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This week’s X Factor theme was Halloween. I can’t quite remember when Halloween became a ‘thing’ on X Factor, as it seems a pretty difficult, pointless and confusing theme to master on the paved road to stardom, but there you go. Scream as Rylan does something unnerving! Shiver as Tulisa’s ‘game talk’ reaches irritatingly new lows! Recoil as Christopher Maloney wears the unshiftable grin of a seaside puppet!

Drunk Judge Of The Week: Nicole Scherzingher

My favourite thing about X Factor last year was Kelly Rowland. She was brilliant because she had a very poor grasp of what being an X Factor judge actually entailed, so watching her come up with catchphrases, jive-talking to her acts and flicking her weave in Tulisa’s face was brilliant entertainment. Though she’s gone, her bashful unprofessionalism lives on in Nicole ‘Ruiner of Rachel Crow’s Dreams*’ Scherzingher, who this week decided to cannonball eight buckets of wine before taking her seat.

To District 3, dressed as Clockwork Orange: ‘I know we’re being spooky but those eyes? I’m… I’m scared’

To James Arthur: ‘I love the way you just taste and feel… your songs’

To some other contestants: ‘Slrrnnhg… Hhmbz? Ghrsssnn VOTE RYLAN sluzzyr’

Amazing.

 

Unusual Throwback To A Script Lyric Of The Week: Tulisa, to Jahmene

After singing a very nice song**, Jahmene received glowing feedback from the judges (guess which one likened him to a young someone something). The weirdest praise was from Tulisa ‘Connoisseur Of The Urbane’ Contostavlos, saying ‘I have a nickname for you. You’re The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’. Reports that Jahmene will Break Even next week For The First Time, allowing him to enter The Hall Of Fame (ft Will.I.Am) are as of yet unconfirmed.

Least Endearing Nickname Of The Week: Ella Henderson, ‘Cupcake’

Carrying on from last year’s ‘Likkle Muffins’ – Tulisa’s term of endearment to her girlband Little Mix – comes this slightly horrible remark to Ella. The fact is, cupcakes are bad for you, sickly, a bit twee, popular with hipsters and stud the streets of London like intricately frosted prostitutes. WELL DONE TULISA. Also, if she doesn’t stop putting on that fucking horrible ‘up North’ accent when she says it I’m calling OFFCOM.

The P45 Award For Not Being Particularly Missed: Spraggo ‘Lucy’ Spraggan

Oh Spraggo. After being too poorly to perform, you’ve gone into the X Factor’s loftiest heights of notoriety – getting a free pass to next week. This has happened rarely (Diana Vickers was the only other one I think) but there’s something worrying about the X Factor hoofing everyone out to Mahiki for Rylan’s tragifest of a birthday then being concerned that the contestants have sore throats. What would Spraggo have sung anyway? Some rambling sentimental love-whinge that was interspersed with ‘Thriller’, maybe. It makes me angry just thinking about it.


So Humble and Normal Award: Jade

Just when you worry her great track-record and constant praise from the judges might go to her head, we have a helpful VT that informs us just how down to earth Jade actually is. Forget a clip explaining her song choice, or the judges weighing in on how she is doing as a singer, this week was all about Jade picking her daughter up from school and having Tulisa round for a cup of tea (ARE YOU KIDDING ME X FACTOR) because she’s so normal. Next week: Rylan visits his hometown and his family tell him they’re so proud of him for sticking to his roots (while he gets his roots did at a posh Essex salon).
NEXT WEEK: There is one less person, so naturally the programme has more adverts.

 

* If you haven’t seen this, watch this clip of Nicole’s stint on US Factor last year. It’s tragimazing because she basically ruins everything for one contestant by going to deadlock, with what follows carrying a bleak, emotionally fraught atmosphere you’d sooner expect from an explosion at an animal shelter.

