Auditions 1: 21st August 2010
August is winding its way to a close, and we all know what that means: a pervasive sense of doom surrounding the return of something clearly painful yet wholly inevitable. Not the new academic year, of course, but the return of The X Factor. It will hopefully come as a relief to you all to learn that none of your bitching team has fallen pregnant or contracted malaria since last year (at least, not that I'm aware of), so we're all back and ready to chronicle the search for a new star to follow in the luminous footsteps of Joe McElderry. They're luminous because he's a star, by the way. Not because he's gay and therefore likes shiny things. Anyway, to business!
This year's show is sponsored by Talk Talk again, and the song about the knee-high rainbow returns, though they seem to have given up on that ludicrous "brightdancing" business that was about as warmly received as Leon Jackson's debut album. A giant CGI X hurtles Earthward from space at great speed. It appears to be heading directly for the UK. SHRIEK! THIS GIANT X WILL KILL US ALL! From there we fade to nostalgically-tinted shots of crowds of auditionees, while Peter Dickson reminds us that year after year, people still turn up in their thousands to audition for the show, in the hope that they too can make total tits of themselves on national television. This of course brings us to Leona, the biggest star this show has ever produced and is ever likely to produce, though I gather her second album fell on the "underperforming" side of the sales chart. Still, at least she got to sing the soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIII, a game which is, of course, amazing. I don't know about you, but I just wanted to run around the land all day. Also heavily featured in this part of the montage are JLS, Alexandra BURKE, The Claw, Joe McElderry and...Olly Murs? Okay then. Steve, Leon and even Shayne are not mentioned. The first two I can understand, but I thought Shayne was at least Big In Japan or something.
Tonight, a new search begins. Someone tells Simon that he's "better than Jesus". I can only assume that the part of that sentence we didn't hear was "at judging reality television shows". Although I dare say Jesus would be quite good at it if only someone gave him the chance. He'd probably prefer Dancing On Ice to this, though. Someone does Simon's hair for him. Simon tells someone that they have "the personality of a donut", which makes me wish we could replace him with someone who actually knows their way around an amazing insult, like for example Corin Forshaw. Louis puts his neck on the block. Cheryl picks a fight with Simon (don't stand in the way of Cheryl and her lollipops, Simon). Dannii is, of course, on maternity leave, and is therefore temporarily non-existent for this show's purposes. There will be guest judges: Geri "I Love The Gays" Halliwell, Katy "Human Fart Joke" Perry, Natalie "Biding Time Until The Australian Version Of This Show Starts When She Can Actually Have Full-Time Employment" Imbruglia, Nicole "Her Name Is" Scherzinger and Pixie "Absolutely No Business Being Here" Lott. Oh, and people will be crying. Someone will fall over the little dais that the judges' desk sits on. Cheryl will EXPIRE FROM TEH MALARIA. A huge irritant who we will see later on tonight will be a huge irritant. It's Time! To Face! The Heavily Autotuned Music!
Shots of cages being constructed. Crowds gather. Dermot walks amongst them, informing us that there is a new popstar lurking in these hordes somewhere, and this show is going to find them. This year they'll be auditioning in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dublin, and Glasgow, which is where we're starting today. Guess what? "Thousands and thousands" of people have turned up in the hope of becoming a star. Spoiler: we'll only get to see about four of them in any detail tonight. Some of the auditionees suspect that Glasgow has The X Factor. That's handy.
