At Costco this weekend, I noticed that they're already selling Christmas decorations. It's only mid-August and already we're thinking about the year's end. But if out-of-season reindeer aren't enough to get you wishing your life away, here's the X-Factor, back on our screens until Santa breaks in and nicks your mince pies.
It may be eight months since the gang were last on our screens, but very little has changed. The shouty, overdramatic voiceovers, Dermot's concerned backstage face and hashtags telling you what to Tweet about, are all present and correct. Louis is very happy to be back for his 'record ninth year', which is really just a nice way of saying no-one else will have him. In fact, the only thing that has changed, is in the judges line-up. Kelly Rowland is out, and Nicole Scherzinger is in, fresh from her sacking off the US version of the show. No worries, we'll take their sloppy seconds. No Tulisa, for once I'm not talking about you.
No worries, we'll take their sloppy seconds. No Tulisa, for once I'm not talking about you
Nicole does some great slow-motion walking towards camera, and tells us "People may take me as the nice sweet judge, but underneath it all, I’m a scary bitch." And underneath that, she's a titanium cyborg, programmed to kill on sight. But we won't get to see that until bootcamp.
The other thing that's changed this season can be blamed on the continued success of TOWIE and Chelsea. The scripted reality (or 'screality') format has been crudely worked into the show, so now we get lots of awkward scenes of people trying to improvise conversations on cue. This starts with the judges catching up and saying “Yeah, yeah, we’re looking for a star. Something different. Rhubard rhubarb, red lorry yellow lorry." It's insightful stuff.
With the judges happily settled behind their desk, it's time to meet our first contestant - 17 year-old Sheyi from Camden. Sheyi works in Nandos, which Dermot seems ridiculously excited about, telling him "working at Nando’s is like being a rockstar.” Just one more reason to studiously avoid any compilation album curated by him - unless you want to hear Elbow's rendition of 'Macho Macho Peas'.
Sheyi spends most of his audition promoting various items on the menu
As if the opening interview didn't give the chicken shop enough of a plug, Sheyi spends most of his audition promoting various items on the menu. You'd be forgiven if you'd tuned in and thought you'd caught the broadcast during the ad break. Despite all this, Sheyi came across as a likeable lad, with a nice turn in light-hearted banter - so much so, that Louis was probably kicking himself for using up his 'Young Lenny Henry' remark a few series too early. But the singing was where it all fell apart. He was trying to do an accurate impression of Louis Armstrong, but at times it sounded more like Rusty Lee.
Not to worry - the brand-heavy celebration of minimum wage bliss continued after the commercial break, ending with an introduction to the curiously named Fe Cockton Lecke, who sounded like one of the exotic menu items in her gourmet burger bar. She offered up a half-decent version of Think, only for Nicole to piss on her chips by doing her own version in lieu of actual feedback. Not only did this seem remarkably twatty of her, it made me wonder what special skills Tulisa might be keen to showcase. Microphone technique, perhaps?
Now, it wouldn't be a Simon Cowell production if there wasn't a Susan Boyle moment, and tonight's is provided courtesy of Jahmene Asda-Walmart. At least, I think it's his name, since it gets mentioned almost as much as Nandos. In a shiny grey suit that he could have borrowed from Gareth Gates, he's a nervous wreck, practicing his breathing exercises and worrying that he's going to wee himself. Maybe he should have plumped for a darker fabric. Not to worry though, he's actually really good, even if he is doing 'At Last' - a song so painfully over-used it should be retitled 'Not Again'. Nicole mentions to Gary that the hairs on her arms are raised. Louis' hair also appears to be standing to attention, but that could just be his odd new do. Obviously the judges all love Jahmene, and as the lilting piano music fires up, he gets his four yeses. Hang on a minute though, that's the score to Forrest Gump. It might be uplifting, but given the way Jahmene was introduced, this could be the editors' way of trying to tell us he's a bit Dolly Dimple.
We get a piss-poor Prince, a rotten Rod Stewart, and a mini-Tulisa with Hello Kitty tattooed across her thigh
The next chapter is all about tribute acts and lookalikes. We get a piss-poor Prince, a rotten Rod Stewart, and a mini-Tulisa with Hello Kitty tattooed across her thigh. But the talk of tonight's show is Pink impersonator Zoe Alexander, who managed to make Katie Waissel and Kitty Brucknell look like a well-balanced pair. After talking about leaving the Pink tribute behind, she shouted her way through a rendition of 'So What' that left audiences thinking the exact same thing. Keen to hear what she sounded like as herself, the judges gave her a second chance, but she fucked that up too by being a bit rubbish. And then all hell broke loose. The microphone got thrown at the judges, the set got smashed up and the camera crews got punched. At one point, it looked as though her dad was going to march her back onstage to apologise. Instead, he stood idly by while Zoe called them all a bunch of "fucking cunts." "You told me to sing Pink, I didn't want to sing Pink" she argued. And it's likely that the producers had a hand in her crappy first performance. However, the second song was all her own doing. Nonetheless, it was all a bit over-egged, with apocalyptic music and special effects to make it look as though she'd punched right through the camera-man's head - picture Cloverfield, with the monster wearing bright red lipstick.
Much is made of Mel's take-no-shit attitude, as she crushes dreams left, right and centre
The rest of the show struggles to live up to such high drama, so it's probably just as well that they've drafted in Mel B as a guest judge. Much is made of Mel's take-no-shit attitude, as she crushes dreams left, right and centre. Maybe she's just in a bad mood because no-one read the rider for her dressing room. She expected "THIN sliced salmon sashimi and albacore tuna" and she got a cheese and onion Ginsters. Whatever the reason, she spends the next fifteen minutes giving feedback the way a school matron might remove a stubborn plaster. She even has a pop at a kindly old Grandad, but that could be forgiven - since she wasn't wearing her specs, she might have mistaken him for Geri. In case we weren't already seething at her brassy, northern cruelty, there's plenty of 'audience-gurn-cam' to remind us how to feel; the way John Williams' music works in a Spielberg film. Surely she was going to warm to quirky Curtis Golden and his guitar. He even had a cardboard life-size cutout of Mel when he was younger - best not to ask what he did with it. But no, she tells him he's boring and irritating.
Just when all hope seems lost, along comes Ella Henderson, a sixteen year-old who's going to be singing a song she wrote herself. She's dedicating it to her dead Grandad, so we can sound the sob-story klaxon for season nine. It's nice enough, although it sounds so much like Someone Like You that Adele might want to have a word with her lawyers. Backstage, she tells Tulisa that her Grandad is still there with her, but she gestures to her shoulder as if it's an ex-parrot that she's talking about.
And that's your lot for this week. Coming up in the next episode, lots of "I can't believe you're only sixteen", plenty of tantrums, and more exaggerated facial expressions than Kenneth Williams getting a happy finish.
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