Monday, 27 November 2017

Live Shows Week 5: the three finalists are revealed

Six acts will become just three this weekend as X Factor rushes in a most ungainly way towards its end. It is almost as if the producers really don't want to be here any longer. Anything to cut down the number of days' performance fees for the panel and various acts and musicians. Next years maybe they'll negotiate fixed fees with everyone and then it doesn't matter how long the series lasts and we can a somewhat less desperate ending.

What makes this crazy truncation so annoying is the sheer quality this year of the contestants we have at this stage. Any one of the six could make it. I can imagine any one of them, even Matt, standing there with the storm of silver snow swirling around as he struggles with the final few lines of the winner's single.

Matt is, though, by quite a long way the least likely to survive of the six but in another year he would have made the final. There is such talent, and a big spread as to the people that talent might appeal to, that it is difficult to know who will win. It is all down to who is watching the programme and who amongst them can be bothered to vote. All of the acts can be regarded as winners in the sense that they'll get a contract, I'm pretty sure, from SYCO and a lot of promotion next year to get them on their way. Those that don't actually take the prize are still going to get lots of good opportunities to make records and get known amongst an audience that doesn't watch X Factor.

The Cutkelvins

Another new song. They seem to be coming alive now. Always seeming to take second place to Rak-Su but nevertheless coming out with great performances. This one does seem a little messier than some they have done before but it is still very good work. With a standing ovation from all four judges they must be satisfied at a good job done.

Matt
One of my favourite tracks as well as his, Gimme Shelter, is an unusual song to hear on X Factor. It could be a good move as he must know that he is one of the most vulnerable to leaving now. Unfortunately, it all starts far too weakly and doesn't have the urgency that the song needs. Then he rushes far too quickly into the familiar chorus, probably constrained by some 2 minute rule for the whole thing. Much depends on the backing on this track and here it is good but unexceptional and the drums are just plain annoying. Good in parts but I suspect that's the end of Matt's run.

Grace
Not an original tonight but David Bowie's Life On Mars. I have a vision of this girl writing for other artists and being extremely successful in that field. She is brilliant as a writer and can also sing very well and express her lyrics but I am not sure how well she'll go down in public after the initial gloss has worn off. It's a nice version of the Bowie song and certainly gets attention and she deserved the Standing ovation that she also gets.

Rake-Su
I thought this was another original but it seems that it wasn't. Sweet Female Attitude is not a track I'm familiar with but it suits them and they present their usual extremely professional performance. The track lacks something, though, and i don't think it's up to their previous standards but seems pretty popular still with the audience who love them. I am sure they remain favourites to win the whole thing and they'll take some beating.

Lloyd
It is strange to see him as the #1 boy this year. He does seem out of place too. There is some odd booing as Louis announces that Lloyd has been unwell and had serious voice troubles. But he will still perform. I don't know what the audience reaction was all about at all. Perhaps I missed something else. Anyway, Lloyd's first line shows how much he is suffering but you have to admire how he strives to complete the performance and really ends up doing pretty damn well. He is good at George Michael numbers and that helps him have appeal to potential voters. There is much appreciation for what he does and that could make a difference to whether he or Matt stay.

Kevin
Kevin does Come Together, the Beatles' classic. He has the look and sound of a real rock star. A super performance - all spot-on and in tune, of course. I do wonder quite what the public will make of this, though. Quite a change from his previous performances but really, really good. I think this chap is the real star of the series. I would like to see him win. Really hope he makes it through.

Sure enough, in the first vote it is Matt who makes 6th place.

Dermot tells us that two will go on Sunday. That seems to be the first that most people know about that.

Part 2

In the second part of the weekend's show on Sunday it is now a serious matter of five acts being cut to three after just a single track. I think this is mad but that's the way it seems to have to be.

Lloyd
He does a cover of Coldplay's Fix You. Beautifully sung but is this 2017-8 material or an oldies collection for mums at Christmas? I admire this chap's abilities but I do believe that this is as far as he goes.

Rak-Su
They reprise I'm Feeling You', their own number which looks like it will turn into a big hit for them. They are certainly current and a complete contrast to Lloyd. On past votes I imagine that they'll get through with no problem.

The Cutkelvins

Show Me Love is not that well-known but they put on a super performance. Very professional and they deserve to do well. Relaxed, confident but I just feel they won't get enough votes with only three going through. If they were to make it then it would be in place of Grace or Kevin, however, which just isn't going to happen.

Kevin

He is playing the Jimi Hendrix track Voodoo Chile. Wow. A marvellous performance. Really, really impressive and just... wow! But... despite that being one of the best ever performances on X Factor in all time will the people who watch and vote like it as much as I do? It actually put both groups in the shade, strangely, as one guy totally took over the show for a couple of minutes.

