X-Factor ‘Semi Finals’ (08/12/07) -Review

December 15th, 2007

December 8th saw the broadcast for the Semi Final of The X Factor season 4. Once again, the remaining acts were to sing two songs each, but this time it was to secure a place in the grand final. And this time, the acts faced a master class with swing artist Michael Bublé – Leon’s idol (!). Who would reach the last stage, and who would fall at this stage out of the remaining four contestants?

First up came Niki, singing the Fleetwood Mac song “Songbird”, though coming more accustomed towards Eva Cassidy’s cover just like last week. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar performer, she focused everything on just showing her voice to the audience. While she sung well, the song choice wasn’t fully welcomed. Sharon explained her reasoning to her – “Beautiful song but too laid back, but you sang it well.” Dannii felt the same way, additionally stating the difficulty to open the show but she showed more praise to the point of referring to Niki as the show’s songbird. Simon just saw it as “pretty” and agreed with Sharon concerning the song choice, further stating that she was “very lucky (she has) got a second song” coming.

Next came Leon singing “The Very Thought of You” from Ray Noble. He mainly sung with a pianist on stage with him, though at one interval he ended up bringing a female from the audience to sing to as well. However, the reception on that was rather mixed – Louis thought that he “owned the stage” and thought he’d be the new Michael Bublé, and Sharon felt he was as smooth as his velvet outfit he wore for the performance. But Simon had other things on his mind, stating it was one of his weakest performances on the show – “The beginning of the song was almost out of tune, the bit in the middle with the girl was corny and the last 30 seconds were good. So overall, you can’t say that was a great performance.”

Rhydian came to the fore after that to sing Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, accompanied by two pairs of dancers on opposite sides of the stage and various coloured spray effects on stage. But through the gimmicks, the judges found much to love about him. Louis felt his performance was the best of the night so far and felt he would definitely make the final. Sharon found it to be “breathtakingly perfect” and expressed another thought – “It was so nice because you did that song and we saw another side of you in that song that wasn’t so operatic… but it just shows that you can, you know, do a lot of other styles as well.” Simon remarked it to be “bloody fantastic”; he also felt he was in a different league to Leon and Niki as well as seeing it as Rhyd’s best performance if not the best in the entire season.

Closing round one was Same Difference singing the Diana Ross hit “Chain Reaction”. We can’t go without gimmicks and in this case they had a circus backdrop. Sadly, Louis was in disbelief that they even got so far. He was unsure that they would reach the final – “That was a huge, huge production. You used TEN dancers… I just don’t get it… there’s a circus in town, but (Simon is) the biggest clown if (he thinks) the public are going to buy this!” Sharon, stating that Simon was “as serious as a heart attack”, also stated concerns – “It was fun… but I don’t think it was a song to show your great vocals that I know you have.” Dannii showed concern for the vocal range and how it ended up exposing weaknesses for the pair, but she loved the performance – “Ten dancers, choir… you can have whatever you want to make it entertainment!”

The phone lines were open at this point. But the fight wasn’t over yet – will the second songs be better than their first?

Niki opened up the second round campaign by singing Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”, often used in VTs to show audition successes in the past. She used a white setting complete with dazzling lights, candles and a similarly coloured dress while projecting her voice, and that gave her a warm reception from the audience and judges alike. Sharon found the song to be perfect for the occasion and felt she meant every word sung – “You look like a star, you sang like a star, and God, I hope you go through tonight.” Dannii felt her voice in the studio was like a “powerhouse”, thus showing a great reaction to the audience. Simon was more than happy, though he did find it to be “a little shouty in the middle” but soon admitted to nitpicking her performance.

Leon then returned to sing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” by Marvin Gaye in the style of Michael Bublé. He was accompanied by several female dancers; thus showing a more energetic performance than his first song. Louis felt he looked more like he was “doing it for years” and felt he will go really far after the show. Sharon saw that he did it all naturally and saw that he showed a lot of confidence to boot. But once again, Simon had other things to say, stating that he didn’t like the jazz direction with the track at all. He further stated the pressure of the Semi Final to him – “It’s the most important night of your life and you have to connect with the audience at home because you’re a very good singer and you’ve become a much better performer, but I thought that was… as I said it was like an indulgent night at the jazz club.”

Next was Rhydian singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, incorporating both the original musical version and the Gerry and the Pacemakers cover. It was just himself and his voice, and once again it had a wild reaction from the judges and the audience. Louis felt his performance was amazing and felt he would certainly win the contract. Sharon thought the song choice was great and fitting for the Semis as well as pointing out that his mother would be very proud of him. Simon found that he sung and performed the best on the night and felt he most deserved a place in the final – “Let’s just remind ourselves what this competition is all about. It is trying to find A – the best singer, B – someone who has got star potential, and someone who can represent this country all over the world, and that’s what you’re all about.”

To close the round off, Same Difference sung the S Club 7 song “Never Had a Dream Come True”. Just like the original artist in their video, the performance was given a winter-based feel to it. Once again Louis had much to resent, thinking that watching the performance was like watching a Christmas TV ad – “When I judge you, I’m judging on your singing ability. It’s not you, you’re really nice people, but there’s better singers in the competition.” Sharon actually loved Sarah’s ability to sing while not dancing. No love for Sean? And Dannii preferred their performance to the original – “I thought you did such a good job, and you know what? Family is so important – I think this time of year, everybody’s thinking about that so much, but you did incredibly well.”

A break then occurred and the voting stage continued on. 40 minutes later the results show made its arrival, but said results couldn’t be announced without a performance from the week’s guest artist. Michael Bublé came to sing “Lost” from his latest album – a song in which Simon tended to resent back at bootcamp – and spoke with Dermot considering the entire experience. He went into great detail about it all as well –

“I think Rhydian is scary… I can understand Il Divo or Josh Groban looking behind the mic but the kid’s scary. I think (Niki’s) sexy; she’s got a big voice… she puts songs across beautifully – really amidst the emotion. I think (Same Difference) are kiddy players – great voices and singularly, each one of them could blow anyone away themselves and together… it’s really kind of cool. (Leon) is a good kid, and he’s great. And you watch – he’s gonna sell millions of records and you know what’s going to happen.”

Minutes later, the phone lines were closed and the contestants were brought out for the results. The person with the least amount of votes would then be going home.

One by one the contestants were pulled back stage in no particular order. First was Same Difference with Simon in tow. And then came Rhydian, securing Dannii her place.

It all came down to Leon and Niki. And after a brief break in the matter, it was then revealed that Leon would advance to the final. Niki Evans would bail out and Louis would be without an act for the final.

Niki expressed her feelings to Dermot upon being called to him – “I feel absolutely fantastic. I want to thank everybody because they’ve been so fantastic… I’ve loved to thank Louis for picking me and Simon and Dannii and Sharon… I just felt they’re absolutely superb.” When asked what her favourite moment was, she stated it was “when Louis told (her) I got through to the live show”; when questioned about her fangirlism over Duran Duran lead singer Simon le Bon, she stated – “(he) is a lovely guy, but not as good as Louis.”

Louis, now without an act for the final, stated his word towards Dermot – “I would have loved her to have got into the final, but she has been a dream to work with. Celine Dion loved her. Michael Bublé loved her. I loved her.”

Niki’s VT was shown, showcasing all of her best moments throughout her run in the show from her audition to the current moment – seen to be an amazing journey throughout. That thought was further kept in stone when she reprised “One Moment in Time”, before leaving the stage to return to Birmingham.

And there we have it – the finalists are Leon Jackson, Rhydian Roberts and Same Difference. Who will walk away with the recording contract next week?

Given what we saw that night, it can still be anyone’s game. In my point of view, the only person who was consistent on both songs was Rhydian – to think, he got some really bad press at the start of the live shows’ run (some of it still lingering around various peers for some reason or other) and he pulled through to this stage with a voice like what he had. I’m really happy he got so far. Equally, Leon and Same Difference expressed weaknesses tonight – Leon did a weak rendition of “The Very Thought of You” but seemed to make up for it with a fun second song, even though that wasn’t even quite perfect. As for Same Difference, I preferred their vocals in “Chain Reaction” but the performance on “Never Had a Dream Come True” showed their serious side and I was happy enough with that. Niki did a fair game as well, but not even she was at her prime – “Songbird” was a great performance and I really appreciated what she did with that, but I wasn’t quite as impressed with her second song thinking that she ended up facing a few tuning issues as well as struggling to control dynamics. I would have preferred her in the final to Leon though, but I’m still okay with what there is.

The moment of truth is almost upon us – who will take the prize at the end? Be there this coming Saturday to see the final threshold of the current season of The X Factor!

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it!”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 7’ (01/12/07) -Review

December 8th, 2007

On December 1st, the seventh live show for the fourth season of the X Factor took place. The remaining five acts were to perform what can be seen as the “Best of British” – two songs each. The public vote counted more than ever as the artist with the least amount of votes was left to go home. And to cap it off, Duran Duran were the guest stars – anyone remember the episode of the Xtra Factor before the live shows begun, with Niki being really excited at the prospect of seeing lead singer Simon le Bon in person? Odds are tonight would be a case of déjà vu!

