This may come as a surprise to any of you read my 2BAD2BEARABLE segments but until this year I have followed X Factor ever since Leona Lewis won back in 2006. Hell I'll go even further; I watched both series of Pop Idol and like may others was first drawn into this reality/audition format thanks to the original Pop Stars.
This year however I've not seen any of it; from the auditions, judges houses and first live performances. I don't know who these people are, where they come from, what their personalities are like, the limit and strength of their vocal range and which lost uncle's pet dog with lupus sob story they spun to disguise the fact they couldn't sing their way out of a paper bag and into a job as a red coat.
So here we go
I'm kind of ignoring the summary of what has happened previously as I really want to see this episode completely fresh and unbiased, to be honest I've never watched X Factor in this way so I'm kind of looking forward to it. As much as one man can look forward to a bunch of wannabes singing songs that I'd much rather here by the artist
Oh god it's love and heartache week. So immediately I'm a bit worried. Power ballads and love songs are the worst kind X Factor performances; they really come across as cheesy and artificially sentimental. Plus there's always one or more acts who tend to do nothing but these kind of songs and think they can ride their way through the weeks on the waves of the overly emotional public tears and into her hearts like an Inner Spaced Sir Ben Ainslie
Speaking of which...
Sam Bailey (Overs) - To Make You Feel My Love
Her mellow voice suites the song very well and the notes seem to glide so much her tongue could be made out of the silk curtain she's draped in. She doesn't sound like she's trying to be Adele (although oddly enough she does have a Goulding twang at the end of some of her phrases) Pretty good vocal control but he has no stage presence however and there's more a chance of Louis Walsh getting a job in stand up comedy then Sam will of winning.
Kingsland Road (groups) - Marry You
I'm not going to like you, am I?
Not only do they all seem to be carrying dead rodents on their head they also pick the worst Bruno Mars song going to cover. Oh god they are doing the One Direction run around the stage too.
I don't like this song but to turn this into a stupid pop song chant is flat out wrong. They have no idea what they are singing to start off. They all sing in unison, with some little vocal trills in the background so their vocal ability is difficult to measure. But they do have energy and they will have the public vote at least until the last 5 weeks.
They look a bit too old to play the 1D card however and they really need to find their own style
Nicholas McDonald (boys) - She's The One
Great start, he had no input in the song choice and has probably never even bought a copy of Nuts, let alone be in love.
Take that stupid echo of his mic! Unless they have to keep it on because they think it's the only way he sounds good. If so, get him off the damn show.
He's ok I guess, he hits the high note in full voice which is impressive (Robbie doesn't) but that kind of power is not needed and kind of ruins the mood the song is meant to set. I'd like to hear him do a non ballad as his range does seem quite good and it would be much more in his comfort zone. On the 'cute as Pokémon' factor and small enough to boot, I think it's fair to say he's safe this week.
Abi Alton (girls) - Can't Get You Out Of My Head
Carrnt get you out of my head
Oh tally ho, what what? How posh are we? One has had elocution lessons one thinks
The voice is ok but the song choice is wrong and it sounds really fake. Also she's trying to bring it to the tune of Lana Del Ray. Even Lana Del Ray would struggle with this song and she wouldn't be daft enough to try it in the first place. Unless it involved getting some free collagen treatments.
On fake quirkyiness alone she's predictably going to be safe. Also she oddly reminds of the last winner of the voice, either that or Janine from Ghostbusters.
Shelley Smith (overs) - Single Ladies
Oh yes, that classic love/heartache song.
I'm struggling to type as I'm watching this. Actually I'm not watching it, my head is down and my gaze is averted. I've seen episodes of The Office less cringe inducing
She's not Beyoncé and even Beyoncé sounds crap on that song. Bad song, bad performance, on this song the voice is mediocre at best, ok for a cruise ship . She's not safe. The public won't get it. She's the novetly act without the comedy
Also, she's 22? Did I hear that right? Are you freaking kidding me?! I've got mates in their 30's who look younger. I'm assuming someone on the production team did a check her driving licence.
One of the bands get a free pass due to an unborn, offspring issue so moving on...
Sam Callahan (boys) - I Won't Give Up
So the main problem this guy has is his vocals
Well it is a lot easier to sing when you're sat on a Westlife stool doing jack, that's for sure. From the snippets leading up to the song, last week he was bounding around like a coke fuelled Bez from The Happy Mondays.
Tonight however he's powering through the notes but you can tell it's a painfull experience for him. He's straining so much because he, or Louis or the evil producers think he has a better range than he does (just). Saying that at times he did pretty well and there's a certain humility to him that the public are going to lap up. However I think he's be better off as a front man for a decent indie/rock band. His voice would better suit that than pop. He'll be safe.
Tamera Foster (girls) - Beneath Your Beautiful
Or Leona Lewis ver 2.0 with an A Burke patch
Lovely control, good song choice and ye catching stage presence. She doesn't warble on the notes as much as other female RnB style singers do (I hope she keeps up with that) The song almost seemed too easy for her and that's a very good sign. If I one negative thing to say it all seems a bit predictable though; we've seen this kind of performer so many times and even had 2 winners with the same format. So the biggest risk she has is if the general public are as cynical as me and got a bit bored by Pop/RnB divas and fancy a change. If James Arthur's win last year tells us anything it's that this is definitely within the realms of plausibility.
Other than that, I'm impressed and feel she'll be safe this week and probably will be right up till the live final.
Luke Friend (boys) - Let her go
Momma's boy has the advantage of not sounding like Passenger; a singer who's voice I cannot stand. Started off ok but this sustained oooooohhhs seem a bit off and dare I say it out of tune. Actually there's quite a bit of the song out of tune and it's almost like the backing band thought so came in loud enough to drown the guy out. I like the fact he says he liked to quirking up the song. This is a Passenger song Luke, if it was anymore quirked up it would be wearing a sequined flat cap and dungarees. It's not needed and in fact you made it sound less quirky that what it is originally.
I find it quite fitting he sat in a boat the whole time. Couldn't have put it better myself. This lad is way out of his depth.
Should he capsize though I imagine his hair would have some degree of buoyancy and lets face it, it's what's keeping him safe in the public vote this far.
Rough Copy (groups) - I Want It That Way
Daddy promo will guarantee some votes their way. Smooth guys
And the winner for quickest change into performing clothes and not giving a crap what the overall result will look like goes to...
Maybe it's just me but their harmonies seemed off at times and choice of song is beyond dreadful. If you want to make your mark as an original vocal band; don't perform songs by other vocal bands, not matter how good (or bad) they are. You make more of an impact taking a song that had no harmonies, engineering the song to fit your style, making the song unique and memorable to the public. Hell if you're really brave you should go acapella. On balls alone you will be guaranteed a safe week.
Vocally they're pretty good but they didn't showcase how good a vocal group the judges claim they are. Once again; song choice is absolutely critical. I think they have too much popularity to be at risk this week, but they're lucky it's early in the competition. Any more song choices like that and they will be gone though.
Hannah Barret (girls) - Beautiful
I love the way Nicole calls her beautiful while calling her a yellow herb at the same time. Talk about a back handed compliment. You call someone a banana where I'm from it's only a step away from calling them a wally.
As for her performance her vocal inflections remind me of M People singer Heather Small, which is good but her range... I could be wrong but I don't even think she's an alto. I think she may be a female tenor. Which is good but not for X Factor. That kind of voice will not mainstream well.
The arrangement of this song is great but her voice does not suit it. Her register is too low and the vocal gymnastics come across as someone pretending to opera. This is the equivalent of Nick Cave singing Don't Stop Me Now. She's got a lot of power but her performance is lacking heart and vulnerability. As a result I don't think she'll be safe.
So who's going to in the bottom
My guess is Shelley Smith and Hannah Barret
Ok, this speed elimination round is a tad weird. I suppose it saves time going through every single contestant/band and letting them know if their safe. Hell maybe general elections should be held that way, the streamlining may annoy some areas but at least you'd have a definitive answer. Party with the most overall votes wins, constituencies be damned.
So Kingston Road is singing for survival. I guess the public are more sick of One Direction than I thought.
I do think they will sing off against Shelley Smith however. She's had it and if the public do keep her in it will be with sympathy only. She.will.not.win.
Why delay the inevitable, it's just cruel.
From seeing just one week it's hard to pick a possibly overall winner. I will say that the best performer of the night was Tamera Foster and no doubt she is a lot of people's pick for series winner.
The dark horse however could be Sam Callahan
Reason? Sheer likability trumps vocal talent every time.