Wednesday 17 January 2018

X Factor Week 4 – Jade’s horrific Halloween, send Christopher to the old folks home and a show in serious trouble

Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

ONCE again this week we endured a ‘theme’ which was only loosely followed at best. The only qualifying criteria seemed to be that the song had a word like ‘scream’ or ‘death’ or ‘poison’. I was terrified.

I never jumped on the ‘X Factor’ is in crisis bandwagon, but this week’s show has really concerned me as a long time fan.

It was duller than last week’s show, which is worrying on two fronts.

Last week’s show was the dullest I can remember, so improvement on it should have been guaranteed. The second is that on a week when the theme would have justified going completely over the top, the show just never really got going. It was a firework without a fuse.

The joke is over now– Rylan and Christopher should go. I’ve always said their place in the show is contingent that people who could potentially have huge careers aren’t leaving ahead of them. We’ve now reached that point – Jade was undeniably one of the most talented vocalists this year.

There is something seriously wrong when this year’s crop of contestant’s are arguably the most talented ever, yet the live shows are becoming so dull.

It could also prove the most exciting series ever – almost half the remaining acts have been in the bottom two – showing that week to week song choices are really playing a role in the public decisions.

Every week the act that has gone home has left due to poor song choice by their mentor – Carolynne, Melanie, MK1 and now Jade. A poor song choice this year truly has proven costly.

Kye Sones – ‘Let me entertain you’

As predicted, Kye benefitted from the ‘bottom two bounce’ – he was safe last night. However with this performance he really shouldn’t have been.

Gary seems to be struggling to find a direction for Kye musically, obviously trying not to place him in direct competition with James Arthur.

Last week they nailed it, and it was just unfortunate he ended up in the bottom two. But it was clearly a performance which capitalised on Kye’s strengths. It was dramatic and atmospheric, but above all authentic.

The performance this week was just so awkward and artificial – Kye seemed to be just going through the motions, his eyes were lifeless.

He wanted us to believe he was having fun, but it just didn’t wash. He seems to have sold out to cheap tricks in his performance.

It bought him another week on the show, but unfortunately I think his time will come to an end next week. 4/10

Union J – ‘Sweet Dreams’

To be honest, it was the shock of the series so far to see Union J in the bottom two. I really felt they would get into the last five with ease.

The vocals were the strongest we’ve heard from them, particularly from Jaymi the lead singer, who is really one of the strongest vocalists in the entire competition. He found his cameras this week and really connected with the audience at home. A really solid vocal effort from him was the best thing about the performance.

That being said this week’s performance was clearly their weakest since week one. The thing that I really like about Union J was each week we could really see them advance; something was improving with them each week.

However this week there was no improvement, it was just a little bit stale. The boys need to change things up and give us something different. If I were Louis I’d be thinking of a more up-tempo number, maybe with some limited choreography. Cliché though it is, they need to show their ‘fun side’.

In any other year I’d be worried about their future progression in the show, however the talent is so strong this year anyone could find themselves in the bottom. Provided they get back to business next week they should find themselves back in the running. 6/10

Rylan Clark – ‘Toxic/Poison’

Rylan was one of the biggest disappointments of the week for me, I just didn’t feel he was having as much fun as usual.

The whole mash up thing is also becoming a bit ridiculous, just sing one song and stick with it.

Rylan says next week he wants to try and do a ballad to show his ‘serious’ side- he needs to get real here. Calling it as it is, he’s the gimmick act and needs to stick with the high tempo camp stuff.

This week it just didn’t work, it just seemed to be tacky for the sake of tacky, it wasn’t as fun as usual. Despite what many may believe cheesy isn’t easy to do, and this week Rylan was just tacky. 3/10

Ella Henderson – ‘Bring me to life’

The song choice this week just didn’t work for Ella at all, and it was the first of two poor song choices from Tulisa.

The reason this song is so powerful when sang by Amy Lee of Evanescence or Katherine Jenkins is due to the key it’s sang in, it brings a haunting, ghost like quality to the song.

Ella’s register is too low to pull off this song, and it just lost its punch in the translation to her lower register. The whole performance just came across slightly flat and lacking of flare.

