X Factor 2011, Week 11: Chills, Thrills And Body Paint

Frankie murdered The Clash, Tulisa appeared to have come as a mouse and Louis started talking like a homegirl. It can only be the X Factor Halloween special...
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True to its intentions, Saturday’s Halloween-themed edition of the X-Factor showed us unimaginable horrors, like someone had opened The Lament Configuration backstage at Fountain Studios. In just over a week the show has gone from slightly troubled to properly cursed. The judges can’t stand each other, one band member has flown the coop, another group had to find a new name and Kelly’s developed a conveniently-timed mystery illness. More on these fascinating developments later.

Here’s what went down on Saturday Night…

With Kelly stuck in LA, vacillating between being “unable to speak” and “talking to her girls on Skype everyday”, Dermot attempts to paper over the cracks, inviting Tulisa to send her warmest ‘get well soon’ to her fellow judge. Based on the insincerity of her performance, I can’t see too many people rushing out to see her new movie Demons Never Die.

But it’s not about the judges, we’re here for the talent, such as it is. Starting tonight’s show is The Risk, who’ve had a tougher week than Jimmy Savile. Just as they were starting to gel as a group, Ashley decided that the Halloween theme went against his Christian beliefs, and announced he was leaving the group. You’ll have to Google him, because I didn’t have a clue either. Not that it matters; he’s one of those boyband staples – the bookend who’s there to stop the proper singers from falling over.

After lots of crying and hugging, the boys shake it off and call one of the guys from Nu Vibe. Based on their phone technique, I’m a little worried that they think they’re on The Apprentice. Haven’t these people ever held a mobile before? Ashford is happy to accept the group’s kind offer, and they’re delighted that they don’t really have to learn any new names. Shorten it to ‘Ash’ and job’s a good ‘un.

Not that any of this matters, since Ashford’s arrival hasn’t made The Risk any better. This version of Thriller is the worst they’ve ever sounded, suggesting that the dearly departed Ashley was the boyband equivalent of Dumbo’s magic feather. Louis helpfully points out that “it’s a tough song to sing”. And so is any song if you’re not very good at singing. Alexandra Burke (actually Ronni Ancona doing a piss-poor impression of Kelly Rowland) shows off her extensive knowledge of boybands, but only manages to cite X-Factor endorsed groups. I smell a conspiracy.

And now, “Here’s Johnny”, which he helpfully reminds us came from The Shining

Meanwhile, Tulisa is distracting me with her ill-advised costume. She was the only one who got the fancy dress memo, and turned up as Julie Newmar. The leather catsuit isn’t so bad, it’s the stick on ears that aren’t working. At times, it looks as if two members of the audience have brought their irons along to the studio and are offering to put a crease in Gary’s three-piece.

And now, “Here’s Johnny”, which he helpfully reminds us came from The Shining. Mark Kermode had better watch his back. Johnny’s keen to show a different side of himself this week, but since he’s so thin that he only exists in two dimensions, I’m concerned that the ‘other side’ will be the back of his head.

He’s doing a jazzy torch-song rendition of That Ole Devil Called Love, and it’s pretty good. Except for the fact that his entire performance is already in falsetto, so the key change is only discernible to dogs. Gary and Johnny’s flirting takes another step towards the kind of slash-fiction that nightmares are made of, and Louis burbles excitedly that Johnny’s a classic jazz singer who should be performing at Ronnie Scott’s. In other news, London’s most famous jazz club takes the phone off the hook and offers the remainder of its lease to a Subway franchisee.

Someone hit the snooze alarm, it’s time for Sophie to remind us all that she exists. As usual, the VT is full of “I really want people to remember me” guff, followed by a trip to the pub where she used to work. She meets a friend and they sit down for a quick catch-up: Sophie “What’s it been like down here? Everyone missing me?” Friend “And you are…?” She sang something, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Funny that. Alexandra proved that it’s not just the contestants who can irritate the fizzy piss out of me, by saying “There was some slight tuning issues babe”. And it didn’t take too long for that perceptive nugget to start trending on Twitter.

The judges point out that Marcus “is doing something right”. It’s called ‘singing’

Thankfully, Marcus was on hand to give the show a much-needed shot of adrenaline. We know how the X-Factor loves a good mash up, and so Marcus gives us Superstition, with INXS’ Need You Tonight running through it. After the uninspiring performances so far, it’s nice to see someone in command of the stage, even if he has overdone the guyliner. The judges point out that Marcus “is doing something right”. It’s called ‘singing’. Just FYI.

Rather scarily, we’re in danger of being entertained for ten straight minutes, as Marcus is followed by Misha, who’s sculpted her hair into a threatening rhino horn and tears up Tainted Love like a pro. Tulisa attempts to backtrack on last week’s bullying accusations, and explains that she just wants Misha to be her best. Strangely, she neglects to mention that she’d been getting well jelz about Misha calling her boyfriend Fazer. So it’s not just tuning that’s taken a holiday from this series, professionalism and maturity are also on extended leave. Louis offers us an unfortunate impression of Kelly, saying “You put it down babygirl.” The nation issues a collective shudder strong enough to trigger a seismic event.

What started out as quirky and interesting has now become tiresome and predictable, as Janet gulps and yodels her way through a flat rendition of Every Breath You Take. It seems as though her once distinctive technique has jumped the shark, before doubling back to bore it to death. She’s singing about the fact that wherever her lover goes, she’ll be watching them. But she might have trouble making out any of the detail with those clumpy eyelashes.

