So, prior to all this, there were auditions. Y'all were there, right? And you read the recaps? Well, even if you didn't, the show's now going to recap the entire series so far, presumably to ITV can justify including another ad break. I'd complain, but maybe they'll spend the revenue on some quality drama or something. Hope springs eternal, and all that. Suffice to say the recap includes all the usual suspects that have been hammered into the ground already: G&S, Skinny Cher, Lazy Decorator, Paije, Irish Susan Boyle, Nicolo, and of course that old standby, She Punched Her In The Face.
Tonight, however, it is boot camp. The next five minutes of the show essentially give you enough information to make watching the rest of the episode entirely unnecessary, but I think the fact that this show and this blog are both still going strong proves that none of us are actually strong enough to switch off. But: there will be changes! The 200 remaining acts head to Wembley Arena. There are "literally" no second chances. (Unless you're Treyc. Or Irish Susan Boyle. Or Annastasia. Or...well, you get my point.) There will be dancing! Lots of people will cry! And best guest judge ever Nicole Scherzinger will be back, eventually, though it will take far too long. It's time to face the music, it's time to light the lights, it's time to meet the muppets for The Muppet Show tonight. Titles!
Dermot's standing outside Wembley Arena, telling us that "this is where the next phase of the competition begins". There are 211 acts remaining (interestingly, in the pre-titles VT they said there were 200, though 211 is a less exact and therefore more believable number). There are shots of planes landing and the Eurostar arriving and Cher even gets a dedicated camera crew capturing her as she walks into Birmingham New Street station with her pink wheely suitcase. I would pay serious money for someone to be trailing one of those behind them on the upcoming series of The Apprentice. Gamu tells us she's been practising hard and is very excited. Treyc is going to give it her all. Mary thinks it is fantastic that a 50-year-old woman is on her way to boot camp. Is it really that remarkable as a concept? Dermot tells us unnecessarily that Wembley Arena has played host to "some of the biggest names in the business", as though some viewers would be sitting at home going "oh, Wembley Arena. I was thinking of Wembley Drum Centre." (No offence to Wembley Drum Centre intended; I'm sure they've had many celebrated visitors of their own too.) [Is this so all the happy campers can claim they've performed at Wembley? I so would, if I was them - Rad]
It's 12.33pm on Day 1, and the acts all miraculously arrive at the same time despite having travelled from all over the country, such is the harmonious synergy that is the X Factor experience. Twem are very excited to be at boot camp. Aiden loves singing, which is fairly handy, all things considered. Marlon goes one better and insists that he needs this. Dermot tells us that the acts head "straight into the arena", though the on-screen clock says 2.09pm. I would say that going "straight into" something does not normally take an hour and a half. I realise the security checks at large venues can be fairly protracted, but even so I find myself wondering what exactly happened in those lost 96 minutes. Anyway, everyone assembles on stage, while Dermot reminds us that Cheryl and Dannii are "away", so Simon and Louis are in charge, God help us all. Louis tells us that boot camp is tough becaue showbusiness is tough. Simon reminds us that he's looking for a star. He's also looking for someone to sew some buttons back onto his shirt if the amount of chest foliage he's got on display is any indication. At 2.25pm, Simon and Louis walk through the arena doors, and the assembled contestants applaud. I'd feel sorry for them, having been stood on a stage for the best part of 20 minutes while precisely nothing happened, but that's also a part of showbiz they'd probably best get used to sooner rather than later.
