Monday, 25 November 2013

Hannah, Stop Crying Your Heart Out

A decade. That’s ten years of key changes, wind machines and borderline racist comparisons. We’ve had Frankie Cocozza’s highs, the lows of Katie Waissel’s Nan, and a whole bunch of middling performances. But tonight is when we draw a line in the sand and mark the X-Factor’s tenth birthday. Apparently, we’ll be revisiting some of the show’s greatest moments, and trying to forget the fact that the nation once crowned Leon Jackson the winner.

In last week’s show, the contestants seemed to take part in an episode of The Apprentice, as they were woken up early and shipped out in a procession of blacked out people movers. Onto tonight, and the judges are obviously excited about the festivities. Louis claims “I know a winner when I see it. And I’ve got two.” Can someone please explain how a competition works? Gary’s also feeling confident: “It’s the tenth birthday of X-Factor and I’ve got one of the best acts there’s ever been on here.” I think he means the one where he pretends to be an affable everyman, to disguise the fact that he’s halfway up David Cameron’s guts. And finally, here’s Sharon to point out “No-one gets a party started like Mrs O.” So watch for a premature dusting of snow on the judges’ table.

Here to get the show up and running is Dermot, wearing a heavy frown that makes his brow look like an overdressed pelmet. Speaking of overdressed, here’s Sharon disguised as a Costco wedding cake, and Nicole looking like she narrowly escaped from a battle with the shredder that Lewis used on his tax returns. As for the other two; Gary seems bored to be here, and Louis is grinning because someone in the audience is holding a lovely balloon.

There’s another ninety minutes to fill, and only six acts competing, so let’s remind ourselves that Olly Murs is still a thing. Nothing says ‘celebrating ten years of X-Factor success’ like giving the special guest slot to a runner-up. Despite my sniping, the numbers are impressive: Seven worldwide number ones, 10 million records sold, and a painful appearance on 90210. Since he was first discovered four years ago, there’ve been frequent comparisons to Robbie Williams’ smug onstage persona; which is a shame because, when his voice is good (admittedly, something of a rarity) it’s more reminiscent of Will Young. This is what the original Pop Idol might sound like if he didn’t insist that all his records be about as much fun as an Open University lecture on methane barriers. Olly is clearly taking a leaf out of Will’s book and treating his song with all the seriousness that someone who once said ‘yes’ to a guest rap from Flo Rida could muster. There’s no denying he’s a nice-looking lad, although in certain shots it’s almost like looking at Gary Barlow, if he’d still discovered tweed and stubble, but never lost the Do What You Like puppy fat.

Let’s turn our attentions now to the most meagre line-up of talent since Joanie Loves Chachi was on the air. Kicking things off tonight, is ‘Scotland’s Finest’. I thought that was the deep-fried contents of a festive selection box, but apparently, Louis means young Nicholas. The wee lad is talking to the camera about performing the Scottish anthem at a football match, and it genuinely sounds like he’s speaking English for the first time. He’s particularly excited that 10,000 people in the crowd joined in with him, but there’s only one way to drown out an overbearing PA system. He’s picked The Climb by Joe McElderry (actually, Miley Cyrus but we won’t quibble). He’s concerned that he’s got big boots to fill – to be specific; Chelsea with a bit of a heel. To get him motivated, Louis has arranged a surprise visit from Joe himself, who pops in to ask “Do you mind singing it for me?” “Yes,” Nicholas replies, unaware of how the concept of minding something works.

Standing on a glowing drum in the centre of the stage, I can’t help but think of how weird it always seemed, whenever you saw a full body shot of one of the Muppets. The backing vocals are louder than he is, and he’s doing that boyband thing where he pats his heart every time he sings “I”. He could also give Clare Danes a run for her money in the ‘perpetual cry face’ stakes. Sharon wishes him a Happy Birthday, since he and the show are both ten years old today. Gary tries to make it about the performance, but he delivers his critique like he’s reading out the weekend’s no-score draws. Meanwhile, Scherzinger yelps “Focus Nicole,” effectively speaking for the entire country. Of course, Louis is entirely positive, gushing “You’re one of the best vocal contestants I’ve ever worked with.” After the heady heights of 2 To Go, that’s quite the compliment. As Dermot gives Nicholas a birthday cake that’s all fondant icing and no cake, the studio mics suddenly drop out, so Cowell doesn’t have to licence the rights to Happy Birthday.