Grace

Unbelievably, this girl comes out with another original song. Surely that has to be a big, big risk at this stage, especially with Rak-Su retreating to known territory of a tried and tested own song. Wolves is quite different from her previous stuff and is excellent and, as always, well-written. Much faster and quite commercial too, showing Grace as more of a performer than just the writer who sings her own songs. It may not have the endearing quality that her previous sadder songs have had but it is very good, none the less. The question is: is that enough? She needs to edge out Lloyd or the Cutkelvins to reach the final.

I think she will and predict the final three as:

Rak-Su | Grace | Kevin

I got that right. So next week it will all be over.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Live Shows: Week 4

The whole concept of reducing 10 down to 6 at this stage seems crazy. Just as acts are beginning to settle and those new to the game are beginning to compete on more even terms with those who are quite at home on the stage, their time is called.

The producers call this a Quarter Final Weekend, for waht that's worth.

The winner this weekend will get a decent prize: sessions with Ali Tamposi who, Simon tells us, wrote the current chart #1 and #2. Must be a SYCO bird and someone Simon Cowell can persuade to do this. Whoever wins should get a nice trip to the States with time with the writing team and is guaranteed a single which may well be as good if not better than whatevr the winner of the series may get.

Saturday night and it's the Boys v the Groups.

Sam


A likeable chap for sure. Touch of the Olly Murs. A nice, simple performance but he must be vulnerable if two are to go tonight, nor did he get the best of reviews.


Sean & Conor Price


Another likeable act but also, in my view, likely to be vulnerable. They're more modern than Sam and this was an interesting and well thought-out performance which ought to have quite a good impact this week. That may save them, depending on what the others come up with. They probably have done about as much as they could.

The Cutkelvins


They're trying very hard this time but I am not at all sure about the track which no one will know or necessarily warm to quickly. It's their own original and that's pretty risky at this stage. It was brave and, in places, impressive and the girl excelled as usual but will the public recognise all that?

Lloyd


Pretty boring. Solid enough but very forgettable. Nothing much to say about that but he's topped the bill before and so I shall assume he will be safe.

Rak-Su


A super original number. Really good performance too and that has to see them safely through for another week, no problem,

So, cutting two of these is crazy but that's what has been decided in this super short series.

I would rank them: Boys: Lloyd | Sam, Groups: Rak-Su | Sean & Conor Price | The Cutkelvins with, possibly both guys going.

I worry for the Cutkelvins in this match but they do make it with Rak-Su and Lloyd. Farewell Sam and Sean & Conor Price.

Now, Sunday and the Girls and Overs. Another five to become three. Harsh.

Rae-Elle


Her personality shines through and she is developing fast. Impressed last week and again this week. Despite looking like Mickey mouse, she had a smart set and showed a good, relevant, youthful image. Unfortunately she never starts well, wobbling on lower notes in particular and was seriously off key often during the track. That spoilt an otherwise good try. I can see her getting votes, though, for the overall show.

Kevin


In complete contrast, we get Whitney's classic I Will Always Love You in slowed and earthy style. Fabulous, just fabulous. Another chart entry right there. This guy must be one of the potential winners.

Matt


A really earthy performance by this chap too who is clearly trying to match Kevin somehow, anyhow. I thought he would be vulnerable tonight but that was very professional and the notes were spot-on. Other than being a bit old-fashioned I can't see a good reason for him going tonight.

Holly


After two excellent Overs she must be wondering that she could easily be one of the two girls to go tonight. Love Me Harder was the song. A bad choice. Superb singing as always with this girl but the song was just not one she should have attempted. Maybe it was an attempt to make her 'current'. She simply does not connect enough with people and, despite being one of the best actual voices tonight, I think she is going home after that. Pity.

Grace


Another good, damn good original track. Commercial too and you have to admire this girl's talent. Good singing too and she ought to be the girl who survives, providing recent events outwith the show do not have an adverse effect with voters.

We'll see soon enough.

That's it.

My ranking:
Pretty obvious really:
Overs: 1 Kevin | 2 Matt
Girls 1 Grace | 2 Rae-Elle | 3 Holly

Yes and Grace and Rak-Su are the winners, battling for the writing prize. Rak-Su win that, after three goes that seems pretty fair and was probably made that way.

Holly and Rae-Elle leave, as I had rather suspected. I think Matt was lucky.

Next week all acts will be competing with each other - a much better idea, I think. I worry that another two may go, however.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Live Shows: Week 3 Wham Sam survives

George Michael week. That should suit some more than others.

