The X Factor (Series 13)

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Remember all those big changes The X Factor made last year? Well, they’d prefer it if you didn’t! 2015’s X Factor was very glossy and trying to be epic. This time they were downsizing, scaling back, going back to basics, retconning all the changes last year and getting rid of arena auditions in favour of the 4 judges in a small room.

Last year’s judges panel was focused on youth, attractiveness and relevance. This year the focus was more on nostalgia, familiarity and senescence. To be fair, it does seem to be where things are heading generally. The E.U Referendum showed that it was no empty threat when old people said “I want my country back!”. That’s only going to be phase one. Next they’ll be voting to pass a law to impose a curfew on anyone under 70 being on the streets after sunset like Grampa Simpson and his friends in ‘Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken’. Phase three will be launching an army of zombie grannies to break into those homes like the ones in the Father Ted episode ‘Night Of The Nearly Dead’. The future’s grey folks, the future’s grey.

The judges panel went back to its original line-up from the first 3 series, with Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne, but they still kept 4 judges rather than going back to 3, and the 4th one was series 9-10 judge Nicole Scherzinger. She ditched performing as Grizabella in Cats on Broadway for this. (Ironically, her replacement in that was Leona Lewis!)

Nicole was the least awful of the judges. She sang a diva medley in one of the live shows and was seen at a pub gig for one her acts. She pulled pints and threw packets of pork scratchings for everyone! She could be irritating at times though, with her “Scheramazing” and “Scheramazeballs” nonsense.

The panel were like a family in a way. Simon was like the pompous elder, smugly sat holding court in a tatty arm chair with tape on it and fluff coming out as if it’s a throne. Sharon was like a tetchy great aunt who can’t remember how old everyone is or who they are, and couldn’t care less anyway. Louis was like a dead family dog that has been sent to the taxidermist and is now being used as a coffee table. Nicole was like a drunken in-law who insists on making a scene and everyone’s mortified and tries to ignore it and not say anything.

Dermot O’Leary was back as the presenter, which I think is the best reversal. Olly Murs and Caroline Flack were a bit of a disaster, and Dermot O’Leary is definitely a safe pair of hands.

A highlight of the series came in the audtion stages, with Sada Vidoo, a “living doll”. She wears white make-up, long eyelashes and a ballgown. She has a great voice and gave a striking performance of Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’. It was her own arrangment of it too, as she is a professional musician. She got 4 Yes’s from the judges, but I’m not surprised she didn’t make it as far as the live shows. I could be wrong, but I suspect from her point of view it was just for publicity and from the shows point of view it was for entertaining tv. I don’t think either particularly wanted her to be a live show contestant. It’s not clear how she’d fit in for a start. They’d make her compromise on her image. I’m glad the show introduced a wider audience to her though.

The audition stages are a bit of a blur now, but there were too many lowlights to list, mostly involving the 6 Chair Challenge. The X Factor in general tends to play with the contestants emotions and humiliate them for a few minutes of OMG!CONTROVERSIAL!1 telly, but the 6 Chair Challenge really is the worst of it. One example was girlgroup Girl Next Door who were voted off, then bought back just to be voted off again.

Speaking of X Factor groups, aren’t X Factor group names awful? Two which didn’t make it to the live shows include girlgroup Skarl3t, a spelling which just screams “Username ‘Scarlet’ is already in use” doesn’t it? Then there’s boyband Yes Lad. I think that name was meant to invoke a “top ladz bantz” sort of image, which is a bit obnoxious in itself. But, being from Yorkshire, the name “Yes Lad” mostly makes me think of old men telling you that you are correct, but in quite a stern way.

No surprise that every group of the initial final 12 line-up changed their names (though what they changed to wasn’t any better).

In some ways, the final 12 looked like it was chosen as a way of redressing some balances. They had all male groups and all female Over 25s. Considering the rather aged judges panel, it was a young final 12. Obviously the Boys and Girls were going to be 16-24, but the groups usually have some people in their late 20s, and this time they were all 16-24. Even the Over 25s were still technically Millenials this year! The oldest finalist was Honey G, and at 35 she was still younger than the youngest judge, Nicole.

