Wednesday, September 28, 2011

These boots were made for squawking

Boot Camp, Part 2: 25th September 2011

PREVIOUSLY: 187 acts came to boot camp, and everybody did a lot of yelping, though only some of this was judged to be "good yelping" by the panel. As a general rule, I find it best not to try to work out how they determine this; last time I tried I woke up in Putney with a pounding headache and wearing nothing but my underpants. Only 61 of those acts made it through the impenetrable elimination process. "Tonight!" exclaims Peter Dickson. "It's the boot camp finale!" Calm down, dude, it's only two episodes long in the first place. The contestants will be facing a new challenge: performing to an audience of 5000 in Wembley Arena. Oh, great: so now not only are the auditions in front of an unnecessary audience, but now boot camp is as well? Where will it end? Will there be live audiences watching the producers filter out the initial applicants? Live audiences in the production meetings? Live audiences at ITV HQ on Monday morning where they celebrate the arrival of the ratings with a bottle of bubbly? (Bubbly's in the fridge, by the way.) END THIS MADNESS NOW [Maybe in a new SHOCK! TWIST! there won't be any audiences in the live shows? Please? - Rad]. Only those who succeed will make it to judges' houses, and win that all important trip to Dublin with Louis. Also tonight: the judges find out who they're mentoring. They should've looked on the internet; the rest of us knew weeks ago.

Titles. Giant X is knocked out of orbit by a piece of satellite debris. Oops.

Derwood tells us that we're at Wembley Arena, which is unnecessary because Peter Dickson already told us that less than a minute ago. Arsetat is the first to get a confessional interview: "It's just so exciting, sometimes I have to sit here and think 'I'm actually at boot camp'." Presumably all that thinking about being at boot camp is what's been distracting him from having a wash. For about the past four years. Amelia waffles on about having been born ready for The X Factor, which is at once deeply sad and oddly plausible. Derwood reminds us that there is an audience of 5,000 people. Again: Peter Dickson has already told us this. If there's ever a round of redundancies on this show, I think Derwood's just demonstrated he should be first out the door. Lots of people in varying degrees of twattish headgear discuss being either excited or terrified or both. Derwood, in his first piece of non-redundant information, tells us that all 61 acts will perform, but only 32 will make it to judges' houses.

Before we can begin proceedings, all the contestants are called onto the stage to hear from the judges. Louis tells them that this is make-or-break and everything for them depends on this performance. Tulisa says that the panel need to see emotion in their performances. Borelow tells them all to stand out and make the song their own: "Do your version of the song you're going to sing." Because it's not like half of this year's frontrunners got through their initial audition with a note-for-note cover or anything. Fuck you, Borelow. Kelly is not permitted to speak. [I demand a recount - Helen]

Up first is Misha Bryan, otherwise known as the only chance this show has of producing an entertaining and original pop star. Which means she'll probably finish about 9th if she makes live shows. She's taking a risk with her performance: there's a self-penned rap at the start which is all about her life. Remember last year, when Cher Lloyd "wrote her own rap" at boot camp? And it just involved reading out the contents page of Us Weekly and then repeatedly saying "bells-a-ring-a-ding-a-dinging"? Then you can understand why I am nervous right now. A tearful Misha says that she's never been so ready in her life. She's singing 'Survivor', plus aforementioned self-penned rap. The good news is, it's pretty awesome. The rap's a little on-the-nose and could use some finessing, but it flows well, scans properly, and gives Misha a chance to sing tunefully, which puts her three counts ahead of Cher Lloyd. This entire performance, actually, is one giant middle finger directed at Cher Lloyd, who only wishes she could jagger some swagger like this. Having said all of that, I hope Misha doesn't do this sort of thing every week, because it strikes me as the sort of thing that could become massively self-indulgent if you don't keep it in check. Eventually, she gets on to the actual 'Survivor' part of the song, doing the Michelle Williams middle-eight bit, which is pretty good, and Kelly throws her hand up in the air, waving it around like she just don't care. Afterwards, Kelly likes that Misha did something different and original with the song, and Louis loves the effort that she put into her performance. Gary has liked her every time he's seen her. Tulisa, on the other hand, didn't see her as a contender - UNTIL NOW. [Oh spare me the utter, utter tedium of manufactured drama - Helen]

