X Factor Live Finals – Week One

Okay, hands up who expected Wagner to go through? The Brazilian Bill Bailey delivered one of the oddest performances in the programme’s history (who on Earth dreamt up that middle bit with the bongo drums?), and sailed through to next week’s show. I suppose there’s always a need for a comedy act on X Factor, and the success of Jedward last year made it obvious that the show bosses would look for another crazy to humiliate on a weekly basis. I won’t feel guilty for laughing, though – Wagner’s totally away with the fairies. He looks like he should have a cameo in the new Pirates of the Carribbean film.

I thought that FYD were unlucky to go out, having succumbed to the infamous “Curse of the First”. They had to deliver the opening performance in a field of sixteen acts, and so it was going to be even more difficult for them to be remembered then usual (it would be very interesting to get some stats about how often going first has screwed acts in shows like this – it’s particularly prevalent in American Idol for the opening performer to get the lowest number of votes). Given that Katie Waissel, who FYD was up against in the final showdown, had her record deal in the States cancelled by vigorous X Factor lawyers to allow her to continue to take part in the competition, it was never likely that she was going to lose the judges’ vote. Following a week of absolutely terrible press, it wasn’t surprising to see her in the bottom three, but more than that, she doesn’t do herself any favours by appearing to be so fake all the time. I never quite believe anything that comes out of her mouth, and her performance of We Are The Champions was really weak (I have absolutely no idea what the judges were hearing). An editing hatchet job did for Nicolo Festa, who finished last in the public vote and was therefore automatically eliminated. I suspect that he’s nicer than how he has been portrayed on the show. He certainly has a mischievous sense of humour.

Mary Byrne could be the next SuBo in terms of becoming a successful older singer (though obviously in terms of worldwide fame madness, lightning is never going to strike twice), and if she was slimmer and twenty years younger she would likely walk this competition. She should be the last Over 28 standing, though it’s unlikely she’ll win. Treyc Cohen really should learn how to spell her own name, but justified her wildcard slot with faultless vocals in her performance of One. Gamu who? It was Aidan Grimshaw who surprised me most, though, with a haunting rendition of Mad World. There’s something very intense and interesting about him – he’s a mass of contradictions and strikes me as the kind of person who’s going to come up with something interesting every week.

1 Direction are clearly going to get very far in the competition, but I think they’re pretty useless at the moment. Their harmonising is non-existent, consisting of three of them singing exactly the same melody and the other two yelping the most basic of backing tunes. They definitely have the look to be an annoyingly successful boyband, and to be fair they’re clearly not aimed at the likes of me, but I don’t think that in terms of the vocals it’s quite working yet.

Early favourite Matt Cardle wasn’t as good as the judges seemed to think he was. The sound’s different in the studio, and what we heard at home was far from always on the money when it came to pitch. Still, he’s very talented and I put his performance down to opening night nerves.

There are several no-hopers in the competition (for example Wagner, Diva Fever and – I hate to say it as they were good at Judges’ Houses – Belle Amie), but assuming the chips fall as they should, when we get down to the final six or so contestants it’s going to be a very tough contest indeed. While the first live show was a bit overlong at two and a half hours and sixteen acts, the overall standard of the lineup is probably the strongest it’s ever been. Guilty pleasure. Great TV.

Standout performances this week: Mary Byrne, Aidan Grimshaw and Treyc Cohen.
Disappointments: Belle Amie, Katie Waissel, 1 Direction.

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