The X Factor UK 2015: First Live Show Features Surprise Wildcard (VIDEO)
The X Factor UK 2015 live shows are finally here! The theme is This Is Me, which allows each contestant to show off the popstar he or she wants to become. This resulted in a fun night of performances, as the Top 13 took the stage to fight for their place in the competition.
Yes, that’s Top THIRTEEN, as the show kicked off with judges Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw announcing that they’ve decided to give one eliminated contestant a second chance. The judges’ wildcard for 2015 was revealed to be MONICA MICHAEL! As if Rita’s category needed to be any stronger. Seriously though, it was the right call, since I thought Monica was an absolutely criminal elimination last week.
Ultimately, this ended up being one of the strongest first live shows in recent memory, and you can watch all the videos below:
LAUREN MURRAY, “I’M EVERY WOMAN”
Thoughts: I think Lauren came across as a total star here. She not only tackled Whitney Houston with confidence, she also tackled the stage performance with the talent of a total professional. Lauren isn’t just adorable (she’s got a quirky personality! And amazing hair!), she’s insanely talented. I didn’t love the song choice, but that’s mostly just because I’ve never particularly liked this song. There really isn’t a single bad thing I can say about this performance otherwise. This was just the perfect way to kick off the show.
MAX STONE, “SOMEONE LIKE YOU”
Thoughts: Max has one of my favorite voices in the competition, but he just looks so uncomfortable onstage that it becomes a bit distracting. Seriously, he looks pained up there, and I’m not sure that’s the kind of feeling that a performer should be communicating on the first live show. It certainly doesn’t help that Simon was getting on him about improving his confidence, only to then go and admit that he wasn’t going to put Max through last week. Apparently, it was the reaction in the studio that made up Simon’s mind for him (I’m guessing he decided to let Jennifer Phillips go, in order to save Max. But that’s just a wild guess, given prior praise). Max now has to face the pressure of realizing his judge didn’t necessarily want him at first, and had to be talked into saving him TWICE. With that all having been said, I did love Max’s vocal here. The reggae arrangement was unique, and something that I’m likely going to remember some time from now. Max has something, he’s just not the complete package yet. Hopefully, he’ll be given the chance to get there.
ALIEN UNCOVERED, “DO IT LIKE A DUDE”
Thoughts: After originally being given “Hollaback Girl”, they fired back with their own song suggestion, “Do It Like a Dude” by Jessie J. And it ended up being an amazing song choice. I couldn’t have been more impressed with how they came across up there. The vocals were impeccable, the stage presence was on-point, and the fact that they had enough artistry to fight for their own song choice made Alien Uncovered one of the most impressive acts of the night (and definitely one of the most fun). This was like being at an Alien Uncovered concert, so I don’t blame the judges for going bananas over this.
KIERA WEATHERS, “CRYING FOR NO REASON”
Thoughts: Going into tonight’s show, Kiera was one of the singers I just couldn’t get into, and I couldn’t say why. She’s incredibly talented and beautiful, with all the potential in the world to be a contemporary smash. And yet, she never really felt contemporary to me. And tonight’s performance didn’t do much for me either, unfortunately. The vocal was good, but the Katy B song choice didn’t really show off her voice as much as previous song choices did. That said, I did appreciate that the song was a bit more upbeat, and gave her a chance to show off her stage presence. Much like with Max, I feel like Kiera has something, but the full package hasn’t come together yet. And I don’t know how many weeks she’s going to have to figure it out.
ANTON STEPHANS, “DANCE WITH MY FATHER”
Thoughts: What the hell, Simon?! Why THIS song for my man Anton?! This is one of the most tired song choices on any talent show, right up there with “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”, “I Believe I Can Fly”, and “I Have Nothing”. Just the song choice alone handicapped this for me…AND YET, Anton is such an incredible singer that I can’t find fault with his actual performance. This vocal was outstanding, and he’s made tremendous progress in toning down his eccentricities onstage (although I actually found the crazy faces charming, so I hope they’re not truly gone for good). Anton is an immaculate vocalist, and one of the best in the entire competition. He gave so much passion and emotion to this, and delivered something truly special in the process.
CHE CHESTERMAN, “TEARS DRY ON THEIR OWN” / “AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH”
Thoughts: I know Che is a great vocalist, but this was honestly the biggest surprise of the night for me. Where was THIS Che hiding all this time? This wasn’t just a great vocal, it was a performance that was loaded with personality. I mean, the dancing wasn’t great, but the way Che worked the stage and communicated the song with his facial expressions and movements up there — I couldn’t have been more impressed. If there was one shortcoming, it was that, in getting carried away with the runs at the end, he fell out of key and never really recovered. But it was in the final seconds of the track, so I don’t think it hurt him. I’ve long said Nick possibly has the strongest category this season, running neck-and-neck with Rita, and Che is a big reason why.
MASON NOISE, “SORRY”
Thoughts: I thought this was a perfect song choice for Mason, and he did a hell of a job with it. However, I did have trouble hearing him early on, and I couldn’t tell if the verses were pitched too low, or if he was losing breath while he was up there, or if it was an issue with the sound mix. Either way, taking the verses up an octave would have messed with the chorus being right in Mason’s sweet spot, so I get the key choice. I thought this was a really cool performance, and was right up there with Alien Uncovered as one of the most contemporary, radio-ready performances of the night. The man can sing, dance, and he’s got a crazy work ethic. And it appears he’s grown quite a bit, showing humility and a willingness to learn from this experience. I didn’t think he’d be someone I’d root for, going in, but he impressed me here.
