Week two of the audition reels and this time, we’re ready to be treated to some proper popstarly talent. Fun and games aside now, X Factor. The real reason why anyone’s sticking with the early episodes is because we’re all gagging to cast an early bet on the future series winner. Somebody better turn this motha out!
Last week’s series debut opened to an assuring 12 million viewers and earned rave reviews for the new judging panel. Sure, it’s nothing on 2010’s record-breaking first week figures but you gotta consider that some folks won’t tune in to see how the new lot fares until a friend at work tells them that Gary, Kelly and Tulisa are A-OK. Losing Simon, Dannii and Cheryl is – as the tabloids have rounded off – not affecting shit in the slightest. So shall we get on with the auditions?
I like to think that the “X factor” is defined with the same criteria set by another of my favourite TV show. At the end of the day, what excites us the most is stumbling on an act with the most Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent. There’ll always be contestants who are guaranteed to sell loads of covers albums during Mothers Day and Christmas but what I hope we find this year is someone who can blow up the stage and demonstrate some originality. Y’know, show me some vision of your artistry. I want to see believable future pop artists, not good talent show contestants.
Check out some highlights from this week’s audition and why I believe we might’ve stumbled on a good one or two:
1) The Keys – audition of the week. Category: polished.
These gentlemen owned it. The funny thing about X Factor and talent shows of the like is, we’ve grown so accustomed to looking for that “diamond in the rough” or the performer’s “story of adversity” to colour our appreciation when truth is, you don’t really need all that. That just makes for good television, which is only half of the X Factor experience.
A great vocalist and a great performer, which I assume is what we’re ultimately looking for, should be able to grab you off the cuff whether you’re driving in your car with Radio 1 on [Editor’s note: nice English reference there, Limmy. You’re a great pretender] or hearing somebody sing in a local pub. Just like most viewers, I live for the SuBo-style stories but every now and then, it’s brilliant to see a polished act come forth and show us why they are already primed to take on the charts. Cue The Keys.
As if the votes weren’t already in for an overwhelming “yes” when they opened their mouths to a smoothly harmonised rendition of Aloe Blacc‘s ‘I Need A Dollar’ – they took it one step further. This breakout boyband wowed me when they cleverly dropped a mention of Take That in the song, interpolated a line from ‘Independent Women’, and I’m sure there was an N Dubz reference too because the camera cut to Tulisa‘s grin.
The Keys came prepared with a well thought out performance that showcased their vocals and creativity. Two valuable assets in a recording artist. It totally helped that they came looking fine too. In fact, they’re like a younger version of last year’s acapella man band Reason 4, who unfortunately didn’t make the live shows.
Watch The Keys charm the judges with this audition:
I don’t normally pull out this Community Chest card but y’all need to accelerate through to the live shows already. As Louis said, this was the group they’ve been waiting for.
2) Kelendria’s BeyDay.
Beyoncé is one of the world’s biggest music superstars – in fact, many would argue that she’s already well on the way to legendary status – however, with this X Factor judging role, ex-band mate Kelly Rowland will get to witness first hand some of the most unflattering renditions of Bey’s greatest hits. And worst of all, she’ll have to just grin and bear it.
This week, a husband-wife duo imaginatively dubbed The Duos – who said they model themselves after Jay-Z and Beyoncé – murdered ‘If I Were A Boy’. Seriously, we’re talking taping off the scene and getting the CSI squad on the case kind of woeful murder. It was not good. Further on, there was a sweet old queen that went by the name of Johnny Robinson who courageously tackled Etta James‘ ‘At Last’. I mean, not that Kelendria would know first hand of someone who might’ve warbled that for the Obamas or anything.
Side bar: do you think Gary Barlow would be any more fazed if somebody auditioned and flopped hard with a Robbie Williams song? Probably not.
3) The Gary Barlow smile of approval.
I sense that every week I’ll be incessantly screen capping every minute variation of Gary Barlow‘s facial expressions. Of course, they really only range from the golden smile of approval to the stormy frown that says, “Son, I’m very disappointed in you”. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I auditioned and all I got was a frown and pursed lip from Gary Barlow. I might literally breakdown and run off stage. His expressions are so intense, y’all. He’s the man you wanna make proud.
4) Misha Bryan – Little Miss Sassy.
I can see her being the YouTube sensation of this audition episode – but pause the tape for a second. How do you know Ms Misha Bryan is gonna be a shoo-in for boot camp even before you watch her sing? Well, first of all, who has the camera crew filming them from their home and on the bus, really? Y’all turn up to the audition as nobodies. How did this footage get in? Something’s up.
Regardless of the extra detail, 19-year old Misha showed sass, popstarly stage presence and served an A-grade audition with her own twist on Aretha Franklin‘s ‘Respect’.
The unexpected self-styled rap breakdown felt a bit jarring at parts but it demonstrated Misha’s creativity and showed the judges that she’s not just here to sing, she’s here to be a popstar and she’s knows just the kind she wants to be.
Watch young Misha turn out ‘Respect’:
Musically, I think Misha could be well suited to the 60s soul and British rap hybrid that Estelle excelled in. Definitely wanna see how she brings it in boot camp because the X Factor is never short of talented female vocalists doing Aretha year in and year out – could she be entertaining and versatile enough to compete in the live shows?
5) Here’s charming young lad who’ll turn out a good album for Mothers Day.
Biscuit factory worker Craig Colton proved to be an instantly likable lad with a strong, marketable recording voice when he pulled out a rendition of Adele‘s ‘Hiding My Heart’. See, he’s already winning points in my book for picking an album track rather than the clichéd Top 40 fodder.
Y’know, he just looks like that kid at school everyone wants to be friends with. That accent is damn right sexy to me as well. Honey, we can keep conversating for as long as you like.
While the audition did well to showcase Craig’s vocals and everyone enjoyed the banter beforehand about surprising his parents in the audience with this performance, I am not completely convinced that he’s quite live show material just yet. He hasn’t sparked my imagination in the way that some other acts have this week.
Check out Craig covering Adele:
This week’s audition highlights – The Keys and Misha Bryan – demonstrated that this competition still has the ability to pull prepared and assured unsigned talent from around the country. Seeing the level of confidence in their performance and living for their style-correct presentation, even on a grassroots level, is what makes these audition discoveries so very worthwhile.
You’re always gonna get a wide spectrum of experience and readiness with open casting calls – like I said, some are the “diamond in the rough” that you hope to see blossom through the series [see: 2010’s Rebecca Ferguson] while others just look ready to hit the main arena already.
Variety truly is the spice of life – and at the end of the day, the show producers know both make for good television.