Opening the show was Rhydian singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, doing much of his rendition atop a grand piano. Louis was convinced that he’ll reach the final, adding – “Freddie Mercury would have loved that performance, ‘cause it was a great, passionate, powerful performance.” Sharon thought on the same lines before remarking on Brian Friedman’s choreography – “What happened to you with those dancers? They were amazing - fantastic routine!” Simon went on to state what he felt what his judgement for the night’s show would be all about – “Tonight it is all about, for me, proving that you could survive in the real world outside this competition as a star.” And using Rhydian’s performance as something to judge on, he once again felt that he would be a tough act to follow up.

And that act was Hope, singing “2 Become 1” from the Spice Girls. They stood and sung on a podium and the leads were shared out among Leah, Phoebe and Raquelle. The judges’ comments were mixed – Louis felt they looked great and had vocal issues but stated his judge troubles – “In my heart of hearts, I believe Beverley should be on the stage and you should be at home.” Sharon was happy with the song choice due to it written for girls and “5 part harmonies”, and they did it well. Dannii was concerned – she felt they fought rather than showed excitement and noticed some tuning issues – “I think it sounded better in the studio than it will back on the TV.” And sure enough, Simon came straight – “I’m gonna be looking – and so will the public at home – for a stunning performance second time round, ‘cause that wasn’t good enough.”

Niki came forth next to sing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, performing along a male backing singer - in a beautiful grey strapless dress. And once again the studio went wild and so did the judges – Sharon showed misunderstanding with Simon seeing her as a “polished cabaret artist” but loved her being relatable and honest, transferring that strength in her singing. Dannii found it much better than last week – though she did state that re-watching the previous week’s performance she found her singing out of tune the entire way – and stated that she looked beautiful to match. And Simon showed personal responsibility for what she did concerning recent criticisms he gave her – “I think it’s given you a kick up the butt when you needed it. And that was one of the best performances you’ve done in the past 2 or 3 weeks.”

Leon came fourth (!) to sing the second Queen number tonight, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. And it was done in a highly choreographed performance alongside backing dancers in leather jackets and black-and-white striped t-shirts. Louis loved the performance, feeling he was the most improved contestant as well – “Since you got your confidence, you were fantastic. I love your voice.” Sharon agreed with the confidence issue – though it wasn’t her favourite performance she once again drooled over his dress code. Simon’s “belief from day 1” received objections from the other judges and the audience but didn’t stop him from stating that he showed real presence and confidence. He further stated – “In this country we haven’t got a Michael Bublé or anyone like that, so I think… you’re doing incredibly well. Good for you.”

To end the first half, Same Difference performed “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The original solo vocal became a duet with alternate lines for Sean and Sarah, as well as the use of a children’s choir. First to remark was grumpy Louis – “You’re in the final five because children really like you… and we’re not looking for any people for Joseph, but if we were I’m sure you’ll be perfect.” Sharon, however, loved their style and direction to the younger market. In addition she stated – “(Simon) knows how to pull out the schmaltz – he’s got the kids with the candles and… it’s like, geez, I can’t wait to see what you’re doing in the next song!” And Dannii summed a brief thought – “The kids have overtaken the TV on Saturday night – it’s fantastic. That was a great performance for you two.”

The phone lines were opened now that all the acts sung their first song. But they still had another to go!

Round 2 came for Hope, performing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” – the third Queen song that night - and once again sharing the vocals between Leah, Phoebe and Raquelle. Flags waving, an energetic choreography and black dresses were on offer this time around. Louis loved the girls’ attitude and image but he wasn’t impressed with the performance – “Would Freddie Mercury have liked it? No, he’s spinning in his grave.” Sharon too felt that they didn’t like them singing the song but respected their risk and how they did their best with it. And Dannii stated brief thoughts once again – “You girls look amazing and I thought it was much better than the last track.”

Leon made a contrasting performance by going down a mellow path, singing the Beatles classic “The Long and Winding Road”. It was just him and a standing microphone this time around – surely a way to express vocal quality? Louis thought so in both choice and performance, and easily expressed thought about him being the dark horse of the competition. Sharon quickly summed her thoughts up well – “You have something that Rhydian doesn’t have – you’ve got heart in your eyes… you just sing a song so beautifully. You tell a story of the song.” Simon, however, had a mixed reaction – “Loved the last part, thought the first part was too tentative, but I’ll see you in the final.”

Same Difference were next, singing the Wham classic “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, going through a stage routine that could measure up to some kind of slumber party fantasy. And as usual, Louis frowned upon the gimmick used – “It was like being out of Panto at Brighton or something, but surely people are gonna start seeing through all the gimmicks – this is a talent competition.” Sharon requested them to use a bubble machine next week, and equally loved the cheesiness and silliness of their choreography along with their performance. Dannii felt the song will work for them as a single – “I love that song, love the performance, and… fantastic! Thanks for inviting us to the pyjama party!”

Niki toned things down with her second song, singing Sting’s “Fields of Gold” in the style of Eva Cassidy’s cover. The grey dress was traded in for a black number this time around and focusing it all on just her, her voice and an appropriate set of yellow lighting alongside them. Sharon loved her emotion and dignity in her performance, and felt she was a “great example of today’s working mum”. Dannii once again was brief – “It was a really great performance, but you know I always tell it like it is and that was a great performance.” And Simon was brief this time as well – “It was good, Niki; I didn’t think it was as good as the first song.”

Rhydian did an odd combination to end the show – the patriotic anthem “I Vow to Thee My Country” is fused with the Rugby World Cup anthem “World in Union” – both songs having the same melody - and so he sung them as if they were one single track. Once again it was warmly received – Louis felt everyone in Wales will support him, but there was an odd remark there – “I thought it was a little bit odd at the start but it absolutely worked, and I can see you singing that song on Songs of Praise next year.” Sharon stated she didn’t know the song (one word – how?) but felt he sung it well. And Simon shared his opinion – “I don’t think it matters whether you’re Welsh, Scottish, English, British, Irish… whatever; I mean, that was outstanding.”

Near the end of the voting stage, Duran Duran came to perform two songs – classic hit “Notorious” and their new track “Nite Runner” (of course, without the input of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake). The four-piece band stated that they found much to like with Hope and Niki that night – by that judgment of comment, Ms Evans could very well be over the moon!

But all too soon, the lines were closed and the remaining five acts were brought on stage to decide who would go according to the public vote. And one by one, the four remaining acts were stated in no particular order.

The first to be saved was “Simon le Bon’s favourite”, Niki. Second to move ahead was Leon. And joining them came Rhydian. It was all down to Same Difference and Hope – a bad night for Simon Cowell.

And after a tense minute of talk and silence, it was announced that Same Difference would move onto the semi-finals and Hope would be going home.

The five girls came to join Dermot for their last words. Raquelle spoke for the “ultimate survivors” first of all – “We’ve had an amazing journey – we’re the only five piece that has ever made it to the final five so we are so happy and thank you to everybody who’s voted for us. You know, we appreciate that so much. And I tell you what – there’s a future for us. You know, we’re not splitting up – we’re gonna keep going – we hope not, and we’re gonna stay that way.” Their VT was then shown, displaying their journey throughout.

Phoebe summarized her thoughts of the band experience after it – “We’ve enjoyed every minute of it – you know, we’re like best of friends and it’s gonna be hard leaving each other.” They all collectively thought that their performance of “Umbrella” was their best gig throughout the live shows as well.

A reprise of “We Will Rock You” was sung, and that received as much appraisal as it did the first time around. And afterwards, Raquelle showed her final words – “We’re Hope forever now, and we want this so much, and we’re gonna keep working for it. And hopefully, you know, we’ll release a song and everyone will like it.”

And as Hope leave the competition, the final four acts will move on. Personally I’m glad that the girls have gone out at this stage – we didn’t need another girl band as we still have Girls Aloud and the Sugababes still going strong. And if they have to give out solos, they should never have given them to Raquelle – “2 Become 1″ was spoilt due to some out-of-tune solos from her. I dug “We Will Rock You” though – not quite the song they should be singing, true, but they brought the house down nonetheless.

Summarising the other acts really quickly, Rhydian is once again putting his all into his performances due in part on the song choices; Leon won me over with his first song’s performance but not so much with his second one; Niki’s variation on “Total Eclipse” was a show-stopping performance for me and I found a new favourite from her due to that, though like Simon said “Fields of Gold” wasn’t quite as impressive; and Same Difference used gimmicks to some degree but they pulled off “Any Dream Will Do” better than I expected, and I hold them in high regard for that.

Still, something needed to be done about Louis – throughout tonight, he made personal digs at Dannii as a recording artist and showed extreme bitterness towards both groups because of Beverley being sent home last week. Talk about sensitive skin – I won’t be surprised if he gets sacked again next year.

