Clouds. Peter Dickson: "Over the years, The X Factor has auditioned people from every walk of life." Translucent images of Leona, JLS, The Claw, Alexandra BURKE, Olly fucking MURS, Mawliddle Joe McElderry, floating through the clouds. Er, are they all dead? Did I miss a major news story? No, apparently we're just getting a rhetoric-filled intro VT, showing us how these people turned their dreams into reality. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it seems a slightly odd way to start episode four. I'm guessing this episode came in a little short of its agreed running time. Peter Dickson reminds us that past contestants are currently dominating the charts, with Olly's dreadful single currently at number one, and Alexandra's also-dreadful new single set to replace it this weekend, and others one step closer to achieving that goal (quickfire shots of people who've already been put through this year, including Honking Racket Cher, The Lazy Decorator, Hatey, Gamu and a bunch of others who've already faded from my memory), the auditions hit London (again?) and Cardiff, with guest judge Pixie Lott sitting in for Dannii at the latter. Some people will be good! Some people will not! It's time. Y'know, to face the music. And then we're treated to a preview of Louis being outraged at Pixie rejecting someone, and Pixie sitting there, chewing her fingernails and staring into space, as though someone's just asked her what "vapid" means.
I spy a red dragon on a flag, ergo we must be in Beautiful Cardiff. Wales is a nation of singers, Dermot tells us, though I'm sure most of the ones with any ability will have had the good sense to steer well clear of this show. A Welsh lad claims he'll be the first Welsh winner of the show. I bet you ten quid we never see him again. The judges arrive: Simon, Louis, a not-dead-yet Cheryl, and "one of the UK's hottest new popstars", Pixie Lott, who despite being a mere 18 years old, has had five top 20 hits, three Brit nominations, and a double-platinum selling album. And yet still, Geri Halliwell continues to have outsold all these bitches. Pixie walks into her dressing room. She's chewing on her nails, just like we saw in the teaser. Is nail-chewing going to be tonight's leitmotif? Am I going to end up mailing her 20 bottles of Stop 'n' Grow before we hit the second ad break?
The appeal of sitting in the audience during the audition process for this show continues to elude me, and yet the great British public file in in their thousands to watch the spectacle, while Pixie gets acquainted with the regular judges backstage - except for Cheryl, who is instead wandering the corridor telling us she's got a good feeling about today. Louis tells Pixie that they always get somebody in Cardiff; in fact, they got two people last year. Those two people, by the way? Lucie Jones and Lloyd Daniels. So, totally worth it, then. [West End Leading Lady Lucie Jones, to be fair. - Carrie]
Our first auditionee of the day, Kash Dholliwar, saunters up to the counter, and introduces himself. He's 21, and a sales executive for T-Mobile. He drives a white BMW convertible, wears sunglasses indoors, and is apparently some sort of part-time model. This is all reality TV shorthand for "loves himself", of course, though to his credit he acknowledges that he will need to "deliver with the voice too". Kash high-fives his entourage backstage, and tells us that he's the sort of person who makes things happen. He heads out onto the stage, and is greeted by Pixie. He prefaces his audition performance by saying "let's make some music". Oh dear. He'll be singing Ne-Yo's 'Closer' and, as we all suspected, he's not good at all. Nasal, weak, whiny, all the usual stuff. Backstage, his mates have the decently to look faintly embarrassed. Conveniently, just as he's at the "I just can't stop" part of the chorus, Simon signals for the music to cease.
Cheryl is lost for words. "I wasn't really feeling it, to be honest with you," she says. Kash, displaying an unusual level of genre savviness, wonders if he might perhaps be able to sing something else for them - perhaps something acapella. Simon's disappointed, because he thought at first that Kash was going to be good. "I am," Kash insists. Simon tells him he's got a whiny voice, and he sounds like he's got a really bad cold. It's a no from everyone, and suddenly Simon's not feeling optimistic about Cardiff.
