Sunday, September 09, 2012

The nerve centre

Auditions 4: 8th September 2012

There's a faint creaking and a flickering camera shot to open the show; the sort of thing that you might expect to see in some sort of sci-fi dystopia where the band of battered rebels find a long-disused broadcast system in the bowels of an abandoned building. I don't know whether this is some sort of metacomment by the show on its own growing irrelevance, but given the ratings apparently taking a further plummet last night, I'm not going to rule it out.

Gary tells us that he's looking for something that nobody has ever seen before, apart from this week's episode. We're reminded of what we've seen in the previous auditions (dull white men, kooky women, no groups, colossal amounts of pandering at the basest level) and then informed that this weekend we're being "treated" to a double bill. My heart sinks, but at least I've got what I'm imagining is the better episode for my recap, since the guest judges are Mardy Mel and Geri Halliwell. (Ooh, that rhymes. They should forget about the other three Spice Girls and form a duo.) Unfortunately it looks as though Geri's about to be hung out to dry by the editors [didn't they already do that to her when Dannii was on maternity? - Rad], but let's press on all the same.

It's time! To face! More shitty slowed-down acoustic covers of really good pop songs!

After the titles, we have a sort of Desperate Scousewives-meets-Location Location Location montage of Liverpool and its residents. The implication is very much that we can expect Big Personalities in Liverpool, but these establishing set-ups are just so contrived and stilted that I can't bring myself to care at all. Also, do you know who we found in Liverpool last year? Craig Colton. And what a force of personality he was, eh readers? Why, I remember that time he...oh. Actually I pretty much just remember him doing 'Jar Of Hearts', and that's it. [Also from Liverpoool?  Rebecca Honk Honk Fergusszzzzzz - Rad] An editor suggests we might like to hashtag our tweets with "#xfactor" (thank you, we managed to work that out ourselves years ago without any prompting) and the judges arrive. Someone asks Gary if Liverpool has The X Factor, and he tells them that they found "half the finalists" here last time. By my records, we only found Craig and Marcus there, but perhaps Gary's memory is better than mine is [Maybe he meant the final finalists? - Helen]+. Tulisa and Louis also arrive, and are promptly upstaged by the arrival of guest judge Dame Geri Halliwell, who turns up balanced on the window of her car and bellowing through a megaphone that her father was from Liverpool, so she is one of them. The soundtrack promptly cuts out to deafening silence, which I'm sure is a totally authentic representation of what actually happened when she said that. This show's agenda couldn't be more obvious if it was pinned to the parish noticeboard. There's some "candid" action from backstage where Louis asks if there was any rivalry between Take That and the Spice Girls. The correct answer to this would have been "no, because Take That officially disbanded in February 1996 and the Spice Girls didn't release 'Wannabe' until later that year, so we were never direct contemporaries", but Gary chooses to go with "no, because we made the blueprint and they copied us." Yes, Gary, you invented the boyband. No one else had that idea before you. Also, it's a bit rich of Cut-Price Cowell over there to accuse anyone else of being a cheap imitation, but let's not get bogged down in this nonsense.

Up first in Liverpool and arriving in a pink car, it's...hang on a minute, what's this? Hold on, I need to steady myself, and possibly check my vision. It's, it is, it's a group! Everybody, we found a group! Shhh, don't make too much noise, you might scare it away. They're called The It Girls, and they're very excited about Geri being a guest judge because they're big Spice Girls fans, as every right-thinking person should be. They tell Dermot that they're very into their pop, and they want to impress Geri and bring back girl power. I'm a bit concerned that girl power ever went away, to be honest. I blame Stephenie Meyer [but what about BixMix, It Girls? - Rad, on behalf of wimminz everywhere].

The It Girls troop out, and Geri greets them enthusiastically. Gary asks them if they have dance routines, and they all do high kicks. I think they might be hewing a bit too close to the Spice template here. Also, imagine a group composed entirely of Mel Cs. *shudder* Gary says there's always somebody in a band who can't dance, and Geri immediately points at him and shouts "I was the Gary Barlow!" Hee. Gary's all affronted, because he meant Geri, even though Gary's inability to dance was pretty much his signature during the Take That heydey. (I remember Smash Hits magazine being really impressed during that tour where they had the mini-Take That supporting them that the level of attention to detail was so refined that mini-Gary couldn't dance either.) The It Girls have prepared 'Stop' by the Spice Girls, and Geri is very excited about this, saying that she might have to join in. Louis cautions her to calm down.

