Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Week 5 of X Factor and the trauma continues on apace with the contestants tackling the somewhat vague genre of love songs. Julio Iglesias is the inspiration for this although he, as Kate Thornton (Dresswatch: Quite flattering black number along with a nice hairdo, spoilt only by her - and Sharon's - insistence on wearing a ridiculously large poppy, presumably to show how much the war dead meant to her. If she was that keen to show her love for the symbolism of the poppy she'd have been as well coming on stage monged out of her mind on Opium. It'd have been more dignified.) entirely failed to tell us, has far better things to be doing with his time than offering his views on the contestants or giving them some hints and tips during the week, and so will only be turning up for the results show where he won't bother his arse even interacting with the host in any way or form. And quite right too.

With a slightly less preamble filled opening than usual - though some time was made up with some "LAST WEEK" style deep voiced gubbins which may or may not have been useful or interesting; we fast forwarded our way through it - Ben opened the show and had he had any sort of gumption whatsoever, he could well have made something of a mark here by performing one of the great rock love songs. Whitesnake's Why Can't This Be Love?, perhaps. Or maybe even the full length version of Meat Loaf's Paradise by the Dashboard Light - though to be fair Ben is likely to be even less convincing singing in the role of a teenager as he is as a credible rock star - but did he do either of those? Of course not! Why do something slightly unexpected when you can instead irritatingly growl your way through the entirely predictable, in every possible sense, Don't Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. It's ironic, really, given that he doesn't want to close his eyes for fear he might miss something, while we are all too ready to claw out our own eyes, safe in the knowledge that we've already forced ourself to see far, far too much. Following a VT in which he dissed his old profession of tent erecting - a little hastily perhaps, given that while 'gritty' voiced singers come and go, people always need marquees - he managed to put in a similarly workmanlike performance, even standing in front of a wind machine at one point, presumably in a bid to recreate the conditions in which he used to work in. Indeed, listening to him bang on in his intro footage you'd be forgiven for thinking that marquee erectors have the sort of squalid, unpleasant, horrible working conditions that we'd all thought had vanished from the days when kids where forced up chimneys and not just the minor travails of having to occasionally deal with slightly blustery weather.

According to Louis - a statement which pretty much instantly renders anything following it to be irrelevant - Simon owes the MacDonald Brothers an apology, which is hardly fair. After all, Simon wasn't the one who put them through to the final so he can't be held responsible for turning them into a laughing stock. Following the theme set out by Ben, the boys went back to the hotel where they'll soon be working. Sorry, used to work. As with Ben's performance, there were a couple of stools on stage. And those stools sat upon a couple of cushioned seats with no back support for their run through of Robbie Williams' She's the One. Now, to be entirely honest, their performance tonight was probably the best they've managed to put in so far, but remember that this is still the MacDonald Brothers we're talking about here, and comparing their performances is a little bit like comparing the relative strengths of fleas: sure, some will be stronger than others, but there's not really much chance of them challenging for the title of World's Strongest Man. However they receive a quite impressive, and presumably sarcastic, response from the audience. Simon's response was unsurprisingly lukewarm and Louis warned him that he should never go to Scotland, but we're not entirely sure we follow his logic. Since when has thinking that a shit band are a bit shit made anyone persona non grata North of the border?

Simon seemed unphased by the comment, declaring himself to be 25% Scottish, but next up is an act who is 100% cunt and that is, of course, Ray. "The bigger the audience, the better he performs", reckons that entirely unbiased judge of his performance, Ray's Mum. On the basis of the evidence so far, we reckon that Ray would need to perform before an audience comprising roughly 17 times the world's population before he became even vaguely palatable. Ray also went back to his old school for his VT segment, although slightly oddly there were no other pupils there, presumably for fear that he would once again be subject to the bullying that, if there is any justice whatsoever in the world, he was subjected to during his time there. He stood upon the school hall's stage and told us that the last time he was there he'd been dressed as a chicken, "The most embarrassing moment of my life", he added, despite the fact he'd just spent Saturday night performing a swing version of Waterloo. This week he performed, yawn, a swing version of Crazy Little Thing Called Love, imbuing his performance with all the passion and joy you'd expect from someone whose only experience of love to date is an encounter with the lingerie section of the Next directory. Appropriately enough, given he'd just been back to school, it was pretty much of the standard you'd expect of an act in a secondary school revue; dull, embarrassing, and of interest only if you're the kid's parents. Sharon wondered whether he would actually sell any albums, while Louis once again pointed out that he does the same thing every week before going to the backstage kitchen and telling the kettle it was black.