** Something that has annoyed me for a while is the way singers of opposing gender to the original maker of a song swap the gender round so it sounds like they are conceivably singing it to a heterosexual lover. Jahmene did it on Killing Me Softly and all it did was make it really jarring and obvious they changed it round. Why bother? Do they think if he keeps ‘he’ ‘man’ and ‘him’ in a song people will think he’s gay? Because Jade, who if you believe the papers (and why wouldn’t you we check our sources etc etc), has no problem singing lyrics addressed to a man despite the fact she is attracted to women. She isn’t doing a disservice to her sexuality or anything ridiculous like that – she’s covering a song. RANT OVER.

 

This weeks X Factor theme was Club Classics. Possibly the most tenuous and useless theme for any contestant looking to forge a fruitful career after Christmas, but one of the most entertaining nonetheless. Marvel at the ‘urbane’ acts as they become more malleable than chewing gum! Chortle as Rylan does a mash-up so mashed-up it redefines ‘liquidation’! Cheer as Ella Henderson is hailed as ‘the new Adele’!

Fight For Your Life Award: Jahmene, ‘father was a bit of a bellend’

This week’s FFYL award goes to Jahmene, whose watery soft-jazz performance would surely have earned him criticism were it not for the worryingly convenient truths about his home life emerging in the press. This contestants juddering mouse-gasp of a vocal range might not hold up against Ella or Jade, but because we now know Jahmene’s dad battered his mum with a blowtorch *Benny Hill face * there’s a feeling that he HAS to win this competition not because of his talent, but to escape the clutches of his Dickensian family life.

‘You Remind Me Of A Young Bond Villain’ Of The Week: Louis Walsh

When people who aren’t very good dressers hire a stylist, the results can be downright sinister. As was the case with Louis ‘Evil Plan’ Walsh, whose turtleneck and suit combo made him look downright devious. Runner up: Nicole Shirtswinger, for her ‘is there a dagger concealed in my hair? I’ll never tell!’ ponytail.

Medical Malady Of The Week: Jade, ‘bad throat’

I had a nasty bout of tonsilitis during university. I’m quite sure it helped shape my degree into the ugly, tangled, vomiting mess that it ended up being. Worse than having to breathe through my eyelids and trying not to kiss people (harder than it sounds) was the lack of sympathy from people when I complained.

Thankfully Jade, AKA Familiar-Sande, has lots of sympathy thanks to an award-winning VT where an Actual Qualified Doctor shoved a camera down her throat to check her throat was swollen. “It’s definitely swollen,” he said confidently. Because her throat was fucked (maybe because she’s belting out power-ballids every fucking week?) she didn’t practice much, and communicated with Brian Friedman by writing on the new Samsung touch-pad iPad ripoff. I wonder if I could have done my dissertation on one of those.

Backhanded Insult Of The Week: Nicole, to Kye S(c)ones

The unfortunate distribution of consonants means Kye Sones has been cruelly denied a place in the diabetetics seventh circle of hell that is The Great British Bake-Off. Instead, the all-singing, all-pouting chimney sweep – the Topman to Matt Cardle’s Burton, perhaps – sang the song he did in his first audition atop a giant pile of metal. Deep. Nicole’s comment ‘that could have been Chris Martin singing up there’, while sincere, proved that the show can deal deadly blows from which contestants may never return. Reports that Sones dealt with the stinging remark by hiding up a chimney are as of yet unconfirmed.

The ‘That’s The Spirit’ Award for Lying Through Song: James Arthur

Buck-toothed James Arthur – who may or may not be referred to as Plan C – has an unusual stature. He has some good tattoos, but also some bad tattoos. He has Deirdre Barlow’s glasses, but plays the guitar. He also speaks with the clarity and eloquence of someone stripping bamboo leaves from a tree. So it was surprising, then, that he chose LMFAO’s ego-stuffed sonnet to wanking ones ego ‘Sexy And I Know It for his song, mainly because his backstory was that he lived under a bridge for a brief period as a homeless heroin addict. That’s the spirit, James, but if you sing ‘I’m in my speedo trying to tan my cheeks’ again I’m going to pretend to have a heart attack backstage so a paramedic can get me the fuck out of here.

