Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cr-Ashley and Burn 

Our headlines get worse with each passing week, don't they? Anyway, it's Week 4 of X Factor and it's hard to believe that a month has passed since this year's contest kicked off. It feels like a lot longer. Fortunately, though, it's ABBA week this week and you'd think it'd be quite hard for even this sorry lot of contestants to totally screw up some of the greatest pop songs ever written, wouldn't you. Well... "They sound simple", said Bjorn Ulvaeus, referring to the songs and not, as you might have thought, the contestants, but, as he revealed to Kate (Dresswatch: quite pleasant knee-length purple number which had the unfortunate effect of giving her all the figure of a stick of rock. Nice hair, though.), they're actually a lot more complex than that. It should now be clear that he's definitely not referring to the contestants.

As Simon still has all four of his acts left, something which he's at pains to point out at every given opportunity, it was left to him to choose this week's opener and Nikitta was given this dubious honour. Bjorn reckoned that the her song choice was perfect for her and, given that she's young and sweet, and only seventeen to boot, there could be only one choice, really, and that was Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie (A Man After Midnight). But Dancing Queen wasn't too bad a choice either. Or it wouldn't have been had she not approached the song with all the startled nervousness of a rabbit caught in the headlights or our cat on hearing last night's fireworks. She was uncomfortable, awkward, vocally wayward and her dancing really didn't live up to the name. In short she was awful and all the judges, even her own mentor Simon, agreed on this. Fortunately for her though, it wasn't all bad news as from the audience a voice called out "It wasn't out of tune, Nikitta, it was fantastic". Let's see, a disembodied female voice, the harsh, Glaswegian tones it spoke in... Oh my God! It must be Nikitta's dead mother, offering support from beyond the grave! Quick, call Ghostbusters! At worst Dan Akroyd could reprise his Blues Brothers routine and give us something worth watching.

Except that might not be necessary, as next up are Eton Road doing Does Your Mother Know that you're out. In Antony's case, this is more than likely. Let's ignore the pink trousers that one of them was wearing, hard though this may be to do, and instead focus on the fact that they were fantastically ace, pure enjoyment in musical form and by the time they finished off with handclaps we're now entirely convinced that we've found our winner. Before rushing off to the bookmakers on the strength of this tip, it may be worth reminding you that we don't exactly have much of a track record in this sort of thing. Or, indeed, anything. But we loved it, the judges loved it, the audience loved it and if you didn't love it then frankly, you're wrong.

Robert believes that last week he managed to convince us that he's not "just a maniac running up and down the stage". We never once thought that, we just thought he was an annoying twat and he certainly hasn't convinced us otherwise yet. Take a Chance on Me - no thanks - started off slowly, before the backing track went more uptemp. Robert, however, decided not to go with it, preferring instead to sing the song like a lounge number and throwing in a couple of spoken asides of the "That's all I ask of you hun" and, jesus, "Let's Party" variety. If that really is his idea of a party then remind us never to accept any invitations from him, for that and many, many other reasons. "You're a natural performer", offered Louis, confusing "Natural performer" with "prick". Confusing must have been catching as when Simon disagreed entirely with Louis, calling it dull and mediocre, Robert seemed to believe he was still in the playground, offering "You liked it really" as his only defence, and later "At the end of the day I enjoyed it so it's all good", which is not a defence which most lawyers would condone trying. Though Saddam Hussein may today be wishing he'd given it a shot. "You nailed it", reckoned Sharon, and he did, in much the same way a butterfly collector nails his creations to a block of wood, destroying their beauty entirely.

We're not sure what's getting more boring, Leona being technically good but entirely dull each week, or us being unable to think of anything else to say about her performance each week, other than the fact that it was technically good but entirely dull. Yes, she can sing and all that, but for all the personality she exudes on stage she'd be as well just standing behind the screen and singing while we watch a teapot sitting on a stool instead. Not a particularly interesting teapot mind, just a functional one. But then, what do we know? The audience practically gave her a standing ovation and, other than a couple of comments about her overuse of vibrato, the judges were similarly positive. "You're prepared to take a risk", reckoned Simon. Really? We must have blinked when that happened.

Of course, given the choice between watching something technically good and dull and something that's just plain old dull, there's really not much contest, so it's unfortunate, then, that next up to try and entertain us are The MacDonald Brothers. Once again showing their unerring knack for choosing the absolute nadir of a group's recorded output, Fernando was their song of choice and it was, as you would no doubt have come to expect by now, absolutely cringeworthy and embarassing. We can only assume that the incestuous homoerotic undertones to the whole affair where some sort of misguided attempt at making the thing even vaguely interesting. They failed. We're now of the mindset that, as with Pop Idol when the public all got together to play a 'hilarious' practical joke by letting Michelle McManus win the contest for no other reason than she was 'a bit fat', this year the public are doing the same for the MacDonald Brothers, only for the reason that they're 'a bit shit'. Sharon, finally achieving a bit of self awareness, said "What I say doesn't mean anything", while Simon commented on the embarassing awfulness of the guitar solo, describing it as the worst he'd ever heard. "You know nothing about guitars and real music", was Louis's considered riposte. If that's what real music sounds like then we're glad we only listen to the 'fake' stuff.

