Sunday, October 09, 2011

Let's twist again

Top 16: 8th October 2011

Are you sitting comfortably? Because Lord knows you'll need to be; this mother is two and a half hours long (although probably only about half that when you remove the ad breaks). I hope you've all made the necessary precautions for this show: I've ensured that the district nurse will be around every 45 minutes to check me for bedsores. And on that overshare, let's begin!

In a manner not entirely dissimilar to the way you might describe a barrel of monkeys that unleashed a deadly plague, Peter Dickson reminds us that THEY CAME FROM ACROSS BRITAIN. We see Craig, Janet, Misha and Amelia taking the stage for their first auditions again, this time in black-and-white-nostalgiovision. But of course, we can't let this show be about the actual contestants for too long, so we are instantly reminded that it is the NEW GENERATION and the revived panel is amazing and this show is better than it has ever been etc etc etc. (Admittedly, it's been a lot more tolerable without Bloody Cheryl this year, but that doesn't change the fact that Gary Barlow is a humourless prick.) We're reminded of auditions, both good and bad, and as ever, it's pretty much impossible to tell which is which outside of the show's signposting. Then there was Boot Camp and Judges' Houses (the show does not give this an apostrophe, making it look more like two distinct things: Judges. Houses.)

TONIGHT! The final 16 sing live for the first time (except not, because they've been singing live all through the auditions, so it's really more like they sing "in real time" for the first time tonight, but that sounds less authentic and Radio 1-friendly, doesn't it?). Tulisa has the groups: RhythMIX, Nu BILE, 2 SHOES and The RISK. In the first of many confessionals tonight with a CGI background so hopelessly cheap-looking that I think I might be watching Beauty and the Geek by accident, Tulisa says that the competition starts now and the gloves are off. Louis has the over 25s: Johnny ROBINSON, Jonjo KERR, Sami BROOKES and Kitty BRUCKNELL. Louis informs us that his secret weapon this year is...having been here last year. Sure, why not? Kelly has the girls: Misha B (okay then), Janet DEVLIN, Amelia LILY (not her actual surname, so I feel a bit wrong capslocking it, but you gotta do what you gotta do), and Sophie HABIBIS. Kelly says she knows she has the winner. Gary has the boys: Craig COLTON, Marcus COLLINS, James MICHAEL and ArseTAT. Gary says there's no messing around (of course not, that'd be far too interesting), he's here to win. I'll say one thing for this year's talent pool: at least they all have names that could conceivably pass for being pop stars. There's not an Olly MURS or an Eoghan QUIGG among them. Plus that all-important BIG TWIST that we all knew about days ago. It's time! To face! SUBSTANDARD KARAOKE!

Ooh, new titles. The giant X is now descending upon us from the very nether regions of the galaxy. Possibly somewhere around Goldie's home planet. Ahh, Goldie. This competition is a poorer place without you. [I miss Goldie - Helen] [Me too - Rad]

Stock footage of London at night. Are we about to get the results of the task on The Apprentice? Derwood makes his entrance, complete with Twat-Salute, and wearing a double-breasted suit that makes him look even boxier than usual. Seriously: if Derwood O'Leary or Tess Daly ever learn how to dress themselves properly, that's half of my Saturday night entertainment gone already. Derwood informs us that the theme is "Britain vs America", or in other words "songs that are songs that have been sung".

Derwood introduces the NEXT GENERATION (sigh) of judges. Tulisa is still regrettably surnameless. They make their entrance: Borelow is wearing tweed or a reasonable facsimile thereof, having possibly just arrived from his country estate. Kelly's wearing a short black dress with a gold dragon print and green swirls all over it that from a distance looks a bit like this, Tulisa's wearing a sort of pale pink (sorry, I'm terrible with colours when it comes to clothing) dress with a gold bodice type thing around it, and Louis is in a standard black suit. The camera adopts an ill-advised low placement as the judges hit their marks on the stage, with the result that around 11 million viewers are now Kelly Rowland's gynaecologist.

So, that big twist, then? There is no public vote this weekend: each of the top 16 acts will perform tonight, and tomorrow each judge will select one act from their own category to go home, leaving us with a Top 12. As BIG TWISTS go, that's actually a pretty good one - certainly better than last year's - and gives the first live show an interesting "last of the audition stages" feel to it. Though of course, if we lose Misha or 2 Shoes as a result of this, it will of course be the WORST TWIST EVER. [I was so sure it was going to be a fifth judge, but I'm happy to have egg on my face for this one - Helen] [Four fewer acts! I am full of glee - Rad]

Derwood asks Gary why we're doing this. Rather than reply "for maximum press coverage", Gary responds that we're going to really see who can cut it on this stage tonight, and the nerves when you perform on this stage are like no other. Tulisa says it's one of the biggest decisions she's ever had to make. The audience whoop throughout this, because obviously their mindless cheering is far more important than anything the judges might have to say. God, I hate studio audiences. Kelly says that she feels the acts should make the decision really hard for them. Louis is very nervous, but thinks it's going to be a brilliant show.

First up tonight, in what's known in my house as the Strictly Come Dancing Doesn't Finish For Another 30 Minutes Spot Of Doom, is Amelia. We see Amelia in the auditions, wearing some much eye make-up that she ought to be too top-heavy to stand upright. Amelia, sporting an Anastasija-esque dodgy pink colour wash, tells us that she can't believe she's in the final 16, and it's a daunting task for a 16-year-old, but she can't wait to get started. Kelly reminds us that she was around 13 or 14 when she started with Destiny's Child, so comparatively Amelia is an old biddy. Amelia goes to visit her parents, who are not sure about her hair colour, and tells us that she's never cooked/done laundry/made her bed in her life, and that's why she wants to be a pop star: so she'll never have to. (I may have editorialised that last bit.) She says that she's learning not just how to be a pop star, but to be a GROWN-UP. Kelly thinks that Amelia is SO READY. We see Amelia learning of the BIG TWIST and being shocked, but resolving to prove to Kelly that she's earned a place in the Top 12.

