This time last year, Sofabet had some fun speculating about which famous acts the potential finalists would duet with for the show’s climax. It’s worth reading our 2010 article mainly for the first part in which we discussed the impact of various pairings in previous finals. In brief, we suspect a good duet can make a big difference – Alexandra and Beyonce being the classic example.
As it transpires, most of our guesses for 2010 match-ups were wrong. In the end Matt sang with Rihanna, which didn’t seem like an obvious fit beforehand, and certainly didn’t during their performance, as the global superstar towered over the Essex painter and decorator. Rebecca’s pairing with Christina Aguilera seemed much more likely to work, until the Liverpudlian lass acted out the definition of starstruck and fluffed her lines on stage.
One Direction picked the short straw of Robbie Williams, which was an indication to us here at Sofabet that producers knew they weren’t going to be winning the title. Their duet was suitably uninspiring and we are hoping Robbie is not involved this year. Ironically, the pairing that ended up working best was superficially the least successful. Cher Lloyd had plenty of fun with will.i.am but her lack of popularity among the public meant she was already booked for fourth place.
So what of this year’s potential duets?
We’ll start with favourites Little Mix, as there seems to be an obvious pairing in mind: Jessie J. This year’s breakthrough star has already featured on the show and with the girlband: she accompanied Tulisa at judges’ houses where she admitted she was “a little bit in love with them”; she let the girls join her on stage during one of her concerts; and she appeared on last week’s results show and endorsed the girls once again.
What do we think of this pairing? Generally, it’s a strong one that should suit the girls. Jessie J is an outstanding live performer, and appeals to the young demographic that producers have generally aimed Little Mix towards, as their song choices have indicated. Simon worries about Jessie J that ‘the blue rinse brigade… have not heard of her’, and this could well be the case, though her appearances on X Factor and Manchester Rocks for Children In Need have boosted her profile among the general public.
This is a shrewd, obvious pairing, and we’d be surprised if producers go elsewhere. For the sake of entertainment, we will throw a few other names into the ring. The girls performed a Justin Bieber song in the quarter-final, the teen heartthrob has appeared in a previous series of X Factor, and is a guest performer in the semi-final results show. Such a pairing would certainly get that young demographic talking, though might send his more rabid fans into piques of jealousy. One Direction could also be called upon. We feel that would leave the stage looking very crowded, though it would nicely dovetail with today’s rumours of Perrie and Zayn dating.
Moving on to Marcus. One possibility is Bruno Mars, who Marcus seems to have been partly styled on after the former’s appearance earlier this series. With the potential for seeming like a pale imitation, we’re not keen on this idea. The speculation is that Michael Buble has been booked for the final, and if that really is true, Marcus seems the most likely fit. Both appeal to an older demographic – the housewife and granny vote if you like, because they’re both personable and attractive young men.
Vocally it may not be so useful for Marcus, however. We agree with Dug that Marcus has vocal limitations which need to be masked. A slower tempo duet with Michael Buble would expose the fact that Marcus is no crooner, much as the show would like to portray him as such. He struggles in the lower register, especially in slower songs. If it is Buble that the Liverpudlian lad sings with, one of the former’s midtempo, recent numbers will be the best they could manage, and it doesn’t strike us as the most useful combination.
We think Marcus would be better off doing an uptempo number with a more soulful singer, and short of the probably impossible dream of giving Marcus his ideal pairing of idol Stevie Wonder, our more realistic preference would be ‘Bright Lights, Bigger City’ with Cee Lo Green. This is not an original idea: Marcus himself opened the group song of this number in the week 4 results show. It seemed perfectly suited to his voice then (although only the first line appeared sung live).
The soul star has appeared on both X Factor USA and Strictly Come Dancing in recent weeks, in an attempt to continue selling his recent album. We’d also enjoy watching the size differential between the slight figure of Marcus and the vast American – Marcus would at least come across as the better mover and Louis could say, “Marcus, you look like a little Cee Lo Green”. In fact, about the only possible duettist we can think of who wouldn’t tower over the diminutive Liverpudlian is the claymation Jackie Wilson from 1986’s Reet Petite.
If they wanted to cause a stir for the act that will find it most difficult to gain votes in the final, Misha B, they could pair her with Adele, who is rumoured to be returning from throat surgery to sing during the final weekend. Whether the UK’s biggest current pop export will also duet with one of the finalists has not been mentioned, but if she did, a match-up with the Manchester lass would be intriguing to say the least. You will remember that Misha has already successfully performed an Adele number – ‘Rolling in the Deep’ in week one – adding her own original rap to it.
Leona Lewis has also apparently been booked for a performance in the final, although there’s been no word on whether she will duet with anybody. We’re not sure that a Leona / Misha duet would work as they offer two contrasting vocal styles. (Leona / Marcus is not such a contrast, but again, would likely expose the latter’s limitations with a difficult ballad.) One can never rule out Rihanna being included once again, she seems happy to appear on the X Factor franchise as often as she can, and this may preferable for Misha, given she is more likely to hold her own here. Better still would be Jennifer Hudson, an idol of Misha’s, who watched her audition at judges’ houses alongside her friend Kelly Rowland.
With Amelia Lily, for entertainment value alone we demand that they book Carol Decker. The lead singer of 80s band T’Pau was unnecessarily dissed by head judge Gary Barlow when he said of the Middlesbrough girl’s rendition of ‘China in Your Hand’, “it’s nice to hear that sung in tune for once”. The same week, Amelia performed ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, and Kelly Clarkson has appeared on the results show already this series, so is a possibility. Given how weak Amelia Lily was with this number, she may look like a poor imitation next to the winner of the first American Idol, however.
Otherwise, Pink is entirely appropriate given it seems to be Amelia’s favourite colour and they are at the rockier end of the spectrum, although she has been keeping a low profile of late. Katy Perry is also a possible given she enjoys appearing on the show and Amelia’s most impressive performance was arguably ‘ET’ at judges’ houses. (Likewise, Perry could do the same number with Little Mix, who performed it in week 4.) I’m not expecting Lady Gaga to return for the final, but if she did, Amelia has also done ‘You and I’ (though Misha has performed ‘Born This Way’ and would be another possibility here).
There is one other general option which seems highly unlikely but worth mentioning. If each of the three judges do have one act each in the final, it would be quite a story if they themselves sang with their mentees. Gary Barlow with Marcus, Tulisa or N Dubz with Little Mix, and Kelly Rowland with Misha or Amelia (the former would be a better fit). I can’t see it happening, though at the very least it may help Kelly flog a few more copies of her new album which has flopped in sales this week.
What are your thoughts on potential duets for the remaining four and their impact? Let us know your preferences or nightmare scenarios below.