Look, let's cut the shit here everyone. We've all been watching The X Factor this year, either because of our better judgement or in spite of it. Or the fact that in reality it's been a strange year with a not great line up of talent, some ridiculous press coverage and plenty of eye rolling Louis comments (I do have to say though, I treasure those moments where he makes a joke and nobody, NOBODY, in the crowd laughs. Brilliant.)
With all that in mind, I'm approaching this week's final with a slight sense of dread. There are too many boring contestants, too many ad breaks. Just too many EVERYTHING. The X Factor was always going to become more bloated as it went on.
So thank God then for Cher Lloyd. Love her, hate her, think she makes a faces like a slapped arse (you've got me there) the girl is the only fresh thing to land herself on the show this year.
Rebecca? Can sing but is painfully dull. And frankly, seven years into the show the contestants need to be able to do more than just sing and be humble. Matt is a middle of the road, singer-songwriter bore who makes James Blunt seem edgy. Plus I will never forgive him for that awful cover-of-a-cover pillaging of Britney's ...Baby One More Time. One Direction have improved quite a bit in a short space of time but they're still in need of a bit more life and energy. And at this stage they're guaranteed a decent record deal whatever happens.
Which leaves us with Cher. She may not be perfect. Certainly some of her performances haven't been as strong as that stunning first audition but each of them have shown a girl with oodles of charisma, star power and a popstar glow that most contestants would kill for. Plenty of people have said Cher comes across as cocky but clearly she's an insecure 17 year old girl under immense pressure. So of course she comes across as a bit cocky. It's clearly a front as the vulnerability in that performance of Stay displayed.
This criticism irks me however as it shows how reality TV has come to favour being "humble" and "genuine" over being interesting, having a personality or even just trying to figure out what is going on. Ultimately this is supposed to be a show about finding a popstar, a talent that people want to invest in. Rebecca's "journey" is that she's now able to look up from the floor while she warbles politely on stage every week. Wonderful. How epic. How thrilling. How shit. Cher is certainly flawed in many ways but the fact that she clearly wants to try to be herself even if that always doesn't seem nice-y nice is ten times more interesting. Cher is clearly talented, vaguely bonkers, a possible trainwreck and endlessy entertaining. In short Cher is a popstar.
Another key thing people have missed about Cher, and what makes her genuinely unique in this show, is her choice of songs and the way she views pop music. Performing a Keri Hilson remix of a Soulja Boy song (of all things!) on her first audition shows that she is someone who finds her pop nuggets where-ever she can. Cher is clearly part of a generation digging up songs on YouTube, zooming links around amongst her friends and not concerned with picking a big, safe song that she knows people will definitely get. Cher is part of a generation that follow songs when they leak online, that might not be bothered with the conventional release schedule but ultimately love music. Performing Mike Posner's Cooler Than Me at judge's house months before it became a hit here is a good example of that. On the live shows she's picked up on the many rapper/singer hits of the year and done them herself. She effortlessly taps into what is going on in chart music and putting her spin on it. The judges this year are obsessed with talking about how "marketable" each contestant is, how they'll definitely sell albums, definitely put on a good concert. Of that bunch Cher is the most effortless. There's no need to "market" her to a young audience because she IS the young audience. That makes her not only a bankable popstar but also a genuine one.
When Cher gets it right, she does it in style. Her best performances are when the staging, choreography and tone of her what's she doing are slightly pared back but energetic. Her first week performance felt like the opening number to a popstar world tour. She saunters out, works with a troupe of backing dancers and nails every inch of it. Her performance of B.o.B's Nothin' On You last week worked in much the same way. Her performances are sometimes too cluttered, too garish and slightly cheesy. Her take on Empire State of Mind was a little too day-glo/cutesy to work. But even with too much going on Cher oozes an ability to knock a song dead that lifts the whole enterprise.
Sadly, the likelihood of her winning is slim. She will be performing with Will.i.Am (not Rihanna, who for some reason is performing with Matt. WHY?) and will no doubt put on a great last show. But ultimately, the wider audience want "humility" and a bland performer. Cher Llyod is neither of those things. The show may not be hers but in a few year's time I think it'll be Cher who is the real breakout star of this series.