Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Phil-Upped and Left 

Week 3 of X Factor and the chaff are beginning to get separated from the, well, slightly less chaffy. The lovely Kate Thornton took the chocolate vibe of her name a bit more seriously this week, wearing a lovely dress - albeit one that did little for her cleavage - that was the exact same colour as a Dairy Milk wrapper. As it's Hallowe'en on Monday, the judges clearly decided to have a little bit of fun and all dressed up in hilarious costumes: Simon dressed as a member of Il Divo, Sharon plumped for the Rubbish Supply Teacher look, while Louis happily dressed for a funeral, though not, alas, his own.

Before we got down to the slightly humiliating business of watching people prostitute themselves in a desperate attempt to gain our approval, a bit of back slapping had to be done, as not only did X Factor itself win some sort of prize at the National TV Awards but for reasons which we doubt we'll ever understand, Sharon herself won the award for Most Popular Expert, something which is wrong on at least two counts. After proving once again that democracy doesn't work, lets see if the public managed to do any better when it came to judging this week's performances:

After last week's morale shattering criticism from Simon, it seemed that Phillip just couldn't face turning up to perform last night, so instead sent TV's Mike McClean to perform in his place. Stung by last week's criticism, Louis let him pick his own song this week, in a give him enough rope to hang himself with kinda style, and Phillip searched far and wide for inspiration before he finally stumbling upon a late night screening of Back to the Future and thought, "Ah, Johnny B Goode, I can do that!", and so he did, with his hair in the sort of tousled style normally caused by an over affectionate mother. He did seem a lot more comfortable with this sorta song, even if the overriding impression was that of younger nephew doing a turn at a family gathering, and his dancing during the instrumental break really wasn't a good idea, serving mainly to make him look like he was being electrocuted by his microphone. Even we dance better than him and we dance like a scarecrow in a hurricane. Sharon suggested that he's "just stepped out of the closet", something which, if our google referral stats are anything to go by, is something which would be welcomed by many viewers, while Simon described him as being "like Shakin' Stevens performing at a wedding". Much to Phillip's embarassment, Louis then stepped in supportively by saying "He wants to be a young Shakin Stevens though". When asked if this was the case, Phillip responded "Uh, I'd rather be the King". Louis, again doing his best to keep up the self-esteem, confidence and hope of his young charge, responded happily to this claim with "Oh, you'll never be the King". With friends like Louis...

Brenda was up next, and we have to wonder whether, in the interview segment that preceded her performance, Sharon was wearing that hat for a bet. Brenda herself appeared to have raided All Saint's old wardrobe department, rocking a pinstriped waistcoat and trousers look for her version of Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia. It was good to see her do a sweet, sultry performance, rather than having her thrown into the same camp as Rowetta and Voices With Soul from last year's show and be forced to do bellowy soul cover after bellowy soul cover. Despite this clearly being a good direction for her to go in, she'll no doubt be doing the inevitable version of River Deep, Mountain High by next week's show.

We've worked out exactly why we hate Shayne, and it's not just because all the ladies love him and we're jealous - he has to deal with Sharon flirting with him and offering him something of hers which is "warm, feels nice and smells nice too", something which no man would be envious of - but because he sings like he's chewing on an oily rag. Using Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics as his style inspiration, which is a bit like using Kerry Katona as your inspiration for completing a masters in Advanced Mathematics, he gave us his interpretation of Summer of '69, treating it less as a rock song, more as something to aimlessly sing along to much in the manner of a vaguely tuneful goldfish. It was, as Simon later pointed out, as grit free as a rarely traveled highland road during a severe snowstorm. Can people please stop liking him! We'll give you a bit of cardboard if you do, it's got just as much personality as he has, and is also slightly more useful.

Fucking Chico told us in his intro segment that he "Was never like the other kids", presumably because they weren't all attention seeking irritants in dire need of a slap. This week he was given Livin' La Vida Loca to maul and, in all fairness, this was a good song choice for him, but it still didn't stop his performance being entirely shit. The full length performance that all the acts were able to do this week did him no favours either, as it was as grating an experience as putting your hand through a Parmesan shredder, though more painful. During the instrumental break he, in an entirely spontaneous and in no way painstakingly rehearsed and choreographed section, jumped off of the stage and danced with a small girl who just happened to be at the front of the audience and had stepped forward before he'd even got anywhere near her. We feel sure that, for agreeing to go ahead with this, we can report her parents to social services as the poor girl will now be scarred for life. Simon described it as being like the "Armenian entrant to Eurovision in 1973", which was incredibly insulting to the good people of Armenia, the majority of whom are not annoying twats. Louis gave him good props because "you looked like you were enjoying yourself up there". So what? We're sure if we were given three minutes of primetime on the ITV network to act like a dick with, we'd have a great time too, but it wouldn't suddenly make us talented. "God gave me a gift", Chico declared later. We can only hope he's still got the receipt.

