Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shoe 'nuff

Auditions - Week 5, Part 1: 17th September 2011

Welcome back to another double-bill weekend of The X Factor. I think we probably all have to accept that this is the beginning of the end, and soon it will spread out across the entire week, forever. With the news that Fox in the US is considering launching an all-Simpsons channel, I don't think it's outside the realms of possibility that one day we will have a whole channel that runs nothing but The X Factor and its various spinoffs. If that ever happens, expect to find my corpse on the kitchen floor, next to a note saying "I just couldn't face it, sorry." [Isn't Sky one the all Simpsons channel already? - Helen]

ANYway, let's get on with things while that is still (hopefully) only a remote possibility. The "next generation of judges" (and Louis) have scoured Britain in the hope of finding a global superstar (you know, like Joe McElderry or Leon Jackson), and have repeatedly been wowed by average pub singers. The flashbacks remind us that the judges were occasionally aware that some people were genuinely shit and didn't put them through, although frankly it's a bit of a lottery which contestants will fall into which category on any given day. I think you just have to turn up and hope the judges were smoking something that made them mellow on the day of your audition.

THIS WEEKEND: it's the last of the auditions, thank God. The judges will apparently be fighting amongst themselves, and facing some more genuinely terrible auditions as well as some people who might be half-decent. It's TIME to FACE the ENDLESS COVERS OF ADELE SONGS!

Post-titles, we open with lovely shots of lush green countryside as Derwood informs us that, for the first time in the audition run, we're in Wales. Cardiff, to be specific. Various hopefuls state their case for hoping to be the first Welsh winner of the show. On the bright side, we are not "treated" to any shots of them all washing their faces before heading out to audition and telling us that this is their year, although I cannot guarantee we won't be facing similar bollocks in the dreaded Make-Up Room later. The judges arrive at the venue and are greeted by a male voice choir (Gary informs us that they're Only Men Aloud, so I'll take his word for it), who sing Destiny's Child's 'Survivor' for Kelly's benefit. They'd have got more points from me if they'd sung the Freemasons remix of 'Work', quite frankly. Louis gets an original composition about how much they love him; Gary gets 'Rule The World' (what, no 'The Flood'?) and Tulisa gets 'Number One', noting that they must've worked very hard on this because they're "clearly not NDubz fans". Don't judge a book by its cover (version), Tulisa - this lot look like they enjoy nothing better than throwing some shapes to 'Playing With Fire' at the local discotheque.

The judges greet each other, and it feels appropriate at this point to note that Tulisa has apparently come straight from auditioning for the title role in the long-awaited Xena: Warrior Princess movie. Kelly reluctantly approaches a member of the catering crew to ask about the "Welsh rabbit", apparently in disbelief that there is no meat in it. Ah, culture-clash hilarity. You can't beat it.

Our first contestant of the day is a lady in a purple dress that her tatas seem ready to escape from at any second, never more so than when she runs out onto the stage. She has a bit of a thing for Gary and declares him "drop-dead gorgeous". She is Natasha Paton Ali (mum, 23) from Swansea, who explains that she has prepared for today by having singing lessons to stop her from singing through her nose. Already this puts her ahead of about 25% of people who make the live finals in any given year, assuming she's telling the truth. Gary asks who watches her when she rehearses, and she answers a different question by saying that she rehearses in her bedroom or her living room, so that she has space to do her "sexy dancing" (read: squatting and showing us all her hoo-hoo). Gary warns her that she's a little bit higher than them (in OH SO MANY WAYS) and when she does moves like that, he stops focusing on her voice. "You're 'avin' it!" Natasha growls in response. I don't think you're giving him much of a choice, love.

She's singing 'Every Time We Touch' by Cascada. The backing track begins, and she's amazing. No, of course not: she's absolutely dreadful, as we all knew she would be. She's singing off-key, so high that Cardiff Council is considering recording this and playing it in the city centre to discourage gangs of youths from loitering, and of course, she's shaking those knockers. Then she has a wardrobe malfunction, causing Kelly to make frantic "COVER YOUR SHAME!" gestures from behind the desk. Incidentally, there is a guy sat behind Gary in the audience who is LOVING THIS, and constantly straining for a better view. When the end arrives, far too late for most of us, Gary scolds her that it's "a hot day as it is". That kind of shit will only encourage her, Gary; I strongly recommend that you stop. He tells her that what worries him is that she looked at him throughout the song. Kelly says that "you gave us all quite the show today - there was a lot happening on stage, babe, that we couldn't really pay attention to the vocals so much". I dunno, Louis probably managed it. Tulisa doesn't understand why no one has told Natasha how bad she sounds, and thinks that it's unfair that they've allowed her to embarrass herself. Natasha, proving that you must first be capable of shame to feel embarrassment, says that she is entertainment, and that's what this show is all about. Louis tells her she doesn't have a voice, and "I'm not saying 'no', I'm saying 'never'." It's a no from everyone else, with Austerity Barlow advising her to check the refund policy next time she takes singing lessons. [Ah, didn't take long for GrumpyGutsBarlow to raise his funsponge head - Helen]