"How on earth do you do a swing version of an Abba song?", questioned Simon in the VT proceding Ray's performance. Badly, as it turns out. Who'da thunk it? Yes, proving that he's not so much a one trick pony, more one that's lame and needs shooting to put it out of it's misery - multiple times, just to make sure - Ray gave us a swing version of Waterloo and it was pretty much exactly as awful as you'd expect. At least with Mike Flowers the joke was funny. It was the sort of performance that makes you wish you had no ears, except of course you'd still be able to see his smug face prancing about on stage like the biggest arse the world has ever seen, so we'd need to lose those as well. And even then, you'd probably still be able to smell the fetid stench of failure and embarrassment coming out from your TV so the nose would need to go instead. What we're basically saying is that we need to either invest in a sensory deprivation tank for next week's episode or we're going to end up resorting to self mutiliation in a bid to get through the rest of the series. "I've had enough of this swing stuff", said Louis, as a nation as one stood up and applauded this view, although Simon reckons that no-one cares about his opinion. Mind you, he also reckons that Ray took a risk this week. If someone would like to explain to us what exactly is so risky about doing the same sodding thing he's done every week since the show began then, please, feel free to do so.

It's been bugging us for weeks trying to work out exactly who Ben looks like and we've finally worked it out. It's Robert Englund of Nightmare on Elm Street fame. Seriously! They're pretty much identical. If anyone wants to prove it beyond doubt by burning him alive and dressing him up in a battered trilby and a manky old green and red jumper then you're welcome to do so, but don't bank on us turning up as a character witness for the subsequent court case. You're on your own. SOS was Ben's song of choice this week, and he actually started off quite well, giving it a bit of tenderness and subtlety which he'd previously avoided in much the same way he's avoiding a haircut. Unfortunately old habits die hard and the minute he hit the chorus he was back to his growly, shouty ways which we've all come to know and love. Well, know anyway. "Soft rock", reckoned Simon, while Louis felt he pulled it off. Clearly Louis used up his quota of correct opinions when he talked about Ray.

Ashley, who no doubt picked The Winner Takes it All without realising what side of the fence the protagonist is actually on, managed to pull off a performance which surprised many of us watching. He actually managed to be worse than he'd been in previous weeks which, as you'll know if you've been watching, is no mean feat whatsoever. There was no emotion, no delicacy, and not a lot of the notes were in tune either, not that Ashley would have noticed, as the only thing Ashley seems to truely care about is himself. Witness his comment on being in last week's bottom two: "My whole career was slipping through my fingertips". How soulless do you have to be to only be thinking of winning the contest in terms of units shipped. Well, as soulless as Simon Cowell. They're a perfect team, come to think of it.

Before finding out who the dog eggs in a basket full of bad eggs are, Bjorn is wheeled back on stage for his contractually obliged opinions on who he felt stormed it tonight. Conincidentally and entirely spontaneously, he picked a favourite from each category, with Leona, Eton Road and Ben all getting his approval. After a quick plug for and performance by the cast of Mamma Mia later - despite all the previous guest judges doing a performance it would take a show with slightly more clout than X Factor to sort out an Abba reunion - and some backstage chat, all of which was highly entertaining and worthwhile and not pointless filler in any way, shape or form, it's time for the results. Suprisingly Nikitta is not in the bottom two. If we were the betting sort we'd have definitely put money on that after her performance. Things like that are largely why we're not the betting sort. The MacDonald Brothers weren't there either and nor, even more shockingly, was Ray. Instead, fighting it out for the last remaining place like two starving men fighting for the last tic-tac are Ashley and Robert. Unfortunately for us, only one of these two can go and, after their sing off - Robert's pleas to take a chance on him were noticeably more plaintive, while Ashley did manage to sound a bit better, not that that was too hard a task - it was down to Louis to choose which on these 'singers' should pack their bags. As always Louis ummed and aahed about what a hard decision it was, but eventually, and much to Simon's disgust, he picked Ashley, which we were slightly surprised by as, while the pair of them aren't exactly shining stars in the pop firmament, Ashley does at least have a little bit more potential and could, possibly, have had one particularly impressive performance to come. It's unlikely, but it's a slightly more palatable option than watching Robert jump around on stage like some hyperactive five year old for another week. Ashley, as you might expect, took his defeat in good grace: "You're taking out the strongest team", he told Louis, presumably forgetting that the strongest team rarely ends up in the bottom two for two weeks running. The self delusional cock.

No idea who the guest is next week. Kate didn't say so we can only assume it's someone less than impressive if they're not bothering to plug it. Odds on it'll be Westlife. Or it will be at some point during the series. Now that will be a low ebb for the show. Well, lower, anyway.