X Factor 2016 Auditions Week 2: Celtic Binge

We commented how the first weekend of audition shows made a big play of Scottish singers. Last Saturday’s programme literally made a song and Riverdance about auditions returning to Dublin for the first time in six years, although they didn’t bother to repaint a bus for the occasion of Louis Walsh’s grand homecoming – instead they took an existing tourist bus and stuck a decal of his face on the side.


Then their first gambit was to humiliate a 19-year-old potato farmer. Way to those Irish hearts!

A few more hopeless acts left Simon wondering why he’d bothered, but better things came after the ad break. Niall Sexton is one of the supposed boys at judges’ houses. The 22-year-old barman is actually from a small town in Northern Ireland with “a million fields with several cows – that’s when you know you’re in Ireland”. His voice fluctuated sweetly between delicate and assertive. Simon said: “You have a beautiful voice. You’re different. But I think you’ve got real class. I like you.”


His choice of Sara Bareilles’ ‘Gravity’ was an interesting one. The song was used to good effect in the semi-final of the final US season by eventual winners Alex & Sierra. It’s also one of a number of well-produced covers Niall has put up on YouTube. Against him, Niall was on the show back in 2011 and tweeted about being pissed off at initial favouritism towards Janet Devlin.

Conor McGinty was next up, but wasn’t given enough screentime to suggest he’s likely to be wildcarded with any great plans. He was followed by 28-year-old Dubliner Janet Grogan, who was shown missing out at the 6CC in 2014. Her disappointment was apparently mitigated by Simon sending out a tweet saying he “should have kept Janet.”


She gave a decent enough rendition of ‘Pillowtalk’, although it felt like there was nothing particularly distinctive about her. Nonetheless, Simon completed his humble acknowledgement of error by claiming “I was always praying you would come back into this audition room, your voice is stunning, best we’ve had today.”


That was it from Ireland. With Janet reportedly through to judges’ houses in the overs category, that would seem to mean at least one of her or Niall going through should producers feel the need to justify the Irish grandstanding – unless, of course, we have more Dublin auditions still to be screened. Though we felt that Janet might end up being the new Melanie McCabe, which left us wondering if the perennial bridesmaid had been asked back to audition.

Then in London, we were treated to the spectacle of Ottavio and Bradley, which was contrived even by X Factor standards. The former started off auditioning alone, looking like an extra in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. But who knows, perhaps the look will catch on?


Ottavio revealed that he had intended to audition with Bradley before the pair’s fallout over undercooked chicken. Bradley got his individual chance with R Kelly’s ‘Ignition’, and it was third time lucky after a reconciliation, when they performed ‘Buttons’ by Pussycat Dolls.


The pair are Cosmic Riot, rumoured to be in the groups section of judges’ houses, and they could possibly be in the lives to annoy Simon as a low-rent Diva Fever. Ottavio has form, having been one of the supporting acts in Rylan’s bootcamp group performance in 2012.

Next up, the night’s pimp slot was given to Kayleigh Marie Morgan, 19, from Wales. Like week 1’s Caitlyn Vanbeck, she has “confidence issues”, and relies on a supportive (step)dad.


Kayleigh got a lot of singing time for ‘With You’. Nicole was “scared” in a good way, and called it “graceful”. Louis used the words, “powerhouse, different, special”. But Kayleigh struck us as most akin to tragic judges’ houses rejectees Jade Richards and Kerrianne Covell.

Sunday’s show started with Ryan Wilkins, a 27-year-old Mancunian with a “magic tongue” whose treatment however seemed to mark him out as a less obvious possibility for the Comedy Wildcard Over slot than week 1’s Honey G or (preferably) Saara Aalto.

He was followed by Tom and Laura, who we assume are the rumoured husband and wife duo at judges’ houses. It wasn’t promising that no effort had gone into filming them in their daily lives, instead having them sit in the auditions waiting room and fill in their backstory as a cuddly Liverpudlian couple who met at college. Tom’s a claims handler and Laura works at Greggs. There was something very likeable and down-to-earth about them.


Their surprisingly good acoustic rendition of ‘Sex on Fire’ was commended by judges. But their natural bond, which was a great part of their charm, was undermined by Simon stressing that Tom was better than Laura, and should therefore go for it on his own. The pay-off to this was Tom standing by his partner, but it undercut their USP without obviously setting them up for a journey.

18-year-old Freddy Parker seemed to have a lot going for him – the voice, the looks, and a cute job working with dogs for a backstory. Given this, and his reported place at judges’ houses, it was a bit of a disappointment that he wasn’t given more airtime for his performance of ‘Love Is A Losing Game’.

