X-Factor 2012: "Dancing Fasion Pandas, Who Doesn't Love That??"

It's love and heartbreak night on X - Factor. Yet in a world of chimney sweep Kye and Gareth Gates replicas I can't help but ask - where is the love?
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Hello there - nice of you to join me again. You’re looking well - have you done something with your hair? And that colour, it really makes your eyes pop. Sorry, I thought I’d start off with a little positive reinforcement since, if last week taught me anything, it’s that tonight is likely to go downhill fast.
It’s dramarama right from the word go, opening with a terrifying reconstruction of Sunday’s deadlocktroversy. The clock shows 8.55pm, there’s audible audience discontent, and Gary’s storming through the backstage holding area like Godzilla with a nasty migraine. One of the production assistants is drawing a chalk-line on the stage in the shape of Carolynne. Louis has been in the firing line all week, so in an attempt to save face he’s broken open the clasp on his Hello Kitty diary and allowed the Daily Mail to publish his innermost thoughts - minus the ‘LW hearts DO’L’ scribbles in the margin of course.

Dermot is wearing an unforgiving waistcoat that suggests he could be popping up as the new footman at Downton Abbey. Meanwhile, Gary’s trying to pretend that he’s moved on from last week’s upset, and even offers his nemesis a friendly handshake. But no-one’s going to be too surprised if that that DNA ends up on a murder victim by Wednesday. Tonight, the theme is love and heartbreak, and Dermot tells us we’re gluttons for punishment, as if we needed reminding of that fact.

Jahmene is up first, and this week Nicole’s advised him to find the tiger inside, but the best he can manage is a box of water-damaged Frosties. His white suit is giving me a major Gareth Gates flashback, which I guess is as close as I’ll ever come to knowing what it’s like inside Katie Price’s mind. No matter, the singing is pretty great – Tears Dry On Their Own and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough done in a Jackie Wilson style. The Motown arrangement suits him perfectly, and he finally seems to be a little more confident in his own skin. Tulisa points out that “the ladies are gonna be lining up after that,” but he’s used to facing down hordes of women. Although, admittedly, they’re usually complaining that the chopped tomato tins are all dented.

One Direction give Union J the benefit of their wealth of experience, which amounts to little more than how to spot a potential hand-job in the crowd

Christopher is glad to have Gary 100% behind him, probably because the tweedy crooner shares his passion for mid-80s power ballads. This week it’s Heart’s Alone, and it’s about three keys too low on the verses. The chorus is marginally better, but it’s all about as culturally relevant as a Mini-Pops Reunion Tour. There’s two people dry-humping on a leather banquette in the background, which makes it seem as though Christopher’s singing in the cloakroom of Faces. As soon as the music stops he reverts back to his well-rehearsed nerves - quivering hard enough to rotavate a lawn. There’s no mention made of the rumours that he’s a bit of an arrogant diva backstage, but the way he responds to Louis, switching from ‘poor me’ to ‘fuck you’ in an instant, suggests that there could be something to them.

Union J met One Direction backstage last week, presumably inspiring more filthy slash fiction than you could wave a damp sock at. The OD’ers give the Union J the benefit of their wealth of experience, which amounts to little more than how to spot a potential hand-job in the crowd. Louis is determined to show Gary how much he knows about boy-bands, but I’m not sure that Kian and Shane’s inside leg measurements count for much. The boys are bravely tackling a mash-up of Bleeding Love and Broken Strings – a sure-fire way to invite unflattering comparisons. The best anyone can say is ‘it was better than last week’, which is a little like the old joke about the guy who has a leg amputated, but at least someone wants to buy his slippers.

Ella’s on next, but she’s struggling because she’s never been in love. She talks about how the press have linked her with one of the mop-topped twiglets in Louis’ category. Tulisa can empathise, because every time she’s seen out with a guy, the press assume she’s in a relationship. But we all know to wait for the video evidence before jumping to conclusions. Ella throws a curve ball by dressing up as Adele but singing Minnie Ripperton’s Loving You – for my money, one of the most irritating records of all time. She’s thrown some interesting gravel into the mix, but those ultra high notes are still enough to send my Jack Russells scurrying under the dining table. Nicole gets a bit carried away, calling her a timeless Goddess. Louis thinks she’s a “worldwide recording artist” and “can’t believe she’s only sixteen.” Seriously, does he ever say anything new, or is he working his way through a shipping pallet of fortune cookies made exclusively for talent show judges?

The girls in the audience keep screaming randomly throughout the judges’ feedback, like someone’s trying to put a Jim Fixed It For Me medal around their neck

Dermot’s busy hugging a hoodie in the audience as Nicole tells us that James took her to his local for a pint and a bag of pork scratchings. How the other half lives, eh? Since he’s going to be doing Mary J Blige’s No More Dramas, Nicole obligingly sets up a call with the legend herself. She tells him to sing it as if he wants something in his life to change, so I’m a little worried he’s going to blow it. I mean, it’s not like he’s ever mentioned anything in his life that he’s dissatisfied with. The vocal is OK, but he still sounds like someone on a constipation drug trial who got stuck with the placebo. Even worse is the arrangement, which is so bland that even Gabrielle would have asked for something with a little edge. Nicole gets cut off by the producers after claiming that ‘Mary J Blige IS the truth’. Calm down love, Songs of Praise is tomorrow.