Kelly announces that she is "scared", which is the cue for another montage of hopeless, tedious people who basically aspire to little more in life than appearing for five seconds in a montage of hopeless, tedious people on this show. Now that they've got their wish, I hope they will try to make better use of the precious time that they have left. Dafydd Morgan (unemployed, 41) convulses to 'Bat Out Of Hell' to the point where everyone watching considers calling NHS Direct for advice, and is stopped by Louis who asks if he might indulge them by singing at some point. He agrees, and then everyone wishes he hadn't bothered. Tulisa expresses genuine concern for his wellbeing (I can only chalk this up to her being a newbie; I can't see her humanitarian concerns surviving prolonged exposure to working on this show) and Dafydd gets a definite no. A mad woman arrives wrapped in a Welsh flag and scares the living shit out of Kelly: she is Ceri Hoey (mobile hairdresser, 42) who screeches her way through 'Wuthering Heights' in such a manner that I wonder if she has a howler monkey secreted in her larynx. Gary declares her voice to be not human, and it is a no for Ceri. Kelly considers calling her agent and checking the small print on her contract to see if it's too late to go on Strictly Come Dancing instead.

Backstage, Kelly and Tulisa wonder what the fuck is wrong with Welsh people, which is surely the cue for someone to arrive and Turn It All Around? That person is John Adams (maths teacher, 23), who looks more like Hollywood's version of what a maths teacher looks like than any normal person's interpretation of what a maths teacher looks like. Remember when Tina Fey was a maths teacher in Mean Girls? Yeah, like that, except younger, male and with a dazzling grin and a Bieber haircut. He's basically Wales' answer to Ezra Fitz from Pretty Little Liars. I resolve to remain immune to his dubious charms, however, since my feelings about teachers on this show are well-documented after the likes of Bellowing Beverley and Man-Loving Daneeeeeeeeel decided that Z-list celebrity and doing PAs in suburban nightclubs is a more fulfilling vocation than providing children with an education.

Anyway, Mr Fitz tells us that he's only been teaching for a year, so it's a relatively new world for him, and "obviously if I done well in The X Factor, I'd love to follow the dream of becoming a singer". At least now we know why he didn't become an English teacher. He adds that being in this competition means a lot to him, and he wants strangers to know his music and sing his songs. He heads onto the stage and is declared "quite handsome" by Tulisa. He will be singing 'Cannonball' by Damien Rice. As has become the standard this year, it sounds like a straightforward cover of the original, inflections and all, but everyone's lapping it up. I'm more focused on the fact that he appears to have no neck worth mentioning. By far the highlight of the entire performance is the cut to backstage, where Derwood is MOUTHING THE LYRICS AND PULLING SINCERE EMOTIONAL FACES. [Gimmie some stones. I'll teach them all to fly - Helen] Oh Derwood, you utter gonk. I bet he spends the whole of his Radio 2 show doing that. Maybe all that hair is weighing him done. Tulisa thinks he has a beautiful tone, and that he connected with the song emotionally. Louis wasn't expecting him to have such an "unusual" voice (for "unusual", read "indie and whiny", and I don't know about Louis, but that's exactly what I expected) and thinks he could make great records. Borelow says that it's one of his favourite songs of all time, and he hates people singing his favourite songs, at which point his transformation into Simon Cowell is officially complete. Stick a toilet brush on his head, and we are officially DONE. Luckily for Mr Fitz, he nailed that vocal, so Borelow has forgiven him. Kelly wants to hear a whole album of his voice. Gary expects to find a whole new world of women taking a sudden interest in maths, because (a) I'm sure firing quadratic equations at him is totally the way to get him into bed, and (b) women wouldn't be interested in maths in any other circumstances, apart from using it to work out if they can afford any more shoes. FUCK OFF BORELOW. They take it to a vote, and it's a unanimous yes. Mr Fitz runs off excitedly to break the good news to Aria. [Now, if he actually changes his name to Mr Fitz and Miss Fitz come back and they get spliced at bootcamp, THEN I will be interested - Rad]

Adverts. It's about fucking time that sodding Bird Eye polar bear opened his fridge and was freaked out to find a polar bear in there staring back at him.

