I've not watched any of the X-Factor this year but it's almost quite nice to settle down to watch a show with a narrative so insignificant that you can dip in and out of it whenever you like, at the drop of a hat, like some kind of televisual floozy.
The show was exactly as I expected: a packed hour chock-full hapless sods screening their vocals chords out for the chance to be a pub quiz question in a few years time and still presented by Dermot O'Leary - a man whose gift lies in being cheerful and likeable without the burden of ever saying or doing anything memorable enough for you to recall even five minutes later.
What was unusual about this particular show, however, was the distinct lack of warblers. Last time I watched the series, it was a Mecca for the subtlety-ly challenged; with every other singer wilding flailing their vocals up and down the register like they had an impatient drunk fiddling with radio dials trying to find a station signal. It's like somebody sat down every chart wannabe and Chinese water-tortured them with Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi album until they couldn't take the ridiculousness of trend any more. It must've been agony. I can't even make it to the end of 'We Belong Together' without attempt to melon-baller my fucking ears out.
Trouble is that once producers have decided to cut back on clips of hopefuls squealing like a broken metal detector, you tend to end up with - barring a few exceptions - a bunch of pub singers so flat they should be listed on Right Move. But luckily last night's show was a little better than that.
Melanie McCabe - a young, crazy-eyed Irish singer who had tried and failed on the show (at least) twice previously but who also said that, luckily, rejection is what 'drives [her] to keep going' - came out and kind-of nailed 'Diamonds' by Rihanna, a song so perfect for X-Factor it may as well have been sung puffy-faced music overlord Simon Cowell himself. While I don't agree that 'contestants' (inverted commas et al, because they're practically just pawns at this stage - presumably being pushed around the board by that disembodied finger that controls the mixing desk) should be able to sing to an instrumental when in the audition room, she seemed relatively genuine and talented. That is, of course, before weepy Louis Walsh came out (snigger) and ruined everything by admitting that he's practically bessie mates with Melanie's family, thus sucking out all the adulation sure to come her way in seconds - like a faulty airlock on a spaceship but, instead of air rushing out into the abyss, it's a bunch of nepotistic Irish folk.
Abi Alton was another very talented entrant with a suspiciously alliterative name. Singing 'Travelling Soldier' by Dixie Chicks (or 'Dixie Chris', presumably a transvestite cover band, if you were to go by the the official X-Factor YouTube info), nineteen-year-old Abi adorablised herself into the hearts of millions with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl glasses, oversized garland headband and a sweetly sung tale of fleeting relief before inexorable sadness - get used to it, Abi. Also, no more singing songs people haven't heard of for you: next time you'll sing 'Yellow' by Coldplay and YOU WILL LIKE IT.
Of course, what would the show be without a rag-tag bunch of mentalists? On ITV2, that's where. This week's sacrifice to the god's of schadenfreude included sweet Scottish soul-man Stuart Manson who everyone wanted to succeed but, as soon as he started, gave the creepiest ever rendition of Labrinth song by a middle-aged man who looks like he's ejaculating into the middle-distance. But the real star was Colin Stacey, the amiable South-East London resident with a penchant for pussy, who came in an performed an Adele song like no other. Wearing an oversized cable-knit and singing with less giving-a-fuck than anyone else in the programme's history. It was actually pretty refreshing to hear someone who sounded nothing like anyone you'd ever heard before. He literally HAD the X-Factor, right there, running through his veins, as he half-scatted his way through 'Someone Like You' while Take That's high-street handsome Barlow and Nicole 'Least Sincere Woman Ever' Scherzinger provided him with backing vocals. It wasn't even that bad. Dude had a tone to his voice that was super-listenable and if he didn't look like a murderous mini-cab driver and if he didn't so-obviously have sexual relations with his 'household pet' then he could've gone through.
We all know Melanie is gonna go all the way to the live shows because her highlights package online was the longest. Sorry to ruin the magic, but that's the X-Factor for you