But either way, next week the theme is “Contestants, Judges and their Choices” and the guest artist will be Leon’s idol himself, Michael Bublé. It’s going to be a really tough fight to the final, so watch this space…!

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 6’ (24/11/07) -Review

December 1st, 2007

On November 25th, the sixth X Factor live show took place and the theme for that was love songs, with Westlife being the guest act. The remaining six acts took to the stage in a series of low-to-mid-tempo numbers in a bid to remain in the competition.

The first person that came to sing was Beverley with a rendition of Badfinger’s “Without You”, with a pianist on stage to carry her vocal support throughout the song. I admit, I was worried for her but I thought she performed it a lot better than I thought she would. The judges equally stated appraisal for her – Sharon stated that she sung one of the greatest love songs written and loved it, and Dannii was taken back by surprise stating that she struggled during the dress rehersal and felt she “got in the zone” again in the real one. Simon did have concerns over the song and her nerves on wanting to get into the top 5, but stated his thoughts – “even though it wasn’t perfect, you made it special and I believed everything that you sang.”

Simon’s acts were then to come to the fore next. First came Same Difference, both doing a rendition of Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” with just themselves and a couple of microphones – no gimmicks whatsoever. Heck, even they actually started to make Louis lighten up a little – “I’m glad you got rid of all the dancers and all the gimmicks. If I was looking for two nice, happy people, you would be the perfect people there’ll be, but… guys, if you won it would be a travesty.” Ouch – what WOULD make them less of a travesty for you, Mr Walsh? Give Sarah a sex change and model herself after one of the Westlife boys? Give Sean plastic surgery?

Odd thoughts aside, at least Dannii felt happy seeing Louis’ uncomfortable expression throughout the performance – “it wasn’t note perfect the whole way but the big notes you pulled out were spectacular – that’s new singing we haven’t seen this year!” Even Sharon was happy that they were even there – “(Daddy Warbucks) has taken you out of Blue Peter and taken you into ’07… you look amazing and you were fantastic.”

After that, there came Rhydian, coming onto the stage to sing “Somewhere” from the musical West Side Story. Once again the gimmicks were dropped – it was just him and his voice. The judges were all impressed with that, with Louis feeling that he was a true professional – “You’re definitely gonna make the final, you’re very passionate and you’re head and shoulders above everybody”. Sharon questioned Rhydian’s attempts to audition for Joseph on Any Dream Will Do before mentioning thus – “I thought (Andrew Lloyd Webber) had taste but he messed up on you mister, because he let you go, but he gave us the opportunity to have you here.” Simon, also being glad that his VT showed him as a decent guy, felt that Rhydian was a star in the making – “I thought the vocal was perfect and I think you would be an incredible winner for this competition.”

It was Niki’s turn next, singing “The Power of Love” from Jennifer Rush. Opening with an a capella opener and a scenic background of red curtains, she moved into a powerful performance, getting back into the power ballads that she does best. Even Sharon approved as well, loving the song and the vocal emotion – “he knows (Louis) has got two great divas… but you tonight were unbelievable and you deserve to be here ‘til the very end.”

Dannii felt her emotion and the way she used it to carry the song but she couldn’t help but leave a light criticism – “Just leading up to the end you lost it on the notes, you know that, and it’s such a scary note… but the rest of it was great.” Even Simon felt the same way over being critical among such emotional performances but still felt that she was a lot better than the previous week – “Why I am so impressed with what you just did? Because we’ve now got ourselves a competition. Good for you.”

After that came Hope doing a questionable interpretation of Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” – Phoebe sung the lead vocals, while the other girls seemed to be more restricted on vocal input than the usual. Usually I can be supportive of what Phoebe could potentially do, but I think pitch-wise she had a few struggles this week. Louis seemed to be glad he saved the girls last week and felt they looked more like a girl group, but questioned Phoebe’s lead that time and four girls doing “oohs and aahs” (though Simon later contradicted his statement by using “Patience” by Take That and how Gary sung the song with the rest of the band being nothing but backing singers). Sharon and Dannii praised Phoebe’s vocals, but the former expressed concern for the other girls – “this contest is so hot right now – there’s such big time competition in there.” Miss Minogue went on to state that the performance wasn’t note-perfect, but still felt that Phoebe was a force to be reckoned with.

And to cap off the show was Leon singing Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me”, obviously done in the same style as Michael Bublé’s cover two years ago. Just as I predicted he showed a mellow side to his vocal, performing in a tuxedo and just showing his vocals. Louis felt that he picked a great song and was improving, but he still had issues with him being too much like Bublé himself – “I want Leon, because you’re as good as (him)”. Sharon showed full appraisal, feeling he was relaxed in what he did and still saw him as the “dark horse” of the competition. Simon wasn’t completely optimistic, feeling that he screwed up the vocals and timing at the beginning, but he showed that this week he felt Leon actually had a place in the competition – “Forget the Michael Bublé thing; it doesn’t matter. This is what you do incredibly well, and by any standard that was an incredible performance.”

A 40 minute recess and a live performance by Westlife followed, with them performing “I’m Already There” from their new album Back Home. Seriously, can the four Irish lads do something *original* rather than a predictable Lonestar cover? Either way, they delivered and showed their optimism for the show either way. Kian was there prior to the live shows with Louis picking out his Over 25s and so it would have been thoughtful to him to see Beverley and Niki go as far as they did.

But either way, the results were read out and it was down to two acts to sing for what could be their last time. Beverley and Hope were left to compete, ready to give their all in a bid to stay in the competition.

And once they did, the judges made the vote. Simon and Louis (who expressed extreme passion for his defending act) stuck with their own acts.

Dannii expressed her thoughts in a nutshell – “I so don’t want to do this… you’ve all sung your hearts out tonight and I don’t want to see anyone go. I really don’t. I have to go with the act that I think is the most consistent.” And on those comments, she decided to send Hope home.

Sharon however decided to be difficult – “It’s a really hard decision and I’m doing this for a reason, and you’ll realise the reason when I say it.”

And so, Sharon’s vote brought about a deadlock – the stage was lit red in response to this critical reaction. Dermot explained the situation - “Judges, you failed to reach a majority verdict. You now lost your power to decide. I’m gonna have to refer to the earlier public vote.”

Dermot was given a silver envelope and explained its purpose – “The act that received the fewest votes, and therefore will be going home tonight, is here in this envelope. This is it.”

The envelope was opened, and it was revealed that Beverley Trotman would be going home.

Hope and most of the panel were left in shock at the verdict, as the band returned backstage with the other four contestants. Afterwards Beverley’s VT was shown, showing her journey from start to finish. And after seeing all that, she expressed her last words -

“Honestly, I really have appreciated this opportunity so, so much. I’ve loved it. It’s been hard work, but I really loved it. You know, Simon has given me a massive opportunity, Louis… I have started the journey, so I really feel quite excited. This is not the end!”

And as she returns to Luton to be with class 6T, the other five acts press forward. But seriously, I’m just as shocked as the people there – she didn’t get my vote that night, true, but Hope clearly did the weakest performance when it comes to concerns like vocal quality, group gelling and effort, all three elements showing a lack thereof. Meanwhile, I was worried for Bev as she had a tough song to sing but she pulled it off with such grace and I felt happy for her.

And it wasn’t her that upped her game – most of the contestants did, making this a very noteworthy addition to the live show segments if we remove its bittersweet conclusion. Same Difference provided their best performance, showing what they can do without gimmicks and showing how expressive they can be with their vocals at the same time. Niki provided a very impressive a capella opening and equally powerful vocals for most of the duration of the track, though I still worry for her diversity and proof of showing that now that she has come so far. Rhydian’s performance was jaw-droppingly amazing and I ended up finding a new favorite from him tonight as well. And as for Leon, he didn’t quite win me over as favourably as some of the other contestants, but I am very proud to see that his confidence has built so much and that can especially be seen through his stage presence and vocal tone.

Next week we are looking at the Best of British with Duran Duran coming on as the guest artist. It’s pop music with a side serving of bangers and mash, so be there!

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 5’ (17/11/07) -Review

November 24th, 2007

November 17th saw the fifth of the X Factor live shows, with the theme being Disco. All remaining seven acts were to ride a Saturday night groove train in their attempts to impress the audience and viewing public with their performances and – hopefully – equally score some positive feedback from “Cowell and the Gang”.

First came Leon singing Dan Hartman’s “Relight My Fire”, complete with several dancing females around him as he showcased his vocals. His performance was well received from the audience, and even Louis was taken by surprise, seeing it as his best performance so far - though he thought he couldn’t compare to Rhydian in the competition, in which Leon thought he was in the same league in. Sharon, who was equally as optimistic over his performance, thought otherwise – “You’ve got to have likeability… you’ve got to have charisma… and all the best things come in little packages and you’re all little and lovely!” Simon, in spite of thinking that Leon would have a disastrous time with the theme, also thought it was good, though in the dancing aspect he thought he “spent the whole time looking up the dancers’ skirts!”