Hannah ‘Banana’ is up next, and grinning through the indignities of that meaningless nickname. She’s too busy struggling to pronounce ‘adrenaline’ and meeting Alexandra Burke in what’s either a swanky hotel suite, or the QVC set where Alexandra flogs her watches. As Hannah gives a growly rendition of Hallelujah, Alexandra squeezes out a tear because OK Dot Com or something. She advises Hannah to remember that the song “means something different to everyone who sings it.” I can’t disagree with that, since I doubt she’s ever been inside Leonard Cohen’s head. In the end, Hannah’s version is pleasant enough but it’s all just a bit lifeless and focused on her lower register. Even the key change can’t save things; it’s like someone just turned up the volume on the karaoke machine. Sharon says she’s really going places after this show, which I’m taking to mean that Greggs offer a relocation package. Nicole is visibly moved, commenting “You just set me free and let me go.” I guess the Syco team write a watertight contract.

Helping fill out tonight’s ninety minutes, we get a brisk recap of the judges’ best moments, redeemed only by Lenny Henrygate and Sharon walking into a door. But that’s enough of that, what about the contestants? Here’s Pigpen off Peanuts, in a cloud of patchouli oil and second-hand paisley. I know the judges keep commending Luke for his originality and edge, but when I look at him, all I see is the aroma of Beef Monster Munch in human form.

This week, Luke met Shayne Ward which involved a painfully awkward chat as everyone avoided mentioning his acrimonious split with the label. Luke tells Shayne he’s singing What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. “Wow, I was not expecting that,” burbles Shayne with visible disappointment. Did he think No U Hang Up was in with a shot? Luke’s performance is all growling and acoustic guitar, showing that even the best pop songs can be ruined with a misplaced sense of ‘authenticity’. Gary says that he wants to hear album tracks, because nothing turns the audience on like pretentious self-indulgence; Nicole barely recognised the song, which I suppose she meant as a compliment, and Louis thinks Luke stands out from the crowd. I think that’s entirely the crowd’s choice.

Backstage, and we’re told that “No party is complete without Caroline Flack.” Maybe she’s Sharon’s dealer. Anyway, she’s stuck in the holding area with a bunch of former contestants. Shayne Ward starts explaining “Louis always told me to make love to…” but the microphone is whipped away just in time.

Back onstage, and it’s “Time to make some noise for Rough Copy.” They head off to plug Winter Wonderland for a couple of minutes, then it’s back to the production offices for some intensive coaching from Little Mix. “The advice we got was just amazing,” lies one of the lads, as Jesy offers: “Obviously you’re a boy group doing a girl group song. So put your spin on it.” They’re singing Don’t Let Go, and it’s unbelievably bad, but the judges are happily dancing in their seats as if they’re enjoying it. I think someone needs to check they’re not just listening to their iPods when the acts are on. The boys have finally done away with the skirts, and are stomping around in overalls in an attempt to butch up their image. Nicole channels Sister Oda Mae Brown in her feedback, and Louis says “Potentially there’s a huge gap in the market for you boys” but I don’t think he understands what potentially means.

Tamera’s still moping about last week, and has decided to perform James Arthur’s winner’s song Impossible (actually by Shontelle). Unfortunately, she has to settle for a coaching session from Olly Murs since James has been signed off with ‘extreme exhaustion.’ It’s a shame nobody appreciates what hard work it is being an insufferable skunt 24/7. When she’s not creeping comedically down the stairs, Tamera’s performance is notable only for the fact that she keeps forgetting her lyrics. Again. She looks like she’s shitting a cactus, and the audience isn’t faring much better. Nicole does her best to look like she’s enjoying it, but it’s about as convincing as that sassy girl talk she does when she’s trying to camouflage bad news. Louis flips out about the lyrics and Gary calls it an excruciating car crash. Dermot asks if maybe she was just trying too hard, but I think we all know that wasn’t the problem.

