We’re not even an hour removed from the end of the last X-Factor 2011 auditions. Of course, this actually happened months ago, but the televised shows have ended and it’s now time for us to watch them sweat and train to get to the live shows. There’s still boot camp and the judges houses to go through so there’s plenty of chances to trim the fat and get rid of the fakes. Even so at this stage of the competition it’s difficult to know who is going to work as an artist or who is going to who might feel the pressure and quit. Despite this, I’m still going to dedicate this blog to my top sixteen picks for the live shows: that’s three top picks and a wild card.
Before I get to that though, it’s interesting to note that, while Gary Barlow might have Simon Cowell’s chair, it’s Kelly Rowland who has been the meanest in the season. If she likes you, she’ll go crazy, but if she sees even the lightest weakness, she’ll tear you apart for it. Barlow is blunt, except when he’s trying to mount suspense and begin elongating his syllables, but Rowland is by far the harshest critic this year. In all honesty though, that’s what the X-Factor needs; someone who is going to pick up on the vocal weaknesses and will humble the contestants. I think that is what is needed to push the X-Factor to the same quality output as American Idol.
Anyway, on to the meat of the meal, and let’s start with the Over 28’s. I truly believe that the over 28’s actually have a lot of talent this year and a lot of potential to make huge waves on the live shows. Perhaps the most obvious first choice is Michelle Barrett. She doesn’t have the strongest voice of the competition, but she certainly has talent and her connection to Tulisa Costostavlos will further endear her to the voting public. She’ll be able to belt out some ballads as long as she’s allowed to focus on her voice, rather than having to put on a massive show. Yes, perhaps she needs some stage presence, but she’s one star who really wouldn’t benefit from leaping lads or dudes dancing around her. Doll her up, stick her in a black dress, dim the lights, turn on a smoke machine and push her out into the front to sing. If her singing improves, that’s all she really needs.
Sami Brooks is another rather obvious choice for the Over 28’s. The 31 year old barmaid came out and wowed the judges with her audition. Unlike Michelle Barrett, she does have a rather powerful voice, so again she could stand and belt out a ballad and it probably blow most people away. Yet, she’s also got enough of an attitude that she probably would suit a bit more stage presence. No running around the arena, like David Wilder, but if it suits the song then a few dancers probably wouldn’t look out of place.
If it hadn’t been for Jonjo Kerr, I’d probably have given the third slot of David Wilder. Wilder was entertaining, though his voice was a little weak at times and while he sounded a lot like Bowie, there is the possible problem of sounding too much like the artist. Jonjo Kerr has enough of an edge to his voice to possibly fill the rock quota for the show. He’s no James Durbin in that area, but his voice has a sort of charming roughness that will allow him to sing within a range of genres and still garner a lot of public support. That’s to say nothing of his occupation as a soldier. The audience is going to love him because he’s a courageous person just as much as they will enjoy his singing.
I think my wild card option was only on the Xtra Factor, since I don’t remember him on the main show. 32 year old Jamie Bruce should definitely have been given some time on the main show though, because he really stood out. Firstly because he’s rather huge, being a bouncer but secondly, such a massive man produced a rather powerful Motown voice. It was brilliant, and I think his soul style would bring some diversity to the Over 28’s. He seems like a nice person too; he reminded me on WWE’s Big Show, another huge man with a humble personality.
On now to the Girls, which I think must have had the most auditions out of any of the groups. In saying that though, I think it had the smallest talent pool. A lot of girls had potential but not a lot had enough raw talent to really get through the boot camp or the judge’s houses. Case in point, Chrissie Pitt, who came on with a group (although they were more like backing singers), ditched them for the opportunity to go solo again and got put through. Yes, there probably is potential there, but she really doesn’t have the talent to stand up against a lot of the other girls who go put through. Janet Devlin, my first pick, certainly would beat her if it came down to those two in the live finals, on vocals alone. I’m not even going to say much more on Janet Devlin; if you want to read my thoughts on her, you can go back and read X.
My second pick though, is Jade Richards. Jade is the girl whose grandmother is her biggest inspiration because was a singer too. Her grandmother said herself that she couldn’t make it, but that Jade could. Kelly Rowland even had a dream about the song she sang (maybe because every other contestant sings Adele?). Louis cried! He’d found someone that ‘deserved a break’. Gary Barlow said in the Kendro audition that they were everything that the contest didn’t need, but I’d argue that this debacle is actually closer to what needs to go. Yes, she’s a brilliant singer, but unfortunately the entire audition focused on her background, on her grandmother, on her being prophesied by Kelly Rowland or making Louis cry. Beneath all the razzle dazzle and hype, there was an extremely strong voice, perhaps too close to Adele’s that she might find it difficult to compete but at the same time she stood out among the female auditions because when she sang Adele she could actually sing it well. I’m not a huge fan of Adele, but I know it takes a strong vocal to sing her songs well, and Jade did that. She’s a definite contender in the show.
My third pick for the girls is Misha Bryan. I have to be careful with her name, since I keep typing Misha Barton, and they’re nothing alike. At any rate, Misha Bryan sang and did a little rap to show off her lyrical styling. It’s quite possible that this girl could be the next Cher Lloyd, but actually a lot less annoying. Her personality was pleasant and she perhaps has the best stage presence of them all. She moved around a lot, approached the judges, and a few hand gestures to compliment her rap remix of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. When it was all over, she simply seemed genuinely happy that it had all went well and the judge’s liked it. She’ll face stiff competition in the live shows, but I think she’ll do well.
