X-Factor Week Eight: An all-male quarter final sees Rylan Clark play chess, Chris Maloney get criticised and James Arthur bounce back after being in the bottom two
So last week we got the annual big X-Factor shot as potential winner Ella Henderson went home over other strong candidate James Arthur, while the less popular Christopher Maloney and Rylan Clark lived to stay another day. Interestingly this week there was no big diatribe from the judges about voting for the right people, or Tulisa delivering a eulogy for her fallen act; instead we just got on with things, which was probably a good idea as each of the final five had two songs to sing.
We did get a slight reminder about Ella’s exit in Rylan’s opening VT as he did feel a tad guilty about staying in the contest over her, however these feelings didn’t last very long as he set about making Thanksgiving dinner for Nicole. While Rylan seemed comfortable participating in this skit, in which he wore an apron that read ‘fancy a stuffing’, James Arthur really didn’t look up for pretending to cook a turkey with the Essex lad while Jahmene only turned up at the last minute, presumably bringing the deserts that he bought from ASDA using his staff discount.
As the first of tonight’s two themes was Abba, I presumed Rylan would do a full-on megamix, but he restricted himself to just singing one hit that being Mama Mia. This of course was given the full Rylan staging which this week saw a full complement of human chess pieces having a battle, which was presumably a tribute to the fact that the men from Abba wrote the musical Chess. Rylan’s first load of feedback was surprisingly positive, with Louis praising the production, telling everyone that Rylan wasn’t a joke act, and adding that his performance could be a big hit in the dance charts. Tulisa praised his energy while even Gary told Rylan that he respected him for going out and putting on a show week after week.
Union J talked briefly about Jamie’s decision to come out of the closet, however they mainly put across how hard they worked this week, what with having to perfect two different routines and all. Luckily both of their performances seemed to consist of them standing still and singing with their first song choice being Abba’s ‘The Winner Takes it All’.
To be fair, this sounded more like a David Guetta remix of the track, and the boys did really try to put the vocals across while singing to some hysterical girls who had been bought to the front of the stage. Tulisa praised the boys, saying that their vocals were on point and they benefited from a lack of on-stage gimmicks, while Gary agreed telling them that they looked and sounded great. Finally Nicole said that she loved the way that the boys addressed the girls, noting that they’d become more comfortable and adding that she felt like she was at one of their concerts.
When Nicole told us that Jahmene was going to share his dream with us, I already knew that he was to croon through ‘I Have A Dream’ however, first we had to sit through a vignette about his relationship with his mother. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that Jahmene is able to give his mum a makeover and take her to the Empowering Women Awards, but I felt a little uncomfortable with the fact that it was used here as I felt it should’ve been a private moment between mother and son. Despite that, Jahmene wowed everyone with his stripped back performance of the aforementioned Abba hit, however apart from standing on a cylinder and being surrounded by dry ice, there was very little in the way of staging. Louis told Jahmene he sung his heart out, but he did mock Nicole for putting him on a podium, while Tulisa commented that Jahmene had delivered another great performance. Gary meanwhile praised Jahmene for doing something nice for his mum, but felt that he’d slightly rushed his way through the performance and that his ad libs weren’t as on point as they usually were.
James Arthur’s VT inevitably related to the fact he was happy to be there, and thankfully also didn’t include anything from that awful Thanksgiving skit. He also told us that he was now doing it for Ella as well, which I think must’ve upset that one with the guitar from Union J. Like Jahmene, James got very little in the way of staging but it didn’t matter too much as Mr Arthur doesn’t need any gimmicks seeming more confident on stage strumming away on his acoustic guitar. His performance of ‘SOS’ once again found praise from all of the judges, with Louis claiming it would be a travesty if he weren’t still in the competition, even though he voted to send him home last week, adding that the competition needs an original talent like him. Tulisa was amazed that James could take a classic and completely make it his own while Gary praised him for not taking the safe route after appearing in last week’s bottom two.
The Abba round was finished off by Christopher Maloney, whose VT once again focused on the fact that he was getting heavily criticised and we saw him once again use the same clichés that he comes out with; namely that he was the public choice and that he’s working really hard. I can’t be the only one though who thought the staging of his performance of ‘Fernando’ did him no favours as he came out surrounded by a gaggle of dancers in their swimsuits who then gestated around him. The whole thing had the feel of a Greek orgy about it, to the extent that I thought I was watching an unseen episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand where it was karaoke night at the Colosseum. The staging was what the judges mainly focused on, with Louis saying that he was glad Christopher kept his top on while Tulisa said she struggled to take him seriously as the topless dancers were so comical. Inevitably, Gary had to jump in and stand up for his act praising Christopher’s strong vocals, however I still believe that Gary would be the first to chastise Chris if he was in somebody else’s category.
