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At least it's now even - with three in each category after Carolynne failed to impress voters sufficiently and found herself at the bottom of the pile last week. Louis got all the blame and Gary walked out but it's time to move on now.

I like the way Dermot's taking charge of the show. And there's a change of seating 'after nine years'.

Dermot lists the numbers. Cue the screams. On that basis, Union J win and Melanie doesn't. But let's see how they all do tonight.

Jahmene


Spot-on singing but no connection between the amazing voice and the lyrics. Great performance but lacking real emotion. One of Louis' 'favourite ever ever contestants'. What? Out of all nine years?

Nicole calls Jahmene 'Baby Cakes'. No-one quite likes to ask.

Dermot said he wouldn't but, yes, he does the heady patting eventually, despite Jahmene ducking out at his first try!

Christopher

Big ears looks like a football ref. Sings like one after a few beers. dreadful start. Oh, it's the Heart number again. Typical karaoke stuff. Solid voice but who'd going to buy this sort of stuff? He separates each word. Sounds odd. looks odd. He gets only modest applause. He needs to go.

Dermot doesn't heady pat Christopher.

Union J

Hope they get the song together better than they did their attempt at 'Team Louis' in unison. My God, it's bleedin' Bleeding Love. That works really well actually. An excellent arrangement. Brilliant. That'll go down well with the fans - and the voting fans too.

No heady patting though.

Ella

Can someone please leave her hair alone? She looks so good naturally. Are the 40s coming back? If so then release her album now and get it over with. This, though, is one of the most difficult songs ever. Loving You Is So Beautiful. OK, she hit the notes, amazing notes at that, but... but there was no emotion or connection at all. It was a bit clinical and, talented as she may be, that's not going to get her the most votes this week. Minnie Ripperton had the feeling and the notes and, whilst she didn't have any more success than that to my knowledge, if you dig out her version you'll see what was missing from Ella's. That might change the odds a little, especially with such a strong Union J performance. Doubt I'll get 25-1 on them again for a while.

So, will she get some heady patting from Dermot. With that hair? Perhaps not.

James

Nicole says 'This is my first time in a pub' during the preview bit.
James gets a call from Mary Blige and, unless he's acting really well, he handles that extremely well - he's looking and sounding very mature, not at all as I'd expected him to be coming across.

Now this guy can do feeling. No More Pain was delivered as if he meant every word. This guy's good. That was a 'moment'. Well done, James.

Nicole likes his trousers. No heady patting.

Lucy

After all the bad news she'd had in the week, and in 'Love and Heartbreak' week, she does a cheery song. Gold Digger. Remarkably well done as if she'd written it herself. Nice performance, totally natural and relaxed. That should be popular.

No heady patting for Lucy either.

District 3

They didn't like the song. I Swear. Heavy production. These guys have good voices and harmony and pull off this tricky number. Not bad but Union J get the boy band votes this week.

Nicole wants them like tabasco on apple pie. And baby oil, with all the actions. Well, not all of them but enough to make you wonder.

It'll be interesting to see how the votes total up - will there be enough for both to be safe? If so then when one does eventually go that could well seal the deal for the other. If not, they'll be out soon.

Jade

Forgettable song last week, despite an excellent makeover. Love Is A Losing Game. Accentuating the tone of her voice that distinguishes her but that also showed the notes that she didn't make which was a shame. I'm not a big fan and I'm not sure how many voters are. She seems very much on her own in this competition - that might help her but she needs to make her own space somehow, like Rebecca did.

Louis says she's in a tough category. That's right, for sure, and I think she knows it but there's nothing to stop two girls being in the final four. Unfortunately, I don't see her being one of them.

She gets a shoulder pat from Dermot instead of heady patting which sends her off before he's had a chance to read out the voting number so he has to call her back. Still no heady patting, though.

MK1

The bloke in the group puts on some sort of comedy act this week. Charlie's great but even her style makes this version of I Want You Back weird. That didn't work and even the dancers were totally irrelevant and mostly off screen. It was a bit like Jedward had returned in places. They may be in trouble.
they did make a good point themselves that they are aware that the people that like their style of music are not the type who normally watch X Factor, let alone vote! Fair comment and all credit to this pair for that.
They get hugs from Dermot. No heady patting.

Kye

This guy could easily be a future producer. Reminds me of Chris De Burgh. Great voice and production - I just wish he'd hit the high notes better in the first half. He may have rescued himself near the end when he was right in his best range and sounded good. He's a talented chap but may struggle. Christopher's and MK1's unpopular-sounding performances may just save him, as should the judges if it comes to it.

Rylan

Clear favourite to go at the start of the show but now looking safe with the bookies, at least! He doesn't wind up the show but he does wind up Gary by starting sing one of the Barlow numbers. Lovely. Starts then stops and is very relaxed in swapping from number to number in this weird mash-up and way OTT production. The budget's gone to hell. Groove Is In The Heart was never in tune in the 70s so he could get away with some dodgy bits but actually was not at all bad. It was weird but interesting and even included reference to Gangham Style and loads of references to the new wave of Korean stuff coming our way in there too. An informed production for which Brian gets all the deserved credit. I've no idea what to make of it and nor will many voters but it was bizarre enough to keep him in.

No heady patting as he towers over Dermot like a giraffe.

Melanie

White trouser suit. Flares. That says 1970 to me. Bond-style silhouette behind her is more interesting than Melanie. Two Worlds Collide was over sung but oversung pretty well. Not sure how that'll go down. I'd have given her a Righteous Brothers track.

Louis says the old school is now new school. OK? Whatever that means.
Tulisa, in an attempt to catch up with the million points already scored by Nicole this week, says Melanie was in MILF mode. No baby oil, though.

Nor heady patting.

So that's Week 2 done - apart from the results. It should be Christopher going home but might be District 3 or MK1 getting the close shave. Jade, Melanie and Kye should thank their lucky stars for another week.

The first results show. Wow! If SYCO were looking for headlines in the tabloids, a mass of Twitter messages and to hit as many other publicity buttons as they could to boost ratings then they did a good job with this show.

Dermot raced through the acts that were safe - he had ten of those and calling out District3's name between Ella's and Lucy's was the first surprise. Union J, Christopher, Carolynne and Ryan were the four left standing. Being 'in no particular order', putting Union J on the safe side of the stage was predictable as they may well have had one of the biggest votes, despite a lacklustre performance last night.

That left us with Christopher, Carolynne and Rylan. We guessed that Christopher, having only just been brought back from obscurity with public wild card votes, was safe and it was, indeed, Carolynne and Rylan left standing as the two acts with the lowest votes.

That was quite a surprise. Both had put in reasonable performances last night. Both had been in tune and stronger than several of the others but this is all about who the people actually voting prefer and, certainly to me, Rylan had not garnered as much of an early following as I'd expected and Carolynne had just not impressed anyone with a song that her natural supporters may have recognised. She may have fared considerably differently with a safe standard as she was confident, looked really attractive and sang very well but just not in a way that appealed to enough people pressing the numbers on their mobiles on a Saturday night.

Their sing-off performances were both good. Rylan was in his element with an excellent choice of One Night Only which I wondered might be apt. He was in tune and it was a strong performance with a gorgeous background and everything just worked for him. Carolynne was faultless and produced a stunning performance which all her supporters must have wished she'd done the night before. As she finished to impressive applause from everyone, she was the obvious choice to stay if anyone was to be judged on those performances.

