Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not enough love or understanding

Top 12: Love and Heartbreak Week - 13th October 2012

Oy. So, last week, this happened, and The X Factor wet its pants with glee because, after struggling to make itself relevant so far this year, it managed to create a cause célèbre of sorts when Carolynne got booted over Rylan and Gary created a perfect storm in a teacup by stomping out under a conveniently-arranged spotlight. Then followed the media circus with lots of tedious people wailing "it's a singing competition", having apparently not watched the previous eight series or indeed interpreted the title of the show correctly. The previouslies milk this all for dramatic effect, and I'm sure we're going to get reminded of it ad nauseum for the rest of the show.

So who's left? For Gary and the over-28s: Kye Sonezzzzzzzz, Chris Maloney and Melanie Masson. Of course, Gary's a consummate professional who's focusing on the future rather than dwelling on the past, and looking forward to doing all his talking via the scene-stealing performances that his acts will give tonight. No, of course not: he's still grousing like the tiniest bitterest man in the whole damn world. For Tulisa, and the girls: Ella Henderson, Jade Ellis and Lucy Spraggan. Tulisa's all "anything can happen on this show! As long as you warn the production crew beforehand so they can sort out the lighting cues." For Louis, and the groups: MK1, District 3 and Union J. Louis sensibly doesn't get bogged down in Carolynnegate and says that all of the judges want to win. Finally, for Nicole and the boys: Jahmene Douglas, Rylan Clark and James Arthur. Nicole vows to give "Gary Borelow" what he's been waiting for. I'm taking that as a direct shout-out to this blog, and no one is going to convince me otherwise.

Titles! Intergalactic X makes its merry way Earthward once more.

Dermot enters in his latest ill-fitting suit, with this week's clothing curiosity being a really saggy double-breasted waistcoat. I think Dermot and Tess must meet up at the beginning of September every year and plan out three whole months of sartorial torture together; it's the only possible explanation [Although I wasn't enamoured with Nicole wearing the outfit the Cyberwoman wore in Torchwood tonight either - Rad]. Dermot recounts the events of last week, sticking to the version that he prefers in which Louis couldn't make up his mind, rather than the actual truth wherein Louis did make up his mind and Deaf Dermot just wasn't listening. The judges enter to the soundtrack of 'Two Tribes'; Louis is holding hands with Tulisa, Gary does not hold Nicole's hand until the last possible moment. Make of that what you will. Gary makes lots of "COMEONLESSAVVIT!" gestures to the audience, because he's That Guy. "Phwoargh, still a bit of tension there!" says Dermot, his erection practically visible at the very thought. We'll be talking to the judges in a minute, but first, says Dermot, let's remind ourselves of last week's drama. No, let's not. *fast-forwards* [So much pretend drama, I can't even...- Helen]

Back in the studio, Dermot asks Louis what happened. Rather than saying "I gave my answer and you ignored me, you cloth-eared git," Louis sticks to his story about not being able to decide because Carolynne was the better singer but Rylan was the better entertainer, and it was live TV and he was scared. B'okay, Louis. Dermot asks Gary if he's forgiven Louis yet. Gary says absolutely, he has, and shakes Louis's hand. I think Gary's offering that very special kind of forgiveness where you tell everyone it's water under the bridge to make yourself look classy but spend the next two hours making assy comments about it. Dermot asks Nicole if Rylan's going to come out fighting, and Nicole says last week was very emotional, but he'll be fighting for sure. Dermot asks Tulisa if she has anything interesting or relevant to contribute: as always, she hasn't.

Dermot pretends that anyone gives a shit about the actual contestants by opening the lines. I must admit, I'll be interested when they reveal the voting stats at the end of the series to see how much difference this makes to the way people vote. Also, it's useful to be able to determine the running order before the show's even started. Dermot tells us that this week's theme is "love and heartbreak", otherwise known as "pretty much the entirety of pop music".

The boys are on first, with Jahmene representing for Nicole. His VT tells us how Yoko Ono tweeted her approval of his cover of 'Imagine' last week, placing her in a minority of precisely one person. Moving on to this week's theme, Nicole tries to get Jahmene to sing to him like she's his girlfriend; Jahmene confesses that he's never had a girlfriend and he's never really been in love. Nonetheless, Nicole gets him to sing for her and gets appropriately fluttery at the end, saying how important it is for him to feel the song's meaning, because if he doesn't then neither will the audience. NotLouis tries to get Jahmene to fondle the microphone; Jahmene starts to think this is a step too far.