Montage of people who are not as good as Misha: Chelsea Redfern, singing 'True Colours' in a manner that leaves me indifferent, but Gary and Louis are impressed. Amelia Lily is dressed like Katie Waissel's less cool younger sister (seriously, just imagine that for a while) and bleats her way through Pink's 'Nobody Knows'. Gary thinks it's 'incredible', and Tulisa says that Amelia makes her want to mentor the girls. More people who get about one note's worth of screentime, and the editing effect on them all together is somewhat cacophonous. Jade Richards has still stolen Caitlin Moran's hair and is also singing 'Nobody Knows', better than Amelia but not enough to make me care, or to make me forgive her for trying to be Britain's Next Top Adele. Louis thinks Jade doesn't know how good she is. I suspect she does, Louis, or she would not have applied to be on this show. Melanie McCabe is an intense perfectionist (these people are my people, so I can't judge) and howls 'Feeling Good' into the room, looking quite old and a bit mental in the process. The judges love her, though. She cries all over Derwood afterwards that it was "the best thing I've ever done in my whole life", which tells you all sorts of deeply tragic thing about Melanie McCabe's life. Now there's a sob story that's yet to be fully exploited: "My life is so empty that being on this awful show is my personal peak."

Adverts. I'm recapping this using the STV Player, so they are for a lot of Scottish things, and also Daz. [Did you learn about BARREN FIFE? - Helen]

After that, we're back in Wembley, waiting for the next act to take the stage. Those who have not been on yet are rehearsing in the dressing rooms, in front of mirrors. Next up is David Wilder who, we are reminded, sang 'Life On Mars' at his audition and ran all around the arena like a crazy person, and provided yet another reason why live audiences at auditions are a deeply flawed concept. David hams it up for the cameras and discusses himself in the third person. He runs onto the stage like every glam rock cliché you've ever seen in your life and attempts to work the room, snubbing Gary Barlow in the process. If that was a bid for my affections...well, mission accomplished. He's going to sing 'The Edge Of Glory' by Lady Gaga, poorly. He stops mid-song to run up to the judges and inform Gary that this is the biggest gig he's ever done in his life, but he also wants to make clear that he's the greatest unsigned songwriter in this country. Gary's all "yes, dear". On returning to the stage, David finds himself being booed by the audience and attempts to counter it with a glory note. Or an Edge Of Glory note, if you prefer. It seems to work, sort of. The judges thank David very much for coming, and Gary declares himself confused by the reaction of the crowd. THEN GET RID OF THE CROWD. Louis points out that at least he's getting a reaction. Derwood asks David if he thinks he's through, and David replies that he thinks he's "a contender".

Montage of further delusional fools employing cheap tactics: Chrissie Pitt sings 'One' on top of the judges' table to distract from her off-key singing. Gary is not hoodwinked by such tactics. Francis Cardoso (Brian Friedman with an '80s surfer perm) sings an acoustic version of 'Survivor' and does a bit of interpretive dance with it. The crowd is unimpressed. Gary, in an early bid for Cunt Of The Year, looks at the production notes on the table and sneers "let me just check, OH YES I DID SAY NO IN THE AUDITION". You've also said yes to all manner of utter shit, Barlow, so don't go thinking your copybook is thus far unblotted. Outside, Francis cries on Derwood. Kendro are inexplicably still here and are also next, and sing an original composition entitled 'Do The Kendro'. I think it is not entirely unfair to say that no one watching, either in the room or on the television, wishes to do the Kendro. Because audience members on this show have impossibly low standards, they get cheered and applauded. Borelow still hates them, which is good. Kelly uses his dislike of Kendro to sonically torture him, which is even better.

