For new readers who’ve joined Sofabet in the last week or so, every week this year we’ve been doing a review of staging and lighting to see if we can tease out any subliminal messages which may – either intentionally or accidentally – be influencing how the acts are perceived. (Previous weeks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). These posts are, by their nature, hugely speculative and often left-field. In that spirit, your theories are always welcome in the comments.
Starting with Hannah, last week you’ll recall she got a backdrop of golden machine innards. This week she got something similar – some kind of fractal-esque study in golden plumbing based on wind instrument tubes:
Gold is generally a very positive colour, of course, as Heisenberg notes in this must-view visual analysis of colours and lines used for three of this week’s acts.
At other points the backdrop was a pulsing kaleidoscope of gold trumpets. The same motif is picked out on her dress. Jessica posted in the comments that she found it “not just distracting but actually disturbing”. Anyone have any ideas what golden trumpets might symbolise?
As the above picture also shows, in the words of Tim B “the dancers were mostly distracting, weren’t looking at her and weren’t co-ordinated with their styling”. However, arguably the overall impression was one of high-octane fun, with Hannah enjoying herself. As Tim also explains, “when Hannah is shown to be smiling and laughing, it has an infectious impact on the audience”.
Now, who is this woman and why is she filming the back of Luke’s head?
I’d agree with eurovicious when he says Luke’s bottom two appearance “shows the power of distraction”. Although tpfkar offers another take: “I don’t agree with the majority on Luke; I thought the video was sweet, romantic, unthreatening. No distracting dancers so he’s alone but projecting his thoughts; I thought it all worked”.
Going beyond the question of whether it was distracting, isn’t it quite likely that some of Luke’s voters will be motivated by indulging in some kind of reverie that he’s singing to them? Isn’t it possible that explicitly showing us another woman to whom he’s singing the song might make that reverie impossible? As Caro puts it, “If you are relying on young girl’s votes you shouldn’t make him look hooked up (and she didn’t seem the right type for his image, as well as seeming quite a lot older than him).” There was more than a hint of Harry Styles and Caroline Flack about it.
Chatterbox 5200 asks: “With that imagery behind Luke, did they actually “nuke” him infront of our very eyes? It changed from what looked like a galaxy of stars, to an orange, and then red ball of fire! All that was missing was a mushroom cloud after it!”
We never know whether staging effects are deliberate or unintentional, of course. But it seems fair to file “home video with older love interest segueing into nuclear winter” in the “unhelpful” file for future reference.
Sam Bailey next, but first a little detour via Jahmene in last year’s semi-final:
In the spirit of those “spot the difference” pictures in children’s magazines, anyone see what Sam is missing?
“What do you mean you can’t find all the stairs? How do you lose a piece of f*!^ing staircase? Oh well, she’ll just have to stand on them for the entire song. We’ll winch her down at the end when the cameras are on the judges.”
Or if this is deliberate, is it intended to communicate something? That we have seen Sam ascend irrevocably up the staircase of stardom? Any other interpretations? It’s intriguing as it’s an odd decision, as eurovicious noted, to use stairs without having Sam “stride down them divatastically halfway through the song”.
Sam had a backdrop of lots of candles. Let’s play a mental connotation game with “lots of candles”. Aromatherapy studio? Power cut? Birthday cake – Sam is old?
In the comments to last week’s post, Neve made the point that “Rough copy have a very clear silver theme. What does silver mean compared to gold?? Second place. NOT A WINNER. They were name checked as finalists. But not potential champions.” Not only did Rough Copy get silver again this week, the focal point of their backdrop throughout was a lion. While lions generally signify things like strength and Africanness (as did those drummers), a silver lion is also specifically a mark of quality in the sterling silver trade:
JScouser observes that “they were split into 3 by the 3 large white lighting paths on the floor” – which is true, but those lines draw your attention to the lion. (Any other theories on the lion?) Can’t disagree with JScouser on this, though: “The sparklers I thought were poor, looked cheap, not like its fireworks in the background”.
Sam Callahan next, and the message here is unmistakeable: FAITH. For the second week running, after Abi’s ‘That’s Life’, the eventual eliminee has the song title up in lights behind them. And of course generally speaking, if one has faith in something (e.g. Sam Callahan’s longevity in the competition), one doesn’t need to actively do anything about it (e.g. vote):
A minor detail in the above picture – why did they choose to light up the cables that are trailing messily across the stage between the speakers? Could it be subliminally making viewers notice the mess, and thus think of the performance as messy? Certainly the lighting was plenty messy.
Plinths are a frequent subject of debate in the comments to these posts. Earlier on, Hannah started off on a plinth and ended up mingling with the audience, a trajectory we reckon usually has positive connotations – someone who we meet in a visual context that establishes their importance shows us they don’t think of themselves as above anyone else. Sam C takes the opposite trajectory, starting at ground level and ending up on a plinth, which perhaps suggests he’s getting ambitions above his station:
Usually you would think that having so many dancers on stage looking up to him would be a good sign, suggesting his popularity, but Gamblebot suggests another way of reading it in context: “the large crowd might have been code for “hey guys, he has a lot of fans, so don’t worry about this week and have faith”.”
Gamblebot and Argenta Q also make the interesting point that Sam was styled in a loose-fitting shirt, making viewers forget about his physique this week after producers had repeatedly made topless shots something of his USP.
In week 4, they stuck Tamera in a diamond-shaped cage (our general speculative rule of thumb is that anything that disconnects an act from the audience is unhelpful), and she ended up in the singoff. This week, they stuck her in a cage again, to sing a song about diamonds:
As Fudd commented, “I raised my eyebrows as soon as I saw her starting off in a cube – a disconnect from the audience seems strange for someone they’ve been pimping readily up to now and is coming down from a sympathy bounce.” At least she eventually escaped from it.
Eurovicious felt the “dubious” urban dancers were unhelpful and the blingy gloves “looked threatening”. Did anyone else think of knuckle dusters, and remember the stories about her getting a police caution for beating someone up?
Obviously, the diamond-themed backdrop referenced the song – but presumably also “rough diamond” is the subliminal connotation producers are hoping to evoke.
These shots of Nicholas from behind made me think of the idiom “they think the sun shines out of his arse”:
Is that the aurora borealis going off behind him? Is Nick our Northern Light?
Do please share your thoughts and theories below.