Sunday, 28 October 2012

Nightmares are made of this

Four weeks in, and I’m starting to lose my edge. By the time we get to December I’m going to be wrapped up in a blanket and sunglasses, like Barbara Hershey at the end of Beaches. So in the interest of maintaining my sanity, let’s rattle through two editions of The X-Factor in one go. This weekend is the ‘annual Halloween special’ and promises more horrors than a Saw marathon, not to mention a similar runtime.

As the live performances show opens, there’s lots of talk about Louis hoping to survive this week. But as long as he avoids sunlight or anything too garlicky, he should be fine. The acts are told to embrace their dark side, which I’d have thought was a prerequisite for anyone signing a contract with Simon Cowell’s name on it. A special shout-out also goes to Nicole, who’s turned up in one of Cher’s lacy catsuits and an old Diana Ross wig, to remind us that Americans see Halloween as an opportunity to dress up like a slut. Rounding out the contrived spooky references, is Dermot’s stark warning that there’s going to be a week four casualty - perhaps Steve Brookstein was seen lurking in the rigging with a screwdriver and a blank, white mask. But before we crack on, we need to mention the fact that Lucy won’t be performing tonight. There are a couple of oblique references to a mystery illness, but it could be that she’s spent all week struggling to find anything to rhyme with Halloween.

Our first performer tonight is Kye, who was shocked to find himself in the bottom two last week and wants to have more fun this time around. To help him get his mojo back, Kye gets a master class with Robbie Williams, whose song he’ll be singing. Remember when Dermot promised a Halloween spectacular? Turns out that this amounts to little more than some CGI bats on the background screens. That splashing sound you can hear is the boat being pushed out. Meanwhile, Kye is begging to ‘Let Me Entertain You’, and I’d be happy for him to try. Instead, he runs into the audience and ends up in the cloakroom, in a move that feels more Michael Barrymore than Gene Simmons. Nicole tells him he came out swinging, so I’m just glad none of the slashes on his trousers were too high. As for poor old Tulisa, she might want to rethink her wardrobe when hovering over a reflective desk, since it looks as though she’s just sitting there in her bra. Well, I wouldn’t put it past her.

Once again, Union J are all in bed together. That may have worked in the more innocent days of Morecambe and Wise, but it takes on a whole other meaning when it’s an androgynous four-piece who are sharing the duvet. They had a big week, getting their hair did for the Skyfall premiere. It was a fantastic night for them, mingling with “Some of the biggest celebrities in the world” – as the camera cuts to Kelly Brook. Tonight they’re singing Beyonce’s Sweet Dream, but like the lyric says, it’s more of a beautiful nightmare. It’s also clear that the production crew are missing Brian Friedman’s inspired insanity – why else would the boys appear standing on an abandoned Kia saloon?  Tulisa tries to give them some positive feedback, but there’s so much dry ice it looks as though someone’s pants are on fire. By the time we get to Louis, he’s chanting “You could be the next big boyband” which is the failsafe to let his programmers know that the system needs rebooting.

Nicole promises a ‘deadly performance from Rylan Clark’ and, if the previous weeks are anything to go by, she’s not kidding. After a five-minute advert for Mahiki, where he celebrated his birthday, our newly bleached star is showing off some weird black and white bedazzlements on his face, which makes it look like he’s been bobbing for apples in a bucket of bird-shit. He opens with Toxic, then rattles through Horny and Nicole’s Poison. Sometimes, these reviews just write themselves. Louis tells him “You remind me of a young Jean Paul Gaultier.” Presumably, because he can’t sing either. After another savaging, Gary does the noble thing and tells the audience at home that Rylan is very popular backstage. Keep it clean Barlow, we’re still pre-watershed.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m convinced that Tulisa is trying hard to score a sponsorship deal with Greggs. Last year it was all about her little muffins, now Ella is ‘My little cupcake.’ I guess we’ll know she’s getting somewhere when she describes Lucy Spraggan as her favourite Steak Bake. Ella’s dressed as a Little Red Riding Hood strip-a-gram to sing Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life. As you’d expect, the gravel and power in her voice works well, but it’s all in too low a key for a song that demands to be screeched at the top of her lungs. As it happens, Nicole completely agrees with me and gets booed for her efforts. Louis loved it, and Tulisa tells her she made it her own. At this stage I’m thankful that I’m not playing a drinking game, otherwise I’d be typing like one of those monkeys in the Shakespeare room.

Gary and Christopher are doing an extended plug for the Samsung tablet; improvising a chat about nerves that allows for lots of lovely close-ups of the shiny touch screen. Apparently, everyone in Liverpool is wearing a Christopher mask with terrifying cut-out eyes, like something from the end of Jeepers Creepers. Another week and another MOR power ballad – this time it’s Died In Your Arms by Cutting Crew. The dancers are crouched at the edge of the stage shining torches on the audience. The ushers in my local cinema used to do that when I was a kid, to make sure no-one was getting a surreptitious hand-job during the local ads. Nicole’s critique is a spectacular display of false complements, that begins with “Well, that was fun…” and goes downhill from there. Tulisa criticises Gary’s repetitive song choices, so he goes in for the kill by having a pop at her ‘fag-ash breath.’ The audience are clearly unsettled by the animosity, and it doesn’t get any better when Tulisa responds by calling Gary out on his wine stank.

Louis is giving District 3 a pep talk and trying not to mention the world’s most ridiculous hat, which makes them look as if they were illustrated by Dr Seuss. The boys are concerned that they might have looked a bit dead behind the eyes and, to be fair, we’ve already established that that’s Christopher’s domain. As far as inappropriate costume choices go, the boys are clearly onto a winner - dressing as Droogs in order to violate the memory of Every Breath You Take. This is not what Stanley Kubrick intended as his artistic legacy, so don’t be too surprised if he’s gently rotating in his grave, like that donut space station from 2001. At this stage, I wouldn’t even be shocked if their performance culminated in them rushing at Tulisa with a giant stylised porcelain cock. Nicole and Gary are sick of the mash-ups, and even Louis admits that they were utter shit. Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but only because I tend to switch off if he’s not saying something laughably racist.

Jahmene has been getting loads of messages about how he helps people put things in perspective. Especially draughtsmen, who can use his fringe as a set square. He’s had a cracking week though, even getting to sing for Samuel Motherfucking Jackson. Tonight, Jahmene is singing Killing Me Softly, and it just goes to show how little the producers and mentors actually know about music. This is not a love song, it was actually written about Don McLean (take that to your next pub quiz) and is about the power of a performer to connect with an audience. But in order to avoid making Jahmene sound gay, they’ve changed all the pronouns to she, which shits all over the song’s reputation and meaning. Even so, Tulisa can’t find a negative thing to say, so perhaps she missed the key change, which was handled with all the grace of someone trying to parallel park a cement truck.

Jade is bigging up her earthy, track-suit bottoms former life, so she’s thrilled to revisit her daughter in the rundown tower block where they live. Setting aside the concerns about home-alone kids that pop up when her four year-old answers the door, let’s focus on the excellent work by the production department on distressing the wallpaper. We’ve been promised South Central, so it’s good to see that everything’s as shabby as Jade promised. Tonight she’s wearing a robo-dominatrix rubber catsuit and a fetching Frankenstein neck-scar to sing Freak Like Me. The vocal is only so-so, but the arrangement is truly appalling – continually switching tempo like it was cobbled together by a technician with ADD. The judges hated it, and even Tulisa struggles to articulate something positive. But that’s nothing new.
James is closing tonight’s show with a newfound confidence, thanks to his week supporting Labrinth. In fact, he’s so in his element that he may well have decided he doesn’t need this X-Factor shit. No matter - he’s smeared on some guyliner to accentuate those sunken-features, and he’s moaning and mumbling his way through Sweet Dreams. The dancers have thrown on some capes and are flanking the judges on both sides like the illuminati with flaming torches. Louis complements him on always bringing something new to the show, not that he’s ever been troubled by such requirements. As James lumbers stiffly off the stage, I’m wondering whether Jade’s Frankenstein neck-wound might have suited him better.

Onto the results show, and Dermot promises Fun. Don’t worry, he’s not overselling the next hour of TV, he just means the American group. There’s also Robbie Williams on hand, to teach the contestants that a complete absence of humility should be no barrier to a successful career in music. Tulisa makes a big deal of showing off her Nicorette patch, and that’s not a euphemism. Tonight’s group song is David Guetta’s Without You, and only Kye and Jahmene managed to find the key in time for their solo spots - Ella simply stands at the front and yells.

Here’s some Fun now. That was a Little Shop of Horrors reference, for the three of you who’ll appreciate it. They’re performing their enormous global hit We Are Young, and I’d enjoy it a lot more if I wasn’t so distracted by how tiny they all look. The guitarists in particular are wielding such enormous guitars, they’re more like the Muppet Babies.

Dermot tries to gloss over last night’s ‘fag ash’ scandal, suggesting that Tulisa and Gary kissed and made up. But the obvious distance between them suggests that she’s yet to break the seal on the Listerine. When she tries to give her feedback on who’s in danger, there’s a weird clicking sound, like she’s fumbling with a packet of SMINTs under the desk.

