Time will tell if lines being open from the start of the show has any effect on the vote. A boon that we hadn’t expected was that it led to Dermot revealing the entire running order at the start of the evening, when he read out the voting numbers.
This immediately reassured us about our reading of the runes, in our 1-13 prediction, that Union J were the preferred boyband. District 3 were duly sent out in the death slot, the significance of which we explored in our show preview post.
Their VT showed them considering a multitude of suggestions for new names, suggesting they don’t have a strong sense of their own identity. And while their performance was better than Nu Vibe’s in the same situation last year, they were damned (as Curtis noted in the Sofabet comments) by lukewarm comments from the judges. Tulisa and Nicole suggested they weren’t having fun. Gary called them middling, and – with a whiff of Cowellesque reverse psychology – said there was no doubt they’d be here next week (translation: no need to vote for them).
District 3 are now as short as 13/8 to be gone tomorrow. They were followed on stage by One Direction, immediately shoving them down the memory hole – as Chatterbox5200 summed it up in the comments, “District 3 opening the show to lukewarm comments, immediately followed by One Direction pledging their love for James Arthur… sorry, who just performed?”
We have to disagree with eurovicious’s reaction to James Arthur’s performance. We read his early slot as the show further shoving District 3 down the memory hole by putting on one of the bigger hitters. James was called a “recording star” and a “performer”, received Tulisa’s benediction, and Gary’s urging to resist having the edges smoothed off him seemed to us to be setting up James’s trajectory for the series.
Up next was Melanie Masson. There was no mention of her Scottish roots, which might have been read as an attempt to stir the regional vote. But there were quite a lot of mentions of how much she was missing her children – a storyline we had suggested was intended to dampen her vote, by implying that voters would be doing her family a favour if they let her go home. Melanie’s kids even made an appearance in the audience just before Dermot reminded us of her voting number.
Melanie drifted in the elimination betting to 14/1, which reflected a decent enough vocal performance as we felt the early slot and the family emphasis were in line with our feeling that she is considered dispensable. If she lands up in the bottom two with District 3, we’d expect her to be saved, though – the “missing her kids” storyline isn’t going to get any weaker as time goes by, after all.
Lucy was up next, singing an original song, which was pleasant enough. Her VT showed her in a guitar shop, emphasising her musicianship and authenticity. She brings something new to the show and we anticipate producers will want to keep her clear of trouble for a while yet.
Apart from the “ouch” moment of Charlie’s opening bars, there was much positivity around MK1 – they were portrayed as likeable in their VT (accountant Will was noticeably absent) and they got a big production and helpful comments. They bring an urban energy to the show, and we suspect producers will want to keep them in if they land up in the bottom two with District 3.
Louis wheeled out the cruise ship comment with shaking wildcard Christopher Maloney, but Gary going out of his way to emphasise that he hadn’t chosen the song this week clearly showed that this didn’t imply the show is gunning for him. Next week, maybe, but we expect the momentum from the wildcard win to keep Shakey around to shake again.
We’re feeling comfortable with the each-way we suggested on Union J in the outright market. They got a helpful and fun-filled bromancing VT in which we were introduced to each by name, and then stood on a box bearing the name Union J (what were that other boyband called again?)
Tulisa and Gary helpfully laid into Louis for scuppering their chances with a poor song choice, surely intended to send their fans scuttling for their phones in anxiety and anger – recall that a similar tactic, used against Simon Cowell, propelled the anonymous Scott Bruton to an unlikely second place in the first public vote of 2008. Union J were shortened to single figures in the elimination market, but we reckon their treatment suggests they’re setting off on a long haul journey.
Jade Ellis, like Melanie Masson, was shown missing her daughter, but there the similarity ends. Unlike with Melanie, we saw Tulisa emphasising how proud Jade will make her girl, and Jade promising to fight to build a better life for her daughter. After a nice enough performance that brought to mind Alicia Keys, she got some strongly positive comments afterwards.
We stand by our view that Jade is being kept in reserve in case of an Ella malfunction, and we don’t think the show will want to lose her tomorrow unless they absolutely have to.
For instance, if she’s there with the enormously entertaining Rylan. We don’t doubt that Rylan would be saved against anyone – the VT of him bonding with his mentor over death threats was genius, as was the Brian Friedman production (welcome back, Brian, we missed you). Gary’s reaction showed this is a storyline that the show will want to run and run.
Kye continues to be somewhat anonymous and forgettable – probably not enough to land him in trouble tonight, but enough to have us checking the odds on Gary to be first to lose all acts.
Next up was Ella, who continued to look like “Frankel running against a team of shire horses” in the phrase of commenter Butterscotch.
Carolynne’s penultimate slot in the running order reinforced our sense that she is being thought of as the alpha over at present. We continue to be sceptical that country works in this country, but the new spin on a Minaj song worked surprisingly well. Her tearful bonding VT with Gary will have done her no harm, but we retain our scepticism about how well she connects with the public. As Stu Heritage wrote on the Graun liveblog, “The studio audience don’t care for Carolynne either. When she finished singing, nobody cheered. When the judges criticised her, nobody booed. When the judges praised her, nobody clapped. There are sporadic whoops, but they’re the sort of whoops you’d expect to hear when a television production team runs through the audience with a cattle prod just to get a noise – any noise – out of them.”
If she ends up in the bottom two tomorrow, we expect she’d be saved against most. But, again… what price Gary first to lose all acts?
There was surprisingly little movement in the outright win market during the first show. Indeed, the biggest mover during the first twelve songs was Jahmene, whom we knew from the start was singing in the pimp slot. Nicole may have looked like she was struggling to remember the Asda worker’s name when introducing him, but he did himself no harm and the show has wisely toned down some of his vocal affectations.
All in all, we reckon the market looks to have got it about right – a bottom two of District 3 versus MK1, with District 3 exiting first, seems the most likely scenario. But it being the first show, there won’t be much between many of the acts at the bottom of the ladder so we are keeping a watching brief. What was your take on the evening? As ever, do let us know below.