Room Auditions: Week Four - 21st September 2013
The show starts with an oddly contemplative tone this week, reminding us that this season has been all about The Room. "You're tearing me APAHT, Lisa!" "Oh, hi Mark." Actually, I think I would've preferred to watch that version. We see very old footage of JLS, Alexandra BURKE and Leona all making their tentative first (/second, in Alexandra's case) steps into the audition room, just to remind us that this is the place where big stars are made. Well, by this show's standards, anyway. We're shown some examples of THE GOOD from this year, or at least we're shown what's supposed to be good, but is in fact just clips of Abi, Luke and Sam, all sounding alarmingly off-key out of context. We're also shown THE BAD, which as always should probably be titled THE HILARIOUSLY MENTALLY ILL, and I for one am quite pleased that the auditions are nearly over so we can get behind this always unsavoury part of the show, at least until they all get invited back for a "hilarious" group performance in the final. There's even a special section for THE UNFORGETTABLE, which includes Sylvia And The Youngs (who I agree are unforgettable, but not in a good way), Souli Roots, and Rock Fil [Who? Do you see what I did there? Ahahaha! - Helen]. Tonight it's the last batch of Room Auditions for this year before we move on to Boot Camp next week and things actually start to get interesting. I hope. [To be fair, as pointless as the live auditions have been, I very much approve of four weeks and one-hour shows. I only hope the lives will be shorter as well this year (fat chance, I know) - Rad]
ALL HAIL GIANT X!
We start out in London, where Nicole is greeted by a pearly king and queen who invite her to have a cup of Rosy Lee, which Nicole doesn't understand at all, and which will probably be the theme of an entire "Nicole learns about British things" pre-performance VT if she has any charming cockneys in her category for the live shows. Gary says that he hopes all the talent is going to gravitate to London, it being the capital and everything. That's no way for a northerner to talk, is it?
We eavesdrop on a few conversations in the queue, which are of course totally spontaneous and only happen to be flawlessly filmed and wired for sound by sheer coincidence, the last of which takes place been Duplex, aka 20-year-old friends Cathy and Katrina. Cathy explains that they got their name because they're "literally a duplicate of one another". Well, first of all, that's not what duplex means, and second of all, one of you is blonde and one of you is brunette, so you could probably try a little harder with the whole "we're practically twins!" thing. They both love singing, and it was Katrina's grandfather who suggested they sing together, so at least we all know who to blame if this turns out as badly as I'm anticipating. They're the sort of exhausting people who say everything really breathily and punctuate the end of every sentence with "AHAHAHAHAHAHA!" In between gigglefits, they talk about "the dream" of selling out arenas and breaking America. They've already broken me, so they're off to a good start, I guess.
Poor Dermot attempts to interview them, and they talk over each other, incomprehensibly quickly, giggling all the while. I almost want them to make live shows now just for the fun of the post-performance chit-chats. They scamper into The Room, and within seconds Gary Barlow looks like he's going to need at least three more cups of coffee before he can deal with these women. For once, Gary Barlow is on my wavelength. Nicole makes the mistake of asking if they're related, and gets an extremely lengthy version of "no" featuring a lot of "oh my god"s. Nicole then asks how long they've known each other, and it turns out that the answer is "ten months". Terrifying, isn't it? They talk about how they want to "sing and stuff", and Gary admits that he hasn't heard a word they're saying. Duplex sing 'Call My Name' in a slightly slowed-down arrangement, and there are occasional moments where the vocals are actually quite crisp and interesting, but most of it is a mess.
They're too busy looking at each other to notice the "STOP, NOW" signal at first, and when their attention has been captured, Gary tells them that they're both part of the same person who can't sing. Ouch. Sharon tells them that they look fantastic, but they're "like two Vicky Pollards". It's four nos for Duplex. After they leave, Gary says that they're attractive girls, but they became less attractive when they started singing, and whinges (in a rant that more than likely happened at an entirely different time but is no less ridiculous for it) that "it's like a shortcut to fame". Dude, you signed up to be a judge on The X Factor. Precisely what were you expecting? In the White Room of Regret, Duplex sullenly have a little bitch about Gary. I can't really criticise that, can I? [Ah, little remembered 90s indie show the White Room. I loved that thing - Rad]
So, will the next auditionee be able to turn things around? Shozod Zikiryaev (who is 24 and a butler, and I'm going to assume that's the "in the buff" variety, because LOOK AT HIM) squeals his way through 'Down' by Jay Sean, and I mean, not to belittle the craft of singing or anything, but can't we just autotune him and keep him, because he's really fit? It's not like this is The Voice or anything. Louis laughs, Gary whines, and it's a no for Shozod. Krysztof Misiewicz continues the trend of people whose names I have to pause the show in order to spell properly, sings 'Always On My Mind', is terrible, has a belt with a spinning disc on it, does not get through. Gary whinges that "we only need one [superstar]". Well, for the purposes of the live shows you kind of need at least 12, Gary. 58-year-old chartered accountant Peter Duboff squeaks alarmingly, and Gary leads the judges in a synchronised "no", because he's classy like that.
