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‘Virtually Famous’ – tried and tested or duplicated and monotonous?

Mock the Week, Ask Rhod Gilbert, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Sweat the Small Stuff, Have I Got News For You, Celebrity Juice, 8 out of 10 Cats, You Have Been Watching and Fake Reaction. This is merely a shortened list of the massive collection of British TV shows which has utilised the panel show format. We, the British viewers, love nothing more than watching two teams and one presenter sit around three tables, whilst playing games and poking fun at the latest happenings in the world of news and the internet. Typically the shows have a very similar aim, to comically reflect on the week of news, and often feature similar guests. In fact, there are some weeks where you can find the same comedian as a guest on two or more panel shows depending on the TV schedules. However, whilst the love for panel shows appears to be going as strong as ever, there is no guarantee that a new show will be a success; even if you use the same guests that are featured on the popular shows and even discuss similar news topics.

This incertitude of a shows potential success, however, fails to scare away channels from pumping out more and more of the shows. This week sees the outing of E4′s latest attempt at the format; Virtually Famous. The show is described on its website as being a new comedy panel show that ‘celebrates the weird and wonderful world of online sensations.’  The show, like a number that have gone before, sees the teams partake in a variety of features based on the wackiest videos which have made their way onto the internet. If I had to sum up the show, I would say that it is like how I imagine a Rude Tube panel show would be and without Alex Zane as host. Virtually Famous sees Kevin McHale, of Glee fame, take up the presenting seat. Meanwhile panel show regular Seann Walsh and BBC Radio 1′s Chris Stark (especially famous for his interviews with Mila Kunis and Jennifer Aniston) are to be frequent contributors in their roles as team captains.

First and foremost, I would like to say that twenty-six-year-old McHale does a commendable job at leading the show. Often a panel show host has a specific angle which they use to put their own stamp on the role; Simon Amstell became notorious for his grumpy attitude and willingness to insult his guests for comic gain, Keith Lemon has brought catchphrases and a touch of crudeness to the role and Jimmy Carr mixes rather dark humour with a nonetheless likeable personality. McHale may not have had a specific quirk which he utilised to make the audience like him but he did bring confidence, humour and charm to the job. There were of course jokes made about the English and American differences and he specifically joked with Rachel Riley about his bemusement at the success of Countdown. If you were told that Channel 4 were launching a new show, you might not have particularly assumed that a Glee star, with relatively little presenting experience, would have been cast. However, McHale proved in the first episode that he was more than comfortable in the position. Furthermore one of the best things about his hosting, I thought, was his apparent genuine interest in the proceedings of the show. Often with TV shows, especially with rather inexperienced presenters, the host can come across as trying too hard and thus appears insincere. However, when McHale hosted, he appeared to be finding things genuinely funny and talked with guests about their careers with a real curiosity; an essential quality in any host.

Host Kevin McHale is joined by team captains Chris Stark and Seann Walsh

One of the complaints I had about the show was that perhaps it was trying a little too hard to impress. Part one of the show saw McHale welcome a mystery guest and then he gave the teams three options for why he had become internet famous. In episode one (broadcast Monday 21st July), it turned out that the guest had become famous for turning his taxidermied cat into a remote control helicopter. The majority of the guests appeared to find the whole thing slightly uncomfortable, although Riley did respect him for his creativity from a gadget perspective. I am sure that some viewers found the feature rather entertaining and clearly the initial video received a lot of views online (although it is unclear whether this was due to people finding it entertaining or disturbing). However, McHale then asked for the mystery guest to give a demonstration of the cat helicopter in the studio. The whole feature became rather bizzare and, in my view (especially as a fan of cats), rather uncomfortable. It was not exactly a light-hearted introduction to the show and it did almost feel like the producers had ensured that the feature was shown early on due to its rather outrageous nature and to get people talking about the show.

Thus, the first part of the show left me feeling rather unsure as to where the producers would take the episode next and I was debating as to whether this really was the sort of panel show for me. Luckily, the ‘Hall of Fame’ feature saved them in part two of the show. This saw the teams watch a Youtube clip which had made the big time on the site and they spoke live to its creator. This week saw the teams interview a Youtube star who gained success for his lip-syncing skills. This led to team members going head-to-head in a lip-syncing battle and then being judged by the Youtube star. My only issue with this was that I felt Romesh Ranganathan was cheated out of first place in the contest with his cover of ‘Call Me Maybe’. Sean Walsh took the title instead. Regardless, this feature provided the type of relaxed and comfortable comedy which you expect when you tune into a panel show.

Ultimately, Virtually Famous adds very little to the world of the comedy panel show. A version of the mystery guest feature can be found on Would I Lie To You? The ‘Hall of Fame’ concept is frequently used and can arguably be compared to Room 101. However, the similarity which can be found between Virtually Famous and its fellow panel shows is not necessarily a bad thing. As I have noted previously, UK television is filled with such shows and they rarely differ drastically in what they bring to the table. All that is needed to win the viewers over are funny teams, a likeable host and games that stay fresh. It is too early to tell whether Virtually Famous will do all of this well enough, but if it does then there is no reason why it will not be a hit.

Virtually Famous continues on Monday 28th July at 10pm on E4. Watch the series one trailer below.

Ed Sheeran- ‘x (multiply)’: Review

Everybody’s favourite singing, song-writing, guitar-playing and rapping pop-star is back this week with the release of his second studio album. Ed’s album is simply entitled ‘x’, for ‘multiply’, not ‘xylophone’, and follows his UK number one debut album ‘+’.

‘+’ is the perfect easy-listening album with many songs, despite their powerful lyrics, having tunes that are chilled and you can easily find yourself at the end of the album without realising how long you have been listening to it for. Thus, as I hit ‘play’ on Sheeran’s second album, I was thrilled to find much of the same on ‘x’. The first two tracks on the record, ‘One’ and ‘I’m a Mess’, urge you to prepare to take those lighters out of your pocket and wave your hands in the air at the sound of a blissful continuation of album number one. Little did we know that Ed had very different plans in store for us. These softer tracks appear to be a mere way of gently introducing fans to the record and showing that he has not forgotten his placid guitar-playing roots. As track three emerges, we discover that this is no extension of ‘+’. This is something new.

Out of nowhere, Sheeran drops ‘Sing’ and this explosion of fast lyrics, heavier production and an infectiously catchy tune sets the true precedent for the rest of the album. You are left unsure as to whether you are a willing participant in the sing-along to this game changing track, or whether you have been forced into it by Sheeran’s dominating commands every ten seconds to ‘SING’. The song, like every track that is currently in the charts (or at least it seems that way), was produced by Pharrell Williams; seriously, who hasn’t Pharrell worked with now?! However , Williams, as a guy who knows exactly what chart music consumers want right now, appears to be the perfect person to assist Ed with his new sound. In all honesty, the track’s first radio play did have many wondering why a Justin Timberlake song had been introduced as being one of Sheeran’s; it does have strong similarities to the ‘Cry Me A River’ star. Sheeran recently admitted to the obvious resemblances to Timberlake after telling Billboard that he was listening to ‘Justified’, a record which a younger Pharrell also worked on, a lot during the album recording; Sheeran claimed, “It was pretty close to a direct inspiration”.

Ed, Pharrell and erm, Ed again in the music video for 'Sing'

Ed, Pharrell and erm, Ed again in the music video for ‘Sing’

‘Sing’ sees the return of Sheeran’s trademark singing/rapping style that made tracks like ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ a massive success on his first record. Meanwhile ‘x’, seemingly more than ‘+’,  is littered with the style and it crafts a new level to his music. Some may call it shallow as the lyrics and meanings become more blindly obvious if spoke through straightforward word. Sheeran recalls how many failed to recognise that one of his biggest hits, ‘A-Team’, was actually about the death of a prostitute because it was such a beautiful-sounding song. The lyrics in the songs featured on ‘x’ are much blunter and cut straight into your consciousness. However, I would argue that this makes the tracks much deeper; giving us a further insight into Sheeran’s emotions, which many of us may not have picked up on otherwise.

One of the most stunning tracks on the album, which truly utilises the style of rapping and singing, is ‘The Man’; a track which, in my opinion, is the standout of the entire record. The song is rather stripped back in order to allow the astonishingly honest lyrics truly strike the listener in the heart. The song is both similar and differs from the exposed track ‘Wake Me Up’ on Ed’s first record. ‘Wake Me Up’ charmingly describes a loving relationship whereas ‘The Man’ is a break-up track. The two compare in the way that they are both raw in their meaning and their execution. The song tells of a break-up and the pain of his ex moving on with another guy rather quickly. It touches upon thoughts of what could have been, life for Ed whilst trying to move on and some of his deepest fears of life for him now.  I was sat listening to this album on the train the other day and this was one of the tracks that truly made me stop and listen. A look at some of the lyrics might explain why.

‘I knew he had his eyes on you. He’s not the right guy for you. Don’t hate me cos I write the truth.’

‘When I broke the industry, That’s when I broke your heart.’

‘Success is nothing if you have no one there left to share it with’

‘The irony is if my career and music didn’t exist, In 6 years, yeah, you’d probably be my wife with a kid’

‘And I’d be writing my will before I’m 27, I’ll die from a thrill, Go down in history as just a wasted talent’

 Source

 

The song deals with some dark themes but it has a strangely uplifting feel to it with the chorus,

‘I don’t love you baby, I don’t need you baby, I don’t want you no, Anymore.’

The album does deal with quite a fair amount of loss and ideas of what might have been if things had worked out differently. A careful listen to the lyrics can expose some rather saddening topics, like many of Sheeran’s previous songs, but the tracks also have something rather inspiring about them. ‘Afire Love’ speaks of a ‘devil’ taking ‘your breath away’ but it is matched with a simply stunning piano track. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ talks of growing old and dreams of what could have been. Whilst  ‘Even My Dad Does Sometimes’ inspires the listener that it is okay to cry sometimes, ‘Tears remind you you’re alive’, ‘even my dad does sometimes.’

In summary, Ed Sheeran’s ‘x’ is a stunning piece of work. For a man who had such an incredible breakthrough with his debut album, it must have been an enormous amount of pressure to match the standard which he had set for himself. However, in my opinion, he matches, if not blows out of the water, his first record with ‘x’. There is something about it that really strikes the listener as being rather incredible; perhaps it is his blunt honesty, his perfected technique of delivering lyrics which connect to the listener and his way of incorporating all of this into strangely inspiring and upbeat tracks. It is rather rare, I think, for an artist to achieve such a thing. An artist which has similarly achieved such a feat is Passenger and the two artists are alike in the way that they balance such a combination so well. Ed’s second album is a release which is a necessary addition to your music collection and I am certain that it is likely to do very well in the album charts. I look forward to the third album. The question is, will it be called ‘minus’ or ‘divide’?

My Rating: 5/5

Ed Sheeran’s ‘x (multiply)’ is out now. You can also listen to it on Spotify. The official video for the lead single, ‘Sing’, is below.

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Review

Seth MacFarlane has been a permanent fixture of our TV and Film viewing for many years, providing endless voices for the hit US adult cartoon-comedy, Family Guy, and his creation of Ted. We may recognise his voice as being familiar, but his latest film A Million Ways to Die in the West is the first time that we see him step out onscreen himself to try his hand at acting.

Seth lends his voice to a host of characters on Family Guy and also voiced Ted; the rude talking teddy-bear

A Million Ways is set in the Wild West in Arizona in 1882. MacFarlane plays disgruntled sheep farmer, Albert, in the town of Old Stump who is tired of its endless ways of trying to kill everyone in it. His anguish is fuelled when his girlfriend of eighteen-months (Amanda Seyfried) dumps him for a moustache shop owner (played by HIMYM’s Neil Patrick Harris). Albert suddenly receives an injection of excitement, however, when a mysterious new girl called Anna (Charlize Theron) rocks up in town with her supposed ‘brother’. She inspires him to become self-confident and teaches him to fire a gun after Albert challenges Foy (his ex-girlfriend’s new man) to a gunfight. Little does Albert know that Anna is in fact married to the most deadly gunslinger in the West, Clinch, played by Liam Neeson.

