Saturday, 1 September 2012

Let's hear it for the boys

The producers of the X-Factor must be shitting themselves. The audience numbers are down, and even Simon Cowell has been expressing disappointment at the lack of talent. Unfortunately, the editors must have misread the memo, and assumed that it was referring to eye-candy. So tonight's show is packed with talent, but mostly of the male variety. In fact, there are so many photogenic young men, it's a couple of detachable collars away from being a full-blown Chippendales revue.

Things start off quite predictably, with more screamers showing off their scary sex faces, and a clip of Mel B saying "I just wish I hadn't watched that." Speaking for the nation there. Last week's 75 minute show featured just eight minutes of music, and as we enjoy a prolonged montage of would-be contestants eating their breakfast, it doesn't seem as though tonight's edition will be any different. Brassy Nicola Marie from Derby skipped her breakfast, and is worried that having a banana will make her want a poo. She's one of those contestants that has confused incessant rambling with personality, and she's going for broke today. By the time she takes to the stage, her eyes are so wide that I'm worried the banana's taking effect. Dermot's on stand-by in the wings, with a carrier bag, just in-case. Mel B says "We wanna know all about you. Tell us your name, your age." Presumably Mel B's autobiography is a one-sided pamphlet.

Louis has woken up from his nap and starts to say "You remind me of..." There's an almost audible clap as five thousand anuses snap shut nervously, but it's OK. He finishes his thought with "...Davina McCall." After what feels like an eternity of "I'm mad, me" rambling, Nicola finally starts singing. This is not a good thing, since her voice sounds like the air being punched out of an old sofa cushion. And then there's the dancing, which might best be described as a half-hearted audition for the lunch-time slot in a strip-club. Gary didn't care for it, and although the backing music teases us with 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls, with three yeses from the other judges, we're going to be seeing her again. The Take That frontman wants her to "strip all the stuff away", but I've a feeling it's going to take a shitload of baby-oil and a pocket full of fivers to even get close.

Tonight's show also features plenty of crowd shots, as we see tens of thousands of hopefuls queuing up for their big moment. Or, at least, that's how it looks. In fact, given the size of the entourages that most of the contestants have waiting backstage, there's probably only 19 actual performers in the whole place.

Jake from Scunthorpe looks a bit like Tom Hardy, and he's also pooing himself. If you've ever dismissed the X-Factor as being full of shit, you may have a point. Tulisa obviously likes the look of Jake - so there could be some underwhelming action in his immediate future if he plays his cards right. He's singing 'Use Somebody' and his voice is good, especially the falsetto licks. His mate is crying backstage, and the girls in the audience have leapt to their feet, probably to let their seat cushions dry out a little. There's lots of talk about the 'ladies' loving Jake, but I imagine there's quite a few guys who'll be fairly fond too. Speaking of which, here's Louis adding a non-gendered "I think people are going to like you."

Following on from Jake's successful audition, we get a Zac Efron-lookalike in Taylor, who does a nice line in Paolo Nutini. But his onstage humility is soon discarded in favour of a more aggressive arrogance backstage. Matt is another nice-looking lad, with a good voice and a guitar, confirming once again that we're heading irrevocably towards a tedious acoustathon, in place of the usual bombastic live finals.

51 year-old mum Alison has clearly had enough with all that Supernanny 'naughty step' bullshit. She's single-handedly raising two horrible kids, and she's run out of ways to punish them effectively. Maybe she caught them smoking behind the shed, or they painted a pentagram in goat's blood on the dining room wall. Either way, she's decided to show them who's boss. She's styled her hair into a lampshade made of straw, and she's dragged them along to the X-Factor auditions to give them the kind of public humiliation that would keep a family therapist in business for decades. She treats them to a nice glass of latte first, to make them think it's just a nice day out. But once she takes to the stage in her purple jeans and turns The Edge of Glory into a tuneless cry for help, it's clear that the kids will never misbehave again.

Time for more totty now, as we meet Joseph and his toddler Kian. This will be tonight's sob-story slot, so we hear about how Joseph tries to see his son every day, then goes back to his empty flat. Not sure what that's got to do with singing, but there you go. Joseph is tonight's handsome hero, so his whole segment is packed full of innuendo. For a start, he tells the judges that he "walks onto building sites and smashes things up with his tools," and Mel B is clearly imagining the damage he could do. He's singing Whole Lotta Love, and making a great job of it, although when he mentions "every inch of his love" I could swear I saw Tulisa reaching under the desk for a tape measure. Louis complements Joseph on his authentic rock voice, but then I tuned out the rest, because I got distracted by his hair again - he's starting to look like Margaret Rutherford.

By the time we get to Glasgow, Mel B has been replaced by Anastacia - a move which might best be described as going from frying pan to fire. Turns out she flew in for nothing, as Scotland hasn't exactly brought out the big guns for her arrival. Alan has the stage presence of a petrified gerbil with alopecia, and Loretta has come disguised as a bright red pillowcase filled with mashed potato. And then there's Hester, who's wearing the sort of outfit usually seen bursting out of a cake. With lipstick on her teeth and a cheap pair of crystal horns, it's hardly a surprise that she's useless. Having been rejected by all four judges, she walks down the corridor and emits a massive burp - even that sounds better than what came out on stage.

Tonight's final act is Melanie, who spends her days looking after kids in her daycare 'Fairy Flutterby's Little Rockabyes'. With her squeaky voice, Janet Devlin curls and fairy wings, she's so twee that I need to test my blood sugar levels. But when she opens her gob and belts out Janis Joplin's Cry Baby, things finally start looking up. There's just time for us to check in with our favourite cliches, as Louis throws out a "this is what the show is all about," which Tulisa follows up with "You owned that stage." Which just leaves special guest Anastacia to offer the most perceptive comment of the night: "Forty years old and totally a fairy." Gary responds with "How many times have you heard that story?" as Louis looks down at his notes.

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