TX date: 22nd August 2009
Good lord, can it really be that time again? Well, yes: after a week of hearing Radio 1 go on about it all the livelong day (hey, that Laura White! Everyone thought she was going to win, and then she didn't! Madness! And that Diana Vickers - wow, was she ever kooky!) I can believe it all too easily. Rest assured, the Bitch Factor team will be here once more to guide you through the scant highs and frequent lows of the forthcoming series - we feel your pain because it is our pain too.
You may have read in the papers that the audition format has changed this year, to a
Right, to business then. Roll on series six!
(This year's sponsor is TalkTalk, just in case anyone was curious.)
To reinforce that Things Are Going To Be Different This Year, we don't start with an ominous blast of 'O Fortuna' or a shot of crowds waiting to audition; no, we begin with a shot of some clouds. No, really. Then we have an elegy to the X Factor audition room as it was; over the past five years, it's seen 'em all. Which is more than the judges can say. We are "treated" to shots of auditionees, some good, mostly bad (and some sort of in the middle - I'm not quite sure which camp they want us to put Chico in, but let's face it, he was all Sharon Osbourne's fault and she's been consigned to history, and all is right with the world). But it's all just got bigger!
It's an audition revolution, apparently, despite this being pretty much exactly the same set-up as a certain other Cowell-fuelled talent search, but then regular readers will not exactly be surprised to learn that "shameless rip-off" and "blast of originality" are not so far apart in the X Factor universe. Just ask Austin. This time, we are assured, there is nowhere to hide. Except of course in the ever-reliable embrace of Dermot afterwards. This year's intro footage chooses to emphasise the fact that the winner will be signed to the same record label as some of the planet's biggest stars. These include: Leona Lewis, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and several other people who flashed past too quickly for me to see, and since this is a 90-minute show, I'm not going back to watch it in slo-mo. You can fill in the gaps yourself, surely?
And of course, there are judges! A lady kisses Simon, Cheryl will cry, Louis will wear aviators, Cheryl will be from The North [Or rather the North-East, which is a whole different beast, both in reality and in TV stereotype land - Rad], Dannii might get some screentime at some point. It is time to face the music, or whatever passes for it on this show. Cue titles!
The Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling' accompanies shots of the sun rising, and the X Factor bus going on a long journey, just like Leon Jackson's recording career didn't. We're at The O2 in London, and Dermot (looking bluescreened again) tells us that we didn't think it could get any bigger. Somehow I doubt many of us gave that much thought to the matter, to be honest. I know I didn't. "Record numbers" of auditionees have descended on the capital, and many of them need psychiatric help. Plus ça change. Dermot dispenses with the formalities of how the auditions take place in front of a terrifyingly large crowd now, and it's on with the show.
A ridiculous amount of bombast accompanies their arrival, of course. Simon duhs that it's going to be "a much tougher audition process". Last year's winning mentor Cheryl is feeling very excited about this series. Cheryl tells us that Alexandra is recording an album. So was Leon this time last year, and look how that turned out. Louis is milking the success of JLS for all it's worth. Botox-free Dannii says that the bar has been raised this year, and the auditionees must show us what kind of artist they are going to be. Dermot tells us via voiceover that eventually the judges will each mentor a category (and the specific details of who gets which category have already leaked, apparently, so there's not really any need to be coy) but for now, they're working together. Allegedly.
The auditions begin...after the break. Of course. Let's not spoil the first seven minutes of the show with actual content or anything. [Boo! Hiss! - The Audience] [And this reminded me just why this show is umpteen million percent less annoying when you record it instead of watching it 'live' - Rad]
Back from the break, Dermot reminds us of all the stuff we were told in all those previous minutes of filler, referring to it as a "surprise" awaiting the contestants. Especially the ones in Glasgow, who'll have to do it all over again.
The first auditionees, whose dismal failure has been previewed just about everywhere you care to look this week, are the Dreamgirls, Rosita (sp?) and Viola, who are sisters and part-time models. They have moved here from Lithuania because of this show. Seriously. I wonder if the BNP knows this sort of thing is going on.