Jahmene is singing 'Tears Dry On Their Own', which segues into 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' halfway through. And if you're already rolling your eyes at the show reaching into the medley well yet again, allow me to warn you that it'll be happening a lot tonight. Rylan's performance alone may well give you a seizure. As far as Jahmene goes, I feel much the same way about this as I do with all of his performances: I'm impressed with his vocal range, but less so with his singing because he seems to actively avoid the melody most of the time. Vocal showcases are all well and good, but you need to create something that people will actually want to listen to in the process. [It's like he's playing note bingo or something - Helen]

Louis thinks Jahmene is what the show is all about, and tells him that he's one of his favourite contestants ever on the show. Tulisa tells him he's looking very dapper tonight, and says that she thinks the ladies will be lining up after that. As always, assume that all of Tulisa's lines are delivered in the most half-hearted way possible - she can barely bring herself to sound excited about her own acts, much less anyone else's. She thinks it's all so simple with Jahmene, it's all about the voice. Teedle-dee-teedle-dee-teedle-dee this is JAHMENE! *guitar chords* Gary tells Jahmene it was a great simple vocal performance using his skills as a vocalist. "You listened to me," he smarms. "Well done!" Nicole calls Jahmene "my sweet li'l precious babycakes" and tells him that he did something out of his element, and that he was born to be on that stage. Dermot strides out to comprehensively embarrass Jahmene, all "Nicole told you to pretend she was your girlfriend! Bet you loved that, YOU VIRGIN!" It's funny, hearing the news about T4 getting axed this week made me remember the times when Dermot O'Leary was a brilliantly natural and engaging TV presenter. I'd almost forgotten. [Now you've made me remember him on golden era BBLB and I am sad - Helen]

After the ads, we're back with Gary, the overs, and the voice of Liverpool: no, not Sonia, it's Chris(topher) Maloney. Gary mocks Chris for his excitement last week upon discovering that he was the winner of the wildcard vote, since excitement remains an entirely alien concept to Gary. Now, you might think that making fun of things you don't understand is classic bully behaviour; I couldn't possibly comment. Chris thinks that the judges were a bit negative last week, and Gary grumbles that "Nicole calls Christopher cheesy, and then she puts Rylan on stage." How telling that Gary thinks that "camp" and "cheesy" are the same thing. Gary tells Chris he doesn't want to change him because he's great as he is. Well, that's helpful. Gary appears to belong to the Cher Lloyd school of mentoring, where anyone who criticises you is a jelus h8r.

Chris is singing 'Alone' by Heart. Badly. He's singing it too low, his face keeps moving like a Muppet, and the whole thing is drowning in Gorgonzola again. I'm perhaps a little sensitive here because I genuinely think this is one of the greatest songs ever, so this banalisation of it irks me. Also: the stage set-up for this is bizarre, with a bar and sofas and flirting couples. I mean, it's NotLouis so I'm sure it's genius in its own way [on Sofabet they thought it was probably a Cruise Ship, if so - HA!  I love you NotLouis - Rad], but it's possibly a bit too distracting when faced with a performer as uninteresting as Chris. The final note is flat as anything, as well. I mean, I realise Carrie Underwood was a pretty lifeless performer too back in her American Idol days as well, but if you watch her performance from season four (try to ignore the hair), she genuinely captures the emotion of the song in her voice, which Chris fails to do.

"Who was that up there, Gary?" asks Nicole. See: he's only just finished performing and she's already forgotten who he is. Chris tells Nicole that he tried to sing for his life this week, and Nicole says that she'll take his cheeseburger every day as long as it means something to him. She was very impressed by the note at the end, which she thought was effortless. Louis thinks he gave it everything - perhaps too much, because it was a bit cruise ship. He thinks it was a lazy song choice, but Chris can definitely sing. Chris tries to respond, but Tulisa has decided it's her turn to respond and she won't be stopped: she still doesn't think he feels current and she feels Gary still has some work to do there. Gary says "there's no need to make him current [...] changing you is not the way to go at all, you are perfect just as you are." Again, helpful mentoring. I can't believe they gave all that money to Gary to hide in his offshore accounts just to turn up every week and fart out nothingless like that.

Dermot says that Chris is an old-fashioned belter, so this is surely what he wants to do? Chris non-answers that it was love and heartbreak week, so he worked really hard. Dermot, in a rather pathetically childish impression of Louis, asks what it means when he gets called "cruise ship", and Chris says it doesn't bother him, it just goes over his head. In fact, you might say...

*puts on sunglasses* sails right by him. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! (Sorry. Sometimes the urge to play CSI: Miami is just too hard to resist.)

The groups are next, so it's over to Louis and Four Direction, alias Union J. Last week they met One Direction in order to be able to steal fibres from their clothing in order to study their DNA and find ways of splicing their genes together to make this whole boyband mullarkey less like hard work [I keep expecting them to splice this lot with District 3 to become Triple J Double G MD 7 Direction or something - Rad]. In this great meeting of minds, Resentful Direction told them just to have fun, and Tiny Nicholas Hoult told them to be themselves. Wow, that's the kind of advice you can only get from the professionals! Last week's performance was a shitshow to the extent that even Gary thought they were dated, and they thought they were doomed, but the public saved them and now they're determined to stay in.

