Well, I didn’t see that coming at all: The Risk kicked off tonight’s show, whilst Little Mix and Craig Colton were the last to sing. Was putting The Risk on this early an attempt to explain away the change in personnel as soon as possible, whilst a third of the audience was still watching Strictly, as Euan said in the comments box? After a rather leaden rendition of ‘Thriller’, the judges’ lavish praise rang hollow.
It looks like we were wrong with our speculation that their previous help in the running order suggested The Risk might not be doing as well in the votes as their position in the betting would indicate – sending them out in the death slot looked like a mark of confidence. Or was it? Just possibly producers might not mind too much if The Risk needed saving this week. They would have a perfect excuse for falling into the sing-off zone, after all; it would fit in nicely to a longer-term “reboot” narrative, and it would give them a bounce if they need one.
My intuition that Johnny would be sent on in the coffin slot for Halloween wasn’t so far off the mark, though: he was second to perform. It certainly felt like he did enough to keep himself out of the bottom two, but we stand by our assertion that a long-range mission to dampen enthusiasm for him is afoot. It was notable that his VT suggested he had already accomplished his ambitions to become popular, and the comments too pointed out how long he’d been waiting to sing a ballad. There is a drip, drip, drip effect intended to plant the thought that Johnny’s journey is nearing completion.
So who is in the most trouble?
Step forward Sophie Habibis, who had an early draw and a deathly production of ‘Bang Bang’. Props to Boki, who correctly reckoned, against my initial judgement, that this song choice would just “confirm her ‘boring’ status”. Her VT in which she once again stressed that, “I’m a typical London girl,” only reinforced this. As Shoulders rightly said in the comments, “sending her home to see the hype outside X Factor, only to film her in a dreary empty pub, (save the couple of bored actors in the background) meeting just 1 friend, the X Factor axe is swinging down at an alarming rate, poor girl”.
The judges comments were unkind – “a secretary who sings at the weekend” – but in my view they will have struck voters as fair, and for that reason I suspect they will not get her much of a sympathy vote. Sophie looked like she’d swallowed a wasp as she exited the stage after her interview with Dermot, as well she might – it seems clear that her treatment this week was a case of “bang bang, let’s shoot her down”. If she duly falls into the bottom two, I don’t expect the show to have any interest in keeping her around.
I suspect that programme makers’ apparent effort to drop Sophie into the danger zone could well be because they expect Frankie to be there too. I stated in my pre-show article that I would be surprised to see him out of the bottom two now that he no longer has the sympathy bounce on his side. His vocal performance was as bad as ever, and didn’t convince me that he would steer clear of the sing-off.
Producers have decided to go all out on the bad boy image, which Tulisa reckoned was the “real Frankie”. This is bad news for Sophie fans, because if this pair are in the bottom two the judges’ deliberation writes itself – the one with ‘charisma’ gets saved, and the show has made every effort to let us know who they think that is.
The programme did its very best for some of the other possible elimination candidates, notably Kitty, Little Mix and Craig. Kitty put up the performance of the night and came across sympathetically enough to make me think she will avoid the danger zone, though I did object to the extra boost she got from the vocoder at the start of her rendition of ‘Sweet Dreams’.
I was considerably less impressed than the judges by the performances of Little Mix and Craig Colton. But I have to admit that everything was done to keep them clear of the sing-off. As well as the best slots in the running order (plus, as Donald and Nugget commented, the sound mix seemed better for the later acts), they had very shrewd VTs. Little Mix’s carefully targeted its demographic, which appears to be teen girls who are insecure about their self-image. I found the production for the girlband’s performance of ET a bit alienating, which I suppose was the point. I don’t think they’re totally safe.
There was a very serious attempt to pimp Craig this week: after a couple of average performances, his VT felt the need to go all out about his Week 1 rendition of ‘Jar of Hearts’. Louis called him a “contender”, having said something similar last week. His Adele number didn’t do it for me, but it will put him clear of the bottom two.
Among those I saw as contenders for the prize before the show, I think it was a bad night for Janet Devlin, but with her regional base and position as frontrunner, I would still be very surprised to see her in the sing-off. Misha was excellent and Marcus was solid. If there’s going to be any shock among tomorrow’s bottom two, it is more likely to be The Risk.
My feeling remains that a Sophie Habibis / Frankie Cocozza sing-off looks most likely and I feel that the judges have already prepared their reasons for sending Sophie back to Tufnell Park. What was your impression of who’s in trouble after tonight’s show? Do let us know below.