Next, Cheryl admires eccentric 37-year-old event manager Diana Zavina's sparkly headband. Diana sings Ms Ross's seminal 'I'm Coming Out' shrilly and tunelessly. Simon thinks she's like something out of a workout video. It's a no for Diana, but a fairly gracious one. Next up a man called Vivian, who declares his love for Cheryl and sings 'Moon River' even worse than Emilie. Next up is two-piece band Danomic, alias Dan and Dominic. "I see what you've done there," Pixie confirms, just to make sure we all know she's paying attention of a sort. They want to be as big as JLS, but their atonal rendition of 'Everybody In Love' earns them instant dismissal. A girl in Elphaba-style green face paint who was clearly just out to get her veridian visage on the telly by looking like a doof prompts Simon to ask Cheryl if they're sisters. She's gone, too. It's 55-year-old Rob's birthday today. He's divorced, because of "musical differences" - he liked "soul" and she liked "heavy metal". He sings 'I Feel Good' poorly and scares the shit out of Pixie with his opening note, who is defeated by words once again when it comes to delivering her judgement. It's a no from Simon, but a yes from the other three, so Rob's through to boot camp. Backstage, Simon asks Louis if he's optimistic. Louis is. Simon says he'd like to be in Louis's head just for one day, because he's always happy. That's not exactly my recollection of events.
Ad break. THERE ARE KITTENS IN IKEA! *ded from teh cute*
When we return, we're still in Cardiff. A girl onstage who is not named oversings her way through 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' [why can't this be on the list of songs Simon tells people he doesn't want to hear yet again? Rad]. We segue through to posing 16-year-old artiste Tom Richards. [The moment I saw him I knew Louis would love him. Waistcoats and white T-shirts are like Louis crack - Rad] He talks about being from a small town where there are no career opportunities, which on this show usually means five minutes away from Cardiff city centre. He thinks that if his music career takes off, he will leave his home town. That's how it works for most people, yes. His parents have given up a lot for him, which his dad thinks was entirely worth it because his son now goes out singing instead of turning tricks, or something. His parents seem proud. We cut back to the oversinging girl, while Tom waits (ha!) in the wings, and Cheryl delivers oversinging girl the entirely meaningless when taken out of context report: "you need to come back as you". Thanks for that, editors! I totally understand how that audition went now! Anyway, oversinging girl gets three yeses and will be returning, and Tom is shoved out onto the stage behind her.
Pixie waves vaguely at him, and is excited to hear that he's 16. "You look like you should be in a boyband," she tells him. Tom is unsure whether this is a compliment or not, but takes it as one all the same. Tom sings 'The Man Who Can't Be Moved' by The Script, much to Pixie's delight. I'm not sure quite why she's getting so much of the judging face time because the more I see of her, the more I'm convinced that she's being operated on strings by an unseen technician. Brian Friedman, perhaps? Seriously, she's so lifeless. She's almost making me miss Katy bloody Perry. Anyway, Tom is singing his song, passably enough, strutting up and down the stage, doing some rather old-fashioned crotch-grabbing dancing. The crowd applauds him enthusiastically enough when he finishes. Cheryl tells him that the movement was a bit contrived at times; hilariously, several parts of the crowd scream joyously at this point, apparently unaware of what "contrived" means. Then again, they have voluntarily gone along to an X Factor audition, so I can't say I'm entirely surprised. Apart from that, however, Cheryl thinks he was the best in this category so far today. Louis liked the voice, but not the "silly stage antics". Simon thinks the market has moved on for a singer like Tom, and his performance felt like a boyband from five or six years ago. He thinks Tom needs to know the sort of gap in the market he needs to be filling. Louis suggests - you guessed it - that Tom sing another song. There's an awkward pause, before Tom makes the spectacularly poor decision to introduce his next performance by saying that "nobody here has ever made it in musical theatre" [this makes no sense given how many of them do indeed go ontp work in the West End and such, unless I missed his point - Rad], and he's "going to try something a little bit different." Simon's jazzhands alert starts honking in his head, and he asks Tom if he listened to what Simon just said. Tom's all "...erm." Tom looks pained. Tom's family and entourage shout from offstage for him to sing 'This Is The Moment'. Tom tells the panel that he's going to stick to his guns. Louis, displaying an impressive inability to read a room: "I like him a lot."
