The chairs have spun for what could be the last time ever. This was an important moment in the cultural year, right up there with the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House, the new Julian Barnes book, and Peter Andre live in Haywards Heath on 19 July (tickets are still available). Now we know the complete line-ups for Team Will, Team Tom, Team Jessie and Team The Other Feller.
Before the unveiling, though, there was time to cast an affectionate, slightly rueful glance back at our shared pop pasts. Who can claim Hear’Say don’t profoundly impact them to this day? Yet here was one of their number, Danny Foster, mingling with mortals. His acid-jazz reworking of Wannabe by The Spice Girls was unique, it was innovative, it was a bizarre and unlistenable mess.
“What’s your name?” said Hear’Say ignoramus Danny O’Donoghue after nobody turned round. “Danny Foster-Soul-Singer,” came the reply. Yes, there are so many posh people in pop these days that a triple-barrelled No1 artist cannot be far away, but the name change might have come too late in Foster-Soul-Singer’s career. Also, think of how small the font on the album cover would have to be.
Jay Aston was 51 and had been in Bucks Fizz until she had a massive coach crash. Her polite, piano-bar version of Time Is Running Out by Muse made it two odd covers in a row. “I’m not really a rock artist,” said Jay afterwards, suddenly realising. None of the judges had said yes but one of them, Tom Jones, had words of encouragement that Jay can keep with her for ever: “Bucks fizz is my favourite drink.” Inspiring.
Later on there was another contestant who knew the business. Brett Davison had been in a band who had supported JLS and The Saturdays, until he got ill and the band fired him and now he was a builder again. Sadly his version of the Michael Collings classic Fast Car was one-paced.
Several people who got through did it by mercilessly attacking their songs with weird voices and hundreds of extra notes. John Pritchard, a fashion stylist (he was apparently off-duty) who caterwauled Wicked Game – we were given a detailed map of his fillings during the chorus – won the accolade of the successful contestant whose mentor most visibly regretted it straight away. Even Danny O’Donoghue had a face on like he’d smelled gas as John careered up and down the octaves, but will.i.am had already pressed his button.
Everyone pressed their button for Moni Tivony, a white, ginger Jewish man from Essex who sang No Woman, No Cry complete with thickly accented ad libs. (“Me say!”)
“A lot of people call me the Ginger Jewish Jamaican,” Moni said. “Or Jewmaican,” replied will.i.am, immediately thinking of a better nickname than the one all Moni’s friends had collectively come up with over several years. Good old Will. This is exactly why Saturn’s Got Talent is so keen to poach him.
Better than Moni or John was Abi Sampa, who won the last place on Team Danny by supposedly doing an East-West fusion version of Stop Crying Your Heart Out, although in reality this meant briefly interrupting a faithful if excellent reading of the song for some vaguely Indi-pop trilling. Abi graciously hid her horror at only Danny turning round.
Some people just got up and sang the bloody thing properly. Letitia Grant-Brown was one of the best soul singers so far and seemed to mean every word, while Joseph Apostol’s sweet and pure Will You Love Me Tomorrow made him an obvious choice.
The tension mounted as the judges reached their full allocation of 12 people on their teams. Bronwen Lewis, who pleasantly did Fields of Gold like a louder Eva Cassidy, and partly in Welsh to boot, was rejected because Team Tom was full. Then with only one space left in the whole contest, on Team Will, we saw a series of buskery contestants turned down until the last one of all, CJ Edwards, arrived.
Manfully ignoring that it had just effectively told us CJ was through, the show doled out the full dramatic music and emotional backstory before CJ stepped up to do his showbizzy Dedication to My Ex. Will turned round straight away, whereupon Jessie J and Danny got out of their chairs to watch. CJ mugging like a wazzock and singing the second half of the song flat couldn’t dent the party atmosphere.