There were bells, whistles and Simon Cowell on the big screen for tonight’s Big Band theme. First on, in the graveyard slot, was Abi Alton. She had a pleasant but dull VT focusing on a quiet meal out with her dad, with shades of the infamous Sophie Habibis in an empty pub VT.
She did get her name up in lights in the backdrop, in a cocktail glass along with the name of the song, ‘That’s Life’ – a slightly obscure Frank Sinatra track which has been sung twice in Big Band weeks previously, and resulted in the act in question being eliminated both times. Judges’ comments were neither wildly enthusiastic nor hashly critical, as you’d expect when they’re trying not to motivate votes. Sharon’s casual mention of wanting to see more sassiness “next week” carried the vote-demotivating implication that she’d definitely be here next week.
To be fair to Abi, I rather liked her performance, and I can’t claim I’ve felt that every week. She looked happy and we saw her Dad was proud, which in itself perhaps had a bit of an “end-of-journey” vibe – like the judges’ comments, not providing much motivation for people to vote to see her go further in the competition.
Her performance was then promptly memory-holed by the triple-whammy of the new John Lewis ad, probable poll topper Sam Bailey and fellow big-hitter Nicholas McDonald. By the end of all that, it was a case of “who sang first again?”
After we’d seen Abi with her dad, we saw Sam Bailey with Michael Bolton. Sam cemented her role as the new favourite with a fine performance of ‘New York, New York’, the Frank Sinatra song that everyone does know. She got gold lighting for the Big Apple backdrop, she looked to be really enjoying herself on stage, and there was not a hint of deramping here. Louis summed it up when he said “You’re the one to beat in the competition”.
For the nth week running we were told that Wee Nick was the “Baby Buble”. The Brylcreem styling will have delighted the demo. He got lovely gold lighting throughout ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’ with notes of gold on the backdrop and Tamera gold lighting at the end. They’re still banging on about his age at every opportunity, but vocally he’s very consistent.
The same can’t be said for Luke, whose VT had us debating how many college friends is too few, and how big a busking audience is too small – did that make him look a bit smalltime? He could have done with displaying more of a sense of rhythm for a song like ‘Moondance’, and it seems possible that even his fans will have felt Gary’s criticism was justified. (Our rule of thumb is that criticism that seems unfair motivates votes, whereas criticism that seems fair doesn’t).
Louis’s “he’s a busker from Devon” confirmed the sense from the VT that Luke is no longer the apple of producers’ eyes. It would be no great surprise after that performance to see him fall into a bottom two with Abi.
Coming down from her sympathy bounce, Hannah was always going to be in danger of a second singoff appearance. Producers again did their best for her – honking the dead dad klaxon in her VT, building up the tension over her throat problem, and giving her great styling and yet more golden lighting. Sharon even reminded her to smile when she seemed in danger of forgetting. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to keep her above the danger zone.
As expected, now that Gary is down to just Rough Copy as his final act, he’s morphing into the group’s de facto fourth member. The go-karting VT showed them bonding, and the judges made sure we were told that Gary arranged the song for them.
Significantly, Nicole and Louis both name-checked them as desired finalists, and Dermot reminded us of this in the post-performance interview – which pointedly featured Rough Copy telling us they didn’t want to let Gary down. The show is doing its very best to motivate fans of Gary to vote for Rough Copy for his sake.
Tamera got the expected tearful VT, and the honking of the proud mum klaxon. She got yet more gold lighting – the fourth act of the night – capped off with the “winner’s lighting” effect of a curtain of golden fire.
Judges made sure to try to maximise the effect of the expected sympathy bounce by repeatedly reminding us that she had been in the bottom two last week, Gary twice hammering home the point that we’d “taken her for granted”. Overall, we felt it was a very Tamera performance in that she looked amazing but we didn’t feel any connection with the song or the lyrics.
If you haven’t done so already, do please read through the comments to the last post from 8pm onwards, in which Sofabet’s army of astute commenters dissected the show in real time – there are far too many insightful points there for us to hope to do justice to in this brief insta-reaction post.
Favourite for elimination through most of the week, Sam Callahan got the pimp slot. His VT had Sam repeating the “Gary’s punchbag” line, defining his new role in the competition. That was followed by another Rylan/Wagner-esque big production with dancing girls and a backdrop of playing cards subliminally telling us that he is the King of Hearts.
However, it seemed that Gary was not playing ball with the producers’ controversy script, with a brief “you looked like you had a good time up there, well done”, prompting Dermot to come back to him in an unsuccessful attempt to wheedle a more controversial comment. Caroline Flack tried a similar thing on Xtra Factor with the same result. It makes no sense to have Sam in the pimp slot without any controversy, which further suggests Gary went rogue in not rising to the bait. Will Sam’s fans come through for him after such an anodyne response from Gary, and knowing now that he’s already made the tour?
It’s worth adding here that perhaps Gary was protesting about the treatment given to “proper musician” Abi Alton this week. As ever, please keep the debate flowing below.