Shock horror! An early slot for Maloney and a late one for Clark!
He wept, he strutted, he cast his flailing limbs upon the altar of self-sacrifice. Private Rylan was recapped in full force and the message was clear – to lose this guy would be a tragic waste for the X Factor and humanity as a whole.
Whilst Jahmene’s opener didn’t seem like a direct nobble, it fulfilled the dual functions of dampening his mattress after last weeks gospel pimp-o-rama and highlighting his genuine nerves in advance of ‘nervous’ Shakey Maloney. ‘Ain’t No Mountain’ gave Jahmene very little opportunity to show off his vocal ability in the way that previous numbers have allowed. Lukewarm, complacent praise will have done little to propel his popularity.
Following directly on, Ol’ Shaky was teased by Gary, his own mentor, for his pantomime histrionics. The trembles that once made Chris the next SuBo became a laughing point for that most serious of mentors, The Borelow. As if the ‘cheesy’ point wasn’t clear, Maloney came out to red and black disco lights on a cruise ship bar, bellowing ‘How Do I Get You Alone’ in his best community theatre voice. Friedman’s evil minions went from ignoring him to distracting the audience entirely by snogging in the background. Nicole echoed her comment from last week in saying, “who was that up there?” The message: you are indistinct and unmemorable.
Dermot closed the segment by telling Cheeseburger Chris, “You’re an old fashioned belter.” It was an assassination by numbers. All in all, it was crystal clear. Maloney no longer has a place as a serious contender in this competition. If the producers have it their way, he no longer has a place in the competition full stop.
Union J, who seemed at first destined for the bottom two with their early slot, were set up with a great ‘struggle’ narrative, being told that D3 were rehearsing harder and effectively making themselves the front runners. It’s possible the show wants to push the underdog theme as the antidote for all those (legitimate) One Direction comparisons that make up the bulk of UJ’s public critique.
Union Jack-the-lads went out with a mashup of two songs by British artists, wearing British weather-inspired scarves in an M&S style moment (following on from last week’s dubstep Queen). It seems they are favoured over their Americanised counterparts, especially in this post-Olympic haze of national pride. They are now as short as 11/1 on Betfair.
Next up was this year’s Frankel/Cardle/One-to-beat, Ella Henderson whose mid-tempo rendition of ‘Loving You’ was both more interesting and more in tune than last week’s flat-fest ‘Rule The World’ and did well to justify her place as front-runner. It wasn’t the musical revelation that dreams are made of but it’s Ella’s competition to lose and a few slick, understated weeks might be just what she needs to avoid implosion. That and the reassuring knowledge that Gary Barlow knows the names of the notes she can hit. F sharp descending has always been one of my personal favourites.
My nemesis / last week’s star performer VT’ed next and took his mentor to a British pub for the first time (Lewis Hamilton never invited her to one?). I particularly liked the fact that Nicole’s pint was at a lower level than James’ in all shots. Bitch can hold her bitter. ‘No More Drama’ was not quite the slick triumph (which would be a great name for an ale) that ‘Stronger’ was last week but it served to cement James’ natural place as Alpha boy. He received the first ‘record deal’ comment of the series and he’s now trading at under 10/1.
Poor, likeable Lucy was up next with the unfortunate and clearly genuine added strain of having lost her grandmother in the past week. However, rather than milking the issue or wheeling out a reprise of ‘Tea and Toast’, she chose to keep her chin up and cover Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’. I can imagine that one of only two scenarios was the cause for this; either the show didn’t want the runaway momentum that an original number could cause in context or Lucy wouldn’t pay ball in the sob story arena. The latter option would make her even more likeable than she already is – a pretty mean feat. Either way, she’s going nowhere just yet. On a lighter note, the show managed to slip in a relatively inoffensive reference to Lucy enjoying the pretty ladies dancing around her – a rather crude observation but a step in the right direction for IT’pretendit’snothappening’V if there ever was one.
If there were any suspicions that XF was switching boyband horses back to District3 then doubts would have been quashed from the onset of their VT, which included the phrases ‘dated’ and ‘cheesy’ as well as pointing out more comparisons to One Direction. The clip also showed members arguing with one another before a performance that was decidedly and alternatingly American in comparison to Union J. It also saw the trio TRAPPED IN A GLASS CAGE OF LIGHT (with their backs to one another). Judges comments were divisive, with Tulisa praising harmonies and Gary slating harmonies as the biggest problem. Nicole went on about smearing herself in baby oil. Obviously.
Lovely, lovely Jadedeji was off to a good start with a sympathetic VT. It really is a pity that she has to share a competition with Ella, in which only one can represent the flaming songbird and the latter has all the wind behind her. Jade sits awkwardly between the Rachels of time gone by and the Rebecca Fergusons of this world. She received a lovely gold backdrop and simple production, which let her warble like a champ. The jokes about doing the school run in a sparkly dress were also a good way of showing how much she wants the win, whilst still managing to be suitably self-deprecating. All in all, Jade’s best week so far.
Once again, MK1 managed to be fun and likeable but failed to be spectacular. Nicole made a good point about what she expected to hear ‘on the album,’ which is very much an important question for ‘niche’ artists. ‘I Want You Back’ felt rather false, forced and non-niche; although whether that’s more a matter of producer incompetence than deliberate sabotage is hard to tell. The group did appear to receive the first official appeal for votes of the series, which might count for something. Perhaps the show is worried about losing the duo too early.
Next up, Kye was as memorable as ever and the late slots for him and Melanie could indicate trouble for the overs. Kye doesn’t have Matt Cardle’s falsetto but then neither did he have a dolphin-style blowhole trepanned into the nape of his neck by the academy at the age of nine so it wouldn’t be fair to compare the two. Again, praise was lukewarm.
Oh Rylan. I wasn’t sure for a while. Then I heard Brian Friedman offer me ten Anna Wintours, ten Karl Lagerfelds and a bunch of dancing fashion pandas rampaging around the stage to the sounds of ‘Gangnam Style.’ It was not quite on the Kitty level of brilliance, and it sorely missed the track’s notorious choreography, but it won me over and I’d be surprised to see Rylan hit the bottom two again tomorrow, especially after the ingenious dig at Borelow with the opening lines of ‘Back For Good.’ (NB. Rylan was the first act to get his own segment tonight, excluding the opening and closing slots.)
Finally, in the pimp slot and dressed in something that could very easily have been hired from the pimp section of a fancy dress shop was child of the 60s (note: barely even born in the 60s, probably raving in the 90s) Melanie Masson. After a very boring number it seems that Gary as first mentor to lose all acts is the likely outcome.
So it looks much like producers would like to see Shaky and GHB in the bottom two tomorrow night. In that situation, we reckon it’s hard to imagine the show saving the boyband when Maloney would be so much easier to nobble at a later stage. MK1 also look to be in danger with lukewarm comments and no obvious fanbase. As Boki and tpfkar point out, the late slots for Kye and Melanie could suggest that they polled badly last week so neither act is out of hot water. Conversely, in the win market, it’s not such a surprise to see Union J squeezing into numbers like 12/1.
What do you think? Who do you expect to see in the bottom two tomorrow night? And who do you think is on the producer hitlist next? As ever, we want to know.