Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Monday, November 14, 2005

Maria: Gone Kid 

So, it's Week 5 of X Factor and Kate Thornton has decided this week to rock an outfit which involves a cummerbund, an item of clothing rarely seen on a female - outside of Victor/Victoria productions that is - so she deserves praise for her individuality, if not necessarily her fashion sense. Still, nice hair. But Kate's sartorial appearance wasn't the only shocking incident of the night, of which more later, but first, let's see what our eight all singing, all dancing and, in the case of Journey South, all weather contestants did to entertain us:-

Shayne expressed concern that he may have peaked too early, which we find hard to believe given that in terms of highs he's not exactly been scaling Mount Everest, more lazily making his way to the top of an escalator at his local shopping centre. But! (And the only sentence that we thought would be less likely to pass our lips than this is "Have you heard the new Freefaller single? It really does break the mould of modern pop") His performance of Cry Me a River was actually pretty damned good. The git. How dare he shatter our preconceptions by actually demonstrating a smattering of talent. He's no Justin, but then, other than the bloke who played Screech in Saved by the Bell, few people are, and for the first time he actually looked convincing as a pop star and not just as a talent show contestant. Simon was even more impressed than we were, gushing uncontrollably in the manner of a firehose filled with love: "You've got the potential to be the most successful male solo artist in the country", which would presumably make him Robbie Williams which, as ambitions go, is a bit like saying you've got the potential to be an absolute cock. Which, on reflection, we have to agree with him about. Sharon also revealed exactly what the "warm, furry, nice smelling" thing she wanted to show Shayne was: one of her horrible, manky looking dogs.

Ah, Maria, star of the competition, smart and sassy, sexy and soulful, and... sweet Jesus, why the hell are you singing that? The 'that' in question being Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar, a song described as being "leftfield" by Sharon Osbourne, presumably labouring under the delusion that this was, in fact, the fifties. We guess that the intention was to show that Maria could perform a variety of songs, and she did give this a damned good performance, even if it was pretty obvious that she wasn't entirely comfortable with the song choice, but still, surely a better idea would be a song that showed off her talents as much as possible and that, frankly, just wasn't it. We've already had to suffer her being wasted upon James Blunt, so we're at a loss as to why Sharon seems intent on seeing whether she can still shine even when given remarkably inappropriate songs. Next week we'll no doubt see her embarrassedly working her way through Bros's Drop the Boy, while still easily outshining everyone else in the competition.

Understandably feeling "betrayed" and a bit pissed off with the fact that Simon, their mentor and supposed cheerleader, has been treating them with the sort of disdain normally reserved for either something Sharon's dog might leave behind on the carpet or Darius, The Conway Sisters decided to ditch Simon for a week and go their own way. And while they didn't go for the Fleetwood Mac track of that name, they did take similar inspiration for their song choice and decided to render Wilson Phillips' Hold On for our entertainment, what with its themes of standing up for yourself, not giving up, and having invasive surgery live on the internet. Blondie Conway played piano for this, or at least sat down in front of one, and they were really good, albeit in a pub sing-a-long kinda way, which is not in itself a bad thing, unless we happen to be involved that is, and as we're not, as far as we're aware, a Conway sister, it was all good. Hooray!

Andy, a man for whom going down the shops for a pint of milk counts as an exciting part of his day, gave us Boyz II Men's I'll Make Love To You. "I'll make love to you, like you want me to", he crooned, hugely unconvincingly unless the object of his affections is quite conventional in her tastes and wants the missionary position and nothing else. There's no denying that he's good at what he does, but he's just so bland and middle of the road that he should really be wearing a tie with white stripes down the middle. Sharon suggested that it was "good to hear him do something that's really current", adding further weight to our theory that she genuinely believes that we're in the past.

Journey South, a band so for real that they refuse to even acknowledge the existence of cartoons, decided, perhaps inevitably, that the time was right to give us a bit of Bon Jovi, despite the fact that the time is never right to give us a bit of Bon Jovi. Their version of Living on a Prayer came complete with an awful acapella opening, embarrassing fist pumping for the "We'll give it a shot" line and, as Robson went into the guitar solo, Jerome stomping around the stage like a slightly retarded child pretending to be The Thing from the Fantastic Four movie, only a lot uglier. Once again the judges lauded them for their risk taking, despite the fact that, as risks go, it's on a par with crossing the road when the lollipop man isn't around.

