Is this the start of a new X Factor? People playing instruments, doing jokes and generally being themselves? We can only hope.
This week’s only traditional success story – Kye Sones, a 29-year-old chimney sweep with a lovely soul voice – almost looked old-fashioned. In the unlikely event that the others don’t have their kinks beaten out of them, the 2012 live shows could be refreshingly strange.
We opened with Rylan Clark, who arrived from the most Essexy part of Essex with a personal beautician in tow. She worked hard at the last minute to make Rylan look more like a laminated lion, with his manicured beard and dead-straight blonde extensions.
Rylan, who recently came second in a Katie Price TV modelling contest that was watched by nobody, was funny and self-deprecating about spending all his cash on grooming – “If I can’t eat, I can’t eat. At least I’ve got my foundation colour match right” – and he was brilliant at bantering with the judges. Stand-up comics across the country nodded approvingly as Rylan complimented Gary Barlow on his blazer (“That is LOVE!”), then referred back to it later on to get a bigger laugh.
Rylan was the TOWIE cast member you don’t want to repeatedly reverse over with a Range Rover. He can’t sing at all but let’s hope they find a way round that.
We also saw a brand new tragic back story – one that, like all the others, is real and raw for the people involved but instantly assimilated by us as cynical presentation. James Arthur, a Middlesbrough 24-year-old, had slept rough and put himself in foster care to avoid his warring, divorced parents, but here he was to sing and here they were to see him, standing next to each other if not together.
While James aced his ragged acoustic-guitar version of Tulisa Contostavlos’ Ibiza raver Young, the camera cut back to the former Mr and Mrs Arthur. Would they embrace? Dad monitored Mum from the dry corner of his eye. Dermot O’Leary glanced at them. Mum intently focused on James.
Afterwards, James hugged both his parents at the same time, but he was between them. The emotive black-and-white freeze frame wasn’t going to get a better opportunity. Will it ever? James looks fantastically ill-suited to the rest of the X Factor “journey”.
How will James cope with being contractually obliged to sing Mack the Knife, Bad Romance or You Should Be Dancing? Perhaps he’ll be allowed to do them all as half-rapped pleadings, eyes closed, teeth snaggling in all directions, in a hoodie. Out in week four.
And maybe they’ll let Lucy Spraggan sing a light comedy song of her own composing every week, but if not she really should have gone for Britain’s Got Talent. Her song was called Last Night and told tales of embarrassing drunken incidents, remembered the morning after and very nearly rhymed with the names of drinks (“loser”/”flaming sambuca” etc).
The crowd adored Lucy, with her delivery somewhere between Kate Nash and Pam Ayres. She’d only have needed two more songs to win BGT. But what’s she gonna do at judges’ houses? Stand by Nicole Scherzinger’s infinity pool in Santa Monica, doing a cheeky number about steak bakes? Someone needs to think this through.
Starkly telling us that some kind of radical change is overdue was 16-year-old Sophie Stokle, howling herself into national humiliation.
Sophie innocently did everything according to the X Factor book. She chose a Jennifer Hudson song and sang it as loudly as she could, with lots of big, long notes. Her spray tan, multi-coloured micro-shorts and uncomfortably low age were impeccable. That she was profoundly tone deaf was the only detail keeping her out of boot camp – everything else was exactly what we’re all too familiar with.