Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Monday, November 27, 2006

And So We've Come To The End Of Eton Road 

Week 7 of X Factor and settling down to watch this week's show is even more of a chore than usual as we've just received the first 6 episodes of the new series of Lost to watch and frankly we're a lot more interested in what their Kate has been getting up to. Still, the voiceover man reckons we should be getting excited as there's only 5 acts remaining and the battle, or so he claims, is intensifying. Of course, it's hard to put much stock in his claims given that while we can happily go along with his statement that "There's been agony..." - we've sat through every single painful minute of the MacDonald Brothers' performances, remember - it's a lot harder to take him seriously when he declares that "There's been ecstacy", unless he's imply making a confession that the only way he can cope with watching the whole mess unfold week after sorry week is by necking loads of the world reknowned blood boiling, brain fizzing pill, but at least he's getting paid for it.

There's a few changes this week, as Kate (Dresswatch: Looking rather dapper in a gold halter top with black trousers and a nice belt. Other than the trousers being a little on the high waisted side, it was hard to fault. Hooray!) informs us that each act will be performing two songs this week. Two?! Most of the remaining contestants barely have enough personality to cover one song, let alone two, and we're still not entirely convinced that being an annoying twat actually counts as a personality. Each act will perform one ballad and one up tempo number, there being, of course, no other form of music, and the theme is music from the movies, which pretty much translates as "Do any song you like, we've given up caring".

First up is Leona and we finally get to see her do something which isn't a ballad as she launches herself into Lady Marmalade. Of course, we say 'launches', in actual fact, if she were a ship, she'd have just attempted to set sail at low tide and almost immediatly ran aground upon a sandbank, miles and miles away from her intended destination. She clearly wasn't comfortable at all with the song, studiously avoiding doing any sort of vaguely sexy dancing and changing the lyrics to what we assume - our french goes little further than "Parlesz vous anglais?" (obviously it doesn't extend to the correct spellings either) and optimistic pointing combined with the art of mime - were tamer than the more traditional "Would you like to sleep with me?". The backing track didn't help matters either, being so entirely lacking in oomph that we can only assume it was rescued from the demo tapes of an unreleased album of covers by Sade. Despite this, the audience seemed entirely amazed by the prospect of an artist doing something different to what they've done before and gave her a deafening round of applause, with Simon looking very smug at the reaction his act was getting "You got it all going on, girl", said Louis, who's never been in a branch of Netto, let alone the ghetto.

After a costume change into the obligatory nice dress, her second song was a return to her comfort zone and the almost equally obligatory cover of I Will Always Love You, chosen presumably just so she could hit that note and hit it she sure did, even if her eyes still continually dart about the stage like a frightened rabbit and there still being very little in the way of actual emotion about what she does. If it wasn't for the fear in her eyes, we'd be convinced she's a robot, and not the good, Ladytron, Miss Kittin-esque robots either. As it is, however, we reckon that if you cut her in half you'd not find a mass of circuit boards and wires, but instead you'd discover both the phrase "Technically good but dull" running through her like a a stick of rock and yourself on the receiving end of a murder conviction. "As good as the original Whitney version", reckoned Louis, which surprised us as we'd have felt sure he'd have an expert knowledge of Dolly Parton's back catalogue.

All the acts got to go to a film premiere this week, and The MacDonald Brothers were particularly overawed by the experience. "We're just a couple of lads from Scotland", they exclaimed breathlessly, presumably confusing their home country with some sort of backwards village were the inhabitants would be excited by the prospect of flashing lights and electricity, let alone this new fangled idea of moving pictures. Mind you, they do come from Ayr. First up for them was You Say it Best When You Say Nothing At All, which impressed us by managingo to sound even more anodyne than the Ronan Keating version. If Daniel O'Donnell had recorded this even he'd reject it for being a bit too bland and sexless, although they did attempt to inject a bit of raunch and manliness into it as they entered the final chorus, meeting with much the same success as a 14 year old boy growing a bumfluff moustache. "You look wicked", commented Sharon, who may well have cataracts, while Louis, ever confident about his act's prospects enthusiastically told them "You might even make the final!".

Feeling that perhaps they haven't quite hammered home the fact that they're from north of the border, they chose Scotland's unofficial national anthem, The Proclaimers' 500 Miles, a song so Scottish that even actual Scots have to put on a Scottish accent to sing along to it, for their second track of the night and, to be fair to them, they did a pretty good job of it, even Simon liked it. Of course, the fact that anyone can do a pretty good job of it - go to any city centre in Scotland once the pubs are closed for the awful proof - doesn't exactly shower them with glory, and they're now pandering even more to a shortbread tin version of Scotland that really doesn't exist outside of the Sunday Post and the imagination of Americans. There'll be bagpipes before the end of the series, we can pretty much guarantee it.

Ben by telling us about the pressure he's feeling, before banging on once again about bloody marquees. "He's what this contest needs", opines Sharon, presumably of the view that he'll be a handy man to have around when it comes to putting up the merchandise stand and the catering stalls during next year's X Factor tour. He was back behind the piano for both his tracks this week, starting off with Live and Let Die with big flame effects and all sorts of other exciting things, presumably intended to disguise the fact that there's not really a lot of actual words in the song, so we're not entirely sure what the point of doing it was, unless we're really supposed to be impressed by someone's ability to mime playing the piano.