She's singing 'Billie Jean' in the first of tonight's many "reduce the tempo by a third and call it artistry" performances". She still has too much make-up on her eyes, although now it's in pastel shades rather than gothy black. She earns points from me by not bothering to change the "don't go around breaking young girls' hearts" line and therefore courting a bicurious fanbase. Vocally, she's not bad: there are a few off-pitch notes, but she copes well with the rocked-up arrangement. The performance as a whole is a bit underwhelming, though, I think through no real fault of Amelia's. It's just all a bit "loud is better than good" for my tastes, there's nothing really to cling on to here apart from the volume. Also, the new makeover makes her look a bit like Charlotte Church. And on an entirely superficial note, the cut-off shorts she's wearing have been cut in such a way that she's got half of the pocket lining hanging out over her right leg, which just looks daft. Sack the stylist, someone.

Louis opens for the judges by saying that Amelia is 16. She is? Shit, I'd better write that down in case no one ever mentions it again. He loved the arrangement, the styling, and the choreography, and thinks Amelia deserves to be on that stage. His voice goes very squeaky on the last word - is Louis's voice breaking at last? Tulisa tells Amelia that everything from her energy to her vocal to her performance blew her away, and she's seeing her as a contender for the first time. Gary thinks it was a great opening to the show, but not amazing. He too reminds us that she is 16 and on The X Factor. Remember, she's 16. That's a one, and then a six behind it. Seriously, make note of it. I mean, she might have turned 17 by next week and then ALL OF THE MAGIC WILL HAVE BEEN LOST. Kelly tells Amelia that she should listen to the feedback. But don't worry, she'll learn not to point her microphone directly at the speakers eventually. She is ONLY SIXTEEN, after all. Derwood arrives and asks Amelia how she's feeling. She says that the nerves backstage are incredible. Are The Nerves a new group that was formed over the last week, featuring two of The Risk, one of Nu Bile and a Rhythmix? Amelia says she's trying to have fun and enjoy herself, and Derwood asks Kelly if being 16 matters, because if you're good enough, then you're old enough. SHUSH DERWOOD YOU ARE GOING OFF-MESSAGE, HER SIXTEENINESS IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE HERE.

Time for some adverts. Oh God, Yeo Valley can fuck right off with their fake boybands and their homeopathy.

Up next, it's Louis and the overs, with Johnny doing some Cher. Johnny squees about having made it this far, and how the glamorous X Factor House is very different from his bedsit. We see him gleefully trying out the gym with Kitty and Misha (oh God, please let the three of them be best friends, that would be BRILLIANT), and he thinks that this is what Elton John's house must be like. Louis thinks that Johnny is in his element on stage, and Johnny can't wait to go out on stage and be a showgirl. He hopes Louis will not regret his decision to put him through.

Just so that we are in absolutely no doubt as to what Johnny is doing on this show, he descends from the roof in a giant mirrorball, wearing a shiny silver jacket and singing 'Believe'. It's all falsetto, and his voice would blow away in a light breeze, but the ultra-camp staging is at least faintly entertaining. There's no danger whatsoever of him winning, but I think this'll be a shot in the arm for his drag career at least.

He finishes, and the audience chant his name. Tulisa tells him that he has shocked everyone and that he's her guilty pleasure. Kelly says that she enjoys watching him, and wanted him to come a bit closer so she could get a better look, but it's fine because she still had a good time. Gary says that every time Johnny's sung for him he's been blown away, but Louis has turned him into a circus act. So much for my hopes that the "you're so talented, but Louis is RUINING YOU" meme might have left along with Simon. Gary is disappointed and doesn't like what Johnny is wearing. This is a bit rich from a man who's dressed like he's about to appear in a low-budget amateur production of The Importance Of Being Earnest. Playing the handbag. Louis thinks that Gary is missing the point (AND HOW), because Johnny is living his dream: he loves the Pet Shop Boys (THIS MAY BE CODE FOR SOMETHING BUT I JUST CAN'T THINK WHAT) and only this show could give him a chance like this. Derwood asks Johnny what he thinks, and Johnny says that he doesn't mind what Gary says because he loves him. Gary says that he knows Johnny can sing, and he found that too cheap. I'm slightly scared of this world that Gary lives in where there is such a thing as "too cheap for The X Factor". Johnny quotes Dolly Parton in response, pointing out to Gary that it costs a lot to look this cheap. [The more of the X Factor I put myself through, the more I realise that Louis is probably the telly brains of the operation. I mean, what would these series' be like without the mental Louis Walsh section? A line up of Cowell bots does not a night of Saturday night entertainment make. I realise I may well be on my own here. End rant - Helen] [Having watched the US version, I'm beginning to agree. I only hope Paula and NotLouis work their special brand of magic with the groups because what that show needs right now is a Louis contestant. Can't believe I'd ever type that - Rad]

Another ad break. I can't believe they gave Jeremy Kyle a gameshow. Aren't gameshow hosts supposed to be empathetic and encouraging? Was he their second choice when Colonel Gaddafi couldn't fit it into his schedule?

On our return, Derwood shills the show's iPhone app, and then it's time for Tulisa and the groups. I don't know about you, but I've been craving a Rhythmix all day. And here they are! We see them auditioning separately, becoming a group, and being dressed in a load of Cher Lloyd's old outfits in order to save money. They introduce themselves as Jesy, Leigh-Anne, Perrie and Jade. I like that sort of ambition - hoping to be around long enough for it to matter which one's which. Tulisa says that they all have individual styles, but it works when they're together. They have makeovers, in which Leigh-Anne freaks at having one side of her head shaved. Perrie applauds her for "taking one for the team", but there is a disappointing lack of ANTM-level histrionics. Jade talks about having practised for the glamour shoot when she was watching it on telly, and they've got the hang of "standing there in a group, all looking up". Marvellous. Just the singing to sort out, then? They don't want it to end. Tulisa thinks they're going to blow everyone away.

