Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simon who? It's the return of the X Factor - and no-one seems to miss Mr Cowell as Gary Barlow steps into the role of Mr Nasty

By Jody Thompson

It was arguably the most anticipated return of a TV show in years - and the all-new X Factor didn't disappoint tonight.

Cynics had argued beforehand that the departure of head honcho and show mastermind Simon Cowell, along with former judges Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole, would damage the show.

But the new recruits stepped up to the plate - with Gary Barlow surprisingly stepping into Cowell's shoes as the new Mr Nasty.

X Factor debut: The new-look panel didn't disappoint on the brand new series of the X Factor tonight

As the show began, with a montage of all the press over what the show mightily called 'the next generation' and a 'new chapter' of the X Factor, Gary pledged: 'I'm going to be tough, I'm going to be brutal. I think people's perception of me is about to change.'

He certainly seemed to live up to his promise too - to show there's no more Mr Nice Guy from the Take That veteran.

Interestingly, the show also seemed to focus more on the talent than the judges, arguably taking the show back to its roots with what is now the eighth series.

The new Mr Nasty? Gary Barlow is most definitely the Mr Grumpy of the panel and doesn't hide his displeasure at sub-standard auditions

Patience: Gary showed on tonight's show that he certainly doesn't suffer fools gladly - as fellow judge Kelly observed, he is very 'black and white'

Not backwards in coming forwards: The Take That star does not mince his words with any of the contestants and appears to be taking the show the most seriously

First up was cheeky chappie Frankie Cocozza, 18, from Brighton - who said he'd entered 'to get lots of girls' to screams of laughter from the audience.

Talking beforehand, he elaborated: 'I want to try and sleep with as many women as possible. To sum up my life, I’d probably use the word mental. If you came out on a night with me, you’d probably wake up the next morning wondering what happened last night.

'I see myself as a bit of a liability, but I can admit that. I just want to be famous. I want to be huge. I look forward to all the money, and the cars, and showing off, but more than anything I’m looking forward to the girls.'

Cheeky: Frankie Cocozza was one of the early hits with judges on tonight's show

Tattoo much: Frankie flashed his bottom at the judges after he told them he'd got seven girls' names inked on it after a holiday in Malia

As he took to the stage and introduced himself, he boasted that he'd just come back from Malia and had got seven girls' names tattooed onto his bottom.

He was then challenged by Tulisa to prove it - and he obliged by dropping his trousers and baring cheeks inscribed with seven names in a quite elaborate script.

He said he'd Kelly and Tulisa's names tattooed in his bum too - but only if they paid for it.

He sang a characterful version The Zuton's Valerie - and got the crowd clapping and singing along, before a standing ovation at the end.

Debut: N-Dubz star Tulisa Contostavlos, wearing an off-the-shoulder leopard print top, was impressed by Frankie's audition

Outspoken: The singer didn't hold back on her debut as a judge on X Factor either

Talking for the first time as an X Factor judge, Tulisa was the first of the panel to comment.

Smiling broadly, she said: 'It's quite clear that the girls seem to already love you and I think after that audition it's about to get a whole lot worse.'

Kelly was next to make her debut on the show, gushing: 'I like you. You know what, I usually like that bad boys. I like your whole vibe, I like the fact you've got eight girls' names tattooed on your bum.'

Mellow yellow: Kelly Rowland and her new fellow female judge Tulisa seem to get on like a house on fire

Destiny's mild: Lovely Kelly appears to be the peacemaker on the panel this year

When she's corrected that it's seven, she joked : I'll be the eighth! I'll pay for it!'

Gary was then next to make his first judgement on the show, and with authority, said: 'I love your stage presence, your Rod Stewart vocals, people are going to love youI really enjoyed every bit of it. The stage presence, the Rod Stewart vocals, I think people are going to love you. Well done.'

A delighted Frankie then gets four yesses and afterwards, said that he would get Kelly and Tulisa's names tattooed onto his bottom and they would be there for the rest of his life.