This storyline plays out throughout the movie but it is never made clear whether this is supposed to be the main storyline or a sub-plot to the ‘A Million Ways to Die’ concept; the two ideas seem to be almost vying for attention throughout which makes the aim of the plot rather unclear at times. However, the storyline of meeting various ways to reach a deadly end is a clever one and most definitely provides the most amount of humour in the film. There is a very amusing sub-plot of the mayor of the town dying in the middle of the street without anyone noticing for three days; Albert points this out and, as he does so, two wolves come along and drag him away, only for Anna’s dog to come running back later on with one of the mayor’s legs. There is also a fantastic comical moment where a giant block of ice detaches from a series of ropes and gruesomely kills one of the workers. Albert screams ‘Oh my God, that went south so fast!!’ What is even funnier is that in the next scene, it is noted that the town will continue to drink the ice despite the fact that it was covered in blood. There is also the recurring feature of lethal animals in the Wild West and there is a moment where Albert and Anna have to stay completely still when they are confronted by a deadly snake (which was absolutely not made of plastic/Paper Mache….)

MacFarlane and Theron display a variety of shocked faces as the sudden deaths keep on coming

A major issue with A Million Ways is its committing of the cardinal sin of a comedy film; using all of the jokes in the trailer. The film does have a rather big issue with pace and when the film drifts from the various ways of dying concept and into the love story of Albert and Anna or other sub-plots, the story does go a little bit stale. I found myself sitting there waiting for the story to progress and for something funny to happen. Usually in comedies, the story is developed enough that you are not always just waiting for humour but enjoy the story also. The issue with this film is that the only truly funny moments are when somebody dies in some obscure way; when this is not happening, the boredom kicks in. Furthermore, because nearly all of the deaths in the film are featured in the trailer, it leaves the audience already knowing all of the humorous moments before they happen. Thus, what would have been full laughter becomes a light chuckle as the audience already have foreknowledge of what is going to happen.

The biggest characteristic that this film has going for it is its cast. MacFarlane is a big name in the business and during his career he has clearly managed to acquire a rather hefty phone book of Hollywood stars. As previously mentioned, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris and Amanda Seyfried all join MacFarlane in this enterprise. However, the cast is extended to include the likes of Sarah Silverman who plays a Christian prostitute who refuses to have sex before marriage with her boyfriend, Edward, played by Giovanni Ribisi (you may know him as Phoebe’s brother in Friends). The pair’s acting bounce off each other and Seth certainly gets his money’s worth from these two actors, as they provide some of the funniest moments of the film; the scene of them preparing to have sex for the first time is a personal favourite. Plus, there an array of cameos too with Jamie Foxx and Ewan McGregor joining the cast. Without such a top-billed cast I think that the film would not have received such high interest as it has had and I often felt like the cast were very much compensating for a rather poor storyline.

An enormous cast of talented performers feature

And what of MacFarlane’s acting debut? I would call it, at best, average. He is clearly one very funny guy who creates comedy extremely well. He is frankly, a comedy genius. His acting ability, on the other hand, needs a bit of work. His performance often comes across as rather false as he always appears to have a slight smirk emerging on his face; even in more serious scenes. Of course, this is quite common of some comedy actors (not to mention any names) and I am sure that he will and should be cast in more comedies. However, I cannot see him doing very well in a more dramatic film.

A Million Ways is a fair attempt at a comedy film that required a great deal from MacFarlane; acting, writing and directing. I think that perhaps such multi-tasking may have been a stretch too far for him in this instance. The story did need a fair amount more depth to it to keep the audience engaged and instead it was down to a big-named cast to keep the audience entertained. I was expecting great things from this film, after a very amusing trailer, however it did feel a little disappointing. It is certainly worth a watch but do not expect to be ‘laughing-out-loud’ as much as the trailer would have you believe.

On the other hand, I am very excited to hear that Ted is getting itself a sequel and Amanda Seyfried will be taking over the role of leading lady, previous played by Mila Kunis, in the follow-up film.

A Million Ways to Die in the West- My Rating-  2/5

BGT Final Live-blog (Blogged live 7/6/14)

Jordan Mant blogs about the Britain’s Got Talent Final 2014, as it happens LIVE. Tweet your comments to @jordanmant and #MCCBGT for a mention!


Please hit ‘refresh’ on your browser throughout the show for updates


21:30 So that is it. Another year of Britain’s Got Talent is over and boy did all of the acts do Britain proud! It is also the end of another live blog. Thanks for watching along with this blog and more Showbiz posts will be coming your way soon!  Goodnight, Jordan Mant signing off.

21:25 So Collabro are your winners! Congratulations to the boys! Admittedly, I thought it to be a surprise win as they simply performed their audition act again but perhaps that is a winning formula! It is a great version of the song and I am sure that an album will be out soon. Many of the acts are likely to get signed and be coming to variety shows near you soon too! I imagine that the Collabro boys gained a great deal of the teenage girl and mum’s vote but fair play to them. Richard & Adam didn’t even win last year and they have gone onto great things. So, by winning, Collabro could do even better!

Are you happy with your winner? After all you voted for them. Let me know your thoughts!

You’re 2014 Britain’s Got Talent WINNER is…

COLLABRO

NOW THEY WILL PERFORM AGAIN…

Collabro. Your BGT 2014 winners!

 


21:21 YOU’RE WINNER IS…. COLLABRO!

21:20 2nd PLACE: LUCY KAY

21:20 3rd PLACE: BARS AND MELODY (shame, but I am sure that Simon will give them a record deal)

21:15 YOUR TOP 3: Bars and Melody, Collabro and Lucy Kay.

I think and hope that it will be between Bars and Melody and Lucy. I hope Bars and Melody clinch it but Lucy is equally deserving. Collabro just repeated their audition tonight and brought little new to the final unfortunately.

21:14 Surprised that Paddy & Nico came that far down. Darcy Oake only 5th, whhaaatt?

21:12 Alright folks. Fasten your seatbelts. The results are in and the results are on their way! The big question is…


21:10 Well that was certainly an energetic performance. Simon and David certainly look happy with Cheryl’s performance!