BixMix are singing 'Super Bass' by Nicki Minaj. Jesy seriously has far too much make-up on and can barely open her eyes. The singing is poor, the rapping is unconvincing. Occasionally the camera cuts to Tulisa dancing and mouthing along, but I notice that next to her, Kelly looks distinctly unimpressed. To give them credit, some of the harmonies are fairly decent, but it's just all too messy and I don't find them credible - not in the boring Radio 1 acoustic guitar wank sense, but in the "actually looking like they're meant to be a group in the first place" way. They end on a very shaky harmony.

Louis thinks they've come a long way, and there's brilliant chemistry between them. I have no idea what he was just watching, but it cannot possibly have been this. He thinks they're going to buck the trend of girlbands not doing well on this show. I hope not. Tulisa launches into a bizarre rant about girlbands constantly trying to "outdo other women" and how BixMix don't do that, but represent "ladies in this country". She seems worryingly fond of them. Kelly thinks they did a good job, but she's going to be hard on them because she sees so much potential, and she thinks they need to get better harmonies and chemistry. Gary thinks that even though it's week one, they're already the best girlband ever on this show. Ah, that hollowest of compliments. Leigh-Anne looks like she's going to throw up. I know how she feels. Derwood asks Jesy how she feels, and she says they didn't expect comments like that. Derwood thinks they've just made Tulisa's life much harder.

Derwood refers to Gary as "one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation" for the first of about a billion such occasions over the evening. Seriously, guys, you could've made it slightly less obvious that that intro was written into his contract. Arsetat is next, singing Borelow's favourite British song of the year. Bound to be something horrifically tedious, then. Arsetat says it's unbelievable to be in the top 16. Sadly, it is all too believable for the rest of us. Teenage girls with absolutely no self-respect surround the X Factor House and scream for him. This saddens me greatly. Arsetat reveals that the song he's singing tonight wasn't the song he was originally given, as that one was nixed by Gary the first time he sang it for him. Arsetat hopes Gary knows what he's doing, and hopes to prove that he's a good performer. At least he's not delusional enough to think we'll ever believe he's a good singer.

Blimey, when I said "horrifically tedious", I was bang on the money: he's singing 'The A Team' by Ed Sheeran. Interesting (well, "interesting") fact: I was making dinner when this part of the show went out, and I thought I could hear my boyfriend openly scoffing at what he was watching. I asked him what was happening, and it turned out that it wasn't him making that noise at all - that's just the grunt that Arsetat makes at the end of each phrase. That's going to get annoying very quickly. God, this song is DREADFUL. Apparently Gary Barlow's appalling taste extends beyond his choice of contestants right out into the wider field of music. Eventually, it ends, though not soon enough for my liking.

Louis tells Arsetat that they knew he "had something" when he auditioned. My guess would've been chlamydia. He thinks Arsetat was born to sing and strut on stage. Tulisa agrees that it was an amazing song choice, and he always brings great energy. Her one criticism is that she thinks he's wearing too much guyliner, and also that somehow this is anything to do with Borelow, as if this were Project Runway or something. Kelly questions the whole "lock up your daughters" thing and says that she should be locked up because she's strangely drawn to him. Oh Kelly. You really should be locked up if that's how you're feeling. For your own protection. She thinks Arsetat exudes "artistry" and "star quality". The bar has been set impossibly low, hasn't it? Gary says that it's no secret that he was always worried about Arsetat's voice, but now he doesn't know what he's worried about. He informs us all that Arsetat is a "real artist". You can say that all you want, guys, but it won't make it true. Arsetat says that he was worried before he came out tonight, but now he doesn't want to get off. Well, there's a first time for everything. A girl in the audience shouts "WHY ARE YOU SO FIT?" I would like to find this girl and ask her a more pertinent question: why does she hate herself so much? [Thought - surely it would be easier to lock up Arsetat rather than ALL THE DAUGHTERS? No? - Helen]

More adverts. Have Haribo ever made a good advert? I can't think of any.

Next up is Sophie who, Kelly informs us, is covering an song from "the biggest UK artist out right now". Considering Sophie's about to do a Katy Perry song, I think Kelly might be a tad confused right now. Sophie tells us that she works in a pub and everyone is really lovely. Sophie, you have clearly not read your script: doing any job that is not that of a popstar is DISGRACEFUL AND HUMILIATING AND SOMETHING THAT INDUCES DEEP DEEP SHAME. Kelly thinks Sophie's been hiding her talent in the pub, and Sophie says that one of her friends thought she should audition last year, but she didn't go because she didn't think she was ready. She thinks she's ready now though, and she's glad she auditioned this year. She's not sure if she stands out amongst the big characters this year, but Kelly thinks her voice will make her stand out. Hilariously, Rihanna's 'What's My Name?' plays beneath this segment, which is rather appropriate for the girl who is definitely the "which one's she again?" in Kelly's category.

Sophie is perched on a piano singing 'Teenage Dream', slowed down to within an inch of its life. Her enunciation is awful - it might even be worse than Janet's. It's tuneful enough, but yelpy and not the sort of thing I'd ever want to listen to voluntarily. It's interesting, though, how even perched on top of the piano for the entire duration of the song, she still manages to move more than Rebecca Jazznoodle did throughout the entirety of last year's competition.

Louis wonders what happened to that girl from boot camp - you know, that girl, what's her name, oooh, it's on the tip of my tongue, honestly it is, I'll think of it in a minute. He's just making this too easy for me. He tells her that she's a pop star now and she has an amazing recording voice. He thinks she's going to go far. Tulisa thinks Sophie looks beautiful, and she thinks that of all the transformations on the show, Sophie's is the biggest. She loved that version of the song. Gary thinks she was brilliant, and like Louis, trots out the "I don't remember you!" card. I don't think this is quite the compliment they're spinning it to be. He says that he's going to fall out with Kelly if Sophie's not here next week. Kelly says that she believes in Sophie, and that she made her think "Katy Who?" Which would be nice, if Kelly didn't immediately lapse into professional panic mode and start screaming "BUT I LOVE KATY PERRY, SERIOUSLY KATY DON'T HATE ME FOR THAT, WILL CALL YOU RIGHT AFTER THE SHOW BBGIRL OKAY?" right after. Derwood tells Sophie she's got some great comments, and Sophie says something boring in response. I freezeframe the show to type up my notes and my boyfriend comes in and points out how she basically looks like Katy Perry as played by Katherine Parkinson.

