Before the show the big question was whether producers had instituted an unprecedented singoff at the final four stage in the hope of getting Nicholas into their sights, or to ensure they could get Rough Copy into the final if they finish bottom of the pile. There’s something to be said for both of those views after tonight’s show.
Our reading is that producers would ideally like to see the two boys in the singoff, which we imagine would go something like Louis abstaining, Nicole saving Nicky Blue Eyes and both Gary and Sharon saving Luke on the grounds of his greater musicality and individuality.
But will they manage it? If Nick holds on to what we assume will be second place in the voting behind Sam, then surely Luke is in line for the chop against Rough Copy. Here’s how we saw the night unfold.
First up was, as Dermot put it, “The little boy from Devon … Luke Friend.” Luke had a rather dull VT, and his attempt to change Beyonce’s ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ just reminded me of the busker tag. Although the lighting was yellow turning to blue, the backdrop was an unidentifiable mess of patterns.
Judges’ comments were mixed too. Gary said he wanted him in the final, whilst Louis asked for support from “the people of Devon” (not known for their regional strength), and Nicole and Sharon were rather equivocal.
Poor Nicholas. Having been first up two weeks running, he came on second this time – followed by Sam Bailey yet again. An end-of-journey VT was followed by an underwhelming version of ‘Halo’, mainly because the song was in the wrong key for him and stretched his higher register. He was stuck on the plinth catwalk last seen for Hannah’s ‘Beautiful’ and had wide-angle shots aplenty, but he did get more gold lighting, kicking in at the tricky key change.
There was a cutaway to Louis laughing and joking with Sharon as Nick struggled with the vocals – will that have motivated sympathy by seeming impolite, or reinforced the sense that it wasn’t really worth listening to? Gary Barlow said, “The song was too big for your voice.” Nicole reminded us why it was a completely unsuitable choice for him.
Nick was understandably upset, leaving Louis to tell him to “stop crying” – presumably not wanting tears to motivate votes. Louis went on to say “the people of Scotland are behind you. They’re going to get you into the final.” No need for anyone else to vote for him then, being the implicit suggestion.
Sam Bailey got more chandeliers in her backdrop, along with shooting stars for her stellar performance of ‘If I Were A Boy’. Louis again suggested she has this competition won. I was looking for Sharon to urge her supporters to guard against complacency after the second round of songs. Still, no mention of “cruiseship” from Nicole.
I thought the staging and styling was alienating for Rough Copy’s ‘Survivor’ – it was more reminiscent of what we saw for ‘Don’t Let Go’ that put them into the bottom two. This time, however, the judges whipped up a controversy about it, Nicole and Gary raving about it (“now this semi has started,” Nicole said), whereas Sharon and Louis probably reflected the majority of viewers in saying it had been “too much”.
Dermot finally confirmed a singoff after the first round of songs.
Nick was back in his accustomed role of starting things off for the second round of performances. It is sometimes interesting to wonder whether the show switch performance orders like this in the hope that certain portion of people get confused and dial 01 only to mistakenly register a vote for the second performer, and 02 mistakenly voting for the first. If this does happen to any extent, you would expect Luke to benefit more than Nick. Interestingly, they also switched around Rough Copy and Sam Bailey – no doubt who any mixed-up viewers would, on average, be helping there.
This was a much more solid performance vocally from Nicholas, and recognised as so by the panel. The staging had a stairway to heaven and gold lighting, but distracting dancers, which Sharon called attention to. Gary noted that the song suited him, Nicole said he was “back in the saddle”, and Louis questioned the work ethic of young people all over Scotland by claiming Nick was a “role model” for them because he “works hard”. It was positive enough, but far from a pimping.
Luke was deprived of his two USPs for his second performance, with hair pulled back and no guitar – which, as Sharon commented, put him out of his comfort zone. The comments for Luke were, as for Nick, broadly positive without being overