The moment Simon supposedly took Alan on one side and fronted him up with the question behind all press allegations and negative media coverage of the past few weeks: Are you telling the truth? Trouble is, Simon’s not a very good actor and Alan must have been grilled by the producers long before they bothered to fly him out to Barbados, so what was the point of this little vignette? To show that the Master of Music and Seer into Souls Simon Cowell just has to look into your eyes to know whether or not you’re telling the truth? Another way of bolstering his myth? Gimme a break. Still, if that had been the only problem…
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Before revealing the judges to their categories, we enjoyed the usual “LOL” moment as the four groups open their envelopes to find out where they’re going. As usual, three out of four leap up and down with excitement at the prospect of jetting off to the sun. The fourth group look at each other and shrug, wondering if they should let their real feelings show: the disappointment of their short hop across the Irish Sea, and the realisation that their mentor is going to be a man who can’t talk without jerking his right arm up and down. Because let’s face it, Ireland means Louis Walsh.
Next the traditional footage where the contestants walk awe-struck through the beautiful houses in which they’ll soon be singing for their place in the final. “I’ve never even seen a house this big,” they all say. Of course you haven’t. You’re not a millionaire. But you could be. And then you could have all this. Predictably, they all “really want this.” Who wouldn’t?
15-year old Eoghan sang first. A lacklustre performance of Cat Stevens “Father and Son” that did nothing to convince me I was wrong to plump against him last week.
Liam, this year’s second-chance kid, sang A Million Love Songs. Tough call this. My instinct is that he’ll go through, purely after all that faff about letting him go and calling him back. He sang well, but seemed a bit over-awed by the location.
Mali is one of those contestants that totally passes me by during the early rounds and then pops up as if from nowhere, while everyone else is claiming they knew he was great from day one. Well yes, he has a really good voice, but if he’s invisible during the early rounds, what does that say for his charisma quotient? Still, he did a pretty good job with Stevie Wonder’s All in Love is Fair.
Still think Austin Drage is the one to beat in this category. He has been a stand-out from the very first audition and his performance of Michael Jackson’s She’s out Of My Life was another stunner. The most obvious candidate to go through, in my opinion.
Difficult to judge Scott Bruton’s performance as Simon had chosen to make him sing Bonnie Rait’s I Can’t Make You Love Me. I know from personal experience how hard this song is for a guy to sing, and he had a fair go, but let me tell you even what seems to be a mediocre rendition of this number is an achievement. Whether it’s enough of an achievement to secure a place in the final is anyone’s guess.
Finally, sob story king Alan Turner gave us All or Nothing by O-Town. Didn’t do much for me and although Simon’s fears regarding his backstory were allayed, I wonder whether he’s done enough. If he gets through it won’t be a decision based on his singing.
First to perform for them was Daniel Evans, the owner of the sob story for this category. He gave a pretty good rendition of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds, and although he doesn’t look much like a pop star at the moment, he’s got great “likeability.”
Ruth Lorenzo starts to look like a one-trick pony when she does another bilingual version, this time of Cindi Lauper’s True Colours. Even so, the charged emotion she puts into the song impresses the judges.
First melt-down of this round goes to 48-year-old Louise Heatly whose version of Say a Little Prayer was missing half its lyrics. Unforgivable at this stage and it has to raise the question of whether she has what it takes to perform in front of a theatre audience every week. This was the first occasion where I was tempted to rethink my predictions for this group.
If you want to give anyone a hard time, give him “Mr Bojangles” to sing. It has to be one of the hardest songs to get any expression into, and James Williams didn’t rise to the challenge. The whole thing sounded flat and uninteresting. I’d be amazed if he’s done enough to get through.
One of the most stunning lookers in the show this year, Suzi Furlonger has already appeared on the X Factor stage as part of the backing group for Shayne Ward. She delivers a breathtaking version of Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away. This time, I’d be amazed if she doesn’t make it through.