'Work' by Kelly Rowland strikes up on the soundtrack, as Louis gives them his three-point plan: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. And so they really do rehearse everywhere, all week, bless them. Louis vows that they're going to show Gary Barlow that he knows more about boybands than Gary thinks, and Union J declare themselves Team Louis. Point of interest: they do their camera rehearsal with their names written on A4 paper gaffer-taped to their t-shirts. I guess the crew are about as interested in learning which one's which as I am. [George is the Harry Styles.  The others are just 'J' to the crew, I assume - Rad]

They've apparently decided that it's freezing cold in the studio because they're all dressed like the River Island autumn/winter catalogue. Scott-Lee J is wearing a shirt, waistcoat, scarf and overcoat - he must be sweating like an absolute bastard under those lights. Meanwhile, Other J has a long scarf dangling out of his back pocket, which according to the hanky code means he wants you to jizz on his face. I think. They're singing a piano-led version of 'Bleeding Love' that switches into 'Broken Strings' halfway through. It's an improvement on last week, but it also sounds like it was mostly being buoyed by unseen backing singers.

Tulisa tells them it was much better than last week because she could hear the vocals. Gary says it's a total transformation from last week, and can't resist going "am I right in thinking Kye helped you with the song this week? Good. It proves you don't listen to Louis, listen to Kye." Yeah, if your main concern is to how to get dropped by two record labels. Nicole thinks they got everything right this week, and that it was beautiful and simple, and if they keep growing and performing like that, they'll be selling out the O2 one day. Louis tells them their hard work paid off, and they're bringing something to the competition that no one else is bringing: excitement. Dermot asks Resentful J how this feels, and he says it feels great. Posh George chips in that they're just going to work even harder next week. It was at this point that Helen pointed out that the show is "trying to make Four Direction into BixMix with willies", adding "the main difference being these boys would definitely try to steal my boyfriend." She's not wrong, on all counts. [I know I'm not. - Helen]

Post-ads, we're with the girls and Boring Tulisa, who's putting Ella out first this week. Ella says she's got a great song, and NotLouis desperately fishes for the T with her during rehearsals, but gets nothing: Ella is only 16 and doesn't any boys, but not in the same way that Jade and Lucy don't like boys, presumably. Ella tells us that while she doesn't have a boyfriend, it doesn't stop people speculating, and the show cuts to a feature run by Look magazine about how Ella's apparently shagging Union George, using information that I'm sure was in no way leaked by the show itself to drum up some interest. They're just friends, she insists. Also this week, Ella went to see Tulisa on her video shoot, where Tulisa tells her that she's also automatically paired with every guy she's seen out with. Yeah, such a hard life.

Oh Christ: Ella is singing 'Lovin' You' by Minnie Ripperton, which is a song that should not be attempted by anyone who is not Minnie Ripperton, ever. During this performance my Twitter feed exploded into a blast of "here's the REAL TALENT" and "this girl has such a great voice" and all that, and...I don't get it. At all. I didn't like her performance last week, and I don't like this one either - I think her vocals are frequently off-pitch, I find her deliberately Adele-imitating styling to be obnoxious in the extreme, and the less said about her attempt at the F-sharp descending (thanks Gary!) the better.[More than one musician on my timeline claimed it was a high C. I can't comment personally - Helen] I just feel like I've got another Rebecca Ferguson on my hands - everyone else is hearing something far more in tune than what I'm hearing, apparently. [I don't especially rate her, her vocal is fine but she's entirely unexciting, however she's from Nearly Grimsby so, you know, I'm all for her in that sense.  I'm still trying to figure out if she sounds like me when she talks or not - Rad]

Gary thinks Ella took a real risk with that song, because everyone's listening out for the high note, but she completely nailed it. Nicole thinks that Ella is timeless and classic, and that her voice and her beauty is standalone and she should be proud of herself. Louis can't believe that she's only 16 and she can hit that "high Mariah Carey note" (OH LOUIS), but the only think he doesn't like is the styling. Tulisa snits that this is exactly how Ella came in for her first audition (no she didn't) and that she lets Ella style herself however she wants to. Gary and Tulisa seem awfully workshy when it comes to the actual mentoring part of their job, don't they? Lazy gits. Dermot arrives and declares he's now pleased he knows what "F-sharp descending" is (hey, me too), and Ella says she's very happy with how that went because the dress run wasn't so good.

Adverts! Apparently Colgate have made a new toothbrush that cleans eggs, or something.

