Performance Show 9: 9th December 2006
Last week: the competition ended for Louis. And also, y'know, for The MacDonald Brothers, but who cares about them when there are idiot judges to put in the spotlight? Congratulations, show: you managed to demonstrate one of your biggest flaws in the first seven seconds. That's got to be some kind of record. The battle is still on for the two remaining judges, and we see/hear them bickering, because it's far more important to hear them talking about how much they want to win than it is for us to perhaps get some semblance of personality out of the contestants. No wonder the finalists in this competition are always so dull; I wonder if they don't deliberately pick people who aren't going to upstage the triumvirate of ego. Anyway, Simon wants both his acts in the final, Sharon isn't scared of Simon, and Louis is scared of both of them. What. Ever. Someone's dream ends tonight, and I really hope it's Ray's. Your Saturday night starts here, apparently. Interestingly, not only was I watching Strictly Come Dancing when all this happened for the first time, but I was also recording it as well, because some primal instinct made me set the wrong channel on the video. It's almost as if God wants me to stop watching this show. Who am I to go against God?
Anyway, there are judges, and there are finalists. In case you've spent so long staring at the judges that you've forgotten, those finalists are Ray, Leona and Ben. We're in the semi-final, and Kate's come dressed as a matronly librarian. Those huge lapels that cover her boobs are quite something. I'd like to see Kate wearing a nice tailored suit, actually; I think she could look beautifully severe if she got it right. This is sort of halfway there, but those ruffles aren't going to scare anyone. There's no theme this week, instead the contestants and judges have picked the two songs they think will get them into the final. Er, are you kidding me? Hasn't that been the underlying theme EVERY week? What kind of fuckery is this, to quote Amy Winehouse? I swear to God, just when I think this show can't get any more shamelessly half-arsed, it has to go and prove me wrong. Still, at least it's only an hour tonight; thank the heavens for small mercies.
Kate rubs some salt into Louis's no-acts wound, and fluffs Simon's ego by reminding us that he has two acts. Ray is up first, and Simon genuinely believed for the first time last week that Ray could win this. I believe it too, because I have that little faith in the voting public. Simon says that Ray's performance last week reminded them all that when they saw Ray for the first time in the auditions, they thought he could win, thus completely contradicting what he just said. Does no one check for continuity on this show at all? Ray's proud parents tell us that Ray becomes a man when he walks onto the stage, and Simon claims that Ray is the dark horse. A dark horseman of the apocalypse, perhaps? What? I'm just putting those two statements together and following them to their natural conclusion. Anyway, Ray is singing 'Smile' (as in "smile though your heart is breaking", not the Lily Allen 'Smile', because that would actually have been brilliant and we couldn't have that on THIS show, could we?), because we all know that what this competition needs right now is more cod-swing bastardisations from the amazing anatomically incorrect Ray. I am so bored of his old-soul schtick now, and the fact that every man and his dog has released a swing album by now makes me think that you don't need to be especially talented to pull it off. Ray's final note is pretty off, but fortunately for him it gets drowned out by the Pavlovian rapturous applause from the idiotic audience, who appear to be under the misapprehension that they've just witnessed a semi-final standard performance as opposed to some half-arsed crooning. Sharon reiterates Simon's dark horse story, and tells Ray that he's definitely not a one-trick pony, despite the fact that he does the exact same performance every week. Sharon makes no fucking sense. Louis tells Ray that he loves Ray's work ethic, and thinks Ray has the best personality of the three remaining finalists. Ray's personality sucks ass, as we've all seen, so that reflects pretty badly on Leona and Gentle Ben. Simon thinks Ray is one song away from getting through to the final. God help us all. (I apologise for the amount of times I've invoked God so far. I'm getting desperate.)