You know who is about to school all of these bitches in the art of grabbing attention? Kitty Brucknell, that's who. Kitty admits that she couldn't pay her rent after buying this costume, which cost £2,000. Let me point out here that it is a leotard that does not contain £2,000 worth of fabric [Topped off with a cardigan. That, ladies and gentlemen, is CLASS - Helen]. She regales us with some of her performance art ideas, and the show clearly wants us to hate her guts, but I don't care: I am totally Team Kitty. A Kitty/Misha/2 Shoes final would suit me just fine. She takes to the stage, and tells Louis it would mean everything to her to get through to the next round. She's singing 'Feeling Good' and begins perched on the piano. She's still not a great singer (though she's a better singer than Katie Weasel or Cher Lloyd ever were), but she noodles along quite contendedly in her own little world, putting on one hell of a show, ripping off her jacket and revealing that her teeny leotard contains lighting strips that flash, thereby explaining (if not necessarily justifying) the cost of construction. The crowd love it. Tulisa awards her 10/10 for effort, and Kelly thinks "you cannot deny looking at her". Gary admits he can't stop looking at her (staring at her, be what she be, etc). Kitty tells Derwood she isn't sure the audience gets her, but "it takes a lot to break the norm, and I really don't care." It's all shamelessly affected, and I adore her. TEAM KITTY FTW.

When we return from another ad break, Derwood reminds us where we all are again, and leads us into a montage of people who are, unsurprisingly, feeling nervous. Unfortunately, this is all leading up to the reappearance of Arsetat - and in case we've forgotten, we're "treated" to a flashback of his first audition in which he sang poorly, got his bum out, and attempted to singlehandedly crush the feminist movement. Frankie interviews that he's always wanted to be a "famous artist". There's a suspicious audio dip between the two words that leads me to wonder if the word "piss" wasn't between them at some point. Arsetat walks onto the stage, and Kelly leans back in her chair. "Hello Frankie," she purrs. "We're not going to see any of your butt today, are we?" "Not unless you want to," Arsetat replies, and I just hate everyone involved with this entire wretched sequence right now. Arsetat is to sing 'Iris' by the Goo Goo Dolls, because it's one of those songs that people who don't know much about music think is cool, because they don't know it's been covered by Ronan Keating. Arsetat hisses his way through it affectedly, and something about the look on his face makes me think that he, not Kitty, is this year's Katie Waissel. It's all faux-earnestness and a transparent desperation for approval. Arsetat finishes and leaves the stage, getting mobbed by a girl sitting in the front row in the process. I would like to find this girl and sit down and have a very long talk with her about how actions like this are setting her up for a whole world of disappointment. Louis thinks he's got charisma, but Gary and Kelly think his voice needs to be stronger.

Montage of hipster dickheads getting panties thrown at them. Seriously, if this show just had a blanket "no hats" rule, they could spare us all from watching a lot of tossers. James Michael performs an absolutely appalling rendition of 'The First Cut Is The Deepest', all hoots and squeaks and no soul whatsoever. He sings it with a big grin on his face, for fuck's sake. Kelly thinks he's handsome. Joe Cox is, as previously established, the bastard lovechild of Olly Murs and Jeff Brazier, and is possibly the most shamelessly affected performer to poison this show since the heady days of The Claw, since his performance of 'Iris' is 99% spasms and 1% actual singing. An idiot grabs him on his way back to Dermot and screams "I want you to win!", demonstrating more so than ever why anyone who voluntarily goes to a live X Factor performance should have their music buying privileges revoked permanently. Marcus Collins yelps 'Kiss From A Rose' but is less offensive about it than most of the other people in this montage. John Adams/Ezra Fitz sings 'Nobody Knows' and still has no neck. John Wilding goes for the cheap vote with 'When Love Takes Over' and is wearing a hat, so he is officially disqualified. "I want the boys!" declares Gary at the end of this. "I want them more!" replies Louis. And I think we all agree that joke is beneath us, so let's move on, shall we? The Keys sing an absolutely appallingly-harmonised version of Taio Cruz's 'Dynamite', but no one cares because they're all well fit innit.