Up next, and bringing a crashing halt to the stream of relatively current material that was built up over the past three songs is Jonjo. We see Louis at judges' houses saying "I'm taking The Risk. But enough about my lovelife, you're through to the live shows." Or something like that, anyway. Jonjo reminds us that he is A SOLDIER. Other stuff happens, but let's be honest: that's the bit that's important. Louis thinks that Jonjo has a lot more to give in the competition. Jonjo feels he cannot fail because HE IS A SOLDIER.

Jonjo is singing 'You Really Got Me' by The Kinks, and the whole thing is so pub karaoke as to be utterly intolerable. Around him, girls are writhing around on top of perspex cubes, but nothing distracts from the utter ineptness of his performance. At one point the cameras cut to Gary doing a serious bitchface, which is one of the few times I've actually felt on the same wavelength as him this evening.

Tulisa tells him he looks great, sounding as bored as I feel right now. She knows he wants this, but she's disappointed because the song didn't show his voice off. She loves his energy though. What energy? Oh, Tulisa. Kelly says she's rooting for him, but she was very disappointed because she expected more energy. "Did you have a good time?" she asks, sounding almost insulted. It's not quite Alesha Dixon asking Nancy Dell'Olio if "that was supposed to be funny?" on Strictly earlier, but it'll do. Gary asks if the song choice was Louis's idea, and Jonjo says no - they discussed two songs, and the other one was even less energetic. "I'm guessing the girls in red shirts wasn't Louis's idea as well," homophobes Gary. FUCK OFF [SECONDED - Helen] [THIRDED. Is that a word? - Rad]. He thinks Jonjo should enjoy this experience, because he sticks out like a sore thumb, and he's made Louis's decision very easy. Tulisa says "I wouldn't go as far as to say that" rather weakly. Louis attempts to explain that Jonjo was nervous, but Kelly is having NONE OF IT, and points out that people will feel nervous before they go on stage all the time, but it's no excuse for a poor performance. Louis tells Jonjo he needs to believe in himself, because everyone else has upped their game. Derwood asks Jonjo how it went, and Jonjo says he's happy with what they said, and he'll be nervous before every fight. That's reassuring. He adds that you can't disagree with Kelly Rowland, because she knows what she's talking about.

More ads. Is it just me, or does the woman in the Kenco "harvest festival" advert look a bit like Holly from The Great British Bake Off? [I miss that show already. I especially liked it when Holly went mental and declared that she wished all the others dead - Rad]

Up next, we're back with the groups, and "the totes amaze" 2 Shoes. They can't believe they're in the X Factor House, and get very carried away with the prospect of makeovers and further hair extensions. Tulisa interviews that she loves them and thinks they're exactly what the competition needs. Charley breaks the news to the other contestants that she's "having a little shoe" (she's pregnant, just in case you don't read the tabloids) and everyone gets very excited. Lucy interviews that people were asking her if she knew, and she confirms that she did already know, but that she was just "so emoshe" when Charley told everyone. Tulisa says Charley's pregnancy is not going to stop her giving 100%. The girls say they love Tulisa, and she's like a third shoe. Charley says that she wants to show people that they really mean business, even though they're two mad girls.

Amazingly, they're singing 'Something Kinda Ooooh' by Girls Aloud, sitting in a pink car with the numberplate "2 SHOES". AMAZE. Their harmonies are pretty good, but there are a few mumbled words, a few iffy notes, and they're sat in the car for too long at the beginning which rather hampers the performance. Also, looking at Lucy, I fear she may have been applying her make-up in that car on the way to the studio, along a bumpy dirt track. Note to the make-up team this year: seriously, less is more. It's a fun, competent performance, and Louis is clearly LOVING IT. The middle eight's a bit iffy, but it was enjoyable and far better than BixMix.

Louis declares it fun, cute, camp, kitsch and all those other words he uses when he means "a bit gay", and he's pleased that they're singing in tune. You wouldn't think that'd be something worthy of note on a singing competition, and yet it is. Louis makes a joke about the car being something he saw in an early Take That video, LOL EARLY TAKE THAT VIDEOS WERE TARGETED AT THE GAY MARKET. The humour on this show remains as sophisticated as ever. Kelly pretends she knows what an "Essex" is, and says that they're really fun and she wants to hang out with them. She thought it was a good first performance and she enjoyed watching them. Note: "watching". She didn't say anything about listening. Borelow calls it "karaoke night in Romford". This from the man who called Arsetat a "real artist" about half an hour ago. Fuck off, Borelow. He snits at Tulisa that he appreciates she got out the car and the dancers to distract from the "mediocre singing", and seriously? YOU HAVE FRANKIE ARSETAT IN YOUR CATEGORY, YOUR COMMENTS ON SINGING ARE INVALID FOREVER. Tulisa tells him that he doesn't know how to have fun (WORD) and she says that the girls are fun and Essex, which is very current, and they can sing as well. Louis says you don't get karaoke like that. Derwood asks if there was "Nervy-Bs" going on. There was totes Nervy-Bs. Derwood takes Borelow to task for being a boring old shit, and Gary protests "I like fun!" Note: nobody who actually likes fun has ever had to say that. Lucy tells him "Romford ain't that bad." Indeed.