When we return, Derwood tells us that one category in particular "has extra incentive to succeed". The groups? Nah, it's the over-25s, who are all worrying if They Have Left It Too Late. One of them is Randy Roxx (musician, 45) - Borelow thinks he has a good rock voice, but wonders if he's missed his chance, having apparently missed the memo about why this category exists in the first place. Lina Roma (mum, 43) drones her way through 'Hallelujah' and begs for "one chance to prove it", unaware that that's exactly what she's just had. Finally, the point of this montage arrives: Michelle Barrett (mum, 31), who is being portrayed by Sharon Small in tonight's performance. She says that singing is in her blood, but having four kids meant she had to delay her dream, and now she feels the time is right to pursue it. She doesn't think she'll get this opportunity ever again. You know, except for the auditions next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. And the...well, you get the idea. She arrives on stage, and tells Gary about how her children are her biggest accomplishment. Gary asks why she hasn't made it before, and she admits that she hasn't tried hard enough up to now because she was too busy with competitive child-rearing. She's singing 'All The Man I Need' by Whitney Houston. She's...all right, I guess? It's one of those "can hold a tune but is otherwise unremarkable and in no way the global star they claim to be looking for" performances that means the judges are going to feast upon it like manna from heaven regardless. She's really flat in the chorus, too. [She picked a song that was way too big for her. I mean, she was fine, but she wasn't any more than that, and a more subtle song wouldn't have shown her weaknesses so clearly - Rad]

Tulisa tells Michelle that she reminds her of her mum, whom she has made a BBC3 documentary about, and Tulisa cries. Michelle does "awww" faces from the stage. Tulisa sobs "just like you, she had a beautiful voice, and she didn't do anything with it", although I think it's safe to say that Tulisa's mum's reason for not pursuing a singing career was probably a bit different from Michelle's, and then Michelle starts crying, and Leona Lewis warbles on the soundtrack, and GOOD GRIEF, JUST GET ON WITH IT. Kelly loved Michelle's voice. Louis says it wasn't 100% perfect, but it was good enough for him. Gary can't believe she hid that voice away while having "four lovely children" *gag* and it's four yeses for Michelle. Michelle runs backstage, and Tulisa explains her relationship with her mum to the other judges, possibly promising to hand them all a DVD each to take home at the end of the day.

Adverts. Shouldn't it be 30 Minutes or Fewer?

When we return, Derwood informs us that "the girls are out in force". I bet you can't guess which song's on the soundtrack. Here's a hint: the band's name rhymes with "Booger Snabes". Next to audition are band 2 Shoes, alias Charlie (23) and Lucy (21). Both of them are wearing so much make-up that they can barely keep their eyes open. I could offer you a witty description, but frankly nothing that I could come up with would even come close to Helen's absolutely perfect description of them on Twitter last night as "Stacey Duomon". [It only got retweeted twice! What's wrong with Twitter? - Helen] They hug Derwood, and explain the genesis of their name: apparently it comes from a saying of theirs that "every party needs two shoes". No, I don't understand it either. Maybe you had to be there? There being Essex, naturally. They call each other "Shoe", and at this point I feel like my persistence in sticking with the show throughout all these cod-indie-wannabe auditions is finally being rewarded, because if these two can sing, they are clearly going to be my favourites. Frankly, even if they can't, they're still in with a really good shot. Derwood asks them if the tan is at all natural, and Lucy admits that they had something of a malfunction, offering up her left hand as evidence. It is a tone that can best be described as "mahogany". They want to be the first group to win. I want them to be the first group to win too.

They troop onto the stage. A Matt Cardle lookalike in the audience puts his head in his hands, clearly hoping to be the new That Bitch Who Rolled Her Eyes At Susan Boyle. Louis asks what they'd do with the money if they won: Charley says that Lucy wants a micro-pig (points to Tulisa here for being the only person on the panel who knows what one of those is). They sing 'All My Life' by K-C & Jojo, and actually aren't that bad. The vocals are a little shaky, but they harmonise well together and with a bit of practice and training, they could have potential. They really come into their own on the chorus, and the crowd goes wild. Tulisa tells them she's pleasantly surprised. Gary tells them that he was expecting the worst, but he loves their harmonies and that they were well-rehearsed, and thinks it was a great audition. Kelly also loves the harmonies, but thought it was "a bit karaoke". Louis loves their personality and their chemistry, and things they bring new energy to the show. It's a yes from Gary, a yes from Tulisa, a no from Kelly, and a yes from Louis. They're through, and are officially this year's Bitch Factor Approved Contestants. I'm making that decision unilaterally. [I'm fine with this. There's no-one else worth caring about, is there? - Rad]

This leads to a montage of girls who ostensibly done good: Melanie McCabe (student, 17) does an awful version of 'Only Girl In The World' that is inexplicably enjoyed by the judges. Sarah Watson (student, 17) yelps her way through Taylor Swift's 'Love Story' and is equally awful, and equally adored. THIS FUCKING SHOW. They cut from note to note of several apparently successful auditions, and it really is becoming impossible on this show to tell where the wheat ends and the chaff begins. Sophie Habibis (barmaid, 19) sings 'I Got Trouble' by Seahaguilera (TM my boyfriend) and is all right-ish, and gets through. Everyone decides that the girls are the strongest category, and the judges argue over who gets them. Such fun.