Betfair's odds showed Carolynne favourite to go at the beginning of the sing-off. As she sang those odds reversed and Rylan became the clear favourite to go instead.

Now the fun starts. You know that Gary would support her and Nicole would support Rylan so it was down to Tulisa and Louis. You can also be pretty sure that the judges had been tipped off beforehand as to the voting and would have chatted about what to do. My guess is the producers had told Louis to take it to deadlock and Gary to argue and do something like walk off in disgust.

So that is more or less exactly what happened. At the end of the day, Gary would have to accept that Carolynne's bottom place in the voting wasn't boding well for her in future weeks and Rylan does have that entertainment value too which, in the absence of a Jedward or Wagner this year, the show seems to insist on.

Louis played along brilliantly and got everyone annoyed, not least good old Dermot O'Leary desperately watching the clock and trying to get a decision out of him. In fact, Louis first said he was saving Carolynne and you really did have to feel sorry for her when he clarified that, well, completely reversed it if we're being accurate, and said that he wanted to leave it to the public vote - hence saving Rylan.

That gave us tonight's unexpected result of Carolynne falling at this first hurdle and Rylan living for another week. It may also have given SYCO  better viewing figures for next week by the time the headline writers have had their day!

Here we go - the first of the real shows. The auditions are history. Bootcamp booted out all but about 30 and the judges in hotels, glorious resorts or country retreats chose the twelve acts. With little choice to vote for the sobbing Christopher got place 13 as a wild card. I think the voting figures were Christopher 6, Adam 3, Times Red 3 (they voted for themselves) and Amy 0 (she voted for Adam).

Now the public get a chance to have their say and we'll find out who those that vote prefer. We know who the newspapers like and who the bookies like, who the judges reckon will win too. This is where things can often change with seemingly brilliant acts stumbling and hopefuls losing nerve and then hope while someone who seemed average comes out and surprises everyone!

District 3

Someone must have had some faith in them to put this group on first. A very quiet start to Simply The Best and they might have made a reasonable backing act to Tina Turner. It was all very sleepy and uninspiring. Nice harmonies, which is what they're good at but, despite being the most experienced group, the stage did seem to dwarf them and they're vulnerable from the very start.

James

Sings What Doesn't Kill You Make You Stronger and starts fairly straight and then raps, now that we haven't seen before. No guitar, either. He looked confident on the stage, walking around and he's a natural performer. That track won't have raised his profile with voters, though, but he'll get through.

Melanie

With A Little Help From My Friends in Joe Cocker's day was slow and earthy. The Beatles wrote it as a cheery sort of number. This was just slow and Melanie seemed to be making just too much effort to be noticed and screamed quite a bit. Admittedly she did scream in tune but it was all a bit over the top and the end decidedly dodgy. She was looking good, the makeover team having done well and the Woodstock outfit was just the right shade of terracotta. She won't be a long-term act, though and could well be in the fateful Bottom Three. Not a good start to this show with two out of the first three performances headed for home.

Lucy

Now this was interesting. Performing her own song, very comfortable on the stage. It was as if she were as guest on the X Factor show, not a contestant. The song was clever, not as jokey as the drinking number she's famous for now, and will surely be an album track before long if her contract permits (which it probably doesn't) so it'll be nearer Christmas. She made a nice job, not spectacular, but that was the right move to make in this nervy and unpredictable first week. Those who were already going to vote for her definitely still will and she probably picked up some more fans on the way. So she's safe for a while.

MK1

Now I'd put this duo down as most likely to go first but I have to revise that now. Although I have no idea how many tracks they mashed up and rapped out they were extremely strong, confident and together. The girl, Charlie, is a good singer on her own and, although not to my own taste, their style is very 'today' which is more than can be said for most of the acts.

Tulisa would have been best advised to wait until the applause and cheering had died down before starting as  MK1 needed to bask in the love for a minute. They did themselves a lot of good and will now be around after all for at least another week.

Christopher

Hero was all very traditional. Nothing exceptional. Just 'OK' singing and in no way do I see him as a 'star' unless there's a Steve Brookstein market out there. He improved a bit as the song went on and is certainly someone who can belt out a tune but really shouldn't be around. He'll survive this week, just, but is one of the acts that has to go sooner or not so much later.

Union J

Who suggested they kick off with just one guy singing? Weak. they do finally get under way and had fun with Don't Stop Me Now. They finished a lot better than they started and there are some good singers in the band. There was a crazy dance routine going on that seemed to have nothing to do with the track and I was expecting the four pretty girls to hook up with the four pretty boys and who knows where that would have gone but as it was the boys remained on freshly painted blocks of wood lifting them a foot or so higher than the stage and making them even more nervous than they probably already were.

Louis got blamed for everything, of course. Actually, if the boys had let themselves go a bit and started a bit more confidently then we'd have been saying how good it all was. Anyway, they'll be through as there are lots of girls voting for them and they'll win the votes from District3 too.

Jade

She looked fabulous in blonde, the most impressive transformation - or restoration - by the makeover team. A very nervous start, though, to I Can Be Your Hero. Nor did it get a great deal better with no opportunity for her to show any of the style that presumably Tulisa had spotted at some point. Very disappointing and not the 'moment' I had been expecting. Indeed, we're still waiting for anything approaching a 'moment'.

Rylan

I had no idea what to expect from this chap. Yes, we may recall the rocking blonde-haired guy from the first audition show but since then we haven't really heard a lot more. We've seen plenty! He appears in a gold dress of some sort on a dramatic stage, surrounded by dancers. The song is Gold and it works well. actually very well and a hell of a lot better than many in the place expected. He's got a strong voice and held most notes and stayed in tune. That was a surprise. He'll survive another week, despite the negative attitude of quite a few commentators.

Kye

Man In The Mirror seems a popular track with the producers as I'm sure it appears every year. This time it's Kye's turn to do something with the Jackson number. Another weak, quiet start. Oh dear. But he does get into a performance of sorts quicker than most of the others managed and put in a decent effort, moving around the stage and saying hi to people in the front row. At times he got into some sort of stride and character but largely it was pretty average stuff. The ending was really crap. Not a clever job by Gary there.

Ella

Rule The World is, of course, a Gary Barlow song and I won't be giving anything away by saying that he was the first to hand out great praise by agreeing that she had sung it far better than he had. She was by far and away the best so far. There were some faults but you kinda forgave them as the rest was so good. Very very good. I don't see how anyone can beat her unless the range of types of performance move away from what she does best.

Carolynne

Keeping up the standard, carolynne is professional. A good start and you could sense that she was happy on stage and had been there, well nearly there, before. She looked good, naturally pretty and was just competent and spot-on notes-wise. Her 'country' version of a Nicki Minaj song I didn't recognise and it's no big attraction for voters but she ought not to have to worry.

Jahmene 

Jahmene gets to close the show with Imagine. Everyone knows this song. His voice is clear and he knows where the notes should be and hits them. then he starts finding a whole load more, almost making things up as he goes, but in a nice way. There were times when, like last year's Joshua, he tries almost too hard to impress and the notes wail into the air pointlessly but this guy is capable and really talented. Definitely safe for a long time yet. He could win but I don't see a market yet for what he'd do and we've yet to see that individual star quality emerge. Dermot O'Leary, finally back with a decent job there, is forever rubbing Jahmene's hair and the two seem to get along really well. Not that that influences anything.