Brooks Way (formerly just The Brooks) were kicked off before the first live show. There were allegations made about one of them, so it was decided to remove them. The first set of twin finalists since Jedward, and they ended up performing even worse than they did!

Speaking of Jedward, it’s easy to forget now, but they weren’t officially called that when they were on the show. They were John & Edward, but the Jedward nickname stuck. They tried something similar with a duo getting the joke act role, Bradley & Ottavio who became Brattavio for the live shows. That name didn’t stick, and neither did they. They were out first. So they didn’t do as well as Jedward either!

Brattavio were hard to ignore in the audition stages. One reason was their costumes. Ottavio was dressed like a dicator crossed with an ice cream man, like some bizarre sci-fi villain that would be in late ’80s Doctor Who. Bradley looked like he’d tripped and fell over in a stationery cupboard and came out covered in gold star stickers, glitter and cellotape. The other reason was that the show devoted screentime to them relaying some argument they’d had about uncooked chicken. It was just… stupid, and went on and on.

Their performance on the first live show was the worst of the night, and rightly finished dead last in the first vote. To be completely fair to them, it’s not entirely their fault. Not entirely. I think the show saw them as having served their purpose so only wanted them as generic first week elimination. They were given neon safari staging, which had nothing really to do with either song in their medley ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom’ and ‘Barbie Girl’. If anything, it was similar to staging given to another X Factor duo who were eliminated first, Blonde Electra in series 11. It was also unhelpful as while Brattavio’s gaudy outfits stand out against most backgrounds, on that they blended into the overall mess, meaning the audience had even less chance of relating to them than ever. The overall effect of that performance was colour vomit. It hurt my eyes so much, it almost gave me a migraine watching it!

There’s really only room for one joke act per series on The X Factor, and if you contrast the treatment Honey G got (The pimp slot at the end of the show, her name in big letters in the background and a performance which mostly consisted of her spelling out her name), it couldn’t be any clearer which joke act the show wanted to sell. So Brattavio were out first, but they were always more reality TV types than potential popstars anyway. They’d been on Judge Rinder and Coach Trip before, and said they wanted to go on Celebrity Big Brother next.

Week 2’s eliminated contestant was Freddy Parker. As a contestant, he did a boring performance of ‘Killing Me Softly’ on the piano. I somewhat liked his performance of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ though, even if it was the week he was eliminated. It was one of the most disheartening sing-off shows of the series. Saara finding herself there for the second week in a row looked like her spirit had been well and truly broken. The result went to deadlock, and Freddy went. It looks like he was very well liked among the contestants, many of them said how sad they were to see him go. I quite liked him. He works in a kennels, I used to work in a cattery, so maybe that’s one reason. But my highlight of his whole time on The X Factor came when he was in the bottom 3 in the week he went they cut to an advert break before annoucing who’d been saved by the lifeline vote. Freddy’s facial expression and eye rolling showed how aware he was at what an obvious attempt it was for the show to build up tension.

Birmingham singer Relley C had pretty much zero screentime before the live shows, but she gave my favourite performance in week 1 where she did a fantastic version of ‘Shackles (Praise You)’ by Mary Mary. It was nice to hear that song again! She showed her brilliant voice and I liked the gold staging it got too. But for the rest of her time on The X Factor she was styled as a old fashioned, competent soul diva singing old standards and ballads, so she probably got lost in the shuffle and was eliminated in week 3. It was a shame she went so early, she was one of the most talented vocalists this year. It is quite frustrating that she could have lasted at least an extra week, as not only would she have survived if it had gone to deadlock, she was very close to topping the lifeline vote in the week she went!

Gifty Louise had one of the weirdest X Factor arcs ever. She looked, sounded and already had the image of a ready-made popstar. In week 1 she performed ‘That’s My Girl’ by Fifth Harmony, which was an upcoming release at the time, similar to in series 11 when Fleur East performed ‘Uptown Funk’ before it had been offcially released in the UK. Then, in week 2 Gifty was given ‘Rockin’ Robin’, which is kind of kiddie novelty song isn’t it? In week 3 she sang a weepy Sam Smith ballad ‘Lay Me Down’ dressed in white and wearing a long blonde wig. If the intention was to make her look angelic, then I kind of love her for messing that up by dropping an F bomb live on TV while the results were announced.