Continuing our descent into the gaping maws of hell, here’s Frankie with an irritatingly self-referential song choice. ‘Should I stay or should I go’ he yells, and ten million people bite their lip so hard they’ll be tasting blood until Tuesday. In his VT, Frankie admits “I done a few things I weren’t so proud of”. Like mangling grammar, for instance. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that minutes after this show finishes, Frankie appears on the Xtra-Factor to announce proudly that this week he “banged” Holly Hagan, a random piece of detritus that washed up on Geordie Shore. Not that I can blame her, I’d like to bang Frankie. In a car door, until he loses consciousness.

Burke shuts him down with the inane retort: “You gotta get the words right OK dot com.”

Kitty’s up next, with two-toned hair, a horned corset and that curious Christian Slater brow of hers. She tells us that she doesn’t want to be someone else, which makes me question the wisdom of pursuing a career as a Britney Spears/Lady Gaga impersonator. She starts the show spinning on a knife-throwers wheel, as countless viewers at home subconsciously make a grab for the silver-wear. The judges don’t want to praise her too much, but Louis gets defensive when Alexandra accuses it of being “a little cabaret.” Burke shuts him down with the inane retort: “You gotta get the words right OK dot com.” And then Twitter explodes. Dot com.

Tulisa’s other group have also had a tricky week. Rhythmix, a music charity that works with disadvantaged kids, went public about their legal wrangles with Syco over the fact that they had the name first. Sensing that one too many scandals could kill the show, the girls are instructed to come up with a new name. And since Weetabix, Tixylix, Getafix, Magimix and Pick n Mix are all taken, they settle on Little Mix. Which sounds like a character from She-Ra.

The haterz have also made the last few days difficult for the girls, with Twitter bullies calling them fat and ugly. They’re clearly quite upset about it, so it’s good that the camera crew happened to be around to catch it all. Hopefully, the nastiness will stop as soon as they take away Misha’s internet access.

On with the show, and tonight they’re performing Katy Perry’s ET on swings. They’re wearing creepy make-up that’s been designed to look as if their faces have been stretched to fit their heads. I think it’s a tribute to Kitty.

Last, and not quite least, is Craig. He’s left his duffel coat on – but they do say that rapid weight loss can leave you feeling the cold. He’s doing an interesting version of Adele’s ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ that involves no consonants whatsoever. It’s a bold experiment, but not entirely intelligible.

Now we’re onto the results show, so consider that first part an extended recap, like the one that ITV uses to fill the first fifteen minutes of Sunday’s show.

Let’s hope someone’s on stand-by with an epinephrine pen in case she swallows a peanut.

Dermot starts the show by introducing the judges and special guest ‘Alexander Burke’. He’s ditched the shiny suits in favour of one that they could have buried Bill Owen in. Tulisa’s still trying to make that arm thing happen. I’d assumed it had something to do with the tattoo, but maybe she’s trying to point out a medical alert bracelet. Let’s hope someone’s on stand-by with an epinephrine pen in case she swallows a peanut.

Hurrah, the group song is back. If you needed any more proof that Marcus is really the best singer in this, consider the fact that he opens the song singing live, whereas the rest come on to mime their bits. But a special shout-out has to go to Johnny, who mimes ‘making love’ in a way that makes me want to mutilate my own genitals so that I might never know such horrors. The song finishes, and Little Mix shoot each other a look that says “Is that it?” This just reeks of professionalism.

Our first guest of the night is Cher Lloyd, and it doesn’t take long to run through her accomplishments in the introductory VT. She looks pretty and she’s singing reasonably well. But the best thing to be said about the song is the fact that it’s not Swagger Jagger. I know this show has a reputation for odd staging, but dressing the backing dancers like Grayson Perry must be the weirdest decision yet.

But that’s not all – we’ve also got Nicole Scherzinger in the house tonight. She’s writhing around on the floor like she’s got a g-string full of fivers, on a set that could have been modelled on Peter Stringfellow’s en-suite. It’s a timely reminder of the fact that she’s glad to be out of the Pussycat Dolls, and doesn’t have to dress sluttily anymore. It’s the kind of vocal performance designed to say “Look, I can really sing”, but the song itself is lost in all the hair flipping, smoke, wind machine, glitter canons and disco lasers. All that’s missing is the stench of amyl nitrate.

Time to kick someone off, so “Here’s Alexandra Burke with Kelly’s girls”. That’s what they used to call office temps isn’t it? Might be worth keeping in mind if this singing lark doesn’t work out for them. And it’s all eyes on Kelly’s girls tonight, as act after act is saved, but none of them coming from Alexandra’s cluster. Finally, Janet breaks the curse, which leaves just Frankie, Misha and Sophie. And Frankie’s safe, because we’re a nation of twats. Kelly’s going to go fucking mental.

No need to wait for her shocked reaction next week. They’ve got her on the blower, croaking her best ‘phoning in sick voice’. Let’s just be grateful that she didn’t feel the need to tell us how many times she’s been to the toilet, or that it’s coming out of both ends.

The girls have done their ‘save me’ song, and I’ve already forgotten Sophie’s, whereas Misha sang ‘Use Somebody’ and broke down on the last note. I’d like to say that it could go either way, but the judges are having to look at Dermot’s autocue to remind themselves of Sophie’s name. Tulisa launches into a rambling monologue that would have Ronnie Corbett yelling “For fuck’s sake get on with it”.

With three votes already cast, sealing Sophie’s fate, Dermot says “Gary, it’s an impossible question, but how would you have voted?” Gary answers straight away, proving that anything is possible, and Dermot’s an idiot. Looking back at Sophie’s best bits (it was a short reel), we’re reminded that under that brutal fringe is a pretty girl. Sadly, it’s too late to sack the hairdresser. Dot com.

X Factor 2011, Week 10: Mock Rock And A Whole Load Of Bickering

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