X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 3

“Club Classics” week – but what could this mean, in the land of the X-Factor? If you guessed maximum rave alert, go to the back of the class. If, however, you guessed ballads and acoustic guitars, you win, and your prize is the approval of BARLOW, whose benedictions this week were in exact proportion to how unlikely you were ever to hear the music in an actual club.

We’re still in the “shaking out the no-hopers” phase of the proceedings here: it doesn’t, in the show’s narrative, matter in which order District3, MK1, Christopher, Rylan et al get the push, but drama there must be and so drama there will be.

To the disco!

CHRISTOPHER: Hapless as ever, and admittedly out of his stylistic depth, but (especially after what came later) I’m glad he just gamely got up and did a wedding disco song as best he could instead of, I dunno, turning “Pound The Alarm” into a piano ballad or something.

MK1: As with the first week this ought to have been better than it was. Louis’ dogged reliance on mash-ups really wasn’t helping – in Louis’ hands they’re a defensive tactic, a bit of razzle-dazzle to signal and protect weak acts, so when the act isn’t necessarily weak they’re a terrible idea. But even the “Gypsy Woman” part flailed around. They’re trying, and there’s something basically likable about them, but at the moment I suspect they’re running on goodwill.

JAHMENE: Light, spooked, vulnerable take on Aretha, with those sudden jets of notes spurting out every which way. I don’t think he’s as great at selling a song, more at pushing his baseline emotions through whatever material he ends up with, but it’s still a layer of skin less than we usually get on the show.

JADE: Vocal cords fucked, apparently, so this was a restrained (to be kind) or anonymous (to be not) appearance.

JAMES: The first bit of live-loungeism, a scruffy guitar-led take on “Sexy And I Know It” which had Barlow absolutely FOAMING with pleasure. Let’s get this dance silliness out of the way so we can get back to the mid-tempo piano ballads, everyone. LMFAO can withstand, and perhaps deserve, more punishment than this though.

UNION J: Remorselessly boring to anyone outside their pre-formed target market. Their singing may have improved since week 1 but a steamroller Guetta track isn’t likely to demonstrate that much.

RYLAN: Cowell’s ‘vendettas’ against comedy contestants were pure panto with the big man in full control of events – as soon as he relented, the act’s fate was sealed. Barlow is either a better actor than Simon was, or this is indeed a bit more spiteful and personal. And the only bit of Rylan’s performance which came alive was when he got into the trolling spirit. A spoken aside – “I’m so sorry for my behaviour” – then straight into “I See You Baby” and an ass shaken straight to camera. The rest was best-behaviour stuff.

LUCY: “Titanium” interspersed with Lucy’s usual knockabout busker storytelling? Barlow was loving it. “Before the series people were saying, what will she do on ABBA week?” They are certainly not saying that now, because it’s become very obvious indeed what Lucy would do on ABBA week. We may well get to keep “Chiquitita” et al free of strummed wryness, since the novelty can’t last THAT much longer.

KYE: In the absence of any really unspeakable pricks this year the weight of my disdain falls on Kye, basically because he seems a bit smarmy. A full-whack balladosaurus treatment of a Swedish House Mafia tune full of ersatz feeling: Barlow was turning cartwheels but everyone on the panel was into it. “That could have been Chris Martin.” “Exactly!” shouted my disgusted wife, though I think it might have been unfair on CM.

DISTRICT3: The first minute or so of this – “Beggin'” was actually really good, not so much for the performance as an inspired song choice: a hint of the greaser under the harmonies and D3 made more sense, lads who know they’re lying but with the heart of gold only a layer or two away. More interesting than Union J at any rate. Of course Louis being Louis the whole thing dissolved into a pandering mash-up and knowingly wolfish begging becaume actual begging for actual votes.

ELLA: She’s in a different show from anyone else and the programme doesn’t quite know what to do about it. It’s not just technical superiority either – she took on “You Got The Love”, chest-hammering Fat-M version, and lapped it easily, out-bellowing all-comers before relaxing into a series of convincingly lovestruck ad-libs. She’s still not a thrilling performer and she will have limits but the show hasn’t worked out how to reach them yet.

A final intervention from Barlow – club week is no place for dance moves, apparently – and that’s our lot.