Up next: James Michael, whoever he is. He appeared repeatedly in the auditions as a Twat In A Hat, but the makeover team have apparently relieved him of his headgear. Good work. Next job: sort out the chin acne. He tries a "WE ARE SO POOR WE ONLY LIVE IN A RENTED HOUSE" sob story, so he can fuck right off. He poses with a guitar, and says that he's only got two minutes to prove himself on the show. Gary bores on that James is an ordinary boy who hasn't had many breaks, and this means a lot to him. James wears a hat in rehearsals. Noooo! It was going so well!

In a piece of staging I don't entirely understand, he opens by sitting on some steps in front of a backdrop of a house. Maybe this is the house HIS FAMILY CANNOT AFFORD, BOO HOO BOO HOO. He is singing 'Ticket To Ride', slowed down to a snail's pace. You know this show's lost all sense of perspective when it is slowing down songs by The Beatles to make them sound more authentic. The singing's decent enough, although the low notes are poor, and the whole thing's overstyled and whiny and kind of smug and DID I MENTION HE'S WEARING A FUCKING HAT AGAIN? There's even a fucking key change in there. God, send this one home - that's far too many strikes against him already. [It was so bad, Ringo wanted to die just so that he could spin in his grave - Helen] [The first Ringo that came to my mind was Ringo from Neighbours who tried to have a singing career and failed dismally. Your point would still be valid, Helen - Rad]

Louis thought James was going to have potential, but that song didn't go anywhere for him and he doesn't understand why Gary picked it because it made him sound like a busker in Covent Garden. Tulisa says that sometimes his vocals are rusty, but she had nothing to worry about tonight. Kelly thinks he looks like an artist, but she was really disappointed in his vocal because she's heard him sound much better. She doesn't know if it was the right song, and says this right into Gary's face. I love Kelly. Gary, reading directly from his script (seriously, he's looking down and everything), says that James "totally reinvented that classic". GARY BARLOW HEARTILY ENDORSES THIS CONTESTANT AND/OR PRODUCT. He asks who would dare take on a Beatles song, and answers his own question: "only you". Yes, Beatles songs are notorious for being so revered that nobody has ever covered any of them until tonight. Fuck off, Borelow. And just to complete the catalogue of wankery, Gary points out that James is THE ONLY ACT ON STAGE PLAYING A REAL INSTRUMENT, even though it didn't even look like he was doing much with that guitar beyond hiding behind it. And it's not like anyone else was brandishing a Tomy keyboard or anything.

Up next, we're back with Kelly who, aware of her error earlier, promises us that this girl REALLY IS DEFINITELY covering the biggest UK artist of the moment. We're reminded of Misha being amazing throughout her audition process, and Misha giggles that she can't believe she's here. She's seen loads of posters supporting her in her street, and says that it doesn't feel real. Kelly loves Misha's unique style, and Misha says that she believes strongly that it's not just about voice but also image and performance and personality. She's proud to be on team UK tonight, and Kelly says that Misha's putting her own stamp on this song. Misha clarifies that she's not changing it much, just giving it a bit of an urban flavour.

She's singing 'Rolling In The Deep', aka the only even remotely tolerable Adele song, and giving it more of a drum-led, militaristic edge. She's wearing a dress partially made of ruffled prop newspapers and sitting on a throne. I am so Team Misha right now it's not even funny. She inserts a rap breakdown in the middle of the song, which once again appears to be an original composition, and I'm left wondering how much more tolerable Adele would be if her songs sounded like this in the first place. It's by far the most exciting performance of the night, and to be honest, if this were a fair contest, then everyone else should just pack up and go home right now. Having said that, I'm still convinced Misha's finishing no higher than sixth, because she's a confident black woman and they don't exactly have the best history when it comes to the votes of the British public. So Misha will probably be at home two weeks before Christmas, watching Arsetat, Janet and Craig in the final.

Louis says she's bringing urban to the show in her own way, and he loved the twist and he thinks she looks like a big diva from the States, just like Kelly. Tulisa says that Misha is the person who stands out the most, and she thinks Kelly did a great job with the song choice. She thinks Misha is brilliant and means every word when she's on stage. Gary tells her that she has to understand that she is incredible, and it was such a modern performance that he's really excited for her, and now he hates Kelly. He thinks Misha should be incredibly proud of herself. Kelly says she doesn't know what to say, and tells Misha that she PUT IT DOWN. Hopefully not a puppy.

Derwood asks her how she's feeling, and Misha's a bit overwhelmed: "Wow, thank you so much. Geez, X Factor 2011...Kelly, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for all the comments and wow...geez..." Derwood, clot that he is, says that sounded like a winner's speech. Thanks Derwood, that's just what Misha needs: more people sniffing that she seems far too confident. *slow clap*

Who's next? It's Nu Bile. We see their rather fractured journey up to this point, and then they celebrate being on the live shows. They do not afford us the courtesy of introducing themselves individually the way BixMix did, so I'm afraid they're going to have to put up with being called That One and That Other One and so on. They interview that there have been reports of them all bickering in the press, and of course five lads are going to argue every now and then. I'm fairly certain that's code for "we get on about as well as Phoebe And The Woo-Woo Girls did". Tulisa claims that it's normal for groups to disagree too, but I'm not wholly convinced that her experience of being in a group is in any way related to normality. They think they've worked hard, and now they're really tight. Their sound check does not go brilliantly, as they're told their performance was good but their vocals were not so much. There's also an amazing mid-performance shot of Tulisa standing in front of them, doing the "SMILE!" gesture so beloved of all pushy mums, where you do a massive terrifying grin yourself and point to it with both hands.

They're singing 'Beautiful People' by celebrity asshat Chris Brown. The vocals are still ropey and the performance is quite static, but I'm quite appreciating this show's embracing of dancefloor stompers as a valid art form. In fact, I would like a Dancefloor Stomper Week. As soon as they start moving, the vocals get worse and the harmonies are quite painful in places. I suspect there may also be places where some of them are "singing" without actually having the microphones anywhere near their mouths, but I wouldn't want to stake my reputation on that.

