Whoever thought up the idea of having a Barry Manilow theme to the X-Factor last night, out of all the songwriters in the world to choose from, should be forced to listen to Manilow at volume 10 non-stop for a week in penance.
The contestants’ versions of Manilow’s songs were pretty forgettable. Even Leona didn’t sing with her usual intensity, despite the raves she got from the judges. The Macdonalds, Ray, and Ben were all dreadful. Manilow himself looked to me as though he had undergone several plastic surgery operations too many. His face stretched out like a rubber mask. I was amazed he was capable of speaking through that slit that once was a mouth, and there was something weird about the way his head rocked about when he sang, as if it had been stuck on at the neck with sellotape.
The second half, in which the contestants got to choose their own songs, was better. The Macdonald Brothers chose the Bay City Rollers’ Shang-a-Lang, which at least was a good laugh. They got booted out though. So the run is at an end. Will they go back to being a wedding band, or will they find some kind of employment in the music industry? It’s a hard one to call.
Ray sang My Way. It was terrible. I don’t like the song, but it’s like getting a 10-year-old to read The Waste Land with conviction. Ray is a teenager, he looks 12, and he’s singing about how he’s lived his life his way. Nah. And he didn’t sing it well either. Astonishingly, the judges all loved it, which makes me wonder about them.
Ben did an a cappella version (along with a gospel choir) of Queen’s Somebody to Love. Full marks for bravery. I don’t know that it quite worked all the way, but it was interesting and he sang it well, with more restraint than he’s shown in recent weeks. When he aims for high notes, he seems often able only to shout his way up to them. Nothing like Leona’s control. He definitely deserved to go through and he will surely be in the final against Leona. However, I detect something of the prima donna in him. I hope he doesn’t win.
Leona sang a truly great song, Without You. I love the original version and last night, I didn’t think Leona had carried it off, despite the great cheering of the crowd and the judges falling over themselves to say how brilliant it was. But actually, when I listened to it today, I realised that she had done a very good job.
If anyone other than Leona wins the X-Factor, there is something badly wrong. Although I still think she will have a better musical career if she comes second or third.