Rita Ora looks set to be a very useful judge on this year’s series of the X Factor – dishing out plenty of helpful tips to those dreaming of chart success – but I’d like to see her take a leaf out of Mr Cowell’s book and up the comedy.
Cowell can do serious. He can halt an audition with one lackadaisical wave of a hand; crush a singer’s dream with a mere sigh; a double thumbs up and you’re basically in the final. But Cowell also brings the laughs, effortlessly moving the conversation from geckos to food fights and, of course, dogs. Note to singers planning to audition in the future: always say you like dogs. Always.
Watching Ora in action at the Wembley auditions yesterday, she was very engaged. She was listening, she was taking a moment to think before giving her advice to the acts and it was interesting stuff for those wanting an inside taste of her musical success. The judges are there to find a new chart star after all. But there was a lot of business chat: talk of ad-libbing, trills and song choices.
Yes, it’s a show about singing. But it’s also a big Saturday night entertainment programme that we’re going to be ditching a night out for. Ok, we weren’t actually going to go out anyway. We’ve already got a weekly standing order with the local pizza place. But we don’t just want to be sung at. That’d get old very quickly. We need bizarre banter from the panel, the funny stories from the acts, the awkward silences we used to get when Nicole Scherzinger started talking about balls or when Sharon Osbourne went anywhere near a glass of water. Cowell is the master of keeping that balance.
There were glimmers of it from the new judge. The Voice and X Factor didn’t battle for her services for no reason, after all. When an act all but tore the roof off of Wembley, Rita adopted a half-sitting half-crouching position while she gave her feedback as she couldn’t bring herself to end the standing ovation. She told one act they’d given her a free face lift by hitting her with their stunning vocals. But in between it felt to me like there was a bit too much careful consideration.
When some brilliant, but somewhat shy, acts took to the stage Cowell urged them to kick back, cut loose, cause mayhem, have a diva strop if that’s what it takes to get enthused – the same way he winds crowds up to boo and cheer along. It feels like Ms Ora needs the same advice. She’s sassy as hell. She just needs to show it.