Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chenai's Closed 

Week four of X Factor and with 9 acts remaining we're exactly at the stage last year's series started at. Weren't those three extra weeks worth having? (Answer: No) But still, we're here now and we only have two more godawful months to trawl through until we finally get a winner. This week Kate Thornton's dress seemed to come from the underused "Only One Left in the Shop the Night Before Prom" school of design, so we will draw a veil over that and see what the acts themselves got up to this week.

Brenda kicked off proceedings and gave us the news that since the show started she's lost one and a half stones, perhaps angling for future career as the Weightwatcher's Dieter of the Year. As the name suggests, this role generally gets the person 12 months of work, so would have the advantage of giving her a longer career than whoever wins the real contest. "I have to hold a note for 11 seconds", she nervously confided in the millions watching, "and I don't think my lungs are that big", perhaps regretting her weight loss already. She needn't have worried though, as not only did she manage to hold the note - though her relief immediately afterwards was written all over her face - but her version of Jocelyn Brown's Somebody Else's Guy, was all kinda of aceness from start to finish, though we could probably have done without the throaty growls in the intro, and she fully deserved all the lovely positive things the judges had to say about her.

In what was an irritating theme throughout most of the acts introductory films, Nicholas's baby photos came to light, along with the revelation that as a kid he "practically wore out a karaoke machine", which was when he realised that "this was what I was destined to do". Of course, we can think of many people who have worn out karaoke machines who aren't destined to become popstars. Indeed, the vast majority of people who overuse their karaoke machines are not only not destined to be popstars, but should also be prevented by any means necessary from ever becoming popstars. No matter, here Nicholas complimented his rhinestone name belt with a pair of rhinestone earrings and a t-shirt with a big rhinestone V on it. By the end of the series we fully expect him to be entirely bedecked in Rhinestones, riding a mechanical bull and performing a popular Glen Campbell hit. Alas, here we had to make do with him doing a competent but dull version of the Jackson 5's I Want You Back with all the magnetism of a lump of plastic. While receiving his comments from the judges he looked the very image of a schoolboy who's been forced to stand at the front of the class while a teacher goes over his work. In short, not exactly pop star material.

It what seemed to be somewhat playing for sympathy, Andy's intro segment focused mainly on the fact that he's had to cope with the death of his mum this week. Now, while we're not ones to mock personal tragedy, unless said tragedy is being a member of the Noise Next Door, we don't really think that this had any real place on the show. Either give him a by to the next round or allow us to judge his performance without feeling we should be letting him off a few vocal wobbles because he's had a hard time. Whether intentional or not, and we're going to err on the side of humanity and assume not, covering this in that way just made everyone look a bit grubby. As it was he did a decent enough version of Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, though he did dance exactly like you'd expect a bin man to dance - well, a binman who's not in any way associated with Stomp that is.

Chenai, who seems to have more teeth than is traditional, gave us Always on my Mind, following on from Andy's choice, this lead us briefly to hope that the production team judges have been perusing the Pet Shop Boys' greatest hits for inspiration and we could be about to see someone attempt to cover I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing, one of the greatest songs ever written. Unfortunately we were wrong, and Chenai's interpretation owed more to Willie Nelson's than the Neil and Chris's more sparkly rendition. We weren't particularly convinced by her bolero jacket, either. Simon unflatteringly compared her to a Chinese meal, while Louis, in what was the weakest defense since Ross Kemp attempted to avoid a fat lip - satire - told her not to worry as the public will "like her". Sure, we might like her, but loving her? It seems unlikely.

Oh God. It's Fucking Chico time. Again. Nicola Roberts, a singer in a pop group we're vaguely aware of, said this week: "I don't think the talent is that good this time round. Seriously, if that's what Britain has got then we're dying on our arses! I mean, look at Chico - what is that? That's what you get when you try and make good TV rather than a talent show,", and to think people wonder why we love her. Anyway, this week he did Kiss, and once again we can't really fault the song choice, although we can fault the performance, particularly the first verse which was sung, for we neither no nor care, in a falsetto, which set our cat off on a pitiful display of wailing in response. And if anyone would like to explain exactly what the Riverdance-esque moves that turned up towards the end were then please, don't. We really do have better things to be doing with our lives. In the introductory segment Sharon asked, apparently rhetorically, "If you were going out for a night of live entertainment, you'd get a ticket for Chico, wouldn't you?". We care not for rhetoricalism, and would like to say "No, clearly not". Even if we had to go out to see some live entertainment and the only other available show was the Live Boiling Oil and Salted Wounds Entertainment Experience, we'd still get a ticket for the latter and have a less painful experience to boot.

