The X Factor is many things: a compelling spectacle; Simon Cowell’s brilliant idea of getting the entire United Kingdom to do his A&R for him; a chance for ordinary people to get an extraordinary opportunity; an opportunity for a lot of people who really ought to know better to talk a whole load of rubbish; fantastic entertainment; a depressing process that prizes generic conformity over originality; a production line that produces competent entertainers; and completely devoid of anything that touches upon artistic creativity of any kind. Whew, not bad for a TV show!
This weekend’s shows were par for the course, compelling and depressing in equal proportions.
In the previous two weeks we had seen the predictable departure of girl group Kandy Rain in week 1, to my mind not for musical reasons but because they were simply too sexy for an ultimately conservative show like The X Factor and the welcome departure of the oddly eyebrowed Scot Rikki Loney the following week.
The biggest change for this week’s Big Band theme was a completely new image for Rachel Adedeji, who abandoned her Rihanna meets Morrissey big top for a cute bob and swapped her previous moody introversion for a giggly smiley face that left me wondering if she was on Prozac. Whatever the reason, she turned in a much better, albeit less interesting performance and avoided the unbearable torture of a third week sing off.
Of the other contestants, Ollie Murs, who surprisingly fancies himself as a cross between Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown; teen hearthrob Joe McElderry,
who confused the nation’s sweetheart Cheryl Cole into saying both that he is sexy and like a brother to her; the anonymous Lloyd Daniels; the previously impressive and constantly charming Stacey Solomon; the overly confident Danyl Johnson; and Jamie Afro Archer turned in competent if unremarkable performances, the highlight of which was the latter’s performance of a U2 song causing geriatric Louis Walsh to protest that Jamie and Simon Cowell were cheating by not selecting a “real” big band song. Oh, the controversy!
The remaining three contestants delivered more exciting performances, Welsh Divette Lucie Jones was effortlessly immaculate, the “controversial” Grimes twins John & Edward, aka Jedward, once again turned in the most entertaining performance of all the contestants and the manufactured trio comprising recruitment consultant Shar Alexandra, barmaid Graziella Affinita and hairdresser Shanice Davis, aka Miss Frank, turned in the one performance of the night that actually brought some art into the music on offer, largely due to another impressive rap by Graziella.
Their art was all in vain however as tonight’s sing off pitted Miss Frank
against Danyl Johnson and, after fellow judges Louis Walsh (groups) and Simon Cowell (over 25s) understandably backed their own artists, Dannii Minogue plumped for Danyl and Cheryl Cole displayed untypical feebleness by declining to make a decision and passed the buck to the public. There was never any doubt that the target audience for this light entertainment talent show wasn’t going to pick a really creative act and it was the end of the road for the most original singers on the show, Miss Frank.
All in all, this weekend’s shows were another triumph for the conservative mediocrity the show specialises in, complete with additional live performances by the bafflingly successful vocal group Westlife and the effortlessly charmless competence of Michael Bublé.
Will I watch again next week? Almost certainly, although now the art has gone and left only the pop, I doubt I’ll watch faithfully every week as I have up to now. The final show is a must see though, if only to see how the nation’s pop fanatics have thinned out the competition’s wilder edges, leaving only the polished, if impersonal, pop pie perfection.