Back in August, we started the arena auditions with Jahmene Douglas’s ‘At Last’. Having sat through the following six weeks, I feel the same way. The second part of boot camp was ruthlessly efficient in clearing the fog.
Producers have thrown punters a curveball in the shape of Lucy Spraggan. First on tonight, she’s the antithesis of a typical X Factor contestant, with her heartfelt own material and acoustic guitar. I much preferred ‘Tea and Toast’ to her previous audition hit ‘Last Night’. And she’s clearly an endearing character, which is a big part of her appeal.
As Andrew suggested in our bootcamp preview, I see no reason for producers not to run with this, injecting quirkiness and variety to the live shows should she get there, which looks highly probable. It just remains to be seen if she performs her own material week after week. When we’ve seen her cover someone else’s song – a completely unsuitable one, admittedly – it’s been a disaster.
Rylan Clark is more obvious live show fodder. He’s this year’s Jonny Robinson / Diva Fever, though closer in talent to the latter than the former based on what we’ve seen so far. He looks likely to provide the camp frivolity that winds up the alpha judge. Gary duly commented, “He’s going to haunt me though this competition” just to make it obvious.
We then had a montage of overly confident types: Gathan Cheema, Nathan Fagan-Gayle, Eddie String and Rough Copy. It turned out all of them were a preface to Humble Nervous Jahmene, whose panic attack overshadowed the MK1 audition it was intercut with.
Producers believe in Jahmene. Even Zayn Malik only got one judge (Simon) giving him a backstage pep talk. Jahmene got two: Louis and Nicole (his category’s mentor). Louis provided the night’s most obvious line: “We believe in you,” before Jahmene did his nasally gospelly thing for ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. Nicole’s comment, “Is it going to be too much for him?” set up the script for the live shows.
The overs segment came next. It featured four of them. If there is no twist this year, one of them is being set up for a fall. Melanie Masson had the first part of her short audition overdubbed with a VT interview. Shaky Maloney was deeply average for ‘A Million Love Songs’ but his nerves are good TV at this stage. Carolynne Poole is physically morphing into Shania Twain. Kye ‘I just need a break’ Sones got more time than the others, setting him up to be the alpha over or for the biggest fall. Louis gave us the “he’s become the one to watch” line.
If I had to put money on who won’t make it, it would be Maloney as the agonising final rejection, but that might just be wishful thinking.
Turning on the waterworks was a big help at this moment in proceedings, so the fact that Jade Ellis managed it twice clearly worked in her favour despite fluffing her lines. In VTing about how she was missing her daughter she once again came across as genuine and likeable, having done humble and cheery as endearingly as Marcus Collins in her first audition.
Having not enjoyed James Arthur’s original audition, he wins this year’s Craig Colton award for proving me wrong in the meantime. His second night of kind coverage and rendition of ‘A Million Love Songs’ means he looks set for a place in the lives, possibly as the alpha boy, if and when Jahmene goes to pieces.
A lack of coverage suggests that Nathan Fagan-Gayle, Adam Burridge and Jake Quickenden currently look like fallers at the next hurdle in the boys category.
We saw nothing to make us change our provisional view that Ella is the overall Plan A at this stage, after she was given the pimp slot for a highly competent rendition of ‘Believe’ that had Nicole doing her ‘O’ face before dissolving into tears.
The girl joining Ella and Lucy in the lives could well be Jade Ellis based on coverage tonight, although Leanne Robinson will feel short-changed if that’s the case after showing excellent vocals for ‘I Have Nothing’. Ominously for their chances, Amy Mottram and Jade Collins didn’t feature at all.
Of the groups, GMD3 conveniently got plenty of screentime near the end for their sing-off with Triple J. The latter had tighter vocals, but their time was up as soon as they sung first, according to the time-honoured X Factor sing-off script. With the suggestion that Rough Copy are not allowed to travel for judges’ houses due to visa issues, there may be one more chance for the losing duellists.
The other groups have generally suffered from a lack of screentime. MK1 have done best of the rest, but they’ve hardly been showered in hype. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything of Poisonous Twin, but the female version of Jedward are through to judges’ houses. If they are to make it to the lives, it’s been well camouflaged.
The allocation of categories left no doubt that Tulisa is the alpha female judge, and she was clearly delighted to get arguably the strongest set of contenders. Her long scream in celebration was repeated for Xtra Factor. She further suggested Jade Ellis was in mind for the lives by calling her an “artist” with a “recording voice”. Amy Mottram did get an Olly Murs visit, but that may have been an Essex thing.
Do you agree on these suggestions of the live show likelies? Who are you perceiving to be the alphas in each of the categories? And can we really be heading for a simple final 12 without any kind of last-minute twist? Do let us know below.