Archive for April, 2010

Deadliest Warrior: Huns On The Run

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Note: This blog entry contains spoilers for the second episode of the second season of Deadliest Warrior.

I’m a big fan of Deadliest Warrior. It’s the best sort of silly television - a drunken pub conversation about whether a Roman gladiator could beat up an Apache, except in this pub conversation they bring in a champion knife fighter to throw the Apache’s knife, and then they get former UFC champion Chuck Liddell to punch a side of beef with a bladed boxing glove, and when they’ve done all that they feed some numbers into a computer, generate some ‘kill’ statistics, and get some stuntmen to play dress-up and act out the final fight.

These final fights probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. This is really a show about weapons, where they test the lethality of everything from katanas to flame-throwers against dead livestock and gel torsos. The big fight really just hangs the tests together. I don’t think a computer can really predict the outcome of a completely hypothetical fight.

Even so, this week’s episode was a big disappointment. Actually, that’s not fair; this week’s episode was terrific, but the result was a disappointment.

It was Attila the Hun (below) versus Alexander the Great. Usually the show picks classes of warrior, not individuals, but they’ve gone down the historical figure route before with William Wallace versus Shaka Zulu, and they’ll do it again several times this season.


Now, Alexander is a bit of a personal obsession. I’ve read probably a dozen biographies of the man. I think he’s a fascinating character and a titanic military mind. So I’m obviously biased. Even so, I think this was an easy win for Alexander, and I thought I would be devastated if he lost.

And then… he lost. And I was more disappointed than devastated - because I remain utterly confident that he wouldn’t have lost. He was the better combatant, the more brilliant tactician, the greater all-rounder. Unlike Attila, he was never defeated in battle - so it seems a bit presumptuous for a computer program to hand him a defeat when his enemies never could. Alexander would not lose to Attila. Which means that this show - which I’m almost as obsessed with as I am with Alexander - got it wrong. They got it badly wrong. And it wasn’t all the computer’s fault.

Here’s my pub conversation starter; ten reasons why Deadliest Warrior was wrong about Attila versus Alexander.

10. Computers Aren’t People
We, the audience, don’t know what fancy algorithms drive the computer program that runs the fight simulations. We don’t even know how much data goes in. However, I’m willing to bet there isn’t a field on their front-end for the personality profiles of famous dead people. Inputting the velocity of a spear is one thing; how do you tell a computer that Alexander was so fearless that he once threw himself behind enemy lines to force his army to surge after him? The computer isn’t running an Alexander simulation; it’s running a simulation on a generic Macedonian and a generic Hun.


9. You Don’t Bring A Ballista to a Sword Fight
The show usually tests four weapons for each warrior. And sometimes it’s pretty obvious that they choose weapons not because they’re what the warrior would have chosen, but because they want to have a go with them. I’m sure the conversation at the production office for this one went; “Hey, we could test a ballista”; “Hell yes we could”.

A ballista is a spear-chucking catapult. It’s an awesome machine - for siege warfare. Alexander was one of history’s greatest practitioners of siegecraft. But he was also a brilliant tactician, and a master of choosing the right tool for the job, and in a direct fight againt a mounted opponent, he would never have relied on a catapault. The ballista scored seven kills out of a thousand simulations. It was a terrible choice.

8. You Don’t Bring A Belly Bow Either
Of Alexander’s other three weapons, two performed very well. His spear racked up 225 kills in a thousand simulations. His sword got another 120. These two weapons got more kills than three out of four of Attila’s. But for his fourth weapon, Attila got a Hunnic compound bow, while Alexander got something called a belly bow - a slow-loading, awkward-to-aim giant crossbow that’s held against the archer’s belly.

Here’s an interesting thing about Alexander’s army; they had the same bows as the Huns! The show called these composite bows Hunnic bows, but they’re actually Scythian bows, and Alexander used Scythian archers. Now, I don’t know if Alexander often carried a bow, but he was a huntsman, so he’d have used one if it were appropriate. If you’re going to give him a bow, you wouldn’t give him a belly bow, which he couldn’t use on horseback - you’d give him a Scythian bow.