In Halloween Week (sorry, “Fright Night”), she performed in the graveyard slot, performing first while Strictly Come Dancing (which was thrashing this series in the ratings) was still on BBC 1. She had another Fifth Harmony song, which was even more unknown than the last, ‘I’m In Love With A Monster’. It was actually my favourite performance of her’s, she did it well and I liked the whole creepy hotel staging with every door having number 13, gothic maids and apparently the Phantom of the Opera staying in each room.

But it landed Gifty in the bottom 3, and was the most shocking elimination in ages! She was always likely to end up the sing-off fairly early, as despite being a ready-made popstar, there isn’t much crossover with the sort of people who vote on The X Factor and the sort of people who buy pop music, and the producers surely know that. She was always quite low in the public vote, and her position didn’t seem to change much regardless of the very different sorts of songs they picked for her.

However, when Gifty ended up in the bottom 2, most of the judges voted to get rid of her, despite a clearly stronger vocal than her sing-off oponents 4 of Diamonds. The girlgroup would have been eliminated if the result had gone to deadlock. Gifty’s mentor Simon saved her, but at first he said Gifty as the one he wanted to eliminate! Freudian slip? There has been lots of speculation with this, that it might well have been something going on behind the scenes. Gifty later said she knew she was going on Sunday because of what someone told her on Saturday. I suppose she’s yet another cautionary tale for potential X Factor contestants.

4 Of Diamonds had been popular in the audtion stages, so were bought back as a replacement for Brooks Way. (Not to mention that 4 Of Diamonds were the only group with a decent name. They didn’t even have to change it when they made the live shows!). However, aside from goodwill from their big comeback, they were never popular in the vote, ending up in the bottom 3 for 3 weeks in a row. They might look good compared to the general low standard of X Factor groups, but seen by themselves they look very average. All of their performances were forgettable even before the show had ended, and even though they usually had a late slot in the running order. The most notable was a medley of ‘Lady Marmalade’ and ‘Bang Bang’. I can see why you’d connect those two songs. One had 2000s pop divas (Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink and Lil Kim), one 2010s pop divas (Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande). But a medley of them was never going to be coherent, not helped with the sailor and playing cards staging. I’d say it was a random mess, but a random mess would have been more interesting than what their performance was. They had no charisma or identity really, they were like cardboard scenery of a crowd of people used in an amateur dramatics play. They were just ‘there’ occupying space. In fact, that is their X Factor time isn’t it? A vacant space came up when Brooks Way were axed, so 4 Of Diamonds came along and filled it. I suppose what is quite interesting is the irony of the fact that in their first two sing-off appearances which they survived, they were bottom of the vote, but in the week they went, they weren’t bottom of the vote!

Everyone noticed that Sam Lavery‘s name could be written as S.Lavery. They say The X Factor is beyond parody these days, and a contestant named S.Lavery is the sort of name someone writing an X Factor satire would come up with. Sam had her fans, but I wasn’t one of them. I found her voice grating. It was tuneless and SHOUTY most of the time. It was like the sound of a car being chainsawed delivered at the volume of a foghorn. Her time in The X Factor seemed like it could be in an X Factor spoof too. Weeks of the judges heaping praise on her, then she fell in the bottom 3 and after that she was given a slow motion verion of ‘I Will Survive’ to sing, just to remind everyone she was in the bottom 3 last week. Then the annoucement of who was in the sing-off next week was dragged out with commercial breaks and guest star performances before they announced it so they could milk DRAMA at the possibility of girlfriend and boyfriend Emily and Ryan being in a sing-off together.

Sam’s elimination saw Sharon getting the deciding vote and suddenly changing her mind from Ryan to Sam. Had she accidentally took it to deadlock when she was supposed to send Ryan home, or was a producer shouting in her earpiece to vote for Sam when she had clearly been heading for voting Ryan out “because he’s been in the bottom 3” too many times? Either way, I felt sorry for Sam having to put up with all that even though I didn’t care for her voice, but she seemed to take it all well.

