Monday, September 10, 2012

No stars tonight

X Factor auditions continued in shows four and five this weekend with prime time viewing slots on Saturday and Sunday. Viewing figures only just holding up, though, and although it's not really obvious, the new production team do seem to have sanitised the whole thing and the show has lost more than a little sparkle. Or, one could say it's lost that vital X factor!

I can't figure out what's missing, or what there's too much of but it is so predictable! To the point where I needed a cigarette about two thirds through and wandered outside during an ad break, knowing that what would follow would be a bundle of no-hopes thrown in for amusement.

It is actually damn difficult writing about this show this year - well, at the moment, at any rate. I do normally have huge problems trying to make any sensible review of the disastrous bootcamps with their ridiculously forced groups and 30 second performances viewed usually from a distance in a gloomy hall. Now we have applicants thrown in front of a massive audience with all the lights and professional tv stuff going on around them but still just doing their bit more or less as you might expect in the little rooms they used to use in the old days.

The judges have been strange too. Gary may well be a brilliant songwriter and he can certainly sing well but, however much he may care for those he mentors, however much he may be a decent guy, his panel presence is as flat, pretty monotone and decidedly unentertaining. If he's ever cracked a joke then I've missed it. On the other hand he doesn't speak with the authority of anything more than that of a successful songwriter and band member. That may sound good enough but we're dealing here with selecting acts that will be appearing on live shows from October to Christmas and then, for some at least, selling records and representing UK music on the radio, in the news and at concerts. I don't need to like the acts but I do want to respect the noise they make and feel that the right people have been bundled into a contract with Syco.

If you look at who's really making the running at the moment then it's not Matt Cardle but One Direction who came 3rd. It's not Joe McElderry but Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon and Jedward. although Alexandra Burke has had some well-written hits, it's JLS who have made the greatest impact. No-one survives from 2007 when someone called Leon Jackson won and it is only back in 2006, with Leona Lewis, that a winner has truly stayed the course but then, if you look at her competition, she would have won if she'd sung Cliff Richard songs all the way through.

Little Mix are, I believe, number 4 in the UK Top 40 at the time of writing, doing OK but Amelia Lily, with her first release out today is likely to do better long-term from the last series' contenders.

Louis is getting very predictable and, quite frankly, has contributed nothing of value so far. Gone are the days when he might fight for the inclusion of someone, recognising from his long experience and genuinely sound understanding of how the market works, what could work or be made to work. Like them or hate them, Jedward would not exist without his championing them on this programme. Admittedly he has also brought Wagner, many large and often Irish ladies on to our screens rather more often than many would have wanted and The MacDonald Brothers coming 4th one year is more an indication of what he can do than was probably realised at the time.Tulisa is an attractive and talented girl, with a determined attitude but I get the impression that her efforts are hugely supported by the team behind her. She does speak her mind more than some but seldom is the only one to reject or argue for an applicant and does tend to be more impressed with six-packs than vocal muscles but maybe that's just a bit of sparkle for the show.

Nicole was with Simon Cowell in the first run of X Factor USA last year and, with assistance from Enrique Iglesias, started well and chose and mentored good acts, supporting the less than photogenic Josh Kracjik through to a well-deserved second place. She did have some struggles in the live shows, though, decisions being something that she didn't appear to be used to making but at least she has had some experience and worked with Simon so has some clue now as to what we want to see and hear.

Of the guest judges we've seen so far, Geri Halliwell has been by far the best. Scary Spice was thankfully blunt but not someone you'd want to watch for long. Geri managed to bring the show to life and argued with Gary almost from the start which no-one else seems to have done. She would be a great addition and hope we see more of this. She may not be the most popular woman on the planet but she is intelligent and also knows how to have fun. In almost complete contrast we saw Leona Lewis in the chair next to Gary at the weekend too. However nice she may be, and however good her voice, her personality doesn't exactly come across at all and where Geri can just appear in some short dress that she just grabbed out of a wardrobe or could even have slipped into a few minutes before the cameras rolled, Leona seems almost firghtened to move quickly in case either the dress suffers or her heavy make-up refuses to go with her. In fact, now I think about it, I don't recall Leona ever moving a great deal.

Anyway, a variety of judges saw their way through umpteen sessions of mostly pretty bland auditions from acts that will not be much remembered, despite the four 'yesses' and cries of 'Amazing!' at regular intervals. The stand-outs were Eddie Wilkinson who wants to be called Eddie Spring. he's got the Frankie Cocozza attitude but probably more talent and, I hope, more control over his drug and booze intake. In fact, I got the impression this fellow was smart and knew just how far to take things, which was quite a long way and further than Uncle Gary wanted.

There were a pile of Essex girls with Essex accents and Essex tans and Essex shoes and a couple, Amy and Sharon may well make it past bootcamp but I'm not sure whether they'll get much further than that.

A band called GMD3 were way out of tune when singing individually but together sounded good. With a bit of work they could make it. We then had a stream of groups but only MK1 really caught my attention in the Saturday show. They started as three but their older member just looked embarrassing as he pranced oddly around and didn't exactly add anything to the act at all. I am pretty sure this was a staged thing as they were persuaded to think about being a two-some and they huddle together and agree to share the profits with the third guy regardless. No big deal, literally, as they ain't goin' nowhere far.

Having said that, unless they show us some more groups pretty soon they may well make the live shows!

Up to Liverpool next where Geri appears. We get another three groups, one useless, one very average and a third, Times Red, interesting but mainly to the girls.

Down to Manchester and things are pretty dire. Some guy called Cian has a decent voice but big ears. a pile of Miss Averages and I would include Melanie McCabe, rejected last year at judges' houses, in that. She was off key but anyone attempting Bridge Over Troubled Water deserves some respect, I suppose. I got the feeling that the audience's OTT reaction must have been due to her being the first decent act for the evening.

I really got very bored with the rest apart from a couple of guys worth a mention: some Chinese twerp called Jason who was in love with Tulisa, or Tulisha as he insisted on calling her, and probably jamming the ITV switchboards with calls about how the judges shouldn't have laughed at him so much. Lucky he wasn't black.  He did actually surprise us all with a decent enough voice. No star by any stretch of the imagination - more a Heejun Han here today, gone tomorrow, sort of thing and good for a few more viewers - but not the disaster I certainly expected. the other was an extremely nervous Christopher Maloney who could make the Over 25s if it's a bad year with a great voice but zero star quality. Still, Steve Brookstein won the very first show.

As I really can't think of anything else to say, here's who appears to have made it through to bootcamp so far (ignoring those we haven't seen yet so as not spoil anyone's viewing):


District Line
Mia and The Moon
On The Edge
Times Red


Collagen Westwood
Sharon Rose
Jade Collins
Lauren Smith
Deirdre Lawlor
Amy Mottram
Georgia Garrett
Charlotte Reavey
Sharon Rose

Tasha Pyne
Jessica Beckett
Jade Richards
Ella Henderson
Melanie McCabe
Megan O’Neill
Lucy Spraggan
Madeleine Wilson
Salena Mastroianni
Leanne Dlamini
Jade Ellis


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