The judges arrive: Simon is the most powerful man in pop, and responsible for 100 number one singles. "I want to hear and see stuff I haven't seen before," he says. Let's all remember this when the live shows roll around and he wheels out 'Unchained Melody' for the 96th time, shall we? We see a shot of Simon in a meeting that looks about as realistic as the ones Donald Trump has on The Apprentice. Cheryl has sold over 5 million records as a member of Girls Aloud, and is a triple-platinum selling solo artist, despite having recorded one of the worst albums I've ever heard. And I've got Paris Hilton's album. Cheryl is excited to see someone "turn into a little star" in front of her eyes. Someone's not expecting the Overs to win this year, then. Louis has sold over 70 million records in his career, and is responsible for 20 number one singles. He thinks this is "the best platform in the world if you've got the talent." Finally, guest judge Geri Halliwell has sold 55 million records as part of the Spice Girls, and 12 million as a solo artist. As the quick-witted Carl Greenwood pointed out when this aired, this means that Geri has sold more records by herself than Girls Aloud and Solo Cheryl combined. So all those people claiming she's got no grounds to be judging this show can shut the hell up, because she's obviously got some idea of what sells. And this show has always been a search for marketability over talent. I will be defending Geri a lot tonight, just in case anyone's wondering, largely because the show decides to portray her as an idiot even though she talks more sense in half of a 90-minute show than Sharon Osbourne managed to over four series. Geri tells us that she personally picked Cheryl on Popstars: The Rivals over some random other girl, and therefore Cheryl is proof that shows like these work.
The judges take their seats in the arena (because despite the live audition format being universally unpopular last year, they've decided to stick with it for reasons that are beyond me). Our "first" auditionee "of the year" is 41-year-old Stephen Hunter, who is a househusband, and seems to enjoy his hug with Dermot rather more than a married man should [did he say he was married to a lady? - Rad] [quite. Also, looking after animals all day? Not house-husbanding. Just laziness. - Carrie]. He walks us through his daily routine. It's not interesting. He's ushered onto the stage, promising to give it "everything I've got, and then some." The crowd greet him warmly. Simon asks him where he sees his career going if this audition is successful. Stephen tells Simon that "Tina Turner did it in her forties, and she's a huge inspiration to me". Now, I know the movie What's Love Got To Do With It? is not exactly an unvarnished account of the gospel truth, but I remember watching that film and seeing her beginning her career when she was in her 20s. So while Tina Turner may have still been going strong in her forties, she also had a good 20 years' head of steam behind her at that point. Also, Tina Turner could sing, but we'll get to that part in a minute. Stephen will be singing 'Disco Inferno', which rings a wee alarm bell in Simon's head.
The music begins, and Stephen sashays around the stage. Dermot, watching backstage, is heartily amused by this. The dancing continues for quite some time until Simon signals for the music to stop and asks Stephen if he was ever going to, y'know, actually do any singing. Stephen says he was just about to start, and apologises. Geri tells him not to let this disruption put him off. Stephen begins singing, and does the entire song on the break of his voice, with all of the accompanying strain you'd expect. Geri looks faintly incredulous throughout. There is some camp dancing and twirling, and a final flourish to finish. Geri tells Stephen that she loved it because he was entertaining, and had a mixture of "vulnerability and a bit of a diva". She thinks he's got great potential. She's wrong, but never mind. Cheryl says "what a fantastic way to kick off the next series of X Factor". I wonder how many times she recorded that little soundbite before the producers finalised the running order. She tells him that his eyes were twinkling and he came to life on stage. She really enjoyed it. Simon tells Stephen that taking all of the terrible dancing to one side, he thinks he has a really good voice, but he wants him to stop the "little boy lost" routine. We'll be getting a lot of that sort of behaviour tonight. Just you wait until we get to Katie. It's taken to the vote. Louis thinks people will like Stephen and says yes. Geri confirms that she indeed does like him, and votes yes. Cheryl gives him a "big sparkly yes", Not That She's Implying Anything By That. Simon makes it unanimous. So we're kicking off the series by vastly overrating the abilities of someone who won't get any further than boot camp. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Stephen exits, and is greeted by his adoring entourage. The judges talk excitedly about his personality. But not his voice, you'll notice. Stephen crosses his arms into an X.
Commercials. I really don't want to know about Martin Clunes' "very special relationship" with horses. I've seen Equus, I know what goes on.