REGGIE ‘N BOLLIE, “IT WASN’T ME”
Thoughts: This song choice was so perfect, it almost bordered on too obvious. This was a chance to do something different and give these guys a song that they could reinvent in their style. However, I do understand why Cheryl gave them this song, since the theme was about showing what kind of artist the act would want to be if they were to win this show, and this is precisely the kind of song I’d expect from Reggie n Bollie. Either way, this was a lot of fun, even if the vocals weren’t all there, in my opinion (but then, that’s always going to be a bit of a problem with these guys. They aren’t the best singers, but they’re a damn good time. And this competition needs them).
LOUISA JOHNSON, “GOD ONLY KNOWS”
Thoughts: I wouldn’t have expected this song choice in a million years, but it actually ended up being one of the more subtly brilliant picks of the night. Seriously, for someone who didn’t know this song before it was given to her, Louisa knocked this out of the ballpark, really connecting with the emotion of the song in ways that suggest that while she’s only 17, she’s a hard 17. Of course, I worry about whether she might be peaking too soon. We’re in week one, and she already got a standing ovation from all four judges, earning the type of praise that only frontrunners ever receive. I just hope it isn’t too much, too soon, because she’s one of my picks for the final. Louisa is an otherworldly talent.
BUPSI, “YOU’RE A WONDERFUL ONE”
Thoughts: I love Bupsi. She’s not only entertaining, but she’s one of the most underrated vocalists in this competition. With that having been said, I hated this song choice, and the arrangement was even worse. It was tinny and sounded like something straight off of a Studio All-Stars karaoke tape. Of all the Marvin Gaye songs to pick, and Simon goes with this? The entire production was just painfully awkward, as the crowd barely made any noise for Bupsi, and the music (in a rare issue) was actually too low in the mix. I wish we’d gotten more of Bupsi’s personality, because this was kind of boring. And Bupsi should never be boring. But hey, at least Simon admitted that he picked the wrong song. Granted, that didn’t save Drew Ryniewicz on The X Factor USA Season 1. When Simon gets it wrong, his contestants don’t often get a second chance.
4TH IMPACT, “PROBLEM”
Thoughts: Thank God Cheryl, as a judge, has enough confidence in her acts to let them pick a different song if they feel the song she’s chosen isn’t working for them. In this case, “Shut Up and Dance” was a terrible fit for these girls. I did worry, however, that “Problem” by Ariana Grande was too much of a retread of the songs they normally do. I mean, how many sassy, bombastic self-empowerment anthems can they do before every performance starts to feel the same? I absolutely love these girls, but this was their weakest performance so far, in my opinion. Their harmonies were on-point, and the rapping was sick, but the individual vocals sounded strained and all over the map. I really didn’t get the exuberant praise the judges were handing out here. I think the girls were nervous, and they’ll easily bounce back next week. If nothing else, I hope they get that chance.
MONICA MICHAEL, “MAKE IT RAIN”
Thoughts: I LOVED THIS! Seriously, I want to move to the UK just so I can vote for this woman. I’m not even kidding. Monica was the biggest mistake Rita made at Judges’ Houses, and I’m glad the judges unanimously agreed that it was a crime to let her go. She’s like Adele by way of Amy Winehouse, and while it was probably the wrong choice for this song to take on the smokey, sexy tone it did, I couldn’t help being entranced by it. Her vocal control is as on-point as ever, and her stage presence has improved by leaps and bounds, with this subtle, hypnotic quality. I don’t really know how else to describe it than to say this was actually pretty hot. I hope Monica sticks around for a long, long time.
SEANN MILEY MOORE, “LIFE ON MARS”
Thoughts: There’s very little anyone else in the competition can do right now to convince me that Seann isn’t your winner for The X Factor UK 2015. He’s got everything: stage presence, personality, uniqueness, style, and VOCALS FOR DAYS. His tone is incredible, and his instincts are outstanding. This could have easily been a cheesy, cabaret performance, considering it’s a David Bowie track, which lends itself to a certain theatricality. And yes, Seann did add a lot of theatricality to this, but he made smart vocal choices that kept this from feeling corny or forced. I think Seann is the total package, and could be one of the most memorable contestants in the history of The X Factor. I loved this, from front to back.
I have no idea who’s landing in the Bottom 2 this week. If I had to guess, I’d say Bupsi and Max are in trouble, although I could also see a scenario in which Mason lands there, in the event that audiences still haven’t forgiven him for his mic-dropping outburst at the Six-Chair Challenge. I think Kiera is at risk too, judging solely by the reactions of the audience when Olly Murs and Caroline Flack went over the voting numbers. In fact, if we’re using that as the sole metric for judging who’s at risk, then Bupsi, Mason and Kiera are most in danger. But I doubt it’ll be that simple. That said, I just can’t imagine a scenario where the sing-off doesn’t include two of Bupsi, Max, Mason and Kiera. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t think anyone else deserves to land in the bottom first.
But what did you think of the first live show for The X Factor UK 2015? Sound off in the comments!