This first episode of 2010’s X Factor started off in Glasgow. Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole were there judging as usual, but Danii Minogue was missing, because she was on maternity leave at the time of filming. She will be returning later on in the series, but in the meantime, she is being replaced by a series of judges and Geri Halliwell (from the Spice Girls) was present for this week’s episode. Dermot O’Leary was also back as presenter.
The show started with a bang, of sorts. Steven, a househusband from Glasgow, came on and performed Disco Inferno. It started badly, with lots of bad dancing and no singing. When he did start singing, however, he did so very well and with such a sparkle in his eye that it was hard not to enjoy watching him. Simon criticised the dancing and told him to stop behaving like a teenager, but all of the judges agreed that he was good enough to go through, and so he did.
A series of horrific auditions followed – they were so uniformly bad that it was clear they were only shown for the comedy factor. Then a young eighteen year old girl called Gamu came on stage, singing her own version of Katrina and the Waves ‘Walking on Sunshine’. She was amazing and had the audience on her feet straight away. She came complete with sob story, single parent mother and two siblings to support, but that didn’t change the fact that she was really good. Thankfully, the judges agreed (‘one hundred percent’ in Simon’s case!) and she went straight through.
One of the things that stood out in the show is Geri Halliwell and just how badly she went down with both the other judges and the audience. She just didn’t stop talking. She had something to say about everything, whether it needed saying or not, and drowned out the other judges. Come back Danii, all is forgiven!
Some of the acts did manage to out-perform Geri, at least temporarily, and not always for the right reasons. A group called G&S (short for Gay and Straight, because one member was gay and the other was, um, straight) gave a bizarre performance, mainly because Mr Gay was rubbish and Ms Straight was really quite decent. The judges encouraged her to sing alone and she went through as an act in her own right, although Simon wasn’t entirely convinced. There were a couple of good groups that were put through and a very good solo singer called Mark, who seemed amazingly shy, but sounded great.
Then it was on to London and no guest judge. This should have been a good thing, but the lack of a fourth judge to temper Simon and Louis’s often childish behaviour meant that Cheryl had to handle them on her own – and she didn’t do so very well, actually admitting that she was missing Danii’s presence. The first act didn’t kick the London auditions off very well – a group called Jahm (pronounced Jam) did an terrible version of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, complete with out of tune singing and horrendous harmonising. Quite why the judges didn’t stop them way before they did wasn’t clear – it really did not go down well with anyone. The few acts that followed weren’t much better either.
A Madonna lookalike (that would be the eighties version – complete with perm) called Katie came on stage. She was exceptionally annoying and couldn’t stop talking, but then couldn’t remember the words to ‘We Are the Champions’. However, the judges gave her another go and she sang ‘At Last’ by Etta James and gave a great performance. She went through, just, although Cheryl didn’t like her. However, if she is going to go much further in the competition, she needs to learn to stop talking so much and make sure she knows her words!
A single mother from Whitechapel called Shalina Johnson gave easily one of the strangest performances of the night. She sang a version of Duffy’s Mercy, which involved crawling around on stage and shouting ‘we all need mercy’, interspersed with hitting some really good high notes and growling like a tiger. Nobody really seemed to know what to make of it, but she was certainly compelling watching. Simon described the performance as a ‘musical exorcism’ and Shalina as ‘fantastically nuts’ and that was exactly right. They liked her enough to put her through though, although Cheryl had her doubts. Quite what she will come up with next remains to be seen.
So far, the new series hasn’t seen all that much that is new (with the exception of Shalina!) – but it’s a tried and tested formula that has worked in the past and there’s no reason to suppose it won’t work this time round.