Chanal Benjilali was given even less airtime, and isn’t one of the reported girls at judges houses, despite a strong rendition of ‘Ex Factor’.

Matt Terry is another boy supposed to have made judges’ houses, and we got plenty more of his backstory about his recent heartbreak. The 23-year-old from Bromley is a cheerful chappy with the looks of Louis Tomlinson and the manner of Ray Quinn,  though Simon picked up on his likeness to Olly Murs: “fun, approachable, you’ve got that same personality”. Oh, and his Nan also took a starring role.


His voice wasn’t perfect for X Factor by any means, with a touch of the musical theatre about his rendition of ‘Stand By Me’, but there was a likability about the whole performance, and his personality. The judges rammed home the overall feeling when Louis called him “positive” and “happy” and Simon added “feel-good”.

The show followed up with two more Comedy Overs Wildcard possibilities, starting with Russian minx Irina Dedyuk, who didn’t get the kind of treatment that suggested it would be her. Danish “loving doll” Sada Vidoo is one of the strangest (and most experienced) auditionees ever to be seen on the show. Her dramatic performance of ‘Love is a Battlefield’ had Simon commenting, “I don’t know if that’s one of the best things or worst things I’ve ever seen.”


Finally, Marianna Zappi, 34, originally from Italy and now living in London, explained with genuine emotion her abusive relationship, before launching into ‘Redemption Song’. The whole panel were clearly moved: Sharon described it as “the best voice I’ve heard in auditions so far”. Cowell used the words, “beautiful, incredible, passion, real”. If producers surprise us by going for a Non-Comedy Overs Wildcard, Marianna has to be a contender, though there was something of the “journey already complete” feel to her segment.

After the first two weekends of auditions, five of the top six on Oddschecker are from Scotland, Wales or Ireland, seeming to confirm the initial push to re-engage with the regions. Meanwhile, our commenters are agreed that no one has stood out as an obvious Plan A or winner yet, which may of course be deliberate on the part of producers’ after last year’s blatant shoehorning of Louisa and the equally obvious preferential treatment for Stereo Kicks at this stage two years ago. Do let us know your continuing thoughts below.

Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

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41 comments to X Factor 2016 Auditions Week 2: Celtic Binge

  • Tpfkar

    good and fair review. I thought Matt Terry came across the best of everyone this weekend. I had already forgotten about Kayleigh Marie Morgan, buried after the antics of Ottavio and Bradley.

  • shraine

    I personally Believe that Niall is being kept under the radar. There is more to come from him, and im thnking they dont want him to peak too soon. Ive had to take an early price on him. £300 at 20/1

  • Martin

    Hard to argue with any of that. This year the show does seem to be going out of its way to make repairations for the errors of the past few years. Appeasing the other regions of the UK, hamming up a few sob stories, supplying the public with some voter-friendly acts with no commercial potential etc. Seems to be working with the reports of increased ratings so far.

    I thought Tom and Laura’s audition was really interesting, the way it was packaged. They’ve already been nobbled by Simon preferring Tom, although this could set them up for a narrative where they win him round as a couple and strengthen their support for sticking together. Their edit also did its best to emphasize the downfalls in their appearance – Laura working at Greggs, they discussed how they met and how they are fond of a takeaway, and a surpluss of shots of them yawning. I’ll be interested in the rest of their treatment.

  • So far from what I’ve seen, I think Matt Terry would be the best risk commercially if I had to invest money in a contestant. But I’m skeptical that will see him to a first place finish in a field of emoters and big voices. I’m curious to see how he handles a bigger song/arrangement.

    Christian is likable and gets it but doesn’t instantly read as a pop star. Niall has an interesting, memorable voice but I’m skeptical he will put everything together in the arena. Emily is unfortunately still hard to see smashing as a solo popstar two years later but her drive and songwriting are intriguing. Caitlyn has the big voice but consistency has to be a question.

    • Fudd

      I get the feeling Christian is this year’s Josh – pushed forward due to the background sob story to generate some emotion around him and his performance, then cut him down before he hits the lives.

      I’m reminded of Jonathan and Charlotte from Britain’s Got Talent in Tom and Laura’s treatment – Jonathan was told to go alone after their audition by Simon but he had an about face during the semi final. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s pushing the same storyline here.

      I think Niall’s vocal range might result in him being another Abi though they may see him as filling a niche and keep him in a holding pattern to see whether they can push their chosen Alpha Boy (at this point that seems to be Matt).

  • Edie M

    Already getting sick of the constant three yeses and a no from Simon storyline.