7. Two Out of Four Weapons Ain’t Bad
As I said, Alexander’s spear and sword performed very well, both in the tests and in the simulation - but Alexander would never have used the ballista or the belly bow in this type of fight, which means he’s down by two weapons. Even if we give him a Scythian bow, he’s still down by one. So give him his axe, or his club, or his short sword, and let’s run those numbers again! Or give him some spiky caltrops to throw under the hooves of Attila’s horse, and let’s see how Attila copes with that. (In fairness, Attila got one crappy weapon as well; a lasso. And that scored thirty kills!)


6. Armour Is Not For Wimps
Attila wore light armour because he thought it gave him better mobility. Fine; but it didn’t give him much protection. The episode showed us how badly Attila’s armour fared against a Macedonian spear, and how well Alexander’s helmet fared against the Hun’s axe. What we didn’t see was how well either armour fared against arrows or swords, and that leaves a huge hole in the data. If they didn’t run those tests and include that data, the simulation is meaningless. Attila’s inferior sword would have bounced off Alexander’s armour.

5. Attila’s Inferior Sword and Attila’s Superior Swordsman
Oh yes; Attila’s inferior sword. Despite the judges claiming that Attila’s sword had the advantage over Alexander’s, it scored only 117 kills to Alexander’s 120. Alexander’s sword was better (or at least the equal of Attila’s), but it tested worse. How can this be? I assume it’s because the guys doing the testing were mismatched. The mounted weapons specialist on Team Attila was amazing. The two guys testing Alexander’s weapons didn’t have anything like the same proficiency. Attila’s guy was probably close to the competence level of a Hunnic warrior; Alexander’s guy was not trained to the level of a Macedonian soldier. Give Alexander’s sword to the Attila guy, and then let’s see what it can do. (But don’t tell him what it is, or he’ll throw the fight.)

4. Sparta!
In last week’s Deadliest Warrior special, we were told that the Spartan was the best ancient warrior of all the guys the show had tested. The Macedonian army of Alexander’s age faced and defeated the Spartan army - while led by a lesser general than Alexander! So, Alexander’s Macedonians are better than the best. This. Is. Faaaaaact. (Admittedly it wasn’t the Spartan army at its peak, but they had the same weapons that the show tested, so the comparison applies.)


3. He Likes to Wrestle
The show brought in another UFC fighter this week to test the killing potential of pankration, the martial art that Alexander was trained in all his life. It looked fairly deadly, proving that Alexander was a fearsome opponent even without a weapon in his hand. If the ballista could get seven kills, and even a blowgun could get four kills in a previous episode, and a lasso can get thirty, then pankration surely would get at least one, right? Nope. Despite testing it, I suspect they didn’t include it in their simulations. It’s almost as if they only brought the UFC guy in to cross-promote their show with one of the channel’s other most popular programmes! Crazy!

2. When Attila and Alexander Did Fight, Alexander Won
OK, they never did fight, because they were almost eight centuries apart. But Alexander faced horsemen every bit as expert as the Huns, and enemies every bit as wily, and he defeated a cavalry much greater than Attila’s. Attila eventually went into retreat against a disciplined Roman field army that was nowhere near as formidable as Alexander’s.

Alexander conquered the greatest empire of his age, and Attila… scored a stalemate against the declining great empire of his age. The show knew they weren’t an even match; just look at how it presented the two warriors in the reconstructed video clips. Alexander built an empire by defeating larger armies through tactical superiority. Attila built a smaller empire by shooting fleeing peasant women in the back. Advantage: Alexander (as narrator David Wenham might say).

1. The Numbers Don’t Lie, Except When They Do, But Let’s Pretend They Don’t
Of course, it all comes down to numbers. Take away Attila’s bow, and he scored 242 kills. Take away Alexander’s silly belly bow - and, for the hell of it, his ballista as well - and he scored 345 kills. Now, let’s give both men the composite bow and see how they fare. Assuming equal kills, Alexander wins. But let’s say that Attila was better with a bow, because it’s likely he was. Let’s give him 60% of the kills with a bow, and Alexander 40%. Then the number of kills is 510 to Alexander, and 490 to Attila. Alexander still wins.