As this week’s show descended into its second theme, which was The X-Factor’s annual celebration of all things Motown, Dermot broke out his dance moves getting into a rather steamy clinch with Nicole Scherzinger as ‘Sexual Healing’ played in the background, which to me invoked memories of Austin Powers. Union J were up first this time, and I was still looking for evidence of their elaborate dance routines during their performance of Jackson 5’s ‘I’ll Be There’ which once again saw them sing straight to camera. To be fair, tonight has seen three of the boys showcase their vocals while poor old George only gets to join in on harmonies which gives me the impression he’s only there for his cheeky smile and guitar playing abilities. Nicole and Tulisa both liked how Union J were singing to their predominantly female audience, with the latter praising the song choice once again, however Gary felt they should’ve been braver in their choice during Motown week, however I don’t really know what he wanted from them. While I do like Union J, I feel the law of averages will see them in the bottom two this week despite delivering two solid classic boyband performances.
Nicole’s introduction of her next act was reminiscent of Britney Spears’ work on the American X-Factor as she firstly spoke into the wrong camera before telling us James was up next even though it was in fact Rylan. The second VT for all the boys was of them sitting on the sofa with Nicole looking back at their past performances while at the same time getting all the product placement for a certain electronic manufacturer. A look back at Rylan’s history in the competition reveals that he’s basically been given the entire budget of this year’s competition despite having the worst overall voice. His Supremes mash-up did very little for me as his three backing singers, who for some reason had pink wigs, were doing most of the work while Rylan himself pranced around in his Battenberg-coloured suit. Louis and Tulisa both agreed that it wasn’t Rylan’s most exciting performance, with the former adding that he didn’t really think it worked. Gary agreed saying that he struggled to cope with two Rylan performances in one night and thought his Motown effort was very Eurovision. I think even Rylan now realises that his time is up this week, and I’ll be shocked if he isn’t in tomorrow’s bottom two, however at least he’s been consistently entertaining, which is more than you can say about some of the acts.
It was then actually time for James Arthur, who also relived his X-Factor ups and downs, including some of his best performances and that time where he had to be carted off in an ambulance. Arthur once again proved why he was the most logical choice to win the whole contest with a great rendition of ‘Let’s Get It On’ on which he was accompanied by a band while massive computer-generated versions of himself were projected onto the video wall. Louis described James’ rendition as the vocal performance of the night while Tulisa added that it was both sexy and cheeky, and both agreed that he shouldn’t be in the bottom two. Gary said that James shouldn’t be compared to Plan B or Ed Sheeran as he’s an artist in his own right, however if he is the next Plan B, surely that would make him Plan C. I’ve got no doubt at all that James will make it safely through to the final after last week’s bottom two disaster, though I’m still not sure if he will win even though he deserves to.
The debate about what people sing upon continues as, after appearing on a podium during his first song, Jahmene performed ‘Tracks of My Tears’ while standing on giant letters that spelt out his name. Though I thought this was the better of his two performances tonight, I don’t think the lyrics really worked, mainly because I struggle to believe that anybody would think that Jahmene is the life of the party. It wouldn’t be Motown week without Louis mentioning Berry Gordy here, saying that the Motown supremo would snap Jahmene up if he were still signing artists to his label. Louis also got a little annoyed with Tulisa after she delivered her own opinion that it wasn’t Jahmene’s best performance, while Gary commented on how Jahmene is now coming out of his shell a little more. I’d have to agree with Gary as I’m warming to Jahmene more and more, and personally I do think he’ll win the whole thing due to his incredibly loyal fanbase.
I’m not quite sure why Christopher got to finish the show, but we did get to have another look at his hysterical breakdown after he discovered he’d won the wildcard vote. Christopher’s performance of ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ left little to the imagination as the camera tried to imply that Chris and the dancers were in fact on the ceiling. Once again, Christopher’s routine suited his cheesy vocals as those around him were dressed in glittery suits while he himself looked like he’d bought his entire outfit from TK Max. Nicole obviously thought that Christopher’s routine was fairly cheesy, however instead of saying this outright, she launched into some bizarre breakfast cereal metaphor that didn’t really make sense. Louis once again praised Christopher’s vocals, but rightly pointed out that he felt he was at a Benidorm karaoke night while Tulisa said she really didn’t believe what Christopher was singing, and I’d agree with that as I never for one moment believed that Maloney was dancing on the ceiling. The general feeling about Christopher is that he’s too cheesy to win, however judging by the fact he’s never been in the bottom two, I think he’s sailing through to the final where he’ll probably come third.
Overall I wasn’t particularly wowed by tonight’s X-Factor and there were no real standout performances or surprises. It just goes to show that the programme as a whole is in serious trouble and needs a big revamp if it is going to be successful next year.
What did you think to tonight’s show? Who delivered the best performances? Leave Your Comments Below. And click here to see our Week 8 X Factor chart!