So, Sunday brings the first Bottom Three, the first sing-off and the first sending home. I fear for District3's chances.


These are the odds at the time of writing at Betfair.com. Ella way, way out front. Carolynne and Rylan are regarded as least likely to win. 

District3 (shown as GMD3) are very much the favourites to go in Week 1 one, though (in charts not shown here). Second favourites to go are currently MK1 and Carolynne.



So now we know the Top 12 who will be performing in the UK Live Shows from next week. In fact it'll be a Top 13 with, presumably, Christopher, joining as a Wild Card. Although someone less like a wild card I cannot imagine. A beetroot that's been peeling onions seems closer to the mark.

Tulisa wouldn't have had to think for long for her first choice Ella who is the very clear favourite to win, currently 7-4 (with James at 15-2). Lucy will be fun to watch and will add some interest to the shows for a while but she must have seen something in Jade Ellis that I've missed. I guess we mustn't forget that Tulisa won last year with the girl band Little Mix, that she created out of several other 'mixes' and individuals, and that they have proved to be pretty successful (against quite a few predictions) so perhaps we'll see why she chose that Jade instead of the Jade Collins I'd hoped as the Live Shows get under way.

Ella

Lucy

Jade

Nicole was always going to have trouble with her third choice, James and Jahmene looking pretty certain, but the exclusion of Nathan, and not even ranking him 4th out of the six is the big surprise of the evening. Rylan will make good  TV for a week or two but he shouldn't plan to be around for much longer.

James

Jahmene

Rylan

Gary made exactly the right decision to give Kye a chance, Carolynne a second chance and Melanie is going to bring something with an edge to what is otherwise looking quite an inert line-up. He may well have gambled that Christopher would get the public Wild Card vote whereas Melanie wouldn't. Clever.

Kye

Carolynne

Melanie

Louis surprised many by choosing both of the young boy bands, which I'd predicted, but did, indeed, drop Poisonous Twin and brought in MK1 instead which I didn't. 

Union J

MK1

GMD3

In a twist at the end we discover that there will be a single Wild Card addition to the first Live Show. The public can vote for one of Times Red, Christopher, Adam or Amy to join the chosen twelve. So that's Christopher through after all then.

Times Red
Christopher
Adam
Amy





It's Judges' Houses Week - the contenders who have survived this far have now had their makeovers and professional photos taken and get to spend some time with the judegs' teams at various expensive locations. Although they don't get to perform that much, just a selected few getting screen time for a start to finish performance and even those being remarkably short, we do get to see how they come across as individuals and how they relate to the judges whose decisions will make such a huge difference.

This is the week when the Top 12 (assuming there are no wild cards this year!) are chosen, three girls by Tulisa and Tiny Tempa, three groups by Louis and Sharon Osbourne, three boys by Nicole and Neo-Yo and three over-28s by Gary and Cheryl Cole. They each have their own preferences, which may not match the initial enthusiasm shown in the first audition and Bootcamp rounds, as now they're guided by advice behind the scenes on who would make good TV as well. This is the stage when mistakes are usually made, most memorably by Louis! Will Sharon Osbourne - seen tearing up and throwing one group's card into the pool restrain his temptation to put Posionous Twin (for surely it must have been theirs) through? Neither seem to get the accomplished but odd Duke or Mitsotu and the acts must have wished they had a Neo-Yo or Tiny making the choices instead of what looked a couple of old fogies on holiday.

My guess is that Union J are safely through - especially after Louis went to all the trouble of pulling back not only the three Triple J but also resurrecting George Shelley from the Boys rejected at Bootcamp. GMD3 ought to be in there too. There will be some debate about their similarity and splitting votes possibly resulting in neither getting as far as they could but that's the way Louis was thinking, from what I could tell. But who gets the third spot? MK1 seem slightly weak as just two and whilst the girl is really talented and a great performer, I don't see them making it. So it's between Times Red and, yes, you guessed it, Poisonous Twin. There's no way the Powers That Be will let the Groups be just ten guys so you can see where that's going.

Gary has a far better mix to choose from than Louis had last year with the Over 28s. Christopher is a near certainty. 'Viewers will love him', says Cheryl. He sang really well too. Not my idea of the best new act for the 2010s in British pop history but there can be no doubt he's in. It's also safe to assume that Nicole is out after a pretty poor audition and, despite all his efforts to put her at ease regarding his earlier comments that she was annoying (and the fact that she is the only act who received less than four yesses initially), she'll be going home. Brad Shackleton has had virtually no screen appearances at all which can't be good news. He has very strong, raw vocals and hits all the right notes and reminds me a bit of Bruce Springstein. But Brad just doesn't seem like someone who'll be going through. He comes across as one hell of a ladies man, being very forward with Cheryl when she arrived and I can imagine a lot of viewers cringeing at his style. He's also up against the nice Kye who, we keep being reminded, is a chimney sweep and seems a decent chap all round.

Both guys, though, have to contend with Melanie and Carolynne. Carolynne is trying so hard, putting in superb auditions and looking attractive too. Being rejected in favour of Johnny Robinson and JonJo last year can't have done her self-confidence much good at the time so you tend to think that a wrong needs to be righted this time around. So I'm giving the second slot to Carolynne and, unfortunately for Kye, I see Melanie getting the third slot. That'll be a touch decision to watch, whichever way it goes. But with the Boys group comprising comparatively older guys this year and Kye actually looking younger than some of them, I fear for his chances.

As for the Boys, Nicole may have a simpler decision to make. James Arthur is, to my mind, a front runner for this season. Nathan is good (although, strangely, we haven't seen much of him to date) and I have a feeling the Powers That be will insist on his inclusion anyway. The third place is likely to be between Rylan and Jahmene. Rylan for the etertainment value, perhaps, although he did put in one of his best auditions just at the right time. He's not going to win or anything close to that but will have a fan club develop and could be good for the ratings. The logical entry would be Jahmene on talent alone but he does seem ridiculously nervous each time and there has to be a doubt about whether he would really make it through the live shows. Jahmene has a remarkable singing talent and, whichever doesn't make it will be emotional television. The other two, Adam Burridge and Jake Quickenden are both good-looking mature guyswho look good on the screen and sing reasonably competently. I just don't think they'll make it through which, again, promises to be a real tear-jerker next time, especially with Jake using the very ill younger brother thing (which is genuinely sad but shouldn't influence their decision) to make us want him to succeed. I can't imagine Nicole choosing either of Adam or Jake over Rylan and Jahmene, though, which lands them in the 'going home' category.

Lastly, the Girls. Ella Henderson is my tip to win the whole thing and simply has to go straight through. Her audition even further emphasised that too. Choosing from the others is tough, though, and I'd hate to have to make that decision. Jade Ellis will have helped her cause with a great version of Stand By Me and you just have to have some sympathy for someone who admits that her little daughter 'shouldn't be in a pace where she's quite scared'. However, she hasn't really shone that much so far and needs more work on her appearance but I can see her making it.

Amy's hair annoys me but she is a good singer. The Adele style can get a bit tiresome. She may have to wait for another year, despite her talents.

Leanne does look attractive and seems to sing really well. However, we get such a short audition clip that it's impossible to tell what she's like or, for that matter, what Tulisa thinks of her.