Robbie’s new song has all the contemporary sophistication of Copacabana. He struts and thrusts his way around the stage like Foghorn Leghorn in a purple polo-neck then straddles Louis Walsh. So that’s my Halloween nightmares sorted. His voice is just south of piss-poor; barely speaking the lyrics and still managing to sound out of breath. By the time the ticker tape parade starts, all I can do is empathise with the poor stage manager who’s going to have three minutes to sweep that fucker.

Time for the results, so the mentors and their acts return to the stage. Rylan seems to be wearing a tabard that he could have nicked from one of the girls who work at Underworld in Weatherfield. It doesn’t matter, he’s safe along with everyone else, with the exception of Jade and Union J. The boys are up first and take on P!nk’s Fuckin’ Perfect. Unfortunately, they do the cleaned up version, when now would have been the ideal time to throw out a few F-bombs. To her credit, Jade has listened to the judges about what they loved about her in the first place. She’s doing a lovely version of White Flag, and I’d like to think that somewhere in West London, Dido is sitting at home thinking “Oh, THAT’s what it’s supposed to sound like.”

Louis gets a voice wobble when he votes to save Union J, and Tulisa votes for her girl. No surprises so far. Nicole throws in the first spanner by saving Union J – I wonder if she’s read her memo from Cowell about signing the next One Direction. Clearly Barlow did, because he kicks Jade out with a passive-aggressive “I worry that I want this more than you do.” Dermot tries to cheer her up by reminding her that she can get back to doing her daughter’s school run. Dermot O’Leary – great in a crisis. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Giving voice to the victims

A few weeks ago, I went to a pop-up cinema in Leytonstone for a screening of a film called The Deep End. Made in 1971 by a protégé of Roman Polanski, it told the story of a 15 year-old boy in the East End who gets his first job in the local swimming baths. Forgotten for years, but recently rediscovered and remastered by the BFI, the film offered a compelling time capsule of London life in the aftermath of the decade of free love. But what was most telling, aside from the fact that in the seventies swimming centres still had private bathing rooms for people who lived without indoor plumbing, was the way the interaction between a local games teacher and his female students was portrayed. Watching the film through 21st century eyes, the audience was shocked to see a man in a position of authority happily playing grab-arse with his charges; even pulling down the top of their bathing suits to peer inside. During the film’s melodramatic denouement, a young Jane Asher condemned the teacher for his unprofessional conduct, but in reality she was more concerned with the fact that she’d lost the diamond from her engagement ring.

A couple of days after viewing the film, the Jimmy Savile scandal exploded all over the news. Throughout the last couple of decades of his life, Savile had become something of a dark joke. Dogged by insinuation and innuendo, the stories of his inappropriate conduct with young girls had become so widespread that it was like the world’s biggest open secret. I used to work with a copywriter who’d written British Rail scripts for him during the eighties. She once told me that the first time she’d met him, he’d shaken her hand and, rather dexterously, managed to tickle her palm with his finger while he was doing it. To hear her tell it, this was a man who’d perfected the ability to hide his predatory leanings in plain view.

But everything changed when ITV aired the documentary by Mark Williams-Thomas, as victims of Savile’s decades-long campaign of abuse and molestation finally came forward and shared their story. Rather than being met by shock and disbelief, the response on Twitter might best be described as grim resignation. A nation shrugging disdainfully in 140 characters and hashtagging #toldyouso. There’s no denying the horrific scale of Savile’s alleged crimes, or the fact that there were countless people who turned a blind eye to some shockingly inappropriate conduct. However, what concerns me now is how a complicit media is rushing to portray the BBC as being a giant community of abuse enablers. Other former BBC names are now being mentioned, as though the sexual molestation of minors was endemic across the BBC, and pederasty part of the Corporation’s formal training programme.

It’s no surprise to see that the ringleaders of the attack are prominent right-wing papers, salivating at the prospect of the BBC self-flagellating in an orgy of liberal guilt. This reached its apotheosis the other night, as BBC News reported on a Panorama programme that investigated the decision by Newsnight editors to pull their own Savile investigation. If, as David Quantick once said, ‘pop will eat itself’, then the BBC will also bend over backwards to auto-fellate.

Here’s an organisation so hogtied by its own fairness and equality mandate that its opponents barely need to lift a finger. Meanwhile, the likes of Paul Dacre can just sit back and count the days until another debate about the Licence Fee pops up on the parliamentary agenda. And at this rate, he won’t have too long to wait, since questions are already being asked about whether the Savile scandal ‘raises issues of trust in the BBC.’

With the facts of the matter now common knowledge, it’s time for the attention-seekers to start crawling out of the woodwork. In the last twenty-four hours, both Max Clifford and Kerry Katona – two opposite ends of a short but no-less noxious continuum of celebrity insight – have weighed in on the subject. Clifford, in particular, deserving particular scorn for invoking the PR equivalent of the Hippocratic oath, by implying that he knows of countless other child molesters in media circles, but is sworn to protect their identity. I give you Albert the Butler, but with a Rolodex full of kiddie-fiddlers.

Interestingly, no-one’s rushing to hang Clifford out to dry for his own dereliction of duty – even though he clearly believes that reputation management is more important than protecting youngsters from abuse. But then we should hardly be surprised, since Savile isn’t the master villain as far as the scandal-mongers are concerned. He’s merely Rosa Klebb to the Director General’s Blofeld. And like Blofeld, it doesn’t matter who’s occupying the giant leather swivel chair – the faces may change but the evil intent remains the same. 

Of course, this is all anti-BBC bullshit of the highest order. The way the press are spinning it, they’re going after the manufacturer rather than the dealer. However, suggesting that the BBC is in some way culpable for the behind-closed-doors misconduct of those in its employ, when no charges were ever filed, is pure nonsense. And by pursuing their agenda of propaganda and misinformation, they’re also doing the real victims a disservice.

When a child is abused by one parent, the other care-giver is seldom prosecuted for their awareness of the crime. Similarly, neighbours aren’t hauled into court for having long suspected that something dubious was going on behind the curtains that were closed at lunchtime. And teachers aren’t summarily sacked for neglecting to involve social services, just because they had an inkling that something wasn’t right at home. In the end, nothing can be done until a victim comes forward with a complaint. And if nothing else good comes from this whole tawdry and upsetting affair, at least we can be thankful that victims can feel more supported and empowered in naming and shaming their abusers than ever before.

At the time when Savile was at his most prolifically predatory, the general  public’s understanding of what constituted non-consensual sex, paedophilia and statutory rape was woefully lacking. Not only did this make it harder for the victims themselves to identify and articulate any wrongdoing, it would have been nigh-on impossible for the casual observer to intervene with the confidence of any legal backing. It’s also worth considering the fact that many of the people who’ve subsequently come forward with their own eye-witness accounts were, at the time, junior employees within the organisation. So the notion that, in less informed times, they would have felt able to come forward and point an accusatory finger at one of the country’s most recognisable faces, is asinine at best.

The battle has been brought to the BBC’s door. And it has a duty to stand up and fight for its future. That means silencing the innuendo, and putting a stop to the apologies for things over which it had no control. If it’s in any way culpable for Savile’s history of abuse, then we all are. Ours is a society that took too long to listen to the victims, and was content to look the other way rather than get involved. In the end, the BBC has a mandate to give every sector of society a voice – and if that gets silenced, then everybody loses.   

Sunday, 21 October 2012

What just happened here?

The X-Factor results show is something of a phenomenon. Week after week, it’s one of the highest rated programmes on TV, and yet it’s almost completely devoid of anything remotely enjoyable – untertainment, if you will. And yet the cacophony of noise and lighting effects would have you believe you’re about to witness the second coming.

Dermot’s wearing another shapeless grey suit with a single button, that looks like a grubby baker’s tunic. Nicole, on the other hand, has at least made something of an effort, sporting a dress that wouldn’t be out of place in an Ann Summers window display. Now it’s time for another group sing-along – this week it’s Ain’t Nobody. An apt choice really, given that none of them can compare with Chaka Khan’s original vocal. Ella’s fine, but when she’s not on her A-game, she’s more like Sonia than Adele. As for the rest of them, their voices blend about as well as David Cameron at a DWP Christmas party. It’s also a timely reminder that there’s only a couple of singers in the contest with anything like the kind of vocal range needed to hit the high notes.

Up next is the tedious recap of last night’s action, where we learned that Tulisa’s cheeseboard involves waxy balls and a bit of blue - just a dry water biscuit for me, thanks. When Love Takes Over reminded me how much I don’t miss Kelly, and Gary told us that “We’re witnessing the birth of a new boyband.” Let’s hope the camera cuts away before they start crowning. Tulisa shared the extent of her music industry expertise on Lucy: “I just want her to translate to a commercial audience,” but I think we’ve actually got our work cut out translating what she’s talking about. Finally, Gary went mental about Ella’s cheesy dance moves, but it’s not like she was doing the birdie song.

