When Gary Barlow made the seemingly bewildering choice to put skunk-headed Frankie Cocozza into The X Factor the jig was finally up. Here was a boy that looked like a sore that had fallen off Pete Doherty and mutated like a fungus into a fully-grown human being paraded around prime time Saturday night telly to stir some red-top ire. He was there to serve the ‘My Drug Hell’ headlines before he even sang a note. Those headlines that Gary used to look upon with shame when it was his erstwhile bandmate but now took a strange pride in, encouraging his little hell-raiser to be as ‘wild’ as possible. Finally, Frankie got pushed off the Cowell conveyor belt for being a bit too real and reckless and the door of shiny haired stardom was permanently closed in his face.
The moral of the story being no one wants to look at some skinny lost soul feebly mumbling their way through ‘Rocks’ of a Saturday night unless you’re actually IN Primal Scream and are getting paid to do so.
So Cocozza had disappeared, destined to be an answer to an obscure pub quiz question. Or so the whole of human kind thought, but never discount the boiling mass of insanity that is the brain of a teenage girl. Teen girls have propped Cocozza up (possibly literally); they have given him a million (yes ONE MILLION) hormonally-challenged followers on Twitter; they have pushed him into a solo career, into actual live shows where they can scream their heads off at him nightly. Tonight in the Academy 2, almost four hundred Boots-approved girls have put on their nicest outfits, did their hair to its hugest, set their pouts to ‘duck face’ and screamed their beautiful visages off.
Before the night had even begun, anticipation reached fever pitch as a girl sank to the floor overwhelmed by the prospect of the Cocozza in the flesh or maybe just in need of a Bounty bar and a bit of a lie down. When the Weetabix-headed one did eventually arrive, the damp, cold air filled with decibel level-crushing screams masking the sound of a tiny, dying mouse scratching against a matchbox.
He’d barely made it to the first chorus of subtle metaphortastic ‘She’s Got A Motorcycle’ (sample lyric: “She’s got a motorcycle/A big bad motorcycle/She knows how much I like it/But she won’t let me ride it”) before his wheezing tramp vocals gave up altogether ready to be drowned out completely. Cocozza’s music is where Olly Murs meets Northern Uproar (ask your Dad), on record ‘Catastrophic Casanova’ skiffles about with Frankie half-talking over tinkly keyboards and S Club 7-style beats but live with his band, this brand of ersatz drivel morphs into badly executed guitar nonsense that is haphazardly moulded into some kind of pop form. They have created a monster, one that can go nowhere, trapped in a prison of the cartoon image of a ‘bad boy’ one who stands on stage in the Liam Gallagher pose but sings songs that even Brian McFadden would turn his nose up to.
But bless him, he tried, he managed to mumble a “Fanks Dublin!” before launching into a misguided cover of Rihanna’s ‘What’s My Name’ thrilling the audience like a big-haired iPod come to life.
This is the essence of Frankie Cocozza: a boy made famous by having a challenging haircut who sang covers on telly and who has tattoos of random girls’ names on his arse. He’s a trinket for these girls’s, a stop-over on the way to a destination more exciting. A shaved wookie who does a bit of wailing on the side, something to be distracted by and someone who’ll sing some familiar songs before something or someone else more interesting who deserves the devotion comes along. It is telling that the only bit of merchandise available is a t-shirt with the outline of Cocozza’s hair on it. The biggest cheer of the night was when he removed his hat to let his barnet flow free. Hair is the only reason we’re here. Sadly there are no secrets hiding in this tangled thatch just the grim legacy of Cowell’s Saturday night singing Colosseum.