Enough of this shit: let's get to the really good stuff. It's Goldie! (Or, if I may quote the marvellous Heidi Stephens, Goldie Lookin' Cheung. We're reminded of her amazing first audition, and she talks about how she's been surprising herself so far. I have to say, when I read the reports that Goldie had pulled out of the show I was sad, but not as sad as I was when I read it was because she'd realised she was a joke contestant. I genuinely thought she'd been in on the whole thing from the beginning. I don't know what to believe in any more. Anyway, Goldie worries why Gary didn't like her at her first audition: "I'm so friendly, I won't bite - I'm not a tiger, I'm not a leopard. I'm only a Chinese woman, a little bit." Erm, quite. Goldie will be singing 'Feelin' Good'. She has entirely invented her own lyrics/melody/time signature, and she climbs onto the piano, which is being played by a man whose general handsomeness was being largely appreciated by the good users of Twitter. I assume he will be heat magazine's Torso Of The Week any day now. Handsome Pianist enjoys Goldie, anyway, as we all do. Gary rests his head on the desk, the better to reveal his thinning hair. Goldie leaves the stage and goes to embrace Gary, but pulls back. He then leaves his seat, and she chases him around the arena. As this was broadcast, I knew that someone watching was bound to edit the Benny Hill wacky sax over it and put it on YouTube, and lo and behold. Ideally it would've been sped up and maybe looped a few times, but the basic idea is there at least. Eventually Goldie catches Gary and gets her embrace. Kelly loves Goldie, and cannot see the competition without her. Gary is concerned, because he sucks.

Competition: Cher Lloyd honking her way through 'Empire State Of Mind', including the line "there's nothing I can't do". Except, you know, sing in tune. Or put a sensible outfit together. Or behave with dignity on Twitter.

On our return, we're reminded that the decision was made to create more mutant groups from the offcuts of the solo artists. Quite why they don't just do this from the very beginning these days is a mystery to me. There are now six new groups, who've had roughly 24 hours to put together a career-saving performance, and the first group is Nu Vibe, who look like H&M threw up on them. They're very much of the One Direction school of "pretending we've been a group for ages, even though there is still much bitter resentment under the surface". Tulisa asks them how it's going, and one of them bores on about the music coming together. They're doing 'Grenade' by Bruno Mars, and unfortunately for them, any group performance of this song on a talent show must be judged in comparison to this one, and they are found wanting. By me, anyway. Their harmonies are decidedly wobby, and in going for the whole acoustic vibe, they've drained the entire performance of any energy it might've had. Also, the guy who has the first line of the chorus really cannot sing at all. He'd do well to become the Tiny Nicholas Hoult of this group if they continue in the competition. Gary thinks they were the surprise of the day, and Louis thinks they definitely have the look, because obviously that's his primary concern. Oh, Louis.

Montage of Frankenstein's Groups: the hilariously named Faux Pas justify their name with an ill-thought-out Cher Lloyd-ified version of 'Survivor', The Lovettes do a saccharine version of 'When Love Takes Over', The Risk do 'Yeah 3X' by Chris Brown (BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!) and Gary is impressed with what they've achieved in a small amount of time. Misfits (not to be confused with Miss Fitz, or indeed with Miss Frank) sing a scat version of 'True Colours', but the panel doubts their chemistry, and Orion also have a go at 'Yeah 3X' but their attempt looks seriously under-rehearsed.

Up next is 50-year-old scaffolder Terry Winstanley, aka Brookstein 2011. He interviews that he didn't have as much time to prepare his upcoming performance as he would've liked (thereby indicating that he is totally ready for the hand-to-mouth nature of the live shows). He continues that if he doesn't make it this time, he's never singing again. Fingers crossed, everyone! He's singing 'One', and sings it exactly like a pub singer would. He fluffs his lyrics, and tries to cover by getting the audience to sing along, a trick Gary must surely recognise from years of working with Robbie Williams. After his performance, Terry is lost for words. Louis is disappointed, and Gary is "gutted". Terry thinks he might as well go home now. Tulisa: "I'm devastating." If you say so, Tules.

More adverts? Don't mind if I do.

