As my mother always warned me, larking about is all well and good, until someone gets hurt. And this week, it was Simon Cowell who was left licking his wounds after it all turned sour on the X-Factor. We all know he encourages the novelty acts, because they generate lots of lovely free PR. However, when James and Ella found themselves in the bottom two last Sunday, it was clear that Rylan and Christopher’s continued presence in the contest has become the joke that started the whole world crying. Worst of all, Simon will still have to follow through with a record contract if one of them actually wins this thing. Even so, I was surprised to see him appear on my
timeline today, imploring: “To everyone voting in the uk tonight. Please vote for who you believe could be a star next year. It's in your hands.”
Reminding people to vote for the acts who can sing is clearly number one on tonight’s agenda, as every single VT refers to Ella’s shock eviction. “
” asks Dermot, prompting Gary to respond with “People didn’t vote.” Later on in the show, Gary will be pointing out that the sun is hot, water has a damp feeling, and Rylan should’ve gone weeks ago. Tulisa is the first judge to have lost all her acts, and the expression on her face suggests she was in two minds about even turning up. “You know me Dermot, I’m always honest,” she says. Sure, like the time she took the vote to deadlock because she thought Rylan deserved to stay in the competition. With only five acts left, each of them will be singing two songs, as they manhandle the ABBA and Motown songbooks. I’m not sure why they felt the need for two different themes, since it’s not as if either of them have a limited back catalogue.
Since he’s the act we all love to hate, Rylan is opening the show. “Still here, week eight,” he boasts, like an orange stain that even a Vanish Powerstick couldn’t shift. This week, he’s decided to cook Nicole a Thanksgiving turkey, and figures that the whole thing can be cooked in 23 minutes – this could be the shortest live show on record. Although he’s singing Mamma Mia, the staging is more like something from Chess, suggesting that the producers have got their Benny and Bjorn references mixed up. “One more look and I forget everything,” he sings, but it’s going to take an aggressive course of hypnotherapy course to erase the memories of this monstrosity, all delivered in one long, flat note. Nicole tells him she’d like to be the gel in his hair, whereas I’d settle for the boot in his arse.
Union J are empathising with their recently departed friend: “It’s heartbreaking to see Ella like that, we’ve been in that position.” Except that they haven’t, because they’re still here. The boys are all supportive of Jaymi’s big coming out announcement, but the VT shows lots of shots of him leaning against a wall checking his phone. I guess Grindr got a new user this week. They’ve picked Winner Takes It All, probably because it’s mid-tempo and won’t require them to learn too much choreography, other than that crowd-sweeping hand-grab that all the acts seem to rely on.
is still trying to make ‘on point’ happen, which makes absolutely no sense. Gary thinks they’re on a roll and Nicole loves the way they focused on the girls in the audience. “Get used to it, that’s what your future is gonna look like,” she warns. Jaymi looks thrilled.
Jahmene’s been out shopping with his mum, who’s come down to London for a makeover, as five thousand Toni & Guy stylists spontaneously decide to take the day off. In the end, they put her braids up in a bun and rinse her fringe, but it’s hardly a spectacular transformation. Jahmene sings I Have A Dream, and starts out in too low a key, which makes his voice wobble. As the performance goes on, it gets a lot better, if a little too gospelly, but the budget clearly can’t stretch to the sliding doors and a local backing choir – they’re saving that for the finals. The judges are mildly complementary, but wonder if nerves got the better of him. Jahmene admits to being a little overwhelmed, since he can see his mum’s hair in the audience. That’s hardly a surprise, since there are cosmonauts in the international space station who can see it.
Nicole is thrilled that James is still here, and he’s similarly over the moon. Unfortunately, his ‘over-the-moon’ face is a lot like mine when I realise the milk has turned after I’ve already stirred it into my coffee. Of course, much will be made of James putting his ‘unique’ spin on ABBA, but given the depth of tuneful melancholy in their songs, it shouldn’t actually be too hard for a miserablist troubadour to find something to connect with. He’s gone for S.O.S. and it works pretty well, with an insistent acoustic riff and an erratic tempo. I must be warming to him, because I don’t even mind the unnecessary changes he’s made to the melody. Here we go: Louis says “I never thought angst and ABBA would go so well together.” Has he never seen the video for One of Us? It’s like an Ingmar Bergman film, with two-part harmonies.