Next up was Kitty Brucknell, 26, from Gloucestershire, who boasted: 'I know I can sing. I've invented my own brand -it's diva glam pop.'

She's got legs: Contestant Kitty Brucknell impressed with her acapella version of Lady Gaga's Edge Of Glory

Make yourself at home: The wannabe was confident enough to sit herself down at the front of the stage

Quirky: Tulisa rightly pointed out that Kitty may be a bit of a 'Marmite' contestant

She told the judges: 'I'm going to give it my best shot.'

She sings an acapella of Lady Gaga's Edge Of Glory to a roar of approval from the audience.

Gary was impressed and exclaimed: 'Wow. Kitty, that was a great audition. You give us the hard, the soft, the medium. You’re full of body, you filled the whole of the O2. The audience loved it.'

Louis agreed, saying: 'Kitty, it was a great audition. You know, you can sing girl, you’ve got talent.'

A confident Kitty took that as her cue to step forward and sit on the front of the stage, saying: 'I’ve always wanted to sit here.'

Stage fright: Hong Kong born contestant Goldie Cheung was almost sick before she took to the stage for her audition

Quick recovery: However, she soon composed herself and gave an erm, energetic performance of a song no-one recognised

Bum note: Even though singing wasn't Goldie's strong point her vigorous routine saw her shoe come undone, so she had to re-do it

A perceptive Tulisa however saw that Kitty might not be everyone's cup of tea, saying: 'You’ve got a very quirky personality. People will either love you or hate you. I hope they love you because with that vocal you really touch me. It was very haunting. I think it was a brilliant audition – you do like to talk a lot. It’s entertaining!'

Kitty got unanimous yesses from the judges however and was another contestant to go through to boot camp.

The auditions then moved to Birmingham where it was time for some comic relief, firstly when Jay-Z wannabe Sondesh Kumar had a dreadful go at J-Lo's On The Floor.

Up close and personal: Tulisa and Louis got a good view of Goldie's act

Not his type: In fact, Louis got a bit more than he bargained for...

Leg over: did Gary....

There was then some drama when Hong King-born wannabe Goldie Cheung, 50, was sick backstage before she went on.

However, she kept her fighting spirit - and blind self-belief - despite being under the weather, and claimed: 'I can be as big as Tina Turner. I am unique.'

She then launched into an unrecognisable song, which involved a dance routine that at one point saw her put her leg around Gary Barlow's neck.

The audience lapped it up and were cheering and laughing before giving her an ovation.

Gasps: Despite Goldie's antics, Gary just wanted to bring the panel back down to earth and focus on her lack of singing skills

However, an distinctly unamused Gary said afterwards: 'The reason people are up on their feet… It’s not because you’re good.'

Kelly, who had Gary sussed from the start chipped in with: 'I think with Gary it’s either black or white – it’s either good or great.' But Gary was resolute: 'It's awful'. However, the undeniably entertaining Goldie went through.

The already tipped Janet Devlin, 16, from Northern Ireland then took to the stage for her audition once the judges had regained their composure following Goldie.

Nervous: A dressed down Janet Devlin was shaking with nerves when she took to the stage

Thumbs up: The youngster's version of Elton John's Your Song got the audience on its feet

The poor girl looked like she was shaking with nerves, but as she launched into Your Song by Elton John, she unveiled a really unique voice that wasn't a million miles away from former X Factor contestant Diana Vickers or The Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan.

The crowd gave her a standing ovation - and she looked overawed but thrilled.

Kelly was first to speak and enthused: 'Oh my goodness, I am completely in a trance from your voice. It is so beautiful. You could have heard a pin drop in here, it was so silent. Because you came in here so nervous, it makes me love you even more. It was a wonderful audition.'

Big chance: The wannabes are auditioning before hundreds of X Factor fans

Standing ovation: The crowd are quick to show their appreciation - or displeasure

Tulisa couldn't agree more and gushed: 'I love the fact that you’re so shy, it’s so endearing. That is a recording vocal.'