Ryan Lawrie had audtioned as a solo act, then was put in a boyband, then cut out again, then not put through, then bought back as one of the wildcards, but it seemed mainly as “Emily’s boyfriend”, as he and Emily were going out so the programme could use that as a storyline. I really don’t think they had much idea of how to use him other than that. I know he’s Scottish, but why in the pre-credits intros did they have him dressed as the other kind of jock, with that American high school sports jacket? They tried to have him as a sort of one boy One Direction at first, but that didn’t last. It became clear they saw him as expendable, shoving him on early in the running order and him getting an onslaught of negative comments from the judges. Ryan was in the bottom 3 for 3 weeks in a row, and saved by the lifeline vote each time, which seemed predictable as he was the one most likely to be fancied by teenage girls. Ryan seemed well aware of both of that the producers didn’t want him around and what his lifeline vote survival was seen as, and just looked resigned, so him lasting until week 7 and in the bottom 3 for 5 of those weeks was mildly depressing really. Ryan improved, but he was never really more than “OK”. He’d be alright as part of a bog standard indie rock band you’d probably get at a pub or a wedding reception, but not much more than that. In a strange way though, he was a bit unlucky to be in a series which had the lifeline vote. It meant there was a bottom 3 rather than a bottom 2 like most times, and he was only ever bottom 2 three times, and he was never last in the vote.

Every series needs a joke act. Every series we get a lot of indignation that they keep staying in, and what a farce it will be if they win, and a lot of smug, disingenuous hyperbole on how they are the saviour of Saturday night TV and what how it will totally stick it to Simon Cowell if one wins. And every series, it always turns out they never had any real chance of winning. This time it was Honey G. She was hyped up as gaining momentum each week and that she was growing on people. But in the public vote itself it was the opposite if anything. She was 4th place in week one, then dropped down the vote each week, just about avoiding the sing-off on some occasions.

She was essentially an attempt at a Distaff Counterpart to Ali G 15 years too late. Her real name is Anna Gilford, and she’s a 35 year old IT consultant and recruitment firm owner. That fact was well publicised, and in a way to make it look like it was exposing some big secret. What was less well publicised is that she’s been doing the Honey G persona for quite some time and she has a long background in club and radio DJing as Honey G, but that would spoil the joke wouldn’t it? The joke itself wasn’t funny to begin with. But the show sure as hell put their weight behind it, asking people sending in their pictures of their mums dressed as Honey G. That is, them wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, because that is such a unique look. Dermot at one point said something like “Send us pics of your dads or your pets dressed as Honey G”. They were milking this one joke untill the last drop. Mummy G, Daddy G, Granny G, Doggy G.

Honey G wasn’t even entertaining. Every single week it was basically just her saying “When I say Honey, you say G” at the audience. One week we spared that when she performed ‘Under Pressure/Ice Ice Baby’, and that’s only because David Bowie’s estate refused permission for Honey G to add lyrics to it.

But while for me she failed as a joke act and as an entertaining performer, her success as a talking point can’t be denied. She was a magnet for scandalous tabloid headlines and hand-wringing broadsheet thinkpieces, and that’s not even taking into account the tidal wave of tweets, blogs, comments online, or just people talking about her in real life. She really should have performed Cher Lloyd’s ‘Swagger Jagger’.

In her final week, on her first performance was mainly memorable because some bozos did a stage invasion at the end of it. Her second was better, because the show did viral internet craze the Mannequin Challenge. This saw Honey G perform the track used for those videos, ‘Black Beatles’ by Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane, with the judges, the audience and everyone except Honey G frozen in time perfectly still Sleeping Beauty/Bernard’s Watch style. This was quite good, but it wasn’t really anything to do with Honey G, who forgot some of the lyrics. She was out that week, coming full circle by singing her week 1 song ‘California Love’ as she her sing-off song.

Emily Middlemas also seemed to have been put through to play a pre-defined role. The X Factor occasionally likes to have an elfin, barefoot messy haired teenage girl singer in the final 12, and this year that was Emily, other years it was Diana Vickers and Janet Devlin. They also often end up doing drippy, slowed down John Lewis Christmas advert versions of well known pop songs. Emily did say that she’d love to do the John Lewis advert song for real one day. She also said she’d love to do an uptempo song, but the show seemed to want her to stick within the confines of the role they had cast her in. Of her John Lewis-type performances, the best was probably when she did ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ by One Direction. It had an explosion made of butterflies in the background though, like some kind of butterfly bomb. They ended up coming together into the shape of a heart, which was a bit saccharine, but on the whole it was a nice enough version.