Following him was Niki, going on to sing Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” in a performance complete with as many suggestive men as there were women in Leon’s prior campaign. Surely a more familiar track to her would have given her more credit than the previous two weeks? Sharon thought so and thought she could dance because she had “heart and soul” as well as a great voice. Dannii wasn’t sure over where the performance would have gone as it went on but she found the result to be “extra jalopeno”! Though, Simon ended up being the minority, thinking the performance had “no place in the modern world”, thought Louis “choreographed (it) in (his) sleep” and initially thought her performance was “mum at a wedding”. Louis’ remark back was thus – “It’s called disco!” Take note of the comment…!

The third act to sing was Rhydian, doing a performance of the Village People’s “Go West” – donning a HMS Dannii sailor’s uniform with a Welsh choir donning the same kind of uniform. Already thinking that it’s camp as Hell? You’re right to think of it like that, and even the judges thought the same way – “As camp as Christmas”, Louis stole one of Sharon’s lines from last year; “Dannii is giving you too many gimmicks now. It’s supposed to be about talent and she’s acting as if you’ve won the contest already.” Sharon felt the same way, but she loved it – “on my camp richter scale it was definitely 100!” Additionally, Simon felt as if Rhydian would have been vulnerable – “There is a proportion of this audience who would love that but I think your traditional audience are gonna hate that.” And Dannii’s remark was thus – “It’s disco week and on behalf of the nation, we salute you Rhydian – you are here to stay!” Again with using the Disco theme as a part of self-defence…!

Then came Hope, coming to sing ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” with lyrics infused from Madonna’s “Hung Up”, all wearing outfits that made them appear like a genuine 1970s girl band. Louis thought they did well, even thinking they were ‘vocally’ “better than the Spice Girls”. Sharon felt Hope were comfortable with the theme and thought they were confident with their theme. Dannii felt they looked like a proper girl band, with Simon agreeing with her statement. Though, Louis DID question the outfit – “They look a bit 70s”. Simon’s response – “Disco night, Louis”. Are all the judges blaming it on the boogie or what?

Next was Beverley - she picked her own song this week, choosing Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman”. Coming on stage with a sparking silver and black outfit and three backing singers donning afro-hair, this was a far cry from her disco attempt in the first live show. Sharon felt she was “very special” and felt she did a fantastic performance, even feeling that her class 6T enjoyed it as well. Dannii loved it as well – “By the end of the song, you were so in the zone!” Simon approved her choosing her own song, though he disliked her outfit and the start of the song. But based on the powerful second half, he thought it was the night’s best performance. Yet when Simon said he hated the outfit, Louis stated – “It’s 70s! It’s Disco!” Here we go again…

And the next act that came on to sing was Alisha, the last of the girls, singing “Young Hearts Run Free” in a leopard skin number and with roller-skaters going across the stage. The judges’ reactions were mixed though – Louis loved her to the point that she shouldn’t be in the bottom two, as well as feeling that she improved week by week and was “starting to look and act like a pop star”. Dannii, however, didn’t like the “disco playground” on the count of it clashing with her fierce appearance as well as some of the flat notes in the performance, and even Simon backed up her statement – “There was one point when they’re all kind of practically falling over around you like they’re some kind of nightmare circle and then, you sang out of tune!”

The bitterness should presumably calm down by the time Same Difference came to the fore, closing the show with their rendition of “Blame It on the Boogie”, donning metallic cabaret-like outfits and contrasting dancers to sing to at various points of the song. Surprisingly, Sharon broke in first and loved the song choice for them, as well as stating that – “I know you had a hard time because you changed (the song) just last night, so you literally picked it up in like an hour or something, which is amazing.” Dannii also felt they had a lot to deal with as well, but she wasn’t sure about what they did. And Louis pushed his opinion out of it, thinking that they won’t sell a lot of records and won’t go beyond Butlins – “I’m not gonna blame it on the boogie. I’m gonna blame this very firmly on Simon Cowell, again.”

The results came after a break for about an hour. Prior to then, guest mentors Girls Aloud came to sing their new single “Call the Shots”, stated their support to the contestants with Beverley and Hope gaining the strongest mentions, and – in the case of Sarah – being presented with a “Rhyd Wig” for her birthday from Dermot. Turns out that HE was the one who ended up wearing it!

But in spite of the respite, the final two HAD to be announced. And as a result, Alisha and Hope were left to sing off, both of them having been in that situation before. Both of them gave the performance of their lives, and even Alisha showed a boost in vocal performance as she sung for her last time.

Then it was time for the judges to make their decisions.

Not surprisingly, Simon and Sharon stuck with their own acts. Dannii didn’t state a specific reason and once again felt as if she didn’t want to send anyone home, but she chose to send home Alisha.

And when it came to Louis, he too didn’t want to make the decision – “I like both of these acts. I think both can get so much better. There was other people in the competition that should be in the bottom two – it shouldn’t be these two.” However, in spite of it, he made a decision anyway.

And as a result, Alisha Bennett – the last of Sharon’s girls – was the next act to go

Hope left the stage in tears, but Alisha held a straight face, feeling that she “did all (she) could do” nonetheless. After her VT was shown, she received a wild applause from the audience – proof that she was a strong spirited contestant throughout.

Sharon, now with no acts left, was questioned over what would happen to her in future shows. She thus stated – “I’m gonna be totally impartial and I will be the only one who’s totally impartial, because I’ve got nothing to gain or lose.”

We can only see the truth of her actions next week, but for now, I have to admit this wasn’t really a week in which I saw the best of any of the artists to be honest. I have to admit, Leon pulled off a fun effort that placed it among his best, though I would have thought his moves on stage made him look a little shaky in comparison to what he did with “Fly Me to the Moon” two weeks ago. Either way, he pulled off a fun enough effort that almost made me vote for him. It’s a similar thing with Hope – while not a lot of people appreciated the setup of the band and their vocal style tonight, it was then that I thought they were started to be carried across as a more proper girl band and thought they could have evaded the bottom two due to that. Does anyone think it’s because they’re wearing trousers again?

I’ve loved Rhydian a lot over the past few weeks but “Go West” was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I love my camp at times but that might have been a bit over the top to consider clean interest with. It was a bit of a set back in comparison to “You Raise Me Up” last week. The same happened with Same Difference – loved them last week, though this week they faced more setbacks when needed. I appreciate that they faced a song choice in the last minute and pulled it off well during the time they’ve had, but I hope this kind of routine doesn’t really persist.

Niki and Beverley both did well representing the Over 25s this week – singing some strong diva-esque tracks to help carry their vocals across. I find it surprising that they both reached the halfway stage, though I have a feeling that vulnerabilities could end up showing as the weeks go on. We saw a bit of that tonight with Niki’s stage routine on her song and the struggled vocals at the start of Bev’s; I really hope that either girls – or better, both – would provide a powerful performance to match earlier weeks, otherwise they might struggle to keep in the competition from this point on.

Alisha was the right person to go in my point of view, out of all seven contestants. Amidst them, she’s the one that seemed to have the most flaws when it came to vocal performance; coupling that with audience reception over her in the past few weeks and I felt that she ended up peaking. Whichever, I highly respect her good sportsmanship at the end, and I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of that when she comes to the live tour.

This coming week WAS going to be a Motown week, but Simon scrapped it in favour of a Love themed week. I hope you’ll all bring a box of Kleenex for the occasion, as there might not be a dry eye in the house… or will there?

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it!”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 4’ (10/11/07) -Review

November 14th, 2007

November 10th was when the fourth of the X Factor Season 4 live shows took place. The remaining eight contestants were challenged to perform songs made recognisable in the 21st Century, so that meant a wide range of modern era hits were to be performed on the night.

Niki, one of the two females representing Louis’ Over 25s, started the show by performing Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” wearing a black number that tried just as much to get her into present day as the song. Sharon found herself struggling to push her positive “British belter” commentary over a reactive audience, with even Simon agreeing with her later. However, Dannii begged to differ due to the song choice – “I didn’t think it was right for you because I didn’t believe that you loved the song. A few bits were out of sync, a few bits were sharp and flat… it wasn’t your best performance.” Simon on the other hand loved how Niki zeroed in on her, thus stating that he was “more important to (her) now than Louis”!

Then came Simon’s first act for the evening, being Same Difference. The sibling duo provided a clean vocal performance on the Scissor Sisters’ “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” along with a set of gimmicks including but not limited to a bicycle ride on stage, “toy dancers” springing to life and bubbles with the band initials on them.
Not even being given the balloons convinced Louis to be fully optimistic about them, stating that they were fun but they were also “too much Disney”. Sharon also had a mixed opinion with the staging – “It’s like something Michael Jackson would have dreamed up… what was that to do with the song? They can sing great, they dance great… that’s not entertainment, that’s madness!”
It resulted in a brief confrontation between her and Simon, with Dannii stepping in to break the argument and show her opinions, believing that the duo made the entire performance look easy – “You take so much on board and it seems that nobody’s noticing how great you are. I thought you were fantastic.”