After the break, we're still with Simon, so obviously Leona's next. Leona really enjoyed singing 'Without You' last week. Sharon thinks Leona is very special, and Simon thinks she's consistently the best vocalist in the competition. Well, DUH. She wipes the fucking floor with everyone else vocally, and if this were an actual singing competion she could win it from three streets away. Unfortunately you're misguided enough to make it into some kind of cult of personality, which means that Ray will probably win the bloody thing. Still, at least that way the whole thing would be confirmed as the utter joke we always suspected it was. But I digress. Leona feels like she's in another world when she's on stage. Her mum doesn't want this to end. Leona thinks the first audition seems like such a long time ago, and never expected to get this far. Simon thinks it's easy to assume she's a certainty for the final, but her lack of confidence could be her downfall, which Louis echoes. Leona tells us she is getting more confident. Don't get more confident, Leona! All the girls will think you're a bitch! Simon thinks Leona needs to give the performance of a lifetime, so let's see what she's got up her sleeve. She's wearing a polka-dot dress which possibly came from the Thornton School of Ill-Advised Wardrobe Choices. She's singing 'I Have Nothing', and I think she's actually a bit sharp at the beginning. She's certainly a little bit wobbly. However, as we probably all expected, she hits her stride in the chorus and sells the key change like the kids need new school clothes. There's an impressive bit of melisma and vibrato at the end that turns it from a Whitney into a Christina, but I still think she's had better performances. Louis starts to talk, but Leona isn't even looking at him; she's gazing into the audience and grinning, which possibly won't do her any favours. A lifetime of experience of watching shows like this tells me that the voting public do not like girls who acknowledge their applause, because apparently that makes them bitches. It's fine for men to do it, just not girls. Please note: I do not have a problem with it. I'm just acutely aware that people seem keen to find any excuse to tear strips off pretty young girls with nice voices and make them out to be heartless whores or something. Anyway, when the audience finally shuts up and Leona can actually hear Louis, and gives him her full attention, he tells her that if there's any justice she'll be in the final. Sharon calls Leona "superb" and says she hasn't faltered through the whole contest. Simon tells her that it's easy to assume she'll be in the final, but begs the audience to vote because he's so proud of what she's achieved. This makes me worried that Ray is actually getting more votes than she is. Simon adds that Leona has grown more than any act in the competition, and Kate encourages us to vote for Leona.
Sharon's intro is short: "Vote for Ben! Vote for Ben! Eeee!" or something to that effect. Desperation is such a turn-off, Sharon. We flash back to last week when it was down to Gentle Ben and the Righteous Brothers for the final place in the semi-final, and Gentle claims he was crapping himself. Sharon says that she was so unsure what was going to happen, but then Kate said his name and she felt Ben's hand squeeze and...hold on, is she writing some kind of erotic novel here? Ewww. Back to the auditions (with added Paula!) and to Gentle Ben's progress throughout the competition. Gentle has had times where he's wondered if he's really good enough for this. Louis adds that Gentle Ben has problems with his confidence, and this is the first we've heard of this. If you want to do an "OMG, I don't believe in myself" tragedy, you need to establish that much earlier on. You don't wait and go, "ooo, hang on, that's really working for Leona, why don't we try that?" in the last two weeks. Simon thinks Gentle needs to lighten up. Sharon sees how much he wants and needs it, and Gentle says that getting to the final means everything to him. Ben's singing 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You)', and for some reason I feel like someone's already done this in the finals. I mean, I don't think that is actually the case, but everything's starting to feel so predictable and familiar at this stage, and all I want is for someone to do something that displays a bit of individuality and charisma, like deciding to sing 'Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above' or something. Actually, they wouldn't even need to do something as leftfield as that; I'd settle for some Girls Aloud or some Sugababes or even some McFly, just something to prove these people can be relevant to the modern pop music scene. ANYway, Gentle Ben's on the Westlife Memorial Stool Of Sudden Key Change Movement, and of course gets up during the middle eight. He really needs to learn how to work the mic stand, because he just has his hand on the top and sort of sways it about a bit, which rather betrays a lack of conviction to my mind. Put your back into it, Gentle Ben. He gravels his way through the rest of the song adequately enough, and the audience go nuts as usual. Simon thinks that was Gentle's best performance in weeks, and wishes no one had to go home because no one deserves to go home on the basis of the first three songs. Except Ray, and I really can't say that enough. Louis thinks Gentle deserves to be in the final, but people have to pick up the phones and vote. Golly, and to think at this stage I still wasn't sure how this competition worked. Sharon says that Gentle Ben nailed it, and that is that. Kate opens the voting lines (sadly without cutting a ribbon) and reminds us to come back for the finalists' second songs, which will be a something mawkish done in a swing style from Ray, a big ballad for Leona and a rock-pop track for Gentle Ben. Unless they suddenly pick this opportunity to confound us with their range, but I'm not hopeful.
Oh God, ITV2 is doing a programme on Michelle Heaton and Andy Scott-Lee's wedding day. Who would want to watch that? Except for scientists discovering the debilitating effects of tanorexia, I suppose.
