Above: Rachel Hylton
Last year I swore off X-Factor after bearing witness to the diabolical brother and sister group that massacred George Michael’s ‘Wake me up Before You Go Go.’ Thankfully I switched over to watch Strictly just in time to see Alesha emerge as the Queen of the Ballroom. So with great reluctance I decided to give the Vex Factor another go this year (well, what else is there to watch on a Saturday night?) and so far have been pretty impressed by the pool of talent. Not surprisingly the two standout singers for me are Rachel Hlyton and Alexandra Burke.
Rachel, God bless her, has lead a colourful life to put it mildly. The mother of 5 kids at the age of 26, her deterioration into crack addiction resulted in 3 of her children being placed into foster care. But you know what? It takes a brave woman to come on national TV and speak so freely about her personal demons, so huge kudos for that. She could easily have chosen to sit on her arse lamenting what she's been through in life, but she’s put that all behind her now to focus on her ambitions of becoming a professional singer. Her actions will hopefully demonstrate to her kids that where you start in life does not necessarily indicate where you’ll end up. But hey, I digress. Back to the matter at hand - her voice. At first I wasn’t too keen to be honest as I thought her tone was too coarse and too unrefined. But after seeing her emotive performance on Saturday’s boot camp I think with a bit of tweaking and learning how to control those powerful pipes, we should hopefully see stronger performances in weeks to come (that’s assuming that she makes it through to the final stages.) I do worry for her though. She seems awfully fragile, and as you can see on the clip, that manifests itself into aggression and defensiveness. How will she handle being in the bottom 2? How will she fare against Simon’s criticism (unfortunately she’s not his mentee and we all know Simon’s game plan – tear down the competition no matter how good they are)? Will the British public embrace her? I soooo fear not. I’m scared that middle England will take one look at Rachel and have all their worst nightmares confirmed about what a young black woman from the inner city is like – an angry, agressive, single mother who feeds off state benefits. I just can’t see them endearing to her despite the redemption song.
Below: Alexandra Burke
Now Alexandra is a totally different kettle of fish. Whereas Rachel is raw, candid and cocky even. Alexandra seems quite shy, reserved and not entirely confident of her talent. From what I know she’s the daughter of a professional singer so music is obviously in her blood. In my opinion she has the most amazing sweet, songbird singing voice I’ve heard in a long while, and she’s still only a tender 19 years young. When Louis failed to pick her the first time she auditioned three years ago I lost all manner of respect for that guy (now you know why I call it the Vex Factor). It’s as if unless you are a 5 piece boy band or a camp soul diva type singer, he just doesn’t get it. But never mind, like my folks always remind me – nothing comes before it’s time. Now she’s back and her voice has definitely matured within those couple of years. My money is definitely on Alex, but its early days yet. Let’s see how it all shapes up this Saturday.