The first of tonight’s guest slots is taken by Labrinth, who opens with a surprisingly sensitive piano-based performance, even if his playing technique makes me think of Schroeder. Part way through the song he welcomes his special guest, Barbara Windsor. Sorry, my bad, it’s Emeli Sande – everyone’s favourite pop underdog. She really needs to get a better agent, before she completely fades into anonymity. Surely someone must be able to get her a decent gig – I hate to think of her supporting Steve Brookstein in Pizza Express. Their song is fine and they perform it well enough to distract me from the asinine lyrics, which could have been taken from a teenager’s pencil case.  

Dermot gravely intones his five-minute warning, accompanied by doomy sound effect and lowered studio lights. Better stock up on torch batteries and filtered water, JLS are coming. But before all that, he’s keen to canvas the judges’ opinion on who’s in danger. Louis must have had his Weetabix, because he names Jade before Dermot can hurry him along, leaving it to Tulisa to wimp out instead.

Here’s a shocker - JLS have had five number ones. I think I even own one of their albums, and yet I couldn’t hum a note of anything they’ve ever done; they’re the musical equivalent of the Bernard Matthews mid-week roast. Sadly, that melodic anonymity is unlikely to change, since they seem to have left their new song’s tune in the changing room, along with a hat that fits Aston’s tiny little head. He looks like a pencil topper. The chorus involves them squeaking “How does it feel to be the hottest girl in the world right now?” Because who doesn’t love a passive-aggressive compliment like that?

Just ten minutes left, so out comes the silver envelope of doom. Union J are safe and start hugging the boys from District 3, until they’re all utterly indistinguishable: a human centipede with floppy hair and too much denim. Lucy and Rylan are also both safe, so I guess the hotel staff didn’t get to call in their votes this week. And Jade gets a last minute reprieve, even though Gary and Louis named her as the act in danger.  So that leaves Chim-Chim-Cheree and MK1 to face the sing-off.

MK1 start off wobbly and amateurish, although they manage to turn things around by the song’s end. Next it’s Kye’s turn, and Gary is quite happy to play the sympathy card for his act’s previously unmentioned laryngitis. Annoyingly, Kye has picked I Can’t Make You Love Me, which holds the dubious honour of featuring in more desperate ‘save me’ performances than any other song. The problem is, people seem to miss the point of the song. It’s about giving up. When the public don’t give a shit, there’s nothing you can do to change it. If you’re in bottom two, you might as well accept that you can never win.

Nicole wobbles about how much she loves MK1 and is “all about you and how fresh and relevant you are.” So she’s sending them home. Tulisa tells them “You touch a soft spot for me.” Sorry, I’m not going there. In the end, she wants to stay true to her urban roots, and takes it to DEADLOCK, which doesn’t go in MK1’s favour. I wonder if they’re regretting putting that grit back in now.

Dermot consoles them by saying “You were a breath of fresh air for us,” implying that the rest of the show is a stale belch. Reviewing their best bits, we’re reminded of the accountant that used to be in their group, who’s probably sitting at home trying to work out 33% of fuck-all. Finally, Louis gives his standard kiss-off “I want these guys to get a record deal, somebody sign them.” Surely that’s the whole point of him working in the music industry? 

A bad week just got worse

Warning: This review may contain flashing images. Don’t worry, that probably just means that Tulisa’s decided to forego the tit-tape – gravity, do your worst.

Apparently, tonight’s theme is Club Classics. Not that you’d guess, since all anyone can talk about is what a terrible week they’ve all had. Drunken evictions, swollen chords and tabloid exposes. It’s enough to make me thankful for my three-hour daily round-trip commute. At least I’m not stuck in a cold studio with Brian Friedman dressed like a Sith Lord.

In a ‘hilarious’ twist, Dermot does an elaborate dance routine to S-Express. Hope you enjoyed it, it’s the last decent dance music you’re going to hear for the next two hours. Of course, it wasn’t really Dermot doing those moves – they didn’t even try to get a dancer who looked like him. If nothing else, the quick switcheroo at the end serves to remind us that this isn’t going out live. Still, he recovers in time to introduce the judges, who come out in standard formation. Nicole and Tulisa both seem to be struggling with their fancy new shoes, like toddlers trying out Mum’s stilettos for the first time. Dermot asks why Gary’s acts have been dropping like flies, to which Gary responds by saying “It’s a good question.” But not so good that it needs answering, so he doesn’t. Louis complements Dermot on his dancing, probably because his milky eyes couldn’t see that it was a stand-in. “Don’t gang up on Louis just yet,” implores Dermot to a jeering crowd. No, let’s all meet at the stage door at 10.30, with a rounders bat and a coal sack.

