Auditions: Episode 1
16th August 2008
Welcome back, everyone! I trust you enjoyed your annual break from the show, and put out of your mind all thoughts of jazz gnomes, dead parents and everyone in Birmingham voting for you. So many things have changed since last we chatted, and yet so many things have remained the same. Are you ready? Here we go...
As ever, 'O Fortuna' is our soundtrack at the beginning, but for some reason, somebody decided it would be a good idea to hire the sarcastic E4 voiceover guy to introduce the show. Like we don't have enough trouble taking it seriously already. There's a new judge! It's Cheryl
Following the shiny titles, Booty Luv's 'Some Kinda Rush' cues up on the soundtrack as we get our first proper glimpse of the
Green-screen Dermot reminds us of the existence of the judges, who the show would have us believe are being flown to the first audition in four individual helicopters. That's just unnecessary. One of the helicopters has the callsign (? Registration number? Identification number? I don't know what you call it) C-PIMP. Bet you can't guess whose that one is. Simon says that people turn up to this show to change their lives forever. He says that Leona Lewis is the biggest talent show winner in history - fact. Hmm, I'm not so sure that's going to hold water. I think she might need to release another album first. I doubt she's outsold Kelly Clarkson just yet, anyway. [And it's a bit of a diss on Cheryl, too, seeing as Girls Aloud have had proven longevity and have released a billion more top ten singles - Rad] Simon adds that she's up there now with "the Mariahs and the Whitneys", neglecting to mention that wherever it might be that Whitney is currently up, she tends to be down about half an hour later these days. "That's what this show can do for you," he finishes, again neglecting to mention that one out of four is perhaps not the best recommendation, all things considered. Last year's winning judge Dannii Minogue says that the show really does change lives - Leon went from working in a shop (oh, the humanity!) to having a number one single, and is now recording his album. She's looking to land the winner again this year. She's also looking good. My boyfriend suggested that the plastic surgery might have finally taken hold properly, and I'm inclined to agree. Louis Walsh is responsible for over 60 million record sales (a lot of which were purchased by himself and kept in the boot of his car just to take Boyzone down when they were getting uppity), and wants to win this year. And our new judge, from Britain's biggest girl group, Cheryl Cole. She's very excited to have a hand in creating somebody's dream. We're reminded that Cheryl's journey to becoming a popstar began six years ago when she auditioned for Popstars Colon The Rivals, and looked a bit like Alyssa Milano. Cheryl says that she knows how the contestants are feeling, and that she's had an amazing career from a show like this. The judges exit their helicopters and get into individual cars (this show's carbon footprint must be huge!) as Simon VTs that he thinks Cheryl's going to find it harder than she expects (foreshadowing!). Dermot reminds us that they will eventually be battling each other, but will begin by working together to sort the scarce wheat from the abundant chaff.
We kick off in Manchester, which is a city that apparently possesses the mythical x-factor. Who knew? One man wants to be the next Robbie, a woman wants to have a sellout concert, and an old dude wants to have the Christmas No.1, even though that as an accolade is essentially meaningless nowadays thanks to this show [Poor Cliff - Rad]. No one is hoping their dreams will come true more than today's first act, says Dermot. No evidence is presented to support this utterly unqualified statement, but this will be happening a lot tonight so we might as well all get used to it now. They are Dreamtime, aka 17-year-old friends Nathan and Elizabeth. They're both good-looking in a homely sort of way, and have clearly been inspired by Same Difference, though they are neither as attractive or as endearing as the aforementioned. Nathan says they want to have millions of fans and be recognised worldwide. Dermot shows them through, and Cheryl, bless her, looks cheerful and excited to finally be meeting the contestants. She'll learn soon enough. Dannii asks for their names and their age, and Simon asks where they're from (he: Huddersfield, her: Canada, originally), and then asks if they're boyfriend and girlfriend, even though everyone watching is well aware that is not the case. Nathan is holding a CD that they made, which has sold around 180 copies [more than Steve Brookstein's second album, so fair play to the bloke - Rad]. Louis feigns excitement. Oh my shitting fuck and holy saints, they've only given in to three years of nagging and actually put a caption on the screen telling us who the contestants are