“Nerves … nervous … nerves.” The second stage of bootcamp was thematically monotonous. It’s quite an episode of X Factor that makes you miss a maudlin sob story or two. And don’t get me started on the song choices.
In terms of airtime, this phase cemented the apparent alpha status of Louisa Johnson, 4th Power and Seann Miley Moore in their categories, though the latter now faces stiffer competition after Che Chesterman’s standout performance of ‘A Song For You’. Let’s start with the boys then, reminding readers that the analysis below covers the acts regarded by spoilers as having passed the six chair challenge which begins airing next week.
Seann Miley Moore appeared just before the first commercial break to give an emotional rendition of ‘A Song For You’. His extended intro VT encouraged us to invest in his journey to acceptance as a performer, a person, and indeed a Brit. Cowell commented afterwards: “I felt like I was at one of his concerts,” which should be on the X Factor bingo card, and always denotes high favour. “Think like a winner,” Simon went on to add. I’m already imagining Seann getting starry subliminals in the live shows.
Che’s treatment last night focused on his vocal abilities but still gave him questions to answer. An impressive range was shown in his interpretation of ‘A Song For You’, with most judges and presenters gushing in their praise.
However, Simon Cowell’s comments were less effusive: “Great singer, no personality, no presence … Imagine a Kinder Egg and what comes out is a fully-grown chicken” (to which Rita agreed). This reminded me of Che’s own audition comment that he was hoping to bring back “old-school soul”. The show has one of two options: play up this earnestness as an apparent weakness, or take him on a “journey” in which these things are developed. Either way, if he makes it to the live shows, I reckon the facial bum fluff will be gone by Week 3 if Ben Haenow is any guide.
The other boys didn’t get the same kind of look-in. We commented after Simon Lynch’s arena audition that his falsetto wasn’t a Matt Cardle gamechanger, and that seemed definitively answered when he tackled the latter’s breakout number, ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Presenter Olly Murs mirrored Simon’s own pre-performance misgivings of the difficult song choice.
Fellow pretty boy Josh Daniel had a noticeably shorter segment. Cheryl did at least say, “he’s one of the best in this category”, though Simon’s “really?” rather poured cold water on that. Still, Josh can console himself that he didn’t suffer Tom Bleasby’s fate of relegation to Xtra Factor. Rounding off the category, Ben Clark appears a gamma at best even if making it to the live shows. He’s getting the most love from Rita Ora, who said, “I love Ben … He’s raw, rocky and real.” This show tried to tell us something similar about Kye Sones.
The girls was the only category to see all six feature on the main show, reinforcing its claims to being the most competitive. Louisa Johnson continues to get the putative Plan A edit. Her extensive VT focused on those ubiquitous nerves, so she’s still lacking a decent backstory, but her soulful voice is standing out.
Winning over the public often requires female contestants to be rather docile. Cheryl ran with the Louisa-as-unthreatening memo by describing her as “so cute”, whilst Rita – her mentor if through to the lives – played the “I’m dying to work with her” card.
Kiera Weathers’ boot camp experience hasn’t been the happiest after her very promising arena audition. She gave the standard “nerves” line, but reiterated it by not looking and sounding as comfortable as before. There was a minor quibble about song choice before Simon casually and quietly remarked, “I don’t like her voice.” It was as shocking – if far quicker so that you could have missed it – than Cowell’s Jay James takedown at judges’ houses last year. As with Che, the question going forward is: redemption or growing doubts on a theme?
Elsewhere in the category, Monica Michael continues to garner plenty of screentime that will lead to either Melanie McCabe-style heartbreak or Paul Akister-style resurrection-before-assassination. Chloe Paige got far less airtime but would possibly be the one to benefit were Monica to be denied yet again.
Things went less well for Lauren Murray and especially Havva Rebke. The latter was montaged and disappointing. They might as well send her to the Alps for judges’ houses, because she’s got a mountain to climb to get to the live shows in this category.
The groups are still all about 4th Power, who as before were given a feelgood aura. Unsurprisingly, like Seann they are loving everything about the UK so far. I find their vocals a bit shouty in places, but there’s no doubting their commitment to a performance. Whilst Simon wasn’t quite as impressed as for their previous auditions, he did press the “I’d love to work for them” buzzer.
Their competition in the category didn’t have such a good time of it. Alien’s vocals remain a problem – as Nick and Simon pointed out. The First Kings were accused of harking back to the Backstreet Boys, dance routines and all. Similar doubts about being dated and from the 90s were used to place District 3 behind alpha boyband Union J back in 2012. Given their first audition was all about the stage show, this was not encouraging.
Meanwhile, Simon remains focused on Silver Tone taking it back to their gospel roots, like that’s a recipe for X Factor success. Their backstory of “we do different jobs” was as uninspired as it gets. Menn On Point appeared on Xtra Factor, and the only sighting of Bekln saw them commenting backstage about other performances, whilst their’s didn’t make the edit at all. Harsh.
Moving onto the Overs, Simon was also urging Jennifer Philips to be “more gospel-ly”, but her strong vocals were at least praised as “amazing”. Anton Stephans is the kind of larger-than-life character that would be ideal for the live shows, as Simon admitted when saying, “I find him kind of fascinating.” However, the longstanding session singer strayed at times into pub singer affectations for his version of ‘A Song For You’.
Ebru was montaged, and disappointed with her own performance on this occasion, whilst Bupsi’s fate rests on whether Simon goes on personal inclination or singing ability in his category, having said about her: “I love her to death, I just think there are better singers.” Meanwhile, Max Stone and Kerri-Anne Phillips didn’t get their performances shown at all.
Let us know your thoughts on all yesterday’s performances and this week’s breaking news below.
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