On our return, we must face Janet Devlin, whom I loathe. She's the little shithead who did the note for note cover of the Ellie Goulding cover of 'Your Song' and somehow got praised for being a fresh talent in the process. Of all the heinous copycat contestants this year, she's by far the most insidious. Also, as the excellent Kat pointed out on Twitter, Janet's own Twitter bio reads like that of an arsehole. Janet interviews that it is the biggest thing she's ever done, because she's, like, six. She has apparently picked a song that Means A Lot To Her. It is 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' by Aerosmith. Oh yeah, she's that girl. She probably thinks the Twilight books totally speak to her as well. Janet squeaks a vague approximation of the song. I really wish that someone would force her to down a pint of water to cure her of those damned hiccups. And that someone would refer her to a speech therapist to get all that sibilance sorted out. The audience, as they have been trained to do, applaud every time she does a loud bit. It finishes, and Kelly mouths something at Janet. Kelly is smiling, so whatever she was saying, it's probably not the same thing that I'm mouthing at the TV right now. Just to add insult to injury, they cue up Ellie Goulding's 'The Writer' to pay over Janet's triumphant exit. This fucking show, I swear to God. Gary thinks she sings everything like he's never heard the song before. Oh, COME ON. Even a whack to the back of the head with a two-by-four would never make anyone think they'd never heard 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' before. Louis thinks Janet is "the one to beat in this competition". I agree, and plan to do so with sharpened sticks. Janet simpers at Derwood.

Montage of people who apparently did well: Lascel Wood, singing 'Angel'. Sian Phillips (no, not that one) sings 'Feelin' Good'. Sophie Habibis has the worst diction in the world, but Kelly wants her to sing at her hypothetical wedding. If I went to Kelly Rowland's wedding, and the singing was not being done by Beyoncé and Michelle Williams, I would be asking some serious questions. Johnny Robinson hits a shaky falsetto. Craig Colton is horribly out of tune. And seriously - these are 20 second clips of the performances, which I assume were the best bits. Sami Brookes swallows 'Grenade' whole, and begs the audience to cheer loudly for her in the hope of convincing the judges to put her through. It's kind of gross. That's it for the performances - now the judges are left with the task of pointing at some photographs.

While the judges deliberate, the contestants spout trite soundbites about how this is their only chance, how they're totally in it for the music, and so on. Meanwhile, vague phrases about individual performances are heard from the judges, with helpful pictures to illustrate who we're supposed to think they mean. The judges bicker. Kelly seems to be more reluctant than most to put certain people through, which is rather unexpected. It goes on forever, and there is literally nothing in this section that is worth preserving for the ages, so let's just say that they come to a conclusion and work on. Kelly says: "It's time to deliver the news." I would love Kelly Rowland to deliver the news, on BBC1 at 10pm. I think I would find her authoritative yet reassuring.

After the last ad break, it's time for the results to be made public. The boys' category is the first one to learn their fate, with only eight progressing to judges' houses. First through is Twitchy Joe. Then Arsetat. God, this category is a trainwreck. Luke Lucas is next, then John Wilding, then Marcus Collins, then Max (who?), then James Michael, and the final boy through is Craig Colton. Notable faces cut at this point include Lascel, and Ezra Fitz, who is wearing red trousers and unfastened braces, and is therefore no loss whatsoever. Lascel vows not to give up.

Up next are the groups. Those remaining in the competition are: The Lovettes, Girl Vs Boy, Nu Vibe, The Keys, 2 Shoes (hooray!), The Risk, and The Estrelles. I don't think I've ever seen Girl Vs Boy before [me neither, I'm surprised boy/girl duos can still get this far nowadays when it's all about the girl groups/boy groups - all those fake bands, and not one was mixed-sex - Rad], and The Estrelles are similarly a mystery to me. Kelly tells everyone else to leave. Kendro take it poorly, as you might expect. EXCEPT! This fuckery is not over yet, because that's only seven groups. Instead, they've decided to take some of the groups they constructed from the leftover soloists, split them up AGAIN and build another new girl group from the castoffs of the groups so they can get eliminated in week one of the live shows. Seriously, why even bother? So four people are called back: Jessie Nelson, Perri Edwards, Jade Thurwell and Leanne Pinnock. Kelly tells them that they're a new group now, and they're through. Or at least she tells them the first bit and then screams, leaving Tulisa to clarify what's going on.

