It was ‘Best of British’ week, so we were all on tenterhooks to see what fascinatingly stereotypical references and glorified ‘Pride of Britain’ style nationalism ITV would be willing to stoop to. In particular, I was eager for Marmite/Marmalade/Afghanistan references.
In the opening VT, District 3 seemed to receive the benediction of the Union Jack along with Louis’ assertion that the boys could be “big all over the world.” It was yet to be seen just how the Battle of the Boybands would swing.
Then came obligatory dancing. I don’t think I ever realised just how much Dermot O’Leary reminds me of a better looking, less interesting version of Austin Powers. But then I never realised how much the X Factor makes me want to flay myself until I saw Scherzinger in an origami interpretation of Bjork’s dead swan Oscar outfit.
Dermot and Gary had a minor verbal fracas and it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell whether Borelow is rebelliously off-script or if producers are happy to let him rant for the sake of controversy.
Shakey Maloney went out in the position-formerly-known-as-death-slot with a VT that focused on Gary teaching him how to sing. He wore a red-and-black outfit and performed another 1980s cheese-fest in the form of ‘I’m Still Standing.’
I’m not sure if the lyrical message of ‘I’m Still Standing’ amounted to triumph or reverse psychology. If Louis’ Heart FM comment was intended to put voters off, it probably ignored the likely correlation between ITV viewers and Heart listeners. Chris continues to be something of an X Factor mystery. As yet, he has avoided the danger zone though this didn’t feel like as good a week for him as last week.
Jahmene continued his long-standing theme of self-disbelief in his VT before getting the chance to chat with Jennifer Hudson on Nicole’s mobile phone. ‘Angels’ was a perfect call for Middle England votes.
I couldn’t help but notice that Jahmene’s newly barbered scalp was strongly reminiscent of a certain scene from Hannibal but a contestant lobotomy scar would be an equally viable explanation.
To be fair, ‘Angels’ was one of Jahmene’s stronger shows and it seems crystal clear that X Factor producers currently see/want him making it to the bitter end. Louis thought he ‘HAD’ to be in the final, Tulisa lied through her teeth about how much she adored him and Gary preferred him to Robbie (to be fair, Gary probably prefers an attack of dysentery to Robbie but only because he is WEL JEL).
Next up, the act that American teenagers with blocked noses think sound like Americans teenagers with blocked noses, DISTRICT 3! The Eric Clapton number seemed like prime demo-alienating stuff and the long shots and double key change added nothing to the number’s credibility. The lyrical message within the lines “I know I don’t belong here in heaven” seemed pretty damning but coverage on the Xtra Factor seemed favourable. Gary’s suggestion that the trio did not have the ‘edge’ on Union J (whose name was met with screaming) could go either way with voters.
Ella’s solo segment was set directly after the new John Lewis ad break and I can’t help but wonder how I manage to get through two hours of X Factor with my cynicism intact yet always come close to breaking down at Christmas adverts.
Ella’s time was filled with starry, starry, little star references. I continue to be confused by her vocal switcheroo between Vermont-based ‘Watch With Mother’ and American Adele. Either way, Ella continues to wow with her cords and God knows the show could always do with another superstar female belter.
Girl power was a major theme for Ella and her status as the sole remaining female in any category cannot hurt her continuing chances. I’m not sure the endorsement of the KKK (Kourtney, Kim and Khloe) can be the greatest of associations but Ella also got the Little Mix treatment from Tulisa in the form of, “People might think she’s safe.” Ella responded that, “I miss the girls but thank God I’ve got Tulisa.”
Next up was Rylan, who has slowly grown on me like a tumour on blue cheese. I’m always initially sceptical towards the TV supergays. It generally starts with, “this is not how I want to be represented” and ends with “YES YOU FABULOUS CREATURE, YOU SHOW THOSE STRAIGHT-LACED ITV BIGOTS YOU MEAN BUSINESS!”
Rylan’s segment managed a nice nod to the Queen along with conveying the idea that the Essex Diva might just be a genuinely nice and decent human being. Rylan also won the first blatant Union Jack costumery of the night.
“You didn’t just spread love, you sprayed it all over that stage,” said Nicole Sherzinger my favourite human being EVER (for the next three or four days at least) and the audience MADE A LOT OF NOISE for Rylan. Still though, all in all, it does feel like a novelty is wearing off and Rylan’s time in the competition is running out.
“We want to dedicate ourselves,” told Union J, immediately yanking at the corners of the national pride tablecloth beneath the crockery of military history. Interestingly, the boys’ VT started around the same time that the Festival of Remembrance started on BBC1 so it’s hard to say whether the forces vote would really have much effect for the boys.
The boys were told in their VT that, “This song is about hope… you’re signing it to your families,” which was a bit intense but may do well to whip up some support. George’s camouflage blazer carried the theme of heavy-handedness right through the very boring production of ‘Fix You.’ Either producers weren’t that enthusiastic about refuelling the boyband’s tank or the music team are showing their incompetence.
Finally in the position-formerly-known-as-pimp-slot was James Arthur. Interestingly, this week’s bill did appear to tow the line of the old school running order system and James’ coverage didn’t negate his placing in the slightest. Another ‘alternative’ arrangement of an unexpected song choice continued to show James as the artist he is clearly capable of being. Even the most cynical of my friends, the type that would poo-poo the Matt Cardle brand of ‘authenticity’ were more than somewhat enamoured with James tonight.
We were reminded that James was CREDIBLE CREDIBLE CREDIBLE and Nicole told us that James was, “my love… the best of British.” Quite why his performance was filled with New York yellow cabs was unclear. But against my better judgment I find myself rooting for James.
The Sofabet team expected to see clear guns out for one or two contestants tonight. Last year’s competition saw an unprecedented numbers of assassinations orchestrated to protect the desired winner. The mid stages of this year’s competition seem to tell a different story, whereby producers are protecting their three most precious metals (in the form of Ella, James and Jahmene) whilst allowing the remainder to rust.
From tonight’s show, we can only draw the conclusion that producers are happy to risk any out of District 3, Union J, Rylan or Christopher hitting the bottom two. None were actively protected enough to reflect any intense producer favour. “We keep missing,” producers might be thinking, “let’s not aim at all,” they might say, choosing instead to bolster the sandbags around their pet familiars.
In terms of TV gold, a double boyband sing-off would be the best possible scenario. Not only would it create a great moment of telly drama, it would finally settle the long-running boyband battle. Also, on the issue of sympathy bounces, it would be unprecedented. The usual cold note of only just surviving elimination might be negated by virtue of managing the feat against a parallel act, especially when both acts have made it past the halfway point in the contest.
Rylan has now made it as far as Katie Waissel and Kitty Brucknell managed and thus his eviction wouldn’t be disastrous for the show. Union J seem to occupy a potential space between the front runners and the expendables which means that once the hard-to-assassinate aspect of D3 and Shakey are taken into account, the majority of acts are really just a sideshow to the bookies’ favourites.
Betfair has been gyrating like Rylan’s hips all night. At the time of writing, Jahmene is looking shorter than Ella for the win and Maloney is shorter than Union J. The elimination market, from short to long, goes as thus: Rylan, D3, Shakey and UJ, followed a long way off by the big 3. A Rylan / D3 sing off looks highly plausible but after the long term Maloney deramp and weak UJ treatment coming off a bounce it could be anyone’s loss.
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