Thursday 22 February 2018

Brian O'Reilly: X Factor Semi Final – ‘Hip’ Christopher, the next big boy band and the performance of the series

I HAVE to admit at this point this is shaping up to be the most disappointing series of the show in nine years, and this as a fan who has watched since the beginning.

For the level of talent which, on paper, went into the live shows – the performances just haven’t lived up to that standard.

The panel just isn’t working either, and I think a big shake up is needed next year.

The prospect of Maloney winning is now a very real one, and it would deal the show a credibility blow from which it may never recover.

This week on Twitter a mock cover picture for his debut album release was circulated, titled ‘Songs for me nan’ – also priced £1, as the bargain bin is where it will most certainly end up.

I watched some ‘Strictly’ for the first time ever on Saturday to see what the competition was offering that the X Factor wasn’t.

Firstly, it’s completely not my bag, I don’t get the appeal of seeing celebrities dancing. Watching Lisa Riley was just too ‘drunk relative at wedding’, followed by the judge’s pretending she was good.

However it was clear to me what it has that the X Factor has lost – it was unashamedly feel good TV – it was bright, happy and positive.

The X Factor on the other hand has become negative, bitchy and to be honest, quite tired.

Whatever anyone says, these talent shows live or die by their judging panel – Strictly’s works, but the X Factor’s doesn’t.

In next week’s final blog I’ll give a full reflection of the series as well as what I think needs to change.

But back to this week’s semi final, which was very much a mixed bag.

Christopher Maloney – ‘You raise me up’

He could be singing about undying love. He could be singing about a tuna wrap he had for lunch. It just all sounds the same to me.

Vocally this was one of his weaker performances, there were a lot of flats and I think the music should have been in a slightly higher key for him.

If ever anyone was in doubt of the stage managed nature of the X Factor the judges’ reaction to him was proof, all giving their most glowing praise to date.

Let’s be honest, if this was his audition performance he wouldn’t have gotten through on it, no matter how much he shook or cried about his bloody nan.

He could win the show, but he shouldn’t – he’ll fade into oblivion faster than his fake tan. 2/10

Jahmene Douglas – ‘I look to you’

Well let’s start on a controversial note on this one, the subject of when the song was released.

Jahmene claims he attempted to sing this song at his brother’s funeral in 2008, however many were quick to point out that Whitney Houston didn’t record the song until the summer of 2009.

This raised the question online as to whether Jahmene had lied – so I did some research.

The song was written by R Kelly, and has existed as a demo for several years prior to Whitney Houston recording it in 2009. However she was the first artist to release the song.

Despite this, it does appear that the demo version of the song has been floating around Youtube from 2008, which means the Jahmene was telling the truth.

Anyway, back to the performance. A problem I had with Jahmene early on remerged this week, his inability to stick to a song’s original melody.

I’ve tried my best to like him, and there were some sparks of brilliance, however he just hasn’t clicked with me.

I can’t see where he could go career wise, I don’t know what type of music he could record, and I don’t think he has the stage presence needed to sustain a long term career.

I said a few weeks ago I was waiting for that big break through moment for Jahmene, and with only the final to come it still hasn’t happened. 6/10

Union J – ‘Beneath You're Beautiful’

For me these guys have really taken the whole X Factor experience for what it was worth – they solidly improved every week and learned from their mistakes, and I’ve no doubt they are the ‘next big boy band’.

They should be in the final, however this was certainly the weaker of their two performances.

I think as a song it was too restrictive for them, there wasn’t enough light and shade or anything that could really display their great vocals.

Performance wise it was just like something we’d seen before from them – maybe the thinking was doing the same thing every week works for Christopher and Jahmene so we’ll try it too.

However I do feel this song was in their ‘niche’ area – not as poppy as One Direction but not as ballady as Westlife, somewhere in between. 7/10

James Arthur – ‘One Love’

In hindsight, I think being in the bottom two was the best thing that could have happened to James – we see a fight and a desire in him to win that wasn’t there before.

And win he should, because nine weeks in and he is just at a completely different standard to everyone else.

He brings an authenticity to everything he does – he brings meaning to every single lyric he sings.

Vocally this was just stunning – the problem at the beginning of the series was the song selection wasn’t showing off his fantastic vocal range.

I still think long term it would be better for him not to win, but for the show to salvage anything from this disastrous series he must. 8/10

Christopher Maloney – ‘Just haven’t met you yet’

I thought when the lights came out of his eyes a few weeks ago it couldn’t get any better. I was wrong.

You could tell his line of thinking was ‘Now’s the time to show how cool I am’ – I’m half surprised he didn’t break it down into some rap about his nan.

What next Christopher? Maybe you should bring on your ghetto blaster and crank out some hip beats because you’re so down with the kids now.

I can already imagine what the biggest hit of next summer will be – David Guetta feat C-dawg Maloney ‘(Don’t) smack me nan up’.

How Gary manages to keep a straight face when acting like Christopher is the greatest thing to come from Liverpool since the Beatles is beyond me.

On a serious note, Christopher is just a very good karaoke singer. If you heard him sing in a pub somewhere you’d assume he was part of the local hall’s Christmas panto.

I think he should have gone in week one, and he’s shown nothing since which makes me feel any different. 0/10

Jahmene Douglas ‘ At Last’

This performance for me just summed up a week before the final everything that I don’t like about Jahmene.

Vocally he was very flat at certain points in the song, particularly the last chorus. I struggle to remember a week he didn’t hit a flat, there’s no excuses for it now.

This song is meant to be sexy and sultry – and let’s be honest Jahmene didn’t exude either of these qualities.

There’s a complete lack of connection to the lyrics of songs with Jahmene, it’s all technique but no passion or emotion.

Out of him and Maloney he’d be my choice, but I do think the show has had much stronger contenders this year. 5/10

Union J – ‘I’m already there’

This was the stronger of their two performances on the night, and I was willing them on to nail it.

George’s opening was slightly ropey; however he did recover as he went on.

To my ears Jaymi’s low note just after he started singing was slightly raspier than it should have been, however he recovered magnificently.

I really do think after James Arthur Jaymi from union J is the best vocalist in this year’s competition, and probably the best male pop vocalist since Joe McElderry on the show.

Performance wise it was just a little lacking for me – they could have justifiably threw a little bit of the traditional X Factor tack at it. Sad to see them go, but they have a future for sure.

I know it was difficult to sing after being eliminated, but I’m delighted they chose to do ‘Love Story’ – for me it was their break through moment on the show and probably their best performance of the series. 8/10

James Arthur ‘The Power of Love’

For any of the doubters, anyone who didn’t think he deserved to win, this proved that he is one of the most talented artists the show has ever had.

It says something about the standard of performances that this was the first time there was a standing ovation from the judges this year, but it was completely justified.

It felt like James’ entire X Factor journey was building to this performance – It was hauntingly atmospheric, and displayed his incredible vocal range perfectly.

It was head and shoulders ahead as the performance of the series. We all know the X Factor is a bit of a circus, that’s what we love about it. But it is also a talent search, and James is by far one of the most talented artists ever on its stage. 10/10

Twitter: @Brian_O_Reilly

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