Tag Archives: nicole scherzinger

PURITY, PASSION or PAIN? The X Factor final decoded


There’s no way to get round it; every X Factor final represents a significant choice in the symbolic life of the nation. Who can forget 2010’s battle between coolness, cockiness and “credibility” (the Fergo/1D/Cardle showdown) or when Shayne Ward led cheekiness to victory over cleanliness AND cheesiness in 2005? Here in 2012, times are more austere and the UK’s choice is a solemn one between almost religious virtues: PURITY, PASSION or PAIN…

(NB Not to be confused with Trey Songz’ very good 2010 album Passion, Pain & Pleasure. If only.)



Cherubic reflex-giggler Jahmene is a role model for all those cautious kids you see hanging around drinking milkshakes outside Morrisons these days. Well I don’t see anything like that in the slightly stabby neighbourhood I live in, but I hear it goes on elsewhere. What with calling for a Gospel Week, admitting he’s never been kissed and saying he won’t sing any songs with swear words in them, he’s set a new gold standard for non-threatening behaviour in a reality show. Whether such a gentle soul will get very far in the music industry remains to be seen, but you know, there was, er, Dana.

Jahmene’s favourite virtue is his chastity, and I say favourite because it’s the one he aggressively advertises via the constant public display of a purity ring. I have begun to suspect that the power of his alarming falsetto is linked in some way to this holy ring, like a sort of anti-Sauron. Bust the ring and the spell is broken. But hasn’t that always been the way.


See no Maloney, Hear no Maloney, Speak no Maloney

See no Maloney, Hear no Maloney, Speak no Maloney [screencap by @baradar85]

No-one has brought raw emotion more firmly back into British public life this year than Christopher Maloney, as he stands on the stage each week violently shaking, sobbing or generally collapsing (Popjustice has a nice gallery). He only seems to find equilibrium when he’s singing. Famously, the great love of his life is his nan, who’s been passionately deployed as a bargaining card right from the start. Originally viewers were urged to vote amid grave concerns for her health, but now she’s more prosaically invoked with Chris saying he hopes to buy her a new kitchen.

The best thing about Christopher’s presence on X Factor is how completely it undermines his mentor, pompous control-monkey Gary Barlow. Gary’s preferred quality in a protégé is laddishness, which is why he picks acts like Kye Sones or Frankie Cocozza in some sort of attempt to vicariously relive his youth – or at the very least snare a “Robbie-I-can-control-this-time”. And as all the acts Gary chose for this year’s live shows were eliminated in the first few weeks, he’s been left politely endorsing someone he rejected while saving his most lavish fawning for rival James Arthur. So allow any smugness on Barlow’s part if Christopher wins.



The public’s final symbolic option is pain. Week after week James Arthur has taken one cheerful song after another, slowed it down a bit, unsheathed the Acoustic Guitar of Authenticity, and proceeded to sing with the sort of anguish that makes me wonder if he’s suffering from hard stool syndrome.

Oh he seems like a nice fella but you won’t get any sympathy round here for thinking that great pop songs need smothering with torpid angst to make them somehow worthwhile. Last year’s winners represented FUN after all. But the country gets the X Factor finalists it deserves and it’s been a fucking miserable year. So what’s it to be? It’s time to face the music.

Available from Greggs. I know.

Available from Greggs. I know.


If popstars were… Poisons

Nicole Scherzinger’s the latest popstar to sing about poison, but how does it compare to the greats of the canon? And which poison is she?

So many poisons, so little time

ABC – Poison Arrow

What’s it like?: Jauntily dramatic, with big drum crashes, dadfunk bass, ghostly piano, a deadpan spoken interlude and SOLO SAX. Pretty much perfect.

The lyrics?: The central conceit that Cupid’s arrow has been tainted is elegantly matched with a series of classic reversals: Right on the target but wide of the mark, what I thought was fire was only the spark, etc etc. Bonus points for no rhythm in cymbals, no tempo in drums.

What poison are they?: Something romantic and old-fashioned. A cyanide apple, but more Snow White than Alan Turing.


Culture Club – Church of the Poison Mind

What’s it like?: Well I suppose it’s got a good beat. Otherwise it’s a church with a wonky organ, wall-to-wall harmonica and a lot of unholy wailing all over the shop.

The lyrics? They work the ‘church’ side of the metaphor a lot more than the ‘poison’ one. There’s love will make you blind, but otherwise disappointing.

What poison are they? A Silk Cut dipped in poppers.

Alice Cooper – Poison

What’s it like?: Oh it’s a right old racket. But you know how it goes, don’t you.

The lyrics? Very impressive, from the opening Your cruel device onwards. The object of Alice’s affection has a call that’s like needles and pins, eyes that could kill with a look, and of course her lips are venomous poison which ends up running through Alice’s veins. Nicely sustained.

What poison is he?: Snakebite. By which I mean I’m sure Alice’d like to come off as something fanged and bitey and exotic, but he seems like such a gentle, humourous soul in reality that the classic UK cocktail of beer and cider would probably do.


Britney Spears – Toxic

What’s it like?: Strings that are woozy and swoopy, all at the same time. Croaky sex Mehitabel enthuses over gulpy descending bass with hilarious consequences. One of the best songs of all time.

The lyrics? It’s pretty much a direct sequel to the Alice Cooper song, to the extent that his your mouth, so hot/ your web, I’m caught/ your skin, so wet/ black lace, on sweat verse could be slipped right in here without anyone noticing. And as Britney ALSO fixates on the idea of her lover’s lips being a poison paradise, I suggest we consider this a classic ‘answer record’ to Alice, while we leave her salivating over the thought of a sip from the devil’s cup. WHATEVER THAT IS.

What poison is she?: Anything that’s going, I suspect. Dishwasher rinse-aid, a few too many Junior Disprins, an overdose of nutmeg. Whatever gets her there.


Nicole Scherzinger – Poison

What’s it like?: Like ejaculating over and over again while trying to bust a move on a crowded dancefloor with someone shouting at you over a pneumatic drill and a rave horn going off (brilliant).

The lyrics?: Finally, after decades of popstars serenading their poisonous lovers, Nicole positions herself as the toxic one. It’s her lips that are dripping venom, and her own bad girl power she’s itching to abuse. Otherwise the words are largely incomprehensible (Sexy little dirty screen? Stick to a stick?) but I think we can consider this a triumph.

What poison is she?: A heady mix of Formula One petrol fumes, Elnett hairspray, exciting cartoon poison bottles and the sticky patches you find on nightclub floors. All the good stuff.