This leads us into the audition of Justin Peng (18), whose rather muddled introduction leaves me no clearer as to whether he is or is not Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake as well. His family all still live in China, but he now lives in Leicester and studies maths. He bobs his head and snaps his fingers a lot, and is looking forward to seeing Nicole, for whom he has brought a flower. Nicole gives him a hug, and Gary makes a classic old-man crack about "young love". Justin sings 'I Look To You' by Whitney Houston in a crisp, clear voice that we all totally knew was there, because this show has tried the Susan Boylesque misdirection trick once too often. Gary tells him that he "wasn't expecting that". Louis is pleased that he "hit all the notes". Nicole was "quite impressed". Justin asks if he's "jamazing", and Nicole tells him that he is. [ I didn't get this bit. Were we supposed to think he was rubbish because he had a flower for Nicole or because he was forrin? Either way it was a bit rum - Helen] It's a yes from Nicole, a yes from Gary, a no from Sharon (ostensibly because she thinks he'll have a hard time in the live shows, but she's said yes to far worse in the past) and a yes from Louis. So Justin's through, and Nicole kisses him in celebration, much to his delight.
Adverts. I just can't relate to those TalkTalk homes in the sponsorship bumpers because they're so tidy. They make me feel inadequate.
When we return, the next auditionee is Sam Callahan, who's 19, a bartender and from Essex. "Like my Rylan!" exclaims Nicole. [I can't believe Rylan has only been in our lives a year. But then I watch a lot of Channel 5 and so have gone from liking him a lot to... notsomuch - Rad] Sam doesn't seem 100 per cent thrilled by that comparison but laughs it off. He whips out a guitar and sings 'You're Beautiful' in a less whiny version than the original. Louis thinks he's young and cheeky and that girls will like him. Sharon thinks it was a very nice audition. Gary thinks it was nothing special, so Sam challenges him to put him on a stage. Gary whinges that he should be doing that ALREADY, HERE because this is an AUDITION, this DRIVES HIM CRAZY, with these KIDS ON HIS LAWN ALL THE TIME. It's a yes from everyone except Gary, so Sam scrapes through. He's followed by shy-looking 24-year-old pub singer Paul Akister, who deploys one of my least-favourite talent show tropes (white person singing 'A Change Is Gonna Come') [UGH - Helen], but the judges love the tone of his voice even though his performance skills need a bit of work, and he gets four yeses.
Next up is a familiar face: Joe Whelan from last year, who's brought his kid with him again since he knows his audience. He reminds us that he didn't make it to Judges' Houses last year, and says that he always felt like he could've given more, so that's why he's back. Also, he needs to fit these auditions in while Kian's still young and adorable, because let's face it, that's his biggest selling point. Gary's very pleased to see Joe, which tells you everything you need to know about him. Nicole asks if Kian can come in and watch Joe's audition, and Joe talks about how Kian is his very reason for being etc etc. Nicole invites Kian to come and sit on her lap, and I'd imagine there are a lot of auditionees feeling pretty disgruntled right now that this particular invitation was not extended to them. Joe then ticks the "I'm doing this to make my family's life better" box and FOR FUCK'S SAKE JUST SING SOMETHING ALREADY. He gets his guitar out and MORs his way through 'Always'. Sorry, but Ruth Lorenzo or GTFO. Obviously, Gary loves it because it's so very pedestrian. Sharon enjoys his conviction. Louis thinks he's what the show is all about. Four yeses for Joe. Oh god, he's going to make live shows this year, isn't he? [Brunette white bloke win 7/10 here we come, with an edge of bitterness a la Brookstein, Cardle, Arthur? Truly this show has a niche (albeit the same niche shared by American Idol and the American version of this from what I hear) - Rad] Nicole tries to keep Kian, but Joe knows that Kian is the source of all his powers, so he's having none of it. Just in case there was anyone curled up in the corner of the room who didn't quite get the message, Louis declares that the public are going to like Joe because "he's real and he's honest". So that's us told. (Also, he certainly is honest, yes.)
