This time tomorrow you will be watching an audition so awe-inspiring it could conceivably change your concept of entertainment…
This is what X Factor promised us on Friday. With hype like that, it’s no surprise that Saturday’s show left our commenters feeling underwhelmed. Curtis called the show “rubbish”, Boki found it “mediocre”. Like Nuggs, however, to me it was “the usual” – I thought it was a pretty typical opening episode, with added #hashtags.
There’s always plenty of #filler masquerading as entertainment and here it was again: the angry rejectee with a pushy family, the loveable but inept showman who worked at Nando’s. It also featured two singers given plenty of screentime and now at single-figure odds in the win market.
Let’s start at the end, with Ella Henderson. She was given the full Janet Devlin with nearly nine minutes in the coveted first audition show pimp slot. The lion’s share of her nine minutes was spent on a familiar narrative. We were sold a bonny young lass from the provinces inspired by a now-dead relative (is it too early to wonder if Clive Dunn might be available for her final duet? The whole family could come onstage for the chorus).
Her songwriting credentials were laid on the line, which should be a fillip for a show eager to become more credible. The Adele klaxon sounded when she spoke of opening herself up “like a diary” in her songs, and sure enough she warbled inoffensively through a self-penned sub-‘Someone Like You’ number. It will be more revealing to see how she gets on performing something familiar with a discernible tune.
Significantly, Tulisa – who we know to be managing the girls category this year – went backstage to give her a hug having explained ‘she’s the one that I want to mentor’.
To reiterate the show’s faith in her, she also appeared on Xtra Factor being interviewed by Olly Murs in a recording studio. There she played him another of her songs, in an attempt to cement the impression that she’s a natural pop star.
In the interview, her love of vintage clothing was referenced, and her styling was part Lily Allen, part Little Mix. Details of the dress she wore for her audition were quickly given online. In short, the branding machine was already kicking into gear.
I don’t disagree with the muted response to Ella from our commenters Dr Rich, who argues that “if she had done a popular well known song there wouldn’t have been such a reaction from the judges”, Boki and eurovicious. But I don’t doubt the evidence that at this early stage producers have high hopes for Ella. It’s much too early to be tempted by prices ranging from 5/1 to 7/1, but equally it’s worth remembering that this time last year we all thought Janet Devlin was too short at similar odds – and while those early reservations about her longevity ultimately proved well-founded, she nonetheless went into the lives at an even shorter price, as the extent to which producers had invested in her appeared more impressive with every passing week.
Currently also trading at everyday low prices is Jahmene Douglas, who was accorded nearly seven and a half minutes of our frazzled attention spans.
The context with Jahmene was all about the unassuming young supermarket worker with the nervous laugh who reduces prices before products pass their sell-by date. The subtext was well and truly Forrest Gump: a grey suit with a buttoned-up shirt, the focus on his strange mannerisms, a Sally Field-style protective mother – hell, even the incidental music was the same as the film. But is Jahmene going to run and run?
He over-sang the umpteenth version of ‘At Last’ but had the “shock factor” the programme likes to pull off at this stage. For someone who works at Asda, though, his current odds don’t look like value to me. Despite the praise lavished on him, I’m not yet fully buying the idea that Jahmene’s necessarily in line for a long shelf life on the show.
Part of the reason for this is that he already has competition in the adorable nerd category. Third in bookmakers’ lists from last night, trading at odds between 16/1 and 50/1, is Curtis Golden, who has the ideal name for a pop star but not the ideal manner. Like Jahmene, he comes from the socially awkward school for boys, but he did his best with an awful arrangement of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Candyman’. In the “do you have a girlfriend” (well, no – according to The Sun, he’s gay) skit with the blonde auditionee, he also showed himself willing to be debased for the sake of the show, which should endear him to producers.
However, I was mystified by why Golden and Douglas were included on the same programme. One possible clue is that Louis has the groups this year and he mentioned a desire to mentor Jahmene, just as Tulisa did with Ella. Add Curtis to the mix, throw in one other geek and you have yourself a leftfield boyband that producers could call The Misfits.
Could this be the fate in store for Jahmene? The X Factor’s like a reduced-to-clear box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.
Otherwise, we had some shorter clips of singers who seemed adequate yet limited in range, such as Fe Cockton Leckie and Tasha Leigh. Their best hope in the show would appear to be as part of a group.
Andrew mentioned in his rumours round-up article the producers’ quandary about what to do with last year’s near-failures. Last night’s treatment of Joe Cox suggests one option. He was given lots of screentime – on Xtra Factor. Louis’s comment that he was “one to watch” rang hollow in the circumstances.
As Tim B commented, every soloist in the lives has come through the main show rather than its ITV2 spin-off, though it’s worth bearing in mind that last year the sister show was a platform for Ashford Campbell, who ended up in both Nu Vibe and The Risk. A similar fate would seem to be Joe’s best hope second time around. Poor guy.
For our commenters bemoaning the standards of the main show, Xtra Factor must have been pretty uncomfortable viewing, more than once mocking those for whom English is not their first language. Plus ca change.
Agree or disagree with any of the points above? Your #comments are welcome below.