They start singing (to the wrong part of the song, as far as I can tell) and Geri's completely carried away, miming along and doing the dance routines. As far as she's concerned, it's 1998 all over again. The less said about The It Girls' singing, the better - it's not appalling, but it's not very good either. Funsponge Barlow is concerned that everyone's enjoying themselves too much and brings the proceedings to a halt. Geri thinks they have potential, while Gary thinks there's barely a voice amongst them. Geri interrupts him to say that not everyone in Take That could sing (truth). It's a yes from Geri, a no from Gary, and apparently Louis and Tulisa's opinions are not welcome here. Geri informs Gary that two of Take That could not sing, and that when she started out she couldn't sing, but she can sing now. Oh, Geri. God bless you. [She was a total troll.  Loved her.  The panel to just be Geri and Mardy Mel next year please - Rad][And future head judge Alexandra Burke too please. Just imagine Louis and those three - Helen]

Another group (the floodgates have truly been opened), a four-piece called Sorority aged from 16-22, sing 'The Flood' (OH GOD NO) [the editors clearly sensed it was your turn to recap this one - Rad]. They're better than The It Girls, but not vastly, and get a no from Geri. Yet another four-piece, this time called Voxe and aged from 24-26, cite the Spice Girls as an influence and sing 'We Found Love' at the same sort of scratchy level as The It Girls, get Geri all hyped up and leave Gary underwhelmed. So much for Tulisa's pre-series claims that the BixMix victory had really raised the standards of this year's entrants. If anything, I think BixMix's victory just lowered our expectations. Backstage, Geri says that she knows she's competitive, but at least she owns up to it, whereas Gary does not. I initially think that the next auditionee is a "pastry model" until I realise that makes no sense and that she is in fact a page-three model. Geri brightens again, as this is also something she did in the past. Louis, for some reason, does not know about this, and Geri says that if you look on the internet, you'll see it. Gary says that he'll avoid the internet from now on, but I suspect he avoids it most of the time anyway. Too high a risk of accidentally having fun.

One of the Big Personalities from the opening montage arrives onstage in a leopardprint coat. He's Chris Culligan (25, unemployed) and says that he wore the coat for Geri, because it's girl power, or something. I don't really understand the logic there, but Geri seems appreciative so I suppose that's all that matters. He sings 'Feeling Good', badly, and Geri thinks he can sing. She's wrong, but then I never expected Geri to be much of an authority on that front. Geri think Gary is intimidated because she's sold more records than he has. I have no idea if that's true, but I think he's just a bit of a dickhead, Geri. Don't take it personally. 19-year-old student Martyn Sayer sings a tedious rendition of 'Iris', and it's a no from Geri (hooray!) and yes from Gary (boo!). I like to think that at this point Louis and Tulisa have realised they're surplus to requirements, and have sneaked out to catch a screening of The Dark Knight Rises or something. Jade Jackson (22, unemployed) sings a hip-hop song I don't recognise but seems pretty decent, and gets a no from Gary but a yes from Geri.

Backstage, Dermot flirts with a muscular boyband (one of whom has an acoustic guitar draped over his shoulder, so I think we know where this is going), and when they go out on the stage it becomes apparent that Geri has swapped seats with Tulisa and is now next to Gary. See, they love each other really! The group are called Times Red and known individually as Tom, Luke and "Staz". They live together and do everything together, well not everything together, lol no homo. Tulisa tells the one in the middle (it's either Tom or "Staz", they look pretty similar) that he looks like Richard Gere, and Geri agrees. Geri asks them what they do for a living, and The One In The Middle says that they do a bit of shop work and a bit of bar work. He, in fact, works in Abercrombie & Fitch. I think he might be in this video, but hey, even if he isn't, any excuse to watch it again. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that Geri knows exactly what Abercrombie & Fitch staff models are required to be (apart from "not too disabled") and invites them to show us their abs. And they do. They're doing an acoustic version of 'Rehab' with added beatboxing because that's exactly what the universe needs. Tulisa (oh look, she is actually still here) thinks they've got raw talent. Louis thinks it was a good audition with good harmonies and sees a lot of potential. Geri loved it, and they're her favourite act so far today. Gary thinks it was innovative and creative, he just wishes they were all better-looking, ho ho ho. Four yeses for Times Red, then.

After an ad break, we've moved to Manchester with guest judge Mardy Mel. Louis asks her if she's familiar with the work of Geri Halliwell. Mardy Mel says that Geri's "a bit nuts" and a bit "to the left", but says so affectionately. I think. After more "candid" scene-setting footage from backstage, we have our next auditionee, who looks a bit like Naomi from Skins. Gary asks her how she is, and she replies "I'm 16." Whoops. Her name is Megan O'Neill, she's a student, and she sings an enormously overwrought version of 'When I Look At You' by Miley Cyrus and gets a resounding yes from the judges. Next up is 17-year-old Tasha Payne, who helps out at her mum's riding school and serenades the horses, most of whom seem to be fairly uninterested in her warblings, by her own admission. She sings a fairly scattered but pleasant enough rendition of 'Skinny Love', and Mel tells her that she doesn't realise how good she is. The way she looks at the ground it ain't hard to tell, she don't know-oh-oh, she don't know she's good singer! Or something. Tulisa really felt the emotion of the audition, and Tasha is through with four yeses. After her is Cian Morrin, 17, who works in a butcher's, and when pressed on the matter by Gary admits this can affect his success with the ladies. For some reason, his erratic and strained rendition of 'Come Together' brings the house down. It's a big yes and probably a much better chance of getting laid for Cian.

