“I want to try and sleep with as many women as possible,” said Frankie Cocozza, an 18-year-old with the hair and face of a randy 1970s window cleaner, and the names of seven girls tattooed on his backside. Frankie charmed the female judges by yanking down his trousers and cracking open his contacts book right there on the stage. Frankie is a younger and in all senses cheekier Olly Murs. I can foresee his debut single now: “Sunshine Lady”, an excruciating dollop of cod-reggae. There is no second single.
Wagnerian comedy was provided by tai chi instructor Goldie Cheung, 48. She warmed up backstage by vomiting into a bag and then bending over, legs locked, until her forehead was flat on the floor. Eventually she unfolded, belched holistically and faced the judges, singing what may have been her own composition (“Ding, dong/Dollar ding!/Dong”) while doing a sexually provocative dance that could serve as a public health film about thoroughly checking for lumps. Louis liked her.
Who could fail to be warmed by Johnny Robinson, an unemployed 45-year-old with a shiny tracksuit top and a gaunt, smiling face halfway between Kenneth Williams and Tim Westwood? Having politely listed the judges’ names like they were a Family Fortunes team (“Hello Louis, hello Gary, Kelly and Tulisa. Lovely to meet you!”), Johnny gave At Last by Etta James a thorough saucing, with pouts, points and a quacking falsetto that at times recalled that bloke from two years ago who worked in the chicken factory.
Johnny, however, got an ovation because he did it with total conviction in a style honed, you imagine, while home alone night after night. (“I live in a bedsit. Ooh, I should say studio, that sounds better, dunnit?”)
The expectation-defying hero of the episode was David Wilder. Having rocked to no acclaim ever since leaving school, he now claimed to be 42, but looked closer to 42 and a half, equals 63. David had all the marks of an embarrassing, clapped-out glam uncle: long hair thinned by decades of blond dye, ambitious jeans, use of the word “baby”, and plumes of those boho scarves, wristbands and jewellery that don’t suit any man if it isn’t 1971.
David started badly. He punched the air madly to the slow piano intro of Life on Mars, then introduced his wheezy twang of a voice by marching up to the judges and giving them a line each, right in the face, nose-to-eyeball. But this was enthusiasm, not desperation. Soon David was dashing into the crowd, somehow singing better while running, which he did with the infectious spring of Anneka Rice trotting into a builders’ merchants. It didn’t matter that he had to hit the big high note twice using two different octaves to kill it off: by then, four semi-ironic yeses were in the bag.
The weekend belonged to doomed girl band Twisted, whose appearance on the show was a timeless fable, laden with cruel irony. Chrissie Pitt had failed at boot camp last year but returned with three friends, who stood and oohed vaguely while she delivered a sandpapery Someone like You.
It was a no until the devil, in the unlikely persona of Kelly Rowland, offered Chrissie a deal: a second chance if she ditched her pals. Choking with the guilt, Chrissie paused for three seconds and then sprinted back on. The song she chose to perform? Forget You by Cee-Lo Green. Her former bandmates watched, frozen by hateful envy, as Chrissie was voted through.
“If they’re really your friends they’re going to be right behind you,” said Gary Barlow, but the other three had never really been Chrissie’s friends. The lure of fame had blinded them to their own failings and Chrissie’s motives, and now
this positively Shakespearean loop of deception and delusion had been brutally snipped.
Terry Winstanley was a 51-year-old HGV driver who, despite having the amber tan, swept hair and roomy suit of a mid-ranked mafioso, was a soppy sod who was worried he was too old. He did the Michael Bolton version of To Love Somebody, pub-style – I had a sudden craving for scampi and chips. Big notes flew out as Terry dramatically raised his left arm and sang to a spot on the floor two feet to his right. It was old, hard cheese but Terry did what he did well.
Similarly, Essex-girl duo 2 Shoes were great because they celebrated their vast Essexness and never took themselves seriously unless they were singing. They were good – you were willing them to be better.
WEEK SIX (Boot camp)
Mortifying attention addict Kitty Brucknell went to the limit immediately, growling aggressively through Feeling Good in a custom-made, hyper-revealing silver leotard fitted with flashing white lights. Kitty activated the bulbs just as her performance devolved into primal grunts and, at the climax, a falsetto that sounded like a cry for help, in both senses: someone who was already having an emotional crisis who is now being stabbed.