Gary tells us “Brace yourselves, it’s Christopher Maloney.” I’m not taking any chances, so I’ve got a ball-gag at the ready. As he coaches Christopher on Fernando, Gary reminds him “You know, I saw Agnetha about six weeks ago, so we’ve gotta get this right.” I’m not sure I understand the connection; does he owe her money? Christopher is another one who holds the tune well, but shouts the big notes and misses the key. The cameraman does a sterling job of keeping a steady eye on Christopher, when there’s clearly a spectacular set of boobs on one of the dancers that would make for far more compelling viewing. Louis says “It was like something from
The Musical.” I think he means Mamma Mia, but with Louis you can never be too sure. Then he goes off on one, saying “There was something in the air that night. Where’s Fernando, where’s Fernando?” Tulisa needs to start mashing the pills into his food. Interestingly, Gary complements Christopher on his vocals, but carefully avoids mentioning whether he wants to see him in the final.
After the break, Union J are patiently listening to Louis run through a series of obvious statements: “It’s week eight and you’re still here. You’re the last boyband standing.” One of the boys says “If you’d have told us at the judge’s houses that we’d be in the final five, we’d never have believed you.” Which begs the question, why did you enter the competition? I’ll tell you what, there’s none of this forced humility in the US version of the show. The contestants there are so hungry for it, I don’t think they’d bat an eyelid if they had to eat a live baby instead of facing the sing-off. As they croon their way through a thumping version of I’ll Be There, we see teenage girls making the love-heart sign with their hands. Well, I assume that’s what it is – they could be doing a goatse gesture, and I’d be none-the-wiser. Gary’s right on the money, referencing the history of boybands and Motown, and complaining that they could have done something more surprising. Louis is incensed and asks if Gary’s deaf. It’s a fair point; the poor guy’s been stuck in a recording studio with Christopher all week, so he’d be lucky to escape with a nasty bout of tinnitus.
Nicole can’t find the camera or the autocue, so it all goes a bit three-cocktail mental as she introduces James Arthur, when the next act up is actually Rylan. Their video is really just an extended plug for the Samsung tablet, as they recap some of Rylan’s past performances. Tonight, he’s singing a Supremes medley in a mustard suit with a single pink sleeve. It’s probably supposed to be a fashion statement, but it looks more like he just fisted a rhinoceros before coming on-stage. There’s also a giant cartoon caricature of Rylan on the big screen, which still manages to be more three-dimensional that the real thing. Nicole thinks he’s a breath of fresh air, whereas I’d suggest he’s more of a Bacardi Breezer burp.
Next up, it’s the real James Arthur, who’s begrudgingly taking part in another Samsung tablet ad, before planning his performance of Let’s Get It On. He says it’s the kind of song you’d put on if you wanted to “woo a lady”. To make his point, he takes Nicole and Tulisa’s hands as he sings, leaving Louis looking a little left out. The vocal is his strongest yet, because he’s not over-singing or trying to channel a restless spirit. Gary thinks that Ed Sheeran fans will buy James’ records, but only because those piracy reports suggest that none of them are actually spending their hard-earned on Ed’s. Nicole thinks that lots of babies will be conceived tonight - James Arthur, the one-man power-cut.
Jahmene’s happy about Motown week, since it’s the music he’s been listening to all his life. He’s doing Tracks Of My Tears, and although he can’t quite sell the line about “people say I’m the life of the party,” his voice is perfect for the song. He really does have the tone of a Smokey Robinson or Ben E King, so it’s nice to hear him in his comfort zone.
Gary and Christopher are looking back at how far he’s come since he was the wildcard choice. Not that far, to be honest, since he’s still wobbling like Hurricane Sandy is running up his trouser-leg, and he’s yet to pick a song that wouldn’t appear on
’s iPod. That’s why, of all the amazing songs to choose from, he’s picked Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie. Tulisa says that she doesn’t believe his performance, but I think that’s a little harsh. I’ve always felt that he was a cruise ship singer, so I’m just picturing him doing cabaret on the Poseidon after the big wave hits. Nicole explores an elaborate breakfast cereal metaphor to say he sounded a bit too white, and Christopher promises that, if he gets to perform next week, he’ll come back trendy. Matalan won't know what hit it.