Sharon misses her cue to introduce Sam Bailey – she was too busy doing something on the table top. Everyone’s concerned about how old Sam is, but not Sharon – she distrusts “all these little girls running around with the big lips and the all the hair.” Not a lot of mirrors Chez Osbourne then. Tonight, Sam gets the Leona slot, as well as a coaching session from Hackney’s finest. Sam’s performance is predictably strong, but without the little licks and flourishes of Leona’s extraordinary voice, it all seems a bit Strictly house band. And given the concerns about karaoke cover versions, they might have at least selected a different arrangement. The wind machine also has the entirely wrong effect, making it look as if she’d just stuck her head out of a sunroof. When Louis makes a snide remark about Tamera, Sam gives it some ‘Den Mother’ and shoots him down. Sharon implores us to ignore the stories that Sam’s already won, and keep voting.

On to the results show now, and we’re promised two huge X Factor success stories, as well as one giant The Voice failure. That’s right, tonight we’ll be seeing one of the world’s most respected and successful R&B stars, singing live with Mary J Blige.

Gary’s been raiding Sid James’ wardrobe, and Sharon looks like something Tim Burton would animate. But there’s no time for fashion critiques – look, it’s tired old JLS performing the one song that anyone can remember with the final six. It’s an upsetting sea of pleather, which seems like a strangely appropriate textile for this synthetic facsimile of R&B. This is also a chance to remind ourselves of the piss-poor vocals that can catapult runners-up to mid-ranking celebrity riches. Oritsé deserves a special mention for squeezing himself into a pair of jeans that Harry Houdini would struggle to get back out of. The JLS boys are backing their old mentor, and marvelling that he’s still here after all these years. It’s going to take more than a squirt of Febreze to get him out of that chair.

And now, the collaboration that precisely no-one wanted, as Mary J Blige and Jessie J team up for one of those sing-offs that The Voice did so badly. There’s a palpable “Ugggghhhh” from the audience as they realise that she’s doing one off her new festive album; they wanted epic urban grit, not a Johnny Mathis Christmas carol. As the two singers clamber into Cinderella’s Coach (which appears to have been stripped for parts) they look about to touch hands then think better of it. There’s a moment where the beat kicks in, but it’s too little, far too late. Mary admits that Jessie was only picked to appear on the UK version of the album, like when the producers of Shrek redubbed characters with Jonathan Ross and Kate Thornton. I’m glad she didn’t push the boat out too much – we don’t spunk nearly as much money on Christmas albums as our American counterparts.

Another guest slot now, so let’s welcome back a genuine phenomenon. I’m not ashamed to use that word, since the success of One Direction is kind of inexplicable. After 35 million sales, and number ones in 64 countries, the boys are onto their third album. That means songwriter credits, and an attempt to stretch their creative wings, as the tunes disappear round the U-bend. They take it in turns to walk to the front and do a couple of lines. No, not like that. As part of their new mature look, they’re all sporting various amounts of bumfluff. Less Movember, more an attempt to get served in The Slug and Lettuce.

The results are in, and it’s a sing-off between Hannah and Rough Copy. She does a storming version of I’d Rather Go Blind, then Rough Copy make me think I’d rather go deaf. The only highpoint of their mangled rendition of Stop Crying Your Heart Out, comes when the camera cuts away to Hannah’s perpetually tear-stained face. She’s cried so much on this show that she now has a couple of oxbow lakes where her cheekbones should be. Louis is waving along, with a grin on his face, like he’s attending a Whist Drive at the old folks home. In the end, the judges all vote to send Hannah home (apart from Nicole, understandably), with Louis getting one final dig in at Tamera’s expense. Nice touch.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Appetite for Distraction - Joey is Already King of the Jungle

Plump the cushions, tear the polythene off a pack of chicken zingy sliders and settle down for another series of “I’ll eat crocodile cock for a pantomime gig in Bradford”.