They stride out onto the stage. Louis asks them what they do for a living, and they repeat everything we've just heard. A piano plays the intro to 'Angels', and the girls sing. Tunelessly. Obligatory cut to Simon looking like he wasn't expecting this even though he clearly was. If you need a description of what they sound like, a good comparison would be the kid in Overboard who thinks he's Pee-Wee Herman. Cheryl plays with her hair. Dannii smothers a giggle behind the giant ring adorning her finger. Eventually Simon stops the audition. He tells them that they are attractive, young and brave, and that they suck. Cheryl tells them to stick to modelling. Dannii thinks the judges are hearing something different from what the girls are hearing. Louis basically just repeats what Cheryl and Dannii said in slightly different words. It's a no for the Dreamgirls. Dermot asks them what they will do now. "Life will show us," replies one of them, enigmatically. Cut back to the judges, with Louis saying they're the worst the panel has ever heard. [Woo! - An Audience Member Who's Had Too Much To Drink And It's Not Even Half Past Eleven Yet] Not even close, sir. Not even close.
You'll never guess what: this heralds a string of unsuccessful auditions! Plasterer Luke Bailey squeaks his way through 'Apologise'. Alison Collim (17, Sales assistant) is defeated by 'Beautiful', but her mum loves her. Several people are so bad, we don't even get told their names. Steve Calliegari (54, factory worker) is such an obviously deliberate bad audition that I shan't waste any more time on him.
The next contestant we'll actually get to spend some time with is 19-year-old Stacey Solomon from Dagenham. She's bought her cute son Zachary with her, who insists on offering crisps to Dermot and the camera crew. [Awwwwwwww! - The Audience] She sings all around the house, and hopes to be successful so she can support her family. Oh god, am I really going to be forced to break out the "get a stable job, then" argument again? Every fucking year. She has a bit of cute banter with Simon when she gets on stage, and then she sings 'What A Wonderful World'. I'm not crazy about the arrangement and parts of her vocal are a bit strained, but it does suggest she's got some raw talent that needs a bit of honing. The audience go nuts for her, and eventually Simon stops the audition. Cheryl: "I don't know why I had a preconceived idea, but I didn't expect it to be that good." Stacey sensibly only recognises the compliment in this, and not the backhand. Louis agrees with Cheryl. Dannii thought it was great, and Simon was taken by surprise. It's four yeses for Stacey, and she's through. Backstage, Dermot says that it's big news for Stacey and her family, and with an impeccable sense of timing, Zachary yawns. Hee.
Back from the break, and we're suddenly in Manchester. People are excited. There's a short comic sequence of Simon being driven around the corner from the hotel to the venue and pretending to be embarrassed about it. An unnamed three-piece girlband get through, as does a smiley young man. I assume we're not likely to see much more of either of them. Katy Bullock (17, student) sings Pixie Lott's 'Mama Do' while wearing motorcycle gear, because she also rides motorbikes. Fair enough then. She's through. An uspecified three-piece manband get through, as does a guy with a shaved head. Somebody called Lewis (which I discern from the many "Lewis has got the X Factor" t-shirts on the people supporting him backstage) gets through.
Oh God. Oh God. The next contestant is 19-year-old Emma, who auditioned in series four and was made to be a laughing stock on national television, and then came back to add insult to injury in that year's final, and apparently that still wasn't enough. Oh, it gets better - she's bought her sister Samantha, and they're entering as a duo called Sister Act. At this point I hate pretty much everything about television for leading to this turn of events. [Hahahahaha! Deluded fatties! Brilliant! - The Audience, Who Can't Get Enough Of This Shit And Are Determined To Overrule Me] Apparently they were evicted when Emma kept singing outside at 3am, and have had to live in the car with a cat, a dog and a bird. Now there's a road movie waiting to happen!
Their entrance is massively staged, of course: Simon is talking to Cheryl as they walk on just so he can be not looking at the stage in order to have that moment where he does look at the stage and recoils in horror. Simon asks Emma what's happened since they last saw her, and she repeats what we've just heard. Seriously - why must we be told everything twice? Samantha announces that they will sing 'Hero' by "Maya Carey". It's awful, of course. But at this point I've run out of sympathy, because after a certain extent people need to help themselves, y'know? [I agree, and I'm not normally a one for knee-jerk 'blame the parents'-ing, but in this case, when the family seem to always be in the press, magazines and on telly, the parents have a lot to answer for - Rad] Simon puts an end to proceedings and says that it was twice as worse as before. "You're not going to stop me!" Emma insists. Samantha thinks they should be given a chance to improve. "We have weeks, not decades," Simon replies. It's a no for Sister Act, of course. Dermot The Soulless Corporate Husk asks if Emma will come back and get a yes next year. "Probably," she says.
18-year-old Joe McElderry from South Shields is desperate to impress the judges. This marks him out from every other contestant...how, exactly? He found out he could sing on karaoke four years ago. His parents are very supportive, and his dream is to make them proud. He has a winning smile: if he makes finals, the girls will go nuts for him. He repeats the story we've just heard for Dannii's benefit, and Cheryl asks him where he's from because Lord knows this should all be about his accent [Cheryl is depressingly over-excited about his north-eastness - Carrie], and eventually he sings 'Dance With My Father', because his mum likes Luther Vandross. Incidentally, the shot of a finger sliding up a fader is this show's answer to the backstage hand pressing play on someone's backing tape. We will be seeing it A LOT. He's got a pretty good voice, and the crowd are eating out of his hand. Dannii thought the whole thing was great. Louis thinks the girls are going to love him. Cheryl is feeling very proud. Simon thinks he's potentially very good. It's three yeses, and a "wye-aye" from Cheryl. Joe exits to the strains of 'The World's Greatest', and I think the show might be overplaying its hand very slightly here.
After the break, we're in Glasgow (for the second time, though they don't say this). The show resurrects the running "gag" of Simon being part-Scottish and everyone else being all "yeah, whatever". Cheryl would like to see him in a kilt! I'd like to see how you look naked, Nick! Sigh.
Our first auditionee is 16-year-old Kyle Campbell, who has floppy hair, a massive scarf, and wants to be as big as Girls Aloud. He's Scotland's biggest Girls Aloud fan, he says. I don't see this ending well. On stage, he says that singing and acting are his life. Oh God, he's Mr. G. He tells Cheryl that he's here to see her. Then there follows a random bit where Louis asks if Kyle has any pets at home, and Kyle says that he just has his mum with him. Cue riotous laughter. Kyle does not understand why he was asked this question. Neither does Simon, and neither do I, but no one ever said this show had to make any sense. Kyle will be singing 'Untouchable' by Girls Aloud. Except Simon stops it before the intro's finished, and says that he's trying to help: "we don't like that Girls Aloud song - have you got any others?" Presumably songs that do not make the Top 10 are of no use to Senor Cowell. Kyle says that he picked the song because he liked it, which earns him a "woooo!" from Cheryl and the audience. [Wooo! - The Audience] Yes, that's what I just said. [This narrative device isn't really working out, is it? - The Audience] No, not really. [Shall we go, then? - The Audience] If you wouldn't mind. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Anyway, Kyle gets to sing 'Untouchable' as he originally wanted, and he does it in a terrible falsetto and gets booed, just as we all saw coming a mile away. It doesn't help that he's singing the lyrics according to the radio edit when his backing track is for the album version, but in all honesty that's the least of his problems. His mum looks concerned backstage, as well she might. [Cheryl is mouthing the lyrics along with him here, which is sweet. - Carrie] Simon finally brings the whole sorry thing to an end, and of course Cheryl's the one who has to deliver the verdict. She tells Kyle she really likes him and he has great taste in music. "But he's got no singing voice!" shouts Louis, at which point Simon tells him not to be rude and lays on the sugarcoating for Kyle, telling him he's funny and has a good attitude, and he should be a manager or an actor, something he's good at doing. And thank God for that, because I'm just not sure I could have sat through Kyle having his entire world shatter around him on ITV1 primetime. It goes to the vote, and Kyle gets three noes, and a yes from that stupid bint Cheryl because he sang one of her songs. And suddenly I remember why this show put me right off her.
