Before getting into this week’s review, Ben Cook comments in response to last week’s post: “There is absolutely no way that they would give Hannah a great song, a great VT, great comments but then deliberately use fire to ruin everything. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”
Sure. There is an ever-present danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole in these posts. We do these posts because we reckon staging and lighting are sometimes consciously used to motivate or demotivate votes, and because many of you seem to share our fascination with teasing out the ways in which that might happen. But that doesn’t mean we believe every staging and lighting decision is made solely for its carefully-calibrated likely effect on votes.
We assume that sometimes staging and lighting decisions are made for artistic reasons. (And to the extent that you believe producers care about this stuff being discussed here and on Betsfactor, it also wouldn’t be tremendously surprising if they occasionally mixed things up for the sake of not making it too obvious.)
If we always knew when staging and lighting decisions mean something, and when they don’t, it wouldn’t be fun to debate them. Maybe they just thought Hannah was going to be fine last week? We’d bet that was the explanation for Luke’s mess of lighting this week:
Usually we’d see sweeping spotlights as a warning sign (there’s red and black here, too), but it’s all contextual. You’d hardly expect a song like ‘Play That Funky Music’ to be staged with lingering close-ups of a single-spotlit Luke framed by a golden halo. A three-judge standing ovation, and hitting of the “dark horse” line in VT and comments, leaves no doubt that they’re out to bolster Luke; attention-scattering spotlights don’t trump those neon-lit signs of helpful intent.
Talking of neon-lit signs of helpful intent:
The acid trip hipster quintet of doom, aka Kingsland Road, get some more colour vomit, albeit with a predominantly purple palette:
The overall effect of the staging is pretty messy. Their backdrop is a bank of TV screens, all showing different things and constantly cutting from shot to shot:
It reminded us of the intriguing point made by EM in the comments to last week’s post, that the reason why visual distractions (uncoordinated colours, fast-changing camera shots, spotlights sweeping in all directions, and so on) are unhelpful is that they induce the opposite of a hypnotic trance. (EM argues that staging and lighting we consider to be favourable – because, broadly, it focuses rather than scatters viewers’ attention – is helpful because it increases suggestibility).
Lovely staging and lighting again for Tamera – and here’s an act for whom we’d bet they are consciouly putting thought into creating backdrops with positive connotations, much good they did her this week. She starts with an inverted-V of lighting that opens up like a blooming flower, then we get a closeup against a backdrop of a galaxy of stars:
What’s that spinning frame she’s encased in, though? Is it meant to be a diamond? And here’s a “danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole” moment, because in general (and as Lina Tartana observes in the comments) we would also guess it probably doesn’t help an act to connect to the audience if they’re enclosed in some kind of barrier or cage:
As evidence that colour connotations of lighting are thought about, we don’t remember any other act so far this year getting this colour palette in the singoff:
Literally the golden girl.
Sam C’s staging called to mind the golden days of Brian Friedman’s gloriously unfathomable imagination. Did this all come from a literal-minded interpretation of Louis’s comment in his VT that he wanted Sam to come out fighting?
Some commenters have noted that it looks like the giant boxers are about to thump Sam. But the giant boxers actually are Sam, aren’t they? Which doesn’t make much metaphorical sense. We read that as just another excuse to picture Sam with his top off.
Sam hops into the ring to referee some boxing women, as you do. Amid a mess of sweeping spotlights, the female boxers and their coaches embark on an energetic dance routine. We’ve been starved of ludicrously flamboyant performances this year, so for amusement value we thought it was a knockout:
Gary loved it, too:
(And if you believe that these judge reaction shots aren’t carefully planned, we have a bridge to sell you. We like this emerging narrative of Gary’s annoyance with Sam’s survival; Sam seems like a grounded, self-aware kid – “this isn’t The Voice, it’s the X Factor” – who is mentally tough enough to stand up to any brickbats that will come his way for surviving over more accomplished vocalists. Again, props to producers for realising they could take Sam in this direction).
Rough Copy got sparkly suits, backing musicians, and a backdrop of the kind of lights you associate with theatreland – staging that is presumably intended to convey the idea that they’re putting on an entertaining show:
Hauntingly evocative staging for Abi, to go with her hauntingly evocative arrangement of ‘I Will Survive’. She gets a backdrop of slowly-spinning shiny silver tiles, as if we’re in the middle of a whirlwind but time has been slowed down to a crawl, giving a sense of hyperreality. The tiles come from the disco glitterballs that were an ever-present motif this week, and the visual motif is also picked up on the side of her white piano:
Abi gets loads of close-up time, and you can almost see her reminding herself where she’s been told to look to find the camera:
Later, we see the silver tiles coalescing to form a slowly spinning heart – this is intended, we assume, to convey the idea that last week’s harsh criticism broke Abi’s heart but this week’s performance has mended it:
(Abi’s piano starts to spin too, an innovative use of the Rebecca Ferguson Memorial Chicken Rotisserie).
Hannah gets her name on a jukebox:
And then on some gold records. It doesn’t get much more positive than that:
Abstract shapes in pink and purple for Sam B, for an overall effect that is vibrant and fun. Do the golden doorways symbolise opportunity?
What were your thoughts on this week’s staging? As always, do share your theories below.