Now that the smoke has cleared on that nasty X Factor autotune scandal, the programme seems to have moved into more entertaining territory. Tonight’s highlights from London and Dublin auditions this summer showed a few rough diamonds among a sea of delusionals.
I really do believe that X Factor gives us the 21st Century equivalent of the village idiot. Except in this century it’s on a national, if not global, scale.
Anyhow, there’s cause to rejoice in the boobilicious presence of Katy Perry for the Dublin auditions. The funny thing about Perry is that she’s so animated and vibrant, she makes Princess Cheryl look even more like a cardboard cutout.
First up are Dublin vocal quartet Temple Fire. These guys look like they’ve got a razor-sharp focus and emerge spouting X Factor friendly cliches like “We’ve got the heart, we’ve got the fire” and “This is what we were born to do – we’re Temple Fire and we’re gonna set this place alight!” Sadly, their version of Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-go (a song so bad it should be banned from television forever) is reminiscent of early Boyzone, but without any of the charm. Simon Cowell doesn’t even bother to look up as he dismissed them: “You know where this is going. Bye, guys.”
Katy Perry manages to score some laughs when she points at the shortest member of the group and says “Tell us the truth, ginger!” Saddos should submit accusations of ginger-ism to Ofcom.
Next up is the slightly camp Michael McCarthy, who tells the judges he wants to be as big as Madonna. He sings her hit Frozen. In falsetto. And gets sent home.
Laura O’Keefe sings one of the top songs of the last twelve months, Empire State Of Mind. Simon calls it a ridiculous choice of song, “since you’re not from New York”. Katy retorts that “Location is not the problem”.
Katy Perry is our hero…
Katy says to Louis Walsh something we’ve been begging to say for years.”I can’t believe you’re a judge.” Welcome to our world, Katy.
And further trouble for Louis as Simon gets really ratty for being dragged all the way to Ireland to see third rate acts and lunatics looking for their five minutes of fame. To be fair, Simon should probably blame his production team, who visited Dublin a few weeks previously and set some of these people up.
Among the rest of the Dublin auditions, we have Stephen Concannon, who sings to Cheryl. Yawn. As you’ll find out later, one sure-fire way to get screen time on X Factor is to sing one of the judges’ songs. Katy, mistaking auditions for a hen night, encourages him to strip.
Girl group Sugar Bullet underwhelm Simon: “Watching you in concert would be like watching paint dry.” He’s got a point, but the other judges say yes. And Sadbh O’Donnell receives praise from Cheryl for her gorgeous voice. Simon continues his downer for the Irish singers: “I don’t see any personality.” He says no, but the others say yes.
Simon finally cracks a smile when Rebecca Creighton sings Pixie Lott’s Cry Me Out. He even awards her the first “yes” of the Dublin auditions and Cheryl says “Thank you for making this day a little bit more exciting”
Mary Byrne is one of the names to watch out for this year, billed as X Factor’s Susan Boyle, she’s a checkout operator at Tesco. She sings I Who Have Nothing by Tom Jones. Big voice. Standing ovation from the audience. Emotional. Simon’s eyes flash with diamanté-encrusted dollar signs. Louis says “One of the most real auditions of the day. Tesco could be in trouble.” Cheryl calls it “My favourite audition from Dublin so far. I could feel myself getting goosebumps.” Simon: “I think you have the best voice out of everyone who’s auditioned. And more than that, I really like you.”
I loved it too. Every so often, X Factor delivers someone who can move you to tears with a strong, emotional performance. Mary delivered the goods with her performance, and then some. I really hope the show can find some way to market her to make her commercially viable and give her the best shot…if she gets past Boot Camp.
Over to London auditions, and we say goodbye to Katy while we watch Cheryl Cole for signs of fatigue. None so far.
First up is Matt Cardle, who goes on dressed all scruffy in a tattered cap, and describes himself as a bit of a bum. He sings Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good in a bizarrely accurate copy of Amy’s voice. After a minute or so, it becomes a bit more natural, but no less bizarre. Strange, but good. Louis tells him “I’m surprised, because you’ve got a very unusual voice. You’re a bit awkward on stage, but you’re quirky and likeable.” While Simon is unusually glowing in his judgement: “I really really like you. You’re going to get an almighty yes from me too. Well done.”
Freak audition next as Michael Jackson fanatic Michael Lewis arrives on stage. He claims to have felt Michael Jackson’s spirit telling him to show the world his love for music. This one’s quite an uncomfortable train wreck of an audition – you can see it coming, but you can’t look away. He starts by asking the audience to put their hands in the air. They don’t. He continues with a tuneless rendition of Rock With You anyway. Simon blasts his performance: “That was hideous. The whole thing. It was like some awful, awful impersonator. There was nothing authentic about it at all.”
Despite being allowed to sing a second song – why? To dig himself deeper? – the audience turns on him, and he – like a true professional – turns on them: “Where’s the love? Where’s the love? So much negativity in this room, it’s unreal.” Hestalks off stage, not realising he’s the one with the problem.
Comprised of tradesmen Scott White (crane driver), Glenn Vine (painter & decorator), Nathan Rawlings (electrician), Mark Higgins (unemployed, but works on harmonies), man band The Reason aspire to follow in the footsteps of JLS. They formed a group at the start of the year and sing Cheryl Cole’s Fight For This Love. See what I mean about guaranteeing screen time? It’s a fantastic accapella arrangement of the song, virtually note-perfect, and very entertaining. And they worked it out themselves.
Cheryl: “I liked it. I thought it was a good arrangement of the song. It’s quite nice that you just came out here and sang.” Louis: “It was a well thought out audition. I liked the fact that you changed the song, the harmonies were spot on.” Simon: “I like the fact that you did nothing more than sing the song, you worked out the harmonies really well. I haven’t seen a group like this in a while. Less is more with a group like you.”
The Reason are definitely one to watch this year – do you think they could be a possible winner?
Glee-inspired group Seven do a Lady Gaga medley of Just Dance and Bad Romance. Louis turns them down while admitting: “People who like Glee are going to love you.” Cheryl and Simon send them through.
Girl group Husstle sing The Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian in a slightly tuneless fashion. I wasn’t impressed, but the judges say yes. If they survive Boot Camp, they’ll be booted in week 1. Mark my words! Boy band Princes and Rogues sing The Saturdays’ Forever Is Over in a quirky re-interpretation. Simon calls it geeky. But the judges all say yes.
Annastasia got through to judges’ houses the other year, but Cheryl didn’t think she was strong enough. Annastasia agrees with her decision from the time, saying that her daughter was too young.
She performs Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary. But Simon stops her. He calls her a tribute act and says trannies have done better. Surprisingly, she takes that criticism on the chin and they let her sing a back-up song, Adele’s Let You Feel My Love. It’s a delicate ballad and she does a reasonably good job. Nothing to write home about, but she’s got a good tone to her voice. Louis: That was like night and day. Cheryl: Everything was so much better than the last time. Simon: You’ve got into the habit where you’re singing like a cabaret singer…while you have a naturally talented voice. Three yeses.