as they sing [Steve: I saw that and thought of you - Rad]. Farewell, misspelled contestant names in the audition recaps! So Dreamtime, students, aged 17, begin singing 'We Belong Together' by Mariah Carey. So poorly that I don't even recognise it until we get to the chorus, despite the fact that it used to be the only song that was ever played in the changing rooms at my gym, so I've probably heard it about 396 times before. At least. Her voice is out of tune and thin, and he's singing in a weird falsetto and squeaky, and when they sing together, it's truly atrocious. When Nathan tries to sing Mariah's high counterpoint, Simon can't hold in the laughter and Cheryl's eyes are out on stalks. Dannii's face doesn't move, but when does it ever. They get to the end, and Nathan holds the final note about an hour longer than Elizabeth does, which clues us in that this is clearly a pisstake audition, if we were doubting that before now. Simon likes it to a "zoo" with the noises, and Cheryl says it "just got weirder and weirder". "I haven't sold 180 copies for no reason," says Nathan, who clearly just wanted to get on television for three minutes at any cost. Wish granted, Nate! I hope it's everything you dreamed of, and more. It's a unanimous no from the judges, and the fact that Girls Aloud's 'Sexy! No No No...' cues up on the soundtrack lets us all know what's coming: loser montage! But before we can get there, Simon asks Cheryl if this what she was expecting, and Cheryl replies in the negative, saying she's shocked. Even though we know that Cheryl watched the show last year so she clearly knows exactly what it's like, but had to say this because it was in the script. [I think Cheryl might have got this gig simply because she can do an excellent "appalled" expression. - Carrie]
Anyway, sweet montage! Truck driver John May, 53, sings 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' in an insane falsetto, and Cheryl's all "yeah, um, I didn't really get it?" Hee. Love Cheryl. Retired carpenter Peter Dockray, 65 (these captions are GREAT - seriously, I rag on this show a lot, but a heartfelt THANK YOU to Talkback Thames for including them) bellows 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', until Dannii makes him stop. 17-year-old Vicky Maxted (a cleaner) wants to be like Leann Rimes, and happens to sing 'My Heart Will Go On' poorly just as an actual real-life tumbleweed blows through the room! What are the odds? "It wasn't even a half out of ten," sighs Simon. During a break, Cheryl frets that she thought the talent would be of a higher standard than this [I call lies - Rad]. Then again, she voted for Leon, so she has only herself to blame.
Commercials. Vanessa Hudgens for Neutrogena, because next time naked photos of her get leaked onto the internet, she doesn't want pimples on her labia.
Auditions have moved to London, says Dermot. So that's Manchester officially dunzo, right? We'll see. Anyway, the auditionees for London have filled the O2 Arena, which is a terrifying thought. Dermot reminds us who the judges are [And they enter the judging chamber. Note: Cheryl is wearing an orange and white top - Rad], because apparently everyone who watches this show is thicker than a McDonald's milkshake. Some people sing well in the holding room, and some do not. Boyband JLS are first [and as we cut to the judges, who entered the chamber nary a couple of shots ago, we see Cheryl has a black and green type top on. I mean, it's *possible* she spilled her drink down it inbetween entering the room and the contestants coming in - Rad]. [If you're going to be surprised every time that supposed chronological order is belied by clothing, presence of judges, haircuts, and so forth, you'll have no time to do anything else.-Joel] Dermot feels out of place amongst them because he is not wearing a pastel colour, and also because he's about six inches shorter than the rest of them. They want it a lot, it's their lives, etc etc. They want to be the first group to win the show. Righto then. Louis asks them who they'd like to be like, the answers come thus: Take That, Boyz II Men, Westlife, Jodeci. Anyone else spotting the inherent problem here? They sing 'If I Ever', and it is well-arranged for their voices. They overdo it by a factor of about 20, but I'm willing to cut them some slack given that it's the early round and they're trying to get noticed. Cheryl loves them and thinks the industry needs a new boyband. She offers some constructive criticism (gasp!) by pointing out that they were missing a low harmony in a few places, but overall she liked them very much. Dannii likes their personalities, think they're well-rehearsed, and actually likes each individual voice. Louis thinks they don't look contrived, and look early Motown (because as ever, everything needs to be compared to something ancient from his record collection). [And because they are black, obviously. Looking forward to the first "young Diana Ross" comment of the series, which is surely imminent. - Carrie] Simon thinks they all have great voices, especially the second one from the left. (I'll bother to learn their names if they get past boot camp.) It's a unanimous yes. Celebrations, rah rah rah. Simon says that anyone would take the groups right now just to get to work with JLS [Really? I mean, they were OK and all, but we've seen it all before with 4Tune and 4Sure and all the other '4' bands - and also, change your name to something beginning with 4 already - Rad].[4sight? 4titude? 4EVAR?-Joel]
Shauna Buckingham wants to be the first Irish winner of the show (seriously, if you are going to start another fucking "battle of the nations" this year, missy, you can GET THE FUCK OUT RIGHT NOW). [Did you see how Louis's weaselly little eyes lit up when she announced that she is IRISH and FROM IRELAND? - Carrie] She is 16, and a student. She sings 'Warwick Avenue' by Duffy, and gets a yes from Louis, to no one's surprise. But she gets yeses from everyone else, and is through. Girl group Chaos (aged 21-27) sing a very nicely done rendition of Christina Milian's 'When You Look At Me', and would get through with me for song choice alone. Cheryl loves them, and they're through. 21-year-old Austin Drace from Essex gets a special intro all to himself about how much he wants this, to the extent where I genuinely expect him to mention a deceased relative at any second, but bizarrely, no such revelation is forthcoming. Yet. He kind of looks like Limahl, minus the mullet. He sings Boyz II Men's 'End of the Road', which I am officially O-V-A-H as far as audition songs go. But he has a decent voice and nice control, and the judges love him. Cheryl thinks he's very soulful, and is excited to see where he can go. Simon thinks the competition needs him. Austin's through.
Plinky piano of sorrow and regret alert! No one needs the break more (O RLY?) than our next contestant: 26-year-old full-time mum (is there any other kind?) Rachel Hylton, who I hope is no relation of Javine's. She tells Dermot she wants to get to the live shows, and wants to have a better future for her and her children [because being on The X Factor, as we know, is a purely altruistic act - Carrie]. Things haven't been easy for Rachel, you guys! Aged 13, she had the first of her five children (no disrespect intended, Rachel, but: contraception. Look into it) and spiralled out of control. She had drug problems, went to prison, her first three children were taken into care, and she now looks after her youngest son and daughter, the latter of whom is with her today. Rachel has turned her life around and is focused on her music. She's embarrassed about her past, but won't let it hold her back. Rachel goes in to see the judges. Cheryl asks her for her main goal, and Rachel says that singing is her life, and she doesn't want to do anything else. "I hear ya," Cheryl replies. Hee! "Have you been told you're good?" Simon asks. "Well, I've been told I'm good, but I know how you are and whether you like me or not is a different thing," replies Rachel, cackling. Rachel is kind of awesome. Cheryl asks Rachel for her idols, and Rachel says soul and R&B, which is a non-sequitur, and Cheryl confirms that this means Rachel is versatile, and this is a completely nonsensical conversation. Cheryl asks if Rachel likes Girls Aloud, and Rachel's all "yeah!" and does Cheryl's dance routine from the 'Heartbreaker' video. See? Awesome. Simon asks for her backstory, and Rachel cops to the drugs and prison and lots of kids thing, and we're told that her oldest child is 13 this month and Rachel is 26 and you can see Simon doing the maths in his head and being all "whoooooaaaaaa". Rachel sings 'You Know I'm No Good' by Amy Winehouse in a slightly affected Amy-like tone, but I do really like the smoky quality of her voice. And let's face it, the way things are going, it's no bad thing to have a spare Amy Winehouse lying around in case anything happens to the old one. Simon stops her, and Rachel starts babbling about how she thinks she's just ballsed it up, but the judges love her. Louis calls her a "rough diamond", and Dannii thinks nobody would try harder. Simon thinks she's a "breath of fresh air". Four yeses for Rachel; she's Simon's favourite auditonee so far this year, and she's through. The Mariah and Whitney version of 'When You Believe' (HA!) comes on the soundtrack, and Rachel hugs her daughter. She wants to make her kids proud. The judges head off, with Simon still singing Rachel's praises. [She's great, but I would like to state for the record that I object in advance to 'your kids will be so proud' and 'everyone deserves a second chance' and Rachel saying 'I just want a better life for my family, I want to prove I'm not a bad mum' and then crying. Because she is more than talented enough to not need that emotional manipulation.-Joel]
