Monday, 17 September 2018

Week 3 Pt 2: Four potential winners in one audition set

All change at the bookies this evening as the producers manage to splice together no less than four acts with the potential to win this thing. I suppose that makes up for only seeing seven acts in total in tonight's programme.

Bella Penfold is first on our screens and is an appealing Essex girl of 19 going on 39. Her voice is low and a bit tobacco-worn but she is most likeable and a good dancer. She's one of those totally natural people who could well be difficult to manage. It's a lazy song but OK and a bit different. She's one to watch and second favourite at the time of writing. I have to say that seems a bit optimistic but lots of people must be backing her to get her odds down to about 10-1.

Lanya Matthews follows her and she's 17 going on 37, from Tottenham, as we get told a few times, and supported by a massive family. Her performance of I'm Telling You is simply magnificent. First class and, to my mind, the best audition by a long way. Another one we should see a lot more of, although her odds are nothing like as short as perhaps the more immediately identifiable Bella.

Dee Losh is from SE London and is 32 going on 22. She sings a song she's written herself. She's a teacher and you're expecting something fairly classy or musically sound. What you get is some fairly outrageous dancing and a rap that does nothing for me but will probably appeal to some. She's OK but I don't see her going far. Having said that, she'll be in the Oldies category and maybe they haven't got many yet.

Dalton Harris says he's come from Jamaica. You get the feeling he has just stepped off the plane, boat or whatever as he's pretty laid back and cool. Difficult to put an age on the fellow and I missed it - or maybe no-one mentioned it. He could be quite young but he could also be in the Oldies. I don't know. If he's in the Oldies then he could do well as this was one fine version of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. Nervous start and he wobbles all over the place but, strangely, that kinda endears him to the audience. Everyone loves the chap and we'll see him again. Bookies like him too as he's down at a very low 12-1.

After all this talent I guess we need some no-hoper just to keep those who only tune in to laugh happy. Someone called Ezat Azure, an obvious fan of blue tries to sing Bang Bang and is dreadful as well as weird.

Chap called Nathan comes next and he sings a song called rise Up which is quite a surprise. You don't expect him to be good but he is. Looks like the bloke in the DIY store but superb voice control and phrasing. He deserves to get through and we'll see what else he can do.

The show ends after what seem to have been as many adverts as performances with Shan. She has been a session singer, backing others and doing gigs here and there for other people and decided to have a go on her own. She's a beautiful singer. Another star in the making for sure. Well done to X Factor for still attracting people like this. Yes. Brilliant and possibly my new favourite to win the show.

'Magic', says Simon Cowell who we see congratulating her in the wings afterwards, clearly most impressed and keen to sign her up one way or another. I totally agree.

So do the bookies who now have her as a very clear favourite - and remember they'll have had some inside information about who's still in the running. She was just 2½-1 at the time of writing. Normally I'd place a bet but those odds are way to short for X Factor!! I don't think I have ever been right at this stage!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Week 3 Pt 1: No Super Star.

As the Queen's We Will Rock You slams out of the speakers you get the feeling that this week the producers have extracted the heavier rock style contestants for us.

At first glance Richard Ryan, who's first up this evening, doesn't seem to fit the rock mould, though, with his likeable attitude and talking about his nan. He does, however, come up with a decent cover of I Believe In A Thing Called Love but lacks the original's individual style. He has a good voice but this doesn't quite work. Louis Walsh would have loved him. Simon doesn't but he still gets through.

We have also learned this week that there will be no Boot Camp. Yippee! After 14 years someone has finally listened. I have been going on for years about the need to get rid of that section when the TV time is taken up by anything but singing and has been really tedious and often quite annoying, doing little to help those who may need a bit of extra support to shine in future rounds.

It seems likely that those who get through these beefed up auditions will simply be selected for the next stage by the panel looking again at all of what they produced so far. No doubt there'll be some other advisors too and even some other work or performances elsewhere will be available to take into consideration and even comments on social media!