Then let’s give Alexander his armour. And let’s let him use his pankration if it comes to close combat. And let’s be crazy and give him a fourth useful weapon! Caltrops? Short sword? Or, hell, forget the weapon; let’s factor in the power of his legendary horse Bucephelas. I’d let Attila use his legendary horse as well, but apparently his horse wasn’t as famous. Perhaps the superior Hun horseman kept getting his horses killed? Put some serious data into this simulation, and the result is going to be very different.

What I’m saying is, Alexander the Great didn’t lose this fight; Deadliest Warrior did.

Right, it’s your round. I’ll have a bitter.

What do you mean, I’m bitter enough already?

Idol: Long Twain Running

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

This week’s show opened with a weird Village People vibe, as Ryan introduced the contestants by their Official Barbie Occupation Designations. Glass blower! Mother! Construction worker! But this week’s theme is not ‘bring your work to Idol day’, which is a shame, as that would be amazing. Siobhan could sing Blow, Gabriel, Blow!

No, the theme is ‘the songs of Shania Twain’. You will remember Shania Twain as one of the guest judges this season. She was moderately decent at it, though she seemed to be working from a singing teacher bingo card. Little known fact: Shania Twain was also a popular musician back in, like, the 80s, or something. I think she was in Heart.

Anyway, how many Shania Twain songs can you name? I came up with three; You’re Still the One. Man I Feel Like A Woman. That Don’t Impress Me Much. So, with six contestants left, expect to hear each of those songs twice.

This week I’m listing the contestants not from least to mostest, but in order of performance. Why? Because, honesly, there’s not much to choose between them this week. No-one was amazing. No-one was terrible. There was no Twain wreck. (Stick around; my Twain jokes are way better than Ellen’s.)


Lee DeWyze, aka Freight Twain
I’ve heard that Lee is considered the likeliest contender to join Bowersox in the top two. I suppose that makes sense, but for all the worst reasons. Mike is unpopular; Casey is pedestrian; Siobhan has lost her magic; and who even remembers who the other one is? So Lee is number two by default, not because he rose to the top, bu because he rose to the middle while everyone else was sinking. He sang You’re Still the One, and started it too low, and never brought any intensity to it, but, hey, he didn’t kill anyone, did he? So, that’s good.

Big Mike Lynche, aka Midnight Twain
Mike sings a Shania song I’ve never heard of, and he sang it rather beautifully, with that effortless smooth soul voice of his. But, no-one cares, do they? Mike has a great voice, but it’s so early ’90s R&B that anything he sings sounds like it was ripped from the closing credits of a Tia Carrere movie. He’s out of fashion, which means he’s doomed, never mind that he’s talented. (Shania Twain thinks this song is so emotional that it makes her cry. Shania Twain wrote this song. Shania Twain needs to get over herself.)


Casey James, aka Boxcar Twain
While Casey was singing, I went off and checked my e-mail and forgot to pay attention. It sounded nice. The judges seemed enthused. I’m not rewinding for this guy.

Crystal Bowersox, aka Soul Twain
Crystal sang another twangy Twain obscurity, which only highlighted the wasted opportunity of an all-Shania week in place of country week. I like country music. I don’t especially like country week on Idol, because it’s usually full of blue collar pomposity and disturbing Christian intensity, spiced with an abortive rendition of Jolene. But this year there are a few contestants who could have done something good with a wider country music selection, and Crystal is top of that list. The judges were lukewarm, and Simon said it lacked ‘conviction’, but the same could be said for their judgements; there was nothing wrong with the performance. The judges just needed to shake up the narrative a little bit.


Aaron Kelly, aka Toy Twain
The most interesting thing about the little one’s performance is that he changed the lyric, “It’s in the way we make love”, to, “It’s in the way you show me love”, and he changed “want me” to “know me”, because… he was singing it to his mother. The audience said, ‘awww’. I said, ‘ewww’. On some vestigial, subsconscious level, he just sexed up his mother, and no lyric switch can ever change that. But he sang it prety decently, and I’m coming to realise that Shania writes rather well for singers. It’s pablum, but it’s very singable pablum.

Siobhan Magnus, aka Crazy Twain
We expected too much of Siobhan Magnus. She looked like she had the potential to be Lady Lambert, but she just doesn’t have his control or his artistry, and she really doesn’t have his balls. This was her best performance in a few weeks, but it still felt like a performance any good singer could give; it didn’t feel like the Magnus Opus I’ve been waiting for. Only in the final seconds after her slightly botched big note did Ms Magnus show a bit of grit.