Then we have the over-25s. Going through are: Sami, Joseph, Carolynne, Goldie, Jonjo, Johnny, Terry and Kitty. I genuinely didn't realise until this moment that Kitty was one of the overs - I just assumed she was in with the girls. Anyway, ever the drama queen, Kitty drops to the floor and weeps, promising the judges that she'll make them proud. Everyone else is sent home, including David Wilder and Michelle what wasted her life having children.

Last to be put through are the girls. Those with a place at judges' houses are: Amelia, Misha, Polly, Drunk Sophie, Sybilant Janet, Jade, Sian and Melanie, who has only ever been awful in what I've seen of her. *shrugs*

The final 32 are unleased into a room together to see who else made it to this stage of the competition, and there is much screaming and hugging. All that remains at this point is to discover who will be mentoring which group. The contestants are shepherded into various holding rooms in a posh hotel while the judges travel to meet them. For some bizarre reason, Tulisa wants the groups. Gary does not want the groups or the overs. Louis would like the boys, but doesn't care as long as he doesn't have the bloody groups. The first reveal is Gary, who's got...the boys. He tells them he's going to be on them 24 hours a day. Insert your own Louis Walsh joke here. They're off to LA for the next stage of the competition. John and his hipster hairdo and stupid hat are very excited.

Next up, Louis opens his door to discover he's got...the overs! Again. He's happy enough about it, though. They're going to Dublin! No, not really, they're going to Barcelona. I miss when he always took them to Dublin, though. Kelly gets the girls, and screams loudly. She instructs them to have confidence and win this, and to communicate with her at all hours of the day. Kelly is very very lucky she didn't join this show a year earlier and get Cher Lloyd as a mentee if she's going to start saying things like that. They're off to Miami for her judges' houses stage. So this means Tulisa has the groups, and there is a ridiculous number of people in her room. She's taking them all to Camden! Kidding. They're all going to Greece. Shame, I wish they'd gone to the actual house we saw on Being NDubz. Tulisa vows to be the first judge to win with a group. Yeah, good luck with that one. Derwood says "Mykonos" to 2Shoes and confuses them thoroughly. They call him "Derm", which still amuses me.

Next weekend: judges' houses! Stress, and crying, and Arsetat clawing at his ridiculous hairdo like he's got nits. Which isn't that remote a possibility, to be fair. Helen and Ruth will be here to guide you through it, while I take a week off to prepare for recapping the three-and-a-half-hours' worth of shows the following weekend. *sobs*


StuckInABook said...

This may just be my favourite write-up ever... I laughed so much. And I totally applaud your nomination of Kelly Rowland to present the news, although I'd quite like the incongruity of her taking over my very own Points West rather than the national news.

re:Janet - she is a particularly shameless Stars in their Eyes type, but I find it fundamentally impossible to dislike anybody from Northern Ireland, so... I still love her.

There was a sad lack of 2 Shoes in this episode. Indeed, until they are continuously on screen from the moment the big X falls from the sky to the moment the credits roll, they will have been under-used.

And Boy vs Girl are an engaged couple who stand as far apart as possible from each other when singing, never even glancing in the direction of the other, and have zero chemistry. Worrying.

StuckInABook said...

Also... when the judges went to 'discover' their groups they were all clutching Willy Wonka-esque gold envelopes (which were never addressed by the voice-over)... presumably their screams of surprise were thus entirely faked? Is this just to prevent Louis having a heart attack when he discovers, yet again, he's been lumbered with the worst category?

Steve said...

I think the envelopes were just telling them which room to go to, weren't they?

StuckInABook said...

Oooo, that makes sense. I'll stop being Cyril Cynic.

Anonymous said...

They did great! Their Boys 2 Men harmony was superb! X Factor WeAre4Shore