Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rob Smacked 

It's Week 6 of X Factor and the always excitable Kate Thornton (Dresswatch: a very nice knee length red shift dress, spoilt only by the thick black tights she chose to team it with) informs us that this week the show is going to be celebrating number ones, so who better to represent this than a bunch of number twos? Yes, that's right, our special guests for this week are none other than Westlife who, as the flashy statistics depressingly inform us, have had 14 of the buggers. This is the sort of fact that drives people to murder. Hopefully. But no matter, they're here, and not only will they be, oh joy of joys, singing us a song later on, but they've also spent the week coaching the acts and giving them the benefit of their years of experience in the music industry. We're not quite sure what advice they'll be offering the contestants: "No matter how much you may be tempted, remain seated until you hear the key change and not a second before", perhaps, or "Daz is the best for keeping your stage clothes brilliantly white", maybe.

Ray is first up this week, and he's having a bit of a moan about having been in the danger zone last week. "You don't wanna be in the bottom two, you wanna be the best", which frankly is setting his sights a little too high. Perhaps he should simply aim for being halfway tolerable. He can, after all, only work with what he's got. Simon decided to flesh out his decision to keep Ray in ahead of Nikitta, stating "I kept Ray in because I believe that's what the audience want". Presumably, then, Simon has access to audience profiling which states that the average X Factor viewer is a cloth eared simpleton which, given the sort of people who generally end up doing well in these sorts of shows, we can happily believe. Westlife were on hand to help Ray raise his game, and suggested that he needed to show more variety. Yes, you have read that correctly, Westlife, a band whose career is pretty much a solid stream of grey or, to be a little more accurate, brown, are telling someone else that they need to show a little more light and shade. Jesus wept. This is a little like an elephant telling a meerkat that need to come in a more varied range of sizes. No matter, Ray takes this advice on board and decides to perform Livin' La Vida Loca, resisting the temptation to turn it into a swing song. Hallelujah! Of course, there's one thing about his performance that refuses to change and while it may not have been a swing song, it was still insufferably shit. Horribly out of tune with some absolutely terrible dancing to go with it. There was a lot of arse shaking going on and, once the arse had finished shaking his arms, he began wiggling his bum a bit as well. It was a truly awful experience. "You remind me of panto boy", said Sharon, which is presumably some sort of very low rent superhero, while Louis praised him for his good work ethic, which isn't what most people would hail as a necessity for a pop star and hardly a selling point. Certainly we wouldn't rush to buy a single that had "Good Work Ethic!" written upon a sticker on the front.

"Last week's performance really got me back up there", beamed Robert, presumably thanking God that his sister died, thus allowing him a bit of an emotional back story. He was also quite excited about meeting Westlife, which does seem rather unlikely, but Sharon was quick to reassure us that "He's seen what they've done and he wants a piece of it", and who wouldn't? We'd all like to make such a little go such a long way. Having realised that acting like an arse gets him no votes whatsoever while pretending to be a bit vulnerable and emotional gets him the hormonal women block, Robert does You are Not Alone which is vaguely pleasant but hardly earth shattering and does, by the end of the song, incorporate the now traditional X Factor gospel choir, a tactic always used when one of the judges realises that one of their acts performances is as memorable as an episode of Play Your Cards Right. The judges were universally complimentary and Robert was quick to thank them all, before turning to Sharon and saying "Especially to you, mum". Eh?! We don't even want to begin thinking about that one.

Also impressed by meeting Westlife were Eton Road, who declared them to be "The closest thing to our dream". Their dream presumably being to have their sort of success, only actually deserving of it. Unfortunately the weakness of last week's performance carried over into this week's one - though apparently they've all been laid low by illness - and their take on the Scissor Sisters' I Don't Feel Like Dancing was more a nightclub sing-a-long than a slice of boyband fantasticness. The bloke who wasn't Antony really shouldn't have attempted a falsetto, but then Antony - wearing a pair of remarkably high waisted trousers - wasn't really hitting the mark either. It was all a bit of a disappointing mess really, and while Louis may reckon that they brought "Glitter and sparkle" to the stage, tonight they did so in much the way a five year old brings glitter and sparkle to a gluing project at primary school.