21:09 Tinie Tempah has hit the stage!

21:08 I am not sure to define this song, this is the first time that I have heard it. It’s like a pop/jazz cross-over. This truly shows that Simon and Cheryl are friends again, otherwise she would have been unlikely to be performing on this show tonight.

21:06 Cheryl Cole is to take to the stage now with a performance of her new single, ‘Crazy Stupid Love’. I ‘Promise This’ (see what I did there? Sorry!) should be a good performance.

21:05 VOTING LINES ARE CLOSED. STOP CALLING PEOPLE! TOO LATE NOW!


20:58 Oh yes, I forgot that Little Mix’s Jade and Jesy are dating Diversity members. That gives reason as to how the collaboration came about!

Song still going around my head, ‘SALUTE, SALUTE!’

20:55 Oh Diversity are back. It was reaching the verge of them just becoming Little Mix’s backing dancers for a minute. Oh hang on, they are heading to the back again. Come on guys, let’s learn how to share stage time properly. Two very good acts though!

20:54 Little Mix appear to have male dancers, with no tops on, on leads. As you do… we’re still pre-watershed you know…

20:52 And now a collaborative performance from Little Mix and Diversity combined!


MY PREDICTIONS 

It is a tough one to call indeed. I personally would love Darcy Oake to win. I also predict good things for Lucy Kay, Bars and Melody and perhaps even Paddy and Nico.

 

20:47 VOTING LINES ARE OPEN. Head over to the BGT official website now for voting details. You only have roughly 20 minutes to vote! Remember you are voting for the act you want to see win £250,000, a spot on the Royal Variety Performance; following in the footsteps of last year’s winners, Attraction


 

20:43- Alesha, ‘simply superb.’ Amanda, ‘you were just incredible darling.’ Simon, ‘you literally sung like a diamond’. Glowing comments. Lucy finishes her performance in tears bless her, overcome by nerves it seems. Not that her performance showed it!

Lucy Kay

20:42 Apologies. I think I just got a little bit lost in Lucy’s stunning performance of Nessun Dorma. Remember when a certain Mr Potts sang than song on that very show. We all know what happened to him, he won! Beautiful.

20:39- Lucy Kay- This 24-year-old opera singer has displayed deep emotion on the song through her songs and through her back story. Of course BGT’s first ever winner was an opera singer, by the name of Paul Potts, but will Lucy manage to reach such heights tonight. Let’s find out.


 

BREAK TIME. Later tonight, once the voting lines open, Cheryl Cole, Little Mix and Diversity will all be taking to the stage to entertain you whilst you wait for the results to come in!

Cheryl

Little Mix

Diversity

 


 

20:33 ‘You have steel in your eyes when you sing.’ - Simon Cowell 

20:32 The judges are like yo-yo’s tonight. In and out of their seats every two minutes!

Collabro

20:31 They all look very swish this evening in their posh suits and yet another polished performance. However, I am slightly disappointed that they have not brought a new song to the table. It does not stand out as particularly different from their previous ones. Surely, they should be increasing their game tonight.

20:30- Collabro- This musical theatre five-piece are doing their best to make this style of music mainstream and cool. Their past two performances have featured two Les Mis classics of Bring Him Home and Stars. As a Les Mis fan, I am a fan of this group. Tonight, they will be once again be singing Stars’ from the musical, as done in their audition.


20:28 Ant and Dec are sliding all over the studio, slick moves lads!

20:26 Paddy reminds us all that ‘life is to be lived’ says Alesha. Simon calls Paddy a ‘little minx’.

20:25 The act finishes with the judges on their feet and Paddy hanging from Nico’s neck!

20:24 Amanda certainly looks impressed with her Golden Buzzer act.

There are so many instances where you think Paddy could get stepped on or dropped but Nico always seems in control.

20:23 I believe we can likely expect more of Nico throwing Paddy around the stage like this…

Paddy and Nico

20:22 - Paddy and Nico- Paddy, 79, and Nico, 40, are big contenders tonight after winning over the support of Amanda in the audition stages; going onto win her Golden Buzzer. They performed in the semi-final despite Paddy incurring injury. Plus, this week they even appeared in the audience of The Graham Norton Show.  They may have the support of the judges but will the public back them in the vote? We’ll have to wait and see.


BREAK TIME! Previous BGT winners Diversity will be showing the acts how it’s truly done tonight when they take to the stage later. Remember their reaction when took the crown in their year?


20:16 Thank goodness he escaped that bear trap before it snapped shut! Death before watershed may have gained ITV a few OFCOM complaints I imagine.

20:15 Amanda loved the fact that his top fell off and Simon loved the entire production and the variety of his three performances.

20:14 OH MY GOODNESS! That was TRULY ‘edge-of-your-seat’ viewing! That is incredible. I remember seeing an act like this on the USA version of the show but this was even better! I truly hope he wins with that. He put his life on the line and what great television!

20:11 He is the first act that I am really excited to see what he is going to do. I need to watch every moment of this. I will see you afterwards!

20:10- Darcy Oake- This 26-year-old is definitely a contender tonight, in my opinion, after two impressive performances on the show. Simon even likes him and he usually hates illusionists and magicians! Will Darcy manage to keep the judges on-side this evening?

 I can definitely see this guy getting a stage show and a hit street illusion show on TV!

Darcy Oake


BREAK TIME- Darcy Oake will be attempting ‘the most dangerous stunt’ the show has ever seen after the break, apparently. I am looking forward to that. Whilst the ads are on though, why not remind yourselves of the moment that Little Mix, one of tonight’s musical acts, won the show. Here’s their winners single!


20:03 Amanda just said that the guys have stolen Bublé’s crown. Careful Amanda, he is a frequently booked guest on the show, don’t annoy him!

20:01 Well I personally thought that that was great. Another standing ovation from the judges because these guys really can sing. Surely the success of shows such as the Jersey Boys surely indicates that there is a space for this sort of act in the industry!

19:59  And the men are taking on a Michael Bublé classic. Everyone get your belting voices out…’IT’S A NEW DAWN, IT’S A NEW DAY AND I’M FEELING GOOOOOOODDD!

