Performance Show 8: 2nd December 2006
I can't quite believe this show is still on. It feels like it's devoured my entire life. However, being so close to the finish line, I can't give up now. Hopefully you'll forgive me if I'm a little less in-depth than I sometimes am, but I'm finding it so hard to give a shit. So, last week: the dream ended for boyband fans and lovers of homoeroticism everywhere as Eton Road were sent home. Inexplicably, Ray and the MacDougall Brothers were saved by the public vote again. Incidentally, someone suggested in the comments last week that the "MacDougall Brothers" moniker is rather old hat now, so I shall be experimenting with different names for them during this writeup. Maybe we'll find a new permanent one. Maybe they'll actually go this week, and it won't matter? Anyway, the dream is still alive for four acts: Ray, Leona, the Doobie Brothers and Ben. They'll be fighting for a place in the semi-final. Sheesh. In normal circumstances, this would BE the semi-final. I hate this programme. Apparently this week it's all down to the public vote, which finally means no bullshit judging decisions. The judges lay out their fighting words, which I won't bother to repeat here because they've obviously been cribbed from the main show anyway. Cue titles and sense of impending doom!
Judges, finalists. We know who they all are, so I'm not wasting time writing about them. Ray's dressed like your dead grandfather again. It's slightly confusing how they talk about next week being the semi-final, yet refer to these acts as "the finalists". My brain, she hurts. Kate Thornton Dresswatch: A sort of cerise-purple affair that hangs from one shoulder and appears to have buttons to prevent her cleavage from spilling out. Interesting choice. At first I thought the strap had a flower on it, but it just appears to be tied in a big knot. She's worn worse, I suppose. So, everybody's singing twice again (spare me), and for the first song tonight everyone will be bastardising a Barry Manilow song. I wasn't even sure that was possible. The special guests are getting tiresome, actually - not because I don't want to see a professional giving advice on this show, but because so many of them were doing the exact same thing on the last season of American Idol. Can they not get some people who are a bit more relevant to the contemporary music scene? I mean, give them a week with Xenomania or Cathy Dennis or something. That would rock. Seriously: they should have a "songs written by Cathy Dennis" theme week. Anyway, I digress. Barry Manilow's face looks kind of weird. There must be some serious botox in there. He looks a bit like Barbara Cartland. Pre-decomposition, obviously. He'll be giving his thoughts on tonight's performances in the results show, and presumably giving his actual thoughts in the tabloids on Monday.
We start with Louis and "two of the nicest people I've met in a long, long time": the Righteous Brothers. They got positive feedback from Simon last week for doing a Proclaimers song, although Simon VTs that they're still not good enough for the competition, and he's worried that they're getting confident. Louis thinks they can make the semi-final now. Barry loves their harmonies, but does offer some constructive criticism about their stage presence, and does a completely awesome impression of what they look like on stage. Seriously, it's great: he just acts like his spine suddenly disappeared and sort of swings around by his hips and gazes blankly to the left and to the right. Who would've thought that Barry Manilow would be the one to put the most accurate burn on the Outhere Brothers? Not I, that's for sure. He suggests they pick a focal point for the girl they can't smile without (yep, they're doing 'Can't Smile Without You', and when the acts on this show start performing songs that I learned to play on the keyboard when I was nine, that's when I consider giving up and getting some kind of intravenous injection of vodka) and not take their eyes off her. If they end up directing this to Sharon, I may be violently sick. Blond Brother, aka The Only Brother Who's Allowed To Talk, rats out his bitches (which is a big no-no, just ask Janice Dickinson) and tells Barry that Simon's, like, really mean to them. Barry basically tells them that people have been saying mean things about him for his entire career and so they should just shut the fuck up, dammit. I may have been paraphrasing there. It's all down to the public vote, Simon doesn't have a say any more, and they're ready for anything. Let's see how that works out, shall we? My God, the arrangement of this song is so anaemic. It's like a strong wind could just blow it right over. This is actually a pretty pisspoor performance, if I'm honest. You should not sound this bored when you're performing a love song. That's surely not a hard concept to grasp? I know 'Can't Smile Without You' is hardly the most exciting song