Sunday, 23 September 2012

Miami calling

This is it folks. By the end of tonight’s show, we’ll have our final 24 acts who’ll be jetting off to the judges’ houses. After the high drama of yesterday’s show, the cliché machine has been turned up to eleven and everyone’s playing along: “Everything rides on this one song,” “It’s totally make or break,” and “This literally is the performance of my life.”  So far, so predictable.

Thankfully, the second half of boot-camp is more focused on music than yesterday’s edition, giving us a chance to see how well the contestants sing, rather than faking conviviality over a glass of latte.  Here’s a round up of what went down…

Lucy Spraggan is kicking off tonight, doing another one of her own compositions. It’s hard to see how well this will translate to the themed weeks, but for now we can at least appreciate the fact that her writing is interesting, if not particularly sophisticated. It’s a sad song about dead mothers, and has the audience wiping their eyes like someone tipped a bag of grit into a wind machine. The melody is pleasant, and it’s a better showcase for her voice than the one about hangovers. The audience give her a standing ovation and she bursts into tears. 

After all that unpleasant sincerity, it’s time for everyone’s favourite laughing stock – Rylan Clark. He can’t sing (in fact he can barely speak), he’s as camp as Dale Winton’s washbag, and he looks like someone painted Greg Evigan on an orange candle. But Louis seems to like him, so I have a horrible feeling that we’ve not seen the back of him just yet.

Now it’s Gathan’s turn to go before the judges. He’s got a cleavage like Vanessa Feltz and an annoying tendency to talk about himself in the third person. Worst of all, he believes that he’s a triple threat, which sounds about as appealing as ripping open a Jiffy bag full of anthrax.

Jahmene nearly flushed away all the judges’ goodwill yesterday, so the pressure’s on for him to prove what he’s capable of, other than wearing badly fitted cast-offs from Mr Byrite. Problem is, he’s so shaken up by his pitiful performance, that he’s dizzy and weak today. This could go one of two ways. He’ll either be completely amazing, or those shiny blue trousers are going to need a boil wash. By the time he’s called onstage, his wobbles have got the better of him and he’s shipped off to see Matron. MK1 are called in to cover for him, but the cameras are more interested in watching Jahmene stagger down a service corridor with the nice people from St John’s Ambulance Brigade. In the end, Louis and Nicole give him a pep talk, and he takes to the stage to give an impressive rendition of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. Although I’d give him two thumbs up, I’d caution him against running through so many different voices in a single performance. At one point, I don’t know whether to give him a standing ovation or get an exorcist on speed dial.

Triple J have definitely got the boyband look down – all pouty lips and cheekbones you could hang a beach towel off. They even sing well, but they have an unfortunate range of poses that they strike when performing, like Spiderman feeling his way through a steamy changing room in a pair of fogged glasses.

Melanie is the forty-something Janis Joplin fairy, and she’s giving her next performance like it’s “the last thing” she’ll ever sing. And having listened to her screech her way through A Change Is Gonna Come, I’m kind of hoping that it will be.

Christopher Maloney has had a few weeks to get over his nerves, having given us all motion sickness with his original audition. But although he’s a little steadier on his feet, his blood vessels are still on overdrive, pumping his face full of blood as he belts his way through A Million Love Songs.  It’s so bad that I worry he’ll either have a heart attack, or get rolled off to the juicing room by a band of Oompa Loompas.

Carolynne really is gorgeous, and she’s a great singer. Her version of Rascal Flatts’ Open Road is really good, but there’s something relentlessly old-fashioned about her. Thirty years ago, she’d have made a killing on shows like 3-2-1, turning up every week to sing a song and read out an incomprehensible clue. But there’s a reason why we don’t hear much from the Brian Rogers Connection anymore. And it’s the same reason why Carolynne will never win this. 

Kye says he wants to be like Emeli Sandé and Adele, because there are no male singers who sing those big songs. Then again, there aren’t currently any popstars who look like Howard Wolowitz, but that doesn’t mean he should win the X-Factor. He’s chosen I Can’t Make You Love Me, which is as apt a choice as any. The performance is pretty lackluster, but he redeems himself in the eyes of the crowd by name-checking Liverpool in the last line of the song.

From Above are psyching themselves up backstage, breathing in confidence and breathing out nerves. But when they take to the stage and mangle Payphone, I wonder whether their prep time might have been better spent by learning how to sing. Nicole’s pained grimace speaks for the entire audience.

Jade is clearly missing her daughter, but I’m guessing that the kid is relieved she doesn’t have to wear her safety-goggle glasses for the weekend. The metal spikes on Mum’s shoulder pads could have her eye out with one careless hug. She’s singing Jason Mraz and has a great voice, but nerves get the better of her and she forgets the lyrics. The audience cheer her along and she holds it together, sounding like Gabrielle with strep throat.  

Handsome tool salesman Joseph has got a taste for this now, and believes that the UK is crying out for a good rock singer. His voice sounds great on U2’s With or Without You, and sets Nicole smouldering like a Weber barbecue. Tulisa comments that he’s a hotty, which has Louis nodding like the Churchill dog.

Bedsit James has decided that he doesn’t look unfortunate enough, so he’s decided to complete his look with a pair of NHS specs and an ill-fitting jacket. It seems to work, as half of the audience dissolve into tears.

After a couple of dull acoustic makeovers of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, Ella Henderson takes to the stage and shows us how it’s done. Of all the songs in the world to pare down, Cher’s Believe is up there with Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. And yet, Ella makes it work with just a piano accompaniment. It’s a fantastic showcase, both for her voice and her ability to interpret a song. It also proves that a good pop song can work in any format, even reducing Nicole to a blubbering wreck.

Now that everyone’s performed, it’s time to make the final cut. Louis helpfully points out “Tomorrow, we have to get 70 acts down to 24.” If Michael York isn’t available for the next Austin Powers, Louis could always step in to play the part of Basil Exposition.

The results of the final vote are staggeringly predictable, with all the high profile acts sailing through to the Judges’ House round. In fact, there are only two real surprises. The first is that Rylan makes it, instead of Joseph the tools salesman. I think we can thank Louis for that one. The second shocker is that the two boybands who battle it out for the final place in the groups category don’t get merged into one supergroup.

The final segment sees a special guest appearance from Simon Cowell, who pretends to speak to Gary, Nicole, Tulisa and “Lou-Lou” from Miami. Gary’s got the over 28s, Tulisa has the girls, Louis has the groups (again) and Nicole’s got the boys. Best of all, we’re promised the second coming of Cheryl Cole to help Gary out. Meet you back here in six days’ time? 

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