Andy started Dannii’s representations next by a performance of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”, complete with two standing guitarists and pyrotechnics. Louis recognised the track as potentially the most known of 2007, and felt that that was one of his better songs given for him to sing, though he did feel that something was “missing”. Sharon ended up feeling the same way, feeling he was a great singer but he thought he had the right direction – “You’re too soft to be rock. There’s no ‘kahonas’ there, you know what I mean.” And Simon ended up comparing his performance to “eating caviar with salad cream”, feeling that his voice didn’t work with the track once again.

Next in line came Beverley’s rendition of “You’re Beautiful” from James Blunt – a mellow performance with the only company she received being an acoustic guitarist. The judges’ comments were once again mixed – Sharon felt that she was one of few in the contest that “sung from the heart” and conveyed a performance style from that in which could place her back in the final. Dannii also warmly appraised the vulnerability she gave to the performance to some extent – “Everybody appreciated that, but bring back the diva next week, please.” Simon however wasn’t quite as impressed – he thought it sounded more like a hotel showcase and didn’t quite give an edge to her vocal, hence feeling her rendition was a “peanut performance”.

Hope came to the fore next to round off Simon’s acts, singing “Back to Black” from Amy Winehouse – a watered down performance relying purely on vocals, with Phoebe carrying them most of the way. I personally felt they did a lot better than in the previous two weeks, though they still came off as a little bit sloppy in the beginning and end. Louis gave them a warm reception, glad to have saved them last night, with Sharon soon echoing his statement. Dannii ended up feeling that they were much better than last year, though she had concern with the early parts of the song – “The first two notes were so out of tune… and I was thinking… are you gonna be able to bring this back? The rest of it was good.”

Leon then came to sing “Dancing in the Moonlight” – not a modern hit by anyone’s standards, but it was made known from Toploader, which made it more than fitting enough for him to attempt it. It was purely him alone on stage, showing as much vocal performance as he possibly could. The judges’ reception was mixed in comparison to last week – “We don’t need a Michael Bublé impersonator… it was like you were singing in a karaoke competition in Scotland”, stated Louis. Sharon disagreed with him though – “I can just see you growing and growing each week. Your performance… you’re gaining more and more confidence.” Simon ended up figuring out how Leon did so well so far and pinned it down to his likeability, though he felt that it wasn’t the best vocal performance he heard.

Alisha then brought her performance home for Sharon, singing Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On”, and much like Leon it was just herself, her movements and her vocals. Louis felt that she did a great performance, further stating that she “did not deserve to be in the bottom two”. Danni echoed his statement, feeling she looked “fierce” and felt the song was written to suit her. Simon however felt that she had a better song than last week but felt she was building in confidence – “I actually thought the song suited you particularly towards the end where you put a bit of personality and character into it. Whether it’s enough to survive the bottom two, I don’t know.”

Rounding off the night there came Rhydian doing – wait for it – a ballad. And it’s a good one at that – he intended to move the audience with his rendition of Secret Garden’s “You Raise Me Up” in the direction of Westlife’s version, and it was revealed at the end that he did that with Dannii! The judges’ reaction was a lot more positive than in previous weeks – Louis stated to have recorded thousands of versions of the song and felt his rendition was one of the best versions he heard – “You are a true professional. I know you’re a really nice guy and I know you’re gonna have a massive career whether you win or lose this competition.” Sharon loved to see him standing there and delivering a “powerful, fantastic performance” and believed he is capable of making a serious record. Simon too felt that he did well with his song, comparing his vocals to the quality of Leona from last year’s show before ultimately echoing Louis’s statement on his rendition of the song being “one of the best versions (he had) ever heard”.

That then left the public to vote. After guest star Shayne Ward came on to perform his new single “Breathless” and show his support for the acts that came on, the tallying of the public votes from the show’s lengthy intermission occurred and the bottom two were slowly left standing on the stage. As a result, Andy and Beverley were to sing off for what could have been their last time.

And after that, the judges made a decision on who would stay and who would go.

Louis and Dannii stuck up strongly for their own acts – no surprises there. Sharon ended up feeling bad when she saw Andy in tears, but she ended up sending him home anyway.

It then all boiled down to Simon, who felt both had a weak night and the public vote reflected that as well. In the end, he stated this – “I’m gonna make my decision based on who I think the public would like to see.”

And as a result, Andy Williams was left to return home.

His VT was shown along with his highlights over the past few weeks, and after that he shared his final words with the studio audience and a teary expression – “I’ll just thank everyone for supporting me, for getting me this far in the competition and… I just hope that I didn’t let my family down.”

Whichever happened, he had to return to South Wales while the show rages on for the other seven contestants. And when it came to the vocal performance, I felt that Andy did the weakest one that night and I felt relieved when it was reflected upon the public vote as well as the decision with the bottom two in the end. He had a good run though, so I feel happy enough that he would potentially return to sing in next year’s live tour.

Concerning the other contestants, there were vulnerabilities almost all around.

- Niki once again sung a song that she didn’t know well enough, and it showed in her vocal performance and timings in places, so that might have been a factor in her being a potential bottom two candidate as well.
- Same Difference did what I felt was a better set of vocals than in previous weeks. I didn’t let the staging put me off though – I was just happy that they brought their performance home.
- Beverley’s vulnerability was an issue. I loved her change of direction there, though I would have felt that was not what the public might have wanted.
- Hope had a tough task to do an Amy Winehouse song, and I felt they delivered a much better performance than in the previous two weeks as stated above. They just need to polish up their vocals in places just a little bit more and they could be seen as a more potential candidate to at least reach the final four.
- Leon was also in a tough spot – I was impressed by last week’s performance, and I felt he didn’t quite live up to it this time around, stating that purely on the quality of the vocal this time around.
- It’s true that Alisha had a better song to sing last week, but the thing is she delivered a great vocal and showed so much of what she was capable of.
- Rhydian’s performance wasn’t quite as moving as I thought it could be, but it was then that I felt he could sweep up a wider audience by that one sweeping rendition. He could represent Dannii really well in the end.

Next week it’s Disco Week with Girls Aloud coming to sing on the show. I have hopes for many 70s classics being sung for the occasion, but only time can tell what will be chosen to perform and what will be left aside.

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it!”

Italian Job - Computer Game

November 13th, 2007

What is it?
In 1969 Peter Collinson’s original “The Italian job” movie was thrust onto the big screens. It became an instant classic and to this day is an hilarious gag, that represents everything we love about British comedy. With the video-games industry a fast growing market, it seemed inevitable that our well liked car chasing motion picture would have its very own tie-in video game. Sure enough, thanks to SCI , The Italian Job PC game came into existence. Everyone’s favorite film redefined through 16 trivial car racing missions. It takes you anywhere from the red bus thronged streets of London to the cramped suburbs and busy highways of Turin. The story line, narrated by fake British voice actors, loosely follows the film plot. This has little bearing on the player whose missions exclusively involve driving to a location within a certain time limit. Certainly no attempt has been made to include humor or entertainment into the frequent mini cut-scenes. Driving around the spacious streets of London & Turin, chasing trains, recruiting criminals and smashing through traffic does have a certain amount of appeal. London and Turin are easily large enough to cater for the variety of extra driving game add-ons such as a free-driving mode and checkpoint challenges. Drive fast, avoid collisions and soon you will find yourself fleeing Turin with $4,000,000 in your car boot!

What I liked:
The game’s biggest assets and probably its major selling point are the Mini’s. They are a nostalgic pleasure to drive, and they handle best out of the 14 available cars. Hours of fun can be derived from the two diverse Free-driving environments. Fleeing from police, jumping ramps and searching for the mini-challenges hidden around the cities all keep you coming back (at least for a while) after the main campaign is over. Surprisingly the party mode (group-playing option) is often more entertaining than the main game itself! To mention the menu system in a review might seem to border on the ridiculous. But it’s a real pleasure to play a game where the interface is user-friendly, the menu is pretty and useful things like the volume control are available from the pause menu.

What I didn’t like:
The first thing to come to mind is collision. Upon hitting walls and other cars you will cringe as your car is knocked in the wrong direction, receives wildly inconsistent amounts of damage or is even stopped dead by a mere glancing blow. That these problems exist in a finished game is testament to either a rush in production or a lack of spending on the part of SCI. I suspect the latter. Another low budget let-down is the handling. It is unrealistic and inconsistent. Small amounts of steering are deceptively forgiving, luring you into over-steering and then punishing you for ambitious turns. The scenery is SCI’s biggest failure. The cities, except for key locations, are made up of flat cube shaped buildings whose blurry textures detract from what should be atmospheric cities. Police further spoil the mood with their homicidal tenancies, on the spot rotation and their excessively fast cars. Escaping the boys in blue has never been more frustrating.

Bottom line:
Light hearted frolicking in unresponsive vehicles, innocent but steady pleasure from a low budget car game . If you love the movie, or you find this in a bargain bin then buy it, but don’t spend any serious cash on this one.