We're back with the boys upon our return, and it's James Arthur's turn. Apparently this week was all about Nicole making an effort to understand where James is from and how he's used to performing, so he took her down the pub. This is a great sequence of Nicole Scherzinger in your common-or-garden English boozer, trying a pint and a packet of pork scratchings and just being completely game in a very endearing fashion. She's not overly taken with the pork scratchings, admittedly, but she washes it down with her pint and carries on. (Excuse me, I'm just adding "go down the pub with Nicole Scherzinger" to my bucket list.) James asks Nicole what advice she has for him, and she tells him to just imagine he's singing in the pub, and that she's at the judges' table having a pint. Judging by some of her behaviour this evening, I think Nicole might have had more than one. James is singing 'No More Drama' by Mary J Blige, so Nicole gets Mary to give him a call. Yes, you read that correctly: Nicole just gets Mary J Blige to phone James up and give him some advice. Ladies and gentlemen, it is week two and Nicole Scherzinger has just won Mentor Wars, because I can't see any of the others managing to compete with that. The best part was how completely nonchalant Nicole was, like it's entirely normal practice for her to just ring Mary J Blige and ask for a favour. James doesn't really get all that far on the conversation front with Mary J because he's far too starstruck, but she advises him to sing the song like he wants something to change in his life - and says that from the way Nicole's been raving about him, he must be amazing. James feels like he's done pretty well in this week, what with taking Nicole Scherzinger down the pub and having a nice chat with Mary J Blige. [I don't really like James much but I warmed to him a bit after that VT and I adored Nicole in it.  That's got to be the first good X Factor VT in a long time.  Probably ever - Rad]

Again, the performance is pretty much what you'd expect: twitchy and angst-ridden, but I'd expect nothing less from a rendition of this song, and since that's what James is delivering, I don't feel like I can complain too much. Louis tells James that he's a real artist with real talent, and he thinks James's version could be a hit all over again. Tulisa says that he says pain in his voice and he's letting it all out, so she believes every single word he's saying. She tells him that he is her favourite boy by far. Gary thinks the great thing about James is that he pairs technique with emotion, and he's glad that the "quiff and the guyliner" are gone this week. Nicole thinks he's on "a whole 'nother level" and that he's made Mary J Blige proud tonight. For a second there I was hoping she was going to produce Mary J from under the desk, all "surprise!", but maybe she's saving that for week three of Mentor Wars. Dermot asks James if, given Nicole's call-the-original-artist mentoring scheme, he'll be doing Rihanna next week, and James thinks that's a good idea. James turns to Nicole and asks her what she made of pork scratchings; Nicole's response is essentially that they're awful, but she'll eat them every week if that's what it takes to get James to perform like that. "And might I add, very nice trousers," she finishes, confusing both Dermot and James, neither of whom seem to quite know who she was addressing. Dermot goes to shake James's hand as he leaves, and James almost blanks him because he's too busy waving to the audience until Dermot forcibly grabs him and MAKES HIM COMPLY, dammit. I quite like James after that.

We're back to the girls, and Lucy, next. She's had a difficult week because her grandmother died, so the show handles this sensitively by shoving a camera right in her face and filming her crying. Say it with me now: STAY CLASSY, X FACTOR. I'll skip over this part of her VT because I have no great interest in exploiting her grief. Suffice to say, Lucy resolves that she's going to continue and throw herself into her work for this week. She hopes that if she can make people smile with her song this week, then she'll be smiling too.

Well, mission accomplished, Lucy: she's singing 'Gold Digger' done in Spraggan-style, complete with original lyrics intact - no gender-switching for Lucy. She's also got dancing girls, and Lucy's stood there sort of obliviously in the middle of it (apart from the bit where they all fall onto the floor and shove their arses upwards, at which point she can't help cracking a smile), which shouldn't work, but it does. Lucy's good with patter, so she handles the rap part well, and the whole thing is just quite charming. [Loved it so hard. I especially loved her little winks at the dancing girls and how she didn't do a grandma song. - Helen]

Gary tells her he knows how draining loss can be (not touching that one with a bargepole, obviously) and says that he was worried about her doing a cover because he hasn't been a fan of her covers in the past, but tonight was a very different kettle of fish. Brilliantly, Nicole's first comment is "so Lucy, tell me: how did it feel when those girls were booty-poppin' and on all fours?" And no one goes into a Daily Mail-outrage about Nicole alluding to Lucy's sexuality on primetime TV and demanding for her head on a pike because Nicole's delivery there was perfect: it was casual, chummy even, the exact same way you'd expect her to say that to a straight man. [I find it rather amusing that after years of pretending gay women don't exist, they now have at least 2/3 lesbians in the girls' category (assuming Ella isn't but I don't think she's said anything about her preferences) and a band member who at least would have lesbian appeal if she isn't one herself.  Did they get a memo to tick that, er, box this year? - Rad] I know a lot of people had their doubts about Nicole prior to the live shows, but honestly? I think she is knocking it right out of the park. She's got just the right balance of sweetness and snark, and crucially she's also got the warmth that most of the recent signings on the panel were missing. I hope she sticks around. Nicole tells Lucy that she "swagged it out" and made it her own. Louis tells her she's a true professional to get up there after the week she's had, and adds that she's a brilliant storyteller. Tulisa admires her for not wanting to milk the sympathy vote. Unlike the show itself. Lucy tells Dermot that she just wanted people to have a dance and be happy, because that's what she wants right now.