Poor Lucy has had a difficult week, following her grandmother’s death on Monday, and breaks down barely two words into her VT. To try and shift focus away from her grief, she’s singing Kanye West’s Gold Digger, wearing Benny from Crossroads’ hat. She’s verbally dextrous on the rap bits, but that Sheffield accent cuts right through the heart of the song, like a fire-axe through a pork pie. Nicole’s gone off-script again and is cheerfully referencing Lucy’s gayness – looks like someone needs some of Simon Cowell’s patented insensitivity training.

District 3 are rebelling against Louis’ leadership by putting forward their own song choices. You see, they don’t want to do a boyband song, so they suggest One Direction instead. I guess this means that they’re on the X-Factor because their hair was too floppy for rocket science. The singing is passable, but they haven’t really worked on their stage-craft. When one is singing, the other two wait patiently, as if they’re in line for a vacant toilet cubicle. The massive key change is a mess, but there are lasers, confetti canons and a rotating stage to distract us. The girls in the audience keep screaming randomly throughout the judges’ feedback, like someone’s trying to put a Jim Fixed It For Me medal around their neck. Nicole tells the lads that she wants an apple pie with ice cream, Tabasco and baby oil, suggesting that those pork scratchings have really fucked up her taste buds. Louis is trying to reposition District 3 as a vocal harmony group - somewhere out there, Pete Waterman is rocking in a Shackletons High Seat chair and nodding in agreement.

Louis complains that he got bored, which Gary dismisses as a “non-comment” as though he’s only just noticed that Mr Walsh can fart from either end

Jade’s interview focuses on the fact that she doesn’t want to go back to the school run, so that cute kid of hers had better get used to sitting on the kerb until the people from Child Services arrive. For one terrifying moment, the opening piano chord made me think she was going to have a go at I Will Survive. In fact, she’s singing Amy’s Love Is A Losing Game to a lamp-post. The accompaniment is suitably sparse and she looks beautiful, but it’s lacking a little oomph. Jade is another one that Gary is getting right behind. Honestly, give him a block of Lurpak and he thinks he’s Marlon Brando. Jade wanders off before Dermot reads out her phone number, so she misses the chance to do the plaintive ‘call me’ hand-signal.

MK1 are up next, and really seem to be enjoying themselves, even though I get the distinct feeling that most of the audience are thinking “Oh yeah, I forgot they were still in it.” They try to give Louis some urban swag by plonking a baseball cap on his newly titivated barnet, but the effect is a little like trying to squeeze the school dinner-lady into a Wonderbra. They’re doing the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, and it works better than it has any right to. The rap bits don’t drown out the melody and the singing is ‘on point’ (remind me to send Tulisa a fiver for that comment). Louis says “Guys, I Want You Back next week” which makes me wonder whether he just picks songs that segue neatly into a piss-poor pun.

Kye is now officially the “singing chimney-sweep”, so when he says that Carolynne’s departure hit him “like a tonne of bricks” I have no doubt that he’s speaking from painful personal experience. That certainly explains the heavy guyliner. He’s putting his own spin on Rihanna’s Love The Way You Lie and Dido’s Thank You. If this was a pub quiz, there’d be bonus points for anyone who spotted the Eminem connection there. Louis complains that he got bored, which Gary dismisses as a “non-comment” as though he’s only just noticed that Mr Walsh can fart from either end.

Behind the scenes Rylan and Nicole are cooking up a “special kind of fun” for Gary Barlow. Can no-one else hear Robby The Robot gravely intoning “Danger, Will Robinson?” Rylan opens with the first couple of lines of Back For Good, before winking at Gary and switching into Groove Is In The Heart, followed by Gangnam Style and Pump Up The Jam. The dancers are all dressed as pandas, when a moth-eaten Jive Bunny costume might have been more relevant. Nicole’s on her feet pretending to dance, but it’s more likely that she’s ready to make a speedy exit if Barlow kicks off. Tulisa keeps calling him Ryland, in the same way that people mistakenly stick an ‘S’ on the end of Tesco. “Dancing fashion pandas, who doesn’t love that?” Nicole moves on before anyone can answer her rhetorical question.

Finally, Melanie’s having a teary Sally Field moment about people actually voting for her. I’m glad to see that she’s finally done away with those scarves, and even more relieved that she doesn’t have a huge tattoo that says ‘CUNT’ or an Adam’s apple under there. She’s borrowed one of Celine Dion’s tailored white suits for the evening, and she’s belting her way through Never Tear Us Apart by INXS, but it’s about as rock ‘n’ roll as the soundtrack to a new John Lewis ad. Louis calls her his ‘rock mama’ – but we all know that ‘niece’ would be more age-appropriate. Gary congratulates her for singing her heart out, so let’s just be thankful that it didn’t plop onto the stage on that last high note.

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