Even blogs like this, who knows.

Next up is a chap called Gio. He is a more obvious rocker by appearance with chunky build and long flowing hair. He just looks like a young Meat Loaf. He has a great voice and seems to have bags of confidence on the big stage too but there's almost no response at all from the audience. Although he was a bit brash in a way, I would have expected a few supporters or fans to be cheering at least. I have to wonder whether this has also been staged and the audience were told to give him a hard time at first. Anyway, he gets a second go. Doing Iris is often a good idea and he gets a bit more support now. I didn't rate the second performance as much better but they're cheering and he's through. I reckon he'd be better suited to the West End stage and learn while writing this that he has actually been the lead in Jesus Christ SuperStar!

Scott is a bit painful to watch. This guy is ridiculously over-confident and seems to think he will have the girls falling at his feet as soon as he's on the stage. It's a weird, very weird act. He's out.

Armstrong is an interesting entrant. Cool guy with shades and a guitar that matches the sheen on his jacket. He talks about a lot of time in church and has a group of religious people supporting him clappily in the audience and with Dermot. He sings an unusual track Breaking Free from High School Musical. Does a good job. Messy in parts but he is sufficiently talented and individual to stand out this evening.

Next we have a huge pile of youngsters in the LMA Choir. I reckon they should be on BGT not X Factor but never mind. They're pretty good. Passionate and with some good individual performances. Some good people in there but as a whole I found I was confused and didn't know who to follow. They have bags of energy and should make good TV.

Georgia is a great act, Janice Joplin-style perhaps. I like her. A bit strained in places but she's good and could sell records too. Watch out for her.

Saphy Francisco is from the Philippines and sings The Prayer. She thinks she is guided by the Lord and all that. Oh dear. Half way through she changes and sings in a man's voice. That was odd. She does a sort of duo with herself. Not sure I really liked that and I started to wonder whether she might actually be a bloke.

Ricky is one of the few people we get some back-story about. He was homeless but got straight and married and has kids called Heavenly and Star. He does Sam Cook's A Change Is Gonna Come. He does that well and probably gets the biggest applause of the night. That just goes to show the power of a sad old story in the background. Great voice, nice attitude but I'm not sure. He may well make the Live Shows as there are few Overs of much talent so far.

Tom is the last entrant. He was nearly in One Direction as a contender in 2010 when Louis T did get in the band and he didn't. He had made Judges Houses too. You expect something good but his first song was poor and the second only a bit better. He's not that easy to watch, to be honest, with annoying expressions and really not a great singer either. He does pubs and clubs it seems and may have to carry on with them.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Week 2 Pt 2 Athena is not just a company that made posters

This time the Rolls has XF3 and the white Mercedes has XF2.

Sunday's programme starts with Kiki who says she looks like Janet Jackson. She's confident and says she used to lead in the choir so we are expecting something good. She looks right and the track is One Night Only. That's all we'll see her for as this is not good at all. Out of tune from the start. You wish someone would tell her to stop. After the introduction we really did not expect this. I wonder whether she just started on the wrong note and cannot hear the backing. It was way too late when she was stopped. The panel were obviously trying not to be cruel but she's gone.

Burgundy, on the other hand, from Atlanta, delivers a stunning Aretha Franklin-style performance of Respect. Great big voice and bags of personality. Very good but just a bit too 1970s for my liking. Everyone raves about her. I get the feeling they've been getting bored until she came along.

Next we see a couple of pretty tedious blokes with guitars which Simon calls 'busker auditions'. There's some play between Louis and Simon as the latter dislikes blokes with guitars in the main. So the producers smartly come up with the bit with a chap called Tommy who has a guitar but does an good job with his original song King Pin. Decent bit of work with cheerful performance. Very naturally entertaining bloke the public like. He gets through.