Adverts. I could not give less of a shit about Emmerdale's 40th birthday, but I do like that song they're using on the trailers.

Groups next, and it's District 3's turn. Last week went well for them, they've decided, but they got a bit of a mixed bag, comments-wise. Louis has picked a classic big ballad for them this week - 'I Swear' by All 4 One. They've come with their own choices - a Justin Bieber song and a One Direction song, and Louis (correctly, I think) tells them that attempting One Direction at this point would be career suicide, and to give 'I Swear' a go. They start having fights about the song, and worrying that they're not clicking with it, but Louis insists it's a winner. Grudgingly, they admit it's growing on them, and Louis tells them they've made it a great vocal harmony song. They've learned that the moral of the story is to trust Louis. I half-expect Gary to bust in at this point screaming "NO! THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS TO TRUST KYE!", but he doesn't.

So yes: 'I Swear'. I don't really like this song - largely because it was at number two for a thousand years the same time that 'Love Is All Around' was number one for a million years, and I just got sick of hearing both of them. They're giving it a fairly static performance, only moving from one podium to another, but there's a good reason for this: the second podium is a revolve. Fuck yeah, I love a revolve. Vocally, it's fine - not as strong as the original, but they have at least worked hard on their harmonies, and they sound decent enough. However, if they were trying to avoid "cheesy boyband", I think they might have failed on that count.

Tulisa tells them she understand why Louis picked that song for them, because their strong point is their harmonies. She thinks they're the stronger harmonisers of the two boybands, while the other one has the stronger individual vocals and personality. Borelow disagrees: he thinks they're going to be very disappointed when they watch this back (not half as disappointed as those of us who've sat through two-and-a-quarter hours of it complete with adverts, I can assure you of that) because the key was too low and the last note was off. "Are you deaf?" asks Louis, and appeals to the audience, flapping his hands madly. Nicole disagrees with Gary - she thinks the harmonies were on point, the last note was a bit flat but she thinks it might have been because they had trouble hearing. Digging into her deep bag of Food-Based Metaphors And Similes, she likens it to a slice of warm apple pie, and she wanted them to chuck on some ice cream, sprinkle some tabasco on it, rub baby oil all over their bodies... - you might think I made that last one up, but I swear I didn't. Nicole Scherzinger: amazing. Louis tells them their harmonies are amazing, though they need to work on the personality. Dermot tells Nicole he thinks that pint she had with James has gone right to her head, and Nicole (brilliantly) slams her hand down on the desk and yells "I'LL HAVE ANOTHER PINT!" Dermot quizzes District 3 about the song choice, and the blond one says that they didn't want to be cheesy, so they'll watch back over it and carefully analyse it for mistakes that they need to iron out. Wow, the judges really weren't kidding when they told them to work on the personalities, were they?

Jade Ellis is next, and talks about how well last week went, and how she doesn't want to go back to her normal life IN A FLAT. Poor Jade has been stuck with the VT that's far more about Tulisa than it is about her, as Jade learns that Tulisa is an exceptionally hardworking person (write that down, everyone) and that she doesn't know how Tulisa does it! Tulisa's long day at the video shoot involves a lot of standing around. Tulisa tells Jade that this is the life of a pop star. I'm not entirely sold on this whole "Tulisa works herself TO THE BONE" narrative that they're trying to construct. Possibly show her actually doing something? It might help. Anyway, Jade is also there for all of this Tulisa-based propaganda.

The Amy Winehouse estate benefits once more as Jade sings 'Love Is A Losing Game'. She's serving up ancient Grecian realness in her toga-style dress and her artfully-coiffed hair, but that's the most interesting thing I can say about the performance. It's a shame because I liked Jade a lot during the auditions, but it's just not translating to the live shows so far: there's just a lot of vocal noodling and some fairly leaden pacing of songs. I can't help feeling that if you were one of those people who watched Merlin first while recording this and then played fast-forward catch-up, this is one of the performances you'd just skip entirely.

Because that performance was incredibly boring, Gary loved it. He says he wants her to do well, and he'll be right behind her in the competition. Nicole says that Jade's like an exotic flower that's been plucked out of the wilderness, and that's why shows like this are amazing, giving her a chance to tell her story. Thanks Nicole! Louis tells her that she's incredible, but he thinks she's incapable of more, and also that she's stuck in a category where she's the least memorable one. True, but then so was Alexandra Burke at the start of series five, and that worked out quite well for her. Tulisa tells Jade that she proved herself vocally tonight, because her voice sounded amazing. Jade tells Dermot that she's over the moon, and she just wanted to sing this "Amy song" (first name terms, eh?) like she meant it because it meant a lot to her. Jade marches off, and Dermot yells "JADE! JADE! JADE! JADE!" until she comes back.