19:58 Jack Pack- Get ready for a Rat Pack track from Jack Pack. They won their place in the final last Saturday but with less than a week to prepare, the pressure is on. Band members, Alfie, Adam, Andrew and Sean,told the show’s online team last week, “We spent over three weeks rehearsing for the semi-final and we only have one week to prepare this time.” Will the lack of time show on the night? Let’s hope not.

Jack Pack


19:55 And another standing ovation from the judges! He definitely increased his game tonight! Alesha is comparing his to James Morrison and has named him the competition’s ‘dark horse.’ Amanda is loving the retro.

19:53 He is looking very dapper this evening with a smart blue suit and he has a very Beatles-esque haircut going on too! He is also showing off a rather broader vocal range too. This is shaping up well as a vocal display if you ask me (who has no vocal talent experience by the way!)

19:51 - James Smith- 15-year-old James Smith is a talented vocalist and guitarist. The question is how he will set himself aside from other singers in tonight’s line-up and whether he can prove himself as unique from others in the chart, such as Ed Sheeran.

Let’s see how this Essex schoolboy gets on!

James Smith


19:48 BREAKING NEWS…. The world is in shock that Mr Cowell may not actually be a robot, as previously thought, and may in fact have an emotional side.

19:45 Simon names the song ‘from the heart’. And he says ‘I hope my little Eric turns out like you.’ **SIMON SHOWING HIS EMOTIONAL SIDE ALERT** Look at the £ signs in his eyes when he looks at them….

19:44 A standing ovation and David says that we could be looking at the winner!

19:42 The boys are singing their audition song, but this time for a live audience. Wow this song is catchy, surely it will get released soon after the competition ends? Are you enjoying seeing this song performed again or would you have liked a different one instead?

Bars and Melody

19:41 Bars and Melody- Charlie, 15 and Leondre, 13 reduced the judges and the crowd to tears with their audition and their second performance similarly wowed the panel. The pair have received a fair amount of media attention recently, with a performance on the US show Ellen. No matter what happens tonight, I have the feeling that they will be signed to a certain Mr Cowell’s label in the coming weeks.


BREAK TIME- Later tonight Cheryl Cole will take to the stage with a performance of a brand new single. Do you remember the first time that Cheryl stepped out on the X Factor stage as a solo artist? Relive it here…


19:36 Do you agree with Simon or the other three judges?

Yanis Marshall, Arnaud & Mehdi

19:35 A boo-ing audience at Cowell. Simon said it was ‘too intense’, not ‘as fun’, and ‘you’re not going to win.’ In all seriousness, he has a point. It was a slightly same-y performance as the others. Perhaps this is a one-trick-pony act. The buzzers at the start was still dramatic in a good way!

19:33 And Simon has pressed his buzzer for real! David and Alesha are on their feet in protest!

19:31 Don’t worry it was the guys themselves who pressed all four buzzers, not the judges. Certainly made me look up at the TV screen for a second! Definitely a way to grab the attention of the audience and viewing public.

19:30 Yanis Marshall, Arnaud & Mehdi

Definitely an act that is a guilty pleasure in the eyes of many and these boys in stilettos would certainly deliver variety at the Royal Performance. Will these guys strut straight into top position tonight in the public vote?


19:27 I’ll be honest. I wasn’t a big fan of the act before, but that song may have actually won me over. My arm hairs were on end!

Lettice in her audition

19:26 She even just did a bit of singing herself before the choir came out and backed her up! Impressive stuff.

19:25 I can truly imagine Lettice having a very nice chat with Her Majesty backstage at the Royal Variety Performance.

She’s stripping things back tonight by focusing on her violin rather than the set and kicking things off with a cover of ‘Bring Me To Life’, rather haunting too!

19:23 Lettice Rowbotham- It’s impossible to doze off to this violinist and Lettice combines this classical instrument with mainstream music. Which songs will “the poshest person to ever come to Birmingham” (David Walliams) take on tonight?


19:20 There are no stops for episodes of Corrie (or any other shows) tonight, instead we’re going straight through until 21:30. Plus, get ready for some very special musical guests who will be providing interludes to the competition tonight. Cheryl Cole will be performing her new single ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ and X Factorwinners Little Mix and BGT winners Diversity will also be taking to the stage!


So what did you make of the first two acts? Who are you looking forward to tonight? Tweet @jordanmant or #MCCBGT


19:15 He’s now even impersonating Jenson, a former impressionist from the semi-finals, and he’s doing a very good job! His Keith Lemon act was very convincing too!

19:12 It’s a glitzy affair for Clegg tonight with an Oscars-style set and he’s wearing a boe-tie. He kicked off with his Ant & Dec impression but now appears to be returning to his audition technique of kids shows impressions. Will he be penalised for repeating material?

Jon Clegg

19:11 Jon Clegg- WILDCARD

Next up it’s 43-year-old impressionist, Jon Clegg. The comedian may have been knocked out of the competition by Darcy Oake and Collabro in his semi-final show, but now he’s back thanks to the judge’s Wildcard.

Jon has, in my opinion, yet to prove himself as being up to the standard of some of the previous impressionists on the show. Will he deliver a winning performance and prove himself worthy of the Wildcard tonight? Let’s find out.


19:08 David and Simon are on their feet and David wants to throw Simon in the cauldron! Whilst, Alesha wants the group to offer something more.

Addict Initiative

19:05 This time they’ve decided to go for a unique take on Hansel and Gretel. What I love about this group is that they always give the lead parts to different cast members each time. It’s like watching a more dramatic version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’; so intense!!

19:04- The Addict Initiative are first up!

They are like Diversity but only if they were having a horrific nightmare. Simon has always appeared to be impressed by this rather refreshingly sinister take on a dance troupe. What will this sinister group have in store for us this evening?

19:02 And the BGT ‘Royal Family’ are welcomed to the stage with the help of some trumpet-playing guards. Amanda and Alesha looking very glamorous, Walliams has gone for a white suit and Simon once again has his chest hair out!

18:59 And we begin with an emotional montage reminding us that thousands applied and now just eleven remain!

Ant and Dec are currently waiting backstage to start the show. Do you think this is how they warm up?

