Tuesday 12 December 2017

Brian O’Reilly: X Factor Week 8 – Christopher’s true colours, Union J’s mixed night and Jahmene’s lesson from James

RYLAN’s time on the competition came to an end last night, however I cannot remember a contestant who found themselves in the bottom two on week one making it to the quarter finals – he had a great run.

The show finally had an Abba week, just to justify the annual ‘What would you do on Abba week?’ criticism.

I wasn’t complaining however, they are vocally notoriously difficult songs to sing so actually presented the contestants with a real challenge.

It’s looking increasingly likely that Maloney will be bringing his Baloney to the final with him, which is such a shame, as nearly every contestant who has left the contest so far has been stronger than him.

For me the only two acts that I can see having a career after the show are Union J and James Arthur.

I don’t know who Christopher’s fans are, but they won’t buy his records.

Unfortunately for Jahmene, I really struggle to imagine what direction his career would go in. Gary suggested an Amy Winehouse style Motown musical style for him – but Amy Winehouse Jahmene is not.

It also struck me who Christopher Maloney reminds me of. Shortly after the X Factor last night there was an episode of Fr Ted on. The Eoin McLove episode. It all clicked.

He is certainly an Eoin McLove on stage, and if rumours are true he behaves like him off stage. His fan base is undeniably the same age profile as well.

The guest performers on the results show were the best of the series so far – Rihanna’s performance in particular was breathtaking.

Rylan Clark – ‘Mamma Mia’

Strangely enough, this was actually one of Rylan’s most solid vocal performances of the entire series.

The ‘Chess’ reference won’t be lost on die-hard Abba fans, and as a performance concept it worked really well.

The staging was engaging without being overly busy; the camera work was really slick and added to the performance.

It was really a great send off performance for Rylan – the tacky outfit, the overly camp dance routine and confetti raining down at the end.

I do think Rylan contributed a much needed fun factor this year, and has been a great role model for being different and embracing it. 6/10

Union J – ‘The winner takes it all’

This is probably one of the greatest ever Abba songs, it’s so filled with angst and melancholy and beautifully poignant lyrics about the end of a relationship.

Unfortunately I just don’t think the boys did the song justice, the song was too big for them.

Vocally it was completely on point, but it just didn’t have the powerful emotional connection of the original version.

Even take Meryl Streep’s version of this song in the ‘Mamma Mia’ movie - although it lacked the technical vocal ability of Union J, it really showed the deep emotional meaning behind the lyrics.

On the technical side of things Josh needs to find his cameras and sing into them, although the rest of the boys have really mastered this skill and it connects really well at home.

Add to this the pointless wandering around the stage just for the sake of moving, which just was distracting, it was one of their weakest performances in a long time.

Overall it was just too cold and clinical for me – vocally flawless, but devoid of any emotion. 6/10

James Arthur - ‘SOS’

This was absolutely fantastic by James, and it had everything Union J’s rendition lacked, it was packed with emotion.

It’ something seriously underestimated in Abba songs, there is a huge amount of melancholy played against a cheerful and catchy melody, and boy did James bring the angst with this performance.

Vocally it was absolutely flawless, and James connected really well with his cameras which helped sell the performance so much more on screen.

It made a classic and really well known song sound fresh and new, which is a complete credit to James.

This competition has really helped him along, he always had the talent but it has helped him hone his stage presence and technique. Does he need to win it? No. But if the show wants to regain any of the street cred it lost this series he should. 9/10

Jahmene Douglas – ‘I have a dream’

This was one of Jahmene’s strongest performances of the entire series so far.

Vocally it was stunning, he has really learned to control his voice so much more as the competition has gone on.

The staging was restrained by X Factor standards, with no Gospel choir surrounding Jahmene’s podium midway through, and it worked all the better for this.

It’s undeniable that Jahmene’s stage presence has strengthened a lot throughout the series, however for me it still isn’t where it needs to be.