It’s time to face the music, so let’s start with Gary who introduces Christopher by saying “This is the week I’ve been dreading.” I’m hardly cock-a-hoop at the prospect either. Christopher clearly misread the memo, and is doing Working Mens’ Club Classics. If Jane McDonald shaved her head, and threw on a shiny unisex suit, it might be something like this. The song is Waiting For A Star To Fall, and to be fair to him, it feels like something from the mid-90s. At least that means he’s getting better, and by the end of the series he might only be a couple of years out of date. He’s managed to keep his nerves in check all week, but blows it by finishing on a big note that has his leg shaking like a shitting dog. Tulisa says she doesn’t get it, but to be honest, she’d look for the instructions on a bag of Wotsits. Louis tries to get excited about ‘club classics’ but it sounds as if his dentures are coming unstuck, and Gary reminds us that Christopher is the people’s choice. “You did not let your people down” he booms, seemingly confusing his pub singer with Moses.

Dermot welcomes us back and tells us “It’s hardcore in here.” Guess he’s finally watched the Tulisa video then. Meanwhile, Brian is helping MK1 take the pop out and put the grit back in, because that’s what Saturday tea-time viewers want. Let’s not forget that this show is for people who can’t handle the edginess of the Million Pound Drop. Fearful that someone might accidentally enjoy one of their performances, MK1 have decided to build most of their performance around Gypsy Woman by Crystal Waters; a song so annoying that it was responsible for an additional protocol in the Geneva Conventions. True story – when I was in sixth form, we used to spend out lunch hour in a pub where the jukebox gave twenty plays for a quid. Once, for a laugh, we programmed Gypsy Woman to play twenty times in a row. We cleared the place in 15 minutes. MK1 seem to have a similar effect on the studio audience, and the addition of Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out doesn’t help matters. Gary’s concerned that they sound like impersonators when they take on Tinie, because Barlow knows his rap. Alternatively, Nicole thinks it was “frickin’ sha-mazin.” I guess she’s desperate for her own hashtag. She also has some weird finger jewellery going on, that looks as if she sneezed into her hand and couldn’t find a tissue.

Poor Jahmene’s had a tough week, since the tabloids ran stories about his violent dad. So we probably shouldn’t make matters worse by pointing out how the X-Factor PR machine tends to work. He seems like a genuinely nice kid who’s had a pretty tough start in life, and here he is pouring his heart and soul out to Nicole, who’s decided that today’s the day for an ostentatious hat. Tonight he’s performing Say A Little Prayer, and it’s OK but the vocal acrobatics sound like a gerbil being dangled over a food processor. The judges weigh in with lots of compliments, as the poor lad just stands there and cries. Nicole is back obsessing about his balls again, probably because we can see them through the unforgiving cut of his teal trousers. She tells him “You are here for a reason; you’re destined for great things,” which is probably a sign that his midi-chlorians were testing off the scale.

Now it’s Jade’s turn to complain about what a shitty week she’s had. Or she would if she had any voice at all. She’s packed off to see an ENT consultant who tells her to rest her vocal chords for 72 hours. Thankfully, Samsung have provided her with a tablet and stylus so she can still communicate. I’m hoping this means she’ll be doing an instrumental selection from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano, and scribbling some improvised lyrics as she goes. But no, she’s thrown on a pink dress that’s part Beyonce, and part Abigail’s Party kaftan, and she’s talk-singing her way through Ultra Nate’s Free. Louis starts grumbling that she didn’t sing like a superstar, but I’m too distracted by the fact that his black polo-neck and jacket make him look like a floating disembodied head; a camp Irish Jor-El.

Then it’s time for a quick commercial break, brought to us by the product placement team at EON Productions. Is there a new Bond film out? They’ve certainly kept that quiet. It gets so bad that I half expect the Sensodyne ad to turn into another James Bond plug, where the dentist shags his hygienist and then shoves her in a supplies cupboard with the pink mouthwash and dental dams.

Back to the show and, guess what, James has had a tough week too. The onsite medic is concerned – James is in a bad way. But I’m surprised she noticed, since he always looks like a week-old Jack-O-Lantern. Apparently, he went green and had spasms, which is when one of the team finally realised that he wasn’t right. Like I said, hard to tell. He’s doing a stripped back acoustic version of ‘Sexy, And I Know It’ and it works better than it has any right to. It’s the first time that his performance hasn’t sound like a desperate cry for help from the roof of a multi-storey car park.  Gary notes that it’s a silly song, but he managed to give the lyrics real meaning. Next week he’ll be tackling the tricky oeuvre of Bombalurina.