Who goes home this week? Mike or Casey, I would guess, but really it could be anyone. Except Crystal. All hail Crystal.

Are we sick of Crystal yet?

Idol: Pitchiest Warriors

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I’m so late this week that the results have already aired, and I didn’t even go out last night! No, I was watching superior television - the glorious testosterone-fest that is Deadliest Warrior on Spike, which returned for a second season last night.

For those not in the know, Deadliest Warrior takes two warriors from history and attempts to determine who would win in a fight. It’s gloriously absurd. They cut up pigs with katanas. They test the accuracy of ballistic knives. They take sniper shots at men made of jelly. And then we all go into the Matrix and watch a Shaolin monk fight a Maori. It’s just about the ultimate expression of television as an entertainment medium.

Which brings us to Idol, and its desparately weak ‘inspirational songs’ theme, which served up some of the snooziest performances we’ve ever seen on the Idol stage. With Garcia and Katie gone, I honestly thought we’d get a strong week, but I think I must have forgotten that the last seven acts this year do not include Adam Lambert, Melinda Dolittle or Carly Smithson.

What the hell is an ‘inspirational song’ anyway? The evidence of the night suggests that no-one knows. Oh, I hope they play Bitch, by Meredith Brooks! That’s my favourite inspirational song!


From worst to least-worst:

7. Aaron Kelly, aka Fly SWAT
I didn’t actually listen to his performance, but I know it was the worst. That sounds irrational, but you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you that he sang ‘I Believe I Can Fly’. That is a war crime, Aaron, and you must be sent down for it. (Up 1, but only because there is no eighth place anymore.)

6. Tim Urban, aka A Patchy Warrior
The other contestants all tried to address the ‘inspirational song’ mystery through their music. Tim, for example, sang a Goo Goo Dolls song that was so boring that it inspired feelings of suicide. Tim, these are not the feelings you’re meant to inspire in me. (No change.)

5. Big Mike Lynche, aka Singer Zulu
Mike thinks an inspirational song is a song with ‘hero’ in the title, so they gave him the big book of hero songs, which is actually the biggest of the inspirational songbooks. Bafflingly, given all that choice, he plumped for… what was it, Nickelback? The one from the Spider-Man movie? Surely even Nickelback wouldn’t choose to sing that song anymore? (Down 3.)

4. Casey James, aka Hicksville Samurai
Casey doesn’t know what an inspirational song is either, so he just went for ‘upbeat’; Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow with an electric guitar. And it really was a guitar performance, not a vocal performance. Casey honestly doesn’t seem to get better or worse any week - everyone else just shuffles around him. (No change.)

3. Siobhan Magnus, aka Spartan Barmy
Ol’ Shiv was all about the microphone plosive this week. The microphone isn’t a bat, Siobhan; you don’t need to bite its head off. Siobhan’s answer to ‘what is an inspirational song’? It’s any reality show winner’s song! She sang When You Believe, the song that launched X-Factor winner Leon Jackson to international… mumble mumble mumble. At this point, the promise of Siobhan Mangus seems well and truly squandered. But she was adequate, which is enough to make her the third least worst. (Up 2.)

2. Lee Dwyze, aka Ninja Potato-Head
Lee DeWyze thinks that The Boxer an inspirational song. Yes, The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. It is literally a lament about poverty and hard times, and unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t end with a redemptive exaltation. So it’s a song that only inspires heavy drinking, which is a great interpretation, and he sang it pretty well. That’ll do, pig. (Up 1.)

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Viking Brilliant
Crystal put down the guitar, pushed away the piano and went briefly a capella on People Get Ready. I wish she’d stayed a capella, because it’s nice to hear her voice without all the horrible Idol orchestration. Like the crazy street person she is, Crystal seems to think that music is itself a vehicle for inspiration. Wacky. She loses marks for her blurt of emotion at the end of the song - on Russian Idol she would have been shot for that sort of vulgar excess - but she picks up points again for her fantastic glass lamp microphone stand. (No change.)

cowell-and-poor-peoplePoor people make Simon Cowell laugh.