Every year Ant and Dec gamely try to pretend that they’ve assembled a spectacular array of grade A stars, when we all know that this is basically Celebrity Rehab with rope bridges. “What a line-up we’ve got for you,” the one on the right teases. What a line-up indeed. A snooker player, the one that did the Tom Jones dance for eight years on Fresh Prince, and someone who fell out with Katie Price. Admittedly, that’s not narrowing it down too much. But don’t worry, we’ll get to the other cast-members eventually. The fact is, this show is all about one man – Joey Essex. Apparently he does have a proper surname, but since he has to check the label in his boxers to remind himself what it is, the rest of us are off the hook too.

Thicker than a bucket of hippo cum, Joey is all set to be the star of this series. He’s already favourite to win and he’s only gone through one pair of shorts. With those ridiculous Daffy Duck teeth that are bright enough to attract moths, he’s the gift that keeps on giving.  When he’s not talking about the situations where he’d consider “confrontating,” he’s fretting about the dangers of going three weeks without hair product and straighteners. “My ‘air gets well curly” he intones gravely. As the contestants begin their contrived and needlessly complicated journey to the jungle, they’re bundled into a helicopter: “I’m a bit baffled at the moment, but I’m guessing we’re going somewhere,” he theorises, clearly making a play for the spot left open by Poirot’s recent demise.

Joey’s joined for the first leg of the journey by Steve Davis, who’s still making hay long after the sun set, with that hilarious “Interesting” gag. He’s wearing his best Burton casuals, and looks a lot like Gollum on a caravanning holiday. Lucy Pargeter is a pile of facial filler with a fringe – apparently she’s on Emmerdale and abhors the word ‘celebrity’. Thankfully, I don’t imagine it’s something she hears too often, so we can all breathe easy. The final member of this fledgling foursome is Alfonso Ribeiro, who spent eight years trying to make Will Smith look like a towering titan of heterosexuality, and then wondered what happened to his career. He seems perfectly likeable, if a little over-sincere. Give him three days in sleeping bag with Joey, and I’m sure that agreeable mask will slip.

Time to inject a little drama into proceedings, since that honking klaxon from the Inception soundtrack can only add so much to the atmosphere. The four contestants are split into two pairs and taken off in helicopters. From there, they’ll be parachuting to an island which they’ll then have to race across, in order to gather up the rest of their respective teams. Unsurprisingly, they’re all bricking it about freefalling over the Gold Coast. I suppose we’re supposed to be feeling sorry for them, but all of my sympathy is reserved for the professional skydiver who has to plummet to earth pressed into Joey’s rectum. Steve goes first and handles it well, but as he paces the beach below, he wonders whether Joey’s got what it takes. “I don’t think he’ll bottle it…” he concludes, “he’d be the laughing stock of Essex.” I’m sorry, what is he now - Basildon’s poet laureate?

As the two pairs make their way across the island, carefully avoiding the production runners who keep ambling into shot, we’re treated to loads of great wildlife stock footage. Spiders, lizards, snakes – it’s like one of those old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, but with a set of Geordie cruet providing a running commentary.

The first pair of celebrities to get mopped up by the tsunami of shite sweeping its way across the island, comprises Kian from Westlife and Rebecca Adlington. He seems likeable enough, even though the promise of “It’s a chance for people to get to know me as a person” seems needlessly generous, and Rebecca is appealingly self-deprecating. Offering a refreshing counterpoint to all that likeability are Amy Willerton, who foolishly thought that Katie Price would take any interest in her career when she won that ridiculous modeling show, and Matthew Wright. If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to explain who Matthew is, or why the entire country is already pounding their handsets to dust, voting for him to face every single Bushtucker Trial. It is worth pointing out, however, how much he looks like a confused photofit that might be produced if Jeremy Kyle and Frank Skinner robbed a jewellers.