Louis liked their energy and thinks young girls will love them, and he thinks Ashford is the main man. I don't know which one that one is. Kelly says she was worried because they have such different personalities, but she enjoyed watching them ("watching" again, note) and thinks they could really be something. Borelow liked that they could hide behind the song choice, because it meant they could get away without singing together. "I felt like I was watching five solo artists rather than a band," he says. Goodness, I wonder why that might be? Tulisa: "People have been waiting for my feisty side to come out on this show, and here it is: you must be mental!" Did that remind anyone else of Joey's agent Estelle asking him if he's ever seen her ecstatic? She thinks that Nu Bile are the next generation of boyband, and they will blow people out of the water. Kelly chimes in: "Just remember you have a lot to live up to. You have Gary, you have Boyz II Men, you have all these groups that have gone before you, and then put it down, so when y'all come on stage, you got to PUT IT DOWN." I think Kelly's trying to make "put it down" happen, you guys. Derwood asks Nu Bile how they feel about the comments, and That One says that they will take them all on board. He asks if they've done enough to be here next week, and The Same One says that he thinks so, but it's not in their hands. Fair enough. [They're like a band made up of five Resentful Directions. Terrible, but kind of amusing - Rad]

Adverts. Lady Gaga enabling a "poke her face" joke that's frankly beneath her on a trail for The Jonathan Ross Show.

Up next, someone who's so current he's singing the UK's number one single. I have absolutely no idea what that is. Oh God, I'm less hip than Gary Barlow. Anyway, here to enlighten me is Marcus. He's very very VERY excited to be here, and notes how his life has taken a significant departure from the route he expected it to go down. Marcus discusses how it's strange to see thinks being written about you in the paper, specifically the fact that you're shagging one of Eton Road. Marcus resolves that he doesn't mind this happening if it means he gets to perform. Gary likens Marcus to a sponge, because he never pays his way when they go out for dinner. Kidding! It's because Marcus soaks up all the advice that Gary gives him. Marcus says he's going to turn his anxious feelings into positive ones and give the best performance of his life.

Turns out he's singing 'Moos Like Jagger' by Maroon 5 featuring Seahaguilera, which a quick visit to the Radio 1 website informs me is not the current UK number one anyway (it's 'Loca People' by Sak Noel, and last week it was 'No Regrets' by Dappy), so suck it, Gary Barlow. Marcus actually sounds pretty good - his low notes are a bit iffy sometimes and the transition into his falsetto isn't as smooth as it should be, but there's a nice tone to his voice. I feel I must register my disappointment that a song with the word 'Jagger' in the title is being performed on this show and it's not this one. Come on, you know Johnny Robinson would rock that one.

Louis tells Marcus that he has indeed got the moves, and he also loves that Marcus is always smiling backstage. He thinks he could go really far in the competition. Tulisa says that Marcus always brings a smile to her face, and while she spends a lot of time with her acts, he's the act not in her category that she's got to know the most because he's so friendly and gregarious. She thinks he nailed a very tough song. Kelly says that she knew he would, because he's got confidence and he rocks. He thinks he looks "so fine" too. Marcus nervously responds that Kelly is "looking well" too. Bless him. Gary tells Tulisa that "that's the fun he likes to have" up there. What, gay fun? He thinks it was a brilliant performance, full of energy and Marcus should be proud of himself. Marcus tells Derwood that he loved it, and wants to do it again. He hopes he's done enough to stay. Derwood refers to Gary as "one of the best singer-songwriters in the country" again. Is anyone keeping count?

Up next, it's Sami Brookes. We see her journey thus far, which is a veritable triumph of headwear. She can't quite get her head around being in the Top 16 - as well she might, since it's only through Goldie withdrawing that she's even here. She explains that she cried herself to sleep when she was rejected, and going back to reality was HORRIBLE (of course), but hearing from Louis that she was back on was brilliant. Louis lies that he should've picked her in the first place. Sami's very nervous about the judges' vote-off, as she's only just re-entered the competition. She wants to change her life.

She's singing 'Free' by Ultra Naté, and disappointing a lot of viewers by now wearing a hat or fascinator or headband of any sort. Sort it out, Sami. She begins the song in the now-obligatory super-slowed-down interpretation, and just as I'm about to give up all hope, the disco beat comes thumping in during the chorus. Hooray! On a finicky note, she needs to sort her performance posture out, as she looks constantly in danger of being swallowed by her own shoulders. Also, her wobbly mouth is really distracting - it appears to be in such a state of perpetual motion that it's still twitching after she's finished singing.

Tulisa tells Sami that she is the voice of the competition, and she loves what she represents: strong women around the world. She adds that when Sami takes to the stage, Tulisa gets a "strong female energy" from her and it makes her want to celebrate with all the women for her. I think Tulisa basically just asked Sami to have sex with her, although I may have misunderstood. Kelly says there is an abundance of PUTTIN' IT DOWN today, and Sami gave them a big vocal and sass, and she's very proud that she's here. She wants to thump Louis on his head, because she wants Sami in her category. Gary, ever-eager to do a bit of tedious point-scoring and to suck all the enjoyment out of the room, is all "OH WAIT A MINUTE LOUIS, ISN'T SAMI ONLY HERE BECAUSE GOLDIE LEFT? YOU THOUGHT GOLDIE WAS BETTER? ARE YOU SOME SORT OF MENTALIST?" Fuck off, Borelow. He says that if Sami's not here next week, he's leaving the show. OH MY GOD, SEND HER HOME LOUIS! Sorry Sami, it's nothing personal, but hopefully you understand you are being sacrificed for the greater good here. Louis tells Sami that she's transformed, and he's so glad that she's here, because he definitely believes in her, and doesn't love Goldie more or anything. He thinks she's an ordinary girl with an extraordinary voice. Derwood tells Sami, while chuckling at his own hilarity, that they really need her to be here next week or it will cause ALL MANNER OF TV PRODUCTION-TYPE PROBLEMS. He's available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, folks! Sami is very overwhelmed, and wants Louis to know that she's taking the competition very seriously even though she's having A Joke And A Laugh at the same time. [I didn't get the Sami love. It was straight out of Britain's Got The Pop Factor and more cruise ship than a game of Quoits - Helen] [But a long and glittering career on Loose Women awaits, so... *shrug* - Rad]

