Given there’s only four arena audition shows, I was hoping to see more this weekend of the 24 apparently going to judges’ houses. On Saturday, we got Paul Akister, Lauren Platt and Jake Graham – one-eighth of the rumoured boyband put together at bootcamp. Sunday gave us Andrea Faustini, Stevi Ritchie and Jay James.
The game of hide-and-seek with some of the rumoured final 24 thus continues, including Steph Nala, formerly of Britain’s Got Talent semi-final winners The Luminites. It’s going to be hard to provide anything approaching a level playing field for many of these acts by the end of next weekend.
Saturday’s star turn was Paul Akister, who appeared to cement his probable alpha boy status with an eventful edit. His proud mum and dad were present, the song choice was ‘Let’s Get It On’ which propelled James Arthur from bottom two survivor to likely winner in 2012, whilst Cheryl and Mel’s lapdance for Simon ensured the Youtube clip will be even more popular.
He got a four-judge standing ovation for another soulful performance. Just to spell it out, Louis even said: “He’s the best solo boy we have.” Should he be in the live shows, Paul’s rise like a phoenix from last year’s rejection, and Middle England appeal make him the likely frontrunner at least in the initial phone votes. It’ll be hard to stop him Cardle-ing his way to the final, even if producers should wish to do so.
Lauren Platt had impressed in her short room edit, and continued on an upward curve with a slowed-down arrangement of ‘How Will I Know’. There’s continuity in her styling, which is always a good sign. The show was also doing its bit for healing broken marriages in reuniting her estranged parents.
Simon commented: “We’ve only scratched the surface with you, you’re going to get better and better, great audition.” But up against Lola and Chloe-Jasmine in her category, both of whom got a longer edit for the room auditions, the suspicion remains that even if she gets through to the lives, she’ll be the gamma girl. In that case, she can call Jade Ellis and Sophie Habibis for the lowdown on her likely treatment.
In the first lengthy slot of Saturday’s show, James Graham wowed judges with ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. Part of the supposed boyband eightpiece, James had a supportive mum, got audience cutaway shots of melting teenage girls, and a standing ovation. Can the producers make it any more obvious that they’re taking this eightsome seriously?
We’re looking forward to seeing what they do to manage this at bootcamp. How many times will we watch Mel B pretending to agonise over rejecting these teens, only for Louis to bring them all together as a supposed afterthought? She’s going to need Oscar-winning acting skills not to appear ridiculous.
On Sunday, Andrea Faustini opened the show. He has a supportive mum and dad, he still loves pugs, and the styling is once again consistent. His soulful singing got a big reaction with the audience – one of the biggest ever, according to Simon. There was nothing here to make me change my mind that Andrea will be useful in the lives as a novelty act who can sing, in a category where they’re not often found.
Stevi Ritchie is a novelty act who can’t sing, and on the surface it would appear silly for Simon to take him to the lives in his overs category, even though this is where they are usually found. But it’s worth bearing in mind that in 2010, when Simon was last present, we had five novelty/villains: Katie, Wagner, Diva Fever, Storm Lee and Nicolo.
It actually makes lots of sense to have multiple novelties early doors, and let them engage in a Darwinian selection, of which Katie and Wagner emerged in that year. After all, why bother having a gamma over such as Lorna Simpson, to exit early to no one’s surprise, when you can have Stevi Ritchie causing a stir instead as a ridiculous gamma over, before his probable early exit? Much more fun all round.
Sunday’s show was all about Jay James, who was in the pimp slot for the second time during the audition process. The backstory was largely a reminder of what we learnt last time: pretty wife, cute child, ex-navy, humble looker who’s never quite had the break and views this as his last chance. His performance was an improvement on the room audition, got a huge reaction in the hall, a four-judge standing ovation and Simon laying claim to the overs category as a result.
Paul is currently edging Jay at the head of the win market, which reflects the fact that he feels much more like a ‘People’s Champion’ at this stage. If this were a high school movie, Paul would be the talented, shy, chubby kid who’s been spurned in love, JJ the jock with the prom queen girlfriend. But it does feel like Cowell’s script is attempting to favour JJ most of all.
Do give us your comments on the weekend’s shows below, and keep us posted of any further thoughts.