Your Song was his ballad, and the strain of playing the 'rock' role on the show must be beginning to get to him as his performance was less like a man growling his way through the lyrics with the grit of a working man, more like a man trying to put on a husky voice in a hopeless attempt to convince his boss he's got a sore throat and so is full deserving of a day off work. Also, we're somewhat disturbed as we're convinced that the close up shots of him emoting as we reach - for want of a better word - the song's climax means that we've know seen what his sex face is like. Urgh. "The only way I'm going home tonight is if I don't get enough votes", he reckoned. Are the show's bosses so desperate to preserve profits that they won't even spring for a taxi?

Eton Road, who have gone remarkably downhill since we declared our support for them, got to return home to Liverpool and turn on the Christmas lights - we bet Ray was pissed at that - and, judging by the hysteria that greeted them, proved to be the most exciting thing that Liverpudlians have ever seen. Mind you, they reckon that Cilla Black is something of a national treasure, so it's perhaps best to treat their enthusiasm with a healthy dollop of scepticism. Their first song of the night started off as an unfortunate doo-wop version of Everybody Needs Somebody from The Blues Brothers which, nice harmonies aside, lacked balls, and we're not just referring to the falsettos on display, but the time they got to the bridge things were pulled back from the brink of disaster and we began to remember why we liked them so much in the first place. Louis called Simon "Mr Spandex", who we can only assume is some sort of superhero who appears in adult videos for the discerning gentleman.

Presumably hoping to cash in on the success of the Beeb's "Look how simultaneously cute and vicious animals are!" documentary Planet Earth, they decided to bang on about lions for their ballad, covering Can You Feel the Love Tonight?. Not their finest hour, really, featuring some incredibly wobbly vocals from the blonde one and a performance from Antony which appeared to come not from the heart, but from a desperate urge to go to the toilet and being unable to do so.

Finally, Ray - and we look forward to ending that sentence one day with the phrase "has been justifiably kicked out of the competition for being shit" - smugged his way through The Way You Look Tonight, presumably managing to get an emotional connection with the song only by picturing himself singing it to the one person he truly loves and imagining a gigantic mirror placed in front of him for the entire performance. He seems to picture Nicholas Lyndhurst in Goodnight Sweetheart as a role model - at least when S Club 7 went back to the fifties they dressed up in poodle skirts and embraced rock and roll - but his peformance tonight no doubt made a million grandmothers all around the country feel some downstairs feelings they haven't felt for a long, long time. "I just wanna keep putting smiles on people's faces", he claims, but if that really was the case then he'd be getting busy right now with a rusty saw and a mouthful of nails.

His final choice was possibly the world's most popular paean to prison rape, Jailhouse Rock. Few people wish to be told that they're the "cutest jailbird I ever did see" on their first night in jail, but fewer still would wish to have the ever smackable face of Ray grinning inanely as he sings a song about their plight. Proving that, along with the many, many artists he's already shown that he can't hold a candle to, he's no Elvis either - who'da thought - he attempted to do some sexy, pelvis based dance moves. When Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, they only shot him from the waist up for fear that the young audience would be driven wild by being reminded that people had genitals, but if only ITV had had a similar policy, the X Factor's young audience wouldn't have had to spend the rest of the evening wildly vomiting everywhere after the sheer unpleasantness of what they had to endure. At the end he leaned back and folded his arms as his to say "Job done". What an unjustifiably smug cunt.

After all that entertainment, it was time for the results and, after a performance from Il Divo for no apparent reason - and what, now we come to think of it, ever did happen to G4 - it was time for the results and once again the great British public prove conclusively that democracy simply doesn't work as Ray and The MacDonald Brothers find themselves safe, sound, and returning to demonstrate their clear hatred for music for another week. Leona joins them, and so it is that Ben and Eton Road find themselves fighting to stay in the last four. Somewhat foolishly, they both decide to reperform their worst song, with Eton Road's second rendition of Can You Feel the Love Tonight still suffering from some dodgy harmonies, the wobbliness of the blonde one's voice and the fact that Antony's Xtra Factor commitments hasn't allowed him the time to go and take the toilet break he clearly desperately needed. Our criticisms of Ben's take on Your Song still stand, although at least this time he'd stand a bit more chance of convincing his boss to give him the time off as he was no doubt feeling very, very sick indeed.

When it came down to the judges vote, there were no real surprises. Louis gave his usual, "oh, neither of these acts deserve this" spiel before sending home Ben. Sharon did goldfish impersonations before sending Eton Road home, while Simon built up his part, claiming to be deciding whether he should protect his acts by sending home the stronger act, or be true to the spirit of the show and keep the person with the most talent. Whatever his actual reasonings were, it was Eton Road who got the chop and, given they were unlikely ever to top their version of Does Your Mother Know?, we suppose we can't really blame him. Louis has, however, declared on live national TV that he will be sticking with the boys and getting them a recording contract, so with that in mind, this will probably be the last we'll ever see of them.

Again, Kate kept schtum about who might be guesting next week, but if it's someone on a par with Il Divo then no wonder they're keeping it under wraps. Who could take the excitement? We're off now to watch our Lost DVD's and discover, if not the truth about the island, then at least a whole new level of ignorance about it which had never even occured to us before.