Why were they singing inspirational songs? Well, it’s Idol Gives Back week, which is the American version of Comic Relief or Children In Need, except it’s only two hours rather than a year of your life, and in the midsts of all that stuff about malaria and poverty and saving children’s lives, they take one young boy or girl and tell them in front of millions that they have to give up on their dreams and go back to a life of miserable obscurity, where they will live forever with the bitter knowledge that they missed their shot at a golden ticket. Ah, America!

While the Idol show was going on in one theatre, Queen Latifah was introducing musical acts in another theatre, and I sort of wonder if they put the musicians over there so they wouldn’t have to tell them they were appearing on Idol. Until the cameras go live, all those video screens probably say it’s the Grammies.

Highlights of the night included Alicia Keys telling us, “tonight we’re going to do the unthinkable together” - all right Alicia, but I have a bad knee, and we’ll never get enough quark at this late hour - and Jennifer Garner giving voice to the false promise that lies at the heart of Idol; “She’s a special little girl, just like every other little kid.”

Ellen DeGeneres went to meet poor people in Monrovia. I suspect she thought she was pulling a fast one on the producers by telling them she was going to a country that she knew didn’t exist. Imagine her surprise when she found out that Monrovia is in Liberia. But it’s also in California, so, guess which one she went to? Clue: the one without a Somali pirate problem.

There was also a stark and harrowing reminder that even in this age of plenty, some people still live with - and die from - severe malnutrition. Yes, Victoria Beckham was on the stage. Ba-dum. She went to a poor school to learn about literacy, but interestingly there was no video of her visit, and you can write your own punchline to that one.

So, who got sent home this week? I don’t know. The show overran substantially. Idol gives back, and Idol taketh away.

Idol: Madam, He Is Adam

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

It’s an exciting week on American Idol. Officially, it’s exciting because last week the judges used their one-off save on Big Mike Lynche, which means two people go home this week, but that’s not so much a thrilling twist as a clerical adjustment. The real reason it’s an exciting week is because the guest mentor is Adam Lambert.

It’s also Elvis week, but Elvis is dead (by now, surely), so Adam is as close as they’re going to get. Now, I sneered at Miley Cyrus as a judge, because she’s only 17, yet she’s been a star for four terrible years, while Adam has been in the pop business for less than a year, so I’m surely being a big hypocrite.


But I’m not, of course. Miley Cyrus is a performing puppet. Adam Lambert is a performing artist. The reason Lambert is the first former Idol contestant to come back as a mentor is simple; he understood how to play this contest better than anyone in the show’s history. He can give these kids smart advice that can really change their game. He may inject some life into what has been a pretty dull season. He’s a brilliant choice of mentor.

Before we get down to the performances, I should comment on the judges’ save. I think using it on Big Mike was the right choice. He’s the best male vocalist in the show, and he didn’t deserve to go home yet. I do worry that using the save now means it won’t be there if Siobhan has a terrible week, but it’s better to have the save out of the way.

This week’s performances, from least to most:

9. Andrew Garcia, aka Barrio Elvis
In the mentor scenes, Andrew nearly bored Adam to death with his Hound Dog. Adam told him to, “change it up”. So he changed it to ’still boring, but faster’, and that’s the direction he went with on stage. There are metronomes that rock out harder than Andrew Garcia. This was probably his best week in the live shows, and faint praise has rarely been more damning. (No change.)

8. Aaron Kelly, aka Toys R Us Elvis
What song can a person sing when they haven’t been on the planet long enough to have experienced their first emotion? Blue Suede Shoes! Of course! A song that stomps the stage without really saying anything at all! And that’s what Aaron did this week, with the most milquetoast Elvis impersonation I’ve ever seen. Any kind of toast is wrong on Elvis night. What we need is some deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. (Down 3.)

7. Katie Stevens, aka Sanrio Elvis
Every year the show has a Matt Girard - a contestant I’m so sick of that I just don’t want to write anything about them any more. This year it’s this creature and her grating faux-sassy head bobs. The song is, Baby What You Want Me To Do. I want you to go away, Katie Stevens. (No change.)