Kitty showed restraint only in not putting any lights on the leotard’s crotch, although perhaps this was because there wasn’t enough material there to support the wiring. When she was told she’d made it through she collapsed in theatrical tears on the steps backstage, pointing her shiny gusset right at Dermot O’Leary, who hid behind a handrail.
WEEK SEVEN (Judges’ houses)
Like last year, the girls’ category 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.
WEEK EIGHT (First live show)
7:14 I’m a bit nervous, to be honest with you. This is my first live blog. Usually I review each episode once it’s finished, spending countless hours carefully honing my thoughts, distilling the pure essence of the monumental events and sheer bloody humanity we’ve witnessed that week. Now I’m just typing whatever comes into my head and bang, there it is. It’s very much like asking Ibsen to go on Whose Line Is It Anyway.
7:35 Supposedly the lack of a phone vote is personally costing Simon Cowell £200,000. Proportional to our incomes, that’s the equivalent of me losing a £2 coin down the back of the settee.
8:24 It’s JONJO KERR. You Really Got Me by The Kinks – a dribbly 80s wine bar version. An empty wine bar. A half-hearted attempt at a sexy face at the end, but it was horribly chaste. The original is a carnal snarl that more or less invents modern rock and roll! That was like a wet postcard with “Sorry” written on it in pencil.
7:46 IT’S TIME! TERFAYYZE! THAAAMUUUUUUZIIIIK!
7:49 Good spin from Dermot tonight, nice and slow, just making it round before falling effortlessly into his opening lateral walk. Beautiful. Preceded by a playful leg-cock, I noticed, but sadly the camera was too far away to do it justice.
8:02 SAMI BROOKES. “I’ve had a lot of messages on my Facebook from overweight children. They’re going to have singing lessons.” Sami sings I Will Always Love You. At least, I think it’s Sami. Possibly they’ve put a tape of Malta’s 1993 Eurovision entry on by mistake.
9:19 It’s THE RISK! Still cuddling furiously during their VT interviews, which I like. Men shouldn’t be afraid to throw their arms around each other. The Risk do Just The Way You Are by funny little saccharine merchant Bruno Mars. You simply cannot go wrong with this. One of them could open fire on the audience and they’d still be through… The first Westlife Stools of the series, there. Mature. Reflective. Caring. The Risk.
7:46 Good evening! I’m Jack Seale, and since I was a boy, all I’ve wanted to do is liveblog The X Factor. Every night as a child, there I’d be in my room, liveblogging into a hairbrush. I can’t do anything else. Liveblogging is my life. I’ve won a few prizes in local liveblogging competitions, and my mum says I’m dead good at liveblogging, but now I want to follow my dream and be the Radio Times X Factor liveblogger. This means everything to me.
8:02 IT’S TIME! TO WATCH! THIS PROGRAMME!
8:44 SOPHIE HABIBIS. Last week I thought she sang like a 3am taxi-rank queue, but what do I know? People seem to like her… erk. Livin’ On A Prayer. Horrid high note in this. Brace yourselves…
8.48 In the words of Niles Crane, “Sometimes the note sees your attack coming and runs away.” Still, apart from the ragged chorus, that was OK for what it was: a piano-led, quiet, tasteful version. We’re in a four-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
7:43 Well, what a week it’s been for the baking-soda ship that is The X Factor 2011. Rhythmix changed their name to Little Mix, and The Risk lost a member – Ashley Baptiste shockingly left the group, to spend more time with his collection of ceramic parrots. He’s been replaced by the radically different Ashford Campbell, who shot to fame in 2011 as a member of singing group Nu Vibe. Let me tell you, I am severely regretting my X-Factor-contestants’-names buttock tattoos – but the real question is, can The X Factor function after all this uncertainty? With ratings also on the slide, this is the biggest TV-show crisis since the “badger rampage” episode of Autumnwatch.
8:03 IT’S TIME! TO FACE! THE BLACK FUTILITY OF A GODLESS UNIVERSE! Wait, that isn’t right, sorry. This is why I failed the X Factor voiceover audition.