Rak-Su

A very professional performance once more but I found it a bit 'thin'. Good but not brilliant or particularly memorable. Although they're tipped as favourites to win, this is not their week to excel but they'll be hoping one of the other groups fails.

Matt

Careless Whisper as you probably haven't heard it before and may not want to hear it again. Bad start. This was really not very good. As things move along he does get more of a grip on the track and it ends in the 'OK' range but that's about it. Very average and certainly not inspiring. Sharon raves about it but I have no idea why.

Jack & Joel

They should do well as they have a definite Wham! look and sound. A great copy of Edge of Heaven. One of the pair has a great voice and sounds just like a young George Michael too. However, I suspect that voters will want something more original. For all that it was far more entertaining than the previous two acts.

The Cutkelvins

I am always impressed by this group. The girl is fabulous and possibly one of the best performers of the series this year. They do Killer / Papa Was a Rolling Stone and it's excellent. Best of the night so far by a long way.

Sean & Conor Price

They do Freedom. They were vulnerable last week but survived and made a better effort of things this week. Much more professional and confident. It's a good choice and they showed off their harmony skills well but made some mistakes in the break part and the performance, as so often has happened, fell apart. They need either more practice or less nerves or both. The crowd, however, seem great fans and they do have a lot of screen appeal so may survive.

Kevin

Fast Love. Sitting at a piano this week, Kevin gives us a very cool version of this track. Really very nice and, as the song progresses, you realise that this is the performance of the night by a mile and here is a serious contender for the whole thing. Amazingly good.

My ratings:

Overs: 1 Kevin | 2 Matt
Groups: 1 Cutkelvins | 2 Jack & Joel | 3 Rak-Su | 4 Sean & Conor Price

Winner: Kevin
Going home: Matt

Matt survives and it's Jack & Joel who go. Fair enough. They were doing well but were not going much further.

Now it's the Girls v Boys

Alisah

Praying For Time. You can always rely on this girl to sing well from the very start. Someone said that she needed to get the meaning of the songs across and this week she did try. But I would still put her on the West End stage and not on Chart albums. She would do extremely well and be very popular too in productions but, as a record artist, I don't think much would happen for her at all.
She tries hard and it is all very 'big' but there isn't a great deal to remember. She's vulnerable, I feel.

Sam

I'm Your Man Great song. Hoping to see this guy do well. We know that Lloyd will croon away and get all the grannies' votes so this is an important week for Sam to get his style across and show how he can be relevant and sell stuff too.
He doesn't do that well, though. It was another 'OK' performance but it lacked something. Just a bit bland. Good in some ways and they guy stays in tune and clearly enjoys himself. No problems performance wise but just, well a bit grey. He could be in trouble this week after all.

Grace

There have been several rumours that she has been difficult to manage and whether having an affair in the house with Matt has helped or hindered her I don't know. Her shining star from the first two weeks does seem to have fallen rather so she needs to rescue what was a leading position.

This was a powerful performance combined with a lot of genuine vulnerability and emotion. Very good. That should see her through despite whatever has been going on. She has 'star quality' which is, indeed, the 'X Factor'. Interesting comments. 'No compromise' says Louis. 'You've had a hard week' from Sharon and 'Tough week' from Dermot. To viewers not connected to social media of the red top newspapers that will have meant little.

Rai-Elle

Yet another wobbly start from this girl. She really should pick tracks, or change them so she can start with confidence. The song is a lot older than she is in many ways but once she gets under way this is quite impressive. Her voice is remarkable this week and the song just seems to suit her completely. I didn't recognise the track at all and it was not easy by the sound of it. She made a brave move there and finished with a most stunning performance that may have taken everyone by surprise. This was not expected to be a good week for the little girl. Instead it has become a possible milestone on her way.

Lloyd

A Different Corner
Nice choice of track and I have to say that this was a superb performance, a very, very classy performance of this song. It had Sharon genuinely in tears. Whilst Lloyd is still not X Factor material in my view but someone who could fill a stage production or do serious stuff somewhere, I was impressed by this and he will certainly fly through to next week.

Holly

Here is another superb singer who hasn't yet really identified with the show or the public. She does Goodbye, another very difficult song but she produces sheer quality from the first note. I don't know how many of the voters will recognise this quality or the song, though. I hope enough do to give her a chance to find herself. I feel she may only get one more chance but, get it right and she could triumph.

My ratings:
Boys: 1 Lloyd | 2 Sam
Girls: 1 Rai-Elle | 2 Holly | 3 Grace | 4 Alisah

Winner: Lloyd
Going home : Alisah

I get those right.

