Monday, August 29, 2011

Mersey shore

Auditions 2: 27th August 2011

Sometimes, unexpectedly, life deals you a lucky break. This weekend was one such example: I wasn't actually at home this Saturday, I went to Wales for my godson's first birthday party. We were staying at his grandparents' house, which was right out in the countryside (I hesitate to use the phrase "in the middle of nowhere" because it's such a cliché, but it was definitely pretty remote) and one of the first things my friend told me when we arrived was that they had no ITV1 reception, so I wouldn't be able to watch The X Factor. [I was also in the middle of nowhere this weekend, and I only got round to watching this on Tuesday morning because quite frankly I had more important things to watch when I got back. Like Doctor Who. And Neighbours. And Big Brother. And paint dry. - Rad] So I actually had a calm, relaxing Saturday evening where my blood pressure stayed at a perfectly healthy level. Of course, you can only dodge a bullet for so long and I'm still on recap duty for this episode, so I'm here now, ready to watch and hoping that it will at least be slightly less appalling than last week. Ready? Here we go.

So, last week: the show continued to waste our natural resources by flying each of the four judges to auditions in a separate helicopter. Kelly ROWLAND is shown taking responsibility for putting that monstrous Ellie Goulding tribute act through, TuLISA's recap is obviously taken up with George calling her chav scum or whatever awful thing it was he said, Louis WALSH lies that he doesn't hate everyone else on the panel now, and Gary BORELOW had no charisma whatsoever. Tonight: more lunatics, by the looks of it. Oh, boy.

Titles. Seriously, Giant X From Space, please land on me now. I won't even try to run.

There's a bit of Coldplay honking on the soundtrack ('Viva La Vida', and if it didn't make you think of Cher Lloyd and Jerusalem bells a-ring-a-dinging, you've clearly done a much better job of forgetting last year than I have) and it all gets a bit like a Hovis advert as we're treated to shots of UNASSUMING SIDESTREETS where people are getting up, pulling back the curtains and brushing their teeth, all the while dreaming of SOMETHING BETTER. There's a HIGH-RISE BLOCK in there too, because this show is INCLUSIVE. Obligatory chatter from somebody who doesn't like his day job, despite the fact that in this economy he's lucky to have one. People still seem to think that this show is a fast-track to selling out stadiums, despite the fact that poor Mawliddle Jor McEldree was reduced to appearing on another ITV reality show within two years of winning this thing. People with BRIGHTLY DYED HAIR, and oh God, ENOUGH WITH YOUR MONTAGE NOW. I do not care about any of these people. Show me them singing, and then I'll decide if I care. An OLDER MAN talks to his mother about doing it for HER AND HIS DAD (WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE DEAD, WE HAVEN'T ESTABLISHED THIS YET). People ride on PUBLIC TRANSPORT and queue outside the O2 Arena. Finally we get our first sighting of Derwood, who tells us that we're in London, just in case the shot of Battersea Power Station, the BT Tower, the River Thames, and the former Millennium Dome had left us in any way confused.

The judges arrive (in separate cars, naturally) and we're treated to a shot straight down Tulisa's cleavage as she steps out. Tulisa is excited to be in her home town. Louis reminds us that the O2 is where people come to see their favourite artists (shots of Leona Lewis and Take That), so this is going to be nerve-wracking for the contestants. Gary drones that he wants to see someone who gets them all up and clapping or he'll be disappointed.

First auditionee of the week is Johnny Robinson (45, Harrow, unemployed because of the economy, innit) who's a bit camp, and asks the cameras if he looks all right ("I know I'm ugly, please let me look a bit more decent, get rid of them bloody wrinkles"). He lives on his own in a bedsit, he tells us, before correcting that to a "studio" and then a "small flat". Heh. See, already I'm growing to like this guy, and I didn't need to see his living room window or him brushing his teeth. Told you that montage was a waste of time. He'd like to be taken seriously as a singer. On this show? Good luck. Then there's a moment where his interview appears to be over, and the camera stays on as a member of the crew stands up and moves out of the shot. Johnny stage-whispers "he's quite cute", just to clear up any lingering doubts about his sexuality. At first I wonder if this means a general relaxing of the rules on gays on this show now that Simon's got a less hands-on role, but given the edit, he's probably a comedy audition anyway, so I doubt it really matters. Then we get a shot of him camping it up some more in the "make-up room" (worst addition to the show since the live audience at auditions) and talking about how many of his idols have performed on the O2 stage, like Kylie on her "Aphrodisiac" tour. At least he remembers pretty quickly that it's "Aphrodite", not Aphrodisiac. But they've got their footage now, the damage is done. Derwood sends him out onto the stage.

