Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ben Over 

Week 9 of X Factor, and you know what? We're don't think we'll bother running this feature next time around and this year's show is seriously drying up our critical faculties. Every week it's the same acts doing the same thing and we're seriously struggling to come up with new things to say about them. We could probably easily review the show without even bothering to watch it, just by saying "Ben: Good at what he does but hardly relevant in this day and age; Leona: technically good but utterly dull; Ray: Smug, smug, smug, smug cunty, cunty, git" and still cover all the main points, but we do have some professionalism, and so, with a heavy heart, and the thought of trying to come up with new ways of saying "they're a bit rubbish, aren't they" weighing even heavier upon our shoulders, we once again sat down to see what the semi-finalists had to offer us.

"This week there's no theme", Kate (Dresswatch: Kate this week elected to wear a man's suit with a woman's shirt. It was not a good look.) told us. Instad the acts would sing the two songs that they felt would be most likely to get them into the final and, despite the fact that a plea from them to never ever sing again should they do so would have been most likely to garner votes, they all of the judges acts insisted on actually singing for their supper. The fools! Well, we say all of the judges, but after the MacDonald Brothers finally left the contest last week, Louis is out of the contest and it's now between Simon and Sharon for the all important title of "Judge who got Luckiest at the Audition Stage". "I don't want to be in the middle of those two?!", said Louis, hilariously, on the subject, forgetting presumably that he always sits to the right of both of them so didn't need to worry about it.

First up was Ray and, as he was keen to say - and to prove that he was barely literate - he "was like 'Oh my God' I'm in the semi final!". We've had a similar, yet very differnt, thought every single week that he's progressed through the contest. His mum says that "He's the baby of the competition, but he's a man when he gets on stage". And he is, in much the same way Divine was. He strode on stage wearing a cheap, shiny, horrible grey suit and proceeded to do a cheap, shiny, horrible grey version of Smile, with all the dusty, decaying, crumbling, lifelessness you'd expect from someone who treats music like it's some sort of dead squid from the past, rather than the vibrant, exciting, thrilling and moving thing it so very clearly is. We felt sorry for his parents. If we were his parent then not only would we have made headlines at the time due to the biological unlikelyhood - not to mention the social unacceptedness - of our age at the time, but we would also now at the very least be trying to disown him, but more likely we'd be desperately attempting to invent a time machine so we could go back and give our past self a pack of condoms and detailed instructions on what to do with them.

For his second song he wanted to do something that would make the whole of Liverpool proud of him. If he came from our city, we'd want him just to bugger off and die, but Liverpudlians are an odd sort and are genuinely proud that Cilla Black comes from their city, so they probably were moved - and not in the bowel sense - by his performance of You'll Never Walk Alone. It could have been worse, at least it wasn't Ferry Cross the Mersey, but even the MacDonald Brothers managed to resist the temptation to do Flower of Scotland, no doubt realising it would be a bit crass, and it's not even like it's a good song, a clunking melody with a mawkish lyrical conceit. Whether you hold your head up high or not, it really doesn't matter, when you walk through a storm you get wet. Despite, or perhaps because of, the heavy handed simplicity of the song's message, Ray got a bit overwhelmed by it, wiping his eyes and immediatly turning away from the camera at the end of the song, almost so he'd be able, free from the prying gaze of the lens, to forcibly ram his thumb into his eyes to produce some tears in a cynical attempt to grab a few more votes, but far be it from us to suggest such a thing.

Leona, as with virtually all girls on these sorts of shows, was wearing far too much lipgloss. We mention this as it was probably the most interesting thing about her performance of Whitney Houston's I Have Nothing. The song itself is a predictable bore down the "I am woman, I will survive, Hear me roar, etc, etc" path and Leona's version of it was similarily predictably boring. As we've said about a million times before, she is a good singer, but they keep giving her such boring songs to sing. Close your eyes and it's fine, but open them and you might as well be watching wallpaper.

Second song and, following on from Ray's crocodile tears, Leona is also pulling out the emotion card, playing the overused "Death in the family" hand. It was her cousin that died, and obviously this song means a lot to her, and naturally is verypersonal, so she'll just have to sing it in front of millions of people and prostitute it so she can stay in a glorified talent contest. "It's not about winning", though, she said. Of course it's not, Leona, of course it's not. The very personal song she did was from The Wizard of Oz, and we're not entirely sure that Ding Dong the Witch is Dead was entirely appropriate. Oh, OK, we're joking, it was Somewhere Over the Rainbow and, as is traditional on these shows, the simplicity of the melody which gives the song it's emotional purity was messed around with so as to give her the chance to warble around and generally show off her vocal range, though remember she's only doing this for her cousin and not to win the contest. Of course, despite the fact that she was singing about something that was a genuinely sad thing for her, she still failed to demonstrate any sort of emotional connection with the material! Is this girl some sort of rock? Is her singing really so unconnected to her glands that she can't express any feelings while working her larynx? Does she, to put it bluntly, not give a fuck?

Oh well, never mind, Ben doesn't seem to give much of a fuck either. He's been wondering whether he's good enough to win it, and is generally giving off the impression that win or lose, he'll take it with good grace and just grin sheepishly in that way he does so well, although he does say that he wants to get into the final as it "means everything" to him. To this end, his first song of the night is Everything I Do (I Do it For You), presumably because as yet no-one has written a song called Vote for me! Please, Vote for Me, Godammit! I Don't Want to Go Back to Erecting Marquees.

He elected to sing his mum's favourite song for his second choice, but unfortunately for him his mum's still happily breathing, thus denying him that particular emotional hook to hang the song on. He must have been kicking himself for his family's good health. His mum's favourite song, apparently, is I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, from which we can deduce that a) she has no taste in music whatsoever, and b) Ben doesn't stand a hope in hell of making it through to the next round.

Results time and, after Gloria Estefan, along with three girl dancers wearing the eightiest dresses in the world, ran through a greatest hits medley - and by medley they mean playing a bit of one song, followed by a slightly awkward pause, followed by a bit of another song, another awkward pause, then a third song - for no apparent reason whatsoever, it was time to find out who our X Factor finalists were. First to make it through was Leona, who burst into tears demonstrating that she does have some emotions, leaving Ben and Ray to face the tension of the final announcement. As Kate paused to let the pressure build the crowd began shouting "Bray! Bray!", either because of mixed loyalties or as a damning criticism of the donkey like singing we'd heard tonight. Either way, Kate ignored them and stated that Ben was going to be saying his goodbyes. She tried to sweeten the pill by saying that was only 3% of the vote in it, but, given that if we assume her figure of 3,500,000 million votes cast is accurate, this means that over 100,000 people couldn't give a toss about him. We're not exactly talking Florida 2000 recount territory here. He took his failure with the expected good grace and buggered off, back to the obscurity from whence he came. Let's hope he still knows his way around a tent.

It's the final next week, Ray vs Leona, thank fuck for that. For it being the final, that is, not for it being