There’s just enough room for two more ‘celebrities’ – so give it up for David Emanuel and Laila Morse. David is the celebrated ‘Royal Couturier,’ who accidentally disses the Queen of Hearts by saying “I’ve dressed some of the most beautiful women in the world, and Princess Diana.” Laila, on the other hand, is more salt of the Earth. Best known as Big Mo, she says “I don’t mind eating testicles, penises…” and suddenly Iceland has found its new celebrity spokesperson.

After an excruciating round of puns to accompany the voting numbers, we see the contestants set off in yet another helicopter to make their way to the camps. David declares that insects are his worst nightmare, Lucy worries about something disappearing up her nunny (No Joey, she doesn’t mean you), and Steve thinks the Gold Coast looks just like Southend. Maybe if viewed from space.
Someone comments that it’s like the opening of Jurassic Park, but Laila’s quick to correct them with ‘Nah, it’s King Kong.’ And you just know she’s fondly remembering the Willis O’Brien version. By the time they land in the jungle, Joey’s expressing confusion yet again, which is hardly surprising, since he’d have an aneurysm trying to operate a tin opener. As the contestants make their way into a clearing, Steve observes: “There’s Ant and Dec and you know what that means - there’s gonna be something horrible at the end of it.” Looks like someone’s not a fan of their neo-Music Hall double act.

The contestants are all strapped onto a giant roulette wheel, and Matthew is crying already, pretty much guaranteeing he’ll be facing every single challenge for the next fortnight. Laila and David get 10,000 cockroaches poured on them. It’s an absolutely revolting sight – those poor cockroaches deserve better. After that, it’s Matthew’s turn. As his box is filled with pythons, the animal handler attempts to coach him through it, chanting “They’ve no interest in you whatsoever.” To be honest, the snakes aren’t alone in their indifference. Rebecca and Kian get the rats, and Kian does the job with a minimum of fuss. They both seem so well grounded and reasonable, it’s hard to understand why they even agreed to appear on the show. With the yellow team romping ahead, Lucy does the noble thing and lies perfectly still, arguing that the red team deserve the chance to win a meal. Unfortunately, that means she has to lie in a box full of lizards, while Joey Essex solves a geometric puzzle. This could take a while. “They’re trying to eat my trousers,” he yelps, like a homeless man on hallucinogens.

The yellow team have won the task, so they get the nicer of the two camps. “It’s almost like a real Disneyworld,” comments David nonsensically. Poor old red team are stuck in a more desolate environment and are struggling to light a fire. Joey attempts to lead them all in prayer, but it sounds more like a reverse charges call to Nanny Pat. By the time Rebecca offers to set fire to her tampon, ITV is already well on its way to another quality broadcaster award. Still, at least we were spared the indignities of Joey asking “What is that?” Then again, he’s too distracted by the freak hailstorm that batters the camp overnight. “That’s literally the biggest storm I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” he concludes, but he’s hardly Alan Whicker, is he?  Remember back at the beginning, when he expressed concern about his hair – well, he already looks like Monica in the Bahamas, so this is going to be hilarious.

After a delicious dinner of crocodile meat (called a ‘filet’ by Alfonso because, you know, America), the teams are ready to face the next Bushtucker Trial. Unsurprisingly, it’s Matthew and Joey who’ll be eating the gonads. Tune in tomorrow for so much more of the same. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Can't Get No Satisfaction? You're Not Alone - X-Factor Week 6

Ok, I’ve been away for two weeks, during which time we’ve said goodbye to a couple more acts. So I’m not exactly sure why tonight’s edition of the x-factor is still spreading itself out over 90 minutes of my TV schedule, like Lisa Riley on a boudoir photo shoot.

Nonetheless, seven acts still remain and the pressure’s on to win that coveted top spot. Just imagine - this time next year, it could be Tamera, Nicholas or Sam Bailey who gets to live the dream of picking fights with One Direction, apologising for offensive tweets, or complaining that they’ve been omitted from a montage. Magical times.