Simon welcomes the crowd, and congratulates "one of [them]", because obviously the winner is on that stage somewhere. I know: try to contain your excitement, eh? Simon tells them that half of them will be going home by the end of the day. The first cut is the deepest, kids. He explains that they will be split into their categories, and will get a chance to perform one song. Louis says they're only going to pick the best. Simon tells them that there are no second chances. Though, if you think about it, this is actually everyone's second chance, because their initial audition was their first chance. (Yes, yes, I know, six or seven auditions with production staff before you get anywhere near the telly, but let's try not to puncture that well-crafted televisual illusion, eh?) [and the extra song they all seemed to get this year when their first performance sucked - Rad]
Dermot elaborates on the details for us: they're split into girls, boys, over-25s (interesting - I thought it was over-28s this year. I assume that little revision will be happening later, perhaps in a Shock Spontaneous Twist like the time[s - Rad] they decided to put some of the rejected soloists into groups). Each category is given one song, and a team of "industry experts" (as well as NotLouis). The categories are all taken off to work through their songs with the vocal coaches: for the girls, it's Beyoncé's 'If I Were A Boy', for the boys it's Fergie's 'Big Girls Don't Cry'. Oh, of course not: it's Michael Jackson's 'Man In The Mirror'. The groups are singing Starship's 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now' and all the over-25s will sing Lady Gaga's 'Poker Face'. By having everyone sing the same song, we're told it'll give Simon and Louis an opportunity to judge the singers directly against their competition. This seems awfully lazy. By these standards, you might as well make all the contestants in the live shows sing the same song as each other as well, so the voters can compare things more easily. After all, if this is the only way that music industry bigwigs can judge fairly, what chance do the rest of us have? Simon tells us that the challenge at this point is "fairly simplistic". Yeah, no kidding. Cher thinks the competition is heating up. Liam likes competition; he thinks that it is good. Hatey is daunted because she's surrounded by people who are "Beyoncéing it out", and as much as I loathe her, I can't be entirely against anyone who uses Beyoncé as a verb. The verb "to Beyoncé". I Beyoncé, she Beyoncés, we have Beyoncen.
At 3.37pm, it's time for the first set of performances from the over-25s. Conveniently enough, Stephen is up first, meaning that our first bootcamper was also our first auditionee of the series. Whoever arranges the running orders for these shows apparently has "a touch of the OCD", as Cheryl would put it. He goes for the time-honoured trick of changing the tempo, notes and structure of the song to hide the fact that he doesn't sound good singing it. Montage time! From this we are expected to deduce that things are not going well. "Is it the song?" Louis asks Simon. "It's not the song," Simon insists. To be honest, I think it is the song, a little bit - in the same way that Rachel struggled with 'With Every Heartbeat', some songs are kind of dependent on the charisma of the original artist to sell them, and don't really function that well as vocal showcases - I suspect 'Poker Face' might also be one of them. Not having any backing music isn't exactly helping matters either [the lack of audience, however, is refreshing - Rad]. Backstage, Simon confesses that "this is one category nobody is going to want to have". So, the same as every other year then? Cheryl needn't worry anyway; they'd never give her this category in a million years because she wouldn't be able to preface every contestant's name with "maw liddle" during the live shows. Simon mentions that there were some good people in there, and montage suggests that they include Lazy Decorator, Marlon, Storm and Irish Susan Boyle. Louis notes there are "some very strange" voices this year. Well, don't look at us, you weasel: you had the chance to reject them at least once already, and you chose not to take it.
Groups now. They seem to be faring better than the over-25s, but we don't get to see much of them. The boys all sound incredibly nasal. Tobias's voice completely cracks on the chorus. Backstage, he cries on Dermot. "I've been practising all day," he sobs. Well, perhaps that's the problem; your vocal chords are probably shot. Tobias skulks off to await the news of his fate; two other contestants pat him feebly on the back as if to say: "we ostensibly feel your pain, but realistically-speaking, we are thrilled that you just fucked up because it increases our chances of success."
Adverts! I was watching the show with my adorable six-year-old niece this week, and during the Super Mario Bros anniversary advert, she mistook Ant and Dec for Jedward. It's the sort of mistake that could happen to anyone.
We return, and it's time to check in with the girls, because presumably they're the only category the show cares about this year. We see them with the vocal coach again, and Dermot narrates that "already, some are taking it more seriously than others", as Chloe shuffles in at the back, clearly late and seemingly not giving one tiny fuck. Chloe explains for the benefit of the cameras that she went out last night (and, we assume, got hammered) and has been throwing up all morning. Excellent.