Now we see Athena from Greece. She oozes sexuality in such a way that she seems slightly out of place and men are thinking things about her that perhaps they don't want to admit. She has some strange sort of power despite being not spectacularly attractive. She's a good performer, very experienced and even seems to have brought a couple of backing dancers with her. She does Beyonce's Crazy In Love - yes, with those dance moves too. Ayda is clearly not impressed and calls the whole thing cheesy which is pretty accurate. Robbie has fallen under her spell and calls her amazing. Louis and Simon are also entranced and Simon, fairly, says he simply cannot not put her through after that. That was a weird moment. I doubt that we'll see a great more of Athena.

Now we get the first group for quite a while. Three blokes from Hull. If I'd seen the name earlier I'd have guessed that they do opera stuff - this is the classic Nessun Dorma. They call themselves Tre Amici. They're not that great - sort of good but average in this field. Simon says he wants to hear just the middle bloke who he thinks is the one good singer of the three. I don't know whether this is another stage managed thing but the individual is not keen and eventually the three all join together to complete the audition regardless. Of course, the crowd go mad and love them all the more for not breaking up or doing what Simon says. They're different for this year, I suppose, but they're no G4 (and that was a very long time ago!)

Scarlett is the orange girl with the awful make-up and eyebrows last year. She fell at the Six Chair Challenge and deservedly so, in my view. In what strikes me as another stage managed affair she kicks off with a song she says she's written herself. It's no good. Simon says she can have another go and she pretty instantly does a published number that suits her voice and range very well. She does make a decent job of this second one and the crowd seem very supportive. The judges all like her and, of course, she's through once more. I expect this time she'll get a bit further but I just have a feeling that she's going to let herself down at some point either by annoying someone or just being annoying herself. I don't really want to have her face filling my screen again.

That's it. Another two or three possible candidates for the Live Shows here but no-one that I really expect to go far.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Week 2 Pt 1 Every series has to have a nice girl from the Philippines

I didn't spot any registration numbers this time as two new Rolls Royce motors deliver the judges this week. Well, not this week but some time in July, I think, when the weather was extremely warm and lots of people were carrying little fans. At the time of writing, Dermot O'Leary is off at Boot Camp, I'm told. Expect the rumours of who gets through to start emerging any time now!

Natasha is someone who I expect to see more of. She introduces herself in a delightfully honest way as a girl who's got a flower stall in Kentish Town. You have to like her already. She's very good too and has a natural talent. Despite apparently never having performed anywhere before she seems to be happy on the Wembley stage which is impressive. There are a few places where you can see she'd benefit from a bit of advice and training but I still much preferred her version of Impossible to that previous winner's chewed lyric version.

Next we get some youngsters. Not that Natasha was old but these people are really young.

Eliyah is 14. Very enthusiastic, pretty confident and has some good moves.

Acacia is 15 and is a confident rapper but not so sure about the rest of what she did.

Simon asks them to rehearse something else and come back as a pair.

While they're doing that we meet Owen who's just 17 and is known as Ozzie for some reason. He does an Elvis number, Trouble, and you don't get many Elvis numbers on X Factor these days. Well, you might get them in the auditions but the producers don't let us see them which is probably just as well. This guy is a bit strange, with very long straggly hair and a tendency to walk around a lot. He's very thin and wears odd clothes that just don't look right. So he looks odd, sounds a bit odd too but the panel kinda like him and he gets through. I have no idea how he'll cope with the Abba round.

The young girls return and actually do really well, bearing in mind that they've had only an hour to put their act together. Maybe it's something that kids of that age can do. Maybe we get tricked by recordings from different times - although on this occasion I don't think so. They do a version of Bang Bang Into the Room or whatever it's called and it's full of teen attitude and they go together every well indeed. Nice job. I'd probably have put them through anyway as individuals and one, if not both, would have got a fair way down the line so I am not totally convinced the duo is going to fare any better but we'll see.