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We return, and Derwood asks the audience who their favourite is. Apparently they're all rooting for someone called "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" I don't think they've been on yet. Time for our final group of the night: The Risk. We're reminded that they are Tulisa's SUPERGROUP. Love it. The one called Charlie (he's the only one whose name I know because such a big deal was made over him last week) thinks it's weird that the other three started the competition as solo artists, and he was in another group. Not this year, it isn't: it's positively mundane. They've been working on bonding as friends, by playing football. I understand that is what the heterosexuals do. They've also been rehearsing a lot to make sure they get the sense of their new harmonies. They say that the BIG TWIST was a shock to them, but they need to prove to Tulisa that she was right to take a Risk on them.

They're singing 'She Said' by Plan B. Their dancing (well, movement - dancing is a bit of a stretch) is a bit sloppy, but the harmonies aren't too bad. There's something quite Glee about it, in a good way. There are moments where the harmonies break down, but they're the best at it out of any of the groups this year, so there's hope here at least.

Louis tells Tulisa that they are a Risk that has paid off, and he lists a load of previous boybands from the show to remind us that they exist. Kelly says that what they bring as individuals is great, but they also bring a group, and she delivers the now-compulsory threat to Tulisa not to eliminate them. I think someone needs to point out to the panel that four acts have to go home tomorrow whatever happens, and no amount of hectoring is going to change that. Gary, apparently just recovering from a serious head injury, states "this is a band." Well done, Gary. Have a biscuit. (Not too many though.) He thinks it was all well put-together, and he thinks that this is a sign of proper mentoring from Tulisa, lending them coolness and an edge. Tulisa says that she was right to make this decision at judges' houses, and there's no cheese with them and they're all "credible musicians" (ugh) - some of them even write! Frankly I think we just give them a Pulitzer now and have done with it. Derwood asks them how they feel, and they're just so blessed to be here, etc etc. Derwood guffaws that Tulisa has got SUCH A DIFFICULT DECISION TOMORROW. No she hasn't: just axe BixMix. [Or Nu Bile? - Rad]

Up next: Biscuit Boy. He rhapsodises about Gary's many values as a mentor; chief among them is apparently "making people thinner". Craig goes jogging with Gary and receives a visit from Gary's "nutritionist" (I look forward to the moment when a contestant breaks an arm and Gary takes them to his "bonefixerist") who's put him on this amazing diet. The diet appears to be: lots of vegetables. I'm genuinely saddened that anyone would have to call in outside help to work that one out. Also, I don't know how much truth there is to this report, but if there is, then the diet sounds fucking lethal. A stone in a week is not healthy, and certainly doesn't sound like a route to keeping the weight off in the long term. [That sounds seriously dodgy. I've had norovirus all week and I haven't lost anything near that much - Rad] Borelow bores on about the amazing healthy eating plan. Sod what Marcus was doing: talking about diets is totally the sort of fun Gary likes to have. Craig reports that he's chosen the song and done his own vocal arrangement, and worries that if it fails, it's down to him - but similarly, if it works, he gets all the credit.

He's singing 'Jar Of Hearts', a song I only know because it occasionally gets played on music channels in the small hours of the morning and I think it was also used on Glee once [it was. Rachel did it with lots of MEANINGFUL FACES toward Finn at Prom. - Helen]. It's the sort of song that sounds like it should have a lot of contemporary dance happening in front of it, which is why Craig's performance looks a little...barren. He's also rocking a serious sidegob, and there was much mirth on Twitter last night about it sounding more like "jar of farts". The whole thing's far too overwrought for my tastes, and ends up being rather comical as a result of this. There is at least an amazing shot of Kelly Rowland doing an "OMG" face during the performance. I think there should be a red button option where you can opt to have the camera fixed on Kelly at all times.

Louis reminds us that Craig is from LIVERPOOL and THINNER THAN HE WAS. He has a great recording voice and has something special about him. Oh, and he'd better be here next Saturday. Sod it, let's just have them all here next Saturday. Hell, invite Jade Richards back as well. And Katie Weasel. And Gamu. Just open the doors and LET EVERYONE IN. Tulisa tells him that he's an amazing vocalist, and tells him not to hide behind the comedy. I think the comedy was unintentional, Tulisa. Kelly says that he killed it, and he had the most emotional performance of the night, and then goes off on this weird thing about how in the States they throw stuff at people when they're doing well, and she almost threw her pen at him. I shall be wanting to throw a lot of things at Janet Devlin in a few minutes, but for entirely different reasons. Louis thinks this version of the song could be a number one. Borelow calls it the number one performance of the night (of course he would think that). Derwood asks him how he feels about it. Craig says that he couldn't have expected anything better, but he really enjoyed it. Derwood advises him not to lose the lulz, despite what Tulisa said.

Ad break. Stupid Health Lottery thing that gives less money to charity than the main lottery does.

Our penultimate performance tonight is from the last of the overs: Kitty. She's had by far the worst makeover of anyone, and...well, more on that later. Louis says he knows he's taken a big risk with her, but she won't let him down. Kitty says she's always wanted to be a controversial performer, and she doesn't care what people write about her, because all criticism just makes her stronger. Kitty's worried about the extra pressure from the twist because there's so much talent on the stage, but she wants to prove to Louis that she deserves to be in his top three.

She's singing 'Who Wants To Live Forever' and about half of her face is covered in glittery purple eyeshadow. For some reason, all I can think of when I look at her is Vera Webster in Superman III getting sucked into the Plot Device Of Evil and being turned into a cyborg - a sequence, incidentally, that gave me sleepless nights for about a week as a child, and now Kitty's going to do it again as an adult. She starts out terribly shakily - her lower register is incredibly weak, her transitions between notes are poor, and her voice as a whole is incredibly weak. To be fair, it does improve a little bit as the performance goes on, but I suspect that a lot of people have already decided they don't want to live forever if this is what the future sounds like.