"For the final time, it's Ray." Good God, I hope so. Ray says this next song is in his heart, it's grown up with him, it's where he's from. Simon says they've always wanted someone to represent Liverpool, "home of the Beatles". Yep, and I'm sure Ray is the spiritual successor to the founders of modern pop music. Do me a fucking favour. Ray is, of course, singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' in an off-key Frank Sinatra style. How entirely uncynical. Look! He loves his home! He's so empathetic about Hillsborough! This is in no way shamelessly engineered to tug at your heart strings! Hilariously, Ray is singing this with a look on his face like he's mightily pissed off at someone, and with all kinds of crappy amateur musical theatre affectations. Please get him off my television screen now. He's getting wobbly on the high notes, and let me tell you: he does not have the voice or the personality for torch-singing. There's one impressive glory-note at the end, I will give him that, but it doesn't counteract the sizeable number of what I will politely call "iffily-pitched notes". Ray cries at the end, of course. Louis tells him it was an amazing performance and that Ray should be proud. STOP FUCKING CRYING, RAY. You cannot possibly have found that moving because you have no soul. You are made of plastic and Brylcreem and human emotions are an alien concept to you, so stop turning on the waterworks to make people vote, or I will come down there and really give you something to cry about. Sharon, of course, draws attention to Ray's blubbering by telling him that he's setting her off. Oh, spare me. Simon says that on the day he put Ray through the finals, Ray said he wouldn't let Simon down, "and you haven't". Vomit. Kate asks Ray why the tears, as if we can't fucking guess, and Ray is all "it means a lot to my family and some people I know, so I sang it for them, really." He sang it for his family! And the people of Liverpool! He's the people's hero! Fuck off.
"Final time tonight, it's Leona." Now see, that's interesting. Note how Ray was on "for the final time", and Leona was on "for the final time tonight". Possibly a genuine coincidence, but possibly also Simon being very sure indeed that she won't be singing us out in the results show. I dunno, I'm reaching here, but I still thought it was interesting. Leona is dedicating this song to a very special family member, WHO IS DEAD. Seriously, I have had the sob stories right up to here now. I thought that once Kerry and Nikitta had been sent packing, we'd be spared all this "pleeeease feel sorry for my tragic life" bullshit, so why is it all being dredged up again? Leona breaks down in the VT as she talks about her cousin, WHO IS DEAD. It's not about winning the competition, she says, but about giving something back to her cousin and her family. Yes, and it has nothing to do with ensuring that all-important final push for votes that a bit of tragedy assists with nicely. I like Leona and all, but this stuff is not freaking necessary. Of course, Leona is singing the Eva Cassidy version of 'Over The Rainbow', and doing a fairly nice job of it, but to be honest I'm already prejudiced against this performance because they seem to want to guilt me into liking it, and implying that I'm some kind of heartless bastard who dances on dead children's graves if I don't vote for her. Plus, it's just such a predictable song choice, in that I've seen several people table this song for Leona at some stage in the competition. Anyway, it finishes and Simon gives her a standing ovation. Leona starts to weep a little bit as well, but gets it under control, thankfully. Sharon says that Leona "leonified" the song and owned it, and to her credit, I will say that that was one of the times where it didn't feel like a complete carbon copy of someone else's version, so well done to her for that. Sharon wants Leona to believe in her ability. Louis tells her that he's looking at "the X factor and star quality"; that she's got it all. Simon thinks that her lack of awareness of how good she is is what makes her a special performer. Simon says it was the single best performance he's ever witnessed. Personally I thought Katherine McPhee's performance on American Idol had the edge on it, but then I'm not trying to get my act into the final here. Leona says that song meant a lot to her, but you will notice she does not turn on the waterworks at this stage, and so I forgive her a little bit for that completely mawkish intro. Kate tells us that we'll need our tissues for Gentle Ben's final performance, and by the way this evening has been going I can only assume he's going to sing it from his own deathbed or something.
Back from the ads, and Sharon's final intro: "Vote vote vote for Ben!" Oh dear. Gentle Ben will be singing his favourite song, and tells us that when he was little, he told his mum he wanted to be a singer, and she told him to go for it. She's always been supportive, even when he was busking and had no money (before he became the Best Tent Erector EVAR, presumably), and so this one's for her. BECAUSE SHE IS DEAD. Whoops, except she's not. Seriously: that's your sob story? I hate to break this to you Gentle Ben, but "I love my supportive mummy" just doesn't cut the mustard at this stage. She needs some kind of incurable-yet-photogenic disease at the very least. He sings 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', and I'm drawn to his terrible posture. Is it rock and roll to be all hunched over like that? It looks very uncomfortable. Maybe they need to raise his mic stand a little bit. Anyway, he gravels his way through it in his usual technically-accurate-yet-oddly-unexciting way, and there's even a moment where the key change kicks in and he looks a bit lost because he realises he's already standing up. Simon tells him it was his best performance of the competition so far. Louis says that he always thought Gentle Ben should be in the final, and people should vote for him because he could be a major recording artist. Hmmm. Sharon says that she finally sees the passion in him finally, and "I could smack you, but you're there!" Gentle Ben says that it's taken him a while to realise, but now he's in the semi-final and he's realising how big it all is. Kate asks him what it would mean to make the final next week, and he says that that's his dream, and I really need some kind of macro for "like, DUH".