Jade Collins, too, flies by and we learn almost nothing. I've been really impressed with her before but this time I simply can't tell.

Lucy Spraggan, in complete contrast, has had all the screen time and bags of publicity, creating a groundswell of popular support that makes her a pretty likely choice for the shows. I am not convinced the X Factor is what she's all about, though, and have doubts as to what she'd do in some rounds and, certainly don't see her naturally handling the 'let's all dance around' stuff.

So, if pushed, it will be Ella, Jade Ellis and Lucy but my choice would be to give Jade Collins a chance instead of Lucy, who may well succeed anyway.

All will, of course, be revealed in a few hours!


Lucy Spraggan gets to start Bootcamp Pt2 as the judges look at individual performances and we see much more of what some of the contenders can do. She comes out with another of her own sparky little compositions. She ought to work with Dennis Potter on some series with that witty and delightfully accurate observation of daily life. She'll make the Judges' Houses, I'm sure and could be an entertaining act on the live shows but it will be as entertainment rather than a potential winner in the Girls category.

Rylan's track is far too loud to hear his voice and it's not an impressive performance. He's a likeable character, playing the Essex card as well as the gay card well. Again, an entertainment act, not a winning act. Gathan appears and then disappears. Odd bit of editing.

Jahmene has a melt down so we see what's left of MK1 instead. Pretty average and uninspiring. the girl can do better than that, I'm sure. Again, no winner there.

Triple J, Melanie Masson, Chris Maloney and Carolynne Poole come go, all doing kinda OK acts and you get the feeling they're safe enough. Kye Sones, though, is the first real act that really hits you and makes you think Hey, this guy's good!

From Above won't survive, way out of tune. Jade Ellis seems nervous but has some touches of quality in the performance. Not sure what to make of her at the moment.

Joe Whelan has a good vocal performance, as do Times Red, looking and sounding pretty good.

James Arthur, in glasses and looking big and much healthier than before, is relaxed and just excellent. He has to make the live shows on how he's doing so far - a really talented guy.

Leanne Robinson we haven't seen much of so far but she's attractive and hits all the right notes too, with signs of more than just natural talent but some sort fo training and experience too.

Adam Burridge sounds cool. Not so sure where he fits in but a decent act.

Ella Henderson is the last we get to see. She sings Believe, the Cher track that first introduced the world to autotune. This was a stunning performance of the track, totally different and this girl is going to be extremely difficult to beat. Only 16, too. This week someone had sorted out her hairstyle so much better too so she looked more 26 than 36. I reckon it could be between her and James Arthur. I know they haven't even made it through Judges' Houses yet but they are both that strong.

Now we get to learn the actual Final 24. This is the really important cut when 24 acts will get a chance to perform and get to know their mentor and make a real impression as to what they're really capable of and show whether they've the range of talents to get through to the live rounds and the personality and reliability needed for shows where emotions will run high and the public will expect to be entertained too.

We also learn, through a call from Simon Cowell in the States, just showing who's still boss, who gets to mentor which categories.

Nicole gets the Boys:
James Arthur
Jahmene
Nathan
Adam
Rylan
Jake

In Xtra Factor, Nicole gives a clear indication that she thinks James is the artist, is hoping that Jake will be the one for the girls and eithet Nathan or Ryland for entertainment.

Tulisa gets the Girls
Ella
Amy
Jade Collins
Jade Ellis
Leanne
Lucy

Tulisa sees Ella as the clear winner and admires Lucy. My guess is that she'll add Leanne to the mix. Whether one of the Jades replaces Lucy at the end of the day remains to be seen.

Gary gets the Over 28s
Kye Sones
Melanie Masson
Nicola Marie
Brad Shackleton
Carolynne Poole
Christopher Maloney

Gary has some strong acts. He favours Kye, Chris and will need the third to be either Carolynne or Melanie. Nicola and Brad, I fear, can assume they've got as far as they're going to go.

Louis gets the Groups
MITSOTU
Duke
MK1
Poisonous Twin
Rough Copy
GMD3

GMD3 won through a sing off with Triple J. That was a close call. You had to feel sorry for Triple J. I wonder if they'll get the call when Rough Copy can't travel to Louis' place?

This is one mixed bag and not the make-up I'd expected at all. Rough Copy would walk away with winning in this category but won't so at present it has to be GMD3 that are likely to make the running. Duke we have seen so little of but Louis has high regard for them. MITSOTU too seem to have caught his eye but will he, as usual include the novelty act to bring on the fun? If so then we'll have to put up with Poisonous Twin a bit longer.

So now we know.

Having remarked at how rubbish the production has been so far in this season, and not exactly looking forward to reviewing what is usually the most annoying set of programmes, I have to say that Bootcamp this time has started very well indeed.

200 candidates will be whittled down to a mere 24 to go forward to the Judges' House round over two days, of which we saw the first 24 hours. For about 70 or them that had made their way to the venue, the only good thing was to see JLS live for a few minutes as one-third got sent home. presumably the judges realised that they'd made some mistakes during the audition rounds. We could have told them at the time and saved SYCO a few bob but never mind.

Tulisa appears as a blonde - a distinctly custard tint or that may have been my telly. Nicole is now on board rather more seriously so there's no ex-Spice Girls or a somewhat lame Leona to interrupt debate at this stage.

At the start of the programme we're shown glimpses of all the familiar people which is a pretty good hint as to who we can expect to see more of as the weeks progress. Basically, there's about 130 we've never seen so far and probably never will, apart from a fleeting glimpse in a large room or prancing around on stage.

Gary tells the remaining people that they have 72 hours and a massive digital display starts to count down in tenths of a second rather ominously and, to my mind, pointlessly. We then see him telling them It's been four hours... and the huge display says 57 hrs something or other. Continuity guys just got fired but at least Tulisa's hair is still custard coloured. Louis' hair has changed but that's nothing unusual.

So off we go.

Joe Douglas and Jahmene get through in the first group. Jahmene has been one of the favourites so far but still looks odd in a jacket two sizes too small. maybe the trousers are similarly too small which accounts for the falsetto. He makes a poor job of the audition track but is forgiven by the judges who clearly have him marked down for the live shows. Not so sure about Joe.

A group called From Above  get through next, as do Times Red and the two comprising MK1 now, both of these last two putting on an excellent performance. A group called The Lightbulb Thieves ask why they're not put through and all credit to Nicole for an excellent explanation which put her several steps up in my estimation. She's been good on X Factor USA too last year, if a bit indecisive in the live shows.

Lucy Spraggit scrapes through in her group despite a lousy performance but, again, she's almost got a ticket for the live shows too.

There is then a string of people, most of whom we've seen plenty of before, flying through. Amy Mottram, Leanne Robinson, Harriet, Maisy Sylvester, Jade Ellis, Carla Jaye, Eli Cripps and Melanie McCabe. I'm really not at all sure about a couple fo those names who were entirely new to me and probably you too. My guess is we don't see them for long.

two more groups fight it out: GMD3 and Triple J. Both were excellent and it's beginning to look quite difficult for whoever has to choose which three will be going through in that category. Cue some heavy disappointment scenes for a few weeks' time.

Britt Love beats both the annoying Collagen and the nice Deirdre Lawlor. I am very glad not to have Collagen's collagen and cleavage on the screen any more. But why give the annoying and untalented girl yet more air time afterwards?