of all time, but they really need to find some inspiration here, and if it means doing that creepy thing where they look into each other's eyes and sing love songs to each other, then so be it. Also, Blond is doing exactly what Barry told him not to do: looking all over the place. Quite a few of the notes are really flat on this one, too. That's actually quite unlike these guys: they're normally duller than an extended episode of Celebrity Love Island, but at least they're generally very technically proficient. I wonder what went wrong here. The song goes on forever and ever, and the key change picks things up briefly, but not for long. The final note is flatter than Nicole Richie's stomach. Sharon tells them that the audience love them, and calls it a "feelgood song" to open with. She thinks they sang it nicely, but thinks they were "a bit off" on the note at the end. Simon: "A bit?" Hee. They make some kind of excuse about the backing track and it being "deliberate", which I don't quite understand. Saying that the key of the backing track was different to the one you'd been practising in or something I could understand, but saying that you deliberately sang off-key? You might do that if you were in some kind of experimental alt-rock band, but not on this show. The public don't make those kind of distinctions; they just hear a note that made the cat run into the kitchen and decide to vote for someone else. The viewers, not the cat. Simon isn't swayed by the excuse. Simon thought it was their weakest performance so far, and gets booed even though he's right. He points out that he liked them last week, but that you need personality to get away with a cheesefest like 'Can't Smile Without You', and the Pointer Sisters (I'm running out of band names with 'Brothers' in the title right now, or at least ones that spring directly to mind) do not have personality. Louis tells them he wants them to make the final three, and that people should vote for them because they deserve it, and it was a good performance. Lies, lies, lies. Also, I think I may have finally learnt that Craig is the blond one and Brian is the silent one, though I could still be wrong.
Ray's up after the break. Ray says that last week's performance was, for him, amazing. He inserts that qualifier because it was gut-wrenchingly awful for everyone else. Simon thinks Ray earned his spot in the final four last week by proving he's a singer and not just an entertainer. Still hasn't proved that he's good at anything beyond eye-gougingly smug renditions of swing music though, has he? We recall Sharon saying that it was his best vocal performance so far, and Ray says that's what he was waiting for "all week". Not all series, you'll note. "All week". You know he was just rehearsing and thinking "I'm going to get such great feedback for this, because I'm the bestest ever!" I hate him so much. We flashback to Louis bleating that Simon prefers Leona to Ray, and Simon points out that he puts the same amount of work into both of his acts. Ray says that Simon's always made the right decisions where he's concerned, which: lies. Ray says he is a little fighter and wants to make the most of every day he's here. Ray says that meeting Barry Manilow was amazing, because he's a legend. Barry's a legend, not Ray, although you suspect that Ray secretly thought it was an honour for Barry to be meeting Ray too, because he's a complete goon that way. Ray will be singing 'Mandy', of course, because it wasn't enough to have Westlife destroy that song, we need Ray to put his own unique stamp on it too. Jesus wept. Barry gives Ray the same advice he gave the Chemical Brothers, which is to direct the song to one specific person. Incidentally, in this insert, Ray looks more like a mannequin than ever before. His hair looks plastic, and he's standing to attention in this really creepy, unnatural way. Also, his clothes are too tight again, and it's making me retch. Just stop it, right now. Ray hugs Barry and it's plastic fantastic, right there. He even walks onto the stage like Action Man, it's creepy. His performance is every bit as passionless as Brother Beyond's, and he can't enunciate the word "without". That's all I'm willing to say, because I'm hoping that if I don't pay him any attention he'll just disintegrate or something. Louis calls it a very convincing performance (lies), Sharon thinks he's stopped doing the song-and-dance man and calls him a singer, and declares the performance "elegant". Simon says that they had to change the arrangement last night (it's hard to see precisely what they did to it) and Ray's only had a day to learn it, so y'know we should all vote for him because of that. Shut up, Simon. He says it wasn't the best he's heard Ray sing that, and he has to work a bit harder the second time around. Somehow I get the feeling that was all planned just so he can go "THAT'S what I'm talking about!" after the second song. Yeeesh.
