180,000 people auditioned for The X Factor this year. Were you one of them? Why the hell not? If only you had yodelled your way through a Westlife number, you too could have had a chance of ending up a household name like last year’s winner..um..you know, what’s his face. Leroy. Liam. Someone.
Not so much Dreamtime as ear plugs time, they almost won the prize for episode’s Most Deluded. She screeched, he screamed, Alsatians came running, glasses shattered and Simon’s botox took a bit of a battering.
This year there’s a twist. Sharon Osborne is absent – presumably she’s off interfering with some beautiful young men somewhere – and her replacement is Girls Aloud’s Cheryl Cole. Cole, of course, was once in the same position as these wannabees and now is living the dream, being a member of the country’s most popular girl band and married to a philandering footballer. “I can’t wait to watch somebody’s dream come true,” she says. As if it’s going to be that easy.
Back on the panel is Simon, whose hair seems to be staging a homage to Duncan Norvelle, Toby Jug model Louis Walsh and Danni Minogue, who is so paint-by-numbers gay-icon-pop-diva-tastic she should really come in a sealed plastic box.
But however freakish they may be, the judges are nothing when compared with the auditonees. In they roll, nd it 'aint good.
First act up were best friends and vocal twosome Dreamtime, threatening to be this year’s answer to 2007’s brother and sister combo Same Difference, the latter a duo so wholesome they went right out the other side, coming across as some sort of eerie Aryan incestual apocalypse (very popular with the grans, though).
Luckily, this pair couldn’t actually sing. Not so much Dreamtime as ear plugs time, they almost won the prize for episode’s Most Deluded. She screeched, he screamed, Alsatians came running, glasses shattered and Simon’s botox took a bit of a battering. “That was like going to the zoo,” he said. Which it was, except that, given the choice, I’d rather stare at a monkeys bum. “I’m shocked,” said Cheryl, clearly never having seen the show before.
The episode’s ubiquitous sob story came in the form of Rachel, a 26 year old mother of four who has done drugs, done time and is in the process of turning her life around. She was lovely and plucky and her version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘No Good’ was amazing. Plus Simon loves her. She’s going to be one to watch.
Then there was more of the silly and the borderline insane. Snatching the prize for Most Deluded from under the nose of Earplugs Time were Ant and Seb. “The X Factor have never seen anything like us,” said Seb and he may have been right. If they were a spoof, they would have been hilarious. Alas, they weren’t a spoof so they were still hilarious, but not in the same way.
As alleged Rick Astley sound-a-like Ant sang one of Peter Andre’s finest (if you’ll excuse the oxymoron), Seb wrapped his bumfluff moustache around quite the strangest rap ever heard outside of a World Cup single. The judges faces said it all. But just in case it wasn’t clear, they also reiterated it in word form, the gist being, ‘you’re unbelievably shit.’
Seb was having none of it. “No disrespect but I’ve heard we’re pretty good.” Erm, might that have been “pretty crud”? Not to be deterred, as Simon was leaving the venue they ambushed him with a Rick Astley number which, unbelievably, failed to bring him round. Crazy fool.
In between the lunatics – the crazy waistcoated chap singing, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’, and twins Symmetry (like two passive aggressive lumberjacks) - there were some fantastic singers. I can’t remember anything about them, naturally, because all the focus was on the freaks, but we’ll see loads more of them in the next round so who cares?
Finally, no series of The X Factor would be complete without a judges’ soap opera plot and this time it centred around Cheryl. As the judges returned to Manchester for a second round of auditions, the singer was confronted by Nick Major, a 24 year old singer who had entered Popstars: the Rivals along with Cole six years earlier.
Nick made it to the final ten but failed to get into the band. Now doomed to entertain drunken biddies in North West working men’s clubs, sandwiched somewhere between the bingo and the bar fights, this was Nick’s last shot. Or so the panel kept telling him.
And so Nick sang. Then Cheryl fled in tears saying she couldn’t judge him. Nick is a decent enough singer and the panel could easily have put him through. But this is where the reality of the ‘make or break’ power becomes apparent. Because it’s not about the singer so much as what makes the more dramatic plot line – putting Nick through to the next round or telling him, in a brutal, devastating, horribly categorical manner, that his dream is over, whilst his successful, glamorous, erstwhile peer Cheryl gets into a flash limo sobbing?
In the end, there was no competition.
The X Factor, Saturday 7.30pm, ITV