Let the complaints begin! Twelve solid weeks of rank injustice began at the judges’ houses stage, with the unveiling of the last 16. How could they choose so-and-so at the expense of that other one? Well, they did.
One colossal disappointment was that only Tulisa Contostavlos attempted a classic, convoluted are-they-through-or-not reveal. The glory days of Simon Cowell saying things like “It wouldn’t be wrong to deny that I have not declined to avoid rejecting the opportunity to decide against not putting you through… is what I’d say if I’d made the opposite decision. Congratulations!” are long gone.
Tulisa began every positive announcement with “I’m sorry…” before following it lamely with “… but you’ll have to do this again” or some such. That was it: Kelly Rowland is too nice to mess with people, Gary Barlow is too businesslike and Louis Walsh was too busy lunging forward like a rubbish vampire and hissing “You’re through!” right in contestants’ faces.
Ah, but that wasn’t it, thanks to the policy this year of creating competitive groups by ignoring which group people were in when they arrived. Tulisa had already put through recently manufactured girl band Rhythmix, luxury Essex girls 2 Shoes (whose celebratory group hug was, you suspect, Dermot O’Leary’s favourite of the series) and recently manufactured boy band Nu Vibe. Then, with a slot left, she impossibly rejected middle-class posers The Keys and recently manufactured man band The Risk.
The Keys had a good lead singer, but the other four’s harmonies sounded like someone sitting on a piano they didn’t know was there. The Risk were weighed down by 2010 also-ran Marlon McKenzie, who was pessimistic and domineering at the same time. Solution: put The Risk through, but sack Marlon and one of the others, and ship in Charlie from The Keys. Thus a new four-man line-up will debut on the live shows, unless it changes again in the next six days and Steve Brookstein gets a surprise call-up.
There was more jiggery-pokery with the over-25s, but it was enforced: anyone at home farting, crunching nachos, talking or doing all three at once will have missed the enormously cursory voice-over announcement that Goldie Cheung, who had been put through by Louis, had subsequently quit. Seeing herself on telly and suddenly realising may have been the problem. Jolly crooner Sami Brookes replaced her, joining charming novelty Johnny Robinson, depressing inevitability Kitty Brucknell, and Jonjo Kerr, who can go as far as he’s willing to shamelessly play on being a soldier.
Not much controversy among the boys, where the big story was John Wilding failing at this stage for the second year running. I still think it’s his hot-weather wardrobe: his lateral blow-dry just about came off, but John let himself down below the waist. Those tiny, lost-property pink shorts may even have been the same pair he had on last year. Madness.
So John was expunged in favour of Craig Colton, whose brilliant version of Halo by Beyonce makes him a dark horse to win. Also coasting through were Marcus Collins, James Michael and randy 1970s driving instructor Frankie Cocozza. No room for Max the “amusement park squirrel”.
Like last year, the girls provided the big travesty. Misha Bryan and Amelia Lily had to be in there, but when nice but anonymous Sophie Habibis got in as well, something was up. Only Janet Devlin and Jade Richards were left, which meant Jade was out. Next week, there’s a BIG TWIST and it’s surely her coming back, because Jade is this year’s Gamu – although there won’t be stories about Jade desperately fighting deportation to a desolate hellhole. Jade already lives in Fife.
All that remained was to glimpse the final 16’s makeovers: 2 Shoes weren’t wearing matching outfits any more, which is a shame; Janet Devlin had aged ten years, which might take away a lot of her innocent appeal; and Misha Bryan’s mushroom-cloud hair and hedgehog epaulettes make her the first contestant ever whose normal style has been toned down for TV.
The warm-up’s over. Next week, The X Factor – and this blog – go live.