OK, I’ve been away for two weeks, during which time we’ve said goodbye to a couple more acts. So I’m not exactly sure why tonight’s edition of The X-Factor is still spreading itself out over 90 minutes of my TV schedule, like Lisa Riley on a boudoir photo shoot.
Nonetheless, seven acts still remain and the pressure’s on to win that coveted top spot. Just imagine - this time next year, it could be Tamera, Nicholas or Sam Bailey who gets to live the dream of picking fights with One Direction, apologising for offensive tweets, or complaining that they’ve been omitted from a montage. Magical times.
Last week saw the departure of Abi, whose frail emotional state made her performances about as enjoyable as visiting a self-harm therapy group. To be honest, Abi was never going to stand out on a show that favours melodramatic bombast over any kind of musical nuance. So, in a way, we should be thankful that the rest of the acts are more than willing to flirt with laryngitis in pursuit of those all important phone votes.
Tonight’s show opens with Dermot attempting a wry dance routine to that bizarre Norwegian song ‘What Does The Fox Say’, which is still 50% more listenable than anything on James Arthur’s debut album. Mrs O is continuing her transformation into an understudy for the soon-to-be-retired Dame Edna, and Nicole is wearing one of Eamonn Holmes’ old bow-ties in lieu of a top. As the judges take their seat, poor old Dermot accidentally wanders into some harsh lighting, which gives his hair the momentary appearance of those aerosol toupees that Ben Affleck swears by.
Tonight’s theme is the Great British Songbook, so Hannah has picked The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, because it connects with how she felt about being in the bottom two. I can certainly see how the lyric “Better come back later next week ‘cause you see I’m on a losing streak,” might resonate. The song plays to her strengths as a belter, but it’s a little distracting watching her shout it atop a giant rotating hatbox. Surrounded by dancers who look like DJ Towa Tei, pretending to play trumpets, she’s unsurprisingly gone for the Aretha Franklin arrangement. It suits her voice, and the adlibs work better than they have any right to. This might be too early to call, but her performance should be fun enough to see her safely through to next week. Louis compares her to Tina Turner, because of no reason at all, and Nicole promises to spend all her money voting. Something smells a little dodgy there, and it’s not just Hannah’s leather leggings.
Louis is the only judge left with all his acts. Marbles; not so much. He’s taken the boys out ice-skating, and is modelling a rather ridiculous bobble hat. But his noxious knitwear is still less unpleasant than Luke’s hair, which is on the verge of becoming sentient. For tonight’s performance, he’s picked one of Elton John’s most annoyingly cloying and inane songs. But credit to him for managing to make it even worse. As he croaks and growls his way through Your Song, the producers run some scratched film of a girl cavorting in a garden – like one of the murder tapes from Sinister. Gary tells the grubby crooner “You’re not a technical singer,” but to be fair, he could have also used the words ‘tuneful,’ ‘capable’ or ‘decent.’ Nicole commends him for his originality, saying “You didn’t do Elton’s version, you did your version,” (*cough* Ellie Goulding *cough*). Apparently, she seems to think that he put his own unique stamp on it, which is a nice way of saying ‘grubby handprint’. Dermot attempts to wrap things up, pointing out that “Your inspiration comes from many ways,” causing me to wonder whether he’s been tapping Nicole’s minibar. “Let’s give it up for Luke,” he shouts, as I wish that he’d rearrange the words in that sentence.
As if we haven’t had enough of Sam Bailey’s ‘aww shucks’ humility, Sharon feels the need to tell us that ScrewBo’s feet are on the ground. Apparently she’s missing her regular routine, so travels back home for ‘Jam Tart Wednesday’ with her kids. Next week, to help her feel more settled, she’ll get Sharon to slop out and check Nicole’s knickers for contraband. She’s picked Something, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s got Shirley Bassey on her Zune, rather than the George Harrison version. She’s looking a lot like Adele, albeit with Madonna’s teeth, but they’ve stuck her on some inexplicable stairway to nowhere, that neither reaches the ground, nor goes up to anywhere. Still, it was nice of Peaches Geldof to pop down and play the cello for her. Gary’s convinced that Sam can still sell records, even though she’s over 30, citing Cher as an example. Because 35 is the same as 68. Louis leafs through his cliché notebook and comes up with “world class vocalist,” before Sam lies that she’d include the song on her album, then almost trips over the dining chair that one of the cellists left in the middle of the stage.