Felix is another youngster at 20. He is studying for a degree in song writing and is keen to get the transgender word in pretty soon. Then I notice he is dressed a little strangely. He looks and sounds like a bloke at the top but his legs and shoes look like a girl so I am a bit confused and almost wish he'd just got on with the job and not drawn attention to that. He chooses a smart Kodaline track and has an interesting voice that could be good but he does veer off key too often for pleasant listening. I guess he could develop a style that would set him apart from the mainstream and the panel love him. I wasn't too bothered and doubt we'll see a great deal more.

Next we get three blokes who can each sing reasonably well. You can understand why they applied and why their friends and family are there to support them but they are so bland that you simply cannot imagine anyone actually wanting to go out and buy their tracks or download whatever they record. In the earlier X Factor days I reckon one or two, if not all, of these guys would have been through to Boot Camp at least, maybe with a bit of advice about dress and performance they might even go further and start to gather a few fans. In this big arena, though, the auditions are tough in that the big crowd will quickly sense who is entertaining from the very start and they will effectively pass on any rejection or disappointment to the panel there and then. So none of them make it and get a pretty harsh refusal, especially when you look at how considerate to the the youngsters before them the panel had been.

Talking of entertainment, Ivo comes from Bulgaria and he's 42. A choreographer by profession and that skill becomes clear when he performs with a group of dancers. A fascinating and weird affair indeed. Louis Walsh would have loved him and you know he'd make the Live Shows. His voice is mostly in tune and well structured but he makes it warble around at times and the whole thing, couple with the expressive forms taken by the dancers and himself, present more of a work of art than something we'd think about buying and playing in the car on the way to work.

Most bizarre but the panel put him through, even though no-one really sees this as X Factor material. I guess we all want to see what on earth he'll do next. Quite a likeable character too, which helped a lot.

Well, in every series of X Factor one programme has to end with an emotional girl from the Philippines. This year it's Marie, just 17 who comes along with all the classic phrases like 'it's my dream'. She's a very appealing girl, attractive and quite confident. It seems that her family have brought her all the way here just for this audition. No pressure there then. The familiar strains of the intro to Purple Rain start up and, for a moment I am worrying that this isn't going to end at all well. It's a very typical karaoke performance at the start but eventually she starts to break out of that and give something of herself to the song. I still don't find her anything like as impressive as Ruth Lorenzo, for example, who genuinely owned this track when she performed with it. Marie seemed always to be chasing after it and the dramatic changes she made just emphasised how desperate she was not to go home just yet.

This was good TV and she did look like a little star, for sure. No-one would not put her through anyway so there was never much to worry about. I can see her gaining quite a good following as she has everything going for her and, with better song choices, and a bit of control, people will want to see more of her. So a potential Live Show girl maybe, but mainly for the audience figures rather than sheer talent.




Monday, 3 September 2018

S15 Auditions: Week 1 Pt 2 Not Eurovision

If you think that there seems to be a lot of 'filling' at the start then you could well be right; there are just five acts to come this evening. That could be a record low.

In amongst the introduction you'll see the registration XF2 again but this time on a white Mercedes. Does someone really switch the plates before people arrive at the Stadium? I won't tell the DVLA if you don't.

First on the stage is a very bouncy chap called Ola. He comes from Trinidad and Tobago. A talented guy for sure. I have no idea what genre he is doing but it's all good fun and he can certainly perform. It's not the usual fare and is sufficiently different to seem new although it probably isn't going to see him winning anything. The lighting makes it difficult to figure out whether he's young or old but he's certainly energetic and all credit too to the two dancers he has with him but wo get ignored by the judges. I'm not sure what he'll do in the Abba round, though.

Next comes Brendan Murray. He's the first young lad we see this year and his Irish accent and general attitude makes me think we should have something good here. We learn that he was lead singer in a band at 16 but they only had limited success across the water. I sort of recognise him when he starts singing but can't remember where at first. He has a brilliant voice and sings really well. Despite that, Simon stops him and asks him to do a Kate Bush number, Woman's Work, which the guy says he doesn't know. It's all a bit strange and the rest of the panel are left out of the picture. My guess is that this is another set-up for the show and is all pretty well-rehearsed. Brendan goes away.