More ads, including a John Lewis ad. This will be important later.

When we return, Dermot's reading out tweets, including one from Adele talking about how much she loves Ella Henderson. Fucking narcissist. He's filling a bit of time with the families of the contestants, including Kye's mum, who's almost as interesting as her son, and James's mum, who's thrilled that her son is now going out for pints with Nicole Scherzinger. Dermot talks to the Union J mums, but doesn't ask the question we all want him to ask ("which of your sons are putting it in each other?").

Having achieved nothing with that, it's time to move over to the last of the groups: MK1. They're also pleased with how they fared last week, and Louis is pleased that they're bringing energy to the show. Charlie says that the only problem with the judges' comments was (surprise surprise) Gary being a dick about "Louis, which part of that was your idea?" Louis insists that he loves his soul and his rap. Sim gives Louis a snapback and he and Charlie inform Louis they're going to "learn you some urban". Sim says they're spoonfeeding him some "urbanness" every time they see him. Louis asks what his new nickname should be, and MK1 decide to call him "Uncle Louis". Congratulations, you could not have picked a more paedophilic-sounding name if you tried. [I know.  In this week of all weeks.  To say that was badly timed would be an understatement - Rad] says it's important that they have fun together, but they need to be serious about the competition.

MK1 are singing 'I Want You Back', with Charlie singing and Sim rapping. It's not bad, but despite the rapping and enough "yeah"s to keep Darcey Bussell happy for weeks, it does feel a bit dated.

Tulisa tells them that out of all the acts, they're the ones that have the most fun, which makes everyone else has fun. She's also impressed that she's always focused on them no matter how much is going on around them. She adds that it's great they're putting the urban into "Uncle Louis", but warns them not to let Louis take the urban out of them. Gary liked the energy, the visuals and the routine, but thought the vocals were weak and declares that it went a little bit too Glee for him this week. Not that Gary's ever seen Glee, because he took one look at the title, assumed it involved happy, excited people, and decided it wasn't for him. Nicole wasn't feeling it, because she doesn't see this being something they'd put on their album - she thinks their album would have more edge and be more like how MK1 were when they first saw them (at which point Evil Will throws his popcorn at the TV and screams "yes, but without ME, apparently"). She liked the rapping, but wanted more from them and hopes to see something different next week. Louis says he hopes people vote for them, because he (wait for it) wants them back, and they're going to work so hard for next week if they're still here. Charlie says they appreciate what the judges' comments, and garbles that they're concerned that the people who would like them aren't necessarily the sort of people who'd bother to vote, but they hope that those people do because they want to stick around.

Three performances left! Oh Christ, it's time for "the singing chimney sweep" (seriously, that's how Gary introduces him), Kye Sonezzzz. Kye interviews that seeing Carolynne go home last week was a harsh reality, that made him realise how it could just as easily have been him going home, and he doesn't want that. Gary admits that he was most worried about Kye last week, because he thought they'd been too safe with the song choice. So this week Kye's out to show us what he's really all about, presumably beyond "wispy hair" and "forgettability". Gary tells us that Kye is more than just a singer, he has an artistic side that we all need to see. God help us. Kye talks about how Gary's given him "a lot of creative control" (oh yeah, keep talking sexy like that) this week and he hopes he doesn't let him down.

Kye squeaks his way through 'Love The Way You Lie (Part II)', which then segues into 'Thank You' and Christ alive, enough with the medleys now, please? Just pick one fucking song and stick to it. When he goes back into 'Love The Way You Lie', the screens show a line of flames, which has the unfortunate effect of making me think of those fake fireplace screens you can buy, and how Kye is significantly less interesting than watching one of those.

Gary applauds obnoxiously loudly while Nicole endorses the song choice and vocals, but says that the performance, unlike the stage, did not set her on fire. Louis thinks that Kye is a great singer, but there's still something missing, and if he wants to stay in the competition, he'll need to give something more. "What's missing?" snots Gary. "You can't just say there's something missing. Explain it." Oh, for fuck's sake, Gary. The title of the fucking show is a nod to that intangible quality that marks the difference between a decent performer and a star; if you want everything spelt out clearly, then you're on the wrong fucking show. Louis says he's bored, and Gary says "that is a non-comment. Anyone of the audience could've got up and said that." And they would've been right, so your point is...? Tulisa thinks Kye is getting lost, because he's not translating in the way that he wants to, and she thinks people will love him when they see that. "The audience will disagree!" shouts Gary. What, the same audience who could've just stood up and said it was indefinably crap like Louis did? Make up your mind, Funsponge. Gary tells Kye he didn't need the fire, because he translated the song perfectly. Kye tells Dermot that it was him, and he gave it everything, and anyway Louis said at his audition that he had the X factor, so NUHHH. Oh, bore off. [Kye would be truly the winner this show deserves though.  Sixth male winner failure in a row would be GUARANTEED! - Rad]