So Tom sings 'This Is The Moment', which is of course the absolute worst song he could've chosen given Simon's critique of his first performance. There are a lot of copycat musical theatre affectations to the performance; it's not a bad vocal, but it is annoyingly affected, and I rather want him to fail now just for being pigheaded enough to think that he could somehow ignore a direct instruction from Simon and still survive his audition. I mean, come on. Five years ago I might have felt compassionate enough to call that naivety; these days, it's just idiocy. Simon stops him, and says that he couldn't have chosen a worse song. [The poor boy's SIXTEEN, Steven! /Louis voice - Carrie] Louis asks Simon if he doesn't think Tom has potential; Simon thinks he possibly does, but he's not what they're looking for in a pop star. Cheryl clarifies that they're looking for someone with a clearer artistic identity, when Tom chose two completely different songs. Pixie thinks he could have a career in the West End, but Tom assures her he wants to be a pop star. So what was all that "nobody here has made it in musical theatre" bollocks about then? Oh, he angers me. Louis, of course, thinks Tom is fantastic and a
Simon kicks off the decision-making with a no. Louis votes yes. Cheryl Cole, dreammaker and people's princess, votes yes of course. Pixie Lott, making her sole sensible decision of this entire debacle, votes no. Of course, then Louis decides to work her over, telling her to "give him a chance". For fuck's sake, he's already had two. And he's not going to win this competition. He'll be lucky if he makes judges' houses, quite frankly. Pixie, initially, sticks to her guns. "Please say yes! Please say yes!" the audience chants. [This is exactly why the fucking audience should fuck off - Rad] Pixie, looking for all the world as though she is reading from an autocue, then decides she's going to "give him a chance" and changes her mind. I'd say that I lost all my respect for her at this point, but I think we all know I never had any respect for her to begin with. Mika's 'Happy Ending' cues up on the soundtrack, because no one on this show cares enough to look at the actual lyrics and realise that they actually say "no happy ending". Backstage, Dermot tells Tom that he owes Louis a big drink. It's best we don't think about that sentence too closely.
17-year-old student Katie Smith will be singing Pixie Lott's version of 'Use Somebody', which sounds uncannily like Brooke White's version if Katie is to be believed. Four yeses for Katie. More yeses for a girl with no name. 18-year-old barmaid Lauren Francis sings 'Heard It Through The Grapevine' and is orange. Louis thinks she has likeability. She's through as well. An atrociously-dressed girl gets through, as does a three-piece boyband. Pub singer Lee Vaughan, 29, sings 'Come Together' while dry-humping the lighting rig. He's through as well.
And then we're done with Cardiff, and with Pixie, who will hopefully now be taking her annoying vapid personality far away from me.
Ads. Teaser of Louis Walsh storming out in a huff. Again.
When we return, we're in London "again". No guest judge here, of course, because it's the same set of auditions we've seen in every episode so far. Louis and Simon exchange small talk in a lift, and then we're onto our first audition of the day, three-piece girl group Bun 'nd Cheese. They're named after their favourite food - a spiced bun with processed cheese on top. Okay then. One of them tells us that they've done about 12 gigs, "mostly karaoke", and they aspire to be like Beyoncé or Mary J Blige. We discover their real names - Mary, Ebony and Debbie - and Simon is rather nonplussed by the band name. They'll be singing 'Listen' by Beyoncé. During the song's intro, we can hear them discussing something about how they're going to perform it, and if there hadn't been enough THIS IS A BAD AUDITION signifiers by now, I think we can remove all doubt at this point. They're awful, of course - they can't sing, and they don't know the words. They stand there like lemons for a while, then tentatively pick up the words halfway through the chorus, but they're still awful. Simon tells them that they didn't even try, and laughs in their faces. He says that he likes them because of their bad attitude. Louis thinks it's like they just walked in off the street. "No, we're a really good group, trust me," Debbie insists. Cheryl can't work out if it's a joke or not. At this point, who even knows any more? It's a no for Bun 'nd Cheese. Backstage, Disingenuous Dermot says that they were all rooting for them. He's such a toady.
Who's next? It's annoying hipster Nicolo Festa, or Nic for short. He's 21, and lives in London, but he's originally from Italy. He wants to be an icon who gives people goosebumps just at the mention of his name. He claims that modern music is too predictable, and that he can't tell the difference between Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. I'd say he's not trying very hard, but I think we all know that's a lie. He vows to show the judges "how big my X Factor is". Eww. He goes onstage, and Cheryl asks if he is French. Louis asks him what brought him here today. "It's pretty obvious," scoffs Nicolo. He tells the judges that he's good at different things, and he'll be singing 'A Song For You'. He sings it straight down his nose, which is annoying because it's clear he'd have a nice voice if he bothered to sing properly. The audience lap it up, like the mugs that they are. Cheryl thinks he's "charming", but she doesn't know why. Perhaps it's his Italian accent, she wonders. You know, the one that she thought was French a few minutes ago. She thinks he's "diva-ish". Simon likes Nicolo because he's weird. Simon tells Nicolo it's not the best version of the song he's heard. "No?" asks Nicolo, "genuinely" surprised. It's three yeses for Nicolo. He exits, and Cheryl's clearly smitten, because we all know she has terrible taste in men.
