‘The X Factor’ – Episode 9.1

It’s time to face the music once again – The X Factor is back and, as it’s always billed, bigger than ever!

I’M BACK ON BOARD

Now, I watched only a couple of episodes of the eighth series last year but then lost interest – it was the first time since 2007 I’d missed an episode! I think I stopped watching not because of the new judges themselves but because Simon was missing. It happened with Britain’s Got Talent and so it did with last year’s The X Factor, if we believed what we read in the papers: the show went downhill with the absence of a certain Mr. Cowell. Also, I suppose I couldn’t bear to watch another second of Frankie Coccozza. This year, however, I decided to forgive Gary, Tulisa, Louis and return to what is, let’s face it, one of the many jewels in ITV’s crown.

UNWELCOME APPEARANCES

So, how did last night’s introduction to the ninth year of searching for a singing superstar begin? Need you even ponder for a second? Of course, it was with the usual dramatic montage looking back at previous successes (One Direction, JLS, you know – all of the runners-up) and ahead to this year’s talent. And that is the key wordtalent. It seems that Cowell and co. have seen fit to do what they tragically did with another of ITV’s jewels, Britain’s Got Talent, by packing it full with mini fly-on-the-wall VTs which apparently depict the typical home- or work-life of the auditionees which do nothing except irritate me. I’m watching a talent show – I want to see auditions, be the contestants in them successful or otherwise, not these palpably staged thirty second films giving us a snapshot of the hopefuls’ oh-so-interesting lives. If I want to see that, I’ll put ITV2 on and watch Peter Andre…or even Keith Lemon!

Likewise, those annoying hashtags which sum-up each act are back, having already popped up on Britain’s Got Talent every five minutes earlier this year. They’re not even funny! They’re so pointless they put Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman to shame! In fact, would anyone actually tweet those hashtags if Simon Cowell wasn’t instructing us to? I know I wouldn’t, and I’m usually a sucker for things like that.

IS LOUIS LOSING IT?

I do have other content complaints but I’ll save those for next week, else I’ll have nothing to write about. So, we move onto the judges. Permanent fixture Louis Walsh is still there, proudly claiming he’s the longest standing judge and has always been on the show (clearly having erased part of 2007 when he was sacked by Cowell from the show). Another proclamation of Walsh’s in his introduction was “Forget about the rest: The X Factor is the only show in town that can find real stars that can sell records worldwide.” Two words, Louis: Susan Boyle.

Actually, while we’re on the subject, the judges’ introductions were so dramatically over-the-top and clichéd that it reminded me of Peter Kay’s talent show spoof Britain’s Got The Pop Factor… – sadly they just seemed to be a nod to The X Factor becoming a bit of a parody of itself. Anyway, of course, Gary Barlow was back and on fine, cutting yet constructively critical form, as was Tulisa who I have actually been endeared to since the scandal – I think she handled it well then and has continued to by respectably just grasping the nettle and carrying on her judging duties. According to Dermot, Tulisa is “The girl everyone’s talking about…” Yeah, I wonder why? The new addition to the panel was Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, the successor of sickie-pulling Kelly Rowland who stayed for only last year’s series. Nicole didn’t make much of an impression on me – she didn’t seem to shine and I almost forgot she was there due to Gary and Louis being the much more prominent members of the panel. She might come into her own in a few weeks, though – let’s see…

MALICIOUS MEL

Nicole wasn’t on the panel for the duration of the episode, though: we were also…treated…to Spice Girl Melanie B putting in an appearance. I thought I would find Mel entertaining but I didn’t – at all. She was purely and simply far too harsh. I’m not talking Cowell or Lythgoe harsh, either! Even her fellow judges seemed bored with Mel’s act. I say “act” because that’s what it most probably was – something done wholly for attention (which, admittedly I’m giving her). I can only guess that she behaved this way because she’s not a permanent judge so isn’t going to go on to mentor any of the acts, meaning that she couldn’t let herself be instantly forgettable and had to make her mark…in such a horrible way. She was even quite nasty to 82 year-old Louis Dilke, who treated the audience to a sweet rendition of Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’. Now, Louis didn’t have star quality (the contestant, that is, not the judge. Although..) but the whole panel decided quite rightly to be nice to Mr. Dilke and commend him on his determination and ability to move everyone. Well, when I say “the whole panel”, I am of course excluding Mel B who simply said that the performance “made her want to go to sleep”. There’s a thing called tact, Mel – I suggest you grab a dictionary and look it up.