Total Eclipse of the Heart, aside from being one of the greatest songs of all time (Fact! Look it up if you don't believe us), is a big, ballsy, fiery number, designed to be sung by throaty, hard smoking and drinking women who've seen a bit of life and give it all that, whatever 'that' might be. The Conway Sisters, on the other hand, do not strike us as being big, ballsy, hard smoking and drinking women. It's quite possible they occasionally have a quick drink of Bailey's before bedtime, but other than that they seem to be more Bonnie Langford than Bonnie Tyler. This was pretty much proven with their rendition which was so diluted it wouldn't even qualify as a homeopathic medicine. We're not quite sure why it was chosen for them either, as it's not exactly a song which can really be given a four part arrangement, and essentially reduced the band to a solo vocalist with 3 backing singers. Louis, who must have been drinking, declared them to be the new Nolans.

Chenai, still reeling from being in the bottom two last week, decided she was going to give it 200% this week, a promise which fell down both on mathematical grounds, and due to her choosing to do Mariah Carey's Hero rather than, you know, something good. It was a mature, for which read dull, performance and might as well have been in their for the express purpose of boosting Tetley's profits, such was the nationwide rush to the kettle during her appearance.

Andy gave us Unforgettable and, for the first half of the song, it wasn't, but did put him in good stead for a job working the lucrative cocktail bar circuit. Half way through, however, he stood up - for which he got applauded for, which we didn't quite understand. It's not like he's Stephen Hawking - and managed to get off his arse in more ways than one, giving the song a bit more oomph and reminding everyone just why he's the favourite to win the whole shebang.

For some reason Journey South have been in the papers in our neck of the woods quite a lot over the last week, campaigning for the Scottish vote, despite the fact that they come from the north of England and have no connection with Scotland whatsoever. Apparently they feel that their sort of music is the sort of music Scotland loves, which implies that we're a nation of taste free morons who only enjoy music which is free of joy, excitement and anything good. Though, given the success of Travis, Texas and Snow Patrol, they may well have a point. They did Angel of Harlem, which is apparently what Journey South are all about. What? Workmanlike pub band covers of U2 songs? That's something to be proud of. Robson this week upgraded his acoustic guitar for an electric one, while the non-guitar one - Jerome - believed that showmanship consists of throwing the mic stand around with wild abandon. The more he kept it away from his mouth, the happier we were. As they performed, they stared longingly into each other's eyes in the sort of disturbing way which was last witnessed when Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield got together to do a duet at the Brit Awards. Shudder.

Having watched the previous series of X Factor, Nicholas was quite chuffed that judges even knew his name, though the fact that he's still insisting on wearing that stupid rhinestone belt buckle with his name on, that shouldn't have come as a surprise given that they could just read it off his crotch. He did Let's Stay Together and, as the weeks go by, he's reminding us more and more of Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air during one of the episodes where Will takes it upon himself to try and make Carlton a bit cooler, i.e. every other episode. Sharon declared "Move over Craig David, cause here comes Nicholas", seemingly unaware that Craig David found himself moved over quite a while ago and is currently suffering the ignomy of knowing that his 'hilarious' Bo Selecta parody sells more records than he does nowadays.

And finally we come to Maria, and up until this week we hadn't really 'got' her, but by God was she on fire tonight. Indeed, Sharon's heavily surgeonified face began melting on to her blouse during her performance, that's how hot she was. On the basis of what we saw, she's not only won us over, but she's won the whole bloody competition, so we might as well shut up early and just go home and get on with our lives for the next 8 weeks as she was just incredible. Her version of Take Another Piece of My Heart was magnificent, amazing, stunning and pretty much any other superlative you care to mention. In short, we may just have fallen in love with her. Go Maria!

So, having sung for their supper, it's time for the contestants to find out who gets cake and who's left with just bread and water to keep them going. Despite Kate's vague attempts to build up the tension, it won't really have come as a surprise to anyone to discover that it was Phillip and Chico in the bottom two, which naturally we assumed would lead to a Chico exit. Unfortunately life didn't quite work out like that, but first the performances. Phillip's was pretty much the same as his initial rendition, though he did include a bit more cock framing this time, presumably hoping it would impress Simon, while - and the only downside to Chico being in the bottom two is that we have to see him perform twice - Chico gave us a bit more stomach flashing and didn't bother dancing with the small girl this time, despite her being primed and ready for it. He also, and due to the camera angle this was hard to tell, may well have mimed masterbation during the "once you get a taste of her line". We really hope this wasn't the case, even though it's already clear to all and sundry that he is a wanker.

With that slightly pointless bit of airtime filler out of the way, it was down to the judges and with Simon's groups being free from the chop this week, it came down to him to make the final decision. "I think the right two acts are at the bottom this week", he began, as if they weren't already demoralised enough, "I'll base my decision on who the public would want to see back". And who did Simon think the public wanted to see back? Fucking Chico! And fucking Simon too for that matter. Yes, Phillip wasn't exactly proving himself to be popular - our support for him was making us less a one man island, more someone desperately clinging on to a fragile rock being eroded swiftly with each passing wave - but he wasn't Chico, which surely should have counted for something. The clocks went back last night so we all lost an hour anyway, why couldn't Chico time have vanished as well? As Phillip watched over his best bits, his mentor Louis came on stage to offer him a few consoling words. "Trust me, you'll be the new Shakin' Stevens". This, we believe, is what's known as rubbing salt into the wound.