The set for the 'Prize Fight' is fabulous for Kevin. Another great performance. But so too is Lloyd once more, possibly even better than a short while ago.

Lloyd wins the 'fight'. I would have given it to Kevin but, to be fair, he has already won a 'prize' so this is OK, apart from it being opening for Little Mix!! Not so sure how that will work but I'm sure he'll put on a flawless performance. Odd but there you go.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Live Shows: Week 2

We start with the Groups and the Boys categories.

The prize for this weekend is announced as time with a writing team who have been responsible for a huge number of successes for, amongst others, Madonna, Aria Grande and 1 Direction. This is quite impressive and relevant too.

The producers still seem to think it is a good idea to have a theme each week, regardless of the fact that it will simply not suit some people at all, but I guess they'll cope. This time it's Latino music which has certainly begun to take the charts by storm of late.

Jack & Joel


SYCO's Camilla Cabello, once of Fifth Harmony, who I raved about when they were on X Factor USA some time ago, is at Number 1 at the time of writing and so choosing that track is a stroke of genius by the clever lads Jack & Joel who are first up.

I have to say that I was not expecting this duo to be good but one of them is a really good singer and they can actually pit on a really entertaining performance. I think having brains also helps. A Spanish rap gets included too, ticking all the boxes. They remind me for a moment of Wham.

Simon suggests that the acts should try to 'make a record' each week which is pretty good advice. We learn that Grace Davies was at #2 in downloads.

This weekend we get extremely long intros before each track. I do hope they don't get ever longer as the number of contestants reduces.

Leon

He chooses Get Lucky. The backing track does most of the work in his performance. No show of his range but he does seem reasonably professional. Not bad, but not great.

Sean & Conor Price

they like to put their own spin on a well-known song. But this time they try to do something with Cheap Thrills which didn't work for me. A bit awkward, I felt but, oddly, they seem to get a huge crowd response.

They did say themselves that they had wanted to strip the song back and that they felt it was over-produced. Fair enough.

Lloyd

a good week for this fellow. He does Hero and it's quite formal rather than sexy. All very good, solid stuff but simply not current or particularly imaginative.

The Cutkelvins

They choose a Little Mix track and it's nice and very current. Quite a contrast to Lloyd and really streets better than anyone else so far. Really well-performed. Maybe not their best but it works well. They fill the stage and deserve to get through.

Rak-Su

Yet another of their own songs! Amazing. This is also a genuine Latino number too. The crowd go mad for these boys. They're looking like winners at the moment.

Sam

Difficult to follow that but Sam does well, choosing La Bamba which suits him down to the ground. Coupling it with Twist & Shout he produces a really fun performance and looks confident on the stage.

My rating:

Boys: 1 Sam | 2 Lloyd | 3 Leon

Groups: 1 Rak-Su | 2 Jack & Joel | 3 The Cutkelvins | 4 Sean & Conor price

I reckon Leon will be going home and Rak-Su will 'win' the night. Got that right!




Now it's the Girls and the Overs.

Grace

That was a reasonable performance of a cover. Good singing but she was not the stand-out of quality as before. Not at all bad and I hope she does get through. Judging by her popularity from last week, I imagine she should be safe.

Trace Leanne

Although she is very confident on stage this didn't work. A poor song choice that is not well-known and, whilst suiting her style, may not appeal much to voters other than her core supporters. The audience response seems pretty good, though, so maybe that sounded better in the arena than on the TV.


Rae-Elle

A little live wire and she seems much more at home with this theme than the two before. Good Spanish too. She does seem off-key for quite a while which is annoying and a pity because if she chose a different key or simply stayed in the same one it would have been pretty brilliant. She is an excellent performer.

Holly

The recent No. 1 that she chooses does suit her well although she seems to be thinking more about the words and she certainly doesn't come across as sexy as the song intends. At times she seemed a bit desperate too and she may suffer this week as a result. She looks nice and has a super voice but this was not a good theme for her.

Kevin

Totally natural, this guy, with a lovely Santana style guitar spot too. He's good, very good. It's a superb rendition of the track. A bit dated, I suppose, but quality and a half. He gets a standing ovation from all four judges. That was well-deserved and says a lot.

Alisah

Lots of energy and you have to admire the work that this girl puts into her songs and rehearsal. She lets herself go on this and the track is even quite sexy in places but it does seem like she is putting on an act, trying a bit too hard and just not natural. It's OK but I am not sure about where she's going in this competition.

Matt

the final act is Matt with his own version of La Vida Loca. He even adds a rap to it and it is all on a very strange set - just a box that opens with dancers everywhere and then he's back in a box again. That was weird but a fairly good performance anyway.

