Featuring a sad lack of Maria Lawson popping out the top of a birthday cake.
Nicholas MacDonald: Happy 9 1/6th birthday X Factor! As desperate attempts at counter-programming, suddenly deciding it’s your birthday just because it’s also the birthday of a programme of similar popularity airing on another channel is a bit sad isn’t it? It feels a bit like a plotline from Mean Girls 4 : Back To School where Karen Smith is somehow the headmistress and Cady’s niece is now SHOCKINGLY the head Mean Girl or something. For this pretend not-a-birthday party, the show brought back some of its winners (and Olly Murs) to “mentor” the contestants as to how to win the show. Because Lord knows what I want at a party is Joe McElderry sidling up to me and telling me to make it my own. Although I actually I think that may have happened once… Erm anyway, Joe was here mentoring his analogue in this series, Nicholas MacDonald. You might have taken this to be the show “pssssst”ing that Nicholas is bound for jukebox musicals at best, or possibly would wish to advance further theories about exactly what Joe meant when he said that Nicholas really reminded him of himself at his age, but for libel reasons I personally can’t continue. Nicholas was being aided through a rendition of “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus (the first evolution), presumably in his case referring to the effort it would have taken him to get up on the big pointless podium they had him performing on. You can just imagine his wee little legs scrambling and clawing at the side trying to get up, whilst Bryan Friedman (yes I know he’s not there in reality any more, but he’s ALWAYS THERE IN MY HEART) stared at him disinterestedly. Never has he looked more tiny. Incidentally, unlike the show, Nicholas ACTUALLY celebrated a birthday this week : his 17th. Dermot brought him a cake that looked the remnants of a Morph spin-off wedged into a shoe-box. It was hideous.
Hannah Barrett: Hannah’s mentor meanwhile was Alexandra Burke dot com. Although the mentoring seemed to go a step beyond with Hannah, as the show did its damndest to turn her INTO Alexandra Burke. All of the other acts maintained at least a little distance from, or put a different spin on their chosen song. For Hallelujah, Hannah dressed like Alexandra Burke, sang like Alexandra Burke, had the same sort of staging as Alexandra Burke, got the same sort of “OH MY GOD THAT WAS MINDBLOWING, I JUST CRIED SO HARD I SNOTTED!” comments that Alexandra got in Series 5 when they suddenly realised they desperately needed someone to stop the Eoghan Quigg juggernaut who WASN’T dying of cholera (or whatever happened to Diana Vickers in that mysterious week)…it all felt a bit like Star For A Night where an unsuspecting civilian gets to perform as their idol for ONE NIGHT ONLY. (My favourite iteration of that format I’ve ever seen involved a young girl who wanted to be Shakira when…Richard Griffiths would have been more convincing in the part, and also her mum decided she too wanted to be part of the performance as “Shakira’s Mum”. Nobody objected to this. It was amazing.). All in all it felt a lot more comforting when Hannah was inevitably in the sing-off and got to be Hannah again, ie bellowing her way through “I Would Rather Go Blind” like she was trying to cough up her own vocal cords. That’s how I’ll always remember my little Hannah Banana. I hope she put in a good word for Alexandra with Greggs as well.
Luke Friend: Those doubting Louis Walsh’s nigh-on effortless capacity for creating drama by acting like an utter tit should have had their foolish trifling opinions quashed this week, when he was faced with the question “who do you think of your category is more likely to win?”, answered Nicholas, without even a second’s thought. Of course this will only boost what I imagine forms Luke Friend’s fanbase, who I’m sure will welcome the opportunity to cast him as one of life’s poor misunderstood true-hearted underdogs. He couldn’t even get one of One Direction to turn up to help him through “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”, instead having to make do with newly unemployed West End Wendy Shayne Ward. (Incidentally, the rage fit in my living room when I realised that Shayne was just there as a Harry Styles substitute, and nobody was in fact going to sing That’s My Goal aka THE BEST X FACTOR WINNERS SONG EVER was quite something). (Incidentally, how amazing was Resentful on the results show? Clearly eyeing up a judges chair so he can be a surly malcontent to a new generation of contestants? I really hope it happens, and I hope in his first series there is a little curly haired frog-faced heart-throb contestant and I hope Resentful SHREDS HM). Hang on, brackets overload there…erm…Luke Friend? Despite Shayne Ward’s best efforts, made “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” his own by slowing it down, making it boring and even more creepy, and being horrendously out of tune. Whatever, it now apparently means that Adele wants him to win. A ringing endorsement there.
Rough Copy: Rough Copy’s mentors were BixMix, here to show them how to be non-threatening enough to win whilst still retaining your URBAN EDGE. What BixMix mentioned is that they did this whilst being mentored by Tulisa who, if nothing else, mostly came across halfway convincingly as being FROM DA STREETS. Rough Copy are lumbered with Gary Barlow whose idea of Block Party style fun is to stick them on a kiddy carousel until they cry. BixMix incidentally were also there to teach Rough Copy a very special trick that they themselves never got to take advantage of – it being really “brave” to sing a woman’s song when you’re a man aka “how Matt Cardle won”. Sadly, doing “Don’t Let Go (Love)” wasn’t quite brave and gender-defying enough, as Rough Copy found themselves in the bottom 2 at…more or less exactly the same stage as JLS did, with Hannah Barrett as exactly the same sort of Rachel Hylton manque for them to see off. They really are just a tracing of them done through a greasy burger wrapper aren’t they? (“Don’t Let Go (Love)” being my favourite use of brackets in a song title ever, just because it makes the whole thing look a lot more northern. I love En Vogue, but I would have loved them even more if they’d released songs called “Free Your Mind (Pet)”, “Whatta (Lush) Man” and “Never Gonna Get It (My Butty)”). In said Bottom 2, they retreated as fast as they could away from their brief brief experimentation with singing interesting songs, by doing Oasis. BLARGH.
Tamera Foster: Oh Tamera Foster. First of all your designated mentor can’t turn up because he’s off being a homophobic twat and you get lumbered with that week’s “would be here anyway because he’s doing a performance” cast-off, and THEN you mess up your performance by forgetting the words for the second week in a row (although I did like Hannah’s explanation that she didn’t forget the words, she just came in at entirely the wrong part of the song because she’s stupid and doesn’t understand music, yeah, that makes it better) and THEN having Louis and Gary jump up and down on top of you laughing their heads off, openly calling you a trainwreck and throwing amazing Louis-shade like “you got MOST of the words right”, and THEN getting booed when you get saved. In the space of two weeks she’s gone from someone who we were being chided for almost getting shot of to some sort of Bizarro to Leona Lewis’ Superman, stumbling around crashing into the set, who we’re being told off for keeping IN. Make your minds up for Christ’s sake.
Sam Bailey : God bless Sam Bailey for standing up for poor Tamera. In these days of winners who cause pointless circular , who isn’t longing slightly for a nice mumsy woman to come and be blandly nice and 80s and win and stick up for kids and open a skateboard park for the blind or something. This week, Sam Bailey was performing “Bleeding Love”, one of the only two pieces of Original X Factor material to be performed all evening. Such is the lasting impact of X Factor artists on popular music culture. One Direction’s negging and Bleeding Love and a whole lot of covers. Of course Leona herself turned up to give Sam her benediction (look bored and collect a pay-cheque : what Leona does best) but whether she found the whole experience amazing and a rollercoaster was not recorded. Anyway, Sam’s decision to try to scale Bleeding Love was made on her behalf by Sharon, who decided that Sam is the only other contestant in all 9 1/6th years of X Factor who could match Leona’s range and power. I mean…she wasn’t but she made it sound a bit 80s, which is also a valid effort.
Next week: JUKEBOX WEEK. The only thing that matters is that we force Tamera to sing “This Woman’s Work” and Sam to sing “The Living Years”. Nothing else matters (because all of the other song choices are really dull)