I’m still gutted that they cancelled Halloween (week). An X Factor live show is a bizarre alternate universe that suits the Day of the Dead. The franchise’s three Halloween incarnations seemed to specialise in female sacrifice – Belle Amie, Sophie Habibis and Jade Ellis the victims of some devilish shenanigans.
Whilst the disco theme promises more energy than last week’s moribund programme, finding the pre-show elimination value is becoming a trickier affair. The market calls it between Abi, Kingsland Road and Sam Callahan, with Rough Copy the most likely looking outsiders and Hannah expected to bounce. I can’t argue with that, and it will likely be a Saturday that I wait till we’re in-running before getting involved.
On what little we actually know about the voting, Kingsland Road would appear in most danger of another bottom two appearance. They have the dubious honour of being the only act beaten by Shelley Smith in a phone vote. Admittedly, this was when they were sent on in the Strictly overlap during week 2 (it lasts 15 minutes tonight) and given the colour vomit treatment.
This week the boyband are coming off a sympathy bounce, which more often than not sees an act in the bottom two again, as it did for girlband Belle Amie at this stage in 2010 and for Union J after each of their three singoff saves last year. Not always, though: District 3 went from a week 2 rescue to relative safety right through to week 6.
However, they were aided by a decent ramp in week 3 and harsh criticism that motivated their fanbase in weeks 4 and 5. Kingsland Road’s sympathy bounce didn’t seem so pronounced for ‘Pretty Woman’ last week. They were accused of being “cheesy”; this week’s song choice, ‘Blame it on the Boogie’, only seems likely to accentuate that.
The boyband vies for favouritism in the bottom two market with Abi, who hasn’t been there yet. She’s an interesting test case in that she fits the mould of week 4 departees Jade Ellis and Sophie Habibis, having received the gamma girl edit from bootcamp onwards. Unlike those two London acts, however, she was given plenty of momentum in her initial arena audition and has a regional fanbase. She also inhabits more of a niche than those two examples.
Still, ever since the “one-trick pony” comment at Judges’ Houses, the week 1 song choice and the “bum notes” VT that accompanied it, I think producers have had it in for her. But harsh criticism that reduced her to tears on stage last week helped motivate her fans – she clearly has more to count on than Sophie Habibis who, after a classic deramping VT that made it to number two in our top ten manipulative moments of the season, was offensively told by Louis: “You’re like a secretary who sings at the weekend”.
Last week’s criticism of Abi – which we were reminded of nearer the time of the flash vote with a backstage interview – combined with the arguably helpful staging and song choice may have been part of the larger plan to get Miss Dynamix eliminated last week. Expect judges to be lukewarm and non-provocative in their response to an Abi-fied ‘I Will Survive’ if they really want to go after her this weekend – which I think they will.
Sam Callahan is another of the likelier elimination contenders who has avoided the bottom two so far. Given that he managed to do so with a minor U2 song during the Strictly overlap last week is encouraging for his chances this week – though for all we know, it may have been a close call.
‘Relight My Fire’ is an interesting song choice for him. It has good viewer recognition thanks to the Take That cover, and the Take That lead singer ready to critique it. Sam is a confident performer and mover on the stage; most would argue that vocals are his main drawback. Disco week arguably plays more to his strengths than weaknesses.
Rough Copy continue to be ramped, based on the staging and judges’ comments last week. Their harmonies have been weak, which is why a huge backing track helped them out for ‘Everything I Do’ – Miss Dynamix weren’t treated so kindly. As I said last week, I’ll need to see evidence of deramping before backing them for a surprise bottom two appearance.
‘September’ offers an encouraging narrative for the boyband, given that it’s their first chance to do something upbeat. Listen out for the sound production as an indication of whether they’re still favoured by The Powers That Be.
I have faith in the sympathy bounce, especially once the worst acts have gone early in the series, and that means I expect to see Hannah safe this week. Quite how much of a boost she gets from producers will be fascinating to see. On two out of three occasions so far, her staging has been far from helpful.
Luke Friend, meanwhile, has had a succession of useful productions and slots in the running order. He’s due an earlier spot this week, but ‘Play That Funky Music’ could be an inspired song choice to cement his position as the dark horse of the competition
That leaves us with the frontrunners in the win market – Tamera, Nicholas and Sam Bailey. Clearly all three are in this competition for the long-haul, so their treatment has more relevance in this respect. Tamera has had three late slots so far and I’m still of the opinion that she’s not polling as highly as The Powers That Be would like.
Nicholas and Sam Bailey are clearly polling well, so it’s worth looking out for further indications of brakes being applied by producers. So far, I’ve seen more evidence of it in Sam Bailey’s case than Nicholas’s, although both are being pigeonholed to some extent.
You can hear me talk about tonight’s show with Richard Betsfactor on our latest podcast.
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