring criticism is what truly makes a fine artist. Mercifully, Kate does not give Robert an opportunity to talk further; she simply reads his numbers and tells us that Leona and the MacDonald Brothers are coming up.

After another word from Nokia, we are back with Simon and the 16-24s, specifically the "absolutely amazing" Leona. Last week Leona sang 'Summertime' and was awesome, and was Simon's OMG BEST CONTESTANT EVAR, by his own admission. Louis says that she was amazing last week, but has probably peaked now. Simon admits that he's nervous about the song he's chosen for her, which is 'Chiquitita'. Bjorn tells her to read the words again and try to put herself into the place of the person in that song, which doesn't sound like he was massively impressed with her performance. Leona begins with the patented Katharine McPhee trick of kneeling on the stage. She seems to be singing the song an octave higher than usual, and it's a bit of an uneasy fit at first, but by the time the chorus is in and she's walking around the stage I'm getting chills. (Again, best of the night. I loved how she span in a circle for 'you'll be dancing once again.' So cute.-Joel) It's not nearly as good as last week's performance, but I think it still stands a fairly good chance of being among the best of this week's all the same. She totally does a Christina Aguilera on it, as she always does, and if this show can't produce a good original artist, I guess I can be happy with it producing an above-average copy of a good original artist. The audience goes nuts when she finishes, to the point where Sharon has to shush them so she can speak. Sharon says that the song is beautiful and that Leona has a fantastic vocal range, but warns her off the vibrato and the "Christina wobbly lip thing". Heh. Louis tells her she always does a good job, but says it was a bit like Mariah Carey singing an Abba song, but he thinks she could be the first girl to win. Didn't he say that last week. Simon: "I love Louis using 'you sound like Mariah Carey' as a negative!" Heh. Simon waxes lyrical about how she's blossomed from the shy girl he first met, and how she took a risk with the song and tried to make it her own, and pronounces her in a different league to everyone else. Leona thanks the judges, and says that she's trying to do her own thing but is totally flattered by the Mariah/Christina comparisons, which I think is fair enough.

Next up are the MacDonald Brothers, who are still desperate to win Simon's approval. Louis says that Simon has it in for them, and he doesn't know why. Bjorn tells the boys what the song is about, and Simon says that he has a feeling this could be the most horrible performance they've had yet on the show. Optimism is such a wonderful thing, isn't it? They come on stage, and oh dear God, one of them has the Journey South Memorial Guitar Of Perpetual Irrelevance. (So upset that the blonde one didn't bring out the electric fiddle he had when they met Bjorn.-Joel) They sing 'Fernando' in a very flat and marble-mouthed way. Seriously, this song sounds so weird being sung in a Scottish accent. The performance is so thoroughly inadequate that I'm actually embarrassed for them right now. There's a nice cut of Simon in the audience with his "bitch, please" face on. Blonde MacDonald keeps putting his hand on Dark MacDonald's shoulder, and that's doing nothing to rid me of the creepy incest vibes. Sharon tells them that they've taken so much stick from her and Simon, and keep coming back without being in the bottom two, so basically what she has to say on the matter is irrelevant. No, really, that's what she says. It's a shame she doesn't realise that what she says is irrelevant all the time, rather than this specific occasion. She hands over to Simon, who thinks the problem is that they cannot in a billion years win this competition. He calls it a "mediocre, very Scottish" version of the song, with "the worst guitar solo I have ever heard in my life". Heh - I love that he thinks that's actually any kind of obstacle to winning this contest. Louis does the "shut up, you know nothing about guitars" response and the audience does their usual Pavlovian cheer, because they're morons. Louis tells them the harmonies were spot-on, and that Scotland will vote for them. Just Scotland, mind. Kate asks them if they have any words for Simon, and they give the usual "eh, we're trying" response. Kate reminds us that they're still here, as though we could forget them before they've even left the stage. Chance would be a fine thing. It's Ray and Ben up next.