The next girl walks on and gets a big "Hello Melanie!" from Tulisa, which is our first clue that we're supposed to know who this is. Apparently she got all the way to Judges' Houses with Kelly Rowland last year, but I have no recollection of her whatsoever. Then again, if she was deemed less suitable for the live shows than Sophie "Funny In Islington" Habibis, perhaps there's a reason for that. She's Melanie McCabe from Dublin, and explains that she really thought her time had come last year, and was devastated to be sent home, to the point where she still can't watch that episode. She explains how her mum stood by her the whole time and kept reassuring her and stopped her from giving up entirely. Frankly, all of this is making me think she's not really cut out for the music business, but never mind. She tells Tulisa that she cried all the way home from Miami last year (bet that was a fun flight for everyone else) but she's determined to do better this year. She sings 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and the tune eludes her on several occasions, but there's enough belt in there for the performance to be a big hit nonetheless. (She also seems to spend a worrying amount of time holding her stomach, which makes me think she needs to work on her breath control, but that's something to consider later, I imagine.) Tulisa tells Melanie that she's even better than she remembers, and she deserves to be on the stage. Mel is amazed that a tiny thing could have such a huge voice, and calls Melanie a star. Gary is thrilled to see her back and giving a great performance. Louis tells her he's emotional because he knows she's been through a tough time (what, one knockback? Christ on a bike) and he didn't think she'd come back and be that good. It's yeses all round for Melanie, and she's through to boot camp. Melanie runs off to hug her very supportive mum, and tells Dermot that this is now more important than it has ever been in her (very short) life.

After another ad break, and just to confuse things, we're back in Liverpool with Geri again. Geri is practising her Scouse accent, and to her credit, it's not that bad. She also traps Gary on the receiving end of a monologue (conducted in the aforementioned accent) about how to be a great popstar you need to have an "-ee" sound on the end of your name, e.g. Gary, Robbie, Kylie, Geri, Britney and so on. The auditions resume with Clesia Mendes (financial services controller, 35) singing 'The Best' in a karaoke style. Geri tells her that she has "positive energy" but it's still a no. This means, apparently, that things are "not going well in Liverpool". Ashwin Abinashi (supermarket worker, 27) turns up in sunglasses, and then asks for a moment to get ready. Quite what he does in this time is not terribly clear, but it's all a waste of time anyway as his performance of 'Fight For This Love' is limp, despite the impressively literal choreography. It's a "never" from Louis.

Up next are Little & Large (ages 18 and 19 so no, not those ones) who want to be "the first duo to, like, really win The X Factor" (as opposed to all those duos who only sort-of won?), but their performance of 'Gold Digger' is the whitest thing you'll ever see. "Bless them, but it was crap," says Geri after they're gone. I love how the show's completely abandoned its attempt from earlier to make Geri out to be the loony judge. I know its presentation of Mardy Mel has been inconsistent from week-to-week, but surely a bit of continuity within the same episode is not too much to ask for? After them, we have William McClure (22, unemployed). "Like" asks Geri. William wrinkles his nose and says "just William." Just William sings 'Bohemian Rhapsody' atonally to the point where even Geri Halliwell is cringing. Just William tells Gary that he's serious about this, and that's why he left his job. Gary advises him to go back, and Just William says he'll be back there tomorrow.

Everyone's getting desperate for something good, and there's a montage of people in the queue hoping they're the next big thing, including a chap who seems rather obsessed with Tulisa, saying he would like to kiss her on the lips, and not the way that he kisses his mother. His name is Viet Tien Ngujerv, but everyone calls him Jason. An interviewer asks him if he thinks about Tulisa all the time, and he concedes no, not all the time - he thinks about Adele, Alicia Keys and Cheryl Cole too, but he loves her the most. After a bit more crass funny-foreigner humour at Jason's expense, he finally gets to go on stage, where he launches straight into his speech about how Tulisa is amazing and beautiful and he loves her so much, and Tulisa is a little bit unnerved by the whole thing. Louis admonishes Jason for pronouncing it "Tulisha", because he knows there's even more 1970s-style comedy to be gained from Jason trying and failing to say her name correctly (this from the man who couldn't or wouldn't pronounce "Wagner" correctly, lest we forget). This goes on for far too long, and makes me want to crawl inside my sofa. [Ugh.  This was HORRRIBLE - Rad] Louis asks Jason what he wants from today, and he says he wants Tulisa to stand up for him. Obviously he means he wants a standing ovation after he's sung, but Louis is in full embarrassing uncle mode at this point and thinks Jason wants a better look at her tits.

