The headline of tonight was that producers unequivocally went after Miss Dynamix – but it’s Shelley who landed bottom of the first ever flash vote.
After all our speculation about which disposable acts would be thrown under the Strictly bus during the 30 minutes in which the shows overlapped, producers sent out two of their big hitters – the acts who entered the show third and second in the win market – as the first and second to perform. As Nissl put it in the comments, “Up is down, left is right, cats and dogs living together etc.”
Those opening two acts – Hannah and Nicholas – coincidentally happened to be the ones we’d predicted 1st and 2nd in our customary speculative pre-lives finishing order prediction. You could almost think producers were having a little fun at our expense.
Such paranoia aside, there is a more logical reason for opening the show with big hitters – it’s a message to viewers who missed the start of the show that they shouldn’t do that again. That ties in with the flash vote as an attempt to boost audiences, and hence advertising revenue, from start to finish of the Saturday show.
With his Scottish fanbase, Nicholas – who showed himself to possess stage poise beyond his years – in particular should be safe as houses. There’s more room for doubt around Hannah, whose staging was messy and who was the subject of pre-show scares about needing voice rest. But she came across sympathetically and should have come into the lives with enough momentum from bootcamp and judges’ houses to see her safe.
Normal service was resumed as Miss Dynamix were lobbed buswards just in time – the Strictly credits rolled just as their comments were finishing. With Sam Bailey to come, it was a classic big-name sandwich. They were positioned on a plinth, which we have speculated has the effect of distancing from the audience – a plinth festooned with, as Donald noted in the comments, a giant image of an old cassette tape. Shades of Christopher Maloney there.
It’s hard to imagine many viewers having been impressed by Miss Dynamix’s harmonies, and the comments were suitably anodyne, neither motivating enthusiasm nor provoking sympathy.
Up next, Sam Bailey looked a million dollars and had an evocative backdrop of gold flowers, skies and lighting. Nicholas, earlier, had been surrounded by huge golden stars. Lots for the subliminals fans among us to get stuck into there.
We were treated to more gratuitous naked upper body shots of Sam Callahan, in a packaging that left us in no doubt that girls are supposed to love him. Sam lived up to his billing as the cute boy with mediocre vocals, and you can’t help feeling he missed his vocation as a part of One Direction, but the former part of the equation really ought to see him safe.
Kingsland Road didn’t get the VT individually naming the members which traditionally signifies serious producer investment in a group – though they did get images of themselves holding up names on the backing screens. They brought a huge amount of fun to the stage.
Most of us have assumed that, in the absence of an obvious novelty act, Shelley would be shoehorned into that role – especially because playing it straight risks leaving her looking like a poor man’s Sam Bailey. But there wasn’t much hint of Rylan or Wagner in her VT or rendition of ‘Alone’ – it all felt much more Sami Brookes, and it was no great surprise to see her finish bottom of the flash vote.
Abi Alton came across extremely sympathetically in her VT, got a white piano and some striking lighting. Her vocal style isn’t to our taste, but she does what she does. At the moment we see no compelling reason to revise our pre-lives prognostication that had her going in around week 4.
Pre-show elimination favourite Lorna was clearly very nervous, and producers gave her a memorable production but there were mixed messages – was the VT supposed to make us root for her as an underdog, or remind us – as Nicole did in her comment – that we don’t know who she is?
Tonight presented a puzzle in that Lorna, as had happened to Nicholas, had an ad break inserted in between her song and comments. We can’t remember seeing this before on the UK version of the show, and on the face of it you might think it’s meant to be helpful – the opposite of the memory hole. On the other hand, Daniel recalls it being done to Vino Alen in the US version when he exited, though that was followed by negative comments whereas this wasn’t the case for Nicholas and Lorna. Readers’ theories on the significance, if any, of the ad break are invited below.
Project Humanise Tamera continued with a VT that told us she is nice to her sister. On the other hand, the edgy urban visuals hardly seemed calculated to appeal to Middle England, and the amount of movement in the song caused her some dodgy vocal movements. The judges wasted no time in instructing us that this is a ready-made popstar who can sell millions of records.
Judges’ comments did nothing to change the sense that Tamera is Plan A. Will the public play ball?
Up next was a man with greasy hair in a velvet jacket singing a stalker song. Luke’s VT showed him bonding with the Rough Copy boys – perhaps intended to have Luke’s middle-of-the-road acceptability rub off on them, rather than their urban edge rub off on him. It also reinforced the idea that, like Samson, his hair is the only interesting thing about him.
Ostensibly the second-from-last slot looks like it was intended to help keep him clear of Miss Dynamix, although of course Carolynne Poole hit the bottom from this position last year. Like Lorna, he got some production help but didn’t make enough of an impression to suggest that if he gets a stay of execution this week, it will be more than a short-lived one.
Just before the last act to perform, we got a Caroline Flack interview with Shelley. This is another innovation this year, which we assume will be used to stragetically remind viewers of selected acts just before the flash vote – although it was too little, too late for Shelley.
On the same theme, for those who don’t believe in coincidences, interestingly Joe posted in the comments that the ad break after Tamera’s song happened to include the song Tamera had just sung.
Support for Rough Copy in the win market before Saturday’s show had made us wonder if someone might know something about the running order, and the trio – who Dermot introduced by name before their VT – got the pimp slot. The VT had Gary talking about how much they deserved their place, and the group testifying that music keeps them on the straight and narrow.
The judges were on script with the pimping, Nicole calling them the best band she’s heard on the show. Gary committed himself to this being his last year on the show, in a way that suggested he’d like his fans to send him off with a victory by backing Rough Copy.
Is this proof positive that Rough Copy are the alpha group over Kingsland? We reckon it’s producers floating a trial balloon to see how the public take to them – they certainly couldn’t have done much more to give them the opportunity to cement alpha status.
Immediately after the pimp slot, the lines opened for the flash vote – and, accentuating the disadvantage of going early, it was a little while before we got a recap of all the performances. Dermot then went down the line, interviewing the acts as the seconds ticked down – and got to Miss Dynamix, reminding us of their existence, with only ten seconds left to pick up the phone.
The market suggests it will be one of Miss Dynamix, Luke or Lorna joining Shelley in the singoff, and it’s hard to disagree. Our sense is that given Miss Dynamix’s treatment tonight, they are likely to save Shelley over them if they succeed in getting the girl group in the bottom two – why risk the bounce? It would be easy enough for the judges to do so, along the lines of “two acts who both have potential to do better, it’s such a difficult decision”, etc.
Will they see enough fun potential in Shelley to save her over one of Luke or Lorna? Who else do you see in danger of the singoff? As ever, do let us know below.