Back from the break, and Simon introduces Ray. We're shown nauseating clips of Ray dancing and singing and acting as a child (not simultaneously), and he recounts his memories of watching The X Factor and thinking "I want to do that". I really hope that his repeated failure to talk about any ambitions beyond the show means that he'll actually turn down the recording contract if he wins. Which he'd better bloody not, because I will not be amused if he does. Clips of his most recent thoroughly offensive performance. Simon asks how do you do a swing version of an Abba song, and the answer is: you don't. You learn to do something besides motherfucking swing so that the audience don't think you're a smug irritating chipmunk who has no skills beyond pisspoor covers of swing songs. Ray will be doing a swing version of 'Waterloo', and I want to kill myself now. Seriously. For a second there I almost debated fast-forwarding through the entire thing, knowing that no one would be any the wiser, but for you guys I will actually watch it. I hope you're proud of yourselves. Ray says that he wants to "take this song and put the Ray (something unintelligible) twist on it". This reminds me of when Ricki-Lee Coulter (aka The Disco Cow) on Australian Idol decided that you could improve a Beatles song immensely by giving it more of a "Ricki-Lee vibe", and was unceremoniously booted out for that assertion, so I'm suddenly hopeful at this point. Ray smarms his way through an utterly horrendous bastardised swing version of Waterloo, whose very smugness threatens to drown us all in an avalanche of Brylcreem, and whoever is voting for him has only themselves to blame for this atrocity. Okay, you know what? I make it as far as the beginning of the second verse, and I give up and fast forward to the end, because I physically cannot bear to endure the rest of it. (I watched it. It kind of went out the other side of bad and became hysterically funny.-Joel) I'm sorry: I tried, I really did, but it just wasn't worth the years of therapy. Is he wearing a fucking cravat under his shirt? Jesus. Louis tells him that the show is called The X Factor not The Swing Factor and calls him a one-trick pony, and that he needs to change if he's going to win. In that case: stick with the swing, Ray! Sharon is actually lost for words, and tells Ray that he's got an old soul. An old arsehole, more like. She vapidly babbles on about it being his genre and says fair play to him. Ray babbles something in response and I actually scream at the TV for him to shut up because I hate him that much. Simon tells Louis to shove his idiotic opinions where the sun doesn't shine because nobody cares, and Louis gets all pissy and informs Simon that he won the show last year (which, no: Shayne won the show. You were his mentor. This is not a judging contest. Once again: shove it, you prick), and Simon equally pissily tells Louis to shut up. I wish they'd followed through on their threat to fire him this series. Simon tells Ray to stick to what he knows, and Ray babbles on about how happy he is, and I hate him so much.

Louis and Simon are still fighting, because they're both idiots, and Sharon attempts to retain some order in the proceedings and introduce Ben. Ben VTs that he would have married Simon last week right there for his comments if he could've done. Well, maybe Kate Thornton can get ordained over the internet and do the honours on next week's show? I think you'd make a lovely couple. Simon VTs that Ben's the one they all have to beat, "but this week: it's Abba". Heh. I should point out here that Joel and I were deeply fearful this week that they'd make Ben sing 'Thank You For The Music', because he's such a proper musician, and he's so real it hurts, and that would have caused us untold amounts of pain and make us hate Ben, whereas now I think we're fairly indifferent to him. I am, at least. Joel can interject here as he sees fit. (He seems like a genuinely lovely guy and he's the only one I could bear to see in the final three with Eton Road and Leona, but that's not to say I like his singing.-Joel) Ben's terrified because he doesn't know any Abba, but he will be singing 'S.O.S.' Bjorn says that Ben should not worry about singing an Abba song; "people who have voices close to Frida and Agnetha, they should worry." I don't know if he meant that to sound quite as insulting as it did, but if so: bravo, Bjorn, that is a fabulous burn. Bravo. Ben gayvoices "let's do one!" and Bjorn laughs. Sharon is confident that Ben will pull it off. Ben hopes it won't be a complete disaster. I'm surprised they haven't given him his piano this week, since there's such a lovely piano melody to accompany this song. Ben gravels his way through the song and sounds weaker than usual, but he actually pulls it off surprisingly well. I don't really like his rocker affectations, but the fact that he can do it without sounding like a goat (which is what so many inept wannabe rockers do, Chris Daughtry) counts in his favour. He darts around the stage like a madman, but looks more graceful than Robert (not difficult) and this is probably a fairly good example of making a song sound more current, I guess. (I really enjoyed it. God, 'stupid but fun' seems to be the best anyone who's not Leona can hope for.-Joel) Louis tells Ben that he pulled it off, and that he's "safe". I do hope that was a prediction of the result, and not Louis trying to be street. Simon hated the song and the arrangement, because it was too soft rock for him, and calls the whole thing "desperate". Ben responds "I hear what you're saying Simon, but I was hoping to get you to commission my new album, From Pop To Rock." Okay, he lost me there. It was a joke, I know, but seriously: the world does not need more people turning pop songs into rock songs in the mistaken belief that it will somehow make them superior, and I'd prefer it if people didn't joke about it because the very idea fills me with rage. Anyway, Ben laughs it off and Sharon tells him that she was "crapping a bit" at the beginning because he was off-key, but that he pulls it back, and then the Random Argument Generator suggests "he's just trying to get rid of you", and we roll another dice and miss a turn.