She did Britney Spears – ‘Toxic’ played on the ukulele. I’m not sure anyone really wants that, but apparently some people do, as she finished 2nd place in the vote with it. Personally I’d like to think it was more to do with her second performance that week, a sophisticated, smoky performance of  ‘Human’ by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.

I didn’t like Emily’s version of ‘Wishing On A Star’ by Rose Royce, but credit to her for beating the curse of that song. Both Austin Drage (series 5) and Tamera Foster (series 10) ended up in the bottom 2 when they sang it, she ended up in 4th place.

The performances I liked most from Emily were when she was allowed to do something other than John Lewis versions of songs. I really liked her performance of ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey, in fact it made me like that song after being indifferent to it before.

Her big moment though was when she topped the public vote after her performance of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. It was a very mesmerising performance, and sweet in a strange way. Quite Tim Burton-ish, both in style and that whole gothic but romantic thing he does. It could have been from a Tim Burton musical film, especially with the silent movie staging and the Victorian doll outfit and make-up she had.

Emily finished in 4th place overall, the Bridesmaid position in The X Factor where the runner-up of the female soloists usually ends up, such as Diana Vickers, Cher Lloyd, Misha B, Lauren Platt and Lauren Murray. Emily took her elimination about as well as any contestant, and she seems like a really nice person, so good luck to her.

5 After Midnight, originally 5AM. That’s running late, isn’t it? 19 hours and 5 minutes later than planned. Though their name was still often shortened to 5AM anyway. Despite the name(s), there’s only three of them. This group did look like something that would be on CBBC, like a colourful, kid friendly version of hip hop. Indeed, one member Kieran was on a CBBC programme.

5 After Midnight were a bit hit and miss for me. They were by far the best performance in Motown week, a medley of ‘Get Ready’ by The Temptations and ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ by The Four Tops, which showed them managing an uptempo track and slow ballad. I even sort of liked the Merrie Melodies title card circle rings background. But they became one of the worst performances a week later in Diva week doing Amy Winehouse’s version of The Zutons -‘Valerie’, making the song sound really cheesy, not helped by the orange colour scheme and their tacky shiny jackets looking like a gameshow repeat you’d see on Challenge TV.

They were top of the vote in Disco week with another uptempo/ballad medley, ‘Boogie Wonderland’ and ‘September’, both by Earth, Wind & Fire. I wouldn’t say this was a stand-out, either for them or for this week, but it was a good performance.

They were never the strongest vocalists in the world though. They didn’t sing ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Otis Redding well, but in fairness the arrangement used for it was such a mess! They performed ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars quite well, but not as good as when Fleur East performed it in series 11. When they performed ‘Stay Another Day’ by East 17, they at least looked very like a ’90s boyband with the white padded jackets and performing on a hastily crafted stage outside, though that performance is mainly memorable for Nicole thinking the song was called “steak house” and Simon comparing it to an ice cream sundae with tomatoes (?!).

In the final they did a performance of ‘Crazy In Love’ by Beyonce with an army helicopter. It was OK, but mainly because it was dancing. When they had their duet, ‘Tears’ by Clean Bandit and last year’s X Factor winner Louisa, it became clear how poor 5 After Midnight’s vocals were. They finished in 3rd place.

Saara Aalto, originally from Finland, had voiced Anna in the Finnish dub of Disney’s Frozen. But she sang Elsa’s song in the live shows, the famous ‘Let It Go’. The performance didn’t take its cues from Frozen though, there was no Snow Queen outfit with a snow and ice palace, the staging was more inspired by Disney’s Sleeping Beauty/Maleficent, being very gothish and black, with a forest of thorns and castle in the background.

Saara ended up in the sing-off in week one, and even this early she gave one of the performances of the series with a great take on ‘Alive’ by Sia, it was very dark and dramatic. But at this stage it looked like Saara wouldn’t last long in the competition despite being one of the best singers. Britain can be a horribly xenophobic country at times, and it has to be said more of that has come out of the woodwork since the Brexit vote. It got very uncomfortable to watch how the show kept emphasising that Saara wasn’t British, cultimating in her mentor Sharon keeping getting the country Saara was from wrong and in her second sing-off annoucing her as “Zara from abroad”.