After the break, we're still in Glasgow. Dermot runs through the amended judging set-up for any latecomers. Simon has changed his top; Louis, Geri and Cheryl have not. I am at a loss to explain this. Then we've got a group. I reach for the Nurofen pre-emptively. They're two girls and a guy going by the name of Diva Features, and they want to perform at the Superbowl's half-time show. They sing a disharmonious version of 'Waiting For A Star To Fall' [and make me cry bitterly. This is one of my all-time favourite songs - Rad], and Simon tells them that it looked like they just met each other at a bus stop five minutes ago. They get rejected. Next up is 70-year-old George Bicknell, who sings an old-fashioned song that I don't recognise. Simon tells him that he was looking for more of a Justin Bieber type. Wow, that "I want to see something I've not seen before" resolve lasted a long time, didn't it? It's a no for George. [This is really grating. A 70-year-old would have been a teenager during rock'n'roll's launch, and a 20-something while the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis were starting out. But no, this show makes them sing music-hall songs. - Carrie] 21-year-old student Emedy Ecilo [best name since Eoghan Quigg - Rad] sings 'Billie Jean' in a tuneless falsetto, and Cheryl struggles not to spit out her tea with laughter. Simon lets him down gently by saying he's never heard it sound like that before. Cheryl tells him "it's a no for today", but perhaps she'll change her mind tomorrow.
Dermot intones ominously that things are not going well in Glasgow. Gosh, I wonder if someone's about to come along and turn all that on its head? Our next auditionee is 18-year-old Gamu Nhengu. She's originally from Zimbabwe, and is a student. She is not impressed with the Scottish weather, but likes living in Scotland. She talks about her mum, WHO IS A SINGLE PARENT and PAYS THE BILLS BY HERSELF. The sob stories are off to a lacklustre start this year, I feel. Gamu's mum Nokatula says that she hasn't given her daughter what she would've liked to be able to give her. Gamu hopes that she can change her family's life by doing something that she loves. She hopes that people will leave Glasgow thinking that "the girl with the flower in her hair" was good. That's Gamu, by the way. [Not Sandi Thom. - Carrie]
She heads onto the stage and runs through her life story with Geri. This is literally everything that we've just been told about 30 seconds ago, and no way am I recapping it twice. Gamu tells Geri that she wants to make something of herself and be someone that people talk about. Gamu says that she's going to sing 'Walking On Sunshine', but that she's changed it. Essentially, she has changed any positive sentiment in the lyrics to a negative one so it is now a break-up song. Her wordsmithery is not going to give Carol Ann Duffy any sleepless nights, let's put it that way. Also, her voice seems to have been autotuned. Not heavily, but there's definitely that slightly tinny giveaway sound to it. There were murmurings on Twitter last night that some of the performance audio seemed to have been "enhanced" from its state at the press screening on Thursday, for what that's worth. Either that, or the show has just invented a potent form of Instant Autotune that might be reviving Geri's career as we speak. [It half-sounded like she'd been put through a vocoder. - Carrie] Robot effects aside, there's a nice tone to Gamu's voice. She sounds a bit like Paris Bennett from American Idol season five, if that means anything to anyone. There are moments where her voice is rather weak and unsupported, but by first audition standards this is passable, certainly. The crowd go nuts for her, and Simon wraps it up. Louis liked her energy and her song choice and finds her likeable. Simon was concerned that she sang "one of my worst songs ever". Oh, Simon. Get yourself to a remedial grammar class, NOW. (I bet you anything that particular mangling of the English language doesn't even get a tenth of the complaints that Alesha Dixon gets on Strictly Come Dancing either, because viewers aren't threatened by bad grammar from white people.) But he likes that she did something different with it. He thinks she's got a cool, old-school jazz voice. As I said above: Simon's search for things he hasn't heard before is going SWIMMINGLY. Cheryl thinks Gamu has "a lovely little spirit". Patronising bint. Cheryl can see that this means everything to Gamu. Leona's cover of 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' lines up on the soundtrack as Gamu becomes tearful, and talks about wanting to give something back to her mum, who works hard for the money. So hard for it, honey. Geri says that if Gamu were her daughter, she'd be proud of her. Gamy gets four yeses, of course. Gamu's mum hugs Dermot, then comes out onto the stage to embrace her daughter. Another pre-series promise, the one about easing up on the sob stories, falls by the wayside.