Johnny arrives on stage and his mic is not working. Excellent start. Maybe it's Justin Bieber's old mic? The technical issues are dealt with, and Johnny greets Louis, Gary, Kelly and Tulsa in term, saying it's nice to meet them. Such lovely manners. Louis asks him which artist he can be as big as, and he says Lady Gaga. He'll be singing 'At Last' by Etta James, trying to undo the damage done by Weasel last year. Johnny begins singing and singing well, while Gary and Kelly share incredulous "but you're an ugly homo, you're not supposed to be a good singer!" looks. Johnny's performance is a bit karaoke-in-a-tiny-pub, and his voice goes rather thin on the high notes, but already he seems more encouraging than any of those trendy shitheads we were forced to sit through last week. To be honest, the longer his audition goes on, the less convinced I am that he has any chance in this competition whatsoever because his voice isn't actually *that* great - this is no Susan Boyle moment, he's just someone who's a bit better than we were led to believe he'd be. Still, having said all that, it's clearly more than enough to get him through to boot camp, surely? He finishes, and Louis claps excitedly. I kind of hope for Johnny's sake that he gets Louis as a mentor, because that's probably his best hope of actually progressing much further in the competition. The crowd cheers, and Johnny seems quite overcome. A bit of Take That cues up on the soundtrack ('Greatest Day', mercifully, not 'The Flood'). [Steve still has a slight nervous tic every time you mention that song. Last year nearly killed him, people - Rad]

Louis tells him that he's "very unique" (AARGH), Tulisa says that he's got "the shock factor", adding that she was expecting this little person to pop out from under his hat and say "coo-ee, that's me singing!" I think Tulisa needs to lay off the hallucinogens. Or stop watching cartoons with Michigan J Frog in them. Kelly calls him "sugary, lovely, delicious" and congratulates him on being able to sing despite his debilitating ugliness. Gary thinks Johnny has a wonderful personality and that it was an amazing audition. It's four yeses for Johnny. I think if we'd started the series with this guy instead of ArseTat, I might have been slightly less angry last week. Although only a little bit, because there's still the "it is a surprise when ugly people are not worthless!" angle to work through. I'm choosing to put that to one side for now, or I'll be here all day.

Johnny exits and tells Derwood he's just glad he had the chance to audition. Back in the arena, Louis says that he shouldn't judge the book by its cover, and Gary consoles him that we all do that. Yes, because that is CONDITIONING CREATED BY THIS FUCKING SHOW AND OTHERS OF ITS ILK. (Okay, fine, I lied about putting it to one side. But they baited me.) Gary simpers "straight out of a Carry On film, wasn't he?" Fuck off, Borelow. Fuck right off. God, I hate Gary so much, and we're only on the second episode. [I was actually quite impressed it took the show this long to try and attempt a 'Su-Bo' moment - Rad]

Adverts. I drink a lot of Lucozade, and yet that advert with the Feeder song makes me want to switch to a brand that doesn't have so many obnoxious customers.

Upon our return, we're still in London, and people are eating each other's faces while they wait to audition, and we're treated to a ridiculously staged conversation between two people in the line ("Imagine winning The X Factor! That would be so cool!") All of the love being displayed is heterosexual love, obviously, because the first part of the show reminded us that gays are unemployed, single and live in bedsits. People are actually auditioning despite all this schmaltz: Samantha Hallam (graphic designer, 37) sings 'Sex On Fire', and as she finishes her audition, her boyfriend walks out onto the stage and proposes to her in front of everyone. Samantha cries, and accepts. She gets through to the next round as well, though it'd be hilarious if the judges were all "well, that was very romantic, but you're shit and we're sending you home." Louis jokes that she was happier getting through to the next round than she was at getting the proposal.