6. Tim Urban, aka Surf Shop Elvis
Adam thinks he pushed Tim out of his comfort zone. Probably when he ravished him in the orchestra pit. The puppet poppet sang Can’t Help Falling In Love, which seems like a good choice for squee-inducement, but Tim’s voice is too low and expressionless to induce the sort of nether-tremors that Kris Allen was able to evoke at his most bedroomy. Adam’s advice - sing some falsetto - was spot on, because it got Tim to do some real singing for a change. Plus, Tim looked absolutely terrified while he was doing it, and that was hilarious. (PS. Good open-necked tight t-shirt choice this week, Tim.) (No change.)

5. Siobhan Magnus, aka Estate Auction Elvis
Siobhan and Adam. That’s a meeting of minds - and bouffants - for the ages. Sadly they didn’t speak to each other only in high-pitched screeches. After her sleepy performance last week, Miss Madness needs to be dragged back to the crazy, and I hoped Adam’s supervision would push her there. And it was crazy, but only in an odd way; she opted for an incomprehensibly smiley Sheena Easton-style rendition of Suspicious Minds. The vocal got stronger, but the smile never left, and her backchat was better than her singing. (Down 3.)

4. Casey James, aka Tackle Shop Elvis
I snicker at Casey’s hick-ness every week, so it tickles me that he chose to sing Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which I feel is a bit of a hick anthem. He didn’t do anything with it, though. He’s one of the most consistent singers on the show, but consistent can be very dull. Also, I feel he needed a banjo. (Down 3.)


3. Lee DeWyze, aka Home Depot Elvis
Wise old Adam told Lee to shake himself out of his dullness, albeit he put it more diplomatically than that. Dullness is exactly the problem I have with Lee. He’s usually a concrete bag on that stage. He changed that a little bit this weekwith a clever country reinvention of A Little Less Conversation. It worked well enough that I actually enjoyed a Lee Dewyze performance. (Up 5.)

2. Big Mike Lynche, aka XXElvis
Apparently Mike didn’t know In The Ghetto. Has he never watched South Park? Probably better, actually, that he hasn’t. If you can get Cartman’s voice out of your head, this is a good song for Mike - it allows him to use his rich texture and enviable control without going back to his deep well of hot chocolate. A very understated performance, but elegant and well pitched. (Up 2.)

1. Crystal Bowersox, aka Thrift Shop Elvis
Elvis has a huge, huge back catalogue, but of course most of the contestants didn’t dig very far into it (while busily product-placing iTunes). Only Katie, Lee and Crystal avoided the most obvious hits, and only Crystal did the legwork to find a song that was a truly excellent fit. With Saved, Crystal took an obscurity from Elvis’s gospel songbook and put on a churchstorming show. It’s a shame she was the first act on, because you always know there’s not going to be much to keep you up after Bowersox. (Up 1.)

This was probably the strongest week so far, and I attribute that in large part to Adam Lambert. Now we get to boot two people off the stage, and I think odds have to be good that one of them will be Andrew Garcia. The other really could be Siobhan, but Aaron and Katie are welcome to bog off any time. It’s unlikely to be Big Mike, after last week’s save and this week’s performance. Because Tim actually sang this week, I think we get to keep him for yet another week.

What did you think, dear reader? Who do you want to see go home?

Idol: Killing John Lennon (And Paul McCartney)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

I’m a day late this week because I was out having fun last night. Sorry. I’ll try harder to avoid fun in the future. And that starts right now, because this week the kids are singing from the Lennon and/or McCartney songbook, and how much fun can that be? But it could be worse. It could be the Starr and/or Harrison songbook.

All though I’m a day late, the results aren’t in at the time of this posting, so this post is results-free and safe for those in foreign time zones. This week’s ranking, from worst to best:


9. Andrew Garcia, aka Misery
It’s noticeable that three women have been sent home three weeks in a row - Didi was sent home last week - and I think all three of them were better than both Andrew and Lee (and obviously better than Tim, but he’s Tim, he’s different). This competition is clearly much harder on the girls. Andrew’s rockajosé production of Can’t Buy Me Love continues his run of songs that make me wish Lilly Scott was still in this competition. (No change.)

8. Lee DeWyse, aka Nowhere Man
Lee chose to sing Hey Jude, which is like a 4×4 off-roader saying, ‘tonight, Ryan, I’m going to drive along a dirt track’. No, really? You’re going to Rod Stewart your way through the Beatles’ most popular pub chant? Wake me up when the ridiculous gimmick gets here. Oh, hey, there’s the bagpiper. (Down 2.)