After the ads, our penultimate performance of the night is Rylan. He says that the first live show was amazing, even though Gary laid into him. Rylan was gutted after Carolynne got voted off and cried on Nicole again, but once he recovers, he and Nicole meet up and resolve to give "Gary Borelow" (I love these two together so much) the fun he claims to want. NotLouis has surpassed himself this week: he's planned a fashion-themed set with a giant catwalk, with everyone on one side dressed as Anna Wintour and everyone on the other dressed as Karl Lagerfeld, with Rylan being followed by "10 fashionista pandas". Rylan is so excited that he proposes, and NotLouis accepts. Hooray! Rylan vows to prove that he's not just a joke act, and that Gary Borelow needs to sit back with his cup of tea, and enjoy the show - "and if you don't like it, storm off again". Advantage: Rylan.

Oh, how to describe this? It opens with Rylan singing the first few bars of 'Back For Good' (quite well, it has to be said) before a record-scratch sound plays and he says "I ain't really singin' that, that was just for you, Gary. Love you really, Babe." Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nicole Scherzinger: Über-Troll. She leaps to her feet as 'Groove Is In The Heart' starts playing and Rylan parades down the aforementioned catwalk followed by the aforementioned fashionista pandas. Then it changes yet again into 'Gangnam Style', then into 'Pump Up The Jam', then back into 'Groove Is In The Heart' again before finishing on 'Gangnam Style' once more. His vocal, while still not as bad as Gary thinks it is, gets progressively worse throughout until he sounds as exhausted as I am after watching that. [A camp performance of mostly 90's songs. Colour me happy -Helen]

Louis says that that was entertainment with a capital E. Oh Louis, I think that was entertainment on a lot of E. Louis loves the staging and begs Essex to vote for Rylan. Tulisa thinks it's a bit cheese and a bit karaoke, but it's "blinkin' entertaining", and she thinks that anyone who claims not to be interested in him is lying to themselves. Gary says that if it was a competition for how many songs you could kill in two minutes, he'd win, and that the best bit was his song. Then, in a botched attempt at magnanimity, Gary declares that he's never going to like Rylan, but that he hears from everyone backstage he's a lovely bloke and that he's sure if they went for a drink together they'd have fun "for about 30 seconds" (any more than that would break the Barlow excitement threshold, you see). Rylan snarks back that he booked Gary a cab, just in case he walked off again, to which Gary responds "that's funny, because I've had yours on hold for two weeks". Yes, but you had to put Carolynne in it, didn't you? Carolynne who got fewer votes than anyone else? Remember her? Just putting that out there. Nicole tells Rylan he had fun, and compliments NotLouis on his dancing fashion pandas. She tells Rylan that he's great because he's not afraid of risks, and he's fun and playful without taking himself too seriously. She says he was doing two things up there: "liv-ing". Amaze. Rylan tells Dermot he has a lot of love and respect for Gary, but he's here living his dream and no one can take that away from him.

After one final ad break, we're back for our final act of the evening: Melanie Masson. Dermot reveals that they've been running a poll on the X Factor app all night, with the question of "who's getting it right, Gary or Louis?" Apparently the poll found 72% of users in favour of Gary, presumably having all interpreted "it" to mean "tedious pedantic cuntery", which Gary has absolutely been getting right tonight. Tulisa gives Louis a hug as a consolation prize. Gary introduces Melanie: "from the ridiculous to the sublime". Yeah, there's nothing at all ridiculous about a woman who makes her living under the name of Fairy Flutterby. They talk about the vote of confidence she got from being safe last week, and Melanie gets all choked up about people taking the time to vote for her. NotLouis informs her that her performance this week is going to be "gorgeois" (he's on fine form tonight, isn't he?) and Melanie gives us the standard "I've been doing this forever but never thought I'd make it" storyline, and she's very grateful to be here, so she wants to prove to everyone that it's never too late to follow your dream.

Remember how I said that the John Lewis ad earlier was important? That's because Melanie's doing a breathy version of Paloma Faith's cover of 'Never Tear Us Apart'. Seriously, between this and Strictly tonight, it's been an exceptionally good night for John Lewis. Melanie over-exaggerates every move and over-eggs every note and continues her gradual transformation into a louder version of Niki Evans. That's pretty much it, really.

