If You Haven't Watched All Of X Factor? Here's A Quick Catch Up On What You've Missed Before Tonight's Finale
The Debrief: It’s been a long old road my friend, and it's finally (nearly) over
Wildcards in week one
The X Factor is basically one long endurance test. If you’re there from the very first week of room auditions then chances are you’ll slovenly sit, takeaway on lap, through the arena bit, the Judge’s Houses debacle and then onto the live shows. It’s around the judge’s excuse for a holiday section where you start to distinguish between the haircuts, the fake tan and the generic pub singers. It‘s also at this point that you start to loathe a handful of them and take an inordinate pleasure in seeing them disintegrate into a pool of tears and snot when they’re told they will have to leave Bermuda or wherever it is and return to Basingstoke. So the plot twist in the first week of live shows this year was a real kick in the teeth for anyone hoping they’d seen the last of singing quiffs Overload Generation or tearful fishmonger Lola Saunders. Basically, having seen four people leave in a smear of mascara (and that was just Stevi Ritchie) there was then a wildcard rule implemented in week one which meant each judge got to bring back a contestant, the further twist being they picked for each other. It was all quite frustrating to be honest – like watching your best mate finally dump their annoying partner only for them to rock up a week later for Sunday dinner.
The Overs lasting longer than the first four weeks
Following in the footsteps of last year’s winner Sam Bailey, ie being over the age of 26, this year’s strongest category in terms of headcount was the crudely monikered, but usually accurate, ‘Overs’. In fact, up until week six all four of Simon’s geriatrics were still alive and kicking before the fall of alarmingly-toothed Jay James was followed quickly by Harvester fan and Red Coat in waiting, Stevie Ritchie (more on him later). One of this series’ best contestants by a country mile has been Fleur, who stands out for a) being able to actually dance; b) being able to actually dance and sing at the same time; and c) for having more than a dash of that indefinable element that crops up in the show’s title. The other contestant to make it further than most people expected was Ben Haenow (that surname, honestly), a man whose vocal experiments with things like key seemed to be excused by putting him in a River Island leather jacket and calling him “authentic”.
This year’s Wagner, droopy eyed call centre worker Stevi Ritchie, captured the nation's hearts – or at least their love for novelty – for seven glorious weeks. He was the Phantom Of The Opera, he was Ricky Martin’s embarrassing older brother, he was tarred and feathered while wearing a gold lame two piece and he was so bad even Simon – his ‘mentor’ in so many ways – said it was the worst thing he’d ever seen. Mind you, that was after the stack-heeled pop overlord had deigned to be seen in public with him, taking him out to his favourite restaurant Harvester for some scampi and good old rummage through the salad cart. Expect to see Ritchie and his unique brand of desperate happiness on Celebrity Big Brother before you can say, ‘What’s Chico up to these days?’
‘Simon’s back! Cheryl’s back! Louis is still there! Oh, and then there’s a fourth judge too!’ So screamed the headlines (but in a slightly more pun-heavy, less prosaic fashion) as the X Factor juggernaut rolled in again this summer. However, that fourth seat has been properly owned by the artist formerly known as Scary Spice, aka Melanie ‘Mel B’ Brown, a woman who manages to be genuine, warm, funny, opinionated and brutally honest usually in the same sentence. While Cheryl looked nice in a Kermit-inspired dress or when she was wiping away a Diamanté tear, she was also mainly reduced to bickering with Simon, allowing Mel B to sweep in rocking a polo-neck to say what we were all thinking. For example, early on she rightly called walking tattoo Jake Quickenden a 'wuss,' called out most of them for 'straining' (while singing, I assume) and chastised Chloe-Jasmine for her make-up choices. It would be quite nice to have Mel B back next year and this time with a performance of I Want You Back (featuring Missy Elliott), cheers. Or at the very least that song where she gets off with herself in the video.
Everything was set in place for the walking Downton Abbey meets Cruella de Vil caricature Chloe-Jasmine Winchello (who’d previously auditioned looking and acting very different back in 2006) to be this year’s Katie Waissel, ie a precocious, almost-accidentally-talented limelight vacuum who would inexplicably stay until week seven. But there was more to Miss Winchello than that. For one, she could actually sing, albeit with a knowing croak, and she owned her particular shtick pretty well, sashaying around the stage like a less narcoleptic Lana Del Rey. She also added some much needed glamour to a show that aims for sartorial elegance by seemingly just throwing a rail of Urban Outfitters coats at the contestants and hoping for the best. Ridiculously, she went out in the second week having performed Fame in the style of The Great Gatsby; the performance hindered by her swallowing a mouthful of gold ticker tape midway through. What a way to go, though.
Chloe’s Fame debacle took place during the I Love The 80s themed week, which was notable for the fact that most of the songs performed didn't actually come out in that specific decade. So there were two John Lennon songs, both of which were originally released in 1971 (one of them was Imagine, obviously), Fleur tackled It’s A Shame (My Sister), which, despite being a jam, actually came out in 1990, and then Lego-haired bellower Paul Akister ‘interpreted’ If You Don't Know Me By Now, which was released in 1972. Obviously, there are worse things to complain about when it comes to The X Factor – Dermot O’Leary’s annoying imaginary golf swing at the opening of every show, for example – but there were quite a few above average songs written between 1980 and 31 December 1989, so the least they could have done is stuck to their own rules.
Fucking Big Band week
Which leads us neatly to another themed week that should have been better, and by ‘should have been better’, I of course mean scrapped altogether. Why is this still a thing? Do we have Robbie Williams to blame for this? Even Peter Andre released a swing album this year. I get that the show needs to appeal to all age groups and that actually it’s not young kids who vote the most (hence why Sam Bailey won last year), but even just the name Big Band week makes me want to curl up in a ball and impale a Michael Bublé voodoo doll. It also means we get exactly the same songs every time. So Cry Me A River (not the good one) gets an airing, as does Mack The Knife, someone has to do Smile and the novelty act (Hiya Stevi!) always gets that well-known big band song, She Bangs. We did at least get one song that was actually released in the last 12 months with Fleur doing her best to eradicate the lingering memory of Jessie J by belting out Bang Bang. She even made hip-hop-big-band work by rattling through Nicki Minaj’s rap. Mind you, imagine her doing that song without all that brass nonsense and at the right tempo and with less bejewelled canes. Why can’t there be a ‘here are some amazing recent singles released by some people you've heard of and that haven't been covered by every single X Factor contestant that's ever existed’ week? That’s all I ask.
You can’t help but feel that pop lab experiment Stereo Kicks were doomed from the start. For one, there are eight of them. EIGHT! People’s attention spans are very short, especially on a Saturday and Sunday night and especially as winter sets in and the only way to make it through is to mainline alcohol. No one has the time or the energy to try and differentiate between eight very similar looking teenagers as they stand in a line clouded by hairspray trying to harmonise but actually all just singing the same note at the same time. Also, let’s be honest here, Simon may have more money then half the developed world but no label is going to stump up the cash to cover the needs of eight people. Not unless they're planning on only touring the UK and only in an eight-seater bus and only at venues near to where they live. Also, they’d need to wear the same clothes and do their own hair, which in some cases must take at least a week. I’d imagine three members will leave citing ‘creative differences’ once the tour is over, while that one with the long face who can sing will likely be ‘inking’ a solo deal as soon as contractually possible.
Andrea Faustini covered in gold paint The still actually quite entertaining Halloween week (who can forget Little Mix doing Katy Perry’s ET that time?) saw poor Jack Walton eliminated immediately for daring to ruin Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love, but the real talking point was Italian pug-lover and quivering lipped ballad belter Andrea Faustini. Performing Relight My Fire, he appeared – for reasons still being looked into – covered in gold paint and sporting a pair of tiny gold devil horns. Looking like a hirsute toffee Quality Street, the real joy comes from how seriously he takes it all, as if the ludicrous get up had been applied while he was asleep and he hadn’t noticed. The best bit is when he stands at the front of a line of female dancers dressed as sexy devils, belts out another big note with that enduringly earnest face of his and then turns slightly to the side to reveal a tiny gold tail. Amazing.
The Only The Young man
The real star this year.
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