Next up are 17-year-old identical twins John and Edward, who are collectively known as - wait for it - John And Edward. They're Irish, so of course Louis is going to love them. Their look is roughly what you'd get if you smooshed all three members of Busted together during the filming of the 'What I Go To School For' video. Dermot says he'll never be able to tell them apart, which sounds suspiciously like "and now I've said that, it means I don't even have to try" if you ask me. They practise in the toilets, and it sounds alarmingly like they are singing La Roux's 'In For The Kill'. Either that, or La Roux sings rather like a couple of amateur chancers attempting to tune up. Do not let the fact that I loathe everything about La Roux influence your reading of this particular scenario.
They walk out onto the stage and start vamping it up, which is quite funny. They introduce themselves, and after they say they're from Dublin, Cheryl pipes up, "It's a yes from Louis." Ha! Okay, I'll give her that one. Although given that in the course of this episode, which we are not yet two-thirds of the way into, she has already taken an obvious shine to someone who shares her accent and voted yes to someone who couldn't sing because he picked one of her songs. Send your letters of complaint regarding the throwing of stones to Cheryl Cole, The Glass House, Tyneside.
Simon asks them why they're talking in American accents, and one of them replies that that's just how they sound over a microphone. Interesting excuse, but I'm not convinced. Cheryl asks where they see themselves in 15 years' time, and the reply is "older". This goes on for quite a while, and they bypass "cute" and head directly for "obnoxious", and finally their backing track coems on: 'As Long As You Love Me' by Backstreet Boys. They keep shouting at the audience to join in if they know the words etc, and it would be helpful because John And Edward are not actually very good - they're in tune about half the time, but they're painfully off on several occasions and the whole thing smacks of substandard karaoke. Simon calls them "not very good and incredibly annoying". Cheryl finds them "intriguing", but she doesn't know if that's good or not. Louis thinks they look like pop stars, and thinks they've got something. Dannii thinks they're the cockiest singers she's ever met who didn't have a record contract yet. Louis interjects that they're cheeky rather than cocky. No: Stacey was cheeky, these guys are cocky. Unfortunately, Dannii likes them. It's a no from Simon, a yes from Dannii, a "go on, I'll give you a chance" from Cheryl, and obviously a yes from Louis (preceded by a "Louis? Drum roll" from Simon, which is pretty funny). After they leave, Simon declares that they're "everything [he] despise[s]". Lots more people from Glasgow get through in a montage, but we are not allowed to know who they are, except that a girlband is from the north-east, because Cheryl mentions it. Laura White (no, not that one - this one is a 26-year-old receptionist with a bottle-blonde crop) gets through singing 'I Will Always Love You', and Roy Robson (25, plasterer, almost certainly this year's Asbestos Andy) will also be going to boot camp, despite not being Louis's idea of what a popstar should look like (blond, wearing a blazer, and singing 'You Raise Me Up', according to Simon. And Dannii, it seems).
We're "back" in London, where contestants have been camping out overnight for the chance to audition. Fools! The judges are feeling positive about the prospects of talent in the nation's capital. We are introduced to Gemma, George and Maria, aka Triple Trouble, who consider purple polo shirts to be a good look, apparently. They are here to prove a point: they're not a rap group, and just because they wear tracksuits doesn't mean they are hoodlums. They're trouble in a good way, they assure us. Gemma tells the judges that teenagers have a bad reputation, and they want to prove that not all teenagers are the same. They are singing 'Umbrella' over the wrong part of the backing track, and badly. Simon stops them and asks them if they've all got colds. "That was kind of a racket," he tells them. "That's kind of rude, you know," George replies, kind of pouting whilst smiling at the same time. I'm not even sure if that's physically possible, but if it is, that's what he's doing. And then he blows that good start by delivering a lot of backchat and getting booed off by the audience. In the confessional booth, he tells Simon to sleep with one eye open. Point well and truly proven there, folks.