Several more come and go, also being told that they have the wrong songs but we never learn much more about them so maybe they never do get the right ones. But we do get Brendan back and he has a couple of goes at getting started before, with lyrics in hand, he gets past the first line. He does a first class job of the track and we have a potential winner here in my view.

Now I realise why he seemed familiar. He had been Ireland's entry in the 2017 Eurovision contest but failed to qualify. In fact he only came 13th out of 17 which was pretty poor. The song wasn't great but that still struck me as pretty cruel at the time.

So I may revise my idea about us choosing our entry for Eurovision 2019 from this year's winner!

That took up best part of the show. Someone else we've seen before turns up next. Mark from the Reason reached Judges Houses in 2010 - interestingly, the same year that 1D were there and no one of the 1D guys is on the panel judging. Mark tries Careless Whisper. It's not great, to be honest. Does he get another chance? No. Pretty harsh and he's out. Simon says that he can see no chance that he could get a first grade writer to produce a track for him and, as he doesn't write his own material, there's no hope. I imagine he could say that about a lot of contestants he does see through.

Jackie's next and it's a sort of Susan Boyle moment. She's getting on a bit, works on a farm and hasn't exactly dressed to the nines for the event. You know she'll be good. And, yes, she's an excellent singer and seems genuinely surprised at the audience's enthusiastic reaction. It's good TV, I suppose, and, of course she gets through, although I am not so sure she'll be any easier to write for or sell a great deal more than the other guy might have done.

Last up is Anthony Russell who dropped out last year. He'd been doing well and was the one who looked manic and on the edge of a nervous breakdown every week. He would have made the Live Shows and I reckon he will make it this time if he keeps himself together. Nice to learn that louis Tomlinson had played quite a significant part in rescuing the guy last year - I think they'd net as Louis was helping Simon at Judges Houses. The audience like characters like Anthony. They did spent one hell of a lot of the programme on this, though.

One thing we did learn during the show was that the Final will be on 1 December. I've been working backwards and I really am hoping that this will mean we don't get the indecent rush through Live Shows as we had last year. There would appear to be time for a gradual one-out-each-week flow with a weekend for each of Bootcamp, Six Chair Challenge and Judges Houses, as well as another four audition shows. So you do the maths - for every extra (cheap-to-make) audition show that will mean one more person getting sent home in one week's Live Show (expensive to make).



Saturday, 1 September 2018

One good duo, three out-of-tune young girls and some old folk start the series.

The first thing you notice is that there's a lot more gold - the new graphics are very shiny and the red has made way for silver and, yes, more gold. I like the way the show goes pretty much straight into auditions and these are taking place at venues with an audience - and a seemingly quite big one at that. It's quite a contrast to the cardboard sets that we used to see with three judges - invariably someone was otherwise engaged - no Dermot and performers with little more than a cassette player on the floor if they were lucky.

Simon appears first in a rolls with an XF2 number plate and then it's another Rolls with XF3. Or perhaps they're Bentleys. You're left wondering who's got XF1.

It's not a good start. An odd mix of lads calling themselves No Label are all over the place and an appalling last note makes us wonder just what this new series has to offer if that's what the producers chose to start with.

The next act gives us all that 'Oh dear..' feeling as an oldish-looking bloke appears. Danny Tetley says he's knackered, having just flown in from Benidorm where he says he performs on stage. He looks as if he hasn't slept. I'm thinking he's in his 50s and it's quite a shock to hear he's only 37. Apparently he was a contestant on pop idol in 2001. When he does sing he's pretty good but hardly anyone that is going to break into the market in 2018. A good entertainer but really he would not have stood a chance in previous series. This year he gets through. That'll probably be it, though.