Empathetic Judge Of The Week: Tulisa Constantlyfuckingmeoff

Tulisa’s remark that her favourite thing about James Arthur was the pain in his voice, forgetting, like everyone else, that most that pain comes from his stint as a heroin-riddled bridge-dweller and his health is probably in serious decline. Stop taking him to Mahiki! He cannot handle the nutrient-rich cocktails 😦

‘Tenuous Link To The Theme’ Award: Lucy Spraggan

Sporter-of-hats Lucy ‘Spraggo’ Spraggan decided to take a David Guetta song and sing her own verses over the top this week, earning praise for being clever, creative, amazing and oh fuck can we just get rid of her please. There are several problems with Spraggo, chiefly that she is on the X Factor but doesn’t want to do things the X Factor way and trolleys out her own ‘stories’ about people with the odd Northern phrase thrown in so people can mawk on about how fucking authentic she is. Hey record labels! Leave her alone, she’s doing her own thing, she’s keeping it real, she’s wearing leather fucking trousers, I mean really. Anyway she could have sang Titanium fine enough as it is without her twee-to-the-tits ballad about someone finding a coin at the laundrette being crowbarred in like an unwanted uncle at a wedding.

Word-Pedant Award For Incorrect Context: Judges, ‘storyteller’

All the judges agreed Lucy’s strength is her ‘stories’, heaping praise for her ‘storytelling’ while Rylan spent his time wearing four fifths of a white two-piece suit gyrating his prosthetic bottom in Louis’ general direction. Guys, storytelling has already lost all meaning after Spraggo’s ‘sincere’ performance.

The Marcus Collins Award For Inevtiable Rush-Release Of An Album: Jahmene

While Jahmene will not win, because he is not Ella, James or Jade, he will do well enough to release an album of buttery-soft jazz music that may or may not include an Eliza Doolittle cover that will be on the shelves of ASDA before Dermot has changed out of his X Factor Finals tuxedo.

NEXT WEEK: maybe some images, with clever captions.

The X Factor’s relentless pursuit for authenticity is going to be the death of it. Judging it on two episodes might seem a bit harsh, and basing much of an argument off what people tweet on a Saturday night also suggests a massive naivety on my part but there you go. I’m nothing if not unprofessional.

But there’s an ambivalence beyond anything else I’ve ever felt for the X Factor this year. I just don’t care. Every year they make changes, some minuscule (Simon Cowell’s ‘hand up’ to the sound guy to cut the sound being one, moving the auditions to a big fucking stadium being a rather large one) but this year’s insistence on challenging what people want from their pop stars is mad.

Guitars are now in. Original songs are now in. Previous management contracts are in. It’s like Britain’s Got Talent, especially when you consider the gushing praise for singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggen – a hybrid of Kate Nash’s carefully unarticulated lyrics muddled with Ed Sheeran’s ‘oh am I a popstar? I’m just wearing old clothes and didn’t brush my hair soz’ nonchalance. Of course, if you give her a google you can hear more of her original songs. They’re less gimmicky. But still highly gimmicky. Would Simon Cowell like her? Maybe on BGT, but not here.

X Factor, and Pop Idol, and Popstars: The Rivals have gone on for a very, very long time. Once, driving through Carlisle with Dad, we had Radio 2 on, and they were discussing the ‘amazing journey’ of Michelle McManus, as she’d won the night before. It was amazing, apparently, because she was fat.

One person pointed out that as talented as these winners were, it was incredibly naïve to think of them graduating from a reality TV show and going shoulder-to-shoulder with Real Pop Stars (specifically, they mentioned Robbie Williams but I think I’ll omit that). The critics’ point was that reality TV didn’t produce people of a high enough calibre for them to actually work in the real world. It was like some sick social experiment where they failed and we laughed.