My rating:

Girls: 1 Rae-Elle | 2 Grace | 3 Holly | 4 Alisah
Overs: 1 Kevin | 2 Tracy | 3 Matt

I can see Matt going home and Kevin being the winner.

I'm right about Kevin, who also goes on to win the prize, with poor old Rack-Su missing out twice now.

I'm wrong about Matt, though, as it is Tracy who goes home.


Monday, 30 October 2017

Live Shows: Week 1

Dermot O'Leary finally gets to do his real job and provides a great introduction to the first Live Show. Simon Cowell has suffered what is hopefully just a minor heart problem and is missing from the first week's shows. We wish him well.

We meet briefly the four Wild Cards as Jack & Joel, Talia, Alisah and Leon get another chance. We are also told about a change to the procedure whereby one act will be sent home out from the Girls or Boys categories on the Saturday show and another from the Overs or Groups on Sunday's show. This will be based entirely on the public vote during the evening, as will the candidates for a prize, this week a trip to see and meet Pink in New York.

This means we, and the acts, will get to know who is the most popular each week. That could be interesting. Tough on those who get chucked out so early. I have always maintained that the first dismissals should be deferred so that everyone gets a chance to settle and the viewers get a chance to know them. After that then, if there is a time pressure, several can be deleted at once but I have always thought the first week dismissals to be cruel and unfair, even though there are some rubbish acts that may deserve to go. Occasionally, however, a good act will mess up or simply not get appreciated as quickly as someone else.

The theme for the first two evenings is Express Yourself which, basically, just lets the acts choose whatever they like. I rather suspect that will be the case throughout.

So here goes.

Rai-Elle

This youngster gets the honour of kicking ff proceedings and does a pretty confident job of that too. She is quite likeable. A bit wobbly to start with but soon gets in the groove. No fear. Goes off-key and wobbles again in the middle but recovers a bit. She's not bad but she's going to go before long, I suspect.

Dermot mentions Towcester as a venue for the First prize! Not sure where that came from but thanks for the link, Dermot.

Spencer


I've heard he has a nice movie-star girlfriend. That may put off the girls who might otherwise have voted purely for the way he looks. He is a very good singer, a real professional with a Bryan Adams style of sorts at times. Excellent performance and he really should have some appeal.

Holly

I'm not sure how here 'Yorkshire lad' image will come across to voters as she is a bit confusing, image-wise, quite hard at times and then also way older than her 16 years too. This is a brilliant start for her, though. And she looks good. A difficult song and she comes across very professionally indeed. A really good performance. She should be safe.

Leon

A bit of an unknown so far. A weaker start than Spencer but still pretty good and nicely in tune and he moved around well, noticeably appealing more to younger fans than Spencer. Quite a surprise, in fact, and overall he was very good.

Alisah

A roller-coaster ride this has been for her, even allowing for the production team's editing of her progress so far. Her performance is theatrical again - just like a West End girl. She is good, very emotional but with super control and finishes well after recovering from one missed note. It was a big number. Nice girl. Laughing a lot as Dermot tries to interview her. That will make her have even more appeal, I'm sure as she does seem very natural. However, this is the Disney Girl, not an X Factor winner.

Sam

This guy has come back from nowhere to make the Live Shows courtesy of Louis. He's retro but very good. A bit odd in this competition and sounds a bit the same all the way though but a good effort. An interesting guy, seems relaxed and could be popular and definitely competition for Leon.

Grace

Another own song! How many has this girl got? You'd think this would be quite a risk for first night but all credit to her. I am not sure the make-over has worked well for her. The song is nice and very well-performed indeed. She is good on the big stage. Nice job.

Lloyd

Good solid performance but he comes across as rather boring to me. All very smooth but I just don't think he's X Factor material.

I rate the Boys:
1 Leon
2 Spencer
3 Sam
4 Lloyd

and the Girls:
1 Holly
2 Grace
3 Alisah
4 Rai-Elle

In a brutal ending, Spencer is the surprise first exit. I wonder whether the US connection simply didn't work well.

No.1 tonight was Grace.

In Part 2 it is the Groups and the Overs. Alisha replaces Simon this evening as someone needs to introduce the Groups, his category, and speak for them.

The CutKelvins

This super trio starts the show and it is a marvellous start with What About Us. The girl, Shereen, is very attractive and so professional, really at home on the big stage. Great performance, genuine stars. Good to see the two boys also playing their part this time too. I like this band and hope they'll be around for a good time. Potential winners.

Kevin

AN unusual song. Slow, bluesy but it does develop with a lot of passion and that helps to show off his really very good voice and lovely personality. Nice job. Faultless performance number two in this edition.

