The ratings are in, and it seems as though that ill-important reshuffle has had the desired effect. Viewers are flocking back to the BBC, to see Kylie spinning around, and place their bets on when Ricky Wilson started curling his eyelashes. Even Emma and Marvin seem to be getting a little more confident in their presenting, making their way through the studio doing a two part introduction:
“This corridor leads to these stairs.”
“And these stairs lead to this stage.”
And this stage leads to public appearances at the opening of a new Wilko’s. OK, maybe it still needs a little work. The judges seem much happier too, especially Tom who speaks excitedly about Kylie: “She’s a ball of fire, that one.” The word ‘fireball’ never having made it to South Wales, apparently.
Tonight’s first auditionee is Andy Otley from North Wales. He taught himself to play guitar so he could woo women with Enrique Iglesias songs. He works in an estate agent’s office that’s full of garish cartoon women. There are also some painted on the walls. For some reason he’s ditched the guitar and decided to do Dance With Me Tonight. Since it’s making me miss Olly Murs’ rich tone and warmly melodic voice, we can count that as the criticism it so clearly is. “It’s a boy is it?” asks a befuddled Tom, who was obviously still tuning in when the song began with “My name is Andy, nice to meet you…” Ricky gives him some milquetoast feedback about why no-one turned, and Will compares it to hitting an opossum with his car then deciding to put it out of its misery. In the gallery, the producers are poking each other and saying “Is he talking about us?” Once they find out he’s an estate agent, Andy and Will enter into a weird kind of property-selling duel. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to call this – a wank-off?
After a bunch of pointless teasers in search of a commercial break to book-end, we’re introduced to Iesher Haughton. She’s from Walthamstow, and works in my local multiplex, so I’m already rooting for her to fail. While her laminate-loving parents get carried away backstage, she comes out and nails Who’s Loving You, like a cross between Alicia Keys and Minnie Ripperton. She might work in the world’s worst cinema, but she’s actually pretty likeable, particularly since she has that Leona Lewis quality of disappearing once she’s finished singing. Tom loved the phrasing, because he’s always happy when he can hear the words. Will turned round on the first note, pretty much securing her fealty. And Kylie? Well, she thinks Iesher can do anything. I’d like to see her painting a bannister-rail.
Paul Black is a Welsh tattooist who thinks that rock music and body art go hand-in-hand. His interview is a depressing array of tedious clichés, name-checking Ozzy and Iron Maiden, but it’s all part of an elaborate double bluff. After an opening burst of guitar, he launches into a swing re-do of Van Halen’s Jump. It’s better than it sounds, but this is the kind of novelty trick that only works once, like pulling a dove out of a dinner jacket. Will tells Paul that he’d like to come and see him gigging, but I doubt the R&B polymath is ready for the delights of Merthyr Tydfil.
This week’s contrived double audition is all about relatives of famous singers, and stars Adele’s cousin Georgia, and Danny-from-McFly’s sister Vicky. The latter, in particular, seems to have some serious psychological issues about growing up in the shadow of a famous sibling. Looking like a cross between Elvira Mistress of the Dark and Strawberry Shortcake, she hollers Bed of Roses, as a coven of orange women cheer along backstage. It was a pretty good vocal, securing Kylie and Tom’s vote. She picks the Welsh wonder as her mentor, but as she strides victoriously out of the studio, her exit is accompanied by McFly’s Five Colours In Her Hair. That’ll fuck her right off when she watches this back.
Georgia is also keen to be noticed for her own talent, rather than her famous relative, so maybe she should avoid starting every other sentence with “My cousin, Adele…” Just a thought. She’s doing a bouncy but soulless version of ‘Hallelujah, I Love Him So’ – her voice is pitchy and thin, and almost loses the melody completely on the high runs. The judges all complement her on looking younger than her 27 years: “I know, that’ll come in handy when I’m forty, won’t it?” she asks. “Yes it will,” concurs Kylie’s waxy countenance.
The producers have obviously realised that there are only three blind audition shows left, and none of the teams are even close to being half-assembled. So we start to see snippets of auditions, rather than the whole thing. The first contestant to lose out on valuable screen-time, is Celestine, who has a bit of a Grace Jones vibe, but doesn’t stand much of a chance of progressing beyond the duels round.
Si Genaro is an infuriating 42 year-old who seems to be channeling Billy Mack, and has confused talking incessantly with actual entertainment. He wants to bring an end to war and conflict through his folk, breakbeat, reggae music, and takes an overelaborate bow as soon as he gets on stage. Dressed in trousers too big, and a T-shirt that’s too small, he runs around the stage like an over-stimulated toddler, giving a rendition of Down Under that’s tuneless, breathless and endless. No-one turns, which means that the pressure’s still on the UN to solve the whole ‘world peace’ thing. He’s not very good at listening to feedback, and the judges spend far too long humouring someone for whom none of them actually turned. By the time he launches into a self-composition called Chicken Train, all we can see is a wall of pained smiles, like a Victorian photo shoot.
If last week’s show was all about Will’s unwillingness to turn, tonight’s is focusing on the acts who think they’re on Ricky’s wavelength. That means lots of acoustic guitars, strained vocals and ‘serious’ face. Nathan Kobierowski would be nice looking if he didn’t look like he just fellated a nailgun, and John Rush does Bad Romance in a Chris Isaak style, but it sounds more like a novelty record than a clever reinterpretation. Jeff Anderson does a decent Axl Rose screech, but it’s incongruous with his image – which is more mild-mannered marketing executive. Aside from shared delusions of affinity with Ricky, they have all been busy stretching the neck of their t-shirts (collarbones are the new black) but none of it impresses any of the judges.
Finally, someone manages to connect with the Kaiser frontman. Myles Evans is a trainee lawyer who was entered by his sister. Oh stop it, don’t be disgusting. Anyway, his sister had cancer last year and is emotionally blackmailing him into taking part. She seems far more feisty and interesting, so I’m a little disappointed that she’s not the one performing tonight. As the studio lights hit him, Emma does an audible ‘phwoar’ backstage – he’s got cheekbones you could surrender in a knife amnesty. Ricky hears something he likes and hits his button, giving Myles the kind of feeble wave you might offer a previous one-night-stand if you saw them in ASDA.
The last act on tonight’s show is Leverne Scott Roberts, who was in a girlband at 18, but got pregnant and moved to Cheshire to have babies. She’s clearly here to confuse the Daily Mail – a single mother with four kids, but lives in a £500k house. She seems to have wrapped herself in a hot pink beach towel, and she’s clearly nervous since her voice strains on the high notes. But she has a clean tone and nice musicality. The band obviously love her, because they seem happier than she is when all four judges turn. Tom commends her on not doing anything clever, which probably would have been a complement back in the 1920s. Ricky steals Kylie’s babysitter angle, whereas Will goes straight for the ‘You’re an angel who fell from heaven.’ As yet another female singer chooses the Welsh lothario, Ricky expresses concern that we need to diffuse Tom’s powerful sexbomb. I’d just throw a wet tea towel over it and whack it with a temperance spoon.