The semi-final of the X-Factor has finally arrived. For many this will be sigh of relief that the show is almost at an end for another year and for others it will be when the excitement reaches a feverish peak. There hasn’t been much excitement in this year’s X-Factor, as it has become increasingly farcical and week after week talented singers have fallen by the wayside. The crop of singers was particularly poor this year but by now it’s all been weeded and treated and we’re left with something that is actually harvestable for the most part.
James Arthur, Jahmene Douglas, Union J and Christopher Maloney make up the final four. The theme for last night’s show was songs for you and songs to get you to the final. On the face of it there may not be much difference in those categories but actually it allows the audience to see how the artists might perform when left to their own devices. They might want to do songs to make them popular but more than often they’ll do what they like. An example of this can be seen with Paige Thomas in the US X-Factor. She fought with mentor Demi Lovato to get her own way, which included dancers and more of a visual spectacle. Demi warned that in the past when she had performed very theatrically she had placed low on the leader board. Though the performance was decent, she was first one out in Thursday’s double elimination, having gotten the least amount of votes out of all eight contestants. Sometimes what you like just isn’t what people buying records want to hear.
Furthermore, just to make things even more difficult. Tonight’s show will eliminate the contestant with the least votes. There will be no sing-off to enable contestants to fight for their spot in the final. That puts added pressure on what they performed last night to really put them over with the audience and voting public because there’s no judges to save them. I’m sure many were crying for this to be the case in previous weeks so we could have gotten rid of Rylan earlier but I’m glad they saved it for this round. It feels like the intensity of the final has been cranked up and rightfully so. The stakes are high for all four of the semi-finalists and the winner has to really deserve that top spot. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at each one individually:
Chris Maloney hasn’t had the easiest time with the judges but has managed to remain in the competition without ever having been in the bottom two. On the one hand, he does have a decent voice and he’s aware that his strengths are in ballads. It’s a good start if an artist already knows where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Unfortunately, I can also see what the judges are talking about when they compare him to a cruise ship singer.
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight. There’s nothing wrong with being a cruise ship singer. It’s not for everyone and many mainstream artists would probably fail if they tried it as a career. It’s about entertainment though and not just a performance. It’s entertainment for the sake of entertainment which is exactly what Maloney himself was talking about when he said he wanted people up on their feet, clapping with his choice song of Michael Buble’s ‘I Just Haven’t Met You Yet’.
His first song was better than his second. He restrained the cheese more in the first performance. A better Buble song to show off his versatility would have been ‘Cry Me a River.’
Despite claims to the contrary (I’m looking at you Louis), they are not the next big boy band. They may do well for themselves but I just don’t see them having the same international success as One Direction. There’s just something about them that just doesn’t seem as special as One Direction were. One Direction were pieced together by Simon Cowell of single members and managed to have a kind of spark that connected with audiences. Union J don’t have that spark, despite being a group with only one added member.
Their first song, ‘Beneath your Beautiful’ was too similar to their second song, ‘I’m Already There’. Unlike Maloney, Union J should have gone for a more upbeat song for their second choice. Something by The Monkees or The Beach Boys might reflect their youthfulness. While Tulisa touted their performance of ‘Beneath your Beautiful’ as mature, I think it might actually have hurt their credibility to sing a song that was performed by the original artists only a couple weeks prior.
Jahmene Douglas is certainly more confident now than he was when he entered the competition. That’s to be expected to some degree but I really think that he is the artist who has grown the most throughout this competition. Not so much in singing ability since he retains a powerfully soulful voice that captures emotions and resonates through the audience. That hasn’t changed and shouldn’t. I had hoped that Jahmene would sing a Buble song actually since I think he has the voice for it and his rendition wouldn’t be cheesy.
I actually don’t have much to say about Jahmene. He was fairly faultless for me, although my girlfriend didn’t notice that he strained his voice a couple of times. However, I feel that he was in tune more than he was off, so I can overlook it for the most part. Oh, and if he wins he has to name his first album “Jahmazing”.
Like Jahmene, I don’t have much to say about James Arthur because he was pretty much on point for the entire show. In fact, he may be the only one to have gotten both song choices for the night completely right. The first song, ‘One’, showed off the rawness in his voice that will slot in well to the current music scene. James Arthur isn’t always the best vocal performer. It isn’t as tight and as controlled as it could be at times but unlike Jahmene it adds to the roughness to his voice. Jahmene is soulful so his voice almost requires technical skill to make it impressive and as a result in previous weeks he has over-sung certain pieces. James Arthur has never really tried to apply too much technical skill but that’s adds an edge to his voice.
This second song, ‘The Power of Love’, did exactly what he needed it to do. It showed everyone at home and in the audience why he deserves to be finalist and possibly win this show. With one song, he showed versatility and technical skill. As the song is a ballad, it required a bit more technical skill than I admitted he’s familiar with above. But he pulled it off wonderfully. Maybe it’s just because I’ve liked the song ever since I hear it in the John Lewis advert but I think that performance could have won the whole show for James Arthur.
At the moment, speculating who might leave this week and who might win next week is really too close to call. I know who I’d like to leave and win, and you can probably guess who those two are from what I’ve said above. And the fact that Christopher Maloney and Jahmene have never been in the bottom two for the entire competition makes trying to predict how the public will vote even more difficult. Will this week’s performances have swayed anyone to change their vote? The only way to find out is to tune in.
By the way, if anyone is really interested in new music and aspiring artists, I would urge you to check out Andrew Martin at andrewmartinofficial.bandcamp.com. He’s a good friend of mine and a very talented singer/ instrument player (he plays a few different ones). Hopefully you will all join me in supporting him in this venture.