Last week saw the departure of Abi, whose frail emotional state made her performances about as enjoyable as visiting a self-harm therapy group. To be honest, Abi was never going to stand out on a show that favours melodramatic bombast over any kind of musical nuance. So, in a way, we should be thankful that the rest of the acts are more than willing to flirt with laryngitis in pursuit of those all important phone votes.

Tonight’s show opens with Dermot attempting a wry dance routine to that bizarre Norwegian song ‘What Does The Fox Say’, which is still 50% more listenable than anything on James Arthur’s debut album. Mrs O is continuing her transformation into an understudy for the soon-to-be-retired Dame Edna, and Nicole is wearing one of Eamonn Holmes’ old bow-ties in lieu of a top. As the judges take their seat, poor old Dermot accidentally wanders into some harsh lighting, which gives his hair the momentary appearance of those aerosol toupees that Ben Affleck swears by.

Tonight’s theme is the Great British Songbook, so Hannah has picked The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, because it connects with how she felt about being in the bottom two. I can certainly see how the lyric “Better come back later next week ‘cause you see I’m on a losing streak,” might resonate. The song plays to her strengths as a belter, but it’s a little distracting watching her shout it atop a giant rotating hatbox. Surrounded by dancers who look like DJ Towa Tei, pretending to play trumpets, she’s unsurprisingly gone for the Aretha Franklin arrangement. It suits her voice, and the adlibs work better than they have any right to. This might be too early to call, but her performance should be fun enough to see her safely through to next week. Louis compares her to Tina Turner, because of no reason at all, and Nicole promises to spend all her money voting. Something smells a little dodgy there, and its not just Hannah’s pleather leggings.

Louis is the only judge left with all his acts. Marbles; not so much. He’s taken the boys out ice-skating, and is modelling a rather ridiculous bobble hat. But his noxious knitwear is still less unpleasant than Luke’s hair, which is on the verge of becoming sentient. For tonight’s performance, he’s picked one of Elton John’s most annoyingly cloying and inane songs. But credit to him for managing to make it even worse. As he croaks and growls his way through Your Song, the producers run some scratched film of a girl cavorting in a garden – like one of the murder tapes from Sinister. Gary tells the grubby crooner “You’re not a technical singer,” but to be fair, he could have also used the words ‘tuneful,’ ‘capable’ or ‘decent.’ Nicole commends him for his originality, saying “You didn’t do Elton’s version, you did your version,” (*cough* Ellie Goulding *cough*). Apparently, she seems to think that he put his own unique stamp on it, which is a nice way of saying ‘grubby handprint.’ Dermot attempts to wrap things up, pointing out that “Your inspiration comes from many way,” causing me to wonder whether he’s been tapping Nicole’s minibar. “Let’s give it up for Luke,” he shouts, as I wish that he’d rearrange the words in that sentence.

As if we haven’t had enough of Sam Bailey’s ‘aww shucks’ humility, Sharon feels the need to tell us that ScrewBo’s feet are on the ground. Apparently she’s missing her regular routine, so travels back home for ‘Jam Tart Wednesday’ with her kids. Next week, to help her feel more settled, she’ll get Sharon to slop out and check Nicole’s knickers for contraband. She’s picked Something, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s got Shirley Bassey on her Zune, rather than the George Harrison version. She’s looking a lot like Adele, albeit with Madonna’s teeth, but they’ve stuck her on some inexplicable stairway to nowhere, that neither reaches the ground, nor goes up to anyway.  Still, it was nice of Peaches Geldof to pop down and play the cello for her. Gary’s convinced that Sam can still sell records, even though she’s over 30, citing Cher as an example. Because 35 is the same as 68. Louis leafs through his cliché notebook and comes up with “World class vocalist,” before Sam lies that she’d include the song on her album, then almost trips over the dining chair that one of the cellists left in the middle of the stage.