8:50 Misha B struts through Tainted Love, looking more than ever like she’s borrowed Grace Jones’ stylist. Scarlet cowl, hair teased up into a unicorn’s horn. And a sparkly monobrow, like the blind guy off of Star Trek! Great vocals, lovely rap breakdown. The performance is, sadly, marred by Louis Walsh trying to do Kelly Rowland’s “put it down” catchphrase, which made me clench with embarrassment so hard I am now hitting the keys with two pencils wedged in my fists. Still, Misha rocked it as usual – a welcome new development was her refusal to be interviewed by Dermot afterwards, which is what you’d hope for from an extra-terrestrial empress of soul. Excellent.
WEEK TWELVE (Tim Glanfield sits in)
7:53 It’s a big one, a double eviction this weekend – tonight we’ll start with nine bright-eyed and bushy-tailed sub-karaoke hopefuls, but by tomorrow evening they will be reduced to the magnificent seven. Yep, it’s the biggest cull in television since the two remaining viewers finally switched off Red or Black. I can hardly contain my excitement.
7:55 Tonight’s theme is club classics. What could that mean? Are we finally going to see someone perform interpretative dance to Robert Miles’s classic Children? Will Janet Devlin manage to put a Celtic spin onto Blackbox’s seminal Italian piano house cut, Ride on Time? Or will we just hear another bunch of popular pop classics, with a slightly bigger beat?
8:25 It’s CRAIG COLTON! Never before has a young popstar rocked the civic amenity operative look with such aplomb. This reminds me of a scene from a Grange Hill disco… with a slightly worse soundtrack. Rick Astley meets Shakin’ Stevens.
8:12 Can this edition of The X Factor possibly live up to all those midweek thrills? Feral sex-gonk Frankie Cocozza was given his marching-powder orders on Tuesday for being illegal, so there’s excitement tonight before we even get to the singing. Now Frankie and his lemur-infested barnet have returned to the south coast to terrorise Brighton’s housewives – he’s reportedly earning £3,000 a night for club appearances, although you can expect that valuation to depreciate faster than a Candy Cabs DVD box set – there’s a chance for one of Amelia Lily, Jonjo Kerr, James Michael and 2 Shoes to make a sensational return to the contest. Or a return to the contest, anyway.
8:15 High, high drama already, as the show itself fails to come on due to “technical problems”, so we’re getting an emergency highlights tape! Goldie Cheung is back on the telly! Stock up on tinned pulses! Everything has gone wrong!
8:27 Ooh, here we go. Do we? No, it’s a commercial break! This surely smashes the programme’s all-time record for earliest ad break: 0 minutes 0 seconds. What’s the Ofcom rule on this?
8:38 Footage of Frankie breaking the news to his fellow contestants. “I’ve decided to leave…” he says. It cuts away before we get to “… because they shouted at me to get out immediately before they called the police.”
9:21 After last week’s disco-dancing cataclysm, JANET DEVLIN is going to “be herself” again, which means angling for a spot on next Christmas’s John Lewis ad by singing a famous song slowly and yappily. It’s Somebody to Love by Queen! But very slow and quiet! At the point where the record surges, Janet’s version continues to trudge apologetically along the floor, chewing the sleeves of its cardigan. I am actually leaning forward in my seat to try to hear her. Is there a big finish? Not really: a slightly louder Celtic yelp, and it’s over. Some tremendous bored, sarcastic clapping from Tulisa! “Another captivating performance,” says Louis.
8:17 “Flashing lights and some big numbers,” promises the ITV1 continuity announcer. I can reveal that Craig will be listing the first 1,000 primes, while Amelia Lily takes on the 27 times table. Really big numbers.
8:48 Amelia sings unsubtle soul shouters’ constant fallback, Think by Aretha Franklin. As usual she plants herself on the stage, stands there and blasts it out. Maximum volume and minimum charm. “A legs-apart belter,” to use one of my Uncle Alan’s catchphrases, only not in a good way. Amelia is the bookies’ favourite to win but I really can’t see it. Anyone?
8:49 Tulisa says Think by Aretha Franklin “isn’t well known enough”! How old is she, 6? It’s been on every series of The X Factor at least twice! Then Kelly agrees not everyone will know it! What on earth is going on? Is this episode being beamed to undiscovered tribes in Papua New Guinea? Everyone knows that song!