More ads. Are we nearly there yet?
We're still in London on our return, and we're greeted by barely functional five-piece boyband FYD, who sing Plan B's 'She Said'. It's too abstract for Simon, but Louis and Cheryl put them through. Some more people we barely see get put through. Amusingly giggly 19-year-old McDonald's employee Raquel Thomas sings 'Superwoman' by Alicia Keys acapella, and pleasantly surprises the judges. She's through to boot camp. A random girl sings 'At Last', and is through. Jo Beetlestone, 23, is a student of equine dentistry - "horses' teeth", she supplies helpfully, because they keep on growing, unlike human teeth. Cheryl is intrigued and horrified by this revelation. She sings 'All The Man I Need' by Whitney Houston, which Simon thinks is very brave, though not as brave as singing the perennially cursed 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', if you ask me. Jo's through. [I liked her. And she had a nan! - Carrie]
19-year-old Paije Richardson is a cinema usher, but dreams of singing superstardom. He seems sweet; I hope he's not awful. He sings 'Fly Me To The Moon' for the judges in that sub-Bublé ske-boop-skiddleybop way that everyone does these days. Again, there'd be a nice tone there if he weren't so determined to make a mess of it. Louis likes the jazzy tone of his voice, and thinks he's the one of the best singers of the day. Cheryl, on the other hand, declares herself "on the fence". Simon's with Cheryl. The audience boo and jeer. Continuing his thought from earlier, Simon says that he feels like he could be at a wedding right now, but given the audience's current state, it rather sounds like Simon attends a lot of rowdy weddings. Louis comes to Paije's defence and says he's not a wedding singer. Louis votes yes. He didn't connect for Cheryl, so she says no. It's a no from Simon as well. What, no "try another song"? Louis attempts to defend Paije and get Simon and/or Cheryl to change their minds, though not as much as he harangued Pixie the weathervane. The audience continues to jeer and then - in a clear sign that we are now through the looking-glass - starts to chant Louis's name enthusiastically. Louis walks off, and heads backstage to Paije, telling him that he's got a great voice, and that he should try going away and coming back again to sing something different later in the day. Louis promises to try and talk Simon and Cheryl in the meantime.
More ads. I'm quite impressed the Sunday Times commercial isn't hidden behind a paywall. Surely it's only a matter of time?
After the break, we're still in London, and get more black and white flashbacks of previous auditions, good and bad. They really must have been short on material, mustn't they? Paije has been waiting all day for his second chance. Bloody fucking 'Hometown Glory' plays on the soundtrack as the show helpfully recaps the events that we saw not more than 10 minutes ago, because presumably this show takes its viewers for drooling simpletons. Dermot wishes Paije good luck and sends him back on the stage. Wow, it's fortunate that no noteworthy acts came on to audition in all that time Paije was practising, huh? That would've screwed up the narrative something chronic. Paije returns to a hero's welcome. Simon tells Paije that he appreciates him coming back, but he'll have to do better than he did earlier. Louis asks what he'll be singing. Paije has chosen 'It's A Man's Man's Man's World' by James Brown, and he has also decided to chop the last few consonants off every word he sings. We get a reaction shot of Cheryl, looking studious. Simon, looking impenetrable. There is what I am entirely sure is a spontaneous standing ovation for Paije, and Simon tells him that he's got a good voice and great taste in music, and this was definitely a better performance than earlier. Cheryl agrees that he stepped up his performance from earlier. Louis thinks he's special. They take it to a re-vote. It's a yes from Louis. It's a yes from Cheryl. And a yes from Simon, so Paije is through. Simon and Cheryl high-five in a rather self-indulgent way. Paije is grateful for the chance to progress to boot camp and prove himself.
Next weekend: it's a double bill! (Dear God.) Cheryl's away, and the auditions hit Manchester with Nicole Scherzinger, who seems very enthusiastic. We'll be here, as always. Join us, won't you?