Talia

Extremely long legs. Sings a slow version of Id's You Don't Know You're Beautiful. Not that great. Nervous at the start and not in as great control as I'd like to see at this stage. Notes a bit wrong and inclined to shout too. I'm not sure she'll make it.


Jack & Joel

Nice couple of lads, back as Wild Cards, and they immediately remind us just how bad last year's Ottavia were. These two are talented and come across very well. People will like them. Cheerful and energetic. Nice performance and one is a very good singer too. Good work. They'll get through.

Matt

Earthy voice. Quite good and in tune with some energy and a good attempt at some drama. Bit of the Bruce Springstein about him perhaps. Not spectacular, though. A better image than Talia s he's safe while she's there.

Sean & Conor price

The younger lad seemed very nervous tonight and nothing like as in-tune as he has been before. The performance improved a bit as they settled and it was quite interesting but not a great song and a big risk at this stage. I'm not sure how much support they'll get with that start. A London grammar song is a great idea and nicely current but will enough voters get it? They may struggle.

Tracy Leanne

Something of a dark horse, this girl. A very good performance. Maybe a bit dated but I can see she'll have a lot of appeal in the Amy Winehouse-type sector. She'll survive and may well do very well.


Rak-Su

Another original song. Very good and very commercial as well. Well done. A good presentation and each member has a way to come across well. Lots of energy and all very current which puts Sean & Conor Price in the danger zone.Amazingly good response from the audience too.

My votes:

The Overs
1 Kevin | 2 Tracy Leanne | 3 Matt | 4 Talia

The Groups
1 The Cutkelvins | 2 Rak-Su | 3 Jack & Joel | 4 Sean & Conor Price

It looks like Talia shoul;d be the one to go home and, yes, that's the way it goes.

Rak-Su get the #1 spot in the public vote. So it is for them to sing again with Grace to decide who gets the trip to see and meet Pink.

Grace does a remarkably good performance of her own song Too Young. An absolutely lovely performance. That's a hit single, for sure.

Rak-Su redo the track they finished just a short while ago. That's also very good and also original and another hit in the making.

I find this 'Prize Fight' thing necessary, though, and a bit odd as well as unbalanced.  Don't really see the point. It's great to hear to best acts again and all credit to the team for getting that on the menu but this stupid 'Prize Fight' is pathetic and just sad ITV again.

I would send them all over to the States or simply see who actually wants it. It was obvious that Grace was a big Pink fan and sort of matched the prize best. I don't know who Rak-Su follow but doubt it would be Pink so they'd not be so bothered other than having a great holiday. It comes a quite a relief and definitely the fairest result, then, to learn that it is, indeed, Grace who gets the trip. Whether that was really just on the public vote during 5 minutes we shall probably never know.

A very, very long programme that also included Stomrzy's quite impressive new single, a quite religious affair featuring Labyrinth.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Top 16

Very disappointed that Deanne didn't make it to the Live Shows. As each contestant will survive by the public vote each week this year then I guess if she couldn't garner more than Alisah then she would have not got far anyway. I still think that Alisah and one or to others are destined not for the Top 20 but the West End.

Here are the Top 16 for this weekend. They will be whittled down very quickly so this weekend may well be the last time you'll see some!

The Girls


Alisah

Grace

Holly

Rai-Elle

The Boys


Leon

Lloyd

Sam

Spencer

The Groups


The Cutkelvins

Jack & Joel

Rak-Su

The Price Brothers

The Overs


Matt

Kevin Davy

Talia

Tracy



Monday, 23 October 2017

Judges House Round: thank goodness for Wild Cards!

It's Judges' Houses' time and the 24 acts get carted of to sunnier climes for some reason I have never been able to understand. As far as I can make out, it is a sort of reward for reaching this stage, which, indeed, is quite an achievement even for the talented, coupled with a chance for the production team to put some gloss on a programme for weekend viewers. Lastly, it provides about three days for the acts to demonstrate to their mentor and sundry advisors how suited they could be to entertaining the viewing public every weekend at prime time through 'til Christmas.

There is a considerable amount of Sunday magazine-style glossy stuff in the two long programmes we get to see. Lots of shots of lovely scenes and expensive-looking houses, sofas on patios and the obligatory sunsets. Dermot is consigned to the role of some sort of hugging gate man, lurking some distance away from the patios where the judge and advisors sit. Slapping the backs of people as they go to perform and, occasionally, commiserating with those who don't make it afterwards.

