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Notes On The X Factor Final

Alexandra Burke is a worthy and unexpected winner, but Beyonce completely shits on her:

 

That aside, Burke will now undoubtedly disappear (after her inevitable Christmas no.1 and some minor activity) until her album is complete. The album will probably be a tremendous disappointment that doesn’t use her voice in the right way at all, in a similar vein to Leona Lewis‘ misfiring (but still impressive) Spirit. So what should the album really sound like?

Constant comparison to Leona Lewis so far in Burke’s career really won’t help her at all, just encourage her supposed musical influences to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, a heavy focus on her strengths could potentially make for an excellent debut album. Think back to the more energetic moments across her X Factor tenure – these are what people want to hear over the ballads. Candyman, Toxic (though it was by no means a song demanding enough for her consideration), On The Radio and Relight My Fire were all successes, while the likes of Without You in Mariah Carey week were somewhat over-cooked. And Silent Night was a complete shambles. Trying to convince Burke that she was comfortable on the notes in the upper registers was unfair.

That’s not to say that she should avoid slower numbers altogether, but for God’s sake strike a balance. Listen (performed in the final by Burke and Beyonce Knowles, but earlier in the series by Burke alone) is, by and large, the perfect for her. Stately enough whereby her vocals can really warm up, but emotional and plain noisy enough for a surprising amount of honest connection with an audience, the sheer drive and volume of the song suits her just fine. This has been mistaken many times across the series for an ability to consistently deliver ballads; if anything, her attitude is all wrong for them. Burke is far more closely aligned with the likes of Beyonce than she is with Mariah, and an album full of slow-burners won’t sell nearly half as well as a more sprightly effort. 

Elsewhere in the final, the first seconds of this performance sealed Eoghan Quigg‘s defeat. Silly 90s poppet.

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Notes On The X Factor #6

This week (also, it should be pointed out that PM’s predictions have become pretty damn near spot on in recent weeks and, though there’s no real proof of this ‘cos our recent holiday scuppered any posting, you can rest safe in the knowledge that Diana Vickers was always the prediction) The X Factor truly left behind any notions of being a contest about singing. The emotional inflammation of Eoghan and Diana’s apparent UNBREAKABLE BOND reached an embarrassing zenith when, during Vickers’ final performance (above), The Quigglett or The Quiggsty or Quiggsy Malone or Who Let The Quiggs Out or whatever Louis Walsh called him this week ran onto the stage and gave her a damp hug and slobbered into the crook of her neck something about “guddamishooosooomush”.

This aside, it could be time to consider why Vickers went from the bookies’ favourite to a tremendous let-down, the popularity of which will never be recovered. Cruel though it may sound, the impression she has created of herself can’t now be reversed, and the public generally seem to think she’s nothing more than a Bjork-sounding waif. Her versatility proved reasonably non-existent, ranging only from quiet versions of big songs to not-quite-as-big versions of other big songs. Her version of White Flag this week did not work because it was too close an interpretation to the original recording. Almost identical, in fact. The same could be levelled at her earlier performance of Avril Lavigne’s devilishly insipid exploded cheerleader anthem Girlfriend. As PM has stated before, the songs in which she revised an arrangement to an unexpected (but also predictable) level were the most successful. This is why Man In The Mirror and With Or Without You worked, and Patience really, really didn’t.

Behind such trivial issues as SONG CHOICES in a SINGING COMPETITION, though, are the inevitable reality TV plots and editing tricks that made her appear to be out of the running as soon as Mariah Carey week saw her simultaneously slumped in bed like a plague victim and shrieking like, well, an angry plague victim at bonfire night. The revelation that Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is to be the winner’s song and Christmas no.1 shoe-in revived some hope that she might make it, but everyone knows that Eoghan’s getting the most votes. The only hope for the final is that people will finally be bowled over by Alexandra Burke‘s superior performances and make her a just winner, a la Leona Lewis two years ago. But it’ll probably be the little Pat Butcher kid.

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Notes On The X Factor #5

It seems futile to continually harp on about how Rachel Hylton was literally incapable of delivering a thoughtful and appropriate performance of any of her songs, so these notes will ignore her from now on. She’s gone anyway, so we can all breathe out a little bit. News that she intends to fully capitalise on the boost in profile The X Factor means that we will have to revisit her at some point, but until then may she work hard and prove herself capable of more than one dynamic level.

Instead, we can now focus on possibly the best performer remaining in the competition, Alexandra Burke. Her interpretation of Take That’s Relight My Fire (above) was charged with rare energy and vigour and – importantly – none of it was contrived. If taken in the context of a song in the disco genre (and we should, it sounds like one), then the performance yields interesting results under analysis. The balance between ad-libbing and pure grit has always provided the perfect disco vocal aesthetic, and Burke shows with this performance that she is capable of perfecting it. 

Roy Shuker states that disco is fundamentally a genre led by the beat and the following of it for dancing. This explains the relatively small number of disco stars in the world that aren’t producers or ‘hit-makers’ in comparison to other genres with an emphasis on self-authorship. Because Alexandra Burke was able in her performance to add such virtuosity, such an emotional connection (in the gritty sense mentioned above), the performance becomes much more than an excuse to dance. Palpable drama, albeit heightened by a camp routine, is the product of all the greatest disco performances, and this one contains all the basic hallmarks.

Elsewhere, Eoghan Quigg (or, as Louis Walsh creepily dubbed him, The Quigglet) showed a slightly clueless shade when he was challenged with entertaining the crowd, Live Aid style, towards the end of his performance of Never Forget (above). Aside from his ‘narrow eyes equals emotion’ stances and terribly 5ive-esque bobbing dance, his interaction with the studio audience during the breakdown section was a little embarrassing. His voice has improved considerably as his songs have gotten bigger, but the queasy We Will Rock You handclaps and ad-libbed vocalisations made the stage seem terribly empty. However, the positive comments and continued hyperactive support from a nation of biddies will keep him in.

Predictions for next week: Ruth and JLS in the bottom two, Ruth to go.

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