18:57 Good evening! So here we go! Who will be joining the likes of Paul Potts, Diversity and Attraction as a Britain’s Got Talent winner? It’s down to you! Who do you think will win and who do you think will actually win it? Let me know your thoughts. Tweet @jordanmant and #MCCBGT for a mention!



 

We’ll be going LIVE at 7pm this evening.

BGT Final


 

BGT Semi-Final 5: Live-blog (Blogged live 31/5/14)

Jordan Mant blogs about the fifth and final Britain’s Got Talent Semi-Final, as it happens LIVE. Tweet your comments to @jordanmant and #MCCBGT for a mention!


Please hit ‘refresh’ on your browser throughout the show for updates


 

RESULTS SHOW


22:03 A look at the final next Saturday night. As ever, there are so many singers! At first look, I predict good things for Bars & Melody and Darcy Oake. Of course, we have a Wildcard still too!

Thanks for joining me tonight and I hope to be live-blogging next Saturday’s final too! See you then. Goodnight.

Don’t forget that you can find more over at the official BGT website itv.com/talent

21:56 Judges’ choice:

SIMON: BAILEY     DAVID: PADDY & NICO   ALESHA: PADDY & NICO    AMANDA:  PADDY & NICO

Paddy & Nico are through. The first act to go through this week with judge majority and not public vote alone.

They join Jack Pack. 

21:53: And Jack Pack are through on your vote and are going to the final. Now it’s down to the judges to choose between Bailey and Paddy & Nico. Sadly for Bailey, I believe that Paddy & Nico are certain as the judges’ choice.

21:52 Your TOP THREE ladies and gentlemen: Paddy & Nico (hardly surprising), Jack Pack and Bailey McConnell. But, who is getting through on your votes alone?

21:50 Okay people. Buckle your seatbelts. Time for Britain’s favourite Geordie-duo to announce the result of your vote.

 

21:46 Ad-break time. Remember, when Richard & Adam had to put up with an egg thrower aiming for Simon Cowell during their performance? Relive it here!

21:42 A lovely performance from two acts who know how our semi-finalists feel.

Attraction won last year’s show

Richard and Adam missed out on the winning spot last year

 

21:38 A Richard & Adam and Attraction collaboration. Should be interesting! Attraction did need a new injection of interest after rather same-y performances throughout this year. Let’s see how this goes. (Should point out, they are not being judged any more…phew!)

 

21:35 I personally think Jack Pack and Paddy and Nico stand a good chance. Kings and Queens may have impressed, but more based on their first audition. Could Jenson be a surprise favourite?

21:32 And we are back. Earlier tonight we saw singers Andrew  Derbyshire, Bailey McConnell, Peat Loaf and Elaine, singing group Jack Pack, body-popper Kieran Lai, impressionist Jenson Zhu, dancers Paddy and Nico and Kings and Queens all take to the stage to fight for a chance in next Saturday’s live final. Only two can grab the last places (minus the wildcard place), so who do you think will take the spots? Tweet me @jordanmant and hashtag #MCCBGT to let me know your thoughts!

 


MAIN SHOW

 


 

20:31 That’s all from me for now. Join me again at 21:30 (1 hour’s time) for the results! Attraction and Richard and Adam will also be taking to the stage.

20:29 So, who impressed you tonight? Vote in the poll to let me know your winner of the night. Remember, voting in this poll has no effect on the genuine vote of the competition.

 

20:26 The voting lines are now open. Head over to the Britain’s Got Talent website for voting details and all of the performances from tonight’s performers. All you can watch them all now on your tele-boxes as I believe they are about to play them all again. Yes, here they are! http://www.itv.com/britainsgottalent

 

20:24 A standing-ovation from the audience and judges alike. Oh no, we can see £ signs in Simon’s eyes again. Did somebody say a Christmas album for the mothers?

20:22- Singing at the TV ‘I DID IT MY WAAAYYYY!’ …..sorry, got a bit carried away!

A classic talent show song choice but I am enjoying this arrangement!

20:21- Jack Pack- ‘That’s life’ was the song that Jack Pack chose to display their talent at their audition. Will they deliver a life-changing performance this evening in front of a live studio audience?

20:17 Another ad break. Later tonight, last year’s winners Attraction will perform a special performance alongside Richard & Adam.

20:12 I am no dance expert but to do that at 79, with an injury, is extremely impressive!

20:11 Alesha is re-living her Strictly Come Dancing judging days and the confetti is already falling in the studio….oh hang on, it’s only fake confetti so far.

20:09 Paddy and Nico- They are back after they initially had to drop-out after Paddy incurred health issues during rehearsals a fortnight ago. Luckily she has been given the all-clear to perform by the medics and now these firm-favourites from the very start of this year’s contest are back! Will Amanda be happy with her Golden Buzzer winners?

20:08 I believe that there are two more acts to come tonight. Paddy and Nico and Jack Pack!

20:04 Perhaps it takes something very special, such as the likes of George Sampson, to impress as a solo performer. The judges seem to focus on the talent of the production rather than Kieran himself. His fate lies with the public now.

20:01 Hang on, he’s grown two more dancers right?! I don’t think I saw them before…

19:58 Kieran Lai- Body-popper Kieran showed strengths similar to winners such as George Sampson and Diversity. Will he do as well as his predecessors on the night?

 

19:55 What’s with the arty music? I see no art! Not a bad Simon impression though (sort of)

19:52 Calling yourself the worst impressionist on Britain’s Got Talent is pretty brave. There is something endearing about him though right?! This seems a lot more staged than he lets on, which is great!

19:51- Jenson Zhu- He might not be the greatest impressionist that the show has ever seen but he managed to do something right in his London audition, despite never performing his act in public previously. He’s not going to ‘kill people’, he’s going to ‘thrill people’…apparently.

19:49 Did he sound like he was being strangled Simon? Tad harsh.

19:48 That was a rather powerful performance though!

19:45 Wow, ‘Listen’ is a song that doesn’t ever get enough exposure on these talent shows…. dramatic lighting too!