We still find watching Leona perform an experience not entirely unlike watching paint dry, or something even more boring, like watching Westlife sing live. Very good, musical, beautiful paint, admittedly, but still paint. Bridge Over Troubled Water was her song of choice and while, yes, she sang it brilliantly and there can be no quibbling over the notes she hit and her command of the melody line, there's just no personality or originality in that makes it a Leona performance, rather than just a performance. She could, frankly, do a good job singing pretty much anything, and that is kinda what the problem is. "Everyone is buzzing about you in America", claimed Simon, who'd been in LA for the week, something Louis was at pains to draw attention to at every possible opportunity in a rather irritating way, but we somehow find it hard to believe that anyone in America even knows that our series of X Factor is on air right now, let alone takes any sort of interest in the contestants.

Ben, apparently, is not coping with the pressure very well. If he's feeling this stressed at this stage in the competition then god knows what he'll be like if he does, as is being widely predicted, make it through to the final. Perhaps we'll see a live on-stage breakdown. But if the nerves are getting to him, then they didn't show while he performed A Little Help From My Friends - the Joe Cocker version, naturally - even if they did appear to be affecting his backing singers, who were awful. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect from Ben, although Louis seems less keen to tell him not to be such a one trick pony, preferring instead to call him powerful and claim there's a gap in the market for such an act. Something we're not entirely convinced about, but what do we know? We still reckon there's a market for a Girl Thing comeback.

Last, and certainly least, we have The MacDonald Brothers who received a confidence boost after meeting Westlife, and we're not surprised. It must be nice to realise that it is possible to carve out a successful career in the music industry despite being a set of pug ugly, charisma free rocks with all the musical talent of a gerbil. Demonstrating once again their talent for finding the nadir of a groups recorded output, and finding the nadir of Wet Wet Wet's career is some task, but they managed it, choosing to give us Love is All Around (And yes, we know The Troggs did it originally, but there's was definitely the WWW version), with the sort of cheesy, embarrassing pointlessness we've come to expect from them now. The only thing that's around them is the stench of failure and the unpleasant hint of vague incest as they still insist upon singing their songs to each other. If they want to do a song which two brothers can sing why not do Two Little Boys, at least it'd be appropriate for both their relationship and their level of talent. The judges gave their usual comments and the brothers responded by saying that they were doing it for the public and not for Simon, which clearly isn't true. If they were doing what the audience wanted we'd all be waking up tomorrow to headlines about two brothers found hanged in their dressing room.

After Westlife and Delta Goodrem fulfil their contract by grunting unpleasantly through their version of All Out of Love it's time for the results and oh for fuck's sake, the first two acts that are safe are The MacDonald Brothers and Ray. What exactly do these two acts need to do before the audience turns on them? They could come on stage and drown a kitten and probably still have the public wanting more. Anyway, despite what should have happened, the actual acts facing the chop this week are Robert, hooray!, and Eton Road, boo! Simon, who has the casting vote, promises that he'll be judging purely on performances, "Which means Robert, you're slightly ahead", and Eton Road's faces promptly drop and we prepared to say our farewells to them. Robert's second performance was full of even more vomit inducing fake sincerity and attempts to make his performance moving, which it was, in the bowels sense. Eton Road didn't really up their game enough second time around and while it was definitely better, it still sounded more like four random strangers singing along, rather than a band. Louis was in tears as he sent home Robert, while Sharon was less fussed as she sent Eton Road home, but she did take the time to point out that they provided the fun factor for the contest. Simon, after a bit of preamble, decided that he was going to keep the act who would progress furthest in the contest and thankfully that meant that Robert, for whom this was his third week in the bottom two, was taking the long walk back to the obscurity from whence he came. His dead sister may have saved him last week but, as Nikitta can testify, deceased relatives can only carry you so far. Robert took his failure with the sort of humility we've come to expect from him, stating that "It's not the last you've heard of me, I've been doing this game for a long time". which may be true, but given that up until now every door has been slammed firmly shut in your face it hardly bodes well for the future.

Kate may or may not have mentioned who the special guest is next week. We got distracted by the Hitori puzzle we'd been attempting to solve during the commercial breaks. Sometimes our Saturday nights are just too exciting.