There is not, therefore, a great deal of actual performance. Just one, often truncated, track and that's it. I have always thought that, at this stage, it would be good for us to see several performances by each act and that would help us see much better why the judges choose who they do. There is a considerable amount of filler and shots of people hugging Dermot or being nervous and, therefore, lots of space for more by way of performances.

Anyway, here goes. First we meet the Overs with Nicole. Nicole adds someone called Stormzy to the show to help her make some decisions. Neither seem particularly appropriate choices for this group, Nicole being easily the youngest of the judges but never mind.

Kevin Davy White looks like a potential star. He sings one of his own songs. Risky. I'm not sure about the song but he seems to me to be a sure-fire candidate for the Live Shows. Nice personality and definitely lots of talent. My first choice in this category.

Berget tries to sing Clarity but messes up at the start and never really recovers. She is not exceptional. I am not sure the public would warm to her, despite the fact that she may well be able to perform well given the chance.

Slavco sings JLo's On The Floor. He's a great performer, very confident but tonight he seems out of tune most of the time. Yes, he has the 'Entertainment Factor' but I feel he needs to be able to sing better and have more than just some long pigtail to offer. I would have left him at home and not bothered bringing him here but I guess Nicole had her reasons. Just thank Heavens that Louis didn't get this category or Slavco would be in the Live Shows. As it is, he really shouldn't be after that.

Matt Linnen sings Everyone's Free and has a slow start which is never that great an idea. He is in tune, though, and eventually gets going but he is nothing like as good as he has been before. He's OK but not great at all.

Talia Deane sings Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and has the best start of all so far. She gets a lot of emotion across in her singing and is really quite good in places but not totally convincing. I feel she still ought to make it and that she could have some appeal to voters over the coming weeks. She's not a winner, though.

Tracy Leanne does You lose A Good Thing and I am always surprised by her voice. She seems to be coming across now as the most talented of all of them in singing and could be quite marketable too as she is quite unique. You sort of see her filling the space left by Amy Winehouse in some respects.

This is really not the strongest category and I am not sure how far any would go in the competition. My choice would be Kevin | Tracy | Talia.

Nicole chooses Matt | Kevin | Tracy.

I wonder about wild cards?

Now we move on to the Girls category with Sharon.

Sharon brings in the kids Jack and Kelly to advise. I am really not sure what they can add, other than a younger viewpoint but they haven't exactly been stars in their own right in the singing side of things. I tend to worry about Sharon's judgement and reasons for choice anyway but now see even more likelihood or mistakes but we'll see how things go. This is a very good category with some difficult choices to make.

Holly sings Russian Roulette. It's a confident start. Right in tune and she is very, very professional. I am not sure how she will look on the big screen. There is something that puts a distance between her and the audience. She is brilliant but I wonder whether she might be more West End theatre than X Factor. Certainly a contender, though.

Rae-Elle sings Somebody That I Used To Know. Quite a different version. Good once she gets going. She includes her own rap element in the middle and is spot-on in tune all the time. Very talented. I would find it difficult to choose between her and Holly.

Alisah is this year's 'come-back girl'. It seems that at almost every stage something happens and she gets rejected and then after all sorts of scenes of emotion she gets back again. She sings Lay Me Down. It's a lovely song and beautifully sung. This is a better performance than she gave at the Six Chair Challenge first time round but I do wonder just how 'current' she really is. She strikes me as an obvious and potentially really popular and successful West End Theatre star and she could sign the D I S N and EY off Disney tunes. She could be good TV but I am not sure about her now.

Grace is a stand-out singer and a really talented songwriter, one of the best discoveries of this year's series. She sings yet another original song called More Than You.

I think she seems to be doing really well but Sharon doesn't and interrupts her. Sharon doesn't like her intonation, the way she clips her words. I didn't really notice but maybe second time around she seemed slightly better. I reckon it must have been very difficult to have to sing again in such circumstances. Grace gets quite emotional and struggles with her own song. I had thought she would be a certainty. Not so sure now., from the way Sharon has treated her and emphasised how she is a great songwriter but not all songwriters make the best performers.

Deanna is due to perform next but seems to be a little emotional. Nothing more than many others have been, though, but Kelly O decides to take her for a walk and they put on Georgina instead.

Georgina wants to be called GG and sings In The Air. Before she's been quite wobbly although pretty good. She starts this time very confidently and a clear 'performer' - more so than the four before. Her obvious competition is Rae-Elle and even, to some extent, Talia, in the way they come across. Any other years she would easily be through but this year I do not know. She needed to be exceptional to make that difference.

Deanna is back again. Her song is Don't Call Me Baby. She is so attractive and remains my #1 choice for the whole competition this year. She is immediately at ease and really, really good, just naturally hitting the right notes and moving beautifully. She has the sense of Whitney Houston about her coupled with a little vulnerability. I like her.