Review written by Alex from the Teen Review
http://www.theteenreview.com/

X-Factor ‘Live Show 3’ (03/11/07) -Review

November 6th, 2007

On November 3rd, the third X Factor Season 4 live show took place and it was up to the remaining ten contestants to deliver another set of live performances in front of the judges… or rather, nine?

“Some viewers might be aware this week, serious allegations about aggressive behaviour came to light regarding one of our contestants, Emily Nakanda”, explained presenter Dermot O’ Leary in a pre-recorded clip before the pre-show footage began. “The producers have carried out a thorough investigation in conjunction with Emily’s family and this has resulted in Emily withdrawing from The X Factor. For the remaining nine acts, the competition continues.”

And what a competition it turned out to be – for tonight, the acts were expected to perform with a 27-piece live orchestra in a Big Band themed night. But unlike last year’s Big Band theme when pop standards were mainly the order of the day, the acts ended up singing songs in the style of Big Band for most of the time. Shame - I wanted to see a performance of “Mack the Knife”.

Luckily, the first song sung was the only pop standard sung in the entire night and that was from Leon. Shown in his VT before his rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon”, he seemed frustrated that Simon wasn’t criticising his voice; luckily he received a better reaction from the judges this time around. Louis felt the genre was his comfort zone but he started to see some personality from him, further adding – “You no longer look like Pete Doherty; you look like yourself.” Sharon compared himself to a dark horse racing its way to the final, and Simon followed Leon’s wishes to comment on his voice, thinking they were “very good”.

Next, Simon launched his groups into action, firstly by sending Futureproof to the fore singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”. The aim as shown in the VT was to get them to dance, but Louis pointed out that they didn’t do any dancing at all but “swayed” as Sharon pointed out later. He also claimed to have issues with the “book ends” of the band members’ positions throughout – obviously referring to Matthew and Aaron. Dannii further had issues with the song choice and thought their dance routines didn’t work, though Simon backed up his statement by stating there were issues with their routine and had 20 minutes to prepare a new one for the night.

Louis then sent one of the Over 25s in after that, being Niki. After two stellar ballad performances, she set out to do something different by singing “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Sharon thought she did a performance that managed to pay off and Dannii came to adore the high notes portrayed upon the song. Simon however thought otherwise – “I thought it was very cabaret, awkward, unbelievable and you should never have allowed that (trombone) player between your legs!”

Round 2 for the boys came in the form of Rhydian, doing a rendition of “Get the Party Started” based on Shirley Bassey’s cover. It wasn’t plain sailing though – Louis thought it was over the top, blaming the song as a catalyst. Sharon was more optimistic, being left speechless not long after comparing him in his sequin outfit with the Snow Queen from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Simon then chipped in with appraisal, stating what the show is about, namely on putting on a show, being remembered and having incredible vocals – “I think it was for a lot of reasons, it has been my most favourite performance on The X Factor this year.”

To follow on from that performance, Same Difference came to sing “Reach”. Their goal to actually impress Louis kind of worked – he felt that the performance was a lot better than he thought it would be, but he also thought he “could only see (them) working forever and ever and ever in Panto”. Sharon saw nothing wrong with Panto and was more optimistic, to the point of wondering what their mother placed in their milk! Even Dannii thought that by witnessing their rehersals in the canteen she felt they were getting better every week.

Sharon finally had her turn with her last Girl – Alisha. Singing “Valerie”, she received a lot more appraisal than in previous weeks. Louis commended her in her appearance and song choice and felt she shouldn’t be in the bottom two; Dannii felt that “sometimes we have to be pushed to be our best”, believing that she nailed the performance; Even Simon thought he did the best performance yet – “Everyone likes a fighter… and I saw you fighting your way through every second of that song to go ‘keep me in the competition’. Good for you.”

Hope then came next with a rendition of “Hanky Panky” that resulted in a routine in which ultimately gave Simon a lipstick kiss on his face by the end! The judges were once again optimistic over it – Louis in particular felt there was room for a new girl band, and Sharon especially appreciated their dress sense (although she DID frown upon the song choice). Dannii thought that Simon was “living out some kind of weird fantasy” with their routine, before stating to the girls – “You’re not the strongest vocalists in this show, but you’re pulling it together in a really nice way.”

Andy then provided some Herb Alpert coverage with “This Guy’s In Love With You”. His performance was met with a strong audience reaction, though the judges’ thoughts were slightly mixed. Louis praised his voice and appearance, but he didn’t like the song on the case of it being “too obscure”. Sharon thought he had the voice but lacked energy. And Simon thought the final part was the best part – “for the very first time since you’ve been on the show, I actually heard an attempt to sing.” But he felt that he was unable to see him as a recording artist at that moment in time and saw it as something he’d hear at a hotel.

Beverley received a welcome surprise with her school class 6T cheering on at her in the audience as she sung “Feeling Good”. That received a very strong reactive audience reaction as well, with the judges being equally optimistic. Sharon felt she owned the stage when she performed, Dannii felt that Louis improved on the song choice after what happened with Daniel the week before, and Simon felt she had an incredible third week – “This is definitely bringing out the best of you, and you know, you’ve been under Niki’s shadow for 3 weeks but not tonight.”

After the voting stage and a live performance on the show from guest stars Boyz II Men - whom felt that Rhydian and Beverley impressed them the most – the artists were sent towards the stage to see which of the seven would automatically return next week. Ultimately, the final two was a surprise – Hope and Futureproof, the two reject-based bands, were left to sing in a bid to stay in the show.

The judges were more thorough in their decisions this time – Louis wanted Futureproof sent home due to thinking that their performance was “sloppy”. Sharon simply liked Hope more and wanted Futureproof gone. Dannii felt that neither act did well, but judged based not only on last night’s performance but also on prior weeks; feeling that the boys did better, she wanted Hope gone.

When it came to Simon, he stated – “I’m gonna make this decision on who I think has got the best long term potential. I’m not gonna judge on tonight’s performance.”

And his tactics left Futureproof to leave the show.

After their VT was played, Aaron provided some last words – “We loved it tonight… we did what we did with (the song) basically. We’re shocked as well but everyone’s game was high tonight, so yeah, I could have seen it to be honest.”

And Adam stated – “Listen, the only thing I can say to everyone out here – there’s a reason we’re called Futureproof and this is the beginning for us and you know that as well as we do. So thank you everyone for showing us support up until now, and trust me – our album will be in shops one day and you lot are gonna love it.”

And as Futureproof leave the show in high spirits, it’s only fair to look back. I thought Hope were prone for the bottom two with the same kind of vocal flaws they had last week, though I wasn’t expecting them to actually BE there due to the judges’ general optimism over them. I thought Futureproof were in the clear with what they did as well – while not as great as prior weeks I dug their change of direction and their vocals seemed to gel just as well. I think Hope should have gone home this week, but I’m not exactly going to be in a hanky panky over it, pun intended.

I also thought Niki, Same Difference and Andy were vulnerable – Niki on the count of doing something different but in the wrong kind of direction, Same Difference on the count of struggling vocal quality in comparison to prior weeks and Andy for not really doing a memorable performance by the judges’ standards. Rhydian once again provided a great and memorable performance – love him or hate him you just can’t deny that his vocals were spot on. And Beverley, Alisha and Leon ALL upped their game in a rapid fashion as well – from what I’ve seen that night, I think I’ve found my most favourite performances in the series so far for those three acts.

Next week we’re dealing with Modern Classics with Shayne Ward coming on as a guest star. I have a feeling that it won’t be as much as a memorable night as this one, but if everyone keeps upping their game in the way they did with the live band, then I will be mightily impressed.

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“envisage it, believe it, achieve it!”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 2’ (27/10/07) -Review

November 3rd, 2007

On October 27th, the second of the X Factor live shows occurred; the theme was ‘Songs from the Silver Screen’ and all eleven contestants not only had performances to learn but also they had a masterclass with that week’s guest star – Celine Dion.

Opening the show was Hope doing a flirtatious rendition of “Lady Marmalade” from Moulin Rouge. I’m probably speaking for myself here but I didn’t find it as impressive as last week’s performance – the solos were rough all over the place, and the choral parts didn’t gel as much as I thought they did before. Oddly enough, the judges gave them unanimous praise, with Louis claiming that they look as if they were “doing it for years”, Sharon claiming that the Pussycat Dolls should move over, Dannii believing the audience reaction would say everything about their performance and Simon thinking they were the “best group (they’ve) ever had on (the show)”.

Sanity was soon restored with Leon coming to the fore next, singing Michael Bublé’s “Home” as heard in The Wedding Date. The general reaction was stated that he did a better performance last week, though criticisms were brought up relating to charisma and confidence. Even Simon took it further thinking that he looked as if he was “invited for a quiet chat in Louis’ dressing room”, adding that he looked too afraid to connect to the audience.

Speaking of artists that upped their game from the week before, Beverley did just that by singing “I Have Nothing” from The Bodyguard. Even Sharon took it far by looking back – “That silly wig you had on last week was keeping it all in! Now you’ve got it off, we see you’re an amazing woman.” Dannii further claimed that she was “inspirational to women” with what she managed to do on the stage.