  • Martin

    Gifty Louise and to a lesser extend 5am are the first acts so far this year to stand out to me as, yknow, actually any good. Although based on past similar acts, I think both may need a significant amount of producer help to get far in the competition if they end up in the live shows. Gifty reminds me a bit of Hannah Barrett personality and voice wise, but there was a lot of hype over her image and at first glance, it doesn’t seem naturally voter friendly. That said, she is quite captivating. 5am strike me as more JLS/Rough Copy than Nu Vibe/District 3. Their performance was good and they seem likeable however I didn’t find their back story particularly strong. Simon signalled (for the first time this series I can recall) that there is a gap in the market for them and that they are very current which may show favour. Thus far, they seem like the group most likely to go through to the live shows.

    • I thought 5AM were very promising although the older one is perhaps a bit awkward. Humble and likable, and the frontman has enough charisma that I could see him garnering an audience. It’ll be interesting to compare the handling of The Brooks tomorrow.

      The keyword for Gifty’s audition was “good” not “great.” The judges were all positive but did not seem excited. She’s got an interesting look and is fine technically but there wasn’t really a spark for me and I see her more likely out at JH.

    • Martin

      I wouldn’t be surprised. They’ve been subject to some hilarious accusation of fixing as they are friends with Sinitta apparently (their justification? They go to the same church) and the Daily Mirror has already ran a story about them being tearaways and one of them being arrested for being drunk underage in the street. The show seems to be doing its best to undercut all that with the church story, and the hard-done-by upbringing turned good is a good reason and solution for any nuisance press stories. If they do have long plans for these two, hopefully they are better prepared for this sort of tat than they were two years ago with Stereo Kicks.

      • 360

        To be honest they look from the off as if their image is calculated to appeal; branded. More than a lot of the other acts so far, even by X Factor standards.

        I’m torn how I feel about this series. I’m quite used to producer intentions being much more transparent!

        Agree with you above that Gifty as is is probably both one of the most talented, and ultimately a hard sell. Wonder if they’ll soften her or try and drag her towards the final.

        Also, I think we have to consider, after Louisa’s flop winning single and the trouble of streaming working against both that and Reggie and Bollie, what they’ll be looking for this year in a winner. All the goodwill in the world didn’t help Reggie and Bollie get more than a #26 single.

  • Any thoughts on the (over)emphasis on joke acts?

    Two Saturday night pimp spots (Honey G, Beck Martin) and the act with the most airtime overall (soon to be Cosmic Riot) have been joke acts. It can’t be happenstance.

    • Martin

      I don’t see how that can be significant to be honest – the only one confirmed as through to judges houses is Cosmic Riot, and unless the wildcards are all joke acts (which I find highly unlikely) I think it’s just to jazz up the otherwise dull room auditions.

  • Martin

    Underwealmed by the Brooks treatment tonight. Nothing there to suggest they are a higher priority than anybody else in producers mind – no mention of their back story apart from the overused returning contestant. They did Runnin’ too, the final nail in poor Lauren Murray’s coffin last year. At least they have a nan.

  • Fudd

    So with one audition episode left, who haven’t we seen yet?

    Girls: Sohelia Clifford
    Boys: Nate Simpson
    Overs: Samantha Atkinson, Christopher Peyton, Relley C
    Groups: Skarl3t

    That’s quite a few to cram in to one audition show.

  • The Brooks – Didn’t live up to the “chosen one” hype I was seeing pushed on DS. They’re all right but more of the tier of recent collaborator Joey Devries for me. I suppose they could be the nucleus of a larger boyband with members like Aeron, with the twinning as an initial talking point. But all indications are that didn’t happen. I would bet on 5AM ahead of them if I were the producers.

    Olivia – Has the looks and good enough vocal tools to be a star, but does not feel anywhere close to ready to me. Very anxious and not enough to her yet. As with Emily a few years ago I would prefer to see her out at JH after gaining some initial exposure (-> a year or two of practice at bigger gigs.) Ultimately might still be better off getting grouped until her early 20s even then.

    IG – Perfectly fine likable over, but ultimately not all that remarkable. Need to see more of the overs category to determine where she fits in. In the back of my mind I wonder if they are working the Filipino angle a little for Little Mix, who were #1 for a long time there this year with SLS.

  • DannyCraig

    I’ve heard the following have made it through:

    Boys: Matt Terry, Freddy Parker, Ryan Lawrie
    Groups: 5am, Cosmic Riot, The Brooks.

  • Lala

    I assumed that four of diamonds and 5am were through because they both did photo shoots… but I’m wrong

  • 360

    Potentially if there’s 4 groups being touted as through, one is the wildcard? Or is that not how they’re working this series?

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