Remember when Jade Goody entered a marathon, but forgot to prepare for it and just ate a massive curry before she set off running? Well, I’d like you to hold onto that mental image as we jog through the next FOUR hours of the X Factor final. A show so massive it can’t be contained by a regular TV studio. Or a standard-length broadcast, for that matter.
Although the outcome is by no means guaranteed, we can at least be sure that throughout the final, people will repeatedly admit to being lost for words, only to bumble through regardless. Our three finalists can’t believe they’ve made it to the final, but then again I’m feeling the same. If it wasn’t for these reviews I’d have given up at boot-camp. But then I’d have missed these charming recreations of Sam singing in a half-empty social club or Nicholas daydreaming in a classroom.
Wembley Arena is filled with ten thousand fans, who do their best to look excited as Dermot flies in on a giant bedazzled toilet brush. All this shouting is starting to have an effect on his vocal chords, making him sound like Liam Neeson making death threats. He’s excited tonight because they’ve got a great line-up of huge celebrities, for the sole purpose of outshining the lacklustre selection of contestants. Speaking of underwhelming, let’s say ‘Hello’ one last time to our judges. Sharon’s girdle is so tight that her ears have swollen, and Nicole looks like something you’d ordinarily see painted onto the side of a World War II bomber.
It was written into law last year that no talent show can be aired without at least one reference to Emeli Sandé, so here are the three finalists performing Lifted. It begins with pre-recorded footage of them making their way to the stage, cutting to the live vocal as they arrive on stage. Suddenly, all those references to ‘great recording voices’ make a lot more sense. There’s a glimmer of excitement as Beyonce makes her second over-hyped surprise announcement this week, telling the finalists (via pre-recorded message) that the winner will be joining her in March. “One of you guys is going to be supporting me on my Mrs Carter tour,” she says, although it’s clear from her gravity-defying frontage that she’s in no immediate need of additional support. Dermot’s getting into it now, bounding back onto the stage and boasting that the X-Factor App has helped to make this the most talked about show in the UK. I’m not sure “For f**k’s sake, is that still on?” counts.
Time to introduce the first of tonight’s finalists, so of course Louis makes it all about the fact that he has two contestants in the final, “…and Gary and Nicole have none. And I have two Dermot.” Someone give the sneery little c**t an apple. This week, the contestants all went home, with Nicholas flying to Motherwell. “It was so cool flying in by helicopter. I felt like James Bond.” Except that he’s usually hanging off the landing gear. The only incidents of note from his homecoming were the size of his parents’ enormous scarlet sofa, and the alarming sight of Nicholas singing Someone Like You to his eight year-old sister. His first song of the night is Candy by Robbie Williams. It’s in too low a key, which leaves the audience to focus on the song’s utterly inane nursery-rhyme melody instead. Sharon says “It’s no time to critique,” but Gary clearly disagrees and Nicole’s pupils aren’t dilating. Dermot and Louis point out that Gary wrote the song he’s just criticised – no wonder he tried to keep that quiet. Meanwhile, Caroline Flack’s pestering a couple of Nicholas’ friends in the audience, figuring it’s perfectly appropriate to ask a couple of 17 year-olds what’s under their kilt. They obligingly bend over to reveal their cotton clad taints, as well as message saying ‘Vote for Nicholas.’ I’m not entirely sure who they thought that was for; Louis’ already on the kid’s side.
To introduce Sam, Sharon says “OK, no silly gimmicks, it’s all about The Voice.” No, that’s the other show. Sam’s off to Leicester, where she hugs her cute kids and watches a video message from her Nan, who says she’s sorry she couldn’t be there. No explanation is given, so let’s imagine she’s on a roll at the Gala. At her big performance that evening, Sam reduces a teenage girl to tears: “She just touched my hand.” Wait till she gives you a full body cavity search. Anyway, Sharon introduces her act, saying “Sam Bailey’s going to put Leicester on the map,” and everyone’s too polite to point out that it’s already there.
Sharon promised no gimmicks tonight, so maybe she had no idea that The Edge of Glory would be staged like the missing act from Nomi Malone’s Goddess. Gary raves over her chest voice and Nicole thinks she sang the pants off it. Louis, on the other hand, is imagining “Two strong women together, that’s hard to beat,” but I think he’s just been watching his old Xena videos. There’s a Leicester City player in the audience who seems confused about why he’s there, and he’s joined by Sam’s Nan, who just apologises for looking so old. Although this leaves me wondering why she made such a big deal about not being able to make it to her Granddaughter’s house. A semi in Leicester is too much effort, but she can make it to Wembley?