At this point, I think we should give a shout-out to the production crew for squeezing a half-decent joke into tonight’s show. As Dermot prepares to introduce Rough Copy we see a glimpse of a terrible couple of Will and Kate impersonators in the audience. See what they did there? During the week, Gary gave a performance and invited the lads to join him onstage, calling them ‘my new best friends’. “Let’s see how that one plays out,” laughs Robbie Williams bitterly. They’re doing Viva La Vida by Coldplay, and appear to be gradually transitioning their skirts into full-length aprons. This week’s bizarre fashion decision seems to be wrapping your legs in tinfoil, like a pair of French cut lamb cutlets. In fact, their chaotic and nonsensical visual presence is the perfect metaphor for their equally discordant vocals. I never thought the words “I wish Chris Martin was doing this instead” would cross my lips, but here we are. Nicole says they never fail, but her microphone cuts out before she says “to lose the melody,” then Louis tells them that they “brought the swagger”. Everyone loses their shit, like they’ve just taught Thora Hird to say “twatflaps”. In conclusion, Sterling comments that Rough Copy are always up for a challenge, when their outfits suggest that dares are equally welcome.
Spare a thought for poor young Sam. He’s been re-watching the old shows and has decided that he’s had more stick than anyone else, especially from Gary. “I don’t know what it is that he doesn’t like about me,” he moans, presumably because he needs something more specific than “you can’t sing”. With perception and reality further apart than his eyes, he ignores the best advice of everyone on the crew and decides to play guitar during his performance of Faith. The arrogant little prick manages to fuck up his intro, so the first few lines are completely out of sync with his backing track. The rest of the performance is no better – when he’s not singing like an adenoidal preteen, he’s swinging his guitar and threatening to blind the screaming girls on the front row. Even his drummer looks distracted, as if she’s checking her eBay bids when she’s supposed to be playing along. In an attempt to be a little more conciliatory than last week, Gary offers up: “when I was nineteen, was I the best singer? Far from it. Was I the best songwriter? Far from it.” I guess we’re supposed to infer that he now considers himself to be both.
Caroline Flack is still stuck backstage, trying desperately to dig deep and get under the skin of the contestants, with eight seconds dedicated to each interview.
Last week Tamera had a breakthrough, as Sharon finally learned to pronounce her name. She had originally picked Bohemian Rhapsody, but has done some research and is worried that it’s got a dark message. Presumably, the opening line “Mama, just killed a man” was her first clue. Instead, she’s decided to have a go at Diamonds Are Forever. Tamera is clearly hot on research this week, so she digs out a school exercise book and pencil topper, and sets about uncovering the hidden lyrical complexities of a song about the fact that diamonds last for ages. It’s not exactly REM. As for the performance itself, the big note is good, but the key change is terrible and throws her off, so she forgets her lyrics. Even so, she manages to get things back on track for a shouty finish that would do Shirley proud. Gary’s convinced that Tamera’s got something special inside her, “I know it’s in there, but I haven’t seen it yet”. Can we give her an ultrasound?
Closing tonight’s show is Scotland’s finest – Nicholas McDonald. He may be an adorable little lesbian ventriloquist’s dummy, but he’s getting shitloads of fan mail. To be honest, I call bullshit, since I’m not convinced that anyone under 18 even knows how to use a stamp anymore. Louis says “You have to make it your own” for the fifth time tonight. Although my eyes rolled when I heard he was doing Someone Like You, I have to give him credit for doing a half decent job. By changing the key to suit his rapidly improving voice, he’s actually eliminated a lot of the harsh shrillness of the original. The performance may be duller than a Cash in the Attic marathon, but the vocal is really quite good, even if it misses the sense of heartbreak of the original. Gary says “We’ve heard it on the radio for two years,” but that’s because Magic FM have played nothing else, whereas Nicole describes him as soothing and calming, like a pack of Dioralyte.
On the night, proceeds from the phone votes and music downloads will be donated to the Philippines typhoon relief. That’s very noble, but surely a true humanitarian effort would mean announcing Sam Bailey as the winner now, and letting us watch six weeks of test cards instead. Sunday’s special guest is Miley Cyrus, so lock up your hardware and break out the Zovirax.