Tough shit for Chloe, then, as she doesn't have time to get her shit together, since the girls are off to perform for Simon and Louis. Annastacia is up first, and tells us that she wants to show the judges that she deserves to be in the competition. Her performance sounds a little sharp to me. The rest of the line-up trundle through their versions, and I can't help thinking how tricky it must be to prepare your own take on a song, but then to have to listen to six people sing their own version of it before you do. I'd probably have forgotten what I was planning to do with it by the time my turn came. Hatey is worried that she's going to forget her words (again) and is freaked out about it. Judging from her performance, I think her time would've been more profitably spent on worrying about remembering the tune. More girls, whose names we are not given and whose faces I do not recall. Eventually nervous Rebecca turns up, and is nervous some more, and Gamu turns up, and much to my disappointment does not reverse the lyrics of the song so it becomes about not wanting to be a boy. Then there's Chloe, who tells the judges that she needs a wee because she's so nervous. But don't worry, she'll "save it". For a special occasion? She oversings it, and is as tune-adjacent as she was before. Incidentally, the adorable six-year-old niece I mentioned earlier? Yeah, Chloe's her favourite. Not quite sure how or why, but there you go. Backstage, Chloe tells Dermot that she wishes she could've done better, but she gave it her all "at the time". The girls are dismissed. What, no Cher? I'm a little surprised.
So now the 211 acts must sit and stew in a holding room while Simon and Louis decide who they're keeping, with a little help from the "experts". At this point the show does that annoying thing of showing one of the judges going "this girl was great" while showing a footage of a favoured contestant and trying to make us associate the two things. I hate that so much. Nervous Rebecca says she doesn't want it to end here. Simon and Louis evaluate the groups; Louis thinks Cheryl "would love" a particular act. FYD think they did the best that they could, and they've "got the chops to back it up". They're not bragging about their singing ability, by the way; they sent a hamper of pork products to Simon's dressing room as a bribe. Husstle have their fingers crossed. Then the boys are reviewed, and Tobias sobs some more about having to wait to hear what he assumes will be terrible news. Louis interviews that he sees a lot of potential in people where Simon perhaps does not. It's a fair point, but then Louis also saw potential in The Unconventionals and The Conway Sisters, so draw your own conclusions. Louis then attempts to curry favour by invoking the spirit of the absent Cheryl, and swearing that she'd agree with him if she were there. Finally, a decision is made, and the contestants are summoned back to hear their news. It's bad news for Tobias, who is indeed going home, and presumably looking for job number 22 now. Multi-coloured Wojciech is also sent packing. It's good news, however, for Husstle, Princes & Rogues, and Diva Fever, who are all through. So are Harry, Liam and Tom, Marlon, Gamu, Hatey, Cher, Twem, Aiden and Chloe, amongst others. There are celebrations. Mary calls Dermot "Dermy-Wermy". Shudder.
Adverts. Christine Bleakley and Mick Hucknall: together at last!
When we return, it's Day 2, and there's a brand new challenge in store. Rather than tell us what this challenge might be, however, we're shown the assembled remaining contestants discussing how they don't know what's happening. It's 2.15pm, and they're all brought onto the stage. Cabin fever has clearly set in, as they applaud Simon and Louis rapturously upon their entrance. Simon congratulates them on making it this far, and tells them that he sees a star in every category. Wow, four whole stars. The 12-strong live finals are going to be fun this year, aren't they? And then, of course, there is the bad news: today they will be dancing. This is the cue for NotLouis to enter, dressed like an absolute fool as always in a green two-piece (I think -- or rather, I hope) hooded tracksuit, with the hood up over his head and the top unzipped to a frankly indecent level. This does little to allay my fears that NotLouis is, in fact, a close relative of the lady from the 'Doublemeat Palace' episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer who was in fact concealing an alien penis monster on the top of her head. NotLouis tells the acts that they will be learning choreography, because if they make it through to the top 12, they will have to
The contestants are walked through a routine which they will eventually perform to the soundtrack of Lady Gaga's 'Telephone', and they'll have to perform in their categories for the judges. NotLouis tells us that his job is to break down any walls that they have. ActualLouis says that this demostrates how the show is not just about singing "any more", it's about being entertaining. This is revisionist history: If the show had ever been solely about singing, then they wouldn't have called it The X Factor, would they? Simon admits that they've never done this before and he has no idea if it's the right thing to do or not. Simon and Louis then piss off for a fag break or something while NotLouis commands the rehearsal. Diva Fever tell us they will "give it 110%" (drink!). Nicolo thinks the dancing looks all wrong. Husstle are happy because dance is a big part of their performance. Steven is pleased because he will lose weight from the dancing. NotLouis singles out one group near the front who are "killing it" and have "the right swag", and he says that he would love to choreograph a full routine for them. I'm slightly more distracted by the fact that one of them is wearing shorts that appear to give him a very obvious Visible Penis Line. Wow, that's the second time I've said penis in two paragraphs. I'm such a pottymouth. Mary says that she's "forgotten how good it feels to exercise" and is enjoying herself. Wagner thinks it isn't hard to pick it up, because it's like karate sequences.