Back from the break, and we're now in Cardiff. Bloody hell, at this rate we'll only need two audition shows this year! Please God, let it be so. Anyway, there's a bit of business about the streets of Cardiff being deserted because everyone's auditioning for The X Factor, wanting to be the first Welsh winner. Dannii's running late (hmm, curious) so Simon, Cheryl and Louis start without her. First up are brothers And & Seb, and there will be absolutely no suspense here because all of the pre-release press listed these bozos as one of the worst acts who auditioned. They want to be the first Welsh group to win. Ant looks sleazy, Seb looks borderline remedial. They tell the judges they have their own style, but Seb is like P Diddy and Ant is like Usher. If you didn't see the episode, let me tell you now that Ant & Seb are both white, so we know how this is going to play out. Oh, and Ant sings like Rick Astley as well, we're told. They're singing 'Mysterious Girl', with Ant slurring his way through the melody while Seb attempts to be Bubbler Ranx, though he looks a bit lost all the way through. Ant's voice is passable (might've got through to boot camp if he'd auditioned on his own, but we probably wouldn't have actually seen him do it because really, he's not very good), Seb's contribution is minimal, the judges are wetting themselves. Simon calls them "Ant & Deaf", and then we move on to the delusion part of the audition. Simon calls it "crazy bad". Despite unanimous refusals from the judges, and Seb tells Ant to sing 'If You Were Mine'. Yeah, sing 'em a song, Della! Ant sings again, Simon is no longer amused and tells them both to cut it the fuck out, and they refuse to take "you suck" for an answer. Burly Security Man Tony ushers them out, where a very disingenuous Dermot rebukes him for manhandling the wee cherubs.
Dannii arrives, but things are not going well in Cardiff. Mark Gartside, a 25-year-old church co-ordinator with terrible dress sense, sings 'Bootylicious'. Jesus does not approve. He was told 'Your voice isn't good enough', to which my Mum chipped in, 'Your face isn't good enough.' Harsh but fair, my mum.-Joel] Rita Brigitta Zafirou, a 39-year-old cleaner with a peroxide perm, thinks she can be bigger than Madonna. Her rendition of 'Vogue' begs to differ. Two-piece boyband Symmetry sing through their noses. Simon goes for a piss, and has to walk past Ant & Seb, who are just casually hangin' with Dermot in a totally uncontrived manner. Ant starts to sing 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. I wish someone would RickRoll him. Dermot doesn't even have the decency to look embarrassed about what he does for a paycheque these days. Dannii is not impressed with Cardiff. [Maybe she should watch Torchwood? - Carrie]
Alexandra Davies is feeling the pressure more than most (sigh), because she is from Bridgend. As in, the place where all the suicides happened. So essentially her sob story is "my brethren, WHO ARE DEAD". Though whether she actually knew any of them is unconfirmed [I don't think she did. I think the producers just went 'oh look, you're from that suicide place. Do you know anyone WHO IS DEAD?', she said no, they said 'oh well, we'll bung it anyway'. And actually not only is it insensitive to bring that whole thing up, it's MEGA insensitive to say that some random 16 year old girl auditioning for The X Factor who didn't know any of the people who died is going to in any way atone for the loss of all those other young people. I'm not blaming Alexandra of cuorse, it's totally this manipulative show. Anyway, soapbox over - Rad] . It's a crappy sob story, however you look at it. She will, I assume, not be singing the theme from M*A*S*H. She's hoping to provide some good press for Bridgend. But Alex has confidence issues! She sings 'Fields of Gold' [aka "the song from the dead people advert" - Carrie. And Louis Walsh's favourite song EVAH - Rad] and her voice is pleasant but wobbly, and there are a few moments where she wanders away from the tune entirely. It is, quite possibly, her just not quite knowing how to use her voice properly, and something that could be ironed out at bootcamp. I'm such a softie in these early shows. Cheryl calls her "cute" and says she has "not a bad voice", which sounds like damning with faint praise to me, but Louis thinks she is likeable, and Dannii thinks she has passion, and let's face it, the standard which have been set by Cardiff so far have not been high. Simon tells her to start believing in herself, because she might be better than she thinks. Because there can be miracles when you believe, y'know. Although her victory music is 'Through The Rain', because of all the deaths and that.
In the tease of what's coming up in the next part, the final shot is of a tearful Cheryl whispering "I've got to go" to the camera, before turning and walking off to the side. I cannot do it justice here, but it was AWESOME.