Anyway following on from that, years later the X Factor, while producing some utter turkeys (even when Leona Lewis won, like, the people she was competing against were fucking terrible) started to suddenly have an influx of interesting, amazing contestants. And latterly (well, in the past 4 years maybe) there’s been a very common thing of people who don’t win still being amazing and getting signed and then going on to do better (JLS are about to release a fourth album). It’s like that myth about TV executives launching 10 TV shows and hoping one is a success. If there are 4 X Factor alumni, and one does well, irregardless of where they placed, it’s a win!

Artists like One Direction, Amelia Lily, Aiden Grimshaw etc all had potential to be great artists in the first place but the one big obstacle facing them was getting through inane themed weeks singing songs they were never going to sing in a lifetime. Disco Week, American Films Week, HALLOWEEN WEEK. What is the actual point. Sometimes it even felt like the weeks were arranged in such an order that some contestants would fall at certain hurdles and so on and so forth. Janet Devlin. Rachel Adedeji. Trayc 😦

So actually cutting out that whole process – and getting artists to be [slightly moulded alterations of] themselves from the get-go is quite clever. It means the judges all have a new ‘stock comment’ they can use (‘I would buy that now’/’That could be a number one now’/’It’s like you’ve already had media training, now’ etc) and people can see, right away, what the contestant is going to be like. No more wondering if Aiden Grimshaw is going to be a poor man’s Olly Murs or a successful man’s Mr Hudson. No more posturing if Little Mix are going to be a less muscular JLS or a more muscular One Direction. It’s perfect.

But it’s not, really, is it, because all these twats strumming guitars in auditions and saying things like ‘I’ve played gigs up and down the country’ reeks of Credability Cardle, and look what happened to him! I’ll tell you what happened. I saw him at a Derren Brown after-party and recoiled. He was about 5’5, and had a pallid, sun-deprived face. I was actually reminded of Voldemort. His eyes were black and tiny, his hair thin and wisp-like. TV lied. Matt Cardle looks fucking mental.

Anyway the sentiment that you need to play gigs up and down the country, get bottled in a working men’s club in Burnley and play weddings on that guitar you’ve had for years completely pisses over what makes a pop star good. Amelia Lily could have been singing for a year before she was on X Factor, but that doesn’t tarnish how good she is at being a pop star. Obviously saying she grew up listening to The Supremes with her grandma is a lovely idea and it paints this picture of her using strong woman as her muse which is good. But look at Matt Cardle. How is this Kye dude going to be any different, really?

Furthermore, the guitars, management and original song thing is all down to the popularity of one guy.

THIS GUY.

Now I’m not here to publicly lambast Ed Sheeran. People have done it a lot, and Ed has a very good way of finding someone who is calling him a gimp and being so pleasant to them they feel awful and collapse under the weight of their own hair/cynicism. Ed is fine, he is a nice man (I interviewed him once) and his songs are fine.

His albums sell so much, and he’s such an anti-pop star because he wears scuffed trainers and his hair is messy and at the Brits, he changed out of a suit INTO an old hoody to perform. Amazing.

Both episodes of X Factor so far have focused heavily on young people singing their own songs and ‘wow’-ing the judges, it’s being forced down our throats as a Very Important Aspect of the show. There have been hardly any groups. Hardly any old singers who aren’t going to go far, but they’re likeable, ala Tesco Mary. Hardly any people singing unoriginal songs. Which is why so many people are slumping into their chair and going ‘fuck is that it?’.

One other thing to consider is that while it sounds like the X Factor is incredibly forward thinking in streamlining their production line, the fact that the original songs need that heavy emotional undercurrent for them to be ‘interesting’ or revolutionary proves how shortsighted the whole thing is. As soon as one of these budding popstars has a song written for them, the whole sentiment is lost. And you can’t release an album full of songs about your Grandad dying or being a crack addict living under a bridge*. Then next thing you know, we’re in the same era where Michelle McManus singing a song was inspirational because of some emotional or sentimental crutch.

*turns out you can.