Back from the ads, and it's Ashley's turn. It's not really surprising that they put him last after the bottom-two scare of last week, because clearly his special brand of misguided arrogance and big hair is this show's bread and butter. In his VT, Ashley's hair is pulled right back off his face and it makes him look really ugly. It's true! The power is all in his hair! Somebody shave it off, quick! He says that last week was a disaster. Louis says that he was unprofessional and cocky, and that he would "rain on him" if he were his mentor. Simon says that he "had a word" with Ashley. Ashley says that being in the bottom two motivated him to be better, and he wouldn't let his petty mistakes ruin his dreams. In rehearsals, he forgets his words again. And anybody who can't remember the words to 'The Winner Takes It All' is dead to me, anyway. That ought to be the first thing you learn in Pop School, motherfuckers. Bjorn claims that it's fine, because he doesn't remember the words half the time either, but he is joking, I am certain. Sideshow Ashley takes the stage with his 'fro back in place, and proceeds to brutally murder and rape the corpse of 'The Winner Takes It All'. There's been some debate about whether his version is worse than Rosie Ribbons's infamous obliteration of the track on the original Pop Idol, to which I shall respond: at least Rosie's version vaguely resembled the original, and wasn't an MOR monstrosity like this is, and at least she waited until the end of the song to really lose the plot, and at least she remembered the words (because Ashley fluffs his again, har har), and at least she didn't pantomime the whole thing as though telegraphing it to a class of particularly slow four-year-olds, so yes, I'd say Ashley's is worse. Far, far worse. Ray still gets the award for worst performance of the night, but Ashley is right there behind him. Sharon is first to comment, and says that he is not good in a lower register, so it's Simon's fault that he sucked rather than Ashley's (seriously: this ridiculous "it's not your fault" crusade that Sharon and Louis are on is not going to help anyone stop sucking any time soon, so STFU already) because of the song choice. Sharon tells Ashley that the big note in the middle saved his "bum", and we'll just see about that when the votes come in, shall we? Louis says that he thinks he was right to save Ashley last week, but he thinks Ashley needs to get better, because his performance lacked conviction and "this is the best Abba song there is". Simon: "Compared to a lot of the performances we've seen tonight, it was fantastic." Translation: "You sucked, but I'm your mentor and I'm drawing on the fact that everyone sucks this year to try to fool people into thinking you sucked less than you actually did." Simon thinks the song is "one of the best songs of all time" (word), but thinks that Ashley's lost his confidence. I for one find that extremely hard to believe. He tells Ashley he has "a presence" and "star quality", and it's all so, so empty really. Ashley says that last week was a wake-up call and that he felt his career was slipping through his fingertips, and he thanks Simon, the judges, his family, God and the viewers, so I think that's everyone.

Recap: Nikitta was off-key. Eton Road were gayer than Christmas. Robert was obnoxious. Leona was high-pitched. The MacDonald Brothers were Scottish. Ray was the worst thing, not just on this show but actually ever. Ben was uncompromising. Ashley was the human equivalent of Nytol. Kate throws to Simon, who says that all of his acts pulled it off, and thanks Bjorn on behalf of the judges for tutoring their loser contestants. He may have worded it slightly differently. Kate promises that Bjorn will be back for the results show to give his opinion on the contestants (and will hopefully be in the tabloids on Monday, giving his actual opinions, like Rod Stewart did). Thornton: out.

Results show

Earlier tonight: people sang Abba songs for your votes! You voted for them, or maybe, like me, you didn't give a shit and went to the pub instead!

