Thursday, 1 December 2011

X (Factor) Marks The Spot: Romania

As it stands, a total of 30 countries are either currently or will soon be broadcasting their own versions of that great British televisual institution, The X Factor. This probably means, given that different editions go out on different days of the week, that it is showing somewhere in the world every single night of the year (subs please check). That's quite a lot of X Factor.

It means a lot of PRS cheques coming through for Simon Cowell, who has a co-credit on the theme tune for suggesting that the words 'X Factor' should be in it. It means a lot of 'potential global superstars'. It means maybe one or two actual ones. More importantly it means a lot of Louis Walsh impersonators, badly mimed group performances and whatever else normally happens on the show. But who are the people that are doing these things and where? That is the question that X (Factor) Marks The Spot will strive, nation by nation, to answer.

Now this promises, given the fact that it's too much effort to watch more than about ten minutes of each show, to be rather ropey. So where better to start than everyone's favourite generically attractive female-fronted generic dance music factory, Romania. X Factor Romania is currently heading towards the end of its first series, with only seven contestants remaining. Here are some things about it, in lazy list format, in lieu of any of the skill required to craft flowing paragraphs.

The presenters: Razvan Simion and Dani Otil, who look like they could be the Romanian Ant and Dec, but are actually rather dour. Poor form, Romania. Oh and one of them seems to say the word 'weekend' at the start, possibly in mimicry of Dermot O'Leary and his "your weekend starts here" 'catchphrase'. Again, poor form if so.

The judges: Adrian Sînă (a member of amazing boyband Akcent, who have a song about Kylie Minogue), Paula Seling (who came third at Eurovision in 2010 with some other bloke, performing 'Playing With Fire') and Mihai Morar (no idea who he is). 

The voiceover: Subtly frightening.

The crowd: Falteringly polite, in that they seemed to be constantly anxiously waiting for a cue to gently clap from a man with a card. Or perhaps a gun, which they occasionally jumped, only adding to what was a quite amateur ambience. Can you have an amateur ambience? Well it's alliterative so you can now.

A comedy audition?: Cristian Vartolomei

This week's guest performers: Brilliantly, East 17, currently making what must be approaching their 17th comeback, albeit this time without the input of Brian Harvey and one of the other ones. So what song did they do? A new one? A classic? 'Stay Another Day'? No. 'Thunder', a song that suggests that Tony Mortimer's (the one who wasn't Brian Harvey [the one who ran over himself]) fabled songwriting talents were somewhat overstated. Basically it only had about two lines. The performance itself was ramshackle to say the least - more than a bit pitchy and strained. Let's just say it's been a long time. Halfway through, one of the judges picks up one of those tablet things - on which he is presumably watching the performance, despite it being in front of his eyes - adorned with the logo of one of the show's sponsors, and holds it right at the camera. Incredible.

This week's bottom two: This is known in Romania as 'DUEL'. First up was a woman dressed as Slash, belting her way through Lykke Li's 'I Follow Rivers', something that Janet Devlin could only have dreamed of doing on the UK version. (To be fair, 'I Follow Rivers' is currently Number One in Romania, but still.) Anyway, she wasn't very good.

Second was Irina Florea, who chose to perform 'I Love Rock 'N' Roll', a great song for showing off the more sophisticated aspects of your vocal abilities. Again, she wasn't very good, if a bit better than Slash. And she did quite a few ad libs, which would be best described as 'interesting'.

In all fairness, it should have been East 17 who were then kicked off. Sadly it turned out that they were not actually part of the competition. Instead it was Slash, by two votes to one, the decider coming from her own mentor, Mihai. She took it gracefully, as Irina broke down in tears, and the crowd waited for permission to clap politely. Everyone's a winner. Kind of.

Who might win?: Thanks for asking, no idea. There's only seven left though, so this man seen ambling his way through 'Rolling In The Deep' at judge's houses (a beach, in this instance) has, strictly speaking, a one in seven chance. Congratulations, Andrei Leonte. (Actually on second looking the favourite seems to be Alin Vaduva. So now you know.)

The overall feel: UK X Factor, circa 2006 (sans Leona).

"And there," as they say, "we have it".

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