8:51 Gary averred that that was “a semitone too high for you throughout”, the big muso. Embarrassingly he failed to notice that the daring use of flattened modal fifths lent it the air of a madrigal in the dorian mode, an effect exacerbated by setting the song in 5/4 time, switching to 13/8 in the bridge. I thought that was too obvious to point out, but Gary started it.
8:03 IT’S! TIME TO FACE THE! MUSIC!
8:15 Well, this is embarrassing. Janet shows herself up as a casual, fairweather Hanson fan by choosing their international megahit Mmmbop rather than the far superior but lesser-known follow-up, Where’s The Love. Playing it safe as usual.
8:15 Singing Mmmbop in a sober, sparkly black cocktail dress. Erm.
8:16 JANET HAS FORGOTTEN THE WORDS. Of the verses, obviously. Even Janet couldn’t forget the words of the chorus to this.
8:17 This is desperately bad. She’s rooted to the floor. Terrified. She’s gone.
8:18 Louis asks her what went wrong: Janet mumbles something about almost throwing up. Vomiting halfway through would have greatly livened that up. If Janet survives – and on that evidence, she won’t – that could be something to keep up her sleeve for next week. The tactical chunder.
9:00 Who are these people who go online and slag off Little Mix? Why, I’d like to sit them down and ask them just how the HELL they manage to work up the passion to say anything about them at all.
8:02 IT’S TIME! TO ADMIT! THAT DESPITE THIS NOT EVEN BEING THE LAST SHOW I HAVE TOTALLY RUN OUT OF AMUSING WAYS TO REARRANGE “IT’S TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC!”!
8:04 Here’s Dermot, mashed potato-ing his way through a routine that fairly screams “Hours of tuition with a choreographer who has since gone on long-term sick leave.” Level of his embarrassment when it’s over: record-breakingly high.
8:05 Tulisa, as usual, shows us the tattooed advert for her perfume. On the other arm this week: “Iceland Hoi Sin Duck Christmas Trees, only £1.”
8:40 Mathematicians among you will have worked this out already, but it’s MARCUS COLLINS! He’s had a rehearsal-room visit from Robbie Williams, who offers a series of fist-chewingly useless self-help nuggets like “Don’t let nerves become your master.” I think you’ll find Marcus is already contractually unable to replace Syco Music Plc as his master, but it’s a nice thought. Anyway, Marcus is doing My Girl by The Temptations, as made famous in that film where the kid gets attacked by bees.
8:00 It’s the X Factor 2011 grand final! Yes, just 586 weeks after the auditions process began, the 40,000,000,000 original applicants have been remorselessly whittled down to three supercharged cultural titans. Little Mix are a girl group of such style, such individuality, such dazzling technical prowess, they’re already being tipped to still be recording well into 2012. Facing them is Marcus Collins, a behemothic vocal god whose gut-wrenching versions of songs by Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson and Lenny Kravitz mark him out as Britain’s greatest soul singer since Lemar. Up against both of those acts is the sheer, terrifying power of Amelia Lily, whose voice is already being used to safeguard shipping off the coast of Scotland at night. Who will prevail? We cannot know. All we know is that it will be the greatest night of our lives.
8:02 IT’S NEARLY TIME! TO NOT HAVE TO WATCH THIS BLOODY RUBBISH! FOR ANOTHER EIGHT MONTHS!
8:28 In a twist on the usual “Jeff Brazier is eaten alive by fans in Basildon Town Hall” format, we go to Olly Murs and Caroline Flack in the Wembley crowd, with Marcus’s fans. Caroline is dating the cute one from One Direction, while Olly Murs has released a series of provocatively awful records – they’re both national hate figures in their own way, so is it really a good idea to have them roaming among 10,000 adrenalised people in semi-darkness?
9:27 In the crowd, Amelia’s dad loudly reinforces the clearly false idea that Amelia is 17. He seems to be holding a tray of lottery balls for some reason – another supporter, who runs a bar, is holding a pair of giant cocktails in front of her, in goblets, so that they look unfortunately like enormous comedy hooters. The “Amelia Lily Cocktail”, as it’s been called, is then downed by Olly Murs. Make yourself an Amelia Lily at home! Ingredients: strawberry Angel Delight, diesel, peroxide, gravel, cranberry juice. One please!
