The X Factor 2017, Bootcamp, Saturday recap: have we discovered the next Matt Cardle?

Stand-out performer: Matt Linnen, a 28-year-old plasterer from Southend-On-Sea - REX/Shutterstock
Stand-out performer: Matt Linnen, a 28-year-old plasterer from Southend-On-Sea - REX/Shutterstock

Well, thank heavens for that. The relentless X Factor audition process – even longer than ever this year - is over and now things start getting interesting. Well, interesting-ish. Bootcamp has multiple stages these days and really shows up which acts have potential and which ones just got through because the judges were having an off day or Simon Cowell liked their smile….

It’s the team building day from hell

Bootcamp starts, as ever, with a bun fight, as the singers frantically grapple for song choices from the “wall of songs” (from Despacito to Don’t Look Back In Anger, there’s something for everyone). It’s a funny old business, where acts have to team up with the fellow wannabes they most have a chance of shining alongside, while simultaneously competing with them.

This, of course, means that the worse-than-LinkedIn clichés are out in full force. “I’m very much a team player but at the same time it’s a competition,” says one. “I gave it 100 per cent last time, I now need to try and hit, like, 110 per cent,” vows another. And some don’t bother to hide their intentions: “I don’t care about the other people, I’m here for myself.” And no, that one wasn’t Simon Cowell.

X Factor
X Factor

It’s all a bit of a farce though really…

Although Bootcamp does have moments of tension, a lot of the judges’ decisions are quite predictable – and seem to be based on how much they liked the acts at their first auditions, rather than how they performed in groups. Rather defeats the object, you say? Ssshhh.

One mixed bag of a line-up royally cocked up their version of a Bruno Mars track, but because they seemed like a nice bunch and had all shown a lot of potential earlier on – especially “looks like a popstar, sounds like a popstar” type Sam Black – the judges put them through anyway.

It was the same story with Alisah Bonaobra whose “I’m from the Philippines and quite poor” spiel served her well at the auditions. Her whole ensemble were noticeably off-key when they teamed up to sing Mariah Carey’s admittedly impossible We Belong Together, but she emotionally blackmailed the judges into giving her another chance, by dropping to the floor, sobbing “I don’t want to go home”, and doing some a cappella vocal acrobatics for soft touch Nicole Scherzinger.

It all made us a bit cross, to be honest… until she, as they say, “killed it” with her arena audition of Defying Gravity, and we saw why the judges liked her so much in the first place. “It’s like a Disney voice, it’s crystal clear,” said Sharon Osbourne. We’re not sure how Alisah would fare singing more contemporary song choices but, at this stage last year, Saara Aalto was very theatrical and somewhat naff too, and she ended up totally reinventing herself and coming second, so we’ll see…

Dermot excels at this bit

Dermot O’Leary’s performance at Bootcamp totally justifies his estimated 76 gazillion pound salary. He really gets stuck in – singing songs the acts don’t recognise as they flap around in front of the wall, generously dispensing post-challenge cuddles and back-slaps where needed and generally acting like an enthusiastic young teacher who just really wants everyone to do well. He's just so damn good at all this.

X Factor
X Factor

Simon’s got his special specs on

You know it’s Bootcamp when Simon Cowell ditches the contacts and puts on his funny little round glasses. They make him look dead studious, and make us wonder why a man in his position doesn’t just get laser eye surgery. Lord knows he wouldn’t be the only member of the X Factor panel to get a little helping hand.

There’s always a villain – and there’s always a party crew

In reality, most X Factor wannabes are probably pretty ruthless, but the show always likes to home in on the ones who most overdo it in the confidence department. They’re usually attractive women with gym-perfect figures and slightly deranged eyes, and they always say ridiculous things like “I wanna make sure the judges are looking at me and only me” and “I can see myself in the future being a worldwide popstar”.

Yes, we’re talking about Jodie Woolcott, a 21-year-old from Kent who the producers wanted to emphasise had ideas above her station – first, we saw her clashing with her group line-up and referring to them as her “backing dancers” and, later, upping the sass further at the arena auditions.

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In the end, she wasn’t that good, so she was sent home, causing her steely eyes to harden further. “It doesn’t bother me,” she stropped to Dermot, when it was obvious it bothered her HARD. We’re very glad she’s been dispensed off this early, or we could have had another Katie Waissel or Kitty Brucknell on our hands. Shudder.

The other Boot Camp cliché? Drunk people. Mother-daughter duo Descendance were among the rabble who, presumably courtesy of the production team’s expense account, went out on the razz the night before their group audition. It probably didn’t make much difference to their subsequent “hideous” – according to Simon Cowell – performance, though; the only half-decent singer of the whole messy line-up was Hayley, the daughter part of Descendance.

Much was made of her decision to ditch her mum and go it alone, but we doubt it’ll matter a jot in the end since we can’t see her making it past the Six Chair Challenge anyway; there are many better young girls in the running, like Grace Davies, Holly Tandy and Deanna, to name just a few.

We know what Sharon really means

One of the stand-out acts of the night was Essex plasterer Matt Linnen – and not least because he has a sort of smirky smouldering sexiness that should see him do very well (at least until he gets forgotten a la similarly twinkly former winners Matt Cardle and Ben Haenow…). “I think the public will like him for his personality,” said Sharon Osbourne. “He’s like a guy in a pub that you’d have a drink with.” Sure, Sharon. A drink. Just because of his nice personality and not that glint in his eyes…. Oh man, it might be pregnancy hormones talking, but we think we’re in love.

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