Prepare for some major eye-rolling folks, as Louis introduces his second act with “He’s my friend, he’s your friend, he’s Luke Friend.” The grotty haired rocker has gone back to Devon, still tagged with assorted scarves and handkerchiefs, like a prison slut. “The support what I get from you and Mum, it’s amazing,” he tells his Dad, who’s too overcome with emotion to correct his grammar. Loads of businesses seem to have made a big deal about Luke’s homecoming, although hairdressers are notable by their absence. His fans have tried to create a hashtag for their idol, and come up with #friendies. Well done everyone.
Luke has decided to open with We Are Young, and until the chorus arrives, it’s almost unlistenable. It gets marginally better once the big notes kick in, by which point Luke is singing on top of a Tube train set. As it spins around and the dancers lunge out from the stage, Sharon looks to be bracing for impact. All the judges offer the kind of comments that suggest they’re not expecting him to be here tomorrow night. Nicole applauds his authenticity and Louis randomly emphasises words like ‘POTENTIAL’ but none of it really makes any difference. Dermot returns to the stage, commenting “You’re probably the least commercial in the final three,” because he’s clearly the arbiter of what’s likely to sell. Oh, and someone in the audience brought along a lobster because she really wanted to be on the telly.
As we stumble bleary-eyed into the second hour, it’s clear we’re in guest slot territory. First up is Tom Odell, who’s here to do a dull song at a piano, accompanied by lots of black and white footage of people bursting into tears. Luke’s probably w**king himself silly at all this authenticity, but it’s painfully gloomy.
Speaking of Luke, he gets to sing with Ellie Goulding tonight. “I remember seeing her on the stage at X-Factor,” he enthuses. Yeah, we all do. It was three weeks ago; hardly a Vietnam flashback. “Have you got any ideas for the performance or anything?” he half-heartedly asks his long-faced guest. “I think it’d be cool if we both play guitars,” she offers. I swear, this must be like listening in on a Lennon and McCartney brainstorm. Onstage, it’s as unimaginative as you’d expect. After about twenty repeats of the line “Anything could happen” I’m beginning to wonder if anything ever will. It doesn’t.
Nicholas is still going on about having the time of my life, so I’m half expecting his duet partner to be Jennifer Grey. Instead, he gets Shane Filan, who’s here to show us all just how well the solo career is going. Since Nicholas is singing Mark Feelihy’s bits of Flying Without Wings, he has to introduce Shane less than two lines into the song. Their voices mesh pretty well together, but this isn’t the ideal way for Shane to put some distance between himself and the Westlife catalogue. It ends with the guys staring into each other’s eyes on the line “For me it’s waking up beside you.” Gary’s duet with Elton tomorrow night is going to struggle to top this for awkward gayness.
Poor old Sam doesn’t get a special guest – she’s singing with Nicole who must’ve had this written into her contract. Sharon tells Sam “I’ve picked a very special person,” but the disappointment in Sam’s eyes betrays the fact that she’s already met Nicole. “I can’t believe I’m singing with THE Nicole Scherzinger,” she burbles, as if there’s more than one. Their duet is And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going To Let You Do The Big Note At The End, and their vocals are both very impressive. It’s let down slightly by the sound of Jedward’s microphone test backstage which is coming through on the same channel. The last minute is just two women angrily bellowing at each other, and to be quite honest, I could get that in my local ASDA.
Don’t worry, you weren’t hallucinating. Jedward really are here, as part of a novelty slot dedicated to the strangest finalists the show has ever seen. It’s like a twisted tribute to Louis’ continued attempt to ruin the format, as Jedward, Johnny and Wagner all have their moment to shine. We’re also given a painful reminder of the fact that Kitty, Rylan and Diva Fever all existed, accompanied by a surreal video of a Bichon Frise being blow-dried. Unfortunately, even this cacophonous misstep wasn’t enough to fill out the show’s running time, so we also get a performance from The Killers, who sing a two-song medley inside a giant inflatable television. Dermot tries to engage Brandon in some lighthearted chat, but questions like “How does it feel to have the greatest hits out? ” are hard to answer with any kind of enthusiasm.
It’s time to tot up the votes so far. Sam’s first through to Sunday night’s final, followed by Nicholas, who looks like he’s going to vomit up a hipbone. Luke deosn’t seem too disappointed - he just can’t wait to get out there gigging. Meanwhile, Louis is trying to plug the X-Factor tour, yelling “Everyone’s on it.” That’s why it’s called the X Factor tour.