Cue montage of people being "rude" to the judges, although apparently "rude" and "incredulous" are the same thing on this show. One of them goes out of his way to be rude to Louis, which I approve of. Apparently identical floppy-haired duo Beyond Reason sing 'You Are Not Alone', not terribly, but with definite deviations from the recognised tune, and Louis says that he thinks they need people like this in the competition, which prompts a "people who sing out of tune?" from Simon, which in turn prompts a "shut your face, you horrible man!" from their nan backstage. It's a yes from Louis but noes from everyone else, and as always Simon's refusal appears to hold more weight than anyone else's because he is the one the nan is angry at. But she doesn't storm on stage to confront him, so we are spared that, at least.
The next auditionee is Duane Lamonte, who auditioned last year but was cut at boot camp, because some people just aren't as talented as Scott Bruton or Eoghan Quigg. He's determined to do this by any means necessary. That he is chums with Leona is not mentioned this year. Perhaps she forgot to send him a Christmas card. Cheryl pretends to remember him from last year; Simon pretends to have forgotten. Duane sings 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', which the audience seem to enjoy. Simon asks Duane to sing something which makes him current. Some AC/DC, perhaps? Thank you! I'll be here all week! Duane struggles for an alternative, nervously suggesting 'Happy Birthday' (man, I hope it was the Altered Images one, but we'll never know). Dannii asks who he likes in the charts, and Duane says he likes Beyoncé and Usher, so it is decided that he will sing some Beyoncé for everyone - 'Broken-Hearted Girl', which I had never heard of, but thankfully Google never lets me down in these scenarios. Four yeses for Duane.
After the final break, we're back with Dermot in London and some more nightmare auditions. 30-year-old Domonique Bacheuen sings 'Always' by Bon Jovi, and let's just say he's no Ruth Lorenzo. "You just screamed at the audience, and nobody wants that," says Simon. David Moors (32, works in a pork pie factory) stares at the ceiling and sings terribly. Eguono Okiti (22, care assistant) is gorgeous, but her rendition of 'Without You' is dreadful. And then there's someone in a neon-blue gorilla costume, who causes Simon to snap. [I scan-read this first time and thought you mentioned someone doing a song by Snap! which I would have been gutted to miss, as that would be ace - Rad]
Conveniently, the very last contestant of the day is someone who deserves a piano intro to his VT! Do I smell a sob story coming up? They've been conspicuous by their absence so far. Danyl Johnson (27, teacher, kind of cute in a Will Young The Early Years sort of way) is very nervous. This audition means a lot to him. But not because his mother IS DEAD or anything. Hmm, perhaps there is no sob story here. Ah, wait - he just wants to make everyone proud at his school. He is a Bellowing Beverly, although hopefully somewhat more tuneful. The crowd are on his side as soon as he reveals that he's a teacher. He sings 'With A Little Help From My Friends' (Joe Cocker version) and kind of twitches a lot throughout, but in a cute enough way that I'm willing to overlook it. For now. Hey, I never said I wasn't shallow. I'm not sure I approve of the treble clef tattoo on his wrist, mind. He does a little bit of business with the mic during the instrumental breakdown which is obviously rehearsed, but delivered with just the right amount of awkwardness to make it work. Dannii calls it a perfect audition. Louis thinks the kids will be very proud. Cheryl thinks he's a natural performer and would pick him for her category right now. Simon calls it ("single-handedly", which: what?) the best first audition he's ever heard. It's a resounding yes for Danyl. Lots of audience members filing out at the end tell the cameras of their love for Danyl. Dermot's VO claims he was "on everyone's mind", which is not all that surprising if he actually was the last audition of the day. These people are probably stir-crazy, I doubt they can remember more than about two or three people back.
Coming soon: lots of people screaming! Someone being amazing! The easiest yes Simon's ever given! There's a joke to be made in there, but I'll leave that to you. See you next week!