Somebody has to go tonight. Who will it be? Please God, let it be Ray. Performance recap, much as above. Kate welcomes back Bjorn, and asks him what he thought of tonight's performances. Like every other celebrity guest this show has had, Bjorn struggles to be complimentary in a very unspecified way without outright admitting that the whole thing was a disaster with perhaps one or two less disastrous moments. He does specify that some versions appealed to him more than others, and when Kate asks for specifics, Simon shouts "Leona!" from his seat. Heh. It's The X Factor pantomime! Starring Leona as Cinderella, Ray and Robert as the Smugly Sisters, Anthony as Snow White and Louis Walsh as the horse's ass. Bjorn agrees that Leona was one of them, and says that she has great potential and says that one day Simon will take her into a recording studio. He doesn't say what they will do when they get there, but says that her version of 'Chiquitita' was very "personal". He also praises Eton Road for having so much fun with it. Kate presses her luck by asking for a third standout act, but Bjorn obligingly names Ben for telling a story with 'S.O.S.' Kate says that she's glad they impressed him "on some level" (heh) and thanks Bjorn for all his effort this week.

Kate welcomes the cast of Mamma Mia! who sing, unsurprisingly, 'Mamma Mia' before breaking into 'Dancing Queen'. It's barely relevant, so I shan't be commenting further. In a weird move, Kate crosses to the finalists backstage on the video screen, and asks Nikitta how she feels. Nikitta is just nervous and waiting for the result. Eton Road are happy that that Bjorn singled them out for praise, but beg for some extra votes all the same. Kate asks why people should vote for Robert. He doesn't mention unborn child this week. Kate asks Leona why she just caught her backstage in tears, and Leona says that she just got really emotional from the pressure. I worry about Leona's ability to cope with a career in showbiz. The MacDonalds hope for some votes. Ray lies that this is the worst part of the day, knowing full well that his performance was the worst part of the day, and of all days past and yet to come. Ben got his first negative comments of the series, but he was expecting them and he did his best, and Bjorn likes him anyway. Ashley hopes he's avoided the bottom two this week.

Adverts! The News of the World teases about an X Factor star's sex and drugs shame. It was Ben, in case you were wondering.

We're back, and the judges lead their contestants back onto the stage as usual. A pleasing blue smudge obscures most of Ray's face when Kate calls his name. Heh. In no particular order, the acts who are safe are: Nikitta (who cries again), Leona (who doesn't), Eton Road (Blonde and Shaved Head hug each other very enthusiastically), the MacDonald Brothers (who are cheerful, though Simon is not), Ray (AAARGH), and Ben, leaving Ashley and Robert in the bottom two again. I keep thinking that the public is getting their voting surprisingly on the money (Ray and the MacDonald Brothers notwithstanding), but when so many acts suck so badly, it's not hard to get two deserving ones in the bottom two. Louis says that he will save the act who can prove they want it most, and that he'll disregard what's gone before and base it on this performance alone. Ashley claims to be unsurprised to be in the bottom two again, and Robert is speechless (small mercies, eh?).

Robert's back on first, and while I'm pleased to see him in the bottom two, I hate that I have to sit through this snorefest again. Robert still can't dance, but is putting a lot of energy into it. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends largely on your opinion of Robert, I suppose. Sideshow Ashley comes back out and looks miserable, which I'm sure will do him lots of favours. He's off-key again, and no amount of mid-song glory notes are going to convince me otherwise. Eventually I wake up, and it's over. Sharon casts the first vote, and votes to send home Ashley, obviously. Simon casts the second vote, and votes to send home Robert and tells Louis he's got to keep Ashley in. Sharon objects, and the audience chants for Robert. Louis tells Ashley that he saved him last week because he's different and has star quality, and tells Robert that he loves his work ethic and his passion. He then repeats what he said about Ashley again, weirdly. He will be sending Ashley home. Ashley looks a bit tearful. Kate asks how he's feeling, and says he's fine, and it's been a privilege to be here, and every journey has to end sometime, etc etc. Kate asks Simon for his thoughts, and Simon is not happy at all. We see Ashley's X Factor journey, where he sounds like Madeleine Peyroux and has big hair, and repeatedly gets attitude with the songs that Simon chooses for him. The clip of his 'Moondance' is kind enough not to show him forgetting his words. Kate asks what it was about Ashley that appealed to Simon, and Simon says that he has star potential, and calls Louis spiteful for voting Ashley out. Ashley tells Simon that they have the strongest team, and Louis wants to take the strongest away so that they can be defeated, which as an argument would hold far more water if he hadn't been the first person in the contest to hit the bottom two two weeks running, so can it, Sideshow. Simon says that Ashley has a future as a singer and should still be in the competition. Whatever. If he's this season's shock elimination, all I can say is that it makes far more sense than the time they booted Maria. Ashley fans, don't fret: we're sure he'll modelling for The Gap soon. Or possibly just working there, following you around and folding the clothes after you've touched them. See you next week!