After all that, they try performing it to the music. NotLouis tells some of them they look pretty, and therefore they are not trying hard enough. Zain Malik, who I don't think we've seen before, tells us that he's not from a dancing background and he's finding it frustrating because he can't pick it up. Mary's struggling because of her knees and her arthritis.
Simon says that it's not about judging them on their dancing ability, but to get the contestants experienced at performing as a whole. As he and Louis return to the arena, NotLouis lines the under-25 boys up to perform first. Many of them seem to struggle, and only Tom of being-saved-by-Pixie-Lott fame stands out in a good way. Someone called Niall is all over the place. Most of these boys' attempts at freestyling are cringeworthy. Then Simon spots that Zain is missing, and it turns out he's gone off backstage in a strop because he can't do the dancing. "I just feel like an idiot on the stage," he tells the camera crew that are waiting for him back there, apparently unaware that "idiots on the stage" was the working title for this show. Simon decides to go and find him, in a moment that I am sure is entirely spontaneous and genuine. "You can't just bottle it. You can't just hide behind her. You're ruining this for yourself," Simon tells him. Of course, these magic words are all that Zain needs to return to the stage. "Don't do it again," Simon scolds. They pass a random female contestant on the stairs who looks decidedly unimpressed with all of this fuckery. Zain returns to his group and fumbles his way through the dance, staring at his shoes the entire time, though I think we're supposed to see this as some kind of triumph of the human spirit. Zain vows to try to polish up his dancing skills for future purposes.
The girls go up next. Simon thinks Gamu looks cute, and Raquel is banishing her nerves. Then the groups go up, and Simon is impressed with Husstle. NotLouis thinks it's funny that the group containing the boy with the distracting bulge are all trying to outdance each other. Then it's the turn of the over-25s; Mary vows that she will not let her arthritis beat her. She forgets the routine halfway through, and makes a "I haven't got a fucking clue!" face at Simon, but styles her way through it rather charmingly. She tells Dermy-Wermy backstage that she didn't let herself down, or Louis. Because they are both IRISH. [Wasn't this the part where she called Louis 'that Irish fella' because she'd forgotten his name? That made me chuckle - Rad]
Simon attempts to psych everyone out by pretending they're about to make more cuts, but they're not. Challenge number three is singing another song (shocker!), and more than half of the people remaining will be cut in the next 24 hours, with those who survive getting through to judges' houses. That makes it sound a bit like the big cut is happening after this challenge, but it's just enigmatic wording on Simon's part - I think the big cut is happening in like 23.5 hours time or something.
Still to come: more booting. Adverts!
When we return, we get a recap of the challenge facing the remaining contestants: to pick one song from a list of 40, and stand out from the crowd. Only 108 acts remain, and the judges' houses are tantalisingly close. The contestants arrive at Wembley Arena again at 12.33pm, trailing their luggage behind them for reasons that are never fully explained. The contestants line up on stage again, ready for Simon's latest big annoucement: they've called in reinforcements for today's judging, which is the cue for My New Favourite Judge Nicole Scherzinger to make her triumphant return. "This is where we separate the boys from the men and the pussycats from the dolls," she says rather nonsensically. But it's okay, Nicole! I still love you!