19:44 Andrew  Derbyshire - Andrew (sadly, not from Derbyshire) previously appeared on Pop Idol ‘back in the day.’ At his audition, he said that he would love to perform at the Royal Variety as he is a massive fan of the Royal Family. His cover of a Jocelyn Brown track earned him a standing-ovation! He said that he believes that ‘you’re time will come eventually.’ Will tonight be his night? Let’s find out.

19:41 Don’t forget that I would love to hear your opinions on tonight’s show. Tweet @jordanmant or hashtag #MCCBGT

19:38 Alesha, you stole my comment! And Amanda, poor joke.

The real Meatloaf

The BGT edition

19:36 Well he’s definitely got the voice, look, throne and flames down. But, quick question. If the Royal family wanted to hear Meatloaf songs at the Royal Variety, surely they could book the genuine guy quite easily?

19:34 Peat Loaf and Elaine- We only saw this pair as part of a sweeping highlight montage in the initial stages but they managed to impress the judges enough to gain a place in the semi-finals. Will the judges be impressed with tonight’s performance and what will you, the viewing public, think?

19:24 A park bench, poles, snogging in a red phone box and a moody London backdrop. One word for this staging- ‘intriguing’. I’m undecided whether that is a good or bad thing yet.

19:23 Kings and Queens- The group contains a host of couples and some who are ‘getting closer together.’ So, the chemistry should certainly be there. Plus, watch out for previous BGT finalist, Kai.

 

19:23 So much tension between Simon and David this evening. Is five shows in one week too much for the loved-up pair?

19:21 ‘I didn’t like the song, but I do like you.’ That’s Simon Cowell talk for ‘I can see £ signs when I hear you sing.’

19:19 Simon’s nodding along to ‘Growing Pains’ but is it as good as his first song? I am not so sure.

19:17 Bailey- 14-year-old Bailey impressed both the judges and the crowd with his self-written song and acoustic guitar at his initial audition.

And tonight, he has penned another song about his parents- very cute!

 

19:10 La Voix & The London Gay Big Band is arguably one of the best show openers of the week. Only high praise from the judges and it is undeniable that they certainly provide variety from the usual winners of BGT!

19:08 We are promised ‘Camp-o-rama’ with the first act of the night, La Voix & The London Gay Big Band! They certainly have a big production! They are in fact the first act of the week to walk around the judges (I believe)

19:00 Good evening. We are live for the fifth and final BGT semi-final of 2014. Who will be the final act to make it through to next Saturday’s live final? Tonight we’ve got boy band’s, impressionists, singers, dancers and more. PLUS Paddy and Nico are back after a health worry, hurrah! Who do you think will do well? Tweet me (@jordanmant) and hashtag #MCCBGT for a mention.

We’ll be going LIVE at 7pm this evening.


BGT semi-final 5

Ghost Stories is devoid of Coldplay spirit

This week Coldplay are back with their sixth studio album Ghost Stories. The week before its release, the band allowed fans to stream the record  for free on iTunes. Along with every other eager Coldplay fan, I quickly dashed over to iTunes to have a listen. Sadly, after a first listen, I felt compelled to post the following statement on my personal Facebook account:

Tonight I find it very hard to call myself a Coldplay fan. This pile of half-hearted rubbish is not an album. It is the music which you would find on the cutting room floor. Lack of originality, decent lyrics, good music and what is with the constant sound effects of the sea and all the other nonsense? It sounds like a 99p ‘go to sleep’ album. As a massive fan, I am utterly disappointed.

12th May 2014

It is fair to say, that I was not a happy Coldplay fan. The album has been termed as a ‘break-up album’ after front-man Chris Martin’s recent ‘conscious uncoupling’ from Gwyneth Paltrow. A ‘break-up album’ is perfectly fine, after all, the greatest songs come from the heart of the musician, but this offering is below standard and is bordering on self-indulgence. I do not make this claim because it is all about Martin’s struggles but because it almost feels like the band have decided that any album they release will do well because of their massive fan-following; hence, they can make it sound as good or bad as they like regardless. Coldplay have recently celebrated their 15th anniversary and a band with such a long and successful history means that it can predict that each of their albums is likely to hit the top spot. Ghost Stories is, naturally, on course to gain the Official UK Number One Album tomorrow night. However I believe, with this record, that they are undeserving of such a title.

The Guardian‘s Kitty Empire described the album as a ‘palatable wallow’ and claims that it ‘defaults to their plush trademark tones of yearning and succour.’ I generally agree with her. The album is indeed listenable, in the same way that a 99p album of dream songs to send me to sleep is. However, is a dreams album in the favourite section of my music collection? No. Now, what us Coldplay fans do love is the pain and ‘yearning’ that the band have always used in their songs. We also got enthusiastically on-board with the happy and anthem-y Mylo Xyloto. However, I feel that many fans were expecting a return to their older style with this record. There are admittedly, underlying tones of songs which can be found on Parachutes and A Rush Of Blood To The Head; ‘Another’s Arms’ particularly falls into this category. The major issue with this release, however, is that it far too over-produced to the point where the songs sound like pure noise which lack meaning; ‘Midnight’ may contain lyrics but we cannot hear them because someone mixed the track badly. In an interview with Jo Whiley earlier this year, Will Champion agreed with Whiley that a stripped-back, acoustic album might be nice and stated that their current experimentations for the new album had sounded ‘absolutely dreadful’. He called such experimental tracks: 

‘garbage, abstract, avant-garde nonsense. So you shall never hear of it, even if we released it you’d never hear it.’

Will Champion interviewed by Jo Whiley. 

Oh really Will, we’re never going to hear it? Did you lack any further inspiration and then decide just to release all that ‘garbage’ anyway? Will has inadvertently done the critics’ job for them, summing up Ghost Stories for what it is; experimental, abstract and basically good for the bargain bin. I am all for artists experimenting with their sound but surely a band as successful as Coldplay know when it sounds like something that their fans want to hear and when it sounds like something for the archive of ‘never to be released.’