9:56 Going through, in no particular order despite there only being two available orders, are… LITTLE MIX and MARCUS COLLINS. You’re ahead of me here: Amelia is out. We would never celebrate the shattering of a 17-year-old girl’s dreams here. This is a family website. So let’s take a moment to pay tribute to – sod it. YESSSSSS! A massive travesty has just been avoided. Rejoice! Rejoice!
The Final Result
7:19 We are, of course, down to the last two acts: tiny hairdressing Scouser of soul Marcus Collins; and Jesy, Perrie, Stevie and Jeremy, otherwise known as Little Mix. Who will win? Who do you want to win? My head says Little Mix, as do my appendix, spleen and gall bladder, whereas my heart, pancreas and the backs of my knees are firmly behind Marcus.
7:31 IT’S TIME! FOR BOTH OF THESE ACTS’ CAREERS! TO PEAK!
8:01 Here they are again, then: Jesy, Perrie, Mikey, Stevie and Wellard, aka LITTLE MIX! They are, of course, doing Don’t Let Go by En Vogue, a song so mightily good it should either be banned or come with a heavy forfeit such as making the group in question wear stupid outfits. Ah hang on, they’ve done the latter.
8:26 NOW it’s a celebrity guest. Four bland men who have inexplicably sold millions of records: it’s COLDPL- sorry. It’s WESTLIFE!
8:46 Now it’s LITTLE MIX and their best bits. Remember that epochal moment when Perrie, Jesy, Funty and Clive first got together? We didn’t realise it at the time but the world really did change then. It didn’t really get better or worse, it just changed slightly. There’s a parallel universe somewhere in which Little Mix don’t exist. It’s very nearly the same.
8:55 Don’t, by the way, think I missed the Little Mix fan who had VOTE LITTLE MIX either written or tattooed down the back of her thigh, necessitating us almost seeing a montage of her best bits as she flashed it to the camera. I was just lost for words.
9:03 We’re back and Dermot is among the crowd, where one man is filming him on his phone. I think there may be cameras in operation already, pal. Another bloke does the most half-hearted wave-behind-the-presenter ever, then turns to whoever was goading him on as if to say: “There, happy now? I could be at home. I wish I was at home. Actually, I’m going. I’m going home to pack my stuff. Goodbye for ever.” That’s what I picked up, anyway. This is followed by a recap of tonight’s perfs. Narrow victory for Marcus, I think, but I also think Mixed Grill have had it in the bag for about a month now.
9:04 Here we go! Look out! It’s COLDPLAY! This is going to be like L7 on The Word, crossed with the Stones at Altamont and Alice Cooper at Belmarsh. Totally wild and untamed rock and roll. Grrrrrrrr.
9:08 Coldplay have stopped doing their first song and begun another one.
9:09 This one would work on an advert for lower-fat, oil-based butter substitute. It’s light. Hopeful. Spreadable.
9:12 I’m joking of course, this song is called Paradise and wasn’t written for an advert. It was written in anticipation of a nightmare dystopian future where everyone has had their faces melted off like in the video to If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, and we all live in a compound like that terrible film with Ewen McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. This song will be played on a loop to keep up morale. Those whose mental health cannot withstand it will be scooped up and turned into food.
9:21 MARCUS COLLINS and LITTLE MIX are back on the stage. Dermot opens the big metaphorical envelope…
9:22 And the winner is… LITTLE MIX! No surprises, then. Never in the bottom two and bookies’ favourites for weeks.
9:25 Dermot plays a blinder by dodging Tulisa’s torrent of tears to get an instant reaction from Binky and Martin from Little Mix. They are, I think, pleased. Marcus is magnanimous in defeat, having probably got wind of the hopelessness of his cause some weeks ago. Little Mix are presented with their debut CD and must now sing it again. It’s Little Mix’s debut single! It’s Cannonball, by Little Mix! Little Mix are probably going to be number one in the charts. Is this right? Is it? IS IT RIGHT?
9:29 LITTLE MIX – that’s Perrie, Jesy, Boaky and Horace – are The X Factor 2011 champions! Congratulations to them. By ten past ten I will have completely forgotten they exist.