Some of the contestants file off into the audience to watch the day's performances, while others head backstage for some last minute fine-tuning. I suspect they were not given any choice regarding which of these two options they pursued. First up is Cher, and we're shown her awful first audition again. Cher tells the cameras that she's put a lot of thought into her song, but she'll be putting a twist on it: she's including a rap and some self-penned lyrics at the beginning. She admits to Dermot that it's a bit of a risk. Vocal coach Ali tells her to use the swagger that she knows she's got, because what she's about to do hasn't been done yet. Cher's worried the judges might not understand what she's about. As far as I can tell, she's mainly about dressing like a tit and making cringeworthy attempts to sound gangsta, but perhaps I'm one of the people not 'getting' her. She's singing 'Viva La Vida', and the self-penned rap is a load of old bollocks, quite frankly, about Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods and Oprah [I missed all of those references because the Jerusalem bells-a-ring-a-dinging line has been going round and round in my head ever since. Thanks for that, Cher - Rad]. Then the backing track scratches and restarts and she segues into the actual lyrics, and I think she's the most irritatingly affected contestant since The Claw. And her singing, to be frank, is not brilliant - she's sharp most of the time and her phrasing is rather mushy. [She's FUCKING AWFUL. Even the Claw was better than her. - Carrie] Simon loves it, despite his professed loathing of all things self-indulgent. Nicole liked her originality. Backstage, Cher tells Dermot that she's only just realised how much she wants it.
More people flow through. Club singer Keri Arrindell, who is 23 but looks about 16, sings 'Creep' [rather flatly - Carrie] and says that the process is bringing her out of her shell. Rogues & Princes sing 'Party In The USA' (+5 points) badly (-2 points) and changing the lyrics to reference the Pussycat Dolls (-50 points). Hard luck, chaps. Also, one of them still looks like David Spade, and that's never going to end well. They're now giving it 1000%, though, which is quite impressive. Harry sings 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' down his nose, and has realised how much he wants to stay. 17-year-old Charlotte Dawson is adorable and sings 'Pack Up', but I have no recollection of her prior to this moment so I suspect she's not getting much further than this. Treyc also sings 'Creep' and is awesome, so I really hope she makes the finals because she's about the only contestant I can see myself actively supporting so far. I mean, I don't think she's got a hope in hell of winning, but she could possibly scrape top five if she plays her cards right. Then again, I'm fairly certain that I thought Alexandra Burke had no chance of winning when the 2008 live shows started, so we all know how much my opinion's worth. Nicole wants to take her on tour. Simon thinks she's one-dimensional, because this is the year of The Kook, sadly.
Storm Lee is next, and we're reminded of the tedious business of Simon hating his name. I'd feel more sorry for Storm if he weren't wearing a bowler hat and a fucking white blazer, mind. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole Birmingham/Cardiff/Dublin/Glasgow/Manchester thing turned out to be a sham and this year's auditions were all held in bloody Shoreditch. Storm tells us that every moment is a creative moment for him. Except for the moment of getting dressed. Storm takes to the stage and tells Nicole that she is gorgeous, then babbles on about being destined for all of this from a young age, and says that if they will let him, he will show them his charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. I'd say this was the first time they'd let a cunt slip past the compliance managers, but then I remember that Sharon Osbourne used to be on this show. Then he wails his way through 'Sweet Child Of Mine'. Simon thinks he's annoying. Nicole and Louis think he deserves a shot.
Commercials. My adorable niece thinks that Sky's "The Spenglers" advert is the most brilliant thing she's ever seen.