Next we have a duo called Misunderstood. Now this is more like it. Modern, talented and a bit different with some cool dance moves from the pair. They look good and sound good with their own track called Juicy Fruit. You can't help but notice that they have a professional and quite obvious backing track running and that helps promote a pretty competent audition. I don't recall that being allowed before - people just sang a capella and hoped for the best most of the time.

Also interesting is the full-length auditions we're getting - that's a good thing, although I may well regret that when the bad ones come along.

Next we get three blonde girls, one after the other. Kezia is 15 and really not very good but Robbie wants to put her in a girl band. She has a crystal voice that could be good be she's so nervous it's not a great audition at all. Nevertheless we'll be seeing her again.

Charlotte follows and she's even more out of tune but she gets through too - as part of some future band.

Molly is the third and I'm thinking that she's be in the band too. She's got a bigger voice and is an improvement on the other two but still nothing great. She's through too and maybe not as part of that group after all. I just sit here thinking that none of these would have made it in previous years.

Louis is very OTT with his praise and you get the feeling generally that everyone has been told to be positive, happy and smiling, come what may. Everyone he sees he says is 'amazing' but that doesn't leave him much room to praise some real talent as and when it appears.

Some weird bloke comes next with a dramatic prepared entrance. He is pretty useless and decidedly strange so it's just as well we don't get to see much of him.

Then we see some very, very strange act - like a family of sorts. A woman sings and she might not have been too bad but the people with her just look extraordinarily dumb and dance ridiculously badly. Whoever dressed them needs their head examined. Needless to say they don't last long. Not even funny. Just odd.

Then Janice Robinson comes along. She says she wrote Dreamer, a classic rave number from the 1990s. She can certainly sing and perform although she seems oddly out of place here. You tend to think that she needn't have to perform and is already in the business and should be doing fine but, perhaps, that is not the case. Who knows. We'll find out more at the next round no doubt.

We end the first edition of Series 15 with some bloke called Andy Hatton who is a major Robbie fan. He kicks off with some odd number and he just sounds weird. Simon gets him to do another song. This sounds rehearsed and staged to me. It's Angels and he finishes up with Robbie on stage singing with him and everyone is happy and singing along too. If anything, it goes on a bit long. The bloke sounds a lot better now and is vaguely in tune. He could be a Robbie tribute act and do reasonably well amongst the 300 other Robbie tribute acts that I guess must be around these days. He's through to Bootcamp, assuming there is a Bootcamp.

Not the most memorable of starts and no obvious contender in this first hour or so. It's a pleasant enough start to the series, I suppose, but they'll need someone a lot better to keep a decent audience in weeks to follow.

I remember thinking that there's no way Louis Walsh would have been up on stage singing with anyone.



X Factor Series 15 returns this evening

Simon Cowell brings this remarkably long-running series back to ITV screens this evening.

He will be joined at the judges' desk this year by Robbie Williams, Ayda Field and One Direction's Louis Tomlinson. And Sharon Osbourne will be part of the panel for the live shows too.




Dermot O'Leary is back as the host and that is always a relief. It takes a particular talent to generate enthusiasm and keep things flowing, although he was noticeable by his absence during last year's audition recordings. He tends to appear from time to time to congratulate or commiserate but that's about all until the Live Shows get under way.

Last year the Live Shows were ridiculously truncated and, after making so much effort to reach them, I felt sorry for contestants who then got only one or two nights' publicity as the numbers were severely sliced down to produce a final with what had to be regarded as indecent speed and economy.

Rak-Su deserved to take the prize, although we have not heard a great deal from them in recent months. Nor have Grace or Kelvin, the two acts competing in the Top Three, had much impact, despite producing most memorable performances on the show last year. Whereas once, getting to the top of X Factor more or less guaranteed a year of releases and their names in lights and on our radios, it is no longer a certainty that the temporary stardom will last long at all.

With Malta planning to enter their X Factor winner as the country's Eurovision act, could UK have something similar in mind? Rak-Su would certainly have given us a fighting chance in comparison to the pleasant but unknown SuRie.