Nicole tells Melanie that was a brilliant job, and she's shown us that she can do everything, with the righteous notes and the controlled ones. Louis thinks she went out on a high note (lolz) and he loves the way she can just sing anything. Tulisa thinks Melanie is back in full Milf-mode (Mother I'd Like to Fuckoff, if you ask me) and says that she was worried about the song choice halfway through, but then Melanie pulled it back. Gary reminds Melanie that she's the oldest contestant in the competition, and tells her that she sang her heart out. Dermot asks Melanie how that felt, and she says she just wanted to thank everyone who voted for her, and wants to make them all proud. Dermot asks her if she's happy with her song choices, and she says it's a song that she's always loved, but not one that she would necessarily have picked.

After the recap of the voting numbers, Dermot apologises for Tulisa's language. Because apparently you need permission to say "Milf" at 10:20pm [Yikes, is that what time this went on til?  I watched it on my PVR.  No wonder the ratings are below-par - Rad]. What-the-fuck-ever. Tomorrow night: someone's going home, Rebecca Ferguson will be HONK HONK HONK HONK, and Taylor Swift will be never getting back together, like, EVER.


tzhiago said...

funny recap!
i liked melanie (sad she's gone by now).

Steve said...

Thank you! I found Melanie the most bearable of all the Overs, so I'm surprised and disappointed she's gone so soon. That said, I thought it'd be a clean sweep in her favour (Louis notwithstanding) during the vote, so when Tulisa voted to send her home, I suddenly sat upright in my chair. Now THAT's how you do a dramatic elimination without it seeming completely contrived.

Anonymous said...

I have so much love for this blog. This and the Strictly one has me in stitches every week. Can you explain the whole NotLouis thing please? (Kinda new here)

Anonymous said...

I agree that Ella's performances are overrated but I don't know if it's as bizzare as the Rebecca Ferguson craze just yet, that chick never sang on key for a single second as well as being as boring as bat shit, Ella at least shows snippets of a good voice.

seminaranalyse said...

I love you Steve, but best comment has to go to Helen for that "these boys would steal your boyfriend comment. Great work as ever. And for strictly, too.
Dissappointed in Melanie gone, too, but Borelow is a shitty mentor and gave her songs without edges (tulisa makes that mistake with ella and jade too. Its like she only gives a shit when she doesn't have it in the bag) Louis is mentoringwise not at his best but miles better as a judges.
Scherzinger is the only to get both right.

Lia said...

Missed you Steve! Great recap but I have to hand it to Helen: BixMix with willies just made me burst into laughter, which was not good because I'm at work.
And through gritted teeth I have to admit Nicole has been brilliant. I hated her all through X Factor USA (think she was trying to hard to please Simon and be Paula's little friend). Love her out of the box comments and a little loopy (but not too much) behaviour. Best of the lot are "need some burger with that cheese" and the baby oil stuff. Hilarious!!!
To make my life complete she's making Borelow's hell!!!

Steve said...

1st Anonymous - Hello! Yes, I was thinking I should probably explain that again for any new readers. Basically, it all goes back to series four, when Louis was briefly fired and Brian Friedman was brought in to replace him. We knew before the series started that it hadn't worked out, they'd brought Louis back and shuffled Brian sideways into the newly created "creative director" position, so we kind of assumed he'd be a complete nonentity and treated him as such, hence "NotLouis" - the main thing about him was that he wasn't Louis. Little did we know he'd end up becoming such a brilliantly key component in the whole X Factor process, but by the time we realised how amazingly insane his staging is, it was a bit late and the name had stuck. So that's why he's NotLouis. Hope that clears it up!

Steve said...

Oops! Forgot there were other people to reply to...

2nd Anonymous - Yes, that's a good point. Last night's results show reminded me what a mess Rebecca Ferguson was/is vocally - at least Ella's on pitch some of the time. And Ella doesn't sound like a goose, which also helps.

seminaranalyse - I agree, Nicole seems to be the only one who's got the tone of the show right so far this year. Gary's earnestness is completely at odds with everyone else, Tulisa just seems bored because she knows she's got the best category and doesn't really need to do anything, and Louis is making more of an effort than usual but struggling a bit with the mentoring at times. I still think he was right not to let District 3 sing One Direction, but it seems All 4 One wasn't a good idea either.

Lia - I think it helps enormously that I saw almost none of X Factor USA last year so I can enjoy Nicole without that baggage, but you make an interesting point about whether she's doing better here because she's alongside different people. I think she might have spotted that Gary and Tulisa are a bit dull and figured she had nothing to lose by setting herself up as the livewire.

Kathryn Hyde said...

Looking at the clip of Ella's first audition - she just seems a bit too put together for a 16 year old. Is she one of the (98%) pre-scouted contestants? She screams "already has management" to me.

Anonymous said...

Melanie was my favourite over, but she was an easy sacrifice to make in the War On Barlow. YOU'RE NEXT CHRISTOPHER!