Recap: Ray proved he wasn't a one-trick pony by doing what he does every week, Leona grabbed another Whitney out of her Big Book O' Ballads, Gentle Ben did Bryan Adams because somebody had to at some point, Ray sang for Liverpool and cried fat fake tears, Leona sang 'Over The Rainbow' for all the dead people in the world, and Gentle Ben loved his mum. Kate tells us that 1.5 million votes have already been cast this evening (holy smokes), and reminds us to return for the results and a Very Special Performance from Gloria Estefan.
Earlier tonight, Ray and Leona sang for Simon, and Gentle Ben sang for Sharon. No one sang for Louis, because he sucks. Only two acts can make the final, because we were desperate for publicity earlier in the series and kicked two acts out in the same week, thus leaving us with an extra week to fill. It's The X Factor! Kate tells us that three million votes have been cast, and that the positions have been changing constantly, and that it's simply too close to call. You've cried wolf too many times, Kate. Sorry, but I plain don't believe you. Kate also tells us that we can catch the finalists live on tour next year. I'd like not to believe that as well, but sadly I know it's going to happen.
This week's special guest star, who apparently wasn't special enough to mentor the contestants this week, is the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan. Aww, and she's even brought the Miami Sound Machine with her! I loved Gloria Estefan so much when I was a kid, and kind of still do. She sings a medley of 'Anything For You', 'Can't Stay Away From You' and 'Rhythm Is Gonna Get You' (including a shout-out to Simon, oh dear) and barely looks any older than I remember her, which is pretty impressive, even if she falls foul to the curse of the X Factor guest by pulling some slightly ropey vocals out of the bag. It's a shame we didn't have a Gloria Estefan theme week, but I know they did that on American Idol (in season three, I think) and it's widely regarded as one of the biggest car crashes in the entire history of the show, so I can perhaps understand their reasons.
Kate crosses to the finalists, who are nervous and all love each other, but all want to be back for the final next week. That's basically what it all amounts to. Kate's hair appears to be weighing her down at this stage - it's gone all bouffant-y and looks like it's going to eat her entire head if she makes one false move. Gentle Ben says he's not going to beg people to vote for him because he's just happy to be doing what he loves. I have a feeling that might come back to bit him in the ass in a few minutes. Adverts!
Kate tells us that the vote tally is now 3.5 million, and welcomes back the judges and their "semi-finalists", which sounds weird when she's been referring to them as the "finalists" for all the weeks prior to this. Simon comes back with Leona and Ray, and Sharon comes back with Gentle Ben. Louis is already sitting at the desk. Hee. Kate says that because the result is so tight, they're just confirming who will be going home. In no particular order, the first act through to next week's final is Leona, who cries. One question: can this really be "no particular order" now? If they're going to have a bottom two, then surely Leona got the highest number of votes? Kate reiterates that the results are being revealed in no particular order, but one of them has polled the lowest number and will be going home. Oh, fine, be like that. The second act through to the final is...audience favourite Ray, who practically falls over with smug joy. Ray hugs Gentle Ben, and Simon hugs Sharon. Gentle is happy, and tells Kate that he's done well to get this far. Kate tells him that there was 3% separating all three of them. Huh. They pulled that shit during the semi-final of American Idol this year, where they claimed the votes came down to 33% each and it all came down to a tenth of a percent or something, and it didn't stop Taylor Hicks absolutely trouncing Katharine McPhee in the final. Votes-wise, I mean. Personally I thought he was a twitchy, smug, massively overrated cunt who didn't deserve to win, but I wasn't allowed to vote. We watch Gentle Ben's journey, wherein apparently he brought "real rock 'n' roll" to the competition. Gentle Ben vows to continue singing, and sings out with 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For'. Oh, sweet irony. He looks kind of pissed off singing it, and I'd be pissed off too if I'd been pipped to the final by Ray, of all people.
So, next week it's the battle of the 16-24s to take the crown once and for all. And just so you know, I reserve the right to track down anyone who votes for Ray, chop their fingers off and feed them to my dog. I don't have a dog, but I will get one from somewhere if that's what it takes. Kate invites Ray and Leona back onto the stage. Kate reminds Leona that she's the first lady to sing in an X Factor final, and reminds Ray that he's the Trojan horse. Er, I mean, "a dark horse". So, they'll be back next week, and then it'll all be over. Hooray!