The X Factor UK review: Louis transforms into Grandpa Munster and Bizarro Pink is born

Series 9 opens strong with a guest appearance from Mel B and Louis Walsh's pursuit of youth drives him down a dark path

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Posted 18th August 2012 in Features & Reviews, The X Factor UK
The X Factor UK review: Louis transforms into Grandpa Munster and Bizarro Pink is born

Everyone's favourite sing-and-soap opera is back for a ninth series. Our reunion with The X Factor gave us everything we could possibly have wanted, along with lashings of things we didn't want in the first place. Yes, our first episode started strong with one mean Spice Girl, an on-stage breakdown and one enormous C-Bomb.

Tonight's introduction to X9 was another example of the ITV show's selective memory. We saw the less successful X Factor contestants retconned out of existence through one VT and one cringe-worthy walk through London. We met Olly, Alexandra and One Direction going about their successful careers and it became quickly obvious that The X Factor is taking a comic book approach to its continuity. Leona, Little Mix, Alexandra Burke and JLS were wheeled out, while we paid no attention to the likes of Joe McElderry, Shane Ward and Marcus Collins. The rose-tinted filter is well and truly down for series 9.

After skating over the less successful elements of the reality show, the judges gave us their fighting talk for the new run. Tulisa says she's determined to keep her crown after leading Little Mix to victory. Louis gibbered on with the same incomprehensible phrases he’s regurgitated over the past 9 years, but at least he guarantees some moments of silliness in all the syrupy, overwrought drama of it all. Then there was Nicole Scherzinger, controversial choice for the vacant seat on the panel. She announced that she's a scary bitch underneath all the niceties. There's no sign of it through this episode, but she could still turn. It took Bill Compton a while to go bad.

First up was Sheyl Omatayo from Camden, the happy-go-lucky Nando's worker. He announced straight away that he wanted to be famous and immediately set alarm bells ringing when his friends said they had never heard him sing. Poor Sheyl had a voice that sounded like Animal from The Muppets with bronchitis and the judges were slack-jawed. Four rejections in hand, he went back to his day job as a chicken connoisseur.

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Jahmene Douglas was the most telegraphed performer of the evening. The giggly singer was awkward to the extreme and you knew he was going to be good the moment they showed him working at Asda. He's going to be this year's Craig Colton for token sentimental value. His choice of 'At Last' by Etta James was exactly as overblown as you might think, but he brought such warmth through his voice that you had to admire him.

The series' first big cannon fodder contestant strolled onto the stage in the form of Zoe Alexander. Curiously, the Pink tribute act chose to sing Pink like Pink. Then when the judges asked her to sing another song as herself, she sang Emeli Sandé like Emeli Sandé. Zoe didn't take kindly to the judges' comments, who praised certain qualities of her voice as they advised her to come back next year as herself.

Bizarro Pink proceeded to fly off into a fury as the red mist descended. She threw down her microphone, attacked a cameraman and knocked down rigging before the whirling dervish settled tearfully in the arms of her parents. It seemed as though that would be the end of it, but no. Bizarro Pink and Daddy returned to the stage to call Gary, Tulisa, Louis and Nicole c*nts, showing us that criticism was her kryptonite. The producers saw this act of girl power as the perfect segue into the much-publicised appearance of Scary Spice on the show.

Mel B's stint as guest judge was brief, providing a healthy – though slightly forced – dose of cynicism among the Syco sheen. Grumpy Spice was quick to give the singers a reality check. She blasted a Christina Aguilera-wannabe, criticised a trashy girl-band for their dodgy harmonies and told the lovably funny nerd that his comedic personality was deeply irritating.

Scary was edited to look like a bit of a monster until Ella Henderson walked on to audition. Singer-songwriter Ella’s performance of her own song caused Mel B to take notice. She praised the emotion behind the song and labelled her the most exciting act she’d seen. Seeing a real singer-songwriter come out and perform their own song was a refreshing change for The X Factor; it was also a change that seemed directed squarely at BBC One’s The Voice UK.

The debut episode for series 9 gave us a better impression of the new panel than last year, but the stereotypical acts are still dominating the screen. Push the strong performers forward, dial back the novelties and try to keep Louis on the sidelines.

Most surreal moment: Louis has taken Simon Cowell’s cosmetic advice to heart and made a pact with the dark side to claw back his youth. With a heavily botoxed brow and dodgy dye job, Little Louis Walsh has transformed into Grandpa Munster.

Best performance: Ella Henderson. We’ll say no more: watch her audition.