Time for another ad break. Downton Abbey looks amazing, and I can't wait. [However, the new ad bumpers of people singing 'Neon Rainbow' in an 'ironic' way and the repetitive dirge that is 'She's so Lovely' are less than awesome and may drive me to smash my telly by Christmas. - Rad]
When we return, we're still in Glasgow, and it's time for a comedy segment, where the editors make fun of Geri for being a bit of a gasbag. Chas & Dave's 'Rabbit' plays as Geri talks about nerves, being in the Spice Girls, aerobics, plucking eyebrows, lovely tone and so forth. It's all very hilarious, but when a show as obviously bloated as this makes fun of someone else for taking far too long to make their bloody point, it's a bit rich, quite frankly. Annoyingly, it seems like there are some quite good acts in this segment, but we don't actually hear any of them, because apparently that's not what anyone's here for.
Oh God. Next up are boy-girl duo G&S, which stands for Gay & Straight. "Who's who?" asks Dermot. This is a question that did not need to be asked. Gay is unemployed, but is doing a voluntary course, and Straight is a full-time manager at Burger King. They met through her manager, apparently, and have been rehearsing quite a bit at Gay's house. They take to the stage. Simon asks the obvious question, and Gay is all, "that's obvious". They're singing 'Don't Stop Believing'. Gay is dreadful - he misses his cue, and comes in off-key. Also, they don't seem to have reached consensus on who's singing which part. Straight is better: she comes in on time (and sounds autotuned to heck, but it seems churlish to point that out again considering they're singing the Glee version) and is on-key for the most part. Gay dances a lot; Straight is rooted to the spot. It ends, and Louis says it's a great song getting strangled on stage. Geri tells Straight off for looking at Gay all the time, and says she wants to hear her sing by herself. Geri asks Gay to be a good friend and let Straight audition as a solo performer. Straight would like to do this, because this has clearly been their plan from the very beginning, and no one on this Earth can tell me otherwise. I mean, she's even got a spare song lined up. She'll be singing 'Get Here', with Gay standing in the background watching her every move. Straight sings tunefully, if rather feebly, and if she'd come out and sung like that off the bat she wouldn't even have got past the producers. But of course, in the wake of Gay and Straight it was "ten times better", as Cheryl tells her. Cheryl also adds that she "wishes she had a friend like him". Insert your own Derek Hough joke here. Simon is not sure that she's good or confident enough in the real world, even if she's better than her friend. They take it to the vote, and Louis says yes. Geri says yes. Simon jumps out of sequence and says no, because this means that Queen Of Fucking Hearts Cheryl Cole gets to be the one who makes the dreams come true in this most emotive of auditions. As my friend Emma remarked: "as if Cheryl would risk pissing off a gay man and a fat girl, aka her target audience in a fucking nutshell." And because I could not have put that better myself, I'm stealing it for this recap. But you should follow her on Twitter, because she's awesome and very funny. Anyway, Gay runs up to the desk to hug Cheryl, and Straight gets through. Backstage, Gay cries, and Dermot says "it's the end of G&S, but the start of S." I hope they make her keep that as her stage name for the rest of the competition.
Our next auditionee in Glasgow is singing waitress Lynn Frances O'Neil, aged 23, who sings every day at work except for Sundays, which is her co-workers' day of rest. She sings 'True Colours' in a Claw-esque style [confession time - I think The Claw's album is actually quite good. Sorry everyone, I feel I've let you down - Rad], and Simon says that if he owned a restaurant, he'd have her sing there every night. This is one of those rare times where Simon makes a comment about singing in a hotel/bar/restaurant and means it as a compliment. Four yeses for Lynn Frances O'Neil. Four piece boy/girl group Noir sing 'Paparazzi' in near harmony and get through. One of them is very orange, but none of them are black, despite the name. Some more anonymous people get through. A conventionally attractive man called Mark McGregor sings passably, because that is what conventionally attractive people do on this show. He's kind of dull, though. Louis says that Mark has "got it". I'm sure that even if he didn't have it, Louis would make sure he got it later on regardless. Mark gets through.