Tulisa euphemistically refers to Kitty as a "complicated character" and people will either get her or not, but no one can deny that her performance was captivating. I suspect they can and will, Tulisa. Anyway, Tulisa wants to see her again. Kelly thinks Kitty was nervous and shaking for the first time this week, but she wants her to get her audition confidence back. Gary thinks she can sing, but it's a shame there wasn't more drama in the performance, LOLLERSKATES. He thinks the competition is going to be tough for her. Louis thinks that when Kitty gets on stage, she owns it - she's amazing, controversial and "spellbounding". Indeed. He hopes she's here next week, but he has a difficult decision to make. Kitty tells Derwood that she just had fun and gave her all, putting a lot of thought into what the words mean.

Finally, the last of the girls: Janet Devlin. She's got the Devlin her! Janet performed the most appallingly by-numbers karaoke cover version audition, and yet is still here because she is an evil genius. She says her life has changed dramatically, though sadly her voice has not. She dicks around on a guitar in the house. Kelly loves Janet's shyness, but thinks she blows people away with her singing. Oh Kelly - that voice couldn't blow the petals off a dandelion if it was right in front of her mouth. Janet says I AM SHY a few more times. You can't be that fucking shy if you're on this show, love, so cram it.

She's singing 'Fix You' by Coldplay - and there I was thinking that Will Schuester's rendition would be the worst one I heard this week. Life's full of surprises that way, I suppose. Apparently so keen to emulate Diana Vickers that she also wants the YouTube videos with comedy subtitles, Janet doesn't bother enunciating at all - I could swear at one point she sings "when you get what you want but not wash your knees". It's all yelpy and very Dolores from The Cranberries meets The Claw meets a kitten in a blender. Awful, awful, awful. I will, however, try to fix her, and the process will involve intensive sessions with a speech therapist. And a singing teacher. And a psychologist who can help us work out why she's adopted the personality of an utterly contrived squeaking ninny. But hopefully we'll get there in the end.

Louis likes her because she is FROM IRELAND and makes some comment about her doing 'Your Song' at boot camp (except it wasn't boot camp, it was her first audition, unless she caught Luke Lucas-itis and just ended up doing the same song over and over again because it was the only one she could do). Oh, and Louis thinks she MUST be kept, because she's what the show is all about: utter dickheads. Tulisa thinks she's amazing, and has upped her game with her performance level and energy. Between this performance and Jonjo's, I'm starting to think Tulisa's definition of "energy" is very strange. Gary says that she's totally unique and a one-off, which is utterly risible, and would've been even if my Twitter timeline during this performance last night hadn't been full of people pointing out which other singers she's an inferior imitation of. Kelly says she's seen Janet coming into herself, and she's very proud of her, and she's grown as a young woman as well. She's embracing her talent and her gift and all that bollocks. Derwood asks her how that all went for her, and Janet said she thought everything would go wrong when she was backstage. And indeed it did, and yet everyone still lapped it up.

That's it! There's no recap, because there's no public vote: Derwood just brings the whole of the top 16 back out onto the stage and reminds us that the judges will be choosing four acts to go home tomorrow. Also in Sunday's show: Lazy DECORATOR, and the fabulous "Cee-Lo Greenshere", whoever that might be. Who'll be going home? If it were down to me, I'd send Frankie and Janet home twice for sheer fuckery, but on a serious level, I'd get rid of those two plus Jonjo and BixMix. I'm not convinced the judges will agree though; I guess we'll find out tomorrow...


Caroline said...

Excellent recap as ever!

Was anyone else mesmerised by Kitty's Botoxed-to-complete-shiny-immobility forehead? Isn't she only 26? Ahem, I mean "26".

Funny you should mention dancing and Jar of Hearts. I first heard the song on So You Think You Can Dance as the backing track to, you guessed it, a contemporary dance.

Liam said...

Hey. I really love your recaps I was wondering if you or any of your contributors would like to be on my podcast. It's the first episode this week so let me know if you'd be interested in voicing your distinct opinions.

I understand if you want to hear an episode first, if you are interested email me at or tweet me at lili_72 Thanks bitches!

Fiz said...

This blog is the only thing that gives me the will to live whenever the X Factor is on!

Phil said...

Misha was brilliant. I agree - stop the competition now. It's all over.

Also on the positive side, Tulisa is a godsend for the groups. Even though they were rubbish, I quite liked Rhythmix just for singing Nicki Minaj on primetime ITV. I hope they don't ruin it and make them murder Love In The First Degree (or something) next week.

NuVibe scare me a little bit.

Anonymous said...

Brillian recap, I would disagree on just one point though. No cover of Coldplay's Fix You will /ever/ be as bad Glee's.

Anonymous said...

You got Jesy and Leigh-Ann mixed up which is why you wrote about one answering the other one's question. Jesy is the weird looking girl with lots and lots of long hair. Leigh-Ann is the one who had her head shaved.

Steve said...

So I did - thanks for that, I'll amend the recap. To be fair, I think I did well to get two of them right given how little the show seems to care about identifying any individual members of the groups.

Anonymous said...

Why Telissa doesn’t speak to Kelly or Garry about Micha’attitude? its shows how immature Telissa is and also that Telissa can’t change from what she is really, a poor chav from a council flat who can’t speak propely. Simon trying to make her look like a lady, like he did with Cheryl, is just not wOrkimg… Her natural comes back.. No respect for the rules, no education and really shaming Micha on national TV is a form of bullying. Micha should put a formal complain and get some apologies from Telissa. Grew up Telissa!! You are not suited to be a judge at all.. You have been brought on board to get a whole type of audience but now you have ruined it all.. The bad PR will also stick to your profile for a while.. Think next time before saying anything stupid!