The next auditionee is Derry Mensah (20, Croydon) who thinks Kelly is beautiful, and gets lovestruck whenever he hears her name. He dreams of being a superstar and walking the red carpet with Kelly. In theory this should all be quite stalkerish and creepy, but am I wrong for finding it kind of awkward and endearing? I get the impression he quite wanted to look cool on the cameras, and instead they've made him into a goofy besotted adolescent. Those evil editors! He greets the judges, and greets Kelly separately, and then there's a moment where he doesn't say anything else, just sort of leers at her. Okay, now it's a little less endearing and a little more creepy. Tulisa: "...hi?" Hee. Derry tells Tulisa that he works in Burger King, and that he's here with his family, friends and his little nephew. Tulisa asks him who he'd most like to impress, managing not to look like there's a producer holding her by the hair and forcing her to ask that. Derry says that he really wants to impress Gary. Kidding! He says Kelly, of course. Derry: "Straight up, I love you Kelly Rowland." Hee, I'm really enjoying this. He's about as good at chatting people up as I am. And about as subtle. Kelly calls him "cute", and Derry pretty much giggles. Tulisa tells him that he's under pressure now because he really has to impress Kelly, and Derry says he'll be singing 'Can You Help Me?' by Usher. I'm not familiar with the song, but Derry's oversung rendition of it kind of makes it hard to tell if he's any good - there's so much switching from his lower register to a falsetto that I don't have any clear indication of whether either is much good. It doesn't seem awful, though. His audition is intercut with shots of Kelly looking equal parts impressed, amused and terrified. Derry gets down on his knees halfway through and spreads his arms wide. Eventually, the song ends and the crowd applaud.

Kelly's the first to comment, and calls it a really good audition. "Seriously?" he asks. "I love you!" Heeheehee. Kelly: "We're serious right now. Come on, let's get to business." The crowd has a mental age of twelve, and cackles, and Kelly realises how that sounded. She really liked his voice, and would like to see him in a group. Louis thinks he could be in a UK version of Boyz II Men, showing us that Louis's cultural references are as current as ever. Tulisa disagrees: she likes Derry as a solo artist. Gary thinks Derry has a great voice and really enjoyed his audition. Four yeses for Derry, and a request from Kelly for a kiss on the cheek. Derry obliges and she gives him a little peck on the cheek in return. Derry heads backstage and has basically forgotten everything that happened apart from the point when Kelly kissed him. He walks out going "Four! Four! And a kiss! Kelly Rowland kissed me!" Hee. Bless.

Montage of people who love Kelly. None of them are as good as Derry, so let's not waste our time. Someone called P. Knowledge ("but you can call me Perry" - clearly if your name ends in "-erry", then you'll have a thing for Kelly) [I can't believe real people who aren't in sitcoms are called Perry (except that bloke who plays Billy Mitchell anyway) - Rad] flirts and tells Kelly he wants to lift his shirt up. She wants him to as well. Squealing as he reveals his abs. A man called Joseph Castle (IT company director, 24) sings 'Let There Be Love' right to Kelly and Kelly's all "I'm so embarrassed!" COLD SHOWER FOR ROWLAND! Kelly flirts with Stefan Romer (unemployed, 19) until she discovers he's a leeeeetle too young for her. His version of 'Come Together' is rubbish anyway, but he gets through, presumably to be put into a boyband at boot camp. Probably with ArseTat. Finally we get to hear P. Knowledge sing - Perry Devonish (unemployed, 29) with a tuneless rendition of 'I Have Nothing'. It's a no for him, but Kelly will be dreaming about his abs. I feel like we finally have a spiritual successor to Sharon Osbourne and that wet and warm thing she kept under the desk.

More ads. Red Or Black? looks seriously dull.

Now we're in Liverpool, for what Derwood tells us is the very first time in the show's history. Presumably because they were so in love with Rebecca Jazznoodle and her inability to move on stage last year. Borelow is excited to be in Liverpool, because his mum's a Scouser, while lots of Liverpudlians talk about all their talent and berate the show for not coming here sooner. There's an exceedingly strange interlude in which Tulisa attempts to teach Louis how to speak in a Liverpool accent (she's quite good at it, he doesn't even bother).

