Earlier this year, new singing competition The Voice captivated the nation with its new format (at least in the blind audition and battle round stages) and while it was a ratings success, it still has a long way to go before reaching the same popularity level as The X Factor. Now in its ninth series, this show is back to reclaim its crown as the UK’s biggest reality TV talent contest. With the departure of Kelly Rowland – we don’t blame her, but girl, we gon’ miss her ‘puttin’ it down’ – Nicole Scherzinger was brought into replace her. Déjà vu, anyone? Still, at least they got someone who can follow in Kelly’s footsteps by injecting some typical Americanisms and outshine the chavtastic Tulisa in the beauty, talent and success stakes, but couldn’t they have replaced Louis ‘turd’ Walsh and Gary Borelow too? Despite this, dare we say The X Factor has proven itself to be as shamelessly entertaining as usual.
The first episode didn’t disappoint in being as compelling yet, in many cases, as staged as ever, but who stood out as ones who you can instantly tell will probably go far just by how much screen time they’re given, and who just bombed out completely? In the latter category, it’s hard to whittle down the large number of those who completely embarrassed themselves in front of thousands just to be further humiliated by millions on TV, but P!nk impersonator Zoe Alexander undisputedly stole the show. The feisty popstar wannabe, whose mum and dad are also Tom Jones and Shania Twain tribute acts – how, when they look nothing like them, we have no idea – had certainly taken some styling and personality tips from her idol, but perhaps went a little overboard on the attitude to say the least. Wanting to break away from the ‘whole P!nk thing’ and image, she definitely didn’t stick to that desire by singing ‘So What’, something the judges were quick to fairly point out. Even her second chance song ‘Next To Me’ by Emeli Sandé was a poor choice. On rejection, the originally smiley Zoe was more than a little upset, accusing the judges of telling her to sing P!nk when she didn’t want to before getting lairy and violent, pushing over equipment, shoving people out of the way and swearing at everyone, including the judges. It made for some interesting television needless to say, but is perhaps further evidence of how some contestants are so easily manipulated by the producers.
Other (poor) tribute acts included Rod Stewart, Prince and even Tulisa, none of which impressed the judges, particularly the latter who actually managed to make Tulisa look good. Wannabe ladies man Sheyi Matteo (who unsurprisingly fancied Tulisa) who dressed like your average ‘bad boy from da hood’ but sounded like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street sang – that is, murdered – Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ with his atrociously unhealthy throat singing. On the plus side however, the Nando’s employee did wonders for the popular restaurant company’s marketing by plugging their brand several times for free.
Among the average Joes and riff-raff, other notable contestants who made it through even though we only heard them sing about one line of a song, include waitress Fe, florist Tasha and fireman Rick (and yes, he was one of those hot ones you’re more likely to see in a calendar than in everyday life). One guy who who shined the brightest was Jahmene Douglas; the Asda employee who the cameras followed around while he ‘worked’ (did we really need to see all that?), belted out the Etta James classic ‘At Last’, throwing in more vocal acrobatics into one syllable than was entirely necessary. His oversinging, however – which could even make Christina Aguilera, from whom he’d obviously taken some notes (and runs) seem tame in comparison – still managed to wow the crowd. They gave him a standing ovation, and you can probably expect to see him go far in the competition.. The judges were equally as bowled over, with Tulisa saying he had the shock factor, Nicole admitting she wanted to eat him up and Gary telling him he had ‘never seen a vocal performance like that before’. He obviously hasn’t seen many vocal performances.
In the second half of the episode, Mel B made an appearance as a guest judge, getting everybody excited to sing in front of her. But unfortunately for them, excitement soon turned to sheer nerves when Scary Spice began to live up to her name, saying ‘no’ to practically everyone and being more than just honest in her opinions. We’re sure Simon Cowell is loving her as an addition. Mel took brutal honesty to a new level as she criticised a girl group’s dancing, made a young girl cry telling her she looked like a popstar but didn’t sound like one and told an 82-year-old man that he almost bored her to sleep. Hmm, B as in bitch? Although to be fair, most acts she didn’t like weren’t that great anyway.
Even 18-year-old nerd Curtis Golden, who used to idolise the Spice Girls as a boy and shocked and impressed everyone else with his surprisingly good acoustic version of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Candyman’, couldn’t stop Mel B from cringing at his ‘comedy act’ and him telling her he had a cardboard cutout of her in his house somewhere. So it was up to the last contestant of the episode, Ella Henderson, to try and get at least one ‘yes’ from Scary. The 16 year-old, who looked and dressed a lot older than her age, sang her self-penned ballad inspired by her late grandfather – commence unnecessary sob story milking – and finally managed to show that Mel B really does have a heart.
So what do the next rounds of auditions have in store for us? As well as guest judge appearances from Geri Halliwell (why not have each Spice Girl on the show eh?), Anastacia, Leona Lewis and Rita Ora, you can be sure to expect more on-stage drama, a few sad stories to try and tug at our heart strings, the rare gem of talent here and there, and of course a legion of more deluded, lost souls who believe they have The X Factor. And most of us, whether we do actually genuinely enjoy it or not, will continue to watch with intrigue and excitement just to see who else can give us some good laughs every Saturday night.