Kate introduces "the ravishing Sharon", who in turn giggles and introduces "a ravishing Ben". Why did anyone give her her own show? She's so stilted and awful. Sharon thought it was over for her last week because Gentle Ben was always Simon's biggest threat. She was very surprised that Simon didn't play dirty by getting rid of Gentle Ben. Simon thinks he may have shot himself in the foot, but it was the right thing to do. Tell that to the Eton Road fans. Gentle Ben thinks he could be going home, and looks all emo with some stubble and a grey overcoat in a leaf-covered garden. Barry advises Gentle Ben to find the truth in 'I Made It Through The Rain', which shouldn't be difficult after last week. Gentle Ben has not mastered the art of waving whilst wearing a suit, because his jacket rides up all over the place when he tries. Something about this song makes Gentle Ben very fey, which is rather alarming. He looks kind of lost without his Piano of Rawk Contrivance. He gets up from his stool during the key change, which makes me think he's secretly been mentored by Louis. Simon says that he likes Gentle Ben doing this stuff best, without the gimmicks, and thought it was very good. Louis found it very "believable" and that he didn't pick a typical Barry Manilow song. Sharon says she can't add anything because Gentle Ben's performance spoke for itself, which is Sharonese for "I shall make a virtue out of my lack of vocabulary". Gentle Ben is happy with his feedback, and would like your votes, kthnx.
Back from the ads, and we're with Leona, the only remaining girl as they keep reminding us. She enjoyed doing an uptempo song last week, and Simon points out that Leona is unaware of how good she is, despite the constant good feedback. Sharon thinks Leona has a truly spectacular voice, but isn't sure that she has the X factor. I'm not sure anybody has had the X factor in three whole series of this shit, with the possible exception of Maria, and look what happened to her. Simon says that this is the point where the contestants start to change (presumably into little madams, just like Ray's been all along), but he's not seen that from Leona so far. She says she's just an East End girl at heart, and feels blessed to be here, etc etc. Leona will be singing 'Could It Be Magic' (no one's singing 'Copacabana'? Swizz!) and Barry's only feedback is "thank you for making my song sound so beautiful". Leona is touched, obviously. Her skin looks really bad in her VT, though. Was the make-up artist asleep that day? I'm not too keen on her outfit, either. The top's okay, but wearing it with leggings? I'm not so sure. She's a bit wobbly on the first few notes, but there's a very nice clarity of phrasing in there. I'm probably starting to sound like a Leona evangelist, but once again she's actually injecting the song with some feeling, which makes so much difference. I'm not sure she's terribly well-served by the cheesy eurodisco beat that comes in after the first verse, but it's still the best performance of the night by a mile. My housemate John hates this show, but feels compelled to point out that her voice is faultless and wonders why they're bothering to actually have the competition since she's so much better than everyone else. Ah, if only John were director of programmes at ITV. Louis says he's trying to find something negative to say, but can't. What a lovely compliment. Sharon says it was fun to see her dancing, and she looks cute, and she always sings superbly. Simon declares her performance "simply sensational". Kate manages to fluff Leona's name three times when reading out the voting numbers, which is kind of funny. Possibly less funny if you're Leona, mind.
Kate crosses over to Barry backstage, to fill some time. Sorry, "to get his opinions". Barry thought they were all great, and couldn't pick a favourite, of course. He cracks a joke about the best singer being Simon, which goes down like the proverbial lead balloon. He thinks everyone made the song their own, which I'd dispute on a few counts. There's a quick recap of the performances because the voting lines have opened, and they can't bear to have the show run for less than 90 minutes even when there are only four contestants left. Even in recap form, Leona wipes the floor with the others.