Second melt-down to Rachel Hylton, with another performance filled with la-di-das and dee-dee-dums, this time it was supposed to be Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful. However, I think it’s safe to say that in Rachel’s case this won’t matter overmuch. She’s the single most recognisable character in the show this year and virtually guaranteed a place.
Third session saw Louis and Shane Filan sitting in an acoustically dead room in some anonymous Irish castle. Does this man actually have any friends, or does he spend his entire life with members of Westlife?
4Instinct are first up, and although they leave the audition room wreathed in smiles, I think “wreathed” is the key word, as they’re chances must be pretty dead after what was a totally uninspiring version of the Jackson Five’s Rockin’ Robin.
Next up was Girlband. I’d written these girls off last week but after their performance of The Zutons’ Valerie, and especially in light of what happened later, I’d put them in with a chance now.
JLS are this category’s stand-out act. They haven’t put a foot wrong so far in this competition, and they continued to not put a foot wrong with a really tight rendition of Jordan Sparks’ No Air. I love this song – one of the most original tunes of the year – and they somehow managed to make it even more original, putting their own twist on it and delivering a cracking audition. Judging from the smiles on Louis’ and Shane’s faces, they thought so too.
Priority gave me a real problem. Normally, you’d expect a group manufactured by the judges themselves to be a no-brainer for the final, but I think even Louis was surprised by their lack of preparation. Shane certainly was incredulous at their excuse that they hadn’t practised owing to “work commitments.” Don’t let me hear any of them saying they “really want this” if they can’t be bothered to rehearse. They mumbled their way through “Umbrella” as if it was the first time they’d heard the song. Or seen each other, for that matter. If they get through on the basis of that audition then the whole thing is definitely a fix.
There seems to be some kind of unwritten law that says both of the girl groups from Geordieland – Bad Lashes and Desire – can’t get through, because they’re too similar. Bad Lashes’ version of Wonderwall was – for me – the first time I’d enjoyed listening to the song. If anything it had the edge over Desire’s Shine, and the judges seemed to agree, but both of these girl groups are stronger than most of the rest of the category.
So if that unwritten law exists, then on the basis of the auditions I’m changing my predicted winners to: JLS, Girlband and Bad Lashes, but if having two Geordie groups turns out not to be that much of a problem then I’d drop Girlband in favour of Desire.
Diana Vickers was first up, singing Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares. A strong performance, although most of it sung with her eyes closed which has annoyed judges in the past. Her singing voice is quirky and original, which is good in small doses. I can’t help feeling it would soon get old if you had to listen to it every week, and it won’t suit all music styles.
The show’s third melt-down belonged to Amy Connolly, sob story representative in the girls’ category and proud recipient of the Cheryl’s Teary Embrace award at the London audition. Missing half the words from Sweet About Me is not the best way to impress though.
Dark horse Hannah Bradbeer gave a fantastic rendition of Take Another Piece of My Heart. She wasn’t on my list of winners last week, but maybe she should be now. She took one step up, and as we were about to see, one of the more likely candidates took a step down.
Laura Wright can really deliver a song. And then, occasionally, she’ll totally mess up. Which would it be? With Timberlake’s Cry Me a River she put in a creditable performance, but whether “creditable” is strong enough given the competition remains to be seen.
Fourth and final melt-down was snapped up by Annastasia Baker and this one was the real thing, with collapsing on the floor, crawling, sobbing and begging. The whole bit. How hard can it be to remember the words to a song, you might think? It’s the pressure though, innit? She’s well and truly blown after that though.
One who is definitely not blown but who can, as Randy Jackson might say, really blow, is Alexandra Burke. The stand-out contestant in this category gave another wonderfully assured performance and leaves Cheryl and Kimberley with huge smiles on their faces.
So after 90 minutes and some memorable performances, all that remains is to find out who made it and who blew it. And for that, tantalisingly, we have to wait until tonight. Unless you’re one of the thousands who caught the spoilers before they were shut down. Which I’m not, in case you were wondering, so I’ll be on the edge of my seat tonight along with most of you, to find out if my predictions were anywhere near.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip