Return of the X

It’s back, the greatest musical talent show on TV or, as I like to call it, my excuse for having no social life for the next 4 months. This year we are promised that the focus will be on talent and not sob stories. Apart from Saint Cheryl’s malaria of course.

The series kicks off with the announcement that while Dannii Minogue is off having a baby (poor Simon must be cursing Kris Smith as you can’t sack someone when they are on maternity leave) her place on the panel will be filled by 5 of the biggest names in music – including Katy Perry and Nicole Pussycat Doll. Unfortunately our first “big name” is Geri Halliwell, the Cheryl Cole of the Spice Girls – couldn’t sing and with a disastrous love life.

First up is a camp Glaswegian who is clearly meant to be crap but can actually hold a tune a lot better than some of the previous acts who have made it to the live shows. He’s probably brilliant fun at karaoke but I doubt we’ll be seeing him on our screens again. Does Simon’s approval mean that he is cutting back on the put downs this year? I do hope not.

Ad break. I’d forgotten how many ad breaks we get with X Factor. So far we’ve only heard one “singer”.

Back to Glasgow and it’s time for a trio called Diva Features with aspirations to entertain at the Super Bowl. They are not good. But still no horrific putdowns. Now it’s time to patronize our first older contestant. I’m all for fighting age discrimination but what is the point of the pensioners? Next up is a rubbish Michael Jackson impersonator. I’m getting a bit bored.

The action then moves to the queue where we meet our first real contender. I know she is a real contender as Dermot is interviewing her and we are seeing family photos. Do I smell a sob story? She has been raised by a single mum and wants to change her family’s life. Hmmmm … no tears and she is frighteningly articulate. Have the show’s producers been kidnapped by aliens? Weird song choice from Gamu, she’s probably a bit too soulful for what is actually rather a bland pop song. She also hasn’t really changed it that much apart from some odd new lyrics that suggest she is dumping her lover but set to such an upbeat tune that he’d be forgiven for not getting the message. Strange. Still, she has a nice enough voice and when I see that Cheryl is in Angel of the North mode with a carefully placed tear in her eye, we know this girl is going through, probably all the way to judges’ houses.

Now we have a weird little segment in which Geri bores the arse off everybody – her talking about vocal tone is a bit like Rik Waller giving diet tips. Dannii’s job seems safe. For now.

Back to Dermot and another back story. Somehow G&S (Gay and Straight) is not inspiring me with the same confidence as pretty little Gamu and her mum. I knew ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ would feature heavily this series – damn you Glee. “Gay” can’t sing. “Straight” can. Unfortunately her decent voice is rather over-shadowed by Gay’s “dance” moves. I’m impressed with Straight – to be able to pitch her note properly against her partner’s tuneless wailing takes talent. Is this our first “break up the group for the sake of your career” moment? Yup, that didn’t take long. Gay is being supportive. Damn. I prefer it when lifelong friendships are shattered by the cruel, cruel judges exploiting the contestants’ ambition. Straight does have a nice voice but it isn’t so impressive when it isn’t against the terrible partner. Despite Simon’s reservations I know she’s going to make it as the backing track is kicking in. She’s more boot camp cannon fodder. Gay is more excited than she is. Sweet.

We finish the Glasgow auditions with a nice normal girl with a nice normal voice followed by a medley of other successes who we’ll probably meet again later on. Simon shows his international credentials by knowing that noir is French for black. This year’s first pretty boy is 21 year old Mark. He’s caught Cheryl’s eye. And Louis has perked up a bit too. Funny that.

Goodbye Scotland and goodbye Geri, the judge who took Talk Talk’s sponsorship of the show a little bit too literally. The action moves to London. Apparently the capital has turned out in force to support them. I think I missed that memo. Cheryl’s looking for a new group. Perhaps the rumours about Girls Aloud splitting up are true. First up in London we have a group formed over the internet that compares itself to N-Dubz or Black Eyed Peas. For me, that’s like comparing a Sunday league footie team to Manchester United. Sadly the rehearsing over the internet has not paid off. They can’t sing or move. Drunk karaoke at its worst. So yes, the N-Dubz comparison suddenly doesn’t seem quite so far off. Evil Simon is back – probably the worst group they’ve ever had. Once off the stage, the one who looks like Glee’s little goth girl is quick to point the finger at her colleague who was apparently screaming really loud. Unfortunately so was the little goth. Next.

Oh good, we have 4 girls in skimpy clothes and Simon and Louis are “picking” on poor little Chezza who is finally missing Dannii.
Next it’s back to the 80s with an over-confident Madonna impersonator. It’s a little contrived but I don’t mind her. Anybody who says they’ve enjoyed something since they were “yay big” is OK by me. Although she might irritate me if she goes too far – nothing near Stacey Solomon proportions of irritatingness – but she does have the potential to make me want to rip my arm off so I have something to throw at the screen. Her voice isn’t anywhere near as good as she thinks it is. It might be the nerves but I share Louis Walsh’s disappointment. She’s interesting though –a funny little mixture of 50s housewife, 80s throwback and Brit School graduate. Louis says no but it’s going to be OK as the backing track has kicked in and we don’t have “We are the champions” for rejects. Unless it’s a really cruel use of the line “no time for losers” which would be funny.

Back for the last bit of the show and it’s single mum alert. She claims she is trained in “opera style”. So am I and I am RUBBISH at singing pop so this could be a car crash. Once she gets on stage her opera style training has become “vocal training” with a coach Louis has heard of. Hmmmmm … I smell a conspiracy theory. Fantastic. The big surprise for me is that she can’t sing – I thought we were building up to the big finish with the brilliant singer. But this girl really can’t sing and she is the nearest thing to a nutter we have seen in this whole first programme. This is more what I signed up for. I hope she wins. This year’s Jedward? I bet the singing teacher is delighted to have such a fabulous free advert for her training talents …

So that’s the first programme. I still hate the audience, preferred it when it was just the judges and not the baying mob. Thankfully no sob stories but also no stand out stars and only one crazy lady so I feel a bit cheated. It was actually quite a weak launch programme – I guess they are going to roll out the big guns when Strictly starts. But the trailer for next week is enough to suck me in, tears and nutters and more “guest judges” auditioning for Dannii’s job for next year …

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