There seemed even less pretence than usual that the second audition show of 2011 was part of a singing competition. Many of those who were waved through to bootcamp got their yeses on the back of other stunts.
We had a marriage proposal, a family surprise and a love-in with one of the judges. These seemed to overshadow the actual performances of various contestants. Perhaps this was why I felt none of this week’s featured acts had the X Factor.
Based on screen time, this week’s most hyped contestant was Misha Bryan, with whom producers were happy to rely on the X Factor staple of a sad but defiant backstory. Bookmakers were most impressed too, making her second favourite at 10-1 behind Janet Devlin.
Misha showed that she had no problems projecting her vocal chords or her personality into the large arena during her rendition of ‘Respect’. She showed great attitude and individuality, and as Euan noted, she does mix this strong voice with urban rappy elements, which adds another string to her bow.
As a result, Euan sees her as a top 5 or even top 3 contender. I’m not sure at this early stage that I’d be as hopeful of her ability to reach this far as I am of Janet Devlin, who we saw in the first audition show, and odds of 10-1 on Misha make little appeal for me.
I fear she will lack versatility, something that further footage of her singing on YouTube seems to reiterate. Also, she’s the kind of black girl with big voice we saw dispatched by halfway with Treyc Cohen in 2010 and Dionne Mitchell in 2006. She arguably has more personality and likeability than either of those two, but she’s clearly no Alexandra or Leona.
You can also find plenty of extra YouTube footage of The Keys’ lead singer, Charles Healy. This quintet were the second most hyped act of this second show, and in some places are as short as Misha Bryan in bookmakers’ lists.
Producers went all out to show us this was a group we had been waiting for, making them the punchline to an extended montage about the hopelessness of other auditionees in this category. Setting aside my general dislike of acapella performances, there was no doubt that the five lads were telegenic, the lead singer was highly competent and they had clearly rehearsed extensively (one can question whether the harmonies will remain quite so polished if they progress in the live shows and have less time to prepare).
Euan again rightly points out that there were urban elements involved here too. This might make producers prefer them to last year’s similar act, Princes and Rogues, who were ditched at judges’ houses. It might also persuade producers that they are a more natural fit for Tulisa (strongly rumoured to be mentoring the groups this year) than might immediately seem the case for an acapella outfit.
They were certainly given the kind of buildup you would expect from an act being lined up for the final 12, and they do have some positive elements. On the other hand, I found myself being put off by the rapper’s lisp, and I also find the extra YouTube footage too workmanlike to be encouraging. At this early stage I’m struggling to see them making the shake-up at the business end of the competition.
Derry Mensah received plenty of headlines before and after the show. Time in jail seemed likely to count against him in the negative press he received before Saturday’s show, but his reputation seems to be undergoing rehabilitation based on the stories of heroic acts that have appeared since.
His love of Kelly Rowland started to bore as a storyline, but a winning smile did help lift his passable rendition of an Usher song. I agreed with Louis, who gave us the idea of putting him in a band, because I think he might go further this way than as a solo contestant. Some manoeuvring at boot camp would be no surprise.
It may possibly be significant that Tulisa rated Derry’s solo potential more highly than Louis, given the rumours that she ends up with the groups – it always helps to be allotted to a mentor who has rated you from the start (and anyway it would be rather damning to have everyone on the panel dismiss one’s chances as a solo artist).
More generally, if it does transpire that Tulisa ends up with the groups, it would be a surprise if producers don’t ensure there is at least one act in her category with whom she has some kind of natural rapport – they surely won’t want to embarrass her, as a new judge, by packing the category with the kind of cannon fodder it often contains. Perhaps someone like Derry, with the escape-from-the-mean-streets backstory being portrayed in the tabloids, could fit the bill with the right bandmates.
Craig Colton and Johnny Robinson also managed plenty of screen time for their respective performances, and some respectable prices in bookmakers’ lists. However, there are some auditions that feel like groundwork for the live shows, and some auditions that feel like they are there primarily to provide a few minutes of entertaining television during the audition shows – a classic of the genre being Samantha Hallam, who was put through on a wave of positivity after saying yes to her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, and who now seems likely to be quietly despatched at bootcamp.
While both Craig and Johnny were compelling personalities, I felt both auditions probably fell into the category of having served their purpose already. It was hard to see beyond the schtick that made each audition entertaining – Craig as the cheeky Scouse chappie, and Johnny with his drag act minus the drag. It’s hard to imagine them extending their range significantly enough if they made the live shows, and I can see both falling short as a result. Craig in particular seems mighty short at a best-priced 20-1 given that he is competing in what is usually a very strong category.
So I wasn’t feeling the X Factor last Saturday. Am I being too cynical given that the general standard isn’t high anyway? As always, please feel free to let us know in the comments box below.