When you watch the ads on fast-forward, it looks a bit like Gary Barlow is "from the makers of Shrek". Hee.
For the second performance of the evening, the acts have chosen their own song without assistance from the judges. Louis begs the audience to help him as he introduces the Blues Brothers. I think we're all begging for support from a higher power at this point. They'll be singing a song they used to sing all the time as wedding singers, which doesn't bode well. They'll be singing 'Shang-A-Lang'. I've never heard it before and I'm rather glad of that fact. I wonder how many couples got divorced as a direct result of having these guys play at their wedding? They're wearing tartan ties, which is sort of interesting if you're desperate to find something about them to talk about. They get a standing ovation from Louis, but not from anyone else. Simon's comments: "you know what? I surrender. I don't think this has got anything to do with singing any more. I'm going to make a prediction: I think this is your final week." Boos from the audience, predictably. Louis disagrees, predictably. Sharon's not going to predict anything, because she's not Mystic Meg, she's Mrs O. Can they not find a slightly more topical psychic to reference than Mystic Meg? Possibly I watch too many cheesy TV shows, but I would've invoked Phoebe Halliwell or Sam Winchester here. Or Jennifer Love Hewitt, or Patricia Arquette...there's hardly a shortage, is there? Oh God. I just had a mental image of Sharon doing Jennifer Love Halfwit's (TM Joel) role in The Boob Whisperer and now I feel rather ill. Where's the brain bleach? She tells them they've made everyone here very happy. Simon: "Not everyone." Sharon asks Simon if he likes anyone, which is stupid because he likes Ray, Ben and Leona. Louis says that people like them, blah blah blah. Silent Brother says that they're doing it for the public, which is boring but at least he spoke for once, right?
Ray says that his second song is really him, and it's got "Ray Quinn" stamped all over it. I think it's got "cunt" stamped all over it, then. Simon says that when Ray told him what song he'd picked, Simon dropped the phone. Apparently the song's directed at Sharon and Louis. Ray is singing 'My Way', of COURSE. He's so smug that I'm going to fast-forward through this. Sorry, but no one's paying me and even if you were, there is no money in the world that could convince me to listen to that. Sharon and Simon give him a standing ovation. Sharon says that he sang with "such great emotion" and that he gave it "200 million percent of your soul". Ray doesn't have a soul, Sharon. Sharon says he's like a little Jack Russell that just won't go away. Katy: "Kick it, then." Can Katy replace Sharon on the next series of this show? Louis agrees with Sharon and calls Ray one of the most professional acts in this contest. That would be why this contest is such shit, then. Simon says that Ray deserves a place in the semi-final based on that performance, and that he's proud of Ray. I didn't even watch the performance, but I still know that's bullshit. Ray's all "if I'm here next Saturday, I'll still be doing it my way." KILL HIM NOW. Kate kisses him on the cheek and then rubs it off, which makes me laugh. It's like she's his auntie or something.
