Shock! Horror! Jade Richards not chosen for Judges Houses.
by Marc Ridley – EQ's resident X-Factor columnist
So it's the final weekend before the live finals hit our screens, and the final thirty-two singers are jetting off across the world: Greece, LA, Miami and wherever Louis is pretending to live this year.
The groups are with Tulisa in Mikanos – joining them is Jessie J: GOOD. In Miami with Kelly Rowland, the girls got to Kelly's crib by speedboat, and had Jennifer Hudson (?!) to help her out: WHO? Louis had found himself in Barcelona this year, and the over 25s were joining him to be judged by Sinitta: BORING. Finally, the boys had been invited chez Gary in LA, and after taking a dip in his pool, they were joined by Robbie Williams: UGH.
The Keys were the first group to try and impress Tulisa and Jessie J; the five 'lads' belted out Beyoncé's "Best Thing I Never Had" in pretty good form. The Estrelles were painfully disappointing however, and Boy v Girl weren't really up to scratch. The Lovettes were pretty decent – but Tulisa wasn't impressed, bizarrely.
Gary-manufactured group The Risk were perhaps let down by their weaker singers, but their rehashed cover of No Air was pretty good. Meanwhile, girly and giggly 2 Shoes were EQ's favourite of the groups – not only were their voices awesome, their broken-down ballad version of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" was a remix highlight. They even gave 'Derm' a 'shoe hug'. Aww.
Nu Vibe (what a TERRIBLE name), put together by the X Factor producers, sang a new version of Tinie Tempah's "Written In The Stars" mashed pretty bizarrely with Jessie's "Nobody's Perfect". God knows if they'll get through. (And by God we mean Gary, of course).
Another of Tulisa's gril groups performed Kelly Clarkson's "Big Girls Don't Cry", and subsequently cried. They weren't terrible, but didn't really do a good job of the whole looking-like-a-pop-group thing, which kind of matters. As night fell, Tulisa and Jessie sat down to pick their finalists.
Back in Miami, 16-year-old Amelia Lily was first up in front of Kelly and JHud. Singing an acoustic version of Katy Perry's "E.T.", the judges were rightly impressed by Amelia's efforts. 21-year-old Jade was feeling the pressure to repeat her audition performance, however; singing "I Can't Make You Love Me", Jade's husky but soulful vocals almost squeezed a tear out of Kelly, but JHud thought it was far from perfect.
Bartender Sophie from North London had an awesome performance – unfortunately we missed what she was singing because she said the phrase 'I eat, drink and dream… Everything', which makes no sense and is frankly ridiculous.
The editing seemed to rush over some of the lesser singers – and we were glad that they fastforwarded us to Misha's audition. With heartfelt rapping (apparently it does exist) and yet another stunning LBD, Misha must have blown every viewer away; JHud was speechless.
Ellie Goulding carbon copy Janet (unfortunate name) was the last girl to sing to save her chances, and after making the nation roll its eyes (I prefer not wearing shoes because it makes me feel more grounded'), she did a good job of Xtina's "Beautiful" and left the judges to deliberate over the final eight girls.
Back in Barcelona at Louis' place, London drag act Johnny Robinson sang fellow Camden resident Amy Winehouse's "Love is a Losing Game" and did an amazingly entertaining job, and not entirely for the wrong reasons. Goldie Cheung's audition was… Well there was squirming around on the floor and thrusting involved, you can imagine the rest (if you really want to).
28-year-old infantryman Jonjo had a shaky audition but impressed enough with Adele's "Don't You Remember". And thank God he wasn't wearing a hat this time.
Last to face the two judges was perhaps this year's most controversial contestant so far: Shitty Kitty Brucknell. She sang well enough though, and had managed to tone down all the attention-grabbing posing that had let her down befor- Oh wait, she's just jumped in the pool, fully clothed. What a prat.
When we finally made it to Gary's house/mansion/small city in LA, Frankie Cocozza was opening the show. Singing Rihanna's "What's My Name", Frankie failed to whip up quite the storm he achieved at his audition, but at least he proved his voice was up to it.