To me Ella is no longer the runway favourite to win, and after two weak weeks in a row the competition is now wide open. 5/10

Christopher Maloney – ‘(I just) died in your arms’

I nearly died of boredom.

Christopher is hard to judge, because he just comes across so fake and disingenuous. Therefore it makes being unbiased to his performances difficult.

However to try and be neutral - he does have an incredibly strong voice, and the song choices are really proving to be his downfall.

There have been various leaks suggesting the X Factor machine don’t want him to progress much further in the competition, and the song choices may be evidence of this.

Every week he sings dated 80s songs, without trying to change them or put a new spin on them. There also seems to be a distracting stage show around him to deflect from what he’s doing.

The vocals were solid this week, but the entire performance had no effort in it. The song choice was lazy and dated, and in reality he should be given better songs to sing.

That being said, he is a panto star - at best after the show he might make a few bob off an album of covers he can sell to his granny and her bingo friends.

The X Factor is meant to be about finding new talent – the next One Direction, Cher Lloyd or Leona Lewis. Christopher ain’t it. 4/10

District 3 – ‘Every breath you take/beautiful monster’ mash up

Oh God. Another bloody mash up. Yes, they work every now and then, but their overuse is now getting tedious. It’s almost as if they were considering two different songs and rather than anyone making a decision they just throw the two of them together.

The biggest problem with mash ups is that unless they are really well thought out and put together, they are actually detrimental to the act. It doesn’t allow the song to build up naturally to a dramatic climax when it all comes together.

I still think Union J are the stronger of the two boybands – when the guys tried to switch to the uptempo ‘monster’ part of the song this week they were still in ‘boyband’ mode – the cheesy smiles and hand gestures.

That being said these guys are still improving solidly. However next week they should go back down the ballad road – show us those vocals and harmonies that they are so good at. 6/10

Jahmene Douglas – ‘Killing me softly’

I think this week I finally got Jahmene. This was by some distance the strongest performance of the night. There was no messing around, no distracting choreography or pyro, just the song and the voice. For the first time this week I could see Jahmene as a winner.

The vocals were so controlled this week, and for the first time on the live shows Jahmene looked comfortable on the stage. I wasn’t worried about him up there – I could actually sit back and enjoy the performance.

There was one flat note as he was coming out of the middle eight – however that segment of the song was vocally stunning.

Performance of the night, and by some great distance. 8/10

Jade Ellis – ‘Freak like me’

As a huge fan of Jade’s, this was just so painful to watch. It was actually atrocious. The backing track for most of it sounded like a cheap 90s keyboard preset.

Performance wise it was so messy - half the time Jade didn’t look sure what she was meant to be doing. Making her dance for the sake of it was frankly embarrassing to watch.

That being said I’m gutted she’s gone home, I genuinely looked forward to her performance every week. I could listen to her sing the phone book, her vocals are so smooth.

Poor song choice is the reason for her premature end in the competition, and unfortunately she didn’t get to go out on a high. 2/10

James Arthur – ‘Sweet Dreams’

This was James Arthur’s best performance in the lives shows so far. It finally showed some more of the vocal range that so far had remained hidden in the live shows.

Vocally it was fantastic, however there’s still a huge problem with his stage presence. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands, so throws them around incoherently.

He also has the terrible habit for anyone to do on TV – he closes his eyes for much of his performance.

However there is just something with James I can’t put my finger on that I’m not liking. There seems to be arrogance or a disinterest which comes across at times while he performs. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel he doesn’t like the fuss around him on stage.

What I crave most from James is that producers just let him be more natural – just him and the guitar on stage, no big production, just completely strip it back – let his talent shine through. He’s definitely getting there though. 6/10

So what can the show do to improve on its rapidly diminishing entertainment value? Go back to basics. The thing viewers always loved was the unpredictability of the show; not knowing what could happen next.

Nothing should be set in stone anymore. Who says the judges’ categories can’t be changed? Why can’t the public vote an act out rather than to save? Or that when we go to deadlock the public have the week to vote on which act to save?

The format still works, it just needs a few tweaks to keep it fresh.

Next week is number ones week – Expect Louis qualifying one of his songs by telling us his choice was number one in Armenia in 1976.

The biggest improvement required is not from any contestant, but the show. The X Factor needs to up its game next week to stop the slide.

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