After more ads, we're treated to some X Factor-style comedy about all the love in the air at the auditions, which is our lead-in to the next act: Patricia and Dean, alias Green Boots. Oh my god, a couple! You get so few of those auditioning these days. Maybe they just realised that none of them could ever live up to the glory of "sing 'em a song, Della!" [My surname is Deller and not one person has ever shouted that to me in the street. Sheffield people are Philistines when it comes to failed boy/girl duos - Rad] Dean and Patricia have been together for a year and a half, and the show thinks it's hilarious that they love each other, because they're both a bit shy and unassuming, so we get an extensive soft-toned montage of their declarations of love, including lots of shots of them kissing. Honestly, isn't this show just the absolute worst sometimes? Dean thinks that if they won, it would show that love doesn't just exist in fairytales. They've brought along their friend Keith, whose role in tonight's show is to be the ever-embarrassed third party during all of the schmoopy moments, and also to confess to Dermot that he's never actually heard them sing before. So I think we all know how this one is going to go. The judges go "awww" over their love a bit, and coax them into saying more shamefully romantic stuff. Eventually they sing 'A Whole New World' nasally at each other [although I thought Patricia wasn't really much worse than half the rubbish they've put through - Rad], and poor Keith looks very embarrassed as he waits outside with Dermot. The judges make fun of them a bit more, and Gary is mean, and it's four nos "but we like you as a couple" for Green Boots. Dean doesn't give a shit, "because we'll always have each other." Quite right too.
This segues into another batch of groups who are related by more than just their singing: first up are sisters Joanna and Alexandra, who make quite an entrance when Joanna trips on her way in. They sing 'Girl On Fire', and they're a little sharp but no more so than half the people the show's shot its load over this series, but apparently we're not actually supposed to think these two are any good, so they get Both Barrels Barlow telling them they're awful. Next up are pastel-clad twins The Rives Brothers, who are dressed like ice-cream salesmen and sing 'Kiss You' by One Direction, and should I be reading something into the fact that most of the "terrible" auditions we've been expected to laugh at tonight have been from people with noticeable foreign accents? Gary calls them "drab", as if he has any grounds to level that accusation at anyone. Nicole wonders why all these siblings haven't been stopped by their parents. Next up are mother-daughter group (that's a new one, surely?) [Were Voices With Soul a mother/daughter/aunt or am I misremembering? - Rad] Exaggerate, who sing 'Written In The Stars' by Tinie Tempah, and the whole thing sounds like childbirth. Louis asks Sharon if she ever sings with Kelly. Hee, but also please never remind me that this is a thing that exists and also somehow got to number one.
Our next group are three-piece The Daisy Chains, consisting of 21-year-old Carrie, 17-year-old Hannah, and 19-year-old Laura. They're not sisters, "but we might as well be". Are there really so few narratives left in reality television at this point that we have to reuse Duplex's already? They've been "playing live together" for five years, and reckon that they've got good chemistry together from all that experience. They head into The Room, and Sharon asks what inspired the name, and they explain that "like a chain, if one of the links is broken, we don't work." Sounds ominous. They sing an acapella rendition of 'Stop! In The Name Of Love', and they oversing it a little bit but there are three decent-ish voices at work here and frankly after the state of nearly all the other acts I've had to endure in this episode, that'll do for me. Gary disagrees, and tells Hannah that she should be a soloist. Nicole agrees that Hannah is "carrying the group". And, of course, Hannah has to decide right here, right now, if she wants to go ahead without Carrie and Laura. Hannah says that she's torn, and Gary's all "well, you can have friends, but this is a career that could last for the rest of your life". Yeah! Ditch your friends, Hannah! Then you might have the long-term success of Alexandra Burke, who just released her latest material in conjunction with Daily Mail Online! Gary continues to stir the pot by saying that if they really are good friends, then Carrie and Laura will totally forgive her for shanking them on national television. Louis suggests they go outside to discuss it, which officially makes him the most reasonable person in the room. What a terrifying thought.