"Oh Dear, Oh Dear... It's Chico Time", said Sharon, echoing our own thoughts as she introduced the interminable waste of space that is that particular irritant. In a stage swathed with dry ice and a wind machine in full effect - giving the impression that he was reshooting the opening sequence for Quantum Leap - Chico decided to try and "prove to the country I can sing" by performing Enrique Inglesias's Hero and, as experiences go, it was far less painful than his previous 'zany' attempts. Though it must be stressed that this is all relative and, while it's less painful than watching him mug his way through a Ricky Martin, it was still more painful than most other experiences you could care to mention, especially really painful ones. "Verging on a disaster" was Simon's considered verdict, which immediately prompted Chico to go back into Annoying Git mode and start dancing around like someone who really should not be allowed anywhere near sugar. During this he stomped on Kate's foot with, if her facial expression was to be believed, some force. We can only admire her for being professional enough not to swear. Not because of he stood on her foot though, just because we don't think we'd be able to stand next to Chico for more than five seconds without telling him to fuck off so we don't know how she manages it week after week.

Perhaps feeling confident that we might all know his name by now, even if his position in last week's bottom two might cast doubt upon that, Nicholas left his rhinestone covered belt which he's been using in lieu of a personality behind in the dressing room this week. More startled rabbit than popstar, he ran through a by the numbers version of R Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly, any attempt at stamping his own personality on the song being limited to one entirely unnecessary "Woo!" halfway through. Despite having no right to do so, he still looked incredibly pleased with himself once his performance had finished, proving that reality is no match whatsoever for self belief.

Finally, Brenda was great, doing a soulful shimmy through Dionne Warwick's Heartbreaker and looking classy in a simple black dress. Simon, however, was less impressed, moaning that "while you'll have a career in the West End, I'm not sure you're a recording artist". Simon, it's worth remembering, chose both Steve Brookstein and Rowetta for last year's contest, neither of whom have exactly set the charts on fire with their debut collections. Sharon, unimpressed by this, did what Kate managed to avoid doing earlier and swore at Simon, so the list of things she's unaware of - a long list which includes "the current date" and "the sheer awfulness of Chico" - has now had "the 9PM watershed" and "the fact that swearing is neither big nor clever" added to it. Swearing really isn't big and clever by the way, and anyone that says it is is a fucking idiot.

So, the voting. We didn't watch this episode live, as we were out and about on Saturday night, but we did receive an ominous text at 9.43PM saying "I'm guessing this isn't the happiest night for you", which came as a bit of a surprise to us as, at the time, we were having a very good night, thank you very much. It was only later that the true horror of what that message implied came to light. Despite the fact that Nicholas was there, despite the fact that Journey South were there, despite the fact that even Fucking Chico was there, the hive mind of the British public decided that the two acts least deserving of a place in next week show were The Conway Sisters and Maria. Yes, that's right, Maria. Maria who, despite our initial unenthusiasm, has quickly proven herself to be the one act on a show who's a genuine pop star, the one act who outperformed everyone else on that stage, week after week, despite being given some shonky songs, and the one act who we really quite fancy, blonde Conway notwithstanding. You, the British public, are bad people. Bad people! But it's OK, we thought to ourselves, while we're fond of the Conway's, they're not really in the same league as Maria, so we'll just see this as a chance to watch her perform again as, after all, the judges won't be daft enough to vote her off, will they? Will they...? Unfortunately, while we expect the British public to be idiots, after all, these are the people who consistently give Westlife the Record of the Year prize, we had entirely forgotten that Louis Walsh, too, is an idiot, and given that it was him who had to make the final choice, we should perhaps have given that fact a bit more thought as, to a chorus of boos and catcalls from the audience, Louis decided to keep the Conway Sisters and send Maria packing. This is the sort of decision that's so wrong we can't even begin to comprehend the thought processes behind it. Actually, that's not true, we're pretty sure it went something like this:

"I'm Irish... and they're Irish too... and Maria's not Irish... I'll send her home then... I wonder if there's any cake in my dressing room".

"This is a travesty", declared Sharon, and we can only agree with her, something which we never thought would happen, but then, we never thought that Maria being sent home would happen this early either, so clearly our world, with all it's received wisdom and general expectations has collapsed around our ears. What we do now know for a fact is the following:-Oh well, guess we're backing Brenda now then, so you may wish to put a bet on her being voted out on Saturday.