There is then a slew of rejections, but no-one we've seen before so nothing of interest there. Gary was very firm and, understandably, getting a bit fed up with some pretty useless performances. Now I know that it is really crazy to expect people to work together and learn something they may not even think suits them or like in a short time but several really appeared not to have made any effort at all. If they really talented then they can get away with that but they weren't, and didn't, we,,, mostly they didn't.

Finally two more groups come along and really excel. Rough Copy and Mr Xoto or something like that were very good indeed. Unfortunately, you'll find that Rough Copy, who might have been dead certs to appear in the live shows, get cut as one of them doesn't have a valid passport. Duh!

I'm thinking that we haven't seen many decent boys go through yet. Plenty of Overs, Girls and even Groups but not many for the Boys  category.

Poisonous Twin join the groups going through and could add some fun to the live shows if Louis gets to choose. they don't really deserve a place on their singing although they're streets ahead of most of last year's.

Finally we get some in the Boys category. Jo Whelan is the only one out of five to get through. Then James Vickery and another favourite and potential winner James Arthur show how this stage should be handled with some excellent performances, followed by an extraordinary trio of gays who could be a group if someone wanted. Rylan and Gathan are joined by an odd-looking new guy to the screen, Octavio. Gathan is pretty full of himself and doesn't associate much with the other two but nevertheless they manage to pull off an impressive show of talent although I reckon Octavio's days are numbered and is there really room on the screen for both Rylan and Gathan. That'll be an interesting battle to watch.

Amongst the girls, now, the  very reliable Hayley and a new girl Nicola Marie, get through nicely. More boys in the shape of Jake Quickenden, and Adam Burridge are easily through but poor Robbie Hance, one of my favourites and who I saw as a definite live show contestant, simply tries to wing it and fails. I was really impressed, though, by his honesty and lack of show. He simply made a sign of having shot himself, lay down the microphone and walked off quietly. Very disappointing and if I were the judges I would still rush after him and give him another chance.

In Xtra Factor we see some more successes: Brad and Shelley and someone who appears to be called 2BStream join the Overs with some good vocals particularly from an elderly and not exactly pretty Shelley. 2BStream is a black guy with a very high voice.

Eddie Spring and Mitch Summers go out on the tiles and hit the sack at 4am. Eddie has a great personality and I get the impression he's extremely bright from some of the responses he gives. he's bound to annoy a lot of viewers but I'd like to see this Jagger-esque figure in the live shows. He'll either sink or swim. My guess is that he'll swim. Anyway, for all that, his performance is great but his drinking companion's isn't. So Mitch is quite surprisingly out but he's only got Eddie and himself to blame. They perform on stage with the much straighter Kian who is also through and hoping he can get on on his own from here.

We get glimpses of Clapz Shazzahne, or whatever his silly name is, who chats up anything in a skirt. Mia & The Moon, who should get through just because of their name in my view, three groups Array, LMNY and Electric Punx. Not sure whether any of the last three get through.

Someone with a name like Corm Malloy is though. No idea who he is and then we get to see that four very, very reliable performers are safely through, and likely live show contenders too, being Carolynne Poole, Melanie Masson, Christopher Maloney and Kye Sones.

I think I've counted 40 getting through so far. That makes about 60 that didn't and still 30 or so that we haven't seen at all. Maybe tomorrow?

We'll see. Or not, as the case may be. My feeling is that we will have seen the winner today. But I'm not making any bets yet!







It's the last week of audition clips. Blink and you'll miss some. In theory we should now have seen the winner and every act for the Live Shows (which is really when the series gets properly under way). Yet more bizarre editing by the new production team means that we never know quite where we are, who the guest judge will be next or even whether we're watching one of several audition recordings at times.


Another group bounds on stage to start the show. Rough Copy comprise three fun and hyperactive guys with sensible jobs. They're pretty good and clearly can entertain and hit most of the right notes at the right time, in so far as rap needs either. Some decent voices in there too and, having seen so few groups so far, they must be likely to get through at least to Judges' Houses and I'd reckon a bit further if they can keep up the standard.

Some guy called Clapz and another called Dale fly past the screen with about 5 seconds each. Both seem OK but we'll have to wait for bootcamp to learn more. Adam B gets a lot more time, possibly a hint as to how he gets on, with a serious and seriously good audition with a hat and a guitar.


Triple J - another group - are decidedly average but manage some decent harmonies. They just don't look like the sort of band you'd expect to see on an album cover. They all look married, settled down with semi detached suburban lives at 23.


George Shelley is sort of OK in the few seconds we get, Nathan F Gayle has a great voice and attitude and I have a feeling we'll see more of him - he seems to be called Boy Nathan in some reports but I don't know where that came from.


 

Robbie Hance was the stand-out audition for me. Playing guitar and singing from the heart, right in tune and totally natural as if he'd been doing this for years. I can imagine people going to concerts to listen to this chap and buying his albums. No, he's not the sexy strutter or long-legged blonde - more like Paul Simon with hair. Absolutely brilliant, with one of the very few full length auditions we get to see.


A bundle of bad singers come and go and you can almost predict that, with eight minutes to go, it's time for the last act which is the one the producers reckon is the One To Talk About afterwards so we'll remember to come back next week. Carolynn Poole you may remember from last year. She made it through to Louis' boot camp where she was booted out in favour of people like JonJo, Mary from Tescos and Johnnie Robinson. I didn't think that made much sense then and nice to see her back. This could be the first time we've had someone who got that far returning in a following year. Maybe if Amelia Lily hadn't been pipped to the Number 1 spot in this week's chart by The Voice's Danny, the Script and Will.i.am then she might have been thinking about having another go with a better mentor too! Looks like she's going to do fine now, though.

Carolynn is excellent and must stand a good chance of getting to the Live Shows this time, and with Gary running her group this time, her ability to hit the right notes and be reliable on the telly should help.


Still convinced that we can't possibly have seen all the acts that make it through yet, I switch over to the much better produced Xtra Factor and, in between shots of Caroline Flack's legs and hearing that laugh of hers, look for signs of talent in amongst some other auditions.

I tend not to bother commenting on the dead acts but couldn't help but smile at a weird Japanese guy in a green hat shouting 'Herro Rondon' at the start. For some reason that escapes me now ITV2 blur out Gary's V signs at some point in the funny exchange that takes place. And there's Nicole on the panel, that's a rarity - and possibly, according to some news sources, the last time we will see her on the panel anyway. No, the Japanese guy can't sing.

Back in Liverpool now and Geri's on the panel. She's not the most popular girl in the world but she has been a good judge so far. Her panel gets to see the Poisonous Twin audition. I'd seen some preview pictures of these and thought they hadn't got through but they do. They're not bad, could be a lot of fun and, yes, they're a bit out of tune but more because of nerves than inability to know which notes they should have sung. They're honest and nothing like as brash and annoying as you would expect. Those teeth, though, especially on one of them, are glaringly white. Not a good look, unless you're in Essex. I can see I shall have to turn the contrast down on my TV if they more on past bootcamp. With so few groups so far - and this is about it by now - they might even do just that in a sort of Jedward move.

After another switch of judges, Rita gets to make eyes at a bloke from Venezuela who is pretty forgettable but may win the Caracas version of the show. Nicole's back again a few minutes later - boy, is this confusing, - and Dale Ali gets a second chance to impress us with an Olly Murs Mk2 audition that wasn't at all bad.