According to Simon, keen to push them ahead in the competition, Journey South have so far seemed to him to be "in the middle of the pack", while to us they've more been positioned in the middle of the road. They, it was proudly announced in the most hideous two word phrase in the English language - for future reference the most hideous three word phrase in the English language is "It's Chico Time" - were going to be "Performing acoustically", which they did, doing a bland, emotionless and awful trudge through Roberta Flack's The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face. Despite this being one of the dullest things we've ever seen, and we've seen Almost Famous, this was hailed by the judges as a brilliant example of risk taking. If they'd said piss taking, however, they might have been a bit closer to the truth.

Ah Maria, you've got to see her. Especially this week where she was looking fantastic in a bustiere and multi-length ra-ra esque skirt. We'd describe her as being dressed to kill, but we're not sure the outfit would be all that practical for such an endeavour. Now, last week she was urged to do something a bit more contemporary by the judges and we couldn't help but agree. A bit of Sugababes would go down a storm, we thought to ourselves, or maybe Rachel's I Said Never Again (But Here We Are), so you can imagine, then, our horror, when we realised that contemporary to them meant little more than finding out whose sold the most records this year and getting her to do that. So it was that we were treated to the horror of the fantastically ace Maria forcing her tonsils around the fantastically shit James Blunt 'song' You're Beautiful. A marriage made in hell if ever we saw one. Yes, she managed to imbue the chorus lines with a sense of genuine emotion compared to James' own lifeless efforts, but still! James Blunt! Though we guess we should be glad that they didn't see fit to foist the Crazy Frog upon her. While judging Maria, Simon made reference to Nicola's comments about the show, suggesting to Louis in a snide way that they should perform live on the show next week, seemingly forgetting that the band were formed via a similar show and have already proved their ability to sing live on TV every Saturday night for a couple of months.

"I think he's got something different", said Louis, introducing Shayne. Yes, an apparent inability to use a razor properly and the amazing power to turn any song into a pointless yawnathon. Here he did The Stylistics' You Make Me Feel Brand New, which made us feel like going to sleep, and continued happily in his attempt to be a complete non-event for his entire time on the show. Can you lot please stop voting for him? Thanks.

Finally, The Conway Sisters, who Simon still seems to be taking great pleasure in being less than glowing over during his comments. He gave them One Voice to sing which, if our book of hit singles is to be trusted, and it is, was last covered by Bill Tarmey in 1993. Yes, the one from Coronation Street. With that sort of pedigree it would be hard put for anyone to put a good spin on it, but they managed it, even if it did descend into a confusing mess of vaguely harmonised "ba-ba"s in the middle. The choir seemed somewhat pointless as well, unless they actually all were members of the Conway family, in which case we'll let them off.

So, 9 acts sang, but only 8 can go through in this high budget game of musical chairs, and Kate just can't wait to see how long she can stretch it out before telling us who's going to face each other in the final sing off. After all the safe names are read out - with Simon somewhat interestingly telling Journey South after they were confirmed to be returning: "Come on lads, smile, be happy" - we were left with just Chenai and Nicholas to fight it out for the final spot. As always seems to be the case, both performed better second time around, with Mylene Klass seen enjoying Nicholas' singing, though it's not like she's got anything better to do with her time these days. Chenai's singing couldn't exactly be described as perfect this time around, but she did manage to add a tender vulnerability to her voice which more than made up for it, even if she did look emotionally drained the minute the song was over. With both acts being mentored by Louis, Sharon and Simon were asked to make their choices first and, sending home Nicholas and Chenai respectively - no doubt deliberately taking one each - Louis was left with the final choice. To his credit he didn't faff around and make a song and dance about it like some judges - *cough*Sharon*cough* - would have done, but instead pointed out that it was a hard decision, before belying that statement and swiftly giving Chenai the boot. "I get to come home!" she yelled excitedly, before failing to burst into tears as we expected. Oh well. We'd have rather seen Nicholas get the boot, mainly because Chenai is prettier and we can be very shallow at times.