That's it for Glasgow, so we wave goodbye to Scotland, and to guest judge Geri. Bye Geri!
More ads. More of those godawful TalkTalk musical bumpers.
When we return, we're in London. Hopeful (and indeed hopeless) auditionees disembark from the DLR. Dermot appears to be wearing a clip-on tie. There's no guest judge in London, though we're not told why. Cheryl says that she's looking for a really amazing group, presumably because she knows she has to get that category to mentor sooner or later.
Coincidentally, the "first" act to audition in London is a three-piece group, called Jahm. "The 'h' will emphasise the jam", sahys onhe ohf thehm nohnsehnsihcahlly. One of them is a single mum, the other two are students. They met online and auditioned over the phone, and have been practising over the phone and on Skype. This isn't going to end well, is it? One of them describes them as being like N-Dubz or the Black Eyed Peas, and says that you don't see many mixed-groups at the top of the charts. Apart from the ones they've just mentioned. The guy continues, saying "we're not like your average girl group, like The Saturdays or Girls Aloud or JLS." Hoo boy, where to start with that one? 1. You are not an average girl group, because one of you is a boy. 2. JLS are not an average girl group, because none of them are girls. Unless there's a very convincing Boys Don't Cry thing going on there somewhere. I guess it would explain Yellow JLS's comedy high-pitched voice, if nothing else.
They bound on stage and sing 'Bad Romance', badly. Much like G&S, they haven't really agreed beforehand who's going to sing which lines, and they can't harmonise for shit. A man in the audience covers his ears in pain, though quite what he expected to hear at an X Factor audition, I'm not really sure. They completely lose their place in the song halfway through, and for the first time ever in my life, I find myself wishing I were watching Britain's Got Talent. if only because at least on that show they could've been buzzed off the stage by now. Still, this sequence will give gif-makers hours of entertainment, as Cheryl delivers several excellent nonplussed reaction shots. They finish, and there is silence from the judges. "How was it?" one of them asks nervously. They ask if they can do another song. "NO!" screams the audience. Heh. Simon tells them they're the worst group they've ever had on the show. Oh, how quickly we forget. "I've never heard anything like that," Simon continues, seemingly unaware of the mission statement he gave us at the top of the show. I guess this is a case of "be careful what you wish for". Louis tells them they were all out of tune, and that it was bad. Jahm ask for another chance. "I think we would literally have a riot on our hands," says Simon, abusing grammar for the second time this evening. Cheryl tells them they were "quite shocking. It was bad, very bad." It's a no for Jahm, who depart, taking their superfluous H with them. Backstage, they bicker about whose fault it is.
More people troop through, including lots of girl bands. Simon keeps needling Cheryl about wanting to find a successful girl band, which irritates her - not, as far as I can tell, for any reason other than he won't shut up. Of course, Cheryl's irritation is fuel for Simon, and he doesn't let up. Girl group Dice sing a song that I don't recognise, and Cheryl tells them they were "cheesy but fun". Louis gives them a yes. Cheryl tells them to ease off the fake tan. She's a fine one to talk. Backstage, Cheryl asks the men if they're going to gang up on her today, and tells that cameras that it's hard handling Simon and Louis without Dannii there to back her up. Well, I'm glad someone besides me is really feeling Dannii's absence this evening.
A three-piece girl group with mad hair called Electralytes bound out to sing N*Sync's 'Pop'. They appear to have been constructed from the remains of girls@play after Rita The Mechanic joined EastEnders. Cheryl tells them to try auditioning for a kids' programme, and the audience is all "oooh! Get her!" Simon asks for a saucer of milk. Another girl group, Ladybird, arrive. "We might need two saucers," Simon muses. They're singing Cheryl's song 'Parachute'. They're not especially good, but it's not like the original was a masterpiece. Cheryl tells them they need an image overhaul. Later, Simon arrives with an actual saucer of milk for her, because he's just hilarious like that, and because this stupid show has thrived on the alleged inability of women to work together in a professional capacity since series four. Simon cracks up at his own wit. Cheryl is unimpressed.