Talking of Olly, the show ends with the lad out and about again - meeting Ryland from the very first show. Ryland was blonde with black roots but is now black with blonde roots. We get to see the contents of his make-up cupboard. He has also had an extraordinary white teeth job done and looks quite ridiculous.

So that's all folks. Blink and you might have missed the winner. Over to Betfair now to see if they've got a clue. To be honest, I haven't. I'll get hold of the videos and watch them again - I have a feeling it won't be too difficult to get a top 12 out of this lot. Bootcamp should be a doddle.


By tomorrow night we really should have seen at least a glimpse of all the Live Show contestants so, after last week's poor showing, let's hope audition show 9 gives us some hope.

Not a good start, with 70-year-old Nick, grumpily blaming 'Tulisia' for not getting through. Thank goodness. Life improved with Jade Ellis, singing well and with a marketable look and a pleasantly different tone that worked well. She's easily through but very quietly with none of the enthusiasm or cheers or OTT comments from anyone that many with far less talent have had. Odd. Maybe that was because Leona was the 4th judge, although I could swear that it had been Rita a few minutes before. Shot of baby in the background.

Madeleine next, who went to school with Tulisa, although Tulisa didn't make a very good job of remembering her. She was reasonably good, if a bit shouty. Nice personality, polite too. She's through to bootcamp.

Selina is a wedding and corporate singer so you kinda expect her to be reasonable. She's much better than the others so far today, with an earthy, more soulful sound. Good and safely through.

Deanne struggled with some notes and gets through. Not exactly 'incredible', Gary. Another baby daughter gets into the camera. No obvious fathers for any of them though.

Bianca looks good and is confident. Ah, she's Paul Gascoigne's daughter who has already had plenty of tv exposure in more ways than one. I was expecting a Geordie accent so the London drawl was a surprise. Tulisa looks as there's no way she'll vote for her from the start. No love lost there by the look of it. I might have put her through just for that reason alone. I suppose she hasn't got an abs which is all Tulisa and Rita seem to be interested in. Bianca tries I'm Going Down which is a difficult song at the best of times but that title will not have helped her at all either. there are some dodgy notes but no more than most of the others we've seen almost sailing through so far. The audience is strangely quiet, though, so I guess Bianca doesn't score well in the popularity stakes at that venue. My guess is that the local paper had something that morning.

Mel B now magically appears as the 4th judge. This is getting confusing.

Lauren comes on an puts on a guitar. She seems to have a natural, light and cheerful attitude and could be a surprise if she survives bootcamp. Nice, folksy singer with an edge I liked.

Tammy has a loud and slightly annoying laugh. She's brassy and comes from Derby. I was already expecting her to be quite good and bluesy. they bring her Gran on. Why?? But she does eventually start and, yes, she is good. Straight in, belting it out in good karaoke style. She wouldn't have made it in Simon's day. But she's at least on par with the average getting through so that's that. I can see her doing It's Raining Men and whatever the one by Gloria Gaynor was called.

God, the adverts take up so much time. Dr Who on BBC 1 had finished at 8:20pm and this started at 8:10 so I'm watching a recording time-shifted. By half-way through and fast-forwarding through the ads I'd caught up with the live broadcast.

Now it's yet another 4th judge, Anastasia, an early American Idol winner, and they're in Glasgow. This show is so badly edited. It's another Jade, Jade Collins this time who's representing Scotland by the seems of it. Oh dear, it's another sob story. No daddy around. At least she knows who her father is unlike many of the contestants to date, or their babies. This girl had better be good after all that stuff. You know it will be, of course. It is. Jade is a natural little pop star. Pretty in a chubby way, great trousers, 17. the best so far today, in tune and with feeling in the words and song that comes across well.

As seems traditional, the show ends with a great act. I should have guessed.

Switching over to the Xtra Factor, I am beginning to think this is the better show at the moment. Caroline Flack is doing well on her own without Olly, although he is missed and does make the occasional appearance on a pre-recorded bit.

We start with Mohammed. I do hope I can keep out of trouble with that name and not find the Taliban in the village in the morning. He is The Fish Man and already has a 2 million following on YouTube. And that's really all he can do - the 1lb of fish song. Nice enough chap but televised for the laugh, that's all.

The fish theme gets extended as Caroline then takes a tray of fish through to the judges during a break. Gary announces that she smells of fish and that she should go into the back room. Caroline remarks that she hopes no-one had just tuned in at that point. She's often much more on the broadcasting ball than any of the judges, Louie excepted.

Hey, there's an ad for X Factor USA!! 'Coming soon'?! Hmmm.

Oh dear, Collagen Cleavage is next. She says that when you're born you have a blank canvas as some kind of ridiculous validation for changing bits of her body. I reckon she also had a blank brain. No hope there, we're inclined to think. Seems an awful girl. Hope she can't sing. But actually she can. Louis calls her a cross between Pete Burns and Cher - brilliant! As I believe that she was, herself, genuinely surprised to get the deserved four yesses, I did start to feel a bit bad about the comments I made before. Still don't see her as Live Show material, though.

Jason P comes on and we think that we're going to get a rock performance at last, and possibly a good one too. First let down: he's singing Adele. Second let down: he emphasises the word 'new' when referring to who's with him tonight - it's his 'new' girlfriend. You have to feel sorry for both the old and the new. Simon would have stopped him and asked for something else. It still probably wouldn't have worked, though, as the guy had no upper range at all. Pity but that's it. Bye.

Flashes of a few more apparently getting through.

Dana is our worst nightmare of a forceful training manager in a quango in Richmond. You can just imagine her with a ready-made PowerPoint and notes galore, lecturing men twice her age on Safeguarding or Communal Analysis Trends. Thank goodness she can't sing.

Nice filler next from James who we've seen before, James Arthur? in Middlesborough. the guy looks a hundred times better than his dirty red-faced audition in what i think might have been show 1. I have no idea why but Olly Murs and James do an excellent jam of My Heart Skips A Beat. Now that worked really well.

Last act is Hayley Evetts who came 5th in Pop Idol back in 2002. She's good but not 'amazing' as some judges say. Just good and I can see her in the Live Shows for sure. She'll be a safe and reliable contestant and I expect she'll come 5th again.



X Factor auditions continued in shows four and five this weekend with prime time viewing slots on Saturday and Sunday. Viewing figures only just holding up, though, and although it's not really obvious, the new production team do seem to have sanitised the whole thing and the show has lost more than a little sparkle. Or, one could say it's lost that vital X factor!

I can't figure out what's missing, or what there's too much of but it is so predictable! To the point where I needed a cigarette about two thirds through and wandered outside during an ad break, knowing that what would follow would be a bundle of no-hopes thrown in for amusement.

It is actually damn difficult writing about this show this year - well, at the moment, at any rate. I do normally have huge problems trying to make any sensible review of the disastrous bootcamps with their ridiculously forced groups and 30 second performances viewed usually from a distance in a gloomy hall. Now we have applicants thrown in front of a massive audience with all the lights and professional tv stuff going on around them but still just doing their bit more or less as you might expect in the little rooms they used to use in the old days.

The judges have been strange too. Gary may well be a brilliant songwriter and he can certainly sing well but, however much he may care for those he mentors, however much he may be a decent guy, his panel presence is as flat, pretty monotone and decidedly unentertaining. If he's ever cracked a joke then I've missed it. On the other hand he doesn't speak with the authority of anything more than that of a successful songwriter and band member. That may sound good enough but we're dealing here with selecting acts that will be appearing on live shows from October to Christmas and then, for some at least, selling records and representing UK music on the radio, in the news and at concerts. I don't need to like the acts but I do want to respect the noise they make and feel that the right people have been bundled into a contract with Syco.

If you look at who's really making the running at the moment then it's not Matt Cardle but One Direction who came 3rd. It's not Joe McElderry but Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon and Jedward. although Alexandra Burke has had some well-written hits, it's JLS who have made the greatest impact. No-one survives from 2007 when someone called Leon Jackson won and it is only back in 2006, with Leona Lewis, that a winner has truly stayed the course but then, if you look at her competition, she would have won if she'd sung Cliff Richard songs all the way through.

Little Mix are, I believe, number 4 in the UK Top 40 at the time of writing, doing OK but Amelia Lily, with her first release out today is likely to do better long-term from the last series' contenders.

Louis is getting very predictable and, quite frankly, has contributed nothing of value so far. Gone are the days when he might fight for the inclusion of someone, recognising from his long experience and genuinely sound understanding of how the market works, what could work or be made to work. Like them or hate them, Jedward would not exist without his championing them on this programme. Admittedly he has also brought Wagner, many large and often Irish ladies on to our screens rather more often than many would have wanted and The MacDonald Brothers coming 4th one year is more an indication of what he can do than was probably realised at the time.Tulisa is an attractive and talented girl, with a determined attitude but I get the impression that her efforts are hugely supported by the team behind her. She does speak her mind more than some but seldom is the only one to reject or argue for an applicant and does tend to be more impressed with six-packs than vocal muscles but maybe that's just a bit of sparkle for the show.

Nicole was with Simon Cowell in the first run of X Factor USA last year and, with assistance from Enrique Iglesias, started well and chose and mentored good acts, supporting the less than photogenic Josh Kracjik through to a well-deserved second place. She did have some struggles in the live shows, though, decisions being something that she didn't appear to be used to making but at least she has had some experience and worked with Simon so has some clue now as to what we want to see and hear.

Of the guest judges we've seen so far, Geri Halliwell has been by far the best. Scary Spice was thankfully blunt but not someone you'd want to watch for long. Geri managed to bring the show to life and argued with Gary almost from the start which no-one else seems to have done. She would be a great addition and hope we see more of this. She may not be the most popular woman on the planet but she is intelligent and also knows how to have fun. In almost complete contrast we saw Leona Lewis in the chair next to Gary at the weekend too. However nice she may be, and however good her voice, her personality doesn't exactly come across at all and where Geri can just appear in some short dress that she just grabbed out of a wardrobe or could even have slipped into a few minutes before the cameras rolled, Leona seems almost firghtened to move quickly in case either the dress suffers or her heavy make-up refuses to go with her. In fact, now I think about it, I don't recall Leona ever moving a great deal.

Anyway, a variety of judges saw their way through umpteen sessions of mostly pretty bland auditions from acts that will not be much remembered, despite the four 'yesses' and cries of 'Amazing!' at regular intervals. The stand-outs were Eddie Wilkinson who wants to be called Eddie Spring. he's got the Frankie Cocozza attitude but probably more talent and, I hope, more control over his drug and booze intake. In fact, I got the impression this fellow was smart and knew just how far to take things, which was quite a long way and further than Uncle Gary wanted.

There were a pile of Essex girls with Essex accents and Essex tans and Essex shoes and a couple, Amy and Sharon may well make it past bootcamp but I'm not sure whether they'll get much further than that.

A band called GMD3 were way out of tune when singing individually but together sounded good. With a bit of work they could make it. We then had a stream of groups but only MK1 really caught my attention in the Saturday show. They started as three but their older member just looked embarrassing as he pranced oddly around and didn't exactly add anything to the act at all. I am pretty sure this was a staged thing as they were persuaded to think about being a two-some and they huddle together and agree to share the profits with the third guy regardless. No big deal, literally, as they ain't goin' nowhere far.

Having said that, unless they show us some more groups pretty soon they may well make the live shows!

Up to Liverpool next where Geri appears. We get another three groups, one useless, one very average and a third, Times Red, interesting but mainly to the girls.

Down to Manchester and things are pretty dire. Some guy called Cian has a decent voice but big ears. a pile of Miss Averages and I would include Melanie McCabe, rejected last year at judges' houses, in that. She was off key but anyone attempting Bridge Over Troubled Water deserves some respect, I suppose. I got the feeling that the audience's OTT reaction must have been due to her being the first decent act for the evening.

I really got very bored with the rest apart from a couple of guys worth a mention: some Chinese twerp called Jason who was in love with Tulisa, or Tulisha as he insisted on calling her, and probably jamming the ITV switchboards with calls about how the judges shouldn't have laughed at him so much. Lucky he wasn't black.  He did actually surprise us all with a decent enough voice. No star by any stretch of the imagination - more a Heejun Han here today, gone tomorrow, sort of thing and good for a few more viewers - but not the disaster I certainly expected. the other was an extremely nervous Christopher Maloney who could make the Over 25s if it's a bad year with a great voice but zero star quality. Still, Steve Brookstein won the very first show.

As I really can't think of anything else to say, here's who appears to have made it through to bootcamp so far (ignoring those we haven't seen yet so as not spoil anyone's viewing):

Groups:


GMD3
District Line
MK1
MITSOTU
Duke
Mia and The Moon
On The Edge
Times Red

Girls

Collagen Westwood
Sharon Rose
Jade Collins
Lauren Smith
Deirdre Lawlor
Amy Mottram
Georgia Garrett
Charlotte Reavey
Sharon Rose

Tasha Pyne
Jessica Beckett
Jade Richards
Ella Henderson
Melanie McCabe
Megan O’Neill
Lucy Spraggan
Madeleine Wilson
Salena Mastroianni
Leanne Dlamini
Jade Ellis

Overs



The Manchester auditions and Scary Spice is on the panel again. Louie's hair seems to have changed yet again but I think that's because we're seeing these clips in a completely different order to when they were filmed. [Continuity guys please note.]

A very chirpy and energetic Nicola emerges and looks like Tulisa might be in a few years. She has a strong voice but is totally breathless even before she starts some 70s style dancing that would frighten the pants off most men. I get the feeling she's used to performing in some clubs around town where blokes cheer a lot. She might improve with a bit a training and gets through to bootcamp. I can't see her getting much further unless they're short of older candidates for Louie to look after.

Jake's next. Jake's a lifeguard and you get the impression that two of the judges, maybe three, would like to use his some body as he performs Use Somebody well, apart from an odd microphone technique that makes you wonder just how long he's been picking up bad habits on the local scene too. Still, not bad and safely through to bootcamp.

Taylor has a much better sound and seems better than Jake who he follows. He's more naturally talented and I can see him in one of the manufactured boy bands.

Jessica and Matt get through next with some very rough cut editing which shows us not a great deal. all I can say is that Jessica is pretty and one of the younger entrants at 17 and she deserves her place at the next round. Matt looked a bit geeky but was quite different vocally and strummed along on a guitar quite nicely. He may have a niche of his own if he survives bootcamp.

We then get some awful mother called Alison who is very loud and embarrassing her kids even before she starts singing. When she does all the kids can do is shake their heads and, quite frankly, she's only on the show for the shots of them as far as I can make out. Dreadful stuff.

We then get to Joseph. He's some hunk of a guy who demonstrates tools on building sites and that's just the sort of thing that appeals to Tulisa and Scary as the camera waits for them to make suitably approving smirks to each other. Tulisa has an amazingly flirtatious look even when she isn't trying but here she is definitely trying. Joseph does a nice rock audtion with a Zeppelin track and that goes down really well. We get some crap about him doing it for his son which we could do without as presumably there's a mother somewhere and tool salesmen don't do that badly. The star the two girls reckon he is? I doubt it but he's good tv. We'll see more of him, anyway.

Next stop is Scotland where we start with Dermot in a grey T shirt and jeans warming up the audience. Waking them up, more probably. It gets dark early in Glasgow. No men in the audience. Glasgow men don't do to X Factor shows.

Well, some wimpy guy called Alan from Alloa does and he would have been so much better advised to have stayed at home. pathetic and I really do have to wonder why on earth his audition was the intro to Glasgow? Strange. Alex Salmon will be furious. Loretta follows - a huge black lady in a red dress. We get the rear view camera for some reason and her backside looks as if it is glowing like some setting sun. She sings appallingly. What is going on?

Hester appears but the plastic horns, white tights and pink bits say it all. Well, they don't say it all, actually as she launches into a completely unexpected Wild Thing which is almost in tune and at least she tried. Still not much good, though. It's getting near the end of the show so you just know that they've saved up something good for the end. On comes Melanie who says she teaches children music. Usually music teachers do OK but they can be a bit formal so, with some reference to fairies or silly names, I'm waiting for her to do the Noddy theme or something light and airy when she wails into an amazing version of Janis Joplin's Cry Baby. Excellent. She will go far. Pretty sure of that. And that's why I put the video at the start.


Peter Dickson was back on form in Week 2 of the auditions, blasting us from the start but not nearly as loud as his 'competition' announcement, declaring that there was no question to answer this year to win a trip, money and various nick-nacks. Actually, I reckon that for many viewers, dialling the number required could be as difficult as answering correctly the stupid questions they had last year.

Anyway, back to the show. Who on earth is Rita? The mystery new judge this week has a new, or to most people, a first album to sell but quite how she managed to share the seats with Gary, Louie and Tulisa does remain to be explained.

We start with Rylan Clarke who spends a great deal of time on his appearance, an Essex guy with ash blonde hair and black roots. He wants to tsya in the music industry and puts down office jobs with a glorious comment to the effect that the highlighlight of office conversation would be 'Awright Maud?' which, for me, was one of the most memorable parts of the evening. He was a pretty useless singer but interesting and entertaining so we'll see him again.

Kye (what is it with the strange names this year?) was next. Nice tone and definitely some talent but whether the standing ovation was deserved for this quite good but not spectacularly good chap I am not so sure. Maybe it was more out of relief at that stage of the actual proceedings rather than as we view things.

Off to Manchester and Scary Spice is back and still looking quite odd. After a weak performance from someone called Chanelle we get Lucy from Sheffield. Now she is good. a great song that she's written herself, original and it worked very well for her even if some of the rhymes were strange. I love Lucy you can expect to see emblazoned on T shirts when we move on as she is more than safely through. It was also nice to hear a Florence & The Machine track played in the background to her success.



A load opf nutters follow which I hardly noticed and we end with James, a strange-looking guy with very red cheeks, lots of green and brown clothes and looking a bit out of proportion He gave a good performance of one of the Tulisa's songs which was well received and you can see Gary wanting to take him through to the live shows with Lucy and Kye.

And that was it. That seemed to fly by and all credit to the new producers for concentrating on the two or three that are worth watching and have some hope rather than the dreadful failures. The Xtra Factor also showed a nice couple of girls with guitars - Shackles - a possible contender for the groups category.

So here we go again. Either Peter Dickson was speaking more quietly than usual or the letters were smaller but this was a classier start than usual and Dermot O'Leary is in there at the start, along with Olly Murs in fine form, on video at least, with Caroline and the judges.

This year for Kelly Rowland read Nicole Scherzinger which could be confusing for American readers, especially when X Factor USA kicks off soon. Nicole steered the excellent and not immediately marketable Josh Krajick to 2nd place in America's version, (Simon winning, naturally, with Melanie Amaro) and if she can actually make her mind up and keep back the tears a bit while she's over here then she's likely to be an improvement on her predecessor. Gary seems a little less desperate to impress, Tulisa looks older but still very pretty and Louis has more hair in several shades of grey. He is so fortunate that Simon isn't on the panel.

The show was under way really quickly and someone calling himself Sheyi takes the stage with a big smile, great manners and obvious talent. A natural entertainer but for some reason he rasped away in a bad impression of Louis Armstrong in tight trousers which no-one in their right minds would expect to get through. I'm convinced that this was some kind of set up - maybe they didn't have anyone amusing and reasonable for the first act so got this guy to act up for a few grand. Two reasons: one, when he dropped out of the rasping growl voice for the intermittent 'yay' or 'hey' you heard a decent and absolutely in tune voice, the sort you'd expect from someone like him and, two, my daughter tells me that he's Deputy Head Boy at Royal Latin School in Buckingham, or was last year, and that's neither his name nor his style. She also rather doubted that he worked at Nandos in London - Milton Keyenes, maybe - or came from Camden. Camden does sound cooler than Buchingham, though.

We moved on and someone with a name like Feckton sings Freedom pretty well, Rick's a fireman with red blotches and gets through as does Tasha with a nice tone and a first glimpse of some real talent. Then comes Jahmene Douglas. You think he's going to be the joke act and whine a lot or something. He has a nervous laugh at the end of each short sentence and long ones seem to be beyond him. The shiny grey suit is worrying too, looking like something someone bought for him and poured him into before feeding him up.

Then the guy sings. At Last is a pretty smart song at the best of times and he is just brilliant. Every note absolutely spot on, a totally natural singer. Outstanding voice but I don't know - despite all the raves from everyone there - how will he fare as the stages progress and can we really, honestly, imagine this chap dancing to an Abba song or whatever they get the poor contestants to do on the Live Shows? Writing this rather later than I should did give me the befit of a peek at some odds and the bookies have him as an early favourite so I guess he's safely through for a while yet.

We get a better chunk of Peter Dickson now with some competition that doesn't even have a question to answer. Eh?

Zoe does a Pink tribute not particularly well, despite a build up that made us think she'd be a good act. There's some nasty behaviour as she storms off and you do have to wonder whether the return of Brian Fieldman to direct the shows has had an influence on upping the drama.

Off to Manchester next and we get Scary Spice Mel B in various shades of strange orange being particularly grumpy with almost everyone. To be fair, they all deserved it and it was quite refreshing to see a judge telling acts that they weren't much good instead of pussy-footing around as most of the others have tended to do for fear of breaking some Single Equality Act regulation.

The one that didn't get the grumps was Ella Henderson who sang one of her own compositions. Now that's a brave move anyway but both her writing and her singing are damn good. Perhaps she will find herself aligned with Adele too much and it is to be hoped that she can pull herself away from that overdone genre. One class act and another tip for the top.

These are, though, very early days. It is, thank heavens, a long time 'til Christmas and the Final! I suspect there will be more contenders than the two everyone is talking about this week.

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