X Factor 2011: Lots of lashes, little talent… I blame the judges

Lots of lashes, little talent… I blame judges for X Factor fiasco

This season’s X Factor has been plagued with problems.

Kelly Rowland fell sick, probably because she insists on performing in a bikini, meaning she missed a crucial episode.

The name of the girl band, the first in the show’s history to make it this far, had to be hastily changed because it infringed on the copyright of a charity, which wailed it had lost thousands.

One contestant, probably because he had a degree from Oxbridge (very well covered up by the show’s producers), retired from the fray while another was sacked because of his excessive ‘partying’.

Finalists: But this year

Finalists: But this year”s X Factor has run less smoothly than in the past

My guess is Frankie is actually in hospital suffering from deep vein thrombosis thanks to wearing those super-skinny jeans.

It hasn’t been a vintage year for contestants all round, and for that I blame the new judges. In place of Simon Cowell we have the monosyllabic Gary Barlow.

Now Gary can write hits and perform them, but his choices have revealed that a Svengali he is not. Tulisa has blossomed, but she’s not compulsive viewing.

And Kelly Rowland has spat her all-American, totally insincere, sugary venom on all of us.

She obviously has no taste or judgment, having eliminated the wonderfully gothic Jade at the ‘judges’ house’ stage.

Instead, she inflicted upon us the frankly mediocre Misha B. Misha was ejected last week not, as Colourful Times and The Voice claimed, for being too black instead of Leona Lewis beige, but for being too boring. I found her painful to watch and listen to: so many of the young contestants, including finalist Amelia Lily, think that shouting is singing, when it’s not.

Frankie Cocozza Misha B

Kicked out: Frankie and Misha both had major problems as contestants

Little Mix: The group have been let down by their mentor Tulisa

Little Mix: The group have been let down by their mentor Tulisa

What has annoyed me most about this series is the homogenisation of talent.

Janet, the talented folk singer from Ireland, had her virgin hair dyed bright red. All the female singers have false eyelashes stuck to them as if this will somehow make up for the absence of former judge Cheryl Cole.

Finalist Marcus is sweet and desperate, with the big brown eyes of a beagle about to face its vivisectionist, but a Matt Cardle, who won last year, he is not.

I spent last Saturday backstage with the semi-finalists. All the emphasis was on straightening wigs and gluing on hair extensions rather than honing their art.

The biggest shock was how sequestered the judges were, locked in their star-embossed dressing rooms. They seemed to make all their decisions remotely: approval of a costume was done via BlackBerry.

Mentor: But will Gary look after Marcus when the cameras stop rolling

Mentor: But will Gary look after Marcus when the cameras stop rolling

Even the dress rehearsal employed stand-ins for the judges (the woman performing the Tulisa salute had a tattoo on her forearm reading, ‘Hello, Mum’), while they watched proceedings on a private telly in their rooms.

I wondered if the judges could actually see their screen between the vast blooms and pineapples that decorated their space.

Whoever wins tonight, when the final two battle it out to have a Christmas No 1 and then fall by the wayside, destined to produce the odd Christmas album or an Iceland advert, well, they have worked hard for it.

Not as hard as an Olympic gymnast, granted, but hard nonetheless.

Rejection is difficult, and I worry about these contestants, all teenagers or people barely in their 20s. It’s one thing to enter a small talent contest and fail, or sing in pubs and bars when no one listens – but to falter on such a big stage, despite the show’s falling ratings, is hard to come back from.

Maybe what happened last week on the American version of the show might mean a change of tack next year.

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Crow was knocked out of the competition after judge Nicole Scherzinger – who has all the talent of a hedgehog – said she couldn’t choose between Crow and Marcus Canty.

She deliberately sent the vote to deadlock, which meant the contestant with the least votes from the public was out.

The teenage singer collapsed, hysterical, when she heard the news. Both her mother and Simon Cowell ran on to the stage to comfort her, while Scherzinger sobbed uncontrollably. These are children up on stage and screen being paraded in front of us.

The music industry is the toughest there is. I had a drink with a friend who works in the business last week and he told me of the meetings where, if an artist has not made a certain target, they are summarily dropped. Just like that. No emotion, no crocodile tears.

To cope with such a career you need music to be your art, something you do, like breathing. You need to have self-esteem, back-up, and maturity.

A man like Gary Barlow, hiding even an hour or so before the show goes live behind a huge bodyguard, is not going to be there to help you when times get tough. He probably won’t even return your calls, or remember your name.