Saturday, 8 October 2011

Here we go again

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the X-Factor. But after several weeks of tears, sob stories and laughing at the mentally disadvantaged, I'm already starting to feel a little fatigued. So the prospect of a two-and-a-half hour live show doesn't quite fill me with joy. Professional to the last, I've glugged enough Lucozade to turn my piss orange for a week and have eaten nothing but Kendal's mint cake for the last 48 hours. Here goes nothing, perhaps quite literally.

After a slightly revamped opening title sequence, here's Dermot in another suit from the Mr Byrite end-of-season sale to tell us our Saturday night starts here. Sorry Dermy, but mine started two hours ago when I starting cutting the Lucozade with vodka. The more things change the more things stay the same - hence the double introduction to the judges. Ooh, there's a big twist too. Which will come as a shock to precisely no-one, since it's been in the press for days. There's no public vote this week; instead the judges will need to send home an act each. Louis is notoriously bad at this, which at least explains how they plan to pad out tomorrow's results show to sixty minutes.

Kicking off tonight's show is Amelia Lily, who's died her hair a dirty pink colour, to make sure that no-one compares her to Pixie Lott anymore. She's going to be 'fighting for her life', which has me imagining a far more interesting sing-off than we're likely to see this series. In a pair of cut-off denim shorts and a red leather jacket that could have been fished out of Cher's recycling bin, she's hacking her way through a rocky re-do of Billy Jean. If the current manslaughter trial hasn't got Michael Jackson spinning in his grave, this'll have him rotating like a lazy susan.

Oh shit. This is going to be painful. Here's Johnny, a drag queen without a make-up bag and falsies. He's excited about living in a house with "a few more modern cons" than he has at home. I thought they'd all been dropped last week because of their visa issues. Wrapped in a Bacofoil raincoat, he's squeaking his way through 'Believe' in a voice that makes the Chipmunks sound like Barry White. Bless him, he's clearly having the time of his life, even though it's making me question my own.

Doing it for the girls is Rhythmix - they've had an exciting makeover, which at least means they might not look as though they just crawled from the wreckage of a joyriding accident. They're having a crack at Nicky Minaj's Superbass and it's a bit of a mess. More worryingly, it's reminding me of Michael Keaton in Duplicity. He invented a cloning machine, and each copy was a little more fucked up than the last one. So imagine that, but replace Michael Keaton with Cher Lloyd. And shudder. Gary thinks they're the best girlband that's ever been on the X-Factor. Which is a bit like trying to choose your favourite flesh wound.

"Lock up your daughters," warns Gary, "It's Frankie Cocozza." You might want to put any soft fruit on a high shelf too. Frankie's been in the tabloids this week, having shared a hot-tub with Kitty - honestly, where's a carelessly discarded hairdryer when you need one? It's all a bit scruffy and erratic, much like the boy himself. Not that any of it matters, since Gary believes he's a 'real artist'. And that's just what the X-Factor needs, another Matt fucking Cardle.

Kelly's giant earrings are jangling with excitement as she introduces Sophie, the girl that no-one remembers from the earlier parts of the show. In fact, her whole VT is about the fact that she's utterly anonymous. Sorry, what were we talking about? There's a girl on a piano singing a torch-song interpretation of Katy Perry. That must be Sophie. Just when you think the tempo's going to pick up, it doesn't. The pianist helped lift her down, and Kelly gave her a subtle nod to remind her to hitch her skirt back down. It might be the first live show, but that's not the kind of big opening we're looking for.

Fresh from giving Louis a slipped disc by lunging at him on a garden bench, Jonjo is here to remind us that this is even more scary than fighting in Afghanistan. I can assure him that it's just as grueling to watch. The judges aren't impressed, but at least Gary gets to make this week's tired homophobic joke at Louis' expense. LOLZ-a-plenty here on the X-Factor. Jonjo leaves the stage looking like he's expecting a dishonourable discharge. 

Time to turn the volume down and adjust the contrast settings - it's 2 Shoes. Everyfink's amazin'. They love singing, they love nails and they love their mentor, who they describe as a 'third shoe'. Couldn't have put it better myself. Dark Shoe has lipstick smeared all over her face, but they wear so much it's hard to tell whether that's intentional.

Here's James to give us the first sob story of the night. Apparently he and his family keep getting kicked out of rented accommodation. Still, he reckons the whole of Widnes is rooting him on, except maybe the people at the housing association. Weirdly, the set designers have surrounded him with projected images of terraced houses, like a Jim Bowen 'here's what you could have won' reminder of what's at stake. 

Good grief, are we really only half way through? At least it's Misha next, one of the few genuinely interesting contestants and the only one who didn't really need a makeover. In fact, she'd have been better sticking with her own wardrobe, since the costume department have wrapped her in newspaper like a piece of battered cod. Just as 'Rolling In The Deep' gets going, she throws in a rap which has fuck all to do with the rest of the song. Louis is treading on dangerous ground, opening up his creaky box labelled 'You remind me of...' When he wimps out and compares her to Kelly, his fellow judge gives him a legendary side-eye. 

Hoping to recreate the success of JLS and One Direction, it's NuVibe. They're very good at slowly moving from side-to-side and looking at each other like they've just met in the bathroom of the Two Brewers. The vocals are appalling but none of that matters, since the lead singer remembered to lift his shirt up and show his abs at the end. At least someone understands how this show works. 

Marcus is singing this week's number one, 'Moves Like Jagger'. If nothing else, this should remind a large percentage of the audience how long it's been since they actually listened to the charts. He smiles a lot, which is fine when you're singing something upbeat, but can be off-putting when tackling a ballad. 

Unfortunately, the make-overs can only do so much. So although Sami looks a little less like Geraldine McQueen, she still sings like Jane McDonald. And neither of those comparisons are going to do her any favours. If we were a playing a drinking game, we'd all be loading the shot-glasses for Louis' inevitable "Yorradiva". Yep, there it is - everybody drink. 

Next up, it's The Risk - Tulisa's idea of a supergroup. They're no Traveling Wilburys, but the lead singer's vocals are alright and thankfully they don't look as though they only met for the first time backstage on tonight's show. The judges are all working their favourite "this is why you're in this competition..." cliches, and my vodka bottle is starting to look worryingly empty.

Craig is on a diet, eating lettuce whilst the other contestants tuck into burgers. No-one's used the 'f' word but it's on everyone's mind. Maybe he just needs some time away from the biscuit factory. He's singing really well, but someone's fucked up the mixing of the backing vocals so it sounds as though he's performing both sides of a duet.

Little Miss Marmite is on next, telling the world that she wants to be controversial and talked about, then complaining that she gets upset when she sees what's been written about her. She's singing 'Who wants to live forever' and I'm in no rush to talk her down from the ledge. The loud bits are annoyingly competent, but she's as unfamiliar with subtlety as she is to humility.

Looks like they've saved the best for last, as tiny Irish pixie Janet brings the house down with 'Fix You' by Coldplay. Everyone loves her, right down to the company that sold the production team a group discount on teeth whitening. The judges are doing their pained faces at the prospect of having to ditch an act tomorrow, but anyone who was paying attention should know that Kelly's the only one likely to even break a sweat. The rest of the judges have been entirely forgettable this evening, but Ms Rowland  is outsassing Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. "Sami, you in danger girl." 

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