For the girl’s wild card, my pick would be Amelia Lily. She seems to be an English Janet Devlin with a little more attitude, so if they both go through it might hurt both of them because they’ll seem too similar to each other and neither will really stand out. They don’t look anything alike, it’s just their voice. While Janet Devlin has a more timid, reserved voice, Lily’s voice just has that edge to it, so hopefully she uses it to stand out. She has the voice though and deserves to be in the top sixteen.
Regarding the boys, they actually had one of the biggest turnouts of talent this year as far as I can see. Guys like Lascel Woods, Luke Lucas and Luigiano Paals really wowed the judges, and in all likelihood, they do have the raw talent to make it to the live shows, but there are only four slots. Despite having lot of contestants to pick from, one who I think definitely won’t however, is the aforementioned Luigiano Paals. He already go into the last six of the Holland X-Factor, so he has the experience of being on this type of show, he has decent vocals and he’s very natural on the stage. The main reason I think he won’t get through is mostly because it won’t look very good to have someone from Holland beat all the British contestants; it’d be a huge banner saying ‘Holland is where the talent is at’. Besides that though, I really just don’t think he’s strong enough to match up to some of my picks.
The first one is…Derry Mensah. Derry suffered in the same way as Jade Richards. A lot of his audition time focused on his love of Kelly Rowland, and afterwards, it came out that actually he has a criminal record. Of course, he’s trying to get out of that way of life, and his singing is just the way to do it. That sounds like the plot to a West End Theatre show, but still, it’s difficult to deny that he does have good vocals and a charismatic personality, both of which will help him go far in this competition.
Second pick for the guys is John Adams, the Math school teacher. I’m not a big Damien Rice fan either, but my girlfriend says John Adams sounded a lot like him, so perhaps he might have a problem of appearing distinct from Damien Rice if he were to get his own record deal. He also seems a little nervous on the stage, but that will hopefully pass after boot camp and the judge’s houses. I also thought he looked like Jack Whitehall, but I doubt that will affect his singing career at all.
For my third choice, I’m going to go with the guy who surprised his parents by taking part in the actual show, after he’d gotten his mother to iron his work uniform. Brilliant work, Craig Colton. Good singing voice too though, so all is forgiven, but can you imagine how cringe worthy that moment would have been if he’d sang badly? The reason I picked him to go through to the live rounds though is just because he’s got a good voice, but one that sounds distinctively different and an uncommon style so he’ll be able to stand out against guys like John Adams and Derry Mensah.
Lascel Woods’ story that his audition was the first time his mother heard him sing will probably go over big time with the judges, but it’s also worthwhile noting that the returning John Wilding has done a lot to improve over the past year. I think the judges will like that he took everything in his stride and rather going away from the experience in a huff, he used it to better himself. That’s good publicity for the show too, because it suggests that every singer they don’t put through might be inspired to do better. I’m torn between Lascel Woods and John Wilding, but if pushed to a choice I’d go with John Wilding.
The most difficult category to pick was the groups. Despite the turn out, I don’t think there were really any groups that deserve to win, and really, if they aren’t going to win, sending them to the live shows is just setting them up as cannon fodder. My first pick would be The Keys, simply because they have the vocals but I’m unsure about they’re style. They seem like an old school boy band, like N-Sync, and modern boy bands like The Wanted and Take That aren’t like that any more. Take That were but they adapted with the times, so I’m unsure of how much long term success a group like The Keys could have. They have the harmonies and the vocals though, so they get through.
The second group to get picked to go through are Essex girls, 2 Shoes. I was surprised by their auditions because honestly I expected them to be terrible. However, they actually had some solid vocals and their personalities got a few laughs from the crowd, so maybe they’re a dark horse in the running here. Heck, they probably have the whole of Essex on their side by the pure virtue of being from there, and even if it all goes down the drain, maybe they can get a cameo on the show, ‘The Only Way is Essex’.
I really have no other options for groups. Sure, there’s Kendro, but they really have no talent and I’d hate to see them at the live shows. The only other two groups I’ve seen are Brooklyn, but I agree with Gary Barlow and Kelly Rowland that their vocals really need to improve before the live shows, and Girl V Boy. The latter consists of one man and his fiancé, standing at either side of the stage, singing to opposite ends of the area, before drawing closer, like Finn and Rachel in every Glee production ever. Their singing is decent, although not worthy of winning, but they have good harmonies. They need to work on their stage presence, because he stands as still as a stone, while she moves about a lot. It’s all a bit inconsistent.
Overall, as we head into the boot camp stage of the competition, I have to say I’m enjoying this series of X-Factor. The new judges have created a new atmosphere, and although it remains to be seen whether the new judges have any real effect on the quality of the winner, I’m hopeful that Gary Barlow and Kelly Rowland will get their way. Gary Barlow is looking for a unique talent while Kelly Rowland wants someone with real potential to be an international recording artist. Those ambitions are huge, but they’re exactly what are necessary to propel the X-Factor to the same heights as American Idol.