On Aug. 31, 2014, "The X Factor" U.K.'s second episode of the show's 11th season was televised on ITV. There was very little that stood out except for a few talented contestants. In fact, there was so much "sameness" to the show that the four judges (Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh) seemed to agree on almost everything with almost no differing points of view. How boring.
One of the few standout contestants was 19-year-old Italian native Andrea Faustini, who sang a soulful version of the Jackson 5's "Who's Lovin' You." Fernandez-Versini said it best when she said that Faustini is an example of not judging a book by its cover, since many people would not think from his dorky exterior that he would have such a powerful R&B singing voice.
It's been mentioned before that Cowell's return to "The X Factor" U.K. judging panel has been underwhelming. The fact is that he's not as not as tough of a judge as he used to be, and that is not the kind of change what viewers want to see. Viewers want Cowell to be Mr. Nasty, the judge who will be brutally honest and not swayed by sob stories or desperate pleas from contestants. Cowell still delivers the best put-down lines out of all the judges, but they just sound stale, like we've heard it all before many times over the years.
One example of Cowell going soft is how he handled the audition of Stevi Ritchie, a 33-year-old dressed like an office nerd, who sang a tone-deaf version of Olly Murs' "Dance With Me Tonight" and forgot the lyrics for most of the audition. But since Cowell and the other judges thought that Ritchie was "likable," they all gave Ritchie "yes" votes.
In the old days, Cowell would have ripped this contestant apart with his verbal criticisms, but nowadays, Cowell is saying things like, "You've got kind eyes" (as he said to Ritchie), as a reason to put an untalented singer through to the next round. Ugh. Bring back the old Simon Cowell. This new Simon Cowell has gotten quite wimpy.
Here are some of the audition highlights from the episode:
The aforementioned Andrea Faustini gave a stirring rendition of the Jackson 5's "Who's Lovin' You." He's certainly talented but we'll have to see if he has versatility, which is a key component to winning on "The X Factor."
Concept, a five member boy band whose members are all 20 years old, gave a solidly good audition with Labrinth's "Earthquake." The group is very good but not outstanding, so we'll have to see how far Concept will go. We've seen dozens of groups like this already on "The X Factor." But, as previously reported, Concept member Ben Selley's cousin is Harry Styles from One Direction, the world's biggest-selling act from "The X Factor." That One Direction connection can only help Concept.
Arize, a female trio ages 19 to 21, did a fine performance of Little Mix's "Little Me." Arize is no Destiny's Child, but the right song choices could make Arize stand out from the pack.
The aforementioned Stevi Ritchie bombed by forgetting the lyrics to Olly Murs' "Dance With Me Tonight." But the judges stupidly followed Cowell's lead by putting this boring karaoke singer through to the next round. Perhaps they think Ritchie will be a novelty act that viewers will find amusing, but this contestant is just not interesting enough.
Kitten and The Hip are spouses (he's 53, she's 28) who did an awful original song called "Shut Up and Dance" that would have been laughed out of most talent shows. However, the judges thought that wife Kitten should lose her hubby Hip because they said that she is more talented and marketable as a solo artist. The judges said that they only wanted Kitten to go through to the next round. And without hesitation, Kitten dumped Hip from her act. Hip looked surprised and dejected. How awkward. As we've seen from past "X Factor" episodes, contestants who ditch a group/duo act to go solo never make it to the finals, so this split is going to make for some very tense moments in the Kitten/Hip household. But don't feel too sorry for Mr. Hip (whose real name is Ashely Slater), since he had a shot at fame working with Fatboy Slim in the duo Freak Power.
GCB (Glorified College Boys), a male duo ages 18 and 19, did a flat rendition of Chris Brown's "Don't Judge Me." Cowell sniped, "Whatever the opposite of entertaining is, that was you. That was the most boring audition I ever sat through." Needless to say, GCB was DOA and got "no" votes from all of the judges.
Océane Guyot, 19, screeched Mariah Carey's "Emotions" in all sorts of off-key vocal ranges. Cowell quipped, "It was like you swallowed a load of people and they were all screaming." All of the judges said no.
Jimmy Cheung, 57, did the kind of bad karaoke act that we've seen many times before on "The X Factor." His version of "O Sole Mio" was off-key and mostly forgettable. The judges predictably did not put Cheung through to the next round.
Jan Chichorz, 21, did another horrible but ultimately forgettable audition. The song she butchered was Christina Aguilara's "Tough Lover." Before the judges delivered their unanimous rejection, Cowell once again had the best line when he commented to Chichorz about her singing: "It was like something you'd hear in a zoo."
Linzi Martin, 33, gave the most painfully awkward audition shown in this episode. Martin is a former member of Girl Thing, which used to be signed to RCA Records in the U.K. when Cowell used to work for BMG, which owned RCA at the time. Her desperation to make a comeback was pitiful and made her extremely nervous. She crashed and burned with her performance of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." In one of the few instances where the judges disagreed, Mel B and Walsh gave "yes" votes to Martin (clearly out of sympathy), while Cowell and Fernandez-Versini said no. The latter judges were right: Martin simply wasn't good enough, based on her "X Factor" audition. But considering that Cowell put less talented contestants to the next round, it seems like he also didn't want to deal with a singer he worked with in the past, especially since Girl Thing flopped and was one of Cowell's biggest failures.
Overload, a five-member boy band ages 17 to 20, is clearly a One Direction wannabe act. Overload's version of Pompeii's "Bastille" was average. It's doubtful that this group of One Direction copycats will make it to the finals, but the judges said yes to Overload at this audition stage.
Only the Young is a male/female quartet ages co-ed quartet ages 17-20 that has good harmonies, but when the group member sing individually, they often miss the mark. Simply put: They sound better singing together than singing separately. Bur give them credit for doing a unique arrangement of Elton John's "Something About the Way You Look Tonight." The judges noticed these strengths and weakness and gave unanimous "yes" votes to Only the Young," with the hope that the group will improve. What the show failed to mention is that former "X Factor" U.K. contestant George Shelley used to be in Only the Young. Shelley auditioned for "The X Factor" U.K. in 2012 as a solo singer. He was then put in the already-existing boy band trio Triple J, which made it to "X Factor" boot camp that year and changed its name to Union J after Shelley joined the group. Union J went on to fourth place on "The X Factor" U.K. in 2012 and has since had several hits in the U.K. and Ireland.