• Idle Chit Chat

X-tremely Niche: Emily and Maddy Fletcher analyse singing competitions



If you’re confused by the footage you’ve just experienced then I am hardly surprised. The year is 2008 and Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter has just performed as a celebrity guest on The X-Factor. I’m sorry to be really obtuse about this, but for my own sake I need to spell it out quite clearly. Can you imagine if that happened now? Genuinely pause and think about how sincerely nuts it would be if, now, in the year 2019, BEYONCÉ offered up her precious time to THE X FACTOR to perform in the final show alongside a bunch of amateurs. It is, as far as I am concerned, truly incomprehensible. But such was the immense power of mid-2000s Simon Cowell.

I can remember exactly where I was when I watched it live. My mum, sister and I all

piled onto one sofa, like some sort of a witchy, x-factor possessed, coven. The song ended and Alexandra Burke had, understandably so, left a trail of joyous tears and snot all down both Dermot and Beyoncé's arms. A heavy silence lingered amongst the three Fletcher women. Eventually, the eldest spoke. ‘Girls, just so you know, I don’t think I have ever witnessed television like that and I don’t know if we ever will again. We have just watched history being made.’ - Emily Fletcher, my (at the time) 42-year-old mother, being completely, unflinchingly, deadly serious.

Anyway, I sometimes remind her of this monumental occasion and fb her the link (I watch it almost monthly). Below are extracts from our most recent dissection of the performance. As a disclaimer: what follows is an incredibly niche and detailed examination into the world of noughties singing competitions. I have done my best to annotate and analyse the texts, but if you aren’t well versed in 21st-century itv (or as I am campaigning to have it named ‘the golden age of telly’), you might struggle.

Figure 1 - I can actually pin-point the exact moment in the song that I get goosebumps. When Alexandra and Beyoncé hold hands (2:08 in vid). Even though Beyonce definitely did not bother turning up to rehearsals (she really doesn’t need to and tbh the idea of Simon Cowell asking a woman of her calibre to practise for his tiny little talent show is frankly ludicrous) and even though this is clearly the first time these two women have actually met, there appears to be, in these few fleeting seconds, a deeply cosmic connection. It looks like they’ve known each other all their lives!!! To say that it gives me shivers is actually a gross understatement: I systematically sob.

Figure 2: She might not express it as thoroughly, but I know that Mum agrees with the above analysis.

Brace yourselves because Emily Fletcher goes on to say something outrageously controversial here:

Figure 3 - To the untrained eye the sentence makes practically no sense. But I know X-Factor, and most of all I know my maverick of a mother. She is referring to week 5, Britney week, when Alexandra sung ‘Listen’ sans Beyonce. Cheryl worries she’s chosen a song ‘that’s too big’ but we all know it’s not true. Alexandra smashes it, standing ovation, Cheryl cries, Alexandra cries, Simon is made ‘very proud to be British’ etc. It feels like a star is born. But it's obviously not as good as Beyoncé's version !!! !! ! !! ! !! !! ! and the sheer audacity of such a notion fills me with an unfathomable rage. Enormous love and respect to you Alexandra, but when Beyoncé sings her hair doesn’t even move ?!?!?! It’s an alien sort of effortlessness that is utterly mesmerising. Anyway, I can’t be bothered to type all of this to my mum (I think she knows it anyway and is just trying to be contrarian) so I just send the following:

Moving swiftly on.

Figure 4 - Quick change of tack from mum: she goes niche, and I love it. It both amazes and disappoints me that more people weren’t as deeply invested as I in the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s nationwide search to cast Nancy in his west-end production of Oliver!. It was brilliant for several reasons (Graham Norton hosted! Live sing offs!! Every! Week! Was! Musical! Week!!!!), but none as brilliant as the Irish 17-year-old Jessie Buckley. Initially mum liked her just because she had ‘curly hair and a great face’, I liked her because my mum liked her. But by week two we realised that she was more than just a good perm: she was unequivocally the best singer to come out of a talent competition ever. That might sound rash but I completely stand by it. Look up her rendition of ‘as long as he needs me’ and you’ll understand. Also she is part of my wider theory that women with curly hair do well on talent competitions (see Leona Lewis) but that is for another article.

Figure 5 - Reassuring to see Sir Andrew referred to with his proper title here.

Figure 6 - The rage stored up inside these texts is palpable. Jodie Prenger, if you’re reading this, I’m a little sorry because you're probably quite nice, but I think we both know you only won because the voting British public have an inherently anti-Irish bias that not even Jessie’s mezzo-soprano could fight.

Figure 7 - Very Machiavellian.

Figure 8 - RIP Emily Fletcher. Cause of death: Jessie Buckley being too good at singing.

Figure 9 - An insider look into my artistic process. As I’m sure you suspected, it is both meticulously planned and brilliant.

- Maddy (and Emily) Fletcher