When we return, the infamous Chloe Victoria is next to perform, and we relive her unpleasant audition and her failure to turn up on time for the first day. Dermot asks her if she's putting the work in, and Chloe swears she is because it's "always on my mind". Maybe that's what she'll be singing? Chloe and her mad extensions take to the stage. She tells Simon that she wants to show everyone she can be what she wants to be, and make a better life for her daughter. She's singing 'Wishing On A Star', and of course because she has a backing track, she's completely off-key and singing down her nose. Simon pulls a face. The camera pans up her exposed torso - stay classy, ITV! - including the "I am nasty" tattoo around her belly button. Oh dear. Nicole is clearly finding the awful singing fairly hard to tolerate too. Then Chloe loses the words as well as the tune, and it's clearly all over for her at this point. The crowd cheer supportively, and Simon gestures for the music to be cut off. Chloe heads backstage and murmurs that she should "pack [her] bags now". Simon feels sorry for her. Nicole thinks she needs to work harder. [I agree to a point, but she's also clearly tone deaf. No good can come of pursuing a career in music. Best stick to the stuff she knows, right? - Carrie]
More acts filter through. FYD sing 'Pack Up' and seem to be both excellent and awful at various points. Chrissie Pitt sings 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' rather blandly. Karl Brown sings 'Like A Star' like every male R&B singer you've ever heard in your life. Simon thinks he's not ready. Then Tom Richards -- here by the grace of Pixie Lott, though for some reason Louis is the one who gets the credit for it now -- says that this time last year he was singing at school and karaoke nights, and is really pleased he's made it this far. He expresses nerves that there's a long instrumental that he'll need to fill with ad-libbing or dancing. He returns to the stage, and Simon nudges Nicole, 'this is Louis's boy'. We don't see the bit where Nicole jumps to the wrong conclusion, but we all know it happened, right? His singing is still rather mannered in the way it was last time, and he angers me by singing "in this ever-changing world in which we live in", because not only is that grammatically incorrect, but those aren't even the correct lyrics. His ad-libbing is frankly embarrassing, amounting to a series of increasingly desperate "whoa-oh yeah"s, but he gets a good response from the room and a hug from Dermot. Louis thinks he has improved. Simon tries to take credit for these alleged improvements. Nicole is asked for her opinion and is clearly thinking "he was shit" judging from the look on her face, but remembering that she's the constructive member of the panel, she offers: "I thought he would be really great in a boyband." Simon cackles.
More ads. Don't worry, we're nearly there.
Dermot's in a different shirt to the one he was wearing before the break, and the remaining contestants are waiting to go on. We flash back to Liam's ill-fated spell on the show in 2008 again, and back in the present day, he's worried about living up to his first audition, which he had a whole year to prepare for. NotLouis tells him that the worst thing he can do on stage if he fucks up is attempt to start over. He tells the panel that he's got the X factor because he hasn't given up on the enormous challenge he set himself two years ago. He'll be singing 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' by Oasis. He has a nice tone to his voice, but the synthetic backing vocals on the track are rather creepy. Also, he's the latest in a long line of people this evening who are dressed as an absolute tit. Louis is impressed. So is Nicole. Simon thinks he's one-dimensional. You've already used that line tonight, Simon; I'm beginning to think you're one-dimensional. Stephen returns to tell us that he's bringing the fun to the competition, and that failure is not an option for him. He sings 'A Song For You' - well, I say "sings". He strains and groans and I had to google the few words I recognised to figure out which song it was, but apparently the show has not cottoned on to how awful he is yet. Dutch Yuli sings 'To Make You Feel My Love', and says that it will be hard to find another chance as big as this one. Marlon sings 'Like A Star' and reminds us of the importance of working the stage. The Reason sing 'Bad Romance' mashed up with 'Just Dance', which doesn't work as well as you might think it would.. They feel it's their last chance, so they've got more to lose than other people. John Wilding appears to be wearing leggings and is also singing 'To Make You Feel My Love'.
Lazy Decorator is up next, and complains that he still lives with his parents in Essex. Perhaps he wouldn't have that problem if he stopped being such a lazy fuck, then. He makes a confusing driving analogy, and then tells us that he's chosen "a girl's song" and that he's the only guy in boot camp singing it. Yep, it's a song only for girls that has never been sung by a man. Jesus wept. His performance is shamelessly affected and kind of screechy, but in the way that this show seems to think is awesome and ground-breaking. Simon thinks he has "no confidence and self-belief", as though that is a good thing.
Coming up in part two! More of the same! The judges decide who stays and who goes! Cheryl and Dannii will make very brief appearances! And lots more crying!