Louis added: 'I don’t think you have any idea how good you are, that’s what I like most about you. You’re only 16 and you’ve got this very distinctive voice. And you’re from Ireland!'

Gary also had a smile back on his face after being totally blown away.

Big stage: Roxanna Arnold impressed the judges with her version of the Ray Charles classic Georgia

You're through: The star was told Tulisa and Kelly wanted to fight over who would mentor her at boot camp

He said: 'When we’re looking for these artists, we’re trying to find someone who will eventually sell records, sell albums around the world. Not just in the UK but everywhere. You are one of those people. That was such a fantastic audition.'

Tulisa concurred, saying: 'I was absolutely mesmerized by you today,' with Kelly adding: 'You blew us away.' She got four yesses and seemed overwhelmed.

There was also a great audition from Roxanna Arnold, who launched into a powerful version of the Ray Charles classic Georgia.

Soso Status were a girl group who claimed to be Destiny's Child's biggest fans - much to Kelly's delight - were also put through after an impressive audition.

Heshima Thompson, 24, who covered Oh My Gosh by Usher, showed that he could not only sing but dance too.

Not so so-so: Girl Group Soso Status wowed with some good harmonies

Boot camp bound: The girls had told Kelly that they were huge Destiny's Child fans

But the show finished with the already much-publicised confrontation between George Gerasimou, 24, and Tulisa.

He had auditioned two years ago with group Triple Trouble, but it had been an awful performance and he threw his mic on the floor in Simon Cowell's direction after being told no, and stormed off stage.

As he arrived on stage, Tulisa recognised him, and exclaimed: 'I know him. He's the one that slammed the mic down and told Simon to shut up.'

George tried to get the judges onside, claiming: 'I'm here to clear my name. Back then I was really quick tempered and whatnot, I was a trainwreck. That was two years ago, but I've grown up a lot since then.'

Bright lights: It's a full-on experience for anyone taking the stage

Big talent: Heshima Thompson was also through after showing he could sing as well as dance

He then launched into his audition of Gimme Everything but it became clear immediately that he couldn't sing - and the audience almost instantly started chanting for him to get off.

He then stormed off the stage and started fronting up Tulisa, before showering the crowd and the judges with a string of profanities, before security intervened.

Kelly dismissed him with a curt: 'If you can't take the heat baby you need to get out of the kitchen.'

A clearly disgusted Gary added: ' When you said earlier you'd matured, in what way. You've matured like a bad curry mate.'

Back again: Host Dermot O'Leary caught up with George Gerasimou before his audition at London's O2 Arena as he'd appeared on the show in 2009

Into his stride: But despite pledging that he'd matured and grown into his singing, George couldn't hold a tune

Off key: But the wannabe wasn't happy with the criticism

Tulisa hit back with: 'I don't think your attitude has changed at all. You came and stood right next to me, and I felt a lot of aggression off you. you're very angry. It's not a good vibe.'

George then interjected with: 'OK, I respect your opinion. Now it’s time for my opinion. You will vote… in good time. Tulisa, if you’re replacing Cheryl…'

But Tulisa was having none of it, cutting him down with: 'We don’t have to sit here and listen to you any more, I don’t want to hear another word of it.'

Aggressive: George fronted up Tulisa, who afterwards slated him for being an 'angry' person

Outburst: Kelly was having none of George's nonsense and told him 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'

Out of order: Tulisa had the last word and told George he'd embarrassed himself in front of the nation

Then George stormed: 'You’re some scumbag trying to replace Cheryl. Some scumbag from the block.'

But Tulisa would not be bowed, and hit back: 'You’re here to be judged, and you know what you’ve just done? You’ve embarrassed yourself to the entire nation. I worked myself up from Camden Town and that’s why I’m here today.'

Loser: Despite having a friend invade the stage to back him up, George was escorted off by security

Still swearing, George was then dragged off stage by security, before he proceeded then call Tulisa a dog backstage in front of show host Dermot O'Leary who told him to 'watch his mouth.'

Unsurprisingly, George did not go through to bootcamp...


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