My choice would be Deanna | Grace | Holly

Sharon's choice is Rae-Elle | Holly | Grace.

Wow. No Deanna? That's extraordinary. I really had her on the Live Shows as a dead certainty. We need that Wild Card now more than ever!

Next Simon chooses the Groups. He is helped by Cheryl who seems a little quiet but looks very naturally pretty now rather than the very much made-up girl she had been in the past. I do tend to trust her choices, though, as well, of course, as Simon's so hope for some sensible choices here.

The Cutkelvins have a really good audition. The girl singer is 'cute' as Cheryl says but I would say she is confident and the star of the show. Surely this group is a must for the Live Shows.

Lemonade have struck me as being a little weak 'til now. Praise You is their song and it starts slowly and then kicks in big time. It's a tricky song at the best of times. They have talent but I fear they sounded as if they were trying too hard.

New Girl Group is the group of six individual applicants who still have no name. they do Misbehaving which is OK, good in places but i am not sure the beat Lemonade. Six good singers but they don't inspire me much at the moment. Talented, yes but I wonder whether either will make it.

Jack and Joel are very different and Louis would put them through in a heartbeat. A couple of intelligent Oxford lads who have plenty of fun about them and also have a sense of how to be commercial. They do a medley of Let's Get This Party Started and Get Your Freak On which didn't work for me at all. It wasn't a medley anyway, merely one followed by the other. They have great personalities and one has a great singing voice too but I don't see them selling many records really.

Rak Su are a Watford group and sing their own song. They did well. Rapping in London style, Cheryl says, is a good thing that the Americans will love. They're good writers as well as performers and very likely candidates for the Live Shows from the start.

Sean & Conor Price were my early favourites. This time they do What About Us. They're pretty good but I'm not so sure they have matched their first performance. They seemed to go down well and I can see them making good TV and being much liked in the Live Shows if they do make it.

My choice: Cutkelvins | Rak Su | New Girl Group
Simon chooses: Cutkelvins | Rak Su | Sean & Conor Price

Just one girl out of twelve makes it in this category. So far.

Louis has the Boys and brings Mika in to help him. Now I remember Mika and he is definitely a talented chap but I am not so sure many, if any, of the lads actually knew who he was!

Aidan sings One Last Time and is pretty confident and gives an accurate performance but I am not yet sure how he'd go down on Live Shows. He has a good voice, mostly well in tune but just a little over the top in places. He gets a decent length audition, one of only few we've had so far. He gets great reviews from Mika but Louis seems not so sure.

Sam Black is a substitute for Anthony Russell who, we are told, has had to drop out due to 'personal reasons'. They usually mean he's gone to jail or something. As far as I can make out he got caught taking drugs or something and so was persuaded to drop out. This may well have occurred before we saw the Six Chair Challenge show broadcast.

It is interesting that Sam was brought back as he didn't actually reach the Six Chair Challenge. I liked his retro style and I wonder whether Louis was also a big fan and that's why he has now been able to choose to bring him back in preference to the others who were rejected at that later stage.

He sings Hard To Handle which is pretty old school all right. I could see this working in 2017. He has a great voice and that is an excellent audition, albeit it very short.

Leon sings Dreams and has a modern sound and good voice too. Another very short audition, though, and difficult for us to see how well he has done. He has a good vibe and adds his own rap addition but I didn't feel it really ever went anywhere.

Jack sings Clown. He is possibly the best singer so far. Very talented and puts a lot into the song. Nice job. It could get him through. Older people will like him but I am not sure of his appeal to younger viewers or whether he's sell much more than albums at Christmas to the grannies.

Spencer sings an original song about his dad. It's an emotional performance. A very good song and this guy can sing really well. I'd like to see him get through as I think he could surprise us all in the Live Shows.

Lloyd sings How Far I'll Go and actually I reckon this guy has the best 'proper singing voice' coming across as a sort of choir singer that has been very well-trained. But it is dated. This guy is bound to star in the West End but he's not X Factor material, despite being very, very good at singing.

My choice: Spencer | Sam | Jack
Louis chooses: Spencer | Sam | Lloyd

Finally we get told that there will be 4 Wild Cards again this year. Thank Heavens for that. I can only hope that Deanna gets the Girls Card. For the Boys it ought to be Aidan. For the Overs, I'd like to see Talia get a chance but worry we'll get Slavco. The Groups are a tricky choice and I don't know who would make it. I'll guess it'll be Jack & Joel as it is the public voting. Simon may override that and bring the New Girl Group back to restore the male-female balance.