The Daisy Chains go outside to fight it out, and for some reason the show decides to subtitle their conversation without a capital letter in sight. Basically, Hannah wants the other two to tell her to ditch them, and Carrie and Laura aren't exactly not telling her to go ahead, but they're not going to make it easy for her either. Hannah asks them to promise her "that you won't lose me" (interesting choice of words), and Carrie's all "well, I can't promise you." Meanwhile, I hum this to myself and wish that it had been their audition song. Back in The Room, Gary says that you won't get anywhere in this game without a cut-throat attitude. Wow, The X Factor turned into Survivor so gradually that I didn't even notice. Although it would be sort of amazing if the winner was decided by an eight-person jury comprised entirely of former contestants. Imagine if James Arthur, Jahméne Douglas and Christopher Maloney had to make speeches to convince Rylan, Ella and Kyesones why they should be awarded a record contract. Now that would be compelling television. Anyway, eventually Hannah returns alone and says that "we" have made the decision that she should continue alone. She says she feels terrible about it, but she has to do it "for myself, and my family, and for my dream". Gary tells her that she still has a lot of awful decisions ahead of her, and he's not just talking about picking what to sing for Big Band Week. Anyway, Hannah's through to Wembley, but now she has no friends. C'est la vie.
Competition and adverts. Martine McCutcheon encourages us to read all about her complete humiliation. Oh sweetheart, you're too late. I read The Mistress years ago. (Also, the fact that The Sun On Sunday's slogan is "the new book of revelations" is so sacrilicious I can't even.)
Back from the break, and as this year's Room Auditions come to a close, there's a collection of waiting auditionees complaining about what a long day it's been, and how tired they are. Yeah, try recapping this shit, then see how tired you feel. Up next is 25-year-old Jason Newland, who is hoping to redeem the reputation of call centre workers everywhere after Christopher Maloney's impact last year. He's just come straight from the night shift, so he at least has a pretty good reason to be tired. He vows to give his audition all he's got, because he doesn't want to work in a call centre for the rest of his life. Jason heads into The Room and sings 'Never Too Much', and has a lovely voice. Hooray! Gary says that Jason has a few bad habits, but he's going to sound amazing both live and on record. Sharon enjoyed his sincerity. Louis thinks he should be singing to people rather than talking to them. It's four yeses (well, three yeses and a "yes, baby, yes" from Nicole) for Jason, so he'll be back for Wembley tomorrow. Nicole's amazed that he was so good despite coming straight from a night shift and having no sleep.
With that performance, Jason has (of course) opened the floodgates for a mass of successful Overs (doesn't that sound like a contradiction in terms?), including 28-year-old music teacher Andrea Magee (who responds to the instruction to "tell us something interesting about yourself" by saying that she's a singer-songwriter who gigs three nights a week, so I think her gauge of what's interesting might be a little broken), who sings an original composition and gets a unanimous yes. She's followed by 26-year-old student Lorna Simpson, whose very loud rendition of 'I Have Nothing' impresses the judges, and the show decides to close the Room Auditions out in HEARTWARMING fashion with The Nostalgics, a 14-strong group of senior citizens from Coventry, of which the eldest is 94 and the youngest is 68. One of them is reading Olly Murs' autobiography, so I can only assume that senility has its claws into her already. They file into The Room, and when Louis asks them who they want to be as big as, one bright spark responds that the artists they want to be as big as are all dead. They have to wait for their keyboard player to arrive before they can start their audition, which is (eventually) 'Bring Me Sunshine'. Despite the warped effects being deployed by the keyboard, they sound passable - they've clearly picked the wrong show because they'd go down far better on Britain's Got Talent, but it's not as if there's particularly fearsome competition in the groups category this year, or indeed any other year. Afterwards, that wag Gary suggests that Louis should join the group, and makes him go and stand with them, only to declare afterwards that Louis's too grey for the group. (Yes, it was definitely "grey" and nothing anything else that rhymes with that - trust me, I went back to check.) Gary thinks it was a great audition, although he thinks a bit more rehearsal was needed. It's a yes from all the judges, although Nicole has a caveat that they only get a yes "if Bill takes me out dancin'." I hope it looks something like this.
The Nostalgics leave The Room to cheers, and that's it for the Room Auditions. There's just one more batch of Wembley performances before we get to Boot Camp, and once again it's Helen's joy and privilege to recap it for you. She's ever so lucky.