Last year we heard that when the X Factor acts discussed among themselves which of them they believed were in producers’ good and bad books, stage lighting was a big topic. We also, following in the footsteps of the fantastic Betsfactor, have become big fans of the idea that the show likes to plant subliminal ideas in viewers’ minds, associating certain concepts with certain acts.
Sometimes it seems obvious what effect producers are trying to achieve with staging and lighting – in particular, last year’s acts apparently concluded that messy, scattered, unfocused lighting was unhelpful. Often, it’s not obvious at all – at least, not to us. With that in mind, we thought it might be interesting to look back through the first live show’s acts, float some of our ideas and ask for yours.
Up first was Hannah, who appears to have been located outside a block of flats at night:
That’s not helpful, surely? It feels vertiginous, claustrophobic, oppressive.
This lighting looks messy as well, scattering the viewer’s attention away from Hannah rather than directing it towards her. Throw in some red and black, for those of you who like the idea that colour palettes are also consciously used to create mood – although there’s some helpful golden-yellow in there, too:
Contrast the lighting for Nicholas, which draws the viewer’s attention straight to him:
It certainly looks like they’re thinking of Nicholas as one of the stars of this year’s show:
The association of star imagery with Marcus Collins in 2011’s series was one of Richard Betsfactor’s earliest subliminal theories.
Now, where are Miss Dynamix? I’m sure they’re there somewhere. Not to worry, the many different searchlights roaming all over the place will locate them eventually:
Sam Bailey gets yellow roses. Apparently, yellow roses “send a message of appreciation and platonic love… The color represents feelings of joy and delight”.
Sam also gets an evocative backdrop of yellow-uplit cloudy skies, like the uplifting sunset after a storm clears, with images of petals from roses floating upwards, signifying… um… something to do with heaven?
The searchlights are out again for Sam Callahan. Where are you, Sam?
Mixed messages, though. This looks altogether more helpful:
What’s with the upward-scrolling measuring tape behind Kingsland Road? Any ideas?
Again, though, this kind of lighting looks helpful enough:
The lights are focused on Shelley, but the blue and black palette somehow feels cold, dark, icy, sterile:
And any ideas what they were tring to achieve with the articulated lift? The overall effect seemed less Aliona Moon, more “can you get something from the top shelf of the warehouse”:
Lorna gets a similar colour palette, but with fireworks visible through the windows and the addition of some semi-naked dancers making it all feel more fun than Shelley:
Abi’s piano is white, a colour associated with purity and innocence. The lighting creates a kind of protective, shielding roof over her head:
(Somewhat less encouragingly for Abi, on rewatching her VT we noticed it concluded immediately before this performance with her saying she hoped she wouldn’t hit any bum notes. Thus viewers were helpfully primed to be extra-alert for them.)
Tamera’s a puzzle. If you were hoping to break people’s mental associations of her with violence and drugs, why would you send her out against an nighttime inner city backdrop of high-rise buildings, graffiti and crowd control barriers?
Luke Friend gets a giant-picture-of-himself backdrop, perhaps intended to be a Big Brother-type presence to watch us every breath we take. It’s a device the show has occasionally used to negative effect, notably when shining lasers out of Chris Maloney’s eyes and sending Janet Devlin up in smoke. But it has advantages, as this shot illustrates – Luke’s face remains visible even in a long shot.
The spotlights in the above shot appear to be unhelpfully scattered, but he gets some focused lighting too:
A blue-and-black palette, yet again, for Rough Copy – this time with a thunderstorm. For an act that we assume producers are hoping to make seem unthreatening to Middle England voters, such a dark and brooding backdrop is not an obvious choice – especially for a bit of Phil Collins cheese. Perhaps the lightning is supposed to tell us we’re supposed to think this performance is electric:
Of course, any and all of the above might be miles off the mark, misinterpretations or meaningless coincidences. But it’s speculation that entertains us; and it’s worth remembering that these backdrops are thought up by somebody. If it entertains you too, do share your thoughts and theories in the comments.