Nikitta was up next, and Simon admitted that he's managed to get it wrong every week for her, but Nikitta's not too fussed as she got to go home as well which can only mean one thing! Yes, more musings on her bloody dead mum. In between this, she managed to find time to muse upon her future in the contest: "I just don't wanna be sitting around this room just wishing". Don't worry, love, you won't be. Once you sign on you'll have to go for an interview at least every two weeks to prove you're actively seeking employment otherwise they won't give you your money. Once again it was a poor song choice for her, Last Dance by Donna Summer, and Nikitta once again failed to look comfortable, only ever looking relaxed once the song had finished and her ordeal had come to an end. The verses were better than the chorus, but there was a bit too much desperation there and the dancers simply highlighted her lack of stage presence, rather than disguised it. The judges seemed reasonably impressed, which made Nikitta happy enough to move away from the cliche of bursting into tears, instead settling on the even more annoying cliche of telling us that she's got so much more to give. We'd rather hear more about the dead mum.

Eton Road, who we are now firmly backing to win - which, gambling fans, means they're now a good bet to be voted off in the next couple of weeks thanks to our unerring reverse midas touch - decided, with the sort of predictability you'd expect from, well, Ray or Ben, chose to do From Me To You. Yes, that's right, a scouse band doing a Beatles song. What exactly is Louis Walsh paid for? On second thoughts, don't tell us. We don't think we want to know. On the plus side, at least it was an upbeat track and Antony - who in the kids photos we saw during their VT appeared to be dressed in drag - got to do a falsetto solo, but on the downside it was a very dated arrangement and the dance routine appeared to have been concocted in the bedroom of a teenage girl, but they just about managed to get away with it.

Ever since this contest started, we've held pretty solidly to the view that Leona has been, as you're no doubt bored to tears with us saying, technically a good singer, but has all the emotional range of a Grange Hill extra combined with a similar ability to merge into the background. This week, however, she managed to change our mind. Slightly. She still has all the stage presence of a mop and bucket, but if you closed your eyes for the first time she managed to not only hit all the right notes, but also connect emotionally with the song, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, and put in a damned fine, emotional, powerful, and impressive performance. All she needs to do now is learn that there's more to stagecraft than clutching at her dress every now and then and we might well have a worthy winner.

"We've saved the best to last", claimed Sharon, and our hopes rose as we prepared for her to announce that Robert had had a sudden flash of self awareness, realised he was a bit on the rubbish side and had withdrawn from the competition. But no, she apparently was genuinely just referring to the fact that Robert was about to perform. Having been in the bottom two for the last two weeks and realising that his irritating personality and not particularly impressive singing was likely to cause himself to be singing for survival once again this week, Robert has decided to go for a new tactic: emotional blackmail. "I sang this song at my sister's funeral", he declared, happily abusing a personal loss for his own gain, though at least it meant he would be unlikely to commemorate her memory by running around the stage like an arsehole. His version of Always and Forever was pleasant enough, but it's hardly the sort of thing you'd choose to listen to. Certainly we've got no desire to hear it sung at our funeral - we want James Blunt to be played. If we're dead we don't see why anyone else should have a good time - and if it hadn't been for the fact he'd announced the song's meaning to him before he sang it you'd have been hard pushed to have noticed any sort of emotional connection to it.

So, results time, and Julio Iglesias finally turns up, after the usual barrage of facts and figures - which, impressive though they may be, do not make up for the fact that he is responsible for the existence of Enrique Iglesias - to perform I Wanna Know What Love Is. We, not having much desire to wanna know what his version of the song sounded like, fast forwarded until we got onto the nub of the matter and it's Ray versus Nikitta and Simon was visibly shocked by this state of affairs. As, to be fair, were we, but we're always shocked when the final two fails to contain the MacDonald brothers, even if it's nice to see Ray finally end up in his rightful position. "I don't get that", said a confused Simon, while Louis and Sharon, proving once again that the show is about the contestants and not just the pointless, petty rivalries between the judges, put their feet up on the desk and made lazy, mocking comments about Simon's predicament.

Ray, first to face the judges, was almost, impossible as it may seem, even more irritating than his initial outing, ending the song by blowing kisses at the audience and nodding smugly. On the other hand, if Nikitta seemed desperate during her first performance, then she was practically on her knees and begging second time around, with a definite plaintive pleading tone being introduced as she was singing "last chance" lines of the song. It was slightly uncomfortable to watch in all honesty. Sharon and Louis rigged it so Simon was left in the uncomfortable position of having to choose which of his acts to send home, though despite this it should really have been an easy decision, what with Ray being, and we really cannot stress this enough, an annoying cunt. Simon, however, for reasons we can't even begin to fathom, instead decided to say goodbye to Nikitta. Yes, Nikitta has had a few ropey weeks, but she's had her high points as well and besides, even if you're the world's biggest fan of Ray, can you honestly say that he's got anything more to offer the competition? Though of course, it would be hard to imagine the world's biggest fan of Ray being able to say anything that involved words of more than one syllable. No matter, Nikitta got sent home and now her chances of having a career in music, much like her dead mum, are now non existence.

Next week it's Westlife. We were only joking when we predicted they'd be turning up. :(