John Wilding, back for a second attempt after failure last year, sang Cheryl's "Promise This" and managed to make it boring. Luke Lucas messed up his first attempted and had his performance halted by Gary in full flow. His second attempt wasn't much better – few of the high notes were anywhere near in tune. Painful to watch.
And this is where it gets serious: the Sunday show. Luke Lucas is first to face judgment from Gary, and it's not good. Luke's messed-up notes were more than a little disappointing, and he was first to get the chop from Gary. Heartbreaking, but a fair decision, we think. It was good news for Craig, however; and Lascel made the cut too: cue cheers from the EQ sofa.
Now it's the turn of Max, Joe and James. 'Amusement park Squirrel' Max failed to make Gary's final cut and stormed off in a strop. Gary decided Joe should be heading home despite his distinctive singing style, but James got added to Gary's live final list. It was good news, of course, for Frankie and his popular tattoos (although the announcement didn't pass without a lot of tears: 'Frankie… I'm not gonna lose you') but John Wilding didn't make it, and was sent home from the judges' houses for the second time.
With Tulisa and the groups, 2 Shoes and The Estrelles were first to head to head. Wearing identical clothes again (?!), 2 Shoes were praised for their 'fun factor' which they'd managed to combine with decent voices, and found themselves celebrating their ticket to the live shows. The Estrelles, however, didn't get good news: good choice, Tulisa.
Young guys Nu Vibes bagged themselves a slot on the X Factor live stage, but it was bad news for Boy v Girl, who were done away with after Rhythmix were picked by Tulisa.
Two boy bands remained: The Risk and The Keys. We couldn't be bothered to try and tell them apart, and in the biggest surprise of the night, she chose to send them both home. But that wasn't it: Tulisa called back four of the groups' best singers to form The Risk. The Risk 2.0. They'll be her secret weapons in the live finals.
First to meet their fate from Louis: lovely Sammy, underdog Johnny and Shitty Kitty. The auditionee everyone hates to hate but hates anyway, Kitty Brucknell made it through, even though Louis knows she's gonna be a nightmare. We know she's annoying, but we think she'll be good value in the live shows. And more good news: Johnny's through! He's going to be BRILLIANT. And when he says 'This is the best thing that's ever happened to me', you know he means it.
Sorry, Sammy. It was bad news for Caroline too, but Goldie Cheung got a 'Yes' from Louis. Seriously? Seriously.
Crooner Terry Winstanley had to leave (it's about time, too) and Jonjo got a beating from Louis for regularly forgetting his lyrics, but bagged a ticket in the live shows regardless.
BUT WAIT. For some unknown reason, Goldie Cheung had changed her mind about the whole being-a-popstar thing, so Sammy grabbed herself a second chance and will be singing on the live shows.
Saving the most drama until last, we finally arrived in Miami with Kelly and the girls. First to receive their news: Misha and Amelia. Amelia's personality was a source of doubt for Kelly (a little harsh), and she wasn't sure if Misha was ready to perform in front of millions of judgmental viewers. It was great news for Mischa of course (she's going to be AMAZING), and Amelia also made it into Kelly's final four.
Sarah, Sophie and Holly were next. It was bad news for Sarah ('Do you want to be here? I can't tell.'), and Holly was sent home for not quite being ready. Taking the third place in the final four: Sophie.
And now the toughest decision of the night: Jade or Janet? Jade made Kelly cry at the live auditions, and almost made us cry tonight, and so what if Janet's like Ellie Goulding? How is that a bad thing?
For a moment we thought Kelly would do the risky thing and give Jade a chance, but Queen Kelly went for a Janet, and we can't knock her for that.
So the final sixteen have been decided, hurrah! And we're counting the minutes until Saturday night; there's a good bunch this year. Johnny is going to be hilarious, Mischa's going to blow our minds and we can only dream what Shitty Kitty's gonna get up to. And, of course, there's a BIG TWIST. 'Xciting.