Sunday night’s final begins with all the finalists from this series returning to murder a Katy Perry song. Hopefully they’ll stick around long enough to see Katy herself show them how it’s done. There’s so much tacky animal print on display, it’s like rummaging through Julie Goodyear’s knicker drawer. The skinny one in Rough Copy appears to be contemplating joining a gay branch of the French Resistance.
Remember the controversy over One Direction’s last appearance on X Factor? There was an outcry over the fact that they might have been miming. Tonight’s performance, complete with a genuine live vocal, confirms that they definitely were faking it last time. The title track of their new album isn’t so much a song, as an extended jingle for Addison Lee, albeit one that calls into question the company’s disregard for passenger safety and vehicle capacity. It also sounds far too much like a late 80s ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic album track, only not as good.
Nicholas dedicates his reprise of ‘Angel’ to his mum, presumptuously noting that this will be the proudest moment in her life. He’s also wearing the cheapest outfit that’s ever appeared on TV – a too-tight white school shirt with a black star sticker ironed onto the collar. Sharon says “Good luck, little boy” with an element of threat, like it’s something she might say to a pool boy who later goes missing on the Osbourne estate. Nicole says his tone is weightless like butter, which explains how much she knows about foods that are high in saturated fat. Nicholas explains that this was a tough choice, because there are four songs he’s enjoyed singing. That’s still more than I enjoyed hearing.
Louis claims he’s wearing the McDonald clan’s tartan. “That’s what they told me in the shop,” he argues, as countless people up and down the country eye their own Chinese tattoos and wonder if it really says their name in Mandarin. Sam is having another go at The Power Of Love, which she still manages to nail, despite the lyrics being nonsensically chopped up to fit into 1:40 minutes. Nicole is still sticking ‘Sh’ in front of words that didn’t ask for it, making her sound like Asterix and Obelix whenever they found a wine cellar. And Louis tells Sam that “You’re living proof it’s never too late,” as if she’s entitled to free bus travel. At this point, we also get yet another highlights reel of the judges that focuses on Nicole, and plays like a public health announcement about spotting the signs of manic depression. “I sh-love those guys,” she yelps, as the entire nation wishes she’d just sh-ove it up her arse.
Time now for Katy Perry’s guest appearance. Live Nation are already tweeting to promote her imminent tour, but I doubt the phonelines will be jammed with enquiries on the strength of the vocal. Weirdly, she’s come dressed as Prince Vultan, and Gordon’s alive; this is wretched. Aside from the basic tuning issues, it’s very hard to make a song work that’s based around a six-syllable word. Finally, as she clambers back into her gilded birdcage, I’m praying she’s about to see a giant puddy tat. After that, there’s a staggeringly inept backstage interview with Sam and Nicholas, who manage to make me long for the effortless professionalism of Caroline Flack.
And now, three and half hours in, we get to the winner’s songs. Nicholas has got Superman by Five For Fighting. This has already appeared as an album track on Joe McElderry’s ill-fated debut album, so not the most auspicious of song choices. The judges all try to pay him a compliment, without ever actually inferring that he might actually win this.
Sam is reflecting back on a life of just doing “ordinary mum things.” Unfortunately, this is paired with footage of her kids wearing matching X Factor gear, and her hubby in a t-shirt that says “Sam Bailey’s Husband” across his back. That’s not regular mum stuff, even if you are eating cereal in a conservatory. Her winner’s song is Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper, which has already been covered a million times on these shows. Strangely, she seems to struggle with the first verse, but the second half of the song is appropriately epic. By the time Louis calls it for Sam, you know it’s all over bar the glitter cannon. “You’ve got the whole of Leicester behind you,” adds Sharon, neglecting to mention that the rear-view mirror is the best way to see it.
Dame Elton John has decided to shut up about how much he hates this show in order to help Gary flog his new album. With their pianos turned to face each other, they seem to be staging an involuntary tribute to Daffy and Donald’s duel in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The song is jolly enough, but I notice that Elton needs a comfort monitor to remind him of the lyrics, which makes a nonsense of the fuss the judges all made about Tamera needing to remember her words. Elton expresses surprise at how humble the acts are, once one of his underlings has explained the concept to him.
And finally, it’s time for the least surprising victory since Kim Jong-un took part in the primary school egg and spoon race. Dermot whips out Sam’s CD single, as Andi Peters sits at home screaming “It should have been me,” and a generation of kids ask their parents “What’s that?” Sam’s reaction to her debut single is “I look thin,” but hopefully she won’t always have to pull her own skin back whenever she has her picture taken.