Normally you can be sceptical about Britain’s Got Talent/X Factor “crisis” headlines – Simon Cowell would hack off his ear and mail it to the tabloids to stay on the front page – but reports this week that BGT was re-edited at the last minute to react to the goody-two-shoes Voice might have been right. B’s Got T rolled out one feelgood success after another in week two, showing that nobody does a cheesy win better.
OK, so there were some oddities on parade. Lily and the Pineapple Hunks were a singer who couldn’t surrounded by dancers who couldn’t – together they jerked and croaked and it was baffling and painful.
Plain sad was Kathy Mason, who said she’d been doing the same impression for years. The impression was Cliff Richard, but as impersonations go you’d get a better one by stopping a woman randomly on the streets of Birmingham and asking her to do Pope Gregory XIII.
Somehow there’s even more uncomfortable pathos in someone who has reached middle age wrongly believing she can do one, single impersonation really well than there is in people who are deluded about their singing voices. So you felt for Kathy. Yes, BBC1 has commissioned teatime series on less. But that’s no consolation when you thought you were going to be famous.
Anyway, those two acts were clearly the build-up to Ashley Elliott, a pink-faced, 16-year-old farm boy in a well-thought-out waistcoat. It was jazzy, but monochrome. Jolly, but not silly. The sort of thing John Virgo might wear to a funeral. On Ashley lumbered like a double-sized, Northern Irish Ashley Peacock from Corrie, his xylophone behind him.
After politely slapping down Simon Cowell for saying nobody ever got a record deal from the xylophone (Ashley: “Evelyn Glennie?” Simon: “Oh. Yeah. Forgot about her”), Ashley hunched over it and tinkled in triple-time, brilliantly holding his nerve after two early buzzers.
Simon thought the brisk rhythm was too Germanic, but later recanted. Alesha Dixon said Ashley should be part of a band, which sounded like random spew from her robotic talent-judge-o-matic programming, but was sort of right: the only thing that could improve Ashley’s act would be a second rural prodigy playing another xylophone even more quickly. Duelling xylophones. The Queen would love that.
Warming cockles still further were Beatrix von Bourbon, a likeable burlesque act – albeit made quite a bit less sexy and empowering by the two big, jiggling super-imposed gold stars that inevitably covered her up at the end – and The Mend, four Manc lads who had been in trouble and been filmed by the producers looking downtrodden on a towpath, but then did a happy, rappy Otis Redding cover.
Plus there was Twist & Pulse Dance Company, about ten kids trained by the 2010 runners-up. An admirable project, and the kids were brilliant. At one stage they were moving so fast it was like Ashley was working their strings.
Finally we heard 19-year-old Dubliner, Ryan O’Shaughnessy. Here, for the second week running, BGT slyly slammed the Voice format. Ryan’s performance was ten times better exactly because he’d told the backstory to the judges and live audience: his self-penned song was a love letter to a female friend who didn’t realise Ryan liked her that way. Knowing that, his mostly direct but then suddenly poetic lyrics, and curious but effective guitar-playing, were even better.
Girls in the audience were crying and it was hard not to join them, even if you could almost feel your buttons being expertly pushed.