7. Katie Stevens, aka Honey Pie
You remember those big neon rubbers/erasers that you could stick on the end of your pencil when you were at school? Katie came dressed as one of those this week. Let’s pretend that’s a complement, because that’s as close as I intend to get to saying a nice thing about Katie’s boil-in-the-bag version of Let It Be. It sounded much as I would expect a Taylor Swift version of the song would sound, which means Simon is correct; she went ‘country’. Not country as a country music fan would understand it, but country as a Taylor Swift fan would understand it. (No change.)

6. Tim Urban, aka Golden Slumbers
God bless Tim Urban, my little oasis of shining crap in a desert of regular crap. But I do worry about the boy. Not because he might be sent home - we know he must eventually - but because his sentient shell of alien hair is slowly eating his head. Tim sang All My Loving while strumming a guitar, and if you could describe a vocal performance as ’strumming’, well, he did that too. He lightly and methodically brushed the notes with his uvula. It was probably his best performance. It was still crap. Hurray! (Down 1.)


5. Aaron Kelly, aka This Boy
With Bowersox and Magnus as the frontrunners, there remains a vacancy in this contest for a ‘dark horse’. This can mean one of two things; a contestant who grows in confidence week after week until he has sufficient nerve to let his talent emerge, or a contestant who bubbles along without any huge disasters until he’s one of the only ones left and that alone gives him momentum. Aaron is a dark horse, but at this point I’m not sure which flavour. The pencil-necked chicken-head-eater was overwhelmed by the size of The Long and Winding Road, but I don’t think he was as bad as the judges suggested. (Down 1.)

4. Big Mike Lynche, aka I Am The Walrus
Did he say his family singing group was called ‘the Lynche Mob’? Really? Really? Let’s set aside the worrying implications of that and talk about how Mike is finally trying my patience. I’ve enjoyed Mike’s smooth soul cheese so far, but his Eleanor Rigby felt much too jazz-lounge insipid. Or, as the judges like to say; ‘commercial and relevant’. God save us. (Down 2.)

3. Crystal Bowersox, aka Ticket to Ride
As a musician who accidentally found herself trapped in a popularity contest, Madam Bowersox probably had an extensive repertoire of Lennon/McCartney songs she could have pulled out of her crocheted Tibetan prayer purse, so it’s disappointing that she settled for the ever-obvious Come Together. It just seems lazy. She could knock this out of the park and still have time to perform the entire Joan Baez Woodstock set list before it touched down again. Stretch yourself, Bowersox. Pull your bowersox up. (Down 2.)


2. Siobhan Magnus, aka Rocky Raccoon
After a couple of rough weeks where it seemed like Siobhan had lost all her promise, the crazy caterwauling lady needed to come up with the goods this week. The fact that she came dressed as Bjork’s Swiffer was a good sign. The unusual choice of Across the Universe was another good sign, and I think she did a good job with it. Yes, it was slow, and slightly over-enunciated and pinch-nosed, but it was refreshing to hear her without the screeching. Her explanation for why she chose the song was the most articulate I’ve ever heard a contestant give, and I think that took Simon by surprise, which was also lovely. (Up 6.)

1. Casey James, aka Happiness Is A Warm Gun
If they made a cartoon musical about hair metal where all the characters were played by anthropomorphic poodles, the animators might get close to approximating the laughable crimp of Casey James’s blond tangle. It’s my favourite terrible hair on television. But that shouldn’t detract from his charming, tender, acoustic rendition of Jealous Guy, so I suggest listening to this with your eyes shut, or you’ll think Peter Stringfellow is trying to get into your pants. This week Casey made a strong comeback from his previous soulless numbers. That said, I’m not sure how much you want folks to emphasise your ‘authenticity’ when you’re singing Jealous Guy. (Up 2.)

Results come in soon, and they’ve probably already announced the bottom three. My guess is that it’s Tim, Katie and Andrew, but I wouldn’t like to guess who’s going home. Precedent says it’ll be Tim and ‘a girl’ at the bottom, and ‘a girl’ will lose, in which case it’s the end for Katie. Fingers crossed!