Up first is Mark Byron (21, sales assistant) and he tells Kelly that if she can't understand his accent, he'll try to slow it down for her. Kelly's all "no, that's fine, I'm in your territory, it's my job to adjust". Bless Kelly Rowland. He wants to show the judges that Liverpool has the X factor. Unfortunately, he demonstrates this with an off-key and off-tempo rendition of Rihanna's 'Only Girl In The World'. The judges stop him after a few lines, and Gary declares the singing "truly horrible". Mark says "If I get nos, I'm leaving the country." He gets four nos. Bye Mark! I hear Canada's nice.

Up next is Craig Colton (biscuit factory worker, 22) from Kirby. He lives at home with his dad, and likes it because it means he gets his meals and his ironing done. He reveals to Derwood that he's here with friends, but his mum and dad are in the audience and don't know that he's auditioning. Craig talks about having to impress not only the judges, but also his parents. His parents look bored in the audience, at least until Craig arrives on stage. Craig relates his story to the judges, and Louis asks where his parents are. They wave from somewhere near the back. Craig tells Louis that he told his mum he had to work today, and made her iron his uniform so it was believable. I am getting shades of Lazy Decorator from this guy. Learn to do your own damn ironing. By the time I was 17, I was doing mine and my brother's. Craig works in a biscuit factory, with his dad. "What does he do?" ask Louis. Craig doesn't know: "Dad, what do you do?" Craig is singing a song called 'Hiding My Heart Away' by my mortal enemy Adele. The song is overwrought and shit, because it's Adele. Craig's voice is like a man singing Adele, pretty much. It does not appeal to me. The audition goes on FOREVER. Craig pulls lots of annoying faces, just like Adele does. Great, so now we've got an Ellie Goulding tribute act and Mandele on the roster. I'm starting to dread the live shows.

Gary tells Craig that everyone was on their feet, and he deserves all the applause he got. Louis tells Craig he's got a recording voice. Tulisa didn't expect him to sing like that, and likes that he's funny as well. Kelly loves that he's a true performer who wooed everyone with his voice and wit. He's through, just to torment me. Craig's proud parents leave the arena and go to hug their son backstage. [Get used to the Adele, Steve. Every single episode from now until the end of time - Rad]

More adverts, then we're back in Liverpool. Derwood reminds us that the Beatles were from Liverpool (I'm surprised it took them so long to chuck that one in, to be honest)[I was in Liverpool the other week. You actually can't escape Beatles stuff when you're there. It's weird - Rad], which is a segue into some groups, who for some reason have turned up to audition as groups, rather than auditioning as soloists and waiting to be sorted at boot camp, which I understand is how we prefer to do things these days. Derwood voices over that it'll be harder than ever to get past the panel, as it features "some of the most exciting group members of this generation". Deliciously, the "exciting" part of that speech features a shot of Borelow.

Up first for the groups are Charity and Goodsun (I think), collectively known as The Duos. They're a married couple, and dream of being recording artists and on TV and that. They sing at each other a lot at home, he tells us. On stage, Tulisa asks him how he proposed, and Goodsun says that he didn't really, he just said "will you marry me?" Is that not generally how it works? I mean, I know I'm a gay and we're still not technically allowed to get married, but that's how I understood the breeders go about starting it up. Apparently, they were in bed, and she kept asking, so he proposed. They compare themselves to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, apparently. They're singing 'If I Were A Boy', badly. She holds her stomach the entire time that she's singing. [In a cunning spoiler for Beyonce's VMA announcement? - Rad] Well, "singing". They're not even singing along to the right part of the backing track. The judges let them continue far too long. Ahh, this is The X Factor that I know and hate.

Louis: "Kelly, did you like that?" Kelly, appalled: "No!" Heh. She asks incredulously if they really thought that was Jay-Z and Beyoncé. "That didn't go well at all," she concludes. Borelow wonders if this was the rehearsal. Louis decides to take it to a vote. It's four nos for The Duos. Kelly is still utterly baffled by their folie à deux.