I think the show became aware of this on some level, as from week 3 they started treating her better. The bad jokes continued too, but this is The X Factor.

In week 3 Saara performed Bjork’s ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’. Like Kitty Brucknell’s performance of it in series 8 it had an Alice In Wonderland theme, but Saara’s version was also candyland, underwater mermaid kingdom and giant magical garden. It was totally bonkers, but she did very well with it, getting to 2nd place in the public vote that week. She performed ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga in a rainbow church with black umbrellas black roses colourful hair and carried it off brilliantly, and got 3rd place in the vote.

She ended up in the sing-off again the following week. She performed ‘Sound Of The Underground’ by Girls Aloud, which is a great pop song, but not one that vocally goes anywhere, and it was staged as some bizarre neon geisha mess with Saara wearing a wig the size on an antique chest of drawers on her head, all of which had precisely nothing whatsoever to do with the song. From top 3 the previous couple with weeks, this took her all the way down to 6th place.

She had the best performance in Disco week in my opinion, dressed in a silver robot-ish outfit with a glitterball, lots of silver and glitter generally, and sang ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) by Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer and finished in 2nd place in the vote. They sensibly toned things down a little for when she performed the Titanic theme song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion in Movie week, and she again ended up in 2nd place.

In the quarter final she performed ABBA’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’ on a throne playing a piano. It was amazing! Usually I think this song only really “works” when Agnetha Fältskog is singing it, and certainly most reality TV contestant performances of it are beyond terrible, but for Saara’s version was one of the high points of the whole series.

That week she also did a medley of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend’. Not many diamonds in the staging, but she was sat on a fluffy cloud
with icicles coming down from it which she fell backwards from to be caught by her dancers. This performance was one of my least favourite of hers, it was far too
cheesy. But whether it was the ABBA song or that plus the Diamonds medley that did it, Saara topped the vote this week!

In Christmas week Saara started with ‘White Christmas’ before going into ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ on a merry-go-round horse. This was the only genuiunely enjoyable performance in the semi-final for me. Then she reprised her audtion song ‘Chandelier’ by Sia, and again she topped the vote.

It’s easy to see why she was a favourite of the shows creative director Brian Freidman, as she gave the opportunity to go nuts with the staging and costumes. Often it was camp glory.

Saara’s overjoyed reactions to being saved in weeks she got through were great to see. They showed a montage of it in the final, and a homecoming gig in Helsinki with
a crowd of 10,000 people. I liked the LGBT theatrical rock opera duet of Saara singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with Adam Lambert. In a paralel universe where both of them are straight they’d make a great couple.

As a person she is hugely likeable, and her performances were some of my favourites from any X Factor contestant. She ended up being the dark horse of the series, going from being in the sing-off in week one to looking like she was heading to win as we went towards the final. She actually was 1st place in the vote on Saturday, but was pipped at the post by Matt in the last 24 hours of voting. But really, the big surprise regarding Saara in the vote reveals was that she was never actually in the bottom 2! Had it not been for the lifeline vote who knows how things would have gone, but one things for sure, her whole narrative would have been different. She was more popular with the public vote than was thought.

Matt Terry was a favourite to win through most of the series, with many, myself included thinking that he was the obvious winner in about week 3. This was mainly on the grounds that he has a very good singing voice and he’s inoffensive, to the point of blandness, and as a generically good looking guy he would probably appeal to most of The X Factor voting audience. Most performances I thought “Yeah, he’s pretty good”, but I didn’t actively like them. He sang ‘Alive’ by Sia alright, but not as good as Saara.

‘The Writing’s On The Wall’ by Sam Smith seems to be seen as Matt’s standout performance, and it kind of sums up Matt for me too. That song is a good vocal showcase,
but it is so boring!

The only time he really impressed me was when he performed ‘I Put A Spell On You’ by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins/Nina Simone on Halloween Week Fright Night. That’s the only time I found Matt attractive too. Maybe my emo boy phase is coming back.

