Sunday, September 20, 2009

End of a Century

Audition Show 5 - 19 September 2009

Show 100

Welcome back to The X Factor, and have ITV got a treat in store for us this week?! Yes, that's right, there are TWO-count-em audition shows this weekend. Can't you just smell our excitement? I'm guessing this is to prepare us for the joy of having overblown results shows on a Sunday this year, which I just can't wait for. Oh, ITV, with all these changes you are really spoiling the show us.

Opening voiceover: we've already seen the 'good' (Danyl, Olly, a couple of girls whose names I've forgotten), the 'bad' and the 'indescribable' (everybody else). This weekend, 'it's an X-Factor double bill'. Oh, E4 sarky voiceover man, you make that sound like the joy it will surely be. O Fortuna plays, at about a million decibels, and there are lots of screaming singers and judges pulling faces. It is, apparently, the 100th episode of this show. Only 100? It feels like it has taken up much more of my life than that. How many X-Factor cliches can they fit in to 'celebrate' this milestone? Please don't play drinking games tonight, kids. We don't want to be held responsible for ensuing liver failure. Coming up - lots of perving over hot boys (Dannii and Cheryl) and lots of crazy women perving over Simon and Louis.

Dermot the corporate drone welcomes us to-wouldya believe it-London, for the eightybillionth time this series. There are the usual obligatory shots of the judges arriving in different clothes from the ones we then see them wearing in the studio.

Our first contestant apparently wants more than fame and success, he wants to make a difference. Can you hear the background music? Why, it's our blessed Saviour Michael Jackson with 'Earth Song'. Is it soon enough for this show to be using his songs as background music for the comedy contestants? It's not that I have any particular reverence for the guy, but I imagine later episodes of this thing are going to pull out the schlocky 'doing it for Michael Jackson' type tropes so I just want to flag up right now how much 'respect' they have for him (mind you, nothing can be as disrespectful as last year's MJ theme week).

Anyway, meet 30-year old Richard. He's balding, ginger-haired, a security guard, wears glasses, has bad teeth and wants to spread a message of humanity. I don't see him being the shock Susan Boyle contestant we're inevitably due at some point, do you? Ooooh, he's singing 'Word Up' by Cameo/Gun. I like the originality, at least. He starts by some comedy dancing and a little bit of almost-moonwalking in honour of our dear departed etc. His vocals can hardly be described as singing, although this is more of a shouty/sneery song anyway. There's more dancing, and the crowd go wild. Poor the crowd. He's rubbish, but probably a lot more entertaining than what you've got coming. The judges tell him they like him but he's rubbish (well, Louis, Cheryl and Simon do - Cheryl even getting a boo! Dannii as always, is silent). He is sent packing to the strains of 'Beat It'. Can you see what they did there?

'Beat It' continues over a montage of comedy contestants. Next up Maggie, 'an airline personnel' who flirts a bit with Simon and squeaks out 'When a Child is Born'. A little unseasonal, perhaps, but there are only 96 shopping days left, people! And the Perfume Shop where I live has had its decs up since mid-August. Anyway, Christmas is coming, and 'your' X-Factor 'winner' will be hawking some dreadful cover of a song you used to like, so get ready...

We see 76 year old Morriss, who wears a fluorescent Spanish-dancer type top (Carrie will probably know the proper terminology what with her love of the dancing and all). [Oh, God, I wasn't even watching at this point. Was too awful. - Carrie] He sings 'Delilah' badly and we are onto a Maggie Gyllenhaal/Kelly Clarkson hybrid lady called Chelsey (though I swear she said Petra). Louis asks her if she wants to go 'on tour' (is this how they get the rubbish ones to agree to do the X Factor Live travelling circus?). She loves it apparently, then squeaks very badly through 'Fighter'. The judges look genuinely disappointed that she can't be the token rock chick candidate this year, as she could definitely look the part with a make-over. She's only 16, apparently, though looks old enough to have got served at her local offy, easily. Well, until she told the nation she was 16.

Dermot chats to a hunky scarf guy called Ethan from Chicago. He goes on stage and the audience go wild. Dannii gives a deliberate perv look to the camera which is kind of funny. He's going to sing 'Use Somebody' by Kings of Leon, who have been dedicated this series' contemporary rock act that our judges have heard of. By which, I mean they all had a copy of 'Only By the Night' thrust at them and were told to listen to tracks 3, 4 and 10 a few times. He has a decent tone to his voice but he can't enunciate for toffee and he's not as amazing as he will be made out to be, but hey, see also: every other 'good' contestant this series. [At this rate, I'm going to be watching the rest of the series on mute, but hey, at least now there's something nice to look at. - Steve] He also goes off key a little bit, but he's good looking, young and 'edgy' so there's no question here, is there? Cheryl had decided he's really sweet and humble even though they barely spoke to him. Dannii says he's a superstar and she wants a piece of that. OK, enough with the Dannii=perv thing now. Deliberate comedy looks are one thing, but she's not "Mrs O". Louis wants someone that is modern, up-to-date, understated, good-looking and talented, and also the moon on a stick. The girls are going to love him apparently, cue producers making the girls scream. Simon says Ethan 'knows music' because he sang a top 10 hit from one of the biggest bands in the world rather than 'the usual'. Oh, Kings of Leon, I do quite like you, but I fear I may hate you by the time Christmas rolls around. The judges love him and try to do their talking about the contestant thing, but doing it in front of the audience just feels ridiculously awkward and stilted.

We're "back" in Birmingham, with the biggest crowd we've ever had, apparently. Dermot doesn't specify if that's the biggest audition crowd in Birmingham, the biggest audition crowd ever or simply the biggest crowd in the world EVER, though. We are reminded how much we must all love Cheryl by them giving us a special bit where she is signing autographs and having her photo taken for her 26th birthday, and there are some people half-heartedly chanting her name. Her husband (BOO! HISS! - a nation) is also with her and Simon has 'a birthday surprise' in store - it's a cake with those candles that don't blow out like you used to have at parties when you were a kid. We get lots of shots of flowers and gifts - and it's all so "whyyyyy?" I mean, I can't imagine them doing this segment for, say, Louis, can you? [It's because she's a national treasure, innit. We must not be allowed to forget this. It is the party line. We have always been at war with Eastasia. - Steve]

Anyway, apparently it's time to get back to the business of finding a superstar (sic). A business we should have never fucking left in the first place. Faye is Lea from Big Brother 7 meets Joy from My Name is Earl meets a Barbie-doll gone to Ann Summers, wearing a basque that's too small for her boobs. Her dream is to be worldwide famous and she's use her fame for good (o hai, Richard from part one!) and would, ahem, save donkeys. She'd also like to be in heat magazine, which is probably very easy to achieve simply by virtue of being on tonight's show. Anyway, she comes on stage all basque and suspenders and Simon's all 'you look cute'. He asks her what she does for a living and she's 'a teacher in a prison'. The judges do the jaw drop thing and so do I, I'm afraid. Curse you, show. Simon is shocked and says 'I bet you're popular'. She jokes that all her classes are well-attended and I am beginning to warm to her a little more. Louis asks if she wears that for work. Yes, Louis, of course she does. She says she dresses like Margaret Thatcher for work. There is a whole weird niche of men around the country who have probably just exploded at this thought. The audience boo the Thatcher. Ooh, political. Simon tries to ask her 'what's the reason...' but collapses in giggles. She's going to sing 'River Deep, Mountain High'. She's apparently 28 but I would have put her several years older. Either this show gets very old-looking people on it generally or TV ages people dramatically, or I am a terrible judge of ages because I always think contestants are way older than they are (see also Richard and Chelsey tonight). She's OK - a bit squeaky and off-tune in places, though (and I still prefer the Nicola Roberts version from Popstars: the Rivals). Dannii says she's full of surprises, Cheryl is stuck for words and eventually comes out with 'I enjoyed it'. [This pissed me off. It was like she was waiting for the audience to laugh at Faye some more before she said anything, and when she did deign to comment it came off as really condescending. - Carrie] Simon says she's picked up some bad habits like singing through her nose and she doesn't sound yet like a recording artist. One lone man in the audience boos. Simon continues that she's interesting and people will like her and she stands out. Anyway, she's easily through to Boot Camp, then in the booth of light and dark tells us she's one step closer to being in Heat magazine and blows all the goodwill she'd previously built up.