Jason sings 'I Have Nothing' by Whitney Houston, and Geri mumbles "I hope he's good" during the intro, because she and Louis have decided that Jason is very sweet. Surprisingly, Jason does actually have a pretty nice voice, despite everything the show's done to embarrass him up to this point. At the chorus, Tulisa gets to her feet to applaud him, and he throws her name into the lyrics at the end. I'm glad he turned out to be halfway decent, but his whole edit still leaves me very uncomfortable. Tulisa tells him that she think she's found a new toyboy, and he's earned her love with his performance. Geri tells him it's a hard song to sing, and he did well. Gary calls him "a great little character" (OH GOD GARY NO) and Louis thinks it wasn't perfect, but he's very likable. Jason gets four yeses and he's through to boot camp. He goes backstage to be manhandled by Dermot and to squee about getting a kiss from Tulisa.

After the final ad break of the night, we're still in Liverpool and still with Geri. This is a relief, I was worried we'd be in Ipswich with special guest judge Pixie Lott or something. Our next auditionee is the nervous and emotional Daizy Dance (27, singer), who sings Whitney's 'I Learned From The Best'. Tulisa tells her that she let her nerves get the better of her, and she needs to sort out her confidence issues. We don't see what becomes of Daizy, but I'm guessing it's a no. Shame, because I really wanted to hear Peter Dickson shouting out her name. Simon Smith (advertising salesman, 31) is also nervous, and his performance of 'Master Blaster' suffers. He apologises very politely for not "smashing it" like he knows he can. Coleen Brookes (call centre worker, 20) arrives in tears and red-faced, and trembles all the way through her performance of Beyoncé's 'I Care'. Geri and Tulisa tell her that she's talented but she needs to get some confidence. Up next and also shaking is Christopher Maloney (customer service adviser, 34), who tells a pre-show interviewer that he didn't realise how big the crowd was going to be, and it's taken him five years to build up the courage to actually do this. Apparently every year he's downloaded the application form, filled it out, put it in an application form and ripped it up. Well, that's a waste of stationery. People have told him he's not good enough for the show and that's knocked his confidence. I'm not surprised: "you're not good enough for The X Factor" is right up there with "you can't write as well as EL James" as damning critiques go. We see him getting a pep talk from his nan, whom he moved in with after his grandfather died, to look after her. I know I should be desensitised to this sort of blatant emotional manipulation by now, but: awww.

Back on stage, he tells Tulisa all about his nan and how much it would mean to get through, because the song he's singing today was played at his grandfather's funeral and means a lot to him. He's singing 'The Rose', and he has a loud, steady, clear and pleasant voice which means it's not long before the entire room is willing him on. He's allowed to perform the entire song so we can maximise the shots of the judges looking overawed and his nan looking on proudly from backstage. He gets a little overcome by the end of the song, but manages to keep it together just long enough to finish and gets a standing ovation for his troubles.

Of course, the first thing Tulisa wants after the song is to get Christopher's nan on stage, so Dermot leads her out and Christopher sobs on her shoulder. Geri asks his nan, Pat, how she's feeling, and she admits that she's "a nervous wreck" after that. Gary wonders how Christopher's kept that voice hidden. Christopher explains that people told him not to come on the show because he would embarrass himself, and the entire panel rises up in righteous fury, all "WHO SAID THAT?!?", as though this show could never conceivably do such a thing to anyone. It's about as credible as the "what, us? Nobody told you to sing Pink!" incident from the first episode of the series. Louis tells Christopher that he stole the show today, and no one else has had that sort of reaction. The judges go for a vote, and of course it's a yes from everyone. Christopher hugs his nan in triumph. Backstage, Christopher is completely lost for words, and Dermot tells him it's brilliant when people overcome their nerves like that, and that he made it worth their while coming to Liverpool.

Tomorrow night: someone fey and sassy owning the judges, guest judge Leona Lewis, a lap dance, and Louis finding out what a vajazzle is. Helen will be recapping that one for you, and the very best of luck to her.


Kitty said...

I too blame the Twilight woman

xtoast said...

I thought it was 'pastry model' until I read this... all makes sense now

Lia said...

Where's Helen gone???

Helen said...

I'm here! Just a little bit delayed and have had a busy couple of days. Working on Sunday's recap as we speak and will comment asap x

Patrick said...

Shame that Daizy Dance wasn't good, she had an excellent popstar name.

Patrick said...

Thank you for that Call Me Maybe video you sweet kind gorgeous man :)