Here are a few things I quickly learned on a visit to the X Factor studios…
Don’t talk too loudly while choreographer Brian Friedman is doing his thing. “He will sling you out,” I was warned. If I’d thought that was a joke, it wasn’t long before I noticed Casey from Stereo Kicks had tape across his mouth, apparently to stop him talking during rehearsals for the Sunday night group song. “It would make a great story if that happened to you,” one of the X Factor team joked. I laughed. Very, very quietly.
Another thing I learned is that there’s a lot to get done on a Friday. Multi-tasking is key. In between rehearsing her choreography, Lauren stopped to record her iTunes version of the song she’ll belt out for this weekend’s Whitney Houston v Elton John week. While I chatted to Stevi Ritchie, he had his eyebrows done. There’s no time to waste.
Act upon act whizzes through the cafe to go to wardrobe, to have their nails done, to grab something to eat, to do an interview. Then they’re back on stage for a sound check, or nipping off to talk to their mentor. Cheryl Fernandez-Versini has been unwell I was told, but Louis Walsh was there, checking out Stereo Kicks’ latest track.
When I arrived the acts had just been told they face yet another double elimination this weekend. When I mentioned it to Only The Young, Betsy, completely dead-pan, told me she didn’t know and that I’d just broken the news. As my chin hit the floor she showed off a huge grin and told me she was joking. Phew.
If you fancy feeling old, hang out with Stereo Kicks. Having to ask what “he got a bit aggy” means made me feel like I’d just asked for my bus pass. It means aggravated. I probably should have known, working with words for a living and that.
Anyway, they move at a million miles per hour (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), with an obvious bond between the eight boys. “Google this, Google that, look this up,” they all teased, yelling things down my dictaphone to make fun of each other. But most of their jibes are in-jokes, so they managed to push each other’s buttons while ensuring it meant absolutely nothing to me. Clever lads.
There’s a lot of laughter backstage at the X Factor. Helped immensely by the press team who launch into a chorus of “That’s what friends are for” if anyone seems like they need to cheer up. At one point Stereo Kicks walked through singing a Christmas song and there were a lot of impressions floating around. Everyone does a marvellous Louis of course.
The acts all support each other and thoughts of two of them leaving this weekend simply seems to mean that they’ll have less friends around, rather than there’s a pathway to the final opening up.
But before we get to all of that; the results, sing-offs etc. This weekend, look out for on-stage surprises from Fleur East and Lauren Platt. Plus, Stereo Kicks may very well have some new names to reveal.
Of course, a trip to X Factor wouldn’t be the same without seeing host Dermot O’Leary. My friends will attest that I’m slightly obsessed, having kept up a year-long campaign to see his opening dance return, which finally paid off two weeks ago. Details of what he had to say about this year’s series will appear in the Christmas issue of the Radio Times, so keep your eyes peeled.
In the meantime…
The X Factor continues this Saturday and Sunday at 8:00pm on ITV