Actual Real Life Non-Greenscreen Dermot is back in Manchester, the city that they totally left and came back to, honest! I will never trust a word you say ever again, Dermot O'Leary. The yeses are flooding through, including Malcolm McKenzie, a 25-year-old house-husband, who sings 'Sexual Healing' passably if unremarkably, and 35-year-old marketing manager Andrew Bridge sings 'Lately'. I sure hope his recoriction nishes! 17-year-old student Aimee Hargreaves oversings Jennifer Rush's 'The Power Of Love', but gets through anyway.
We get a flashback of the episode so far, focusing on Cheryl, who's feeling drained. Can anyone guess what's coming? Oh yes: it's Nikk from Phixx, just as we all heard about. Sorry, 24-year-old "club singer' Nikk Mager, because no mention of Phixx will be made at all during the show. Not even any gratuitous shots of one of their many shirtless and homoerotic videos. Boo! [God, I LOVED Hold On Me. I bought the CD with the video on. My then-housemate had to take it off me and limit my access to it because it simply wasn't healthy. - Carrie] [I loved sweaty naked Phixx as much as the next gay, but I think Strange Love is a genuinely great song.-Joel] The show does, however, make countless references to Nikk auditioning "alongside" Cheryl during Popstars Colon The Rivals [and they kept saying they got through to the top ten, but let's be honest here, it was the top twenty: 10 boys, 10 girls - Rad], implying that they were total BFFs throughout the audition process, as opposed to two entirely unconnected people who just happened to make it through to the finals of the same show. Anyway, Cheryl made it into Girls Aloud, and Nikk didn't make it into One True Voice. Also, he used to have really bad skin. We see Nikk singing to a tiny but appreciative audience at a working men's club. He hasn't achieved his dream of being a successful recording artist. But, in fairness, he has been on Top of the Pops, [and sold more records than One True Voice, probably - Rad] which kind of says to me that he's had his chance and it's over now. But I'm not uncharitable, so we'll give him a fair crack of the whip. Again. Nikk walks into the audition room and Cheryl's all "OMG!" and Simon and Louis are all "what? Do you know this guy?" even though Louis was a goddamn judge on that other show, and clearly already knows Nikk just as much as Cheryl does. Simon asks Nikk what happened in the past six years, and Nikk does not mention Phixx AT ALL, but we are all made aware that this is his last shot. Nikk sings 'The Rose', not all that well. It's very strained, and kind of nasal, and he's going red all the while. Louis doesn't think Nikk has a great voice. Dannii agrees, and thinks he's too old to be in a boyband (he's 24! It's not like he has grandchildren!) so she doesn't know where to place him. Cheryl says she doesn't feel like she can judge him, and gets up to leave. Although, all credit to her, rather than being all drama-seeking like Sharon would've been, she just walks off mumbling that she'd be biased in her voting and it wouldn't be fair, which is a very good reason, if you ask me [although it would have been better if she said that before he sang, as it was clear after hearing him that she knew he sucked and couldn't bear to say it, or to lie and put him through - Rad]. Of course, she then kind of blows it by hovering on the sidelines rather than leaving the room, but eh, she's new. I'll give her a break, this time. Simon tells Nikk the competitions have gone up (oh, please) and he has gone down. Nikk, per Simon, has not got "it" and needs to stop chasing this impossible dream. [This is why I love Simon Cowell. Everyone says he's mean for telling people they can't achieve their dreams, but you know what? Some people can't. And when he breaks it gently like this - 'find something else that will make you happy, that won't leave you frustrated and upset' - it's genuinely what people need to hear. And with the deluded people he says no to, it boils down to one thing: Simon Cowell doesn't like seeing you make a fool of yourself. Listen to him.-Joel] Three nos for Nikk, most of the cameras taking in Cheryl's reaction rather than his, Cheryl gives him a hug, Nikk leaves, and Cheryl returns to the judging table. A tearful Nikk says outside that it was his last chance, and he did his best. Inside, Cheryl says that experience was "awful". Dermot VOs that Cheryl has learned "the harsh realities of The X Factor" (suuuuuure) have been too much to bear. Cheryl cries into a giant tissue for poor Nikk. And then does that brilliantly stagey walk-off we saw earlier.
In the car, Cheryl says that today reinforced how powerful a yes or a no can be, and that she can make or break somebody. And that's the last we see for this week! Wow: downer ending.
Next week: scary woman, another scary woman, another scary woman, crying woman, scary man, another crying woman, toothless old woman with a ladyboner for Louis, some woman who I'm guessing doesn't understand what "stupefied" means. Yep, I'll be needing a drink to get through that one.