A couple of days is a long time in X Factor. In articles earlier this week, Andrew explained why he was still backing One Direction and I justified why I’d switched allegiance to Matt Cardle.
I still hold to that view, but both of us worked on the assumption that producers would be doing all they could to help One Direction this weekend – and confirmation of the final duets has stunningly overturned that assumption.
Their pairing with Robbie Williams strongly suggests that producers have given up on the boyband. Saturday will tell us more, but at the moment it looks to us like Rebecca is the one producers now want.
The One Direction duet with Robbie seems unlikely to boost their popularity for a number of reasons. Robbie is a busted flush who has performed badly for his last three appearances on X Factor – this year with Take That, partnering Olly Murs in the 2009 final and performing as a solo artist earlier in that series.
Quite why producers would want such a tainted product – a man renowned for hard-living and who walked away from his own group – next to the squeaky-clean emerging boyband, is hard to fathom.
It is so wrong on every level that I can only conclude producers have seen the voting figures and decided that One Direction have no chance of winning. This kind of pairing can excuse them failure in the final before Simon Cowell starts flogging their records.
Matt hasn’t been so fatally hindered by a pairing with Rihanna, especially as she is arguably the biggest current artist of the four established acts. There are a few of her songs on which I can see Matt shine, ‘Russian Roulette’ being the one that most springs to mind.
Matt won’t be sung off the stage either by his established pairing, but I am yet to be convinced that their voices will harmonise well. Rihanna is a very different style of singer to Matt, whereas I felt that Christina Aguilera’s ability to change pitch would have suited Matt better.
On his own, Matt is also rumoured to be performing his audition song of ‘No Good’, which he did perfectly well, but it gives him less less opportunity to provide a goosebump moment than either ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ or ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’.
Rebecca, on the other hand, will apparently sing her first round song of ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ which suits her voice very well indeed.
The fact that Christina has been saved for Rebecca suggests to me that producers would prefer to see her win than Matt. There are two highly plausible reasons for this. Firstly, Rebecca has more of a “journey” to sell – the shy single mum as opposed to the privately-educated indie band frontman.
Secondly, in Rebecca they have a more malleable personality. Matt is more likely to get all Steve Brooksteiny about artistic integrity, while Rebecca is more likely to uncomplainingly sing whatever they tell her to.
Rebecca’s duet with Christina could go either way. Christina could choose to gracefully allow Rebecca the chance to shine as much as possible. The Liverpudlian has a limited vocal range, but within that can sound distinctive and warm. The American star, on the other hand, has a huge vocal range, and can be an incredibly powerful live singer, which could expose Rebecca’s limitations. We will see.
Meanwhile, Cher gets will.i.am, as we and plenty of others predicted, and this won’t be a gamechanger for anybody, although she does allegedly get to revisit her best moment of the series by performing her audition song of ‘Turn Your Swag On’. (One Direction will reprise ‘Torn’, which they performed well at judges’ houses and is another good choice for them.)
Depite this, Cher still looks likely to depart first, though we now have confirmation that there will be a further elimination before a vote on the final two. The duets indicate producers expect that to be Matt against Rebecca, but as Hanna commented earlier this week, an unknown and important variable at present is the “winner’s” song each will perform as their single resulting from success this weekend.
If producers want to do a lot for Rebecca, they could make this as suitable for her as possible, less so for her rivals. Using the same logic, we at Sofabet now predict a running order of something like Matt-Cher-1D-Rebecca.
Of course, we’ve been proved wrong before, and Saturday’s show will make everything much clearer. What we’re going to be providing is the following: a profile of the final four tomorrow, our usual Sunday update and a post-mortem on Monday.
Good luck to everybody, and let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.