At this point, I think we should give a shout-out to the production crew for squeezing a half-decent joke into tonight’s show. As Dermot prepares to introduce Rough Copy we see a glimpse of a terrible couple of Will and Kate impersonators in the audience. See what they did there? During the week, Gary gave a performance and invited the lads to join him onstage, calling them ‘My new best friends’. “Let’s see how that one plays out,” laughs Robbie Williams bitterly. They’re doing Viva La Vida by Coldplay, and appear to be gradually transitioning their skirts into full-length aprons. This week’s bizarre fashion decision seems to be wrapping your legs in tinfoil, like a pair of French cut lamb cutlets. In fact, their chaotic and nonsensical visual presence is the perfect metaphor for their equally discordant vocals. I never thought the words “I wish Chris Martin was doing this instead” would cross my lips, but here we are. Nicole says they never fail, but her microphone cuts out before she says “to lose the melody,” then Louis tells them that they “brought the swagger.” Everyone loses their shit, like they’ve just taught Thora Hird to say “twatflaps.” In conclusion, Sterling comments that Rough Copy are always up for a challenge, when their outfits suggest that dares are equally welcome.

Spare a thought for poor young Sam. He’s been rewatching the old shows and has decided that he’s had more stick than anyone else, especially from Gary. “I don’t know what it is that he doesn’t like about me,” he moans, presumably because he needs something more specific than “You can’t sing.”  With perception and reality further apart than his eyes, he ignores the best advice of everyone on the crew and decides to play guitar during his performance of Faith. The arrogant little prick manages to fuck up his intro, so the first few lines are completely out of sync with his backing track. The rest of the performance is no better – when he’s not singing like an adenoidal preteen, he’s swinging his guitar and threatening to blind the screaming girls on the front row. Even his drummer looks distracted, as if she’s checking her eBay bids when she’s supposed to be playing along. In an attempt to be a little more conciliatory than last week, Gary offers up: “When I was nineteen, was I the best singer? Far from it. Was I the best songwriter? Far from it.” I guess we’re supposed to infer that he now considers himself to be both.  

Caroline Flack is still stuck backstage, trying desperately to dig deep and get under the skin of the contestants, with eight seconds dedicated to each interview.

Last week Tamera had a breakthrough, as Sharon finally learned to pronounce her name. She had originally picked Bohemian Rhapsody, but has done some research and is worried that it’s got a dark message. Presumably, the opening line “Mama, just killed a man” was her first clue. Instead, she’s decided to have a go at Diamonds are Forever. Tamera is clearly hot on research this week, so she digs out a school exercise book and pencil topper, and sets about uncovering the hidden lyrical complexities of a song about the fact that diamonds last for ages. It’s not exactly REM. As for the performance itself, the big note is good, but the key change is terrible and throws her off, so she forgets her lyrics. Even so, she manages to get things back on track for a shouty finish that would do Shirley proud. Gary’s convinced that Tamera’s got something special inside her, “I know it’s in there, but I haven’t seen it yet.” Can we give her an ultrasound?

Closing tonight’s show is Scotland’s finest – Nicholas McDonald. He may be an adorable little lesbian ventriloquist’s dummy, but he’s getting shitloads of fanmail. To be honest, I call bullshit, since I’m not convinced that anyone under 18 even knows how to use a stamp anymore. Louis says “You have to make it your own” for the fifth time tonight. Although my eyes rolled when I heard he was doing Someone Like You, I have to give him credit for doing a half decent job. By changing the key to suit his rapidly improving voice, he’s actually eliminated a lot of the harsh shrillness of the original. The performance may be duller than a Cash In The Attic marathon, but the vocal is really quite good, even if it misses the sense of heartbreak of the original. Gary says “We’ve heard it on the radio for two years,” but that’s because Magic FM have played nothing else, whereas Nicole describes him as a soothing and calming, like a pack of Dioralyte.

Tonight, proceeds from the phone votes and music downloads will be donated to the Philippines typhoon relief. That’s very noble, but surely a true humanitarian effort would mean announcing Sam Bailey as the winner now, and letting us watch six weeks of test cards instead. Tomorrow’s special guest is Miley Cyrus, so lock up your hardware and break out the Zovirax.