Oh dear, the X-Factor's in crisis. According to the tabloids, at least, it's all kicking off on our favourite talent show. It seems that audiences would rather watch Brucey fumble his way through a collection of jokes older than Arlene Phillips, and Simon's not happy about it. The contestants have been chastised for their laziness, Louis thinks the new judges are boring, and the prize fund has been dramatically lowered, thanks to Matt Cardle's unremarkable sales. It hasn't helped matters that the reigning X-Factor champ has been telling anyone who'll listen that he lost his credibility by appearing on the show. Not to worry Matt - I'm sure you'll be embracing that unsigned, low-key, indie-vibe in about eight weeks' time.
In a lackluster attempt to stir things up, there was a dramatic change of theme mid-week, switching from 'personal heroes' to 'rock week'. So brace yourself for enough Bon Jovi, Coldplay and Snow Patrol covers to breach the Geneva Conventions.
"Tonight, is rock" announces Dermot, accompanied by a random burst of guitar. Which tells you everything you need to know about how much this show understands the genre. As usual, we're introduced to the judges twice, only instead of Carmina Burana, they're playing Jump by Van Halen. It makes a nice change, but it's hardly appropriate given the two girls' outfits. If Kelly tried jumping in her leather mini-dress, she'd show the whole world her Destiny's Child. And Tulisa can barely walk in hers, never mind partake in a burst of energetic calisthenics.
On with the show - here's Marcus who's been prompted to turn on the waterworks in his VT, and he duly obliges. He's having a crack at Are You Gonna Go My Way. It's not bad, and he's a confident showman, but at times it's less Lenny Kravitz and more Time Warp. Kelly's playing around with our favourite X-Factor cliches, telling Marcus that he made the stage his own. Gary doesn't understand the concept of a standing ovation, waiting until it's his turn to speak before standing up and pointing like a car park attendant. Marcus gives it some 'phone vote finger'. Suddenly, it feels like we're back in familiar territory.
Kelly tells us that Janet is continuing to come out of her shell, making her sound like a little ginger hermit crab. We get to see Janet enduring a grilling from a bunch of tabloid hacks, and she's surprisingly confident, stopping just short of telling them to 'fuck off' if they don't like her squeaky Cranberries schtick. Tonight it's Guns 'n' Roses, but performed with a harp, drums, and an enormous mass of ginger curls. Florence Welch is looking up 'copyright infringement' on Wikipedia. Louis loved it, Tulisa didn't, and Gary and Kelly thought she was amazing. Unfortunately, I missed most of their comments because I was distracted by Tulisa's uneven colouring - her face is a completely different shade to her shoulders. Remember how Worzel Gummidge used to switch heads when he wanted to impress someone? It's a bit like that, but with less straw.
Louis and Gary are bickering over Sami, with the little Irish pixie suggesting that they "agree to disagree", and Gary slaps him down with "I'm the chief judge, beyotch." Note to the stylists - don't ever dress a plus-size woman in a skin-tight pleather dress. She looks like one of the binbags outside my local on a Sunday morning. Then again, we should be thankful for small mercies, since she's tackling Turn Back Time. At least no-one suggested recreating Cher's iconic look from the late eighties - no-one wants to see Sami straddling a cannon in a see-through catsuit and g-string. The vocal was weird, like she was delivering the backing harmonies for a main act who was performing offstage. Gary got booed for telling her it was shit. He may be as dull as Holby City, but at least he's taking the show seriously. Louis, on the other hand, just sits there clapping like a wind-up monkey missing its cymbals.
Rhymix are mashing up Ke$ha's Tik Tok with Push It, and it's as shambolic as you'd expect. But it goes perfectly with their styling, which is half Victoria's Secret, half Toys R Us. Once again, the judges are bickering - this time it's Gary Barlow from Take That and Tulisa from N Dubz attempting to define 'rock'. These are end times, people.
For all the behind the scenes black-and-white footage of Frankie making his way to the stage, it's about as authentic as a three year-old girl tottering around in her mum's high heels.
Sophie is worried that she's boring, not helped by the four tabloid journos confirming her fears and asking why she dressed as Carol Vorderman. She's singing a pared down version of Living On A Prayer and, based on her patchy vocals, its an apt description of her tenuous footing in the contest. Louis worries that Kelly is spending more time on Misha and Janet, but that's because Kelly understands how a competition works. Kelly's predictably furious, making a 'durhhhh' noise/face that could take the heat off Ricky Gervais.
Craig is talking about how much he misses Nu Vibe, even though they told the papers this week that he's a "bum boy". Nice one lads, keep it classy. Craig's a pretty good singer, but he's singing Stop Crying Your Heart Out. Say what you like about Leona Lewis, but she sang the arse off that song, and any other X-Factor contestant is only ever going to suffer from the comparison. Louis is doing his double pointy fingers and poking fun at Noel Gallagher. I don't see that ending well for him.
Kitty appears to be confusing phone votes with "vindication that I'm not a crazy person". Sorry love, not the same thing. Oh great, Kitty in a bra - pass the Optrex. It's all going mental on the stage, with pianos, fire-eaters, hair-whipping and pyrotechnics. She's belting out Live and Let Die, and to be honest, that wouldn't be a tough choice for me.
Oh shit. Now it's time for Frankie, the boy who puts the 'cock' in Cocozza. I'm sure he's been primped and styled within an inch of his life, but to coin a phrase my Mum used to use, he dries a mucky colour. Gary's not happy with Frankie's debauched antics, and it's clear that his patience is growing as thin as his top lip. For all the behind the scenes black-and-white footage of Frankie making his way to the stage, it's about as authentic as a three year-old girl tottering around in her mum's high heels. And the hair, sweet Jesus, the hair. It's not really based on a style, more one of those doodles you make when you're testing a biro. Get Your Rocks Off - and that's all he's good for, chucking his mess up a parade of bar skanks. Oooh, sound the controversy klaxon. Gary's just admitted that he lied last week when he said Frankie performed well. I don't tune in for honesty or integrity, keep that shit to yourself Barlow.
Once again Tulisa has shown that she doesn't really understand what rock week is all about, by getting The Risk to sing a dance cover of Crazy. No doubt she'll justify her selection by pointing out the guitar riffs in the background, bless her. One of them's got laryngitis, and based on their weak vocal performance, I'd worry that it's gone airborne. Gary applauds their work ethic, making a pointed reference to 'other acts in the competition'. Frankie, he's talking about you.
Johnny's worried about being a pantomime circus act. Bit late for that, like closing the stable door after the horse has pressed on its false eyelashes. He's dressed as a man this week, but unfortunately he still looks like the Phones4U zombie off the TV Burp idents. He's having a go at the Darkness, and bizarrely, it might just be weird enough to see him through to next week.
And finally, it's time for Misha B, Louis' idea of an 'Urban Queen'. The short version is that she nailed Purple Rain, despite backcombed hair like Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act. The long version is that Tulisa decided to school Misha for her diva antics backstage, with Louis piling in to complain that she's bullied one of his acts too. Having sat through two hours of this, there's a few contestants I'd like to take behind the bike-sheds for a good kicking. I want to be in Misha's gang.
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