Gentle Ben has apparently picked a really big song, and knows he has to do something really special. Oy, there's a choir. Gentle Ben stands at the front and acts like he's conducting them, which makes me kind of hate him. Anyway, he's singing Queen's 'Somebody To Love', with just the choir for backing, and not doing it nearly as well as Elliott Yamin on American Idol (or indeed as the original), acapella or not acappella. And if the whole thing's acapella, why was he rehearsing with a keyboard? This is so fucking self-indulgent, and the sort of thing that I'd expect from...well, Ray. I didn't enjoy that at all. Dave (I'm watching with a lot of people this week) notes that he "pussied out of doing any high notes", which is a good point. Simon and Louis both declare it a "brave" performance, and cram it with that word already. It's not like he ran into a burning building to rescue some orphans. Sharon says that she's seen Ben do stuff like this all the way through and that he constantly works hard to take things to another level, etc etc. Gentle Ben gayvoices that he'd like to thank the choir for learning it all so quickly, and thanks the judges for the comments, and says that his performance "had to be risky". Yeah, because no one ever got anywhere on a televised talent show by appealling to the lowest common denominator or anything. (Did you call?-Lois Common-Denominator)
Simon wondered if Leona could have perhaps chosen an easier song for her choice, but Leona was adamant because she used to listen to this on the radio all the time and wish it was her singing it. She's standing in a diamond-shape made of candles, and will be singing 'Without You'. No doubt as you read this you're imagining in your head what it'll sound like, and you'll be on the money: very Mariah-like, very proficient, a little bit too much like the radio version for comfort. I preferred her first performance, but this is still enough to mark her at the head of the pack. At the end, the crowd starts chanting her name, which I suspect was planned all along. Sharon says it was "beautifully sung", Louis says that she's going to be an absolute star of the kind that the UK hasn't had for a long time. Simon begs us all to vote for Leona and not to assume that she's safe, and thinks it's astonishing that she doesn't know how good she is. Someone in the audience screams so hard that I think they're actually dying. Leona thanks the judges, and Barry Manilow. Apparently it's her lifetime's ambition to sing that song in front of an audience, and it was everything she dreamed and more. I'd rather Leona's brand of humble than Ray's smug jokes, but yawn, all the same.
Kate reminds us that it's all down to the votes this week, and we get another performance recap. Bros were probably the worst they've ever been, Ray inspired people who are normally pacifists to arm a Scud missile and direct it right into his stupid smug mouth, Gentle Ben played on the fact that he almost got kicked out last week, and Leona was too good for this show, as usual.
Kate reminds us to stick around for All-Star Family Fortunes with Vernon Kay. Surely that's a contradiction in terms? Anyway: Thornton out.
You know the drill: earlier this evening people sang for your votes, and for once your votes actually decided who stays and who goes. Kate returns and says that it's the biggest vote of the series at three million, but it's still unclear who's going home; there are just a few votes in it. Bullshit. Big fat bullshit. If you want us to believe that, then don't say it every damn week. Kate tells us that the official DVD of the auditions goes on sale on Monday, and speaking as someone who watched all of those shows on TV, why would anyone want that on DVD? It was boring as fuck.
Barry Manilow is back, and singing 'Everybody Loves Somebody', and looks a bit like he's having a seizure. I can't be too rude about him though, because of the aforementioned awesome burn on the Everly Brothers. Dave shares his theory that Barry Manilow is actually Martin Short in a costume, which I resolve to examine in more detail later. Barry tells Kate that the second performances were stronger because the contestants chose the songs themselves. Kate pushes him to find out who really shone tonight, and he sticks to the "Simon" argument. He wishes them all the best and refuses to choose. How boring.
Backstage, everyone now fits onscreen at the same time. Brothers, Can You Spare A Dime? (okay, I'm getting desperate) say that they weren't despondent over Simon's comments because they've had that every week. Kate asks Ray why people should vote for him, and even he can't think of a good reason. Gentle Ben is nervous because he was in the bottom two last week, and Kate calls his performance "brave" again and I'm getting very sick of that word. Leona's really nervous and wishes everyone the best of luck, because she's talented but rather bland.
Back from the ads, we're just one minute away from finding out who's going home. 3.5 million votes have been cast, and Leona had better be at the front by a very wide margin, or I will be forced to break some kneecaps. Kate invites the acts and judges back onto the stage, and the people coming back are, in no particular order: Ray and Leona. Kate gathers Gentle Ben and Shakespear's Sister together before breaking the news that Ben is safe and the He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brothers will be going home, finally. We get the montage of their time in the competition, which goes on far too bloody long. They thank the judges, and Kate reminds Louis that he's out of the competition this year. Louis: "I know, but I won last year!" Somewhere, Shayne Ward clears his throat very loudly, but no one's listening. The MacDonald Brothers (it seems only fair to call them by their real name at least once) sing us out with 'Shang-A-Lang'.
Next week: Semi-final. Ray had better be bloody going, or I will cut a bitch.