Next up: Tracey, a pretty black lady with big hair. Through, surely, on looks alone? She's 25, and the last of 14 children. On behalf of all women everywhere, I say OUCH. She sings 'I'm Every Woman' and apparently her name is spelled 'Treyc'. Sigh. Dannii 'grooves' because the producers have decided she is 'down with this kind of thing'. Simon gives his perv/money-making smile. Cheryl says it was the best audition of the day. Four yeses, as if it'd be anything else.

Carl has his nan, WHO IS ALIVE, backstage and looks a bit like a trimmer, younger, Dead Wife Daniel. He sings 'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing', which is one of the 25+ male standards and one of my least wanted, especially as they all sound like they're straining when they do it, so boo to him. Anyway, they bring Marjorie, his nan, on and Simon does his old lady sweet-talk act which must occur at least once per series so hopefully that cliche's now done with for another year. Random filler of Treyc calling her family.

Four young people (two men, two women) with dayglo 'How hood are you?' T-shirts on. Louis Walsh's 'groups with matching clothes-ometer' goes CHING! They are called Harmony Hood, which is a name of pure arse, but do a decent version of 'Love Lockdown' and they have lots of energy, so good for them. Definitely one of the best groups so far - and the only non girl-group I can actually remember. Through to the finals, let alone Boot Camp, surely?

More gubbins about Cheryl's birthday which is too tedious for words. Ads. We're not even halfway through. I may weep.

Montage of the judges arriving and a focus on Cheryl and Dannii wearing nice clothes - cue a 'Simon only wears jeans and a t-shirt shocker fluff piece' for which there really is no point considering this is the SIXTH series. Make the point in series one if you must, then move on. Le sigh. Anyway, that bit of fluff over, we have Natricia, "29", who wants to be a superstar. She is singing 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', and I can just picture Steve hiding behind his sofa right now considering this song is notorious X Factor audition death [technically it's live show death, but the point is much the same: deploy with extreme caution - Steve], but anyway, cue more mixing desk shots. Wouldn't you know it? She comes in at the wrong point, is out of time and out of tune. Well, colour me shocked.

The audience laugh like the programmed morons they are and they just keep letting her carry on for way too long. Simon calls it one of the worst versions of the song he's ever heard, and we all know he's heard some pretty bad ones. Do you think we might be in for a few more bad auditions, anyone?

Gianni, 42, sings 'Vogue' without vogueing. Jackson, 17, sees himself as a pop prince (it's all in the name!) and sings 'Billie Jean' badly. Now MJ's finally in his grave he can look forward to an eternity of spinning in it. Simone is a model and Cheryl asks if he's hot. If you have to ask, love, the answer's probably no. Oh, she means warm hot. And the other kind, presumably, as the producers make her tell him to take his top off. Anyway, he isn't very good, so we move on.

Cue comedy Glenn Miller music and Eileen, an older lady in white fur and pearls who used to practise singing in an air raid shelter. Her dream is to make a record and boogie away to it. Cheryl asks her how old she is, and she says 20 years ago I was 60. So 80, then? I don't understand the logic here. There is some mock flirting with Simon and the audience lap it up. She gives him a hug. She tries to tell us what she's singing and Cheryl talks all over her. She's singing 'The Wonder of You' and I am guessing it is that standard X-Factor old person who can sing OK but is long past their best and is a bit wobbly but will go through to Boot Camp then get kicked out trope, so I think we all know where this is going.

Simon tells Dannii she could be in a group with Eileen because they both have dark bobbed hair. This time Louis and Dannii say no and get to be the bad people and Simon tells her she has to get a piece of music together and come back tomorrow, which is presumably this year's 'learn a new song and come back' - but also sheds some interesting light on things - do this year's contestants have to provide their own backing tracks? I just assumed the producers had a stack of the things. Or maybe they do, but they only have your standard 20 favourite X Factor classics, plus (new for this year!) the last Kings of Leon album. [My $0.02, if anyone cares - I think once they get to this stage, they have to pick songs from pre-approved lists, to some degree. Certainly several different contestants have used the exact same backing track, so I would think they're producer-supplied. It's odd, because some people get very professional-sounding tracks, and others get obvious karaoke versions. And some have randomly been performing acapella. - Steve]

Apparently now 'up and down the country' more hopefuls face the judges. We see the much touted in the pre-publicity Kandy Rain, who sing 'Don'tcha'. One of them is wearing some very unforgiving leather trousers. Anyway, they're not even the best girl group on this series so far, never mind the best group EVA. Hype - bite me. In fact, they're kind of like Hope without Phoebe i.e. completely unremarkable. They're through though.

A very cute seeming 19 year old Indie sings 'Summertime' and it's a yes, too. Also 'good' are Stacey McLean [from S Club Juniors! - Steve] who seems a bit affected but to be fair we only see two seconds of her performance because who cares about the people that get through, right? Next up is Dominic who got through to judges' houses in 2007 when he was only 15 (unlike anyone this year though I haven't heard any mea culpas from Simon over the whole 14 and 15 year olds thing). Dannii asks him what's changed since he was last here and he says he's more mature. She says it takes a lot of guts to come back. He's singing Chris Brown's 'With You' which I don't especially like, but it's contemporary and hasn't been killed on this show yet, so that puts him in my good books. He sings well and though there isn't anything spectacular about him, you can see how he would be a hit with the teenage girl demographic and a bit of polish might get him to the mid-way through the live shows point. Cheryl and Louis say he's improved, though Cheryl thinks he needs more swagger. Simon says it's not incredible. Louis butts in and says 'it's good, Simon'. Simon points out he didn't say it wasn't good, he said it wasn't incredible, which it wasn't. Simon thinks he's trying to be somebody else and he's better than he was two years ago. Cue the 'I want it all or nothing at all' Westlife song of guaranteed success. Dermot says 'it's finally Dominic's time' - although clearly not yet, as he got to judges' houses last time, so there's still some way to go to beat that.

'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' is the cue to meet 31-year-old Nicole who wants to sing with a full orchestra at the Albert Hall one day. Fair enough. She's very smiley. Simon asks why things haven't worked out for her musically in the past few years. She says she used to sing in pubs and she used to sing with her father. Can we guess what's coming, folks? Actually, seeing as it's the 100th episode and we've recycled every X Factor cliche and standard piece of backing music so far, it would feel remiss if we didn't have this, so I'm secretly pleased. Anyway, altogether now.... HER DAD. WHO IS DEAD. Do we even need to hear her sing? She sings 'Take a Little Piece of My Heart' and it's fine and all but very cheesy, but we only hear two seconds because HER DAD IS DEAD. Simon then tells her to sing her other song, Alicia Keys' 'If I Ain't Got You' (sigh). Cue piano. It is, of course, better than the first performance, but who cares? She has a DEAD DAD. Hooray!

Simon says she's not all that good, and gives her a no. Louis says she's better than Simon thinks she is. Cheryl likes her. Dannii says she agrees that she has bad habits but it is a yes. Louis says the over 25s is a difficult category this year - which is probably true, I can't name many acts in the other categories at the moment. Anyway, clearly it's an overall yes.

Apparently the 'X Factor competition' is only every two weeks this year. I hadn't noticed that before. How odd.

Dermot welcomes us back with a salutory reminder that the way not to get through to the next round is to be a duo. Unless you're 2ToGo or Journey South, but OK, the point is generally true. We see clips of some of this year's failed duos, and next are two people who 'are convinced they can turn it all around' - Russell and Katie. He wears glasses. She's in a purple frock. He has a matching tie. They are a couple. They're called 'It Takes Two' or, probably 'It Takes2'. They used to perform at Pontin's (like Scott). They've worked so hard for so long, and 'It Takes Two' (I think the Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston version?) plays in the background. If it was Bruno and Liz's version, I might actually LOL. Missed opportunity. They now work at Alton Towers, and before they came on stage, they made it sound like this was as entertainers, but no, they operate the rides and trains. Oh. Oh my, It's 'It Takez 2'. Ulp. They're singing 'I'll Be There' and in a reveral of 2ToGo's fortunes, she's pretty good and he isn't really that great. I wonder if either of them are blind. The judges agree that she's a lot better than him. We haven't seen them break a group up yet this series - could this be the one? Dannii says no because of Russell, Cheryl and Louis say yes because of Katie. Simon gives the pause of eternity and says yes. Cue 'I've Had the Time of My Life'. Cheryl cries a bit, then they come offstage and Russell bursts into tears hugging his mum saying he thought he'd let Katie down.

Tomorrow - the auditions come to an end. Hurrah! Someone is sailing through to the next round. Simon can't help but be emotional. Some people are good, lots of people are bad. Some boys take their tops off, and Eileen is back. Whooop. Join Carrie for all the fun!

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