Friday 17 November 2017

Sweating and blubbering, but not over the economy, stupid

Bertie's gone into the cupboard, the economy's in meltdown, but X Factor still wins the gossip wars, writes Andrea Byrne

Bertie has made a total ass of himself, the economy has plunged even further into the quagmire, and yet, it seems, all anyone is talking about is The X Factor. Really, no Gamu? Cute as a button, a unique voice, note-perfect throughout, she was everyone's favourite. Which I suppose is why we've all been left wondering whether malaria had a lasting effect on Cheryl's judgment.

Forget your lines (Katie Weasel, Waissel, whatever her name is), refuse to continue with the song (Cher "I pull constipated faces when I sing" Lloyd), and Cheryl Cole will give you a hug and a ticket to the live show.

Given the discontent, there have been all sorts of rumours and conspiracy theories doing the rounds. It's hard to know what to believe. All we can say for certain is that The X Factor is exploitative, of both the audience and its participants. It thrives on controversy, some would say, it cultivates it. A constant parody, it's more soap opera than talent show. Will that stop us watching it? Absolutely not.

On a production level, the show is genius. It's very camp, but very slick. It makes you laugh, cringe and cry. Everyone has a favourite. Everyone has an opinion.

There is a larger Irish contingent than ever in this year's show. Niall Horan (what have they done to his hair?) is a member of newly put-together band 1 Direction, while Dublin-born Rebecca Creighton is a member of girl group Belle Amie.

Then there's 'Tesco's Finest' Mary Byrne, who seems lovely, and yes, she has a cracking voice. But a popstar? An international recording artist? Someone you'd pay money to go and see in concert? I don't think so. She's not current. She can't dance, as she demonstrated at the bootcamp stage, when she huffed, puffed and sweated her way through routines.

Music is a superficial world, and Mary B just doesn't cut it. It doesn't help that in their attempt at updating her image, stylists have made her look like Dawn French's older sister.

In saying that though, Mary Byrne will probably be Louis Walsh's last standing act in the competition, because, as always, Louis has the outside bets.

Over the last number of years, Louis has mentored the bands which, with the exception of JLS, have all been dire. But the one year that the bands are actually good, Simon gets them.

My favourite is Rebecca Ferguson. Not only does she boast an incredible voice, but she is shy which, given that she is wedged among the usual rash of stage-school exhibitionism, is rather refreshing. However, it's Matt Cardle whom the bookies have pitted as the person to beat.

Is it just me, or does the X Factor blur the gender lines to the point that it's a little disconcerting? There are perfectly legitimate reasons for grown men to cry -- a death in the family, getting a kick in the you-know-whats -- but being told you have or haven't made it to the next stage of X Factor, simply doesn't qualify. They're all at it, blubbering at any available opportunity, and what makes it all the harder to stomach is that they've no shame about doing it.

No doubt there will be a few tears shed tonight, let's hope they're Katie's!

The 'X Factor' is broadcast tonight at 7.45pm on TV3 and UTV

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