After more commercials, we jump straight back into the action. Meg Rose Jones (student, 16) sings 'Sunny Afternoon' and is loved by Gary, but Louis thinks she's not ready for the competition. Fight! Fight! Fight! Tulisa thinks she needs confidence. It's a no from Louis, a yes from Tulisa. We don't ever find out what Kelly voted, but I guess she voted no, since otherwise we'd have seen Meg getting through? Maybe we might see her in the background at boot camp and find out one way or the other. Anyway, Meg's fate is left in the balance as we continue with girl group Indigo Rose, who perform a heavily-choreographed rendition of 'Show Me Love' by Robyn S, and Gary doesn't think they look or sound like a band, while Tulisa really likes them. Kelly thinks their energy is only all right, and gets all Kitty Farmer about it, arguing that you can't put someone through if you doubt their unyielding commitment to Sparkle Motion. Tulisa argues that it's about liking it and believing that other people will like it. Kelly is unimpressed, and says that an act has to be 100% perfect to get through. She would have a stronger case if she hadn't voted for the likes of Arsetat in episode one. They take it to the vote, and again the ultimate result is unconfirmed, but was probably a no overall. Perrie Edwards (student, 17) tackles 'You Oughta Know' - Kelly loves it, but Louis thinks it's "safe" and Tulisa can see his point. Kelly tells Perrie that she blew the roof off and that she doesn't know what Louis and Tulisa are hearing. Louis spits that Kelly is being "difficult" today; "how dare she!" YAY, MANUFACTURED DRAMA!

Derwood voiceover: "With the judges not playing happy families, the next auditionee is more desperate than most to unite them." Yes, because the next auditionee would've known all about this shit. He's auditioned before, and his name is John Wilding (student, 18). He got to Dannii's house in Australia last year, but didn't make it through. I remember literally nothing about him [He was one of the two or three we never, ever saw, and then they got two seconds of screen time at judges' houses. Oh, the suspense this show creates about its chosen ones - Rad]. He's wearing a bowler hat at a jaunty angle, so frankly I do not wish to remember anything about him. John says that he's spent the year working on his voice, and with the new judging panel this year, he's hoping for a fresh start. As always, it's down to Louis to do the unconvincing "you auditioned last year! I totally remember that happening!" bit, and John explains that he's been studying where he went wrong last year. He's singing 'Love You I Do' by Jennifer Hudson. He's got a pretty good voice, but I can't take him seriously when he's dressed like Agyness fucking Deyn. Also, I fear his particular brand of oversinging everything is going to grow tiresome very quickly. [I swear he didn't do "fashion" last year and looked vaguely normal. So I blame this fucking show for making him think he needed a cunty hat to get any further - Rad]

Nonetheless, he gets a standing ovation from the judges, and Tulisa says that she loves people like him who get knocked back, use the experience to better themselves, and come back. She'll be regretting saying that at next year's auditions when Michael Lewis comes back for a third go. Louis loved that audition, and that John is a fighter. "Nobody can sing Jennifer Hudson," he declares. I think Jennifer Hudson might have something to say about that. Kelly says that he has a beautiful voice and belongs on the stage. Gary thought it was a sensational audition, and is very grateful that John came back. No surprises here: it's yeses all round. Backstage, his entourage scream that he got a STANDING OVATION FROM THE JUDGES OH MY GOD!

Tomorrow night: singing, growling, fighting back. Ruth will be here to guide you through it. I hope she's got plenty to drink. [Having read the tweets about it, I am terrified - Rad]


StuckInABook said...

Great write-up, as usual! I was making my dinner (with X Factor on in a distant room) when Michelle, "31", did her audition. I assumed, from the sounds I heard, that she had a huge sob story. And it turns out her sob story was... having had children. And not being able to sing very well, of course.

Stacey Duomon (GENIUS, thank you Twitterlady) were hilarious, and I want to see MUCH more of them, maybe with Stacey's chatter thrown in too.

Yvie said...

Love 2 Shoes too! I really hope they get through to the live shows as they will be great fun while actually being GOOD, unlike the usual poor comedy contestants they put through.

I thought the girl who sang Only Girl In The World was shite too - I couldn't understand why the judges were gushing over her.

Helen said...

Why thank you. It was my finest hour. I doubt I'll ever top it.