What did we learn last night? That the contenders-less-likely were the real stars, it wouldn’t be X Factor without a sob story and lad love Kelly, says Claire O’Mahony
The judging panel might have changed drastically but it’s reassuring that some things in X Factor land never change – namely, the ad breaks coming as hard and fast as ever, and the triumph of the underdog. Viewers had scarcely settled onto their sofas and taken their first bite of Domino’s pizza when up pops Johnny Robinson on the screen. It was only 8.10pm so surely a little early to already be feeling emotional? But the 45-year-old unemployed Londoner, who lives alone in a bedsit and looks a bit like Bez from the Happy Mondays, tugged on the heartstrings. He didn’t give rise to any great vocal expectations, decked out in a white trackie top and declaring he could be bigger than Gaga and appearing to be well, eccentric, to put it kindly. But he confounded both the judges and the audience by belting out the Etta James classic, ‘At Last’. This was a ‘shivers down the spine’ moment – close your eyes and you couldn’t be sure if it was a man or a woman singing it. Bless.
This week’s show followed on from last week’s format in that it was more about the ‘talent’ (how many times can they use this word?) and less about the cringy, deluded contestants, although we were treated to a little bit of that too. Strangely, there was lots of agreement and very little agro between the four judges, although with four more months to go, that all lies ahead of us. We did learn that the lads love Kelly Rowland (Derry, the Burger King employee from Croydon almost came unhinged when he was granted a kiss) while Kelly proved that she’s not adverse to such attention by swooning over one of the contestant’s six pack and clearly being smitten with the smooth moves of good looking IT consultant, Joseph Castle. Whatever future career developments X Factor brings for her, at the very least, she’ll land a boyfriend out of it.
Craig Colton, a 22-year-old Liverpudlian who lives at home, was another unlikely standout act. He was droll, he had presence, he did a fine version of Adele’s ‘Hiding My Heart’ and he works in a biscuit factory. What kind of biscuits? We need to know. But suffice it to say, Craig is going to go far.
Light relief came via The Duos, a married couple who rendered Beyoncé’s ‘If I was a Boy’ unrecognisable; Samantha Hallam, whose choice of the Kings of Leon song ‘Sex on Fire’ was interrupted by a (genuine) marriage proposal – she said yes - and the worst boy band ever, Bromanse, whose harmonising was on par with their spelling.
In Liverpool, Gary Barlow states emphatically, “If Liverpool doesn’t have the X Factor, I’ll eat my suit.” And maybe he should have – it was pure Don Johnson in Miami Vice and not in a good way. But this didn’t come to pass as the city threw up The Keys, five, seemingly self effacing guys who sang like angels, worship at the altar of Take That and already have 8,500 followers on Twitter at the time of going to press. “Magnificent,” said Gary gravely, acknowledging the shameless brownnosing.
So far, it’s been all about the boys so some welcome girl power came via Mischa, a 19-year-old student from Manchester who delivered a powerful versions of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’, the only downside was which she had to throw a little Cher Lloyd-style rapping into it – unnecessary, we thought but Kelly Rowland clearly didn’t agree, as she jumped to her feet and encouraged the audience to join her. As if the enthusiastic thumbs up from the judges weren’t enough to convince us that Mischa is a serious contender, we also got her sad back-story, where she explains how she never knew her mum or her dad and was raised by her aunty. This heady combination of vocal prowess and likeability is just what X Factor bosses love.