Contains series spoilers
An arena full of people booing is quite something to witness first hand. The venue? Wembley Arena. The reason for my visit? A sneak peek at X Factor Boot Camp being filmed.
It all started very chirpy. Warm up comedian Roycey was doing his thing – ie. nabbing people’s phones, ringing their mums and asking what they were wearing. Or indeed laughing at a group of so-called 'Cheryl’s Soldiers' who’d brought a whole watermelon with them after some sort of Twitter exchange with the Crazy Stupid Love singer.
But after a few hours – and it could be the pain of sitting on a flippy chair for so long – the crowd began to turn. They didn’t want to have a laugh at someone’s half-hearted attempt at a poster for Cheryl, or a member of the audience revealing her boyfriend (who’d nipped to the loo) only lasted two seconds in the bedroom. Things had turned serious.
There were six chairs planted on the stage and all eyes were on their occupants. Cheryl, who is mentoring the girls’ category this year, had seventeen singers to watch and six chairs to fill. These six chairs equal a place at Judges’ Houses. Yep, the bit with the holiday. And the potential of a singing career and that…
Anyway, it was all going OK. Cheryl was slowly but surely picking her top six. She agonised over which swaps to make, but on the whole seemed to be quite happy with her choices. But then she made a last-minute u-turn. One the crowd was not happy with.
Singers had already joked that the chairs challenge felt like The Hunger Games. A lot more singing and 100% less killing, obviously. But let me tell you, 5,000-odd people booing is intimidating. Even when you’re part of said crowd, doing the whole awkward laughing thing and eyeing the nearest exit, it’s not pleasant. It was unforgiving, in fact, as chants of ‘bring her back’ drowned out Cheryl’s attempts to speak.
The girl – thought by the crowd to be unworthy of a spot at Judges’ Houses – stood on her own, quite unsure of what to do. She should be celebrating, jumping for joy, enjoying the moment, glad that it looked as though she was getting a seat of her own. But she looked bemused – sad that she was making other contestants cry and keen to head backstage, away from the fuss
“The boos aren’t for you, they’re for me,” Cheryl insisted.
Simon Cowell had earlier described the positives of adding this extra stage to the competition, one not seen until last year. It’s an indication of who’s ready for the pressure of the live studio round, he explained, adding that we as an audience were getting a look into the world of the music industry. One minute you’re hot, the next you’re not.
Just a singing contest? Yes. But give a crowd a reason to join forces, and they’ll take it. If this had been Alan Carr’s new reality show Singer Takes It All, where a negative rating literally moves a singer backwards down the stage, the poor girl would have been blasted through the golden X.
After all that, let’s hope she makes it to the final.
The X Factor is expected to return Saturday August 30 on ITV