Obligatory competition. Ad break. Yep, there's still more to come.
We return apparently midway through the audition of someone who looks a bit like Frank Lampard, but we don't get given his name. He's wearing a shirt and a really big coat, because he's obviously one of Those People, and as a result, he looks a bit sweaty. Our next auditionee is 24-year-old Katie Waissel, who sounds exactly like the twins from Skins. She's also dressed like Madonna in the '80s. This is because she loves her '80s (and if you saw her on the show, you probably wouldn't be surprised to discover that she actually thinks she owns an entire decade): Madonna, Freddie Mercury, Etta James. She would love to be the lovechild of Freddie and Etta. So, just to clarify: she wants to be a popstar, and she's a good 25 years behind in terms of her pop culture references. Katie was made for this show. Dermot says it's a big day for her. Katie replies that it's "huge, it's epic, it's bigger than Armageddon." Sheesh. [Even Dermot looked shocked at this particular piece of hyperbole. - Carrie] Katie's dad Maurice says that "she tries very hard, and she's been trying hard for a long time." I think he's more correct with that statement than he realises. Katie says there's no point in being small, because Freddie Mercury wasn't small. I always kind of assumed he was.
Katie finally makes it onto the stage and gives a half-hearted "whoa. It's so big. But amazing, of course." To save me repeating myself, just assume that everything Katie does for the rest of tonight's episode is massively affected and completely contrived. Think Diana Vickers writ even larger. Katie tells the judges she wants to be a star, and says that she sings anywhere that'll have her. I'm guessing the list of places is growing smaller as we speak. She tells the judges she's going to sing 'At Last' by Etta James, and Simon groans. Katie clearly was not expecting this. Simon suggests she doesn't do that song, and asks what else she has prepared. She has 'We Are The Champions', because, and I quote, "everyone knows 'We Are The Champions'." Simon likes that idea, because he's never heard a girl sing this song. Katie begins to sing, and forgets her words two lines in. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she bleats. "I forgot my words, I'm sorry, because I've changed it. Please don't be mad at me." It's like watching a school play about The X Factor - that's the quality of acting on display here. She tries again, and doesn't sing the first two lines - perhaps because she's waiting for the song to come up into her range, which the beginning is not. She continues, and is fairly anaemic by the time she reaches the chorus. Louis tells her that he's disappointed, after all that build-up. "Sir, please let me sing 'At Last'," Hatey protests. Simon laughs at the idea of Louis being called "sir". Louis tells Hatey that she was unprepared, and if she'd built up any goodwill with me at all, I would say that this was partly the judges' fault for not letting her sing her first choice of song, but Hatey is repellent, so I will side with Louis for once in my life and say that she ought to have learnt the words to more than one fucking song [They must have to learn quite a few, because S had track 6 on her CD and someone on The Xtra Factor got told she couldn't sing her first four song choices, one of which was also At Last - Rad]. Hatey promises to "blow them away" if they let her sing 'At Last'. Simon tells her she's got "20 seconds to blow Louis away". I can't even tell you the number of times I've wanted someone to give me a hand grenade and tell me those exact words. 'At Last' cues up and Hatey gives a steely, Sylvia Young glint, and then bleats her way through 'At Last' in an awful, breathy way. Even by this show's standards, there is not a single original thought in this entire performance. And it goes on for a lot longer than 20 seconds too, I should think. Louis tells Hatey that 'At Last' was better, but she's still lacking something. A heart? A soul? The ability to competently perform more than one song? I mean, bollocking up your first audition and claiming that you'll be much better if you can do the one song you've rehearsed over and over again is hardly a glowing recommendation of your versatility, is it? Cheryl loves the fact that Hatie has got "[her] own little style going on", having apparently missed the homage/blatant theft of Hatie's entire image from the actual Queen of Pop. Cheryl thinks Hatie has her own identity already. Cheryl is an idiot. Simon calls her "a singing scarecrow", but he thinks she's quite likeable and quite charming. I could swear someone boos at this point in the audience. He thinks she's thrown the opportunity away. "I want this more than anything in the world," begs Hatie. I can think of a few things she wants more than this. A swift kick in the vagina, for example. It's a no from Louis. It's a yes from Cheryl. And it's a yes from Simon. So Hatie goes through to torment us all with her abhorrent personality at least until boot camp, and possibly further.