And now, we come to the real stars of the show: the contestants. Be they good or bad, they’re the true reason we count down the days until the show returns and then tune in week after week. Here were some of my favourites, and not all for the right reasons:

Sheyi Omotayo

I actually took an instant dislike to Sheyi – he just seemed too cocky, desperately trying to be charming and funny. Then again, that’s what I thought of Olly Murs when I first saw him so it’s not necessarily an indicator of poor vocals. In Sheyi’s case, though, it was. He sang ‘What A Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong but merely sounded like a tribute act – without the singing ability. Actually, his voice seemed to give the impression that he had something stuck in his throat…feel free to add your own Tulisa jokes here.

Zoe Alexander

Next, we have Zoe Alexander. P!nk impersonator by day, delusional by night. “P!nk’s my favourite singer so I decided to have my hair cut like P!nk,” she claimed. I actually thought it was more of an Emeli Sandé style but never mind. Less than two minutes later we saw her telling a fellow auditionee, “Doing P!nk’s amazing, I love it, but it’s a day job – this is a career. I want to be Zoe.” Hmm…okay..but didn’t you just say…oh, too late to ask – she’s on the stage. So what is her song? Oh, actually, I was right – ‘So What?’ is her song. To clarify, that’s ‘So What?’…by P!nk. Unimpressed and just as confused about her motives as I was, the judges asked her to sing another song, so what did she sing this time? AN EMELI SANDÉ TUNE! I knew that hair was versatile! To cut a long story short, the judges didn’t like that song either, Zoe went into a strop, threw her microphone, starting calling the judges all of the names under the sun and then assaulted a camera and its operator. Classy. It’s a shame that an even partially potentially talented singer proved to be a baby. Still, it doesn’t bother me and I’m sure it doesn’t bother anyone else: it was her chance and she blew it!

Curtis Golden

Now we come to a more talented and down-to-earth performer. A very excited Curtis Golden took to the stage and made it abundantly clear to all of the judges – and Mel B, too, who he had the pleasure of being present at his audition – that he’s a huge Spice Girls fan, so much so that at home he apparently has a life-size cut-out of Mel B doing her high-kicks in Spiceworld, the Spice Girls movie. Curtis then proceeded to get on his guitar, get in front of the microphone and do his brilliant stuff. He was fantastic! He performed his own version of Chistina Aguilera’s ‘Candy Man’. Now, I love ‘Candy Man’ but Curtis’s version was something else! You could see immediately that he could go far. Therefore, I was just as shocked as the judges – if not more so – when Mel B claimed she “found it a little bit irritating”, ditto with the whole ‘comedic personality’ at the beginning. Oh, so she doesn’t like singers who exude personality and force that upon people? Sounds a bit hypercritical, doesn’t it? I wonder if Posh, Sporty, Baby and Ginger will agree with Scary Spice?

Ella Henderson

My favourite audition of the night, though, was immediately likeable sixteen-year-old Ella Henderson. She was talented beyond description. This is the first series of The X Factor in which auditionees can actually sing one of their own self-penned songs and thank God, else Ella might not have shone as much as she did last night. It was phenomenal – she indeed sang “a song she wrote herself” and completely blew me away! That song was just so heartfelt and genuine, it could easily have been written and sang by Adele (it in fact seemed to be along the same lines as ‘Someone Like You’). When she finished her song, I just smiled and looked at my TV in disbelief – I can only imagine what it was like to be in the arena that day to hear those vocals live. Many people nowadays complain about modern acts not writing their own material but here we have someone who’s only my age, writes lyrics and then sings them – and does it bloody well! A dead cert for the Live Shows, I think.

And there we have it – week one of the ninth (!) series of The X Factor done. I think it’s safe to say that – unlike last year – I won’t be switching off.

Twitter – @UKTVReviewer

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