Like you didn’t watch it.

So, the live shows return. I love music. I know that there’s every chance that the majority of The X Factor will make me angry, and yet, every year, I return for more. Every so often someone great actually makes it through. It may well have happened this year.

That said, I’m not sure any of the acts are ever good enough to justify watching Louis‘ simpleton-at-a-Radio-1-roadshow clapping on a regular basis. (By the way, did Simon try to out Louis tonight? Sorry, I digress.) There were some truly awful performances tonight, some mediocre offerings and a couple of decent vocals.

Girlband, who kicked off the show, have a truly shit name. Weirdly, they ended up being the better of the two girl groups that the little Irish nutjob is looking after this time around. It was a solid enough performance but never going to win in a million years. The remarkably different looking Austin followed, with a competent version of The Police‘s ‘Every Breath You Take’. The panel seemed to love it, but I’m not entirely sure why. It was alright. It was safe. It did the job, I guess, but who the hell made the backing track? Was it from one of the karaoke nights we saw him running in his little film before the performance? It was utterly chronic and sufficiently diverting that I ended up quite ambivalent about one of the few I reckoned might be quite good.

Alexandra was very good. There was definitely a risk of a wardrobe malfunction, and Whitney tunes always know how to rub me up the wrong way, but she has a fabulous voice. Cheryl clearly has the best group and appears to be bloody good at mentoring, what with her rather successful song choices. More of which, later.

Daniel followed. As he was singing, I pointed out the similarities between the performance and this:

However, ol’ cymbal hands himself made a similar, if less accurate, comment directly afterwards, thus ruining the moment a little. It was very poor. Big heart, big arms, poor performance. If a judge’s review begins with words like, "I just want to say that you’re such a nice guy…" it’s pretty obvious that the vocal wasn’t up to it. And it wasn’t.

Ricky Gervais’ dad ( © Dermot O’Leary) has one chance of winning this year, and it’s JLS, whose performance of ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ was 50% quite good. They’ll get better, and they’re one of the better acts in the twelve. Quite a disappointing start though.

Pontins was up next. I’m not sure what his name was, actually. Might be Scott. Who cares? By the time you read this, I’m fairly certain he’ll have been kicked out. At least Simon, who I have to say talks the most sense out of the lot of them, was honest enough to say out loud what everyone else was thinking. He screwed up. Pontins’ version of ‘Yeh, Yeh’ was toe-curlingly bad. I imagine there was more entertaining wakes occurring at the same time as that performance.

Macy Gray was on next. Or at least, that seems to be who Rachel is using as the basis for her stage persona. A not-as-bad-as-the-judges-seemed-to-think version of that song by Robyn was hijacked by some of the most disturbing bumping and, if you will, grinding since the most recent Austrian dungeon clearout. Then, she coined her catchphrase, "taken on board." Take this on board too: stop playing your arse a different song to the rest of the room.

And then, for me, one of the very best performances ever seen on The X Factor. No, really. Diana‘s version of ‘With Or Without You’ knocked me for six. It made me think of Emiliana Torrini and Frida Hyvönen. Even once I realised that it was a U2 song she was singing, it didn’t automatically summon a Bono-rage. It was magnificent. It was controlled. It was different. And, crucially if you listen to what the judges always bang on about, I’d buy her record. I may be proved wrong by some shocking performances in the future, but I thought she was great. And I’d expected to find her exceptionally annoying. So, that shows what I know.

Although, I do know that Bad Lashes were crap. To paraphrase Boyzone, I didn’t get it. It was a mediocre song, it was a mediocre performance and (pulls trousers up to tits) it sounded like a drunken hen night. Apparently their image was good. Not so sure myself.

Little Irish boy who doesn’t spell Owen as Owen was next. I really, really don’t like ‘Imagine‘, but it was hard to deny that it was good. Good enough, in fact, that BT are currently altering their network to ensure that if you press 1 on the keypad of all mums’ phones, it automatically registers a vote for little Owen with an E at the front.

I would imagine that singing the first couple of lines of every song you do in Spanish, before going back to the English language original, would get pretty bloody annoying after a while. Oh wait, it already bloody well has. Ruth – or Rachel, as Simon called her whilst mid-orgasm – makes me angry. It’s not even a gimmick, it’s just stupid. Sing the bloody song and get off. Decent enough voice, but the novelty act schtick needs to go.

Bo Selecta closed the show and proved she has a much bigger voice than anybody had expected. I was quite surprised at the choice of an Alicia Keys song, but, by the end, I had to admit that it was a very impressive performance. Cheryl must have the winner in her ranks and she certainly outclassed the others on song choices tonight.

One last thing. Dermot makes it a much more enjoyable watch. Kate Thornton was, as she always is, diabolical as the host of The X Factor. She had no personality and very little ability when it came to presenting. Dermot’s enthusiasm is contagious and, whisper it, I actually find myself quite enjoying the programme. Anyway, got to go. Time to watch Leon (I know, I know. Who?) before Pontins gets told to bugger off.

EDIT: Pontins got the sympathy vote in the end and it was Louis’ girl-group showdown. The right group got binned, although neither ‘bonus’ song was much cop. Watching the Sarah Harding-lite girl in Bad Lashes go to bits was a little unsettling although Dermot’s school master impression, "Now’s not the time for petty squabbles," was wonderful.

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