The band are set to headline Radio 1′s Big Weekend in Glasgow tonight (24th May 2014)

Ghost Stories is, in my opinion, devoid of Coldplay’s true talent; that is, song writing. The album may contain emotive lyrics about Martin and Paltrow’s break-up but the lyrics are fairly unmemorable and are simply obvious. ‘Oceans’ rhymes the word’s ‘pain’, ‘again’ and ‘rain’; an infant could do as well this. They have also written a song about a tattoo, called ‘Ink’; very imaginative lads. I will be fair, however. The album does contain some hints of goodness. ‘Magic’ is a hauntingly touching track and is truly at home in the Coldplay repertoire. ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ is a good dance track, even if it does sound more like an Avicii track featuring Coldplay, rather than the other way around. The interlude ‘Fly On’ is, in fact, one of few tracks that I do actually appreciate on the record; it recaptures the rawness which is expected of the band. Plus, some of the tracks are admittedly catchy. However, so is Cher Lloyd’s ‘Swagger Jagger’.

Don’t worry Coldplay, I still love you as a band and I am still a massive fan. How could I hate a band which has given us ‘The Scientist’, ‘Yellow’ and ‘Clocks’? However when the seventh album comes around, please try to be more aware of what the fans expect of a band which has been going as long as you have. We know you can write great songs with poignant lyrics, so please return to that with your next album. Congratulations on the number one spot that you are likely to gain in many countries with Ghost Stories but I would argue that many fans have purchased it simply because, as fans, it has to complete their collection. The tracks from Ghost Stories are not ones which will become fan favourites in years to come. I personally shall be waiting for Amazon‘s £4.99 offer  which is bound to come around in the month’s to come.

My rating (unsurprisingly): 1/5 

Also see my review of ‘Midnight’ - http://mantscurrentcomment.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/track-of-the-week-coldplay-midnight/

Once: The Musical

Once is probably one of, if not the, best stage production that I have seen. This is not a statement which I make lightly. After all Les Misérables is high on the list due its powerful music, heart-wrenching emotion and fantastic use of sets. Blood Brothers, which I saw at the Phoenix Theatre (the very same theatre which is currently the home of Once), is a similarly firm favourite. However, after much thought, Once may just clinch it due to its beautifully told yet slightly unpredictable story, the overwhelming amount of talent from the performers and the very way that the staging and entire production has been put together.

Once tells the story of an Irish busker and Czech girl who meet and fall in love through their music yet, as the course of love is rarely a smooth one, the pair face their difficulties along the way. It is a musical which was on my long list of possible shows to watch on the West End but, as I knew very little about its story, it was not exactly a high priority. However when posters flew up around London Town advertising that Arthur Darvill had joined the cast for a limited time, as a long-term Doctor Who and Broadchurch fan, I felt a near obligation to attend.

Arthur Darvill and Zrinka Cvitešić were the leading cast members earlier this month, when we attended. They have since been replaced by David Hunter and Jill Winternitz

Taking another trip to the Phoenix Theatre was a pleasing one after a fantastically intimate performance of Blood Brothers in 2011. Plus, upon arrival we had been upgraded to seats in the stalls; frankly, we were already onto a winner.

The theatre is a relatively small space which is perfect for a show which really wants to incorporate the audience into it. Once uses this to their advantage. As we entered the theatre, about twenty minutes before it was due to start, we noticed that some audience members were walking around the stage (they were allowed to) and taking photos. Suddenly cast members walked out on stage with their instruments and started warming-up in character. They performed a number of Irish songs and were generally jamming with each other; it came across as something which they slightly improvise on the night and just go with it. This went on past the 2:30pm start time and was smoothly transitioned into the main show, with only the dimming of the house lights as an indication. This gave the audience a pleasing introduction into what was to come and was a great way to transport the audience into this Irish bar.

My housemate and I attended the show; he as a guitar-playing music fan and myself as a Theatre fan. What is very attractive about Once is that it appeals to both tastes. The songs are filled with passion and I am not just referring to the soul or emotion within the tunes. You are presented with a group of performers who provide a live soundtrack for the entire production eight shows a week. All of the actors stay on the stage throughout the performance so whether they are playing their instruments in character or if they are sat at the side and providing the underlying music for a scene, all of it is done by them. This naturally adds to the atmosphere within the theatre and truly displays the talent of these performers. The soundtrack is a rare one in terms of West End shows as I believe that many music lovers, even if not drama fans, would be pleased to have it in their collection; even without the context of the story.

Once recently picked up two Olivier awards. Best Actress for Zrinka Cvitešić and Outstanding Achievement in Music

Fans of Theatre are also treated to an enthralling piece as a result of heartfelt acting, simplistic yet inclusive staging and some brief movement work also. As has been noted, the stage is small but the set uses it to its full advantage. The set mainly consists of a bar at the back with a chequered floor which doubles up as a vacuum shop, recording studio and the houses of a number of characters. Set changes are even turned into movement work, with musical interludes and performers running from upstage, to downstage and back again just to create a more fluid piece of work.

One of the most clever design techniques is the use of mirrors which are used all across the wall of set. This allows you to see parts of the stage which your seats may not have usually allowed. Furthermore there are a number of instances when cast members have their backs turned away from the audience, for example when characters are watching others perform, and this allows you to continue to view their reactions.

There is also the use of text which is projected onto the back wall of the stage which shows the translation between Czech and English. This makes for a beautiful scene where Guy and Girl (yes, those are their character names) are on a raised platform. Girl is teaching Guy some language phrases when they subtly begin to discuss their relationship. Girl tells Guy something in her language and when he asks what it means, she passes it off as something trivial. Then the text appears on the screen saying ‘I love you.’ She just cannot quite bring herself to say it to him in English. It was one of those classic moments of wanting to yell ‘TELL HIM!!’

I honestly cannot say enough good things about Once. It is a beautifully told love story, spectacularly performed, accompanied by music which you will both not be able and not want to get out of your head for weeks and, I believe, that the show stands out as being very different from many of the other productions currently on the West End.

You can find out more and book tickets here or if you’re reading this in America, it’s also on Broadway!

Psssttt…. Also if a West End show ever features a cast member that you are a fan of, head to the stage door after the show and you

I met Arthur Darvill after the show!

I met Arthur Darvill after the show!

may just get the chance to meet them. I met Arthur afterwards!

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