The search for a group continues, and Borelow doesn't want "to settle for second-best". Montage of groups that have not impressed the judges. Broman5e (aged 17-18) strip off their plaud shirts to matching white vests before groaning their way through 'Black And Gold' with some literal chorography that NotLouis probably had a hand in somewhere. Borelow calls it "very unique". AAAARGH. It's a Noman5e for Broman5e. They're followed by duo Poetic Justice, and upon hearing that one of them is called Lindsay, Louis responds "oh, so you're a girl?" Oh dear. Louis explains that he "wasn't sure", and Tulisa tells him off for being offensive. Oh Tulisa, just wait until he starts comparing contestants to other famous black people. Poetic Justice fumble their way through 'Rolling In The Deep', singing in entirely different keys, neither of them being the correct one. Borelow thinks they just met at a bus stop or something. More hopeless groups. I'm beginning to think we should just make it properly official that all groups are created from soloists at boot camp, and spare ourselves this really painful part of the process [Or axe the category altogether. Or let actual bands apply rather than silly vocal groups. Eight years and they're still the weakest link, that should be a hint - Rad]. Borelow is getting fed up with the bands too, which of course is the cue for an act to turn it all around: The Keys, a clean-looking boyband who want to be like Take That. They certainly look old enough. They harmonise their way through Aloe Blacc's 'I Need A Dollar' and mash-up a few lines of 'Independent Women' for good measure. Borelow is impressed at long last. He loves "Mark Owen in the middle" (FNAR) or "Charlie", to give him his proper name. Louis thinks they've been waiting for a group like them. Tulisa commends them on being well-rehearsed, and Kelly thinks it was a great audition. They're through with four yeses. [They were quite good, but I am sick of all the 'good' groups on this show doing essentially the same thing. Series one and two's groups might have been a load of misfits but they seem positively radical these days - Rad]

After what is hopefully the final ad break, we're back, in an unspecified city. There are a few more pointless sections in the Make-Up Room (KILL IT KILL IT NOW) [Oh, the fast-forward button, how I love you - Rad] as dreams are shattered on stage. We join Misha Bryan (student, 19) as she prepares for her audition. She's always dreamed of being a singer, and dreams of being an international recording artist. She rides the bus because she's VERY NORMAL (she thanks the bus driver as she alights), and tells us that she was calm on the way there but her heart started racing as she queued up. You can just tell from the set-up that there's a sob story coming, and here it is: when she was three months old, her mum was unable to look after her, and she's never met her father, so she was raised by her auntie. She says that she doesn't know where she'd be without her auntie's support, and gets a bit teary. She says that if she gets four yeses today, her auntie will be very proud, and she'd do anything for that to happen. I'm sure your auntie's proud of you whatever happens, love. You don't need this silly show for that.

She'll be singing 'Respect' by Aretha Franklin, in a sort of jazz-lounge manner. I'm assuming this is a moderately famous existing arrangement by someone else, because I don't generally expect originality from this show, but I'm unaware of this particular one, and it's pretty good. Misha's good too, she's got a pleasing rasp to her voice and really vamps on the stage. Kelly has a little dance in her seat, and is the first one to get up when Misha sings "ladies, get on your feet" instead of "take care, T-C-B". She even does a little MC-ing breakdown, which I assume actually is an original work, since it involves her own name quite prominently. I like it, though - it's like the sort of thing Cher Lloyd would've done if she hadn't been unrelentingly shit and awful. It's definitely an attention-grabbing performance (as opposed to an attention-seeking performance, though to be honest it's a bit of that as well), and I love it. I'm quite glad I ended up recapping this episode - it's been so much more encouraging than the first one. [She was good. I expect the show to sap all that out of her by the live shows though - Rad]

Tulisa loved Misha's audition and her style, and thinks she was the best audition of the day, whatever day and whatever city this was. Gary thinks we haven't seen a lot of performers with Misha's confidence. Louis thinks this is how you do an audition. Kelly's still dancing in her seat because she's so happy. It's four yeses for Misha, and hooray for that. Misha heads offstage and hugs her auntie before dissolving into tears. The judges are all very excited about Misha. Derwood patronises her relatives.

Coming soon: lots more mental people. And we were doing so well, too.

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