Unlike the rest of the crew, Union J have had a great week beating off girls with a shitty stick in Top Shop. They’re doing When Love Takes Over and it’s not bad at all, so Louis allows himself a cheeky smile at his notepad, where I think he’s drawn a big knob. Tulisa’s obviously read the producers’ notes and makes lots of references to their female fanbase, so we’re in no doubt that they’re all unequivocally heterosexual.

Rylan opens with “Oh my God, last Saturday was unreal.” Like a cheese dream. With his beard shaved off he kind of looks like an orange Grace Jones, so his version of Get On The Floor makes J-Lo seem butch in comparison. Tulisa says “I always want to see it again,” but it’s not clear whether she means the performance or her dinner. Nicole kicks off a bizarre argument with Gary by saying “Two words – Borge, Waah!” No-one has a clue what she’s talking about, but it soon descends into a weird exchange where they take it in turns to add unnecessary hyphens to words that have no need for them.

Following the death of her Grandma, Lucy got hammered with Rylan, which ended up with them being kicked out of the hotel. Tonight she’s taken Sia’s Titanium and made it a song about a single mother in a kitchen sink estate. They’ll love that in Ibiza. For once, they’re right when they say she ‘made it her own’. She did, but in the same way that a car thief might change the plates and arrange a quick re-spray.

Gary helps Kye prep for tonight’s performance by pointing out that he hit 32 flat notes in last week’s show. Evenings must be a hoot round at Barlow’s gaff. After much mangling of percentages, Kye takes to the stage to give a piano-based rendition of Swedish House Mafia. His keyboard looks like a giant bonfire, so I hope someone did a sweep for sleepy hedgehogs before he started performing. It’s not exactly a club-banger, more like the accompaniment for a round of curly sandwiches in a funeral home. Nicole says “I felt like I was watching Chris Martin up there.” I’m sure she intended that to be a compliment, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Dermot says “I’ve never seen a mentor give his own act such a hard time,” but then he wasn’t around when Simon Cowell voted off his own act. The Conway Sisters are still holding a grudge about that.

Once again Louis is doing that thing where he makes a point of naming all the members of his groups, so that’s nice. District 3 are keen to show their fun side, which means that while one’s singing, the other two will be doing Bruce Forsyth impressions and card tricks. Their vocals aren’t up to much, so they fall back on that old JLS staple – the unnecessary back-flip. Tulisa’s feedback is all about how to attract girls, so maybe she’s getting them set up on MySingleFriend after the show. Gary enthuses “It’s modern, it’s current.” This from the man who wrote the Queen’s birthday song.

Closing down the show tonight is Ella’s enormous Dartford Tunnel mouth. Ella can dance which has Brian thuper exthited. There’s a stern warning that “The second she has a bum note, she’ll be eaten alive.” Wow, they’re really taking this Colosseum mentality to extremes this year. I can’t be too critical of her rendition of ‘You Got The Love’ since she’s clearly the winner of this series. I guess that means we can all stop watching now, right? 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dear Diary...

This week, in an attempt to downplay the public outcry about last week's results show, Louis Walsh opened up his 'personal' diary to the Daily Mail. Now, we present exclusive extracts from the diaries of the entire X-Factor team.

Louis Walsh

I won’t lie, it’s been a tough week diary - I’m getting it from every direction. And not in a good way, like that long weekend in Sitges. Gary seems to think I was faking it last week, but it genuinely was a tough choice. I’ve been known to dither of which flavour of Weetabix Minis to buy. I’m also getting pretty sick of people picking on me for always using the same stock phrases. My contract is watertight – like the background players in Corrie who’re only allowed to complement the Hot Pot or mention the weather. If I want to appear on camera at all, I can say “world class,” “sang your heart out” or “made it your own.” Anything else and Equity will have my balls for ear-muffs.

Tonight got pretty stressful when Dermot revealed that my boys District J were in the bottom two. Not because of Gary – if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to calm down a stressed out boy-bander. I was more worried about the fellas having to sing for their lives. Maybe I shouldn’t have put two groups of lads through; I’m sure they’re cannibalising each other’s votes. But it’s not like they haven’t put the work in. They’ve got the whole package, right down to the patented ‘boyband claw’ hand gestures on the big notes. And I thought they sounded great, even with that ridiculous electro-stomper arrangement on Everything I Do (I Do It For You).  

Nicole Scherzinger

Hey y’all!
Heyyyy! You all!
Fuck it, why can’t I make that sound natural?
Two weeks in and I still sound like Sylvester Stallone trying to talk hillbilly in Rhinestone.
You know, I looked back at Kelly’s videos from last year. She seemed to sell in that homespun sass effortlessly. So I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I get the feeling my ‘baby oil’ comment didn’t go down too well on the live show, so I tried it out on a cameraman in the corridor, along with a cheeky wink. I don’t know about the audience at home, but he certainly seemed to appreciate it. 

I’ve been hoping for a little more coverage as the season rolls on, and guess what, I finally got it. I thought I’d blown it with the random ‘chicken wings’ comment, but once we got down to the sing-off, it was yours truly who had to cast the deciding vote. OK - I took it to deadlock, but at least Rylan was already safe, so Gary wasn’t going to get all up in my bidness. Yeah, that’s not working either, is it?

Tulisa Contostavlos

God I’m bored.
Everyone reckons I’m a dead cert to win this year too. But what’s the biggie? Cheryl won twice in a row, and where is she now? Gateshead? Anyway, the fact that Ella’s head and shoulders above everyone else has taken all the suspense out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the other two, but they’re just a bit… Well, put it this way, they made quite the double denim duo during the opening song. I didn’t know whether they were supposed to be doing Gotye or a reprise of the Prisoner Cell Block H musical. 

To be honest, I was glad for the chance to take a break this week and shoot a video. Even better, I won’t have to film a public apology for this one. But I do wish they’d stop coming to me whenever someone mentions the word ‘urban’. I’m trying to get away from all that shit, but every time someone shows up in a baseball cap, they’re all over me. Still, I felt it was my responsibility to warn MK1 not to let Louis take the urban out of them. Then again, his acts would be better off not letting him put anything in them either.

Dermot O’Leary

Bollocks. There’s no going back now. T4’s just been axed. So I guess I’m stuck in these badly fitted suits doing my Usain Bolt poses for viewers who don’t like anything more challenging than Wild At Heart on a Sunday evening. Here’s the thing diary, I know this isn’t university challenge, but we seem to be getting stupider with every passing week. Do I really need to explain all the things that the voice-over guy has just said thirty seconds earlier? 

And get this – I got notes two minutes before we went live, saying I had to introduce Rebecca Ferguson as a “member of the X-Factor family.” I guess alumni is too fancy a word for ITV.
I guess it could be worse. I mean Miquita’s hosting shitty video countdowns, and Ben Shephard got caught out trying to flog Nestlé cereals on Channel 5. Losers.

I wasn’t going to write an entry today. I figured I could just slash my wrists and smear the wounds all over the pages. Seriously, I’m never going to work in this town again after tonight’s mess. The group sing-off was just as bad as always, like a ram-raid in Primark. But Jesus, I get two big music stars to work with, and this is what they choose to perform in.

Taylor Swift’s a bonnie lass. And she’s gone supernova, despite having a face like one of those hairless Sphinx cats. The producers played me her new song last week, and I got loads of great ideas. I mean, it just sounds like Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Avril Lavigne and Glee chucked in together. So I figured we could mash up all those looks – face glitter, pink extensions and squirty-cream tits. But no – she turns up in high-waisted black shorts, and a sparkly purple sweater that a trainee librarian might wear in her eHarmony profile picture to show she knows how to let her hair down.

Rebecca Ferguson was no better. She’s always had a great sense of style – that’s why everyone loved her on the show. But here she is in a cheap red weave and a golden catsuit so tight she had trouble walking. I know these divas look for any excuse to have a muscled man helping them along, but she performed like she was trying out Forrest Gump’s leg braces. 

Gary Barlow

That’s it. I’m on the blower to Cowell first thing tomorrow morning and telling him he can poke this show up his arse. First, I have to sit there looking gracious as Rylan talks about me and him dishing it up and giving it back, as if we’re in that Two Girls, One Cup video. Then the producers took my comments completely out of context for the recap. Yes, I said that “the competition is so hot this year,” but if they’d kept the fucking cameras rolling they’d have heard me say “because a cat got caught in the air-conditioning unit.” Seriously, the technicians are fishing a mangled carcass out of the fan-blades right now.

Christopher’s getting a lot of stick right now, but as I said on the show “He’s the people’s vote.” I reckon that’s what David Cameron tells himself when he can’t sleep. Kye did Team Barlow proud this week – as I told him last night, he translated the song perfectly. It’s almost as if everyone’s forgotten that Love The Way You Lie was originally written in Flemish. Of course, you know why I’m ranting. Another week, another casualty. My category’s only got two acts left now. Poor old Melanie did all she could and belted out Stay With Me. I tell you, if that woman sings in the shower, she must imagine she’s being stabbed by some bloke in his mother’s dress. But you know what, diary, I’m going to try and stay positive. She spent the last few weeks moaning that she was missing her kids. At least she got her wish.