In the final Matt sang ‘Purple Rain’, in a duet with… Ruth Lorenzo! No, not really. It was with Nicole. It wasn’t so much a duet either, more Nicole making sure to oversing him and nudge him out of the spotlight like she did in her other finalist duets. Her immense ego will not tolerate sharing. How did she cope in the Pussycat Dolls all those years? Unless back then she had an inkling of how “blink and you’ll miss it” her solo career would turn out to be.

Matt won the vote 6 out of 10 weeks, and all the weeks he didn’t he was still top 3. Vanilla will always be the most popular ice cream flavour etc. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Matt winning. I certainly don’t have a problem with Matt as a person, he seems like a nice guy. But it does feel a bit of an anticlimax. Basically, I would have much preferred Saara! But he and Saara seem to geniunely really like each other, and are both talented vocalists and likeable people, so quite a pleasant ending I guess.

The winners’ single is called ‘When Christmas Comes Around’ and is written by Ed Sheeran. It’s as dull as all the other winner’s singles, but at least it’s not a cover again.

A new addition this series was the X Factor jukebox, which ‘randomly’ picked the theme. Most likely it was just a way of making more of a song and dance (if you excuse the exprssion) of the theme weeks. I’m sure it was a TOTAL COINCIDENCE that it picked Fright Night for the weekend Halloween was closest to. Halloween Week is usually one of the best though, and this year was no exception, some of the best performances of the series were then.

As for the other themes: I love Motown, but I found Motown week to be such a snoozefest. Divas week included songs by divas such as… Michael Jackson, Queen, David
Bowie and Vanilla Ice. When it was hosted, Dermot called it “Divas and legends” to excuse that, like an extra note about a last minute replacement that has been hastily pasted on a billboard.

Disco week is hopelessly dated, not just as a genre but as an X Factor theme week. This year’s Movie week, I can’t think of any other time the X Factor has been more going through the motions, the contestants did nothing they hadn’t already established before and the songs had been overdone on The X Factor.

Louis Loves was just another “songs that are songs” one, and it was joined with the contestants “own choice” as their second one. But Louis Loves was actually one of the more entertaining weeks in terms of song choice, ironically Louis last act 5 After Midnight finished in the bottom 2 of the vote. Christmas week was added late from viewers suggestions on Twitter. This meant ’80s week was left on the shelf, though I’d say it was given pretty fair representation over the course of the series, plus it’s an overrated decade anyway. There, I’ve said it.

The week I enjoyed the most by far was week one, Express Yourself, or songs which allowed the acts to showcase what sort of act they would be, and with more modern songs than in other weeks. To be honest, I’ve long thought The X Factor would be a better show if every week was like that.

Oh yeah, the clips of Dermot’s bad dancing soundtracked to the “de-de-de-da-da-da” from Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ before and after EVERY ad break including Sunday shows. Why?! This programme’s commitment to utter pointlessness.

Freddy, Gifty, Sam, Ryan and Emily all looked very aware that they were heading home and how the show had set them up for a fall in weeks they ended up in the bottom 3. Matt as well towards the end. This is a generation who has grown up with The X Factor, so they’re probably good at spotting the manipulation.

The Lifeline vote, while not a particularly great addition in itself, certainly made an impact, as it changed the entire narratives of Saara and Ryan on the show.

The X Factor series 13 was a bit odd really. A mixed bag I suppose. Mostly rubbish, but some good performances here and there. It was also a show that seems unsure of where it fits. It’s trying to be the old familiar light entertainment show it was when it started, with all the panto antics from judges and contestants, and all those theme weeks. At the same time it’s desperate to be relevant picking young contestants and occasionally songs that haven’t even been a hit yet or trying to shoehorn some internet meme or trend into the programme. You know what, in some ways perhaps Honey G is the personification of The X Factor these days. Much talked about, seen as a bit of a joke but takes itself very seriously, getting on a bit and desperate to be “down with the kids”, has given up even really bothering to hide that it’s all a facade, but still insisting that it isn’t.

The ratings were very low this series, I think it is definitely fair to say the franchise’s best days are far behind it. Its studio, Fountain Studios, is being demolished, but the show has been renewed so it will be here for the rest of the decade, so will the change in location make a difference, is it just going to stumble along until it is axed? Is it going to accept that this is how things are now? As always, we’ll see, and let’s face it, some of us will be watching.

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