So much for thinking that this year's Factor was going to be less about the oddities and more about the genuine vocal ability.
The last few weeks led us to believe that there wouldn't be as many of those contestants with minus grip on reality and whose purpose is to make you thankful that, were you so untalented, at least you have good friends who would physically prevent you from getting up on stage. But no. In Manchester, Gary’s hometown, the goods were delivered in the form of Christine Rogerson, a 50-year-old mum (it was Kerry Katona in twenty years time), in an ill- advised jumpsuit, gyrating to ‘It’s Raining Men’. And it was certainly compelling stuff, although it’s probably not what Gary signed up for.
17-year-old Andy was another lamb sacrificed on the altar of car crash telly. The beauty student, with a noticeably bad skin condition, massacred Beyoncé’s ‘To the Left’ and Gary called it as he saw it: “When you were singing ‘To the left, to the left’ I was thinking yes please, all the way to the left. I’m sorry, it’s a no.” You’d like to pity Andy but sorry, when you enter X Factor, the trade off for maybe being the next Leona is the ever-present threat of national humiliation.
The first real bust up between the judges this season came via the highly entertaining Kendro. Alejanero and Kendal– thus the super imaginative moniker – applied lip-gloss and pouted away to a Lady Gaga tune. Gary, trying to be the voice of reason and possibly missing the entire point of the show, was appalled. “You’re everything this competition doesn’t need. You’ve got no talent,” he declared. But Louis, obviously seeing Jedward Part 2, and Tulisa, who thought they were great fun, gave them the thumbs up while Kelly was eventually persuaded around to their way of thinking.
But it wasn’t a complete talent vacuum. Sami Brookes from Wales endeared and wowed in equal measures. “I just want to sing and to be honest, I’m too thick to do anything else,” she said before hitting every right note with Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’. And there was a very sweet bit when the curvy barmaid told judges how under confident she felt, when she compared her looks to Rihanna and similar. Kelly was quick to tell her: “You don't have to change anything and you know what your size is honey? Sexy. You size sexy." It was just like a lyric from a Beyoncé ballad.
The other high hope was Lascel Wood. In true Factor style, the 20-year-old student had a sad history, having spent his youth in care because his mother was bi-polar. She was there last night and joined him on stage after his performance of a Kings of Leon cover got rapturous applause.
As you can’t really form an emotional attachment to any of the contestants yet (actually, it’s difficult to even remember who was on last week’s show), it’s more interesting to ponder the judges instead. Louis is as ever, Tulisa has yet to say anything compelling and Gary takes sarcasm to new levels. Kelly Rowlands, however, is one to watch. Ridiculously enthusiastic (and it doesn’t seem fake), we suspect a core of steel beneath the teary-eyed, gushing exterior. She is also the only one of the judges to give good, constructive advice on vocal techniques. Compare that to Louis’s favourite phrase: “You’re very likeable.”
Plus she shakes thing up a little, marching backstage as she did to persuade repeat contestant Chrissie Pitt to throw off the shackles of her current girlband, Twisted, and audition by herself . “You don’t need them, you’re a stand alone singer,” Kelly told the singer, whose loyalties were clearly divided. Chrissie got through, leaving the other members of Twisted on the side lines, knowing exactly how early Destiny Child members LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson felt when Beyoncé and Kelly booted them out of the band. But that’s showbiz, folks.