Another shitting ad break. Come on, guys, we can do it. We're nearly there.
The next act is 30-year-old Shirlena Johnson. She has her own voluntary business organisation, but does not give us specifics. She is a single mother, so we should VOTE FOR HER. She's been singing since she was 18, and is trained "in opera style", but likes other styles, like 1940s/pop/contemporary. Shirlena has brought her daughter Mariah. Shirlena is insane, and social services have hopefully been called. [Dermot is adorable with the baby, though. - Carroe]
Shirlena arrives onstage and tells Louis that it's about time she got out there and showed the judges something different. "It could be me, who knows?" What an odd thing to say. She talks about having had some vocal training. Louis asks her who her vocal coach is, which is SUCH a fucking scripted question that I'm going to need a long soothing bath after this to quell my rage. I mean, Lord knows we all know that everything on this programme is about as natural as those things which are ominously labelled "cheese food slices" in the supermarket, but at least make a slightly more effective attempt at concealing the artifice, can't you? Anyway, Shirlena says that her vocal coach's name is Helena Shanel, a name Louis recognises. Helena Shanel has apparently worked with George Michael and Shirley Bassey, which I can verify with a quick google, though after tonight I'm not sure if she'll be working with them again. Shirlena will be singing her own arrangement of Duffy's 'Mercy' which, it turns out, involves a lot of breathy spoken-word counting, a fuckload of autotune, and very little connection with rhythm, melody or music as we know it. It also goes on for-fucking-ever, because apparently there was no actual talent in London or Glasgow, and we need people like Shirlena, who really would be better off in a room with padded walls, to pad the programme out. The judges crack themselves up at Shirlena's "performance", and even Shirlena herself seems to find it hilarious. I wish someone would let me in on the joke, because this stopped being funny for me about five seconds after it began. And seriously, the auto-tune is OUT OF CONTROL on this whole thing.
Simon trots out "I've never heard anything like that in my life" again, and I refer you to what I said about this about ten paragraphs ago, as my point still stands. He asks Shirlena when she came up with this. "Last night," is the answer. Simon asks Shirlena why she kept saying "release me" over and over again. Shirlena replies that this is because "we all need to feel release", and asks Simon if he does not like to feel that. "Yes, I do, a lot," says Simon. This is such a fucking set-up. Simon found the performance "crazy", but he likes Shirlena. Louis thinks it was like she was making it up as she went along. "I did," Shirlena confirms. "I forgot my words from last night. What can I do? I just went from the heart and just did what I had to do for my little girl as well, backstage." Anyone who's playing the X Factor drinking game is going to be seriously wasted at this point.
It's a yes from Louis. A no from Cheryl. And a yes from Simon. Bloody hell, this show hates me [I thought it was only Sharon who was mental enough to put these contestants through, but Simon? Sheesh - Rad]. Simon says that he wants to hear her do it again. Then watch the rushes, Simon. Don't subject the rest of us to that any more than we need to be. Shirlena collects her kid from Dermot, though I think he would've been far more sensible to keep hold of the poor mite.
And that's it. There's a trailer of what's to come, which appears to include: scarves, more autotune, a pop star, some mentals, Nicole Schwarzenegger, Katy Perry being an abomination, Pixie Lott being vacant, somone crying a lot, Cheryl wearing the same dress she was just wearing, someone who looks like Ethan from Being Erica, Cheryl dying of malaria, some sassy gays, Louis getting stroppy, and someone hitting her group-mate in the face, which is horrifying to Cheryl, who had a lot of probation time to think about how That Is Wrong.
We'll be going through it all again next week. Join us, won't you? And don't forget to check out Bitching's Next Top Model if you're that way inclined!