James Arthur contrasts this so well – when James is on stage now he completely owns and controls it, Jahmene doesn’t.

If it came down to him and Christopher on the final night, Jahmene would be my clear choice. 8/10

Christopher Maloney – ‘Fernando’

Christopher’s VT before the show maybe gave us a flash of his true colours, when he told those disappointed at Ella’s departure essentially to get over it, and that it wasn’t his fault.

As for the performance? Bizarre. It’s the only word. It’s as if the production team came up with this fantastic edgy dance routine and threw Christopher in the middle.

The suit he was wearing also just didn’t go, it was like he didn’t read the dress code on the invite to a party.

Vocally it was fine. But it was just ‘blah’ – it’s Christopher’s biggest problem, he’s never really bad and he’s never really good. He’s just there, lingering like a bad smell. 4/10

Rylan Clarke – ‘Supremes Medley’

If one of his performances were to blame for him going home last night, this was probably it.

It really just seemed to be going through the motions for Rylan, it had none of his usual flare or cheekiness that made him popular.

Performance wise it also just seemed very lazy – Rylan’s best performances had a gimmick – the Chess, the treadmills, the Karl Lagerfelds. This just seemed lacking that little spark.

Vocally it wasn’t anywhere near as good as ‘Mamma Mia’ was earlier in the night, and I think it was obvious afterwards that maybe Rylan’s time on the show was over. 3/10

Union J - ‘I’ll be there’

This was vastly better than their earlier performance, and in fact I think after ‘Love Story’ a few weeks ago this was their best performance of the series.

Vocally Jaymi was stunning, and although Josh is a weaker vocalist than Jaymi he has a lovely tone to his voice which adds a good dynamic to the group.

Christopher Maloney could learn a thing or two from this performance – this is how you stand there and delivery a song with soul, it was flawless.

Whether the bottom two bounce will see them into the final next week I’m not so sure, but they will have a career after the show. They are a talented bunch – but also come across as genuinely nice people.

Unfortunately I think they may go next week, but they should go out fighting delivering more performances like this. 8/10.

James Arthur - ‘Let’s get it on’

I think I may be in the minority, but I preferred his Abba performance to this – but it’s like saying I’d prefer €1m in €100 notes rather than €50s – he still brought the goods.

He has developed so much in the last number of weeks, and after a slow start for me his connection with the camera and confidence on stage is fantastic.

Vocally this was completely solid, and it is doing what some of his earlier performances lacked – showing off his phenomenal range.

If there is any justice he will make it into the final and really should win. 8/10

Jahmene Douglas – ‘Tracks of my tears’

For me this was just a huge exposure of Jahmene’s weaknesses, it was very dull.

Yes, he is looking more confident on stage, but it’s not enough at this point. He needs to be able to own it, and he didn’t, the stage swallowed him.

There were some minor pitching issues towards the end of the performance as well, in a vocal performance which shouldn’t really have challenged him.

Christopher included, this was the dullest performance of the night for me, and only worries me further at the concept of a Jahmene/Christopher final. 3/10

Christopher Maloney – ‘Dancing on the ceiling’

I have to say, the upside-down camera work trick at the beginning of this performance was brilliant.

Then that was it. It went back to the normal dullness we’ve become used to from Christopher, as he taps his hand on his hips and gently sways from side to side.

Let’s be honest, Christopher could come out and fart into the microphone for two minutes and he’d still get through.

The only positive I can find in his continued progression through the series is that it will force radical reform of the show next year, they can’t risk someone like this winning again.

Although, you never know. If Simon Cowell can make enough money off a Maloney line of tea cosys, coats and fake tan it could be worth the X Factor credibility bashing.

I’m not the target market, I’m about 50 years too young and have functioning vision and hearing so have naturally formed a dislike to him.

Not only are his performances dull, but his post performance interview are as well with a combination of: “I’m working really hard/thanks all the voters/my nan is sick”. I can mime along at this stage. 4/10

Twitter: @Brian_O_Reilly

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