Finally it was Sharon’s turn to send an act on stage and it was Alisha singing “I Say A Little Prayer”, as featured on My Best Friend’s Wedding. Louis claimed that he did the right decision in saving her from the final two last week – “Tonight you were a different looking girl. You come out looking like a baby Whitney or something and you really got it going on.” Though, Dannii thought the best of her was yet to come and Simon thought it was “not individual enough”.

Talking of Simon, he unleashed his second group next, being Same Difference. Their performance of “Breaking Free” from High School Musical was once again met with displeasure from Louis, with him comparing them to the Eastern European performers in the Eurovision Song Contest during the 1970s. Luckily the other judges thought otherwise, with Dannii adding – “When you guys are around everyone smiles, INCLUDING (Simon) and that’s a good thing.”

Next up was Daniel, who performed “Build Me Up Buttercup” as heard in There’s Something About Mary. While he got up there and performed as firm as he could, the judges still had much to criticise. Sharon thought that he was better off in a boy band – “I think you’re a little bit lost on your own for direction.” Dannii criticised Louis’ song choice, and Simon stuck by her thoughts stating that he should fire him.

Then it was the turn of Rhydian, doing “The Phantom of the Opera” from the musical of the same name. And that received a positive reaction across the judges’ panel. Louis claimed that he was among the selection of contestants that were “head and shoulders above everybody”, Sharon seeing him as “a drama queen with a brilliant voice” and Simon seeing him that he proved that he was “potentially world class”. It was further brought up from Dannii that special arrangements were given to the song – “After his first performance Andrew Lloyd Webber agreed to change that song into a solo artist for this man.” Whether you like Rhyds or not, we have to admit that that is an amazing feat in itself!

What seemed challenging for Emily was trying to follow up from the Rhyddler’s performance. Singing “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” from Crossroads, her performance was met with a lukewarm reception. Louis thought she was a “little bit safe” and thought she was vulnerable due to that. Simon then ended up claiming her singing was “flat”, with Sharon using the top of his head to demonstrate the matter.

Simon wrapped up his acts by unleashing Futureproof, performing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” as used in My Girl. Much like Hope they received an unanimous set of appraisal, though this time I thought they deserved it. Louis did show concern thinking that Simon was “working harder on the girls” however, though Sharon and Dannii appreciated them with the latter even claiming they could be “the first boy band where everyone actually sings in tune”.

Dannii’s last act then came onto the stage – Andy singing “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever. I was worried that he would struggle to pull it off but I thought he handled it better than I thought. The judges’ reactions were different though; Louis thought the song was “bad karaoke” and claimed Dannii made a mistake with the song, with Simon echoing his comments afterwards. Sharon thought it was a “little bit weak” but she thought he did his best nonetheless.

Finally Louis finalised his Over 25s with Niki doing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. It takes a lot of guts to sing a Celine Dion song on a widespread theme night, when said artist IS the guest star, but Sharon felt she did a brilliant job and thought she did the “performance of the night”. The other judges praised her approach as well, with Simon stating – “I want you to remember this night as the night you started to believe in yourself.” Appraisal for Celine’s input on all the contestants was also warmly given from Simon as a compliment from all four judges.

After a brief amount of public voting time and some on-stage time for Celine to sing her new single “Taking Chances” and play favourites (which she pointed out Leon, Rhydian, Beverley and Niki), a decision was made over which acts would return to next week’s show with immediate effect. The final two was brought down to Alisha and Daniel, whom both had to sing their songs again in front of the panel.

And once they did, it was time for the judges to decide on who to keep and who to go.

Louis, Sharon and Dannii all stated their choices without much of a reason. There was a vote against Alisha, then Daniel, and another one against Daniel; when Simon came to vote, he made a more thorough gesture however - “I have to make a decision on who I think could improve the most.”

His vote was then cast. And as a result, Daniel DeBourg was sent home.

After his VT was shown, Daniel showed his final words – “It’s been a chance to go and perform in front of millions and people and I want to thank them all.”

As he returns to being a single dad, the remaining ten head forward to next week’s show. And as I see it, I would have personally seen Hope and Emily gone through to the bottom two based on their performances alone, though Alisha and Daniel were equally vulnerable due to their feedback. In the end the judges made what I felt was the right decision when it came to the vocal talents on display, though the reaction among various viewers of the show seems to lean the other way.

I still can’t find a favourable group between Futureproof and Same Difference – both of them upped their game from last week and offered some enjoyable performances, though I do really hope that they could both jump out of the box with their styles a little bit. The same could be said for Niki – I love her voice, no question about it, but I do hope that she could pull off something fresh and different down the line to match the incredible performance that she did tonight. Leon improved greatly in spite of his nerves, Beverley pulled off something different and won me over, Rhydian didn’t quite show as much punch as last week personally but the high notes were mightily impressive, and I thought Andy improved since last week though he still had a little bit of room for improvement.

But who knows what would happen next week? It was stated that we are dealing with Big Band, a live orchestra and an appearance from Boyz II Men. Given the success of the live instrumentation from last year’s Big Band theme, I’m in high anticipation of next week’s show to be sure!

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“Envisage it, Believe it, Achieve it!”

X-Factor ‘Live Show 1’ (20/10/07) -Review

October 27th, 2007

The first Live Show for Season 4 of the X Factor took place on October 20th, with the theme being “Number Ones”. Over the past few weeks we saw 200,000 contestants gradually weeded down to just the final twelve, all of which were put to the test to sing live on television for the chance to gain a million pound record contract.

Going onto the performances for tonight, Kimberley came first with a rendition of “It’s Raining Men” that made the judges generally agree that she brought the fun factor. Simon added that it was “karaoke on a big budget”, further stating: “It was a bit shrieky, the dancers struggled in the middle, but it was fun.”

Andy’s “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” received appraisal in general, with Simon seeing him as a “singing puppy” in addition to his generally good comments. Mentor Dannii was also happy with his performance, stating that she had “so much more to show” from him.

Then came Futureproof with “She’s The One”, and as much as I hate the original song, they pulled it off really well; much like with Andy they received good commentary from the judges. Louis noted some good voices within the band as well as providing some light criticism - “it was a bit of a safe performance for the first night… but guys, I think you really have the potential to be fantastic.”

The first of the Over 25s then came in the form of Beverley, whose performance of “I Will Survive” received equally good commentary, with Sharon remarking that she “couldn’t believe (she is) a school teacher”, with Dannii sharing the same feelings in spite of criticising some of her few flat notes. Simon ended up remarking that she couldn’t dance though, and stated: “What you can’t do week on week is just sing Louis Walsh’s record collection.”

Round 2 for the girls was through Emily singing “I Knew You Were Waiting”, in which in spite of good appreciation for her singing (bar Simon as per usual), the judges unanimously thought she could be more suited with a ballad at the next show. Quoth Sharon – “You are typically a ballad singer and it’s hard for you to come in and be bubbly and dancing and doing it all and your homework at the same time.” Concerns for her age were also raised, resulting in a backlash about the lowered age limit that resulted in Sharon getting the last laugh.

After that we saw Leon try his hand with a swing arrangement of “Can’t Buy Me Love”. The judges weren’t enthusiastic over it though – it was thought in general that the performance was terrible yet they still thought he was likeable. Simon ended up thinking a little more critical – “I think you’ve ended up taking the place of somebody else who should have been in the show.” He additionally scowled upon the song choice as well (which was a mutual agreement between Leon and Dannii).

Same Difference came after that to sing “Tragedy”, and just instantly Louis took a dislike to them, heavily based on Simon’s criticisms against the MacDonald Bros last year. Sharon described them as “double cheeseburger with bacon” as a positive reaction, and Dannii and Simon stated that there would be a market for the act. Quoting Mr Cowell – “The biggest group in the world right now is High School Musical and I think you would appeal to the same audience.”

Then Niki came to perform “Nothing Compares 2 U” and among all the judges she received high appraisal right across the judges’ panel. Dannii, who generally found faults in some of the other acts, found it hard to criticise, though she did state: “You’re a real singer and I don’t know if you have quite grasped that yet and that’s so endearing.” Sharon and Simon went as far as to cite it as the performance of the night at the time, with the latter getting her to believe she could win as well as stating that Louis owed her and the other Over 25s an apology for not taking the category well at first.

The final of the Girls was Alisha singing “Dreams”, in which her voice received good feedback from Louis and Dannii, the latter helping her out with her connecting with the camera. Simon thought that she could struggle on the grounds of the public knowing “the least amount about (her) than the other contestants” with the song choice not giving her any favours. Even Sharon admitted her mistake, jokingly stating for the public to vote HER off instead!

Rhydian’s “I’d Do Anything For Love” resulted in comparisons to Simon from Louis (though not in a negative fashion), a squabble over the revelation of his chest from Sharon, and Simon stating that he actually was polite in backstage meetings as well as him doing the best performance tonight – “Every good classical singer has to be pompous and confident, which you are, and you should be because you’re interesting.” Even Dannii stated: “Looks like Marmite is back in vogue!” and equally praised his work.

Daniel’s performance of “Heaven” got a mixed reaction, with Sharon just stating it was “nice” and Simon claiming it to be boring due to him being more used to hearing the song with a rock voice – “It’s a bit like eating water for dinner. It doesn’t leave you with anything.” Even his mentor Louis admitted it but claimed that he still had a lot more to give either way.

And to wrap it up there came Hope singing “Umbrella”. Amusingly, their vocal talent received positive reactions of disbelief among Louis and Sharon, with Mrs Obsourne stating – “You’re good looking, sexy, you can sing and I hate you!” Phoebe’s solo received equally good reactions from Simon, who also saw pride in their gelling in the short time of them being together.

After a wait through the Rugby World Cup Final and a performance from musical guest star Leona Lewis, the results were exposed. From the public vote, Kimberley and Alisha were left to sing off against each other, and because of them both being from Sharon’s Girls, she refused to vote and stated she would leave the show at that point (publicity stunt?). The vote was put down to the remaining three judges.

Simon wanted Kimberley sent home, while Dannii wanted to send home Alisha. Louis then clarified his end decision – “They are both terrific, fun girls. It’s the fun factor versus the talent factor.”

And thus, it was decided that Kimberley Southwick would be the first act sent home.

As she spoke on stage asking a final few questions she was in shock, though she stated her highlight meeting Ozzy at Sharon’s house – “he really is mad!”

But in spite of her experiences, her dream was over and by now she has returned to Tanworth and her barmaid duties. Let’s hope that the X Factor can be seen as a mere stepping stone for her.

Wrapping it up with my personal thoughts, I don’t think this was the best X Factor opener I’ve seen, but it’s satisfactory. What I have witnessed that night was thus –

- The “curse of the first act to sing” struck again as Kimberley was first to sing and first to get the boot, just like the Addictiv Ladies before her.
- Theoretically, Leon provided the worst performance, though due to a strong fanbase prior to the show he was kept in anyway.
- Rhydian, Emily, Niki and Same Difference gained my preferences among the individual categories in terms of vocal talent that evening, though others may beg to differ.
- When it came to the actual final two, I thought the judges did the right choice in sending home Kimberley. Like Louis said, it’s fun factor versus talent factor and they kept the voice that had the potential to provide more of the talent.
- Louis and Sharon aren’t exactly sticking to the show’s premise to be more impartial this year due to their rash criticisms on Same Difference and Rhydian respectively.
- Talking of Sharon, why did she reportedly quit? The show wasn’t losing any ratings, so her storming off was completely uncalled for. If it really was about finding the next big talent, why did she show an incredible amount of bad sportsmanship during the final vote?

Whichever happens, I am sure that in the next week or so, the acts will start to find more from their feet, and so they should be able to provide fuller potential as the shows go on.

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People


www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“Envisage it, Believe it, Achieve it!”

X-Factor ‘The Final Selection’ (06/10/07) -Review

October 13th, 2007

Last week saw two episodes of the X Factor, both concerning the choice of the final twelve acts for the live show stages. And with the mentors decided on and the batch of 24 to choose from, the Judges took them to different locations around the world. All of the acts were to perform a song that the judges felt best suited them, in a bid to get further.

First we saw Dannii take the six remaining Boys to Ibiza, where they all performed for her and for Terry Ronald, who has worked on some of Dannii’s hit singles as well as those for Girls Aloud and Westlife.

The voice tones for both Leon and Andy were well welcomed by her, though she ended up concerned over his nerves when they sung in front of her individually.

Charlie’s performance left Dannii with mixed reactions: “There was a couple of scary notes… this lad could be a star - there’s a few question marks there, but it’s something.”

Rhydian was questioned over his pompous personality by Terry, however Dannii ended up stating that she knows that he would be able to deliver on stage regardless.

Luke and Dominic, however, weren’t given any specific commentary aimed towards them.

When Dannii made her decision she picked two contestants easily, but in the end she was put down to choosing between two more; she was left to sleep on it in the end.

~~~

Then came the turn of Louis and the Over 25s, where he took them to Dublin in Ireland, and helping him out with the choices there was Kian Egan from Westlife.

Niki came first, and though they found her voice to be “amazing” in Louis’s words, it was stated that her performance needed some serious work to lift from cabaret standard.

Icaro received comments from Kian thinking that he “got a screw mixed back” as well as being “in his own little world” though in the end they both agreed that he was different.

Zyta received good appraisal from Louis just as she finished her performance. After she left, he then stated; “She only wants one chance and her future is almost in our hands.”

Then there came Beverley, who felt that getting to the next stage to the show would be “huge” upon being asked by Louis just after her well-received performance.

Daniel Moul, after a shaky start, ended up pulling through. Afterwards Louis stated to Kian: “We haven’t had anybody else like him. But… he makes me nervous.”

And Daniel DeBourg came to finalise the selection. Though, in spite of showing a promising performance, no specific commentary related to him was broadcast.

Not long after that Louis made his choice out of the final six. And as a conclusion, he felt more confident than he was when he first received the category.

~~~

After that we saw the Groups come to the fore at Marbella in Spain, singing in front of Simon and former pop star Sinitta.

First was Same Difference. Although Sinitta was unsure about their role, Simon thought: “the first time (I saw them), I couldn’t bear them. I’m starting to really like these two!”

Ghost ended up facing a rough performance in front of Simon, in which in the end that Simon picked up on it but thought that they could be good with a bit of confidence.

Futureproof came next. They had a more confident run, yet Simon thought: “When they’re on it I really like these guys, but when they overcomplicate it they bore me.”

W4 were the fourth act to sing. After they sung, Simon told them that they “look like the Stepford Wives”. No comments about their performance were specifically mentioned.

I Sette Cantanti followed; Sinitta thought they were odd, while Simon said people would love them being “the 7 geeks who are kind of getting their revenge on the world”.

And finally there came Hope. They got the thumbs up from them on their personalities and bonding, though Simon thought that he didn’t know on whether they’d stay together.

Simon’s choices ended up coming really easily, with little to no concern over whether he could be able to work with certain acts or not.

~~~

Finally we saw Sharon with the girls, where they went to LA to sing for her and for Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls.

Kimberley was the first person that came to sing. She was well received by Sharon and Nicole, though the former had concern over her personality and her likeability.

Victoria then came, and though she was received well enough, both girls ended up showing concerns over her laid-back style of performance.

Kim then made her way through, though she did a promising performance, Sharon thought: “for somebody so young, her presentation is very old.”

Alisha was well-liked from Nicole, but Sharon had concerns for her age: “if she’s put up against a 14-year-old, she’s gonna look so much older than she actually is, you know?”

Steph was next to follow suit, and their general reaction to her was shown to be really positive. Even Nicole ended up claiming that she “had a strong voice for her age”.

And last was Emily; Nicole claimed after her well-liked performance: “If somebody who really emotes that much feeling from a really truthful place, it takes it out of her.”

And after that, Sharon and Nicole had the task to decide who to keep. They faced a three-hour decision, but afterwards they were confident over their choices.

~~~

As a result, the following twelve were chosen to sing on the live shows:

BOYS (Dannii) – Leon Jackson, Rhydian Roberts and Andy Williams
GIRLS (Sharon) – Alisha Bennett, Emily Nakanda and Kimberley Southwick
OVER 25s (Louis) – Daniel DeBourg, Niki Evans and Beverley Trotman
GROUPS (Simon) – Futureproof, Hope and Same Difference

My analysis on peoples’ reactions over the past week has shown that there is an almost unanimous dislike on Rhydian already, though I personally thought I found him the more eye-catching of the boys. But either way, the general reactions on who would perform better out of Leon and Andy are split though I’m only just seeing a stronger fanbase for the latter, so he might make it further into the competition.

Sharon picked the girls pretty well, though her selection didn’t really garner much discussion. Alisha and Emily were barely given much talk and Kimberley was portrayed as a love-or-hate figure. I think the latter might represent Sharon the best, but it’s best waiting until they perform when we can see their true colours.

I admit, I got my prediction on Icaro’s role wrong, but I’m okay with Louis picking Daniel in his place. I’ve sensed that among the remaining three Over 25s he got a lot of talk, and having understood his past stint in the States I can understand. He could go furthest among the set – Beverley and Niki, while great singers in their own right, could end up struggling to find an audience unless interest really starts to develop for those two.

Simon’s decisions picked up a lot of heat - Same Difference weren’t given much liking as an act but they weren’t given as much beef as Rhydian did. Likewise there are some people that thought that Louis’s experiments with Hope and Futureproof were rough. Myself, I’m still not too impressed with the latter but am okay elsewhere. In addition, the bookies state that Hope could win the competition, but only time would tell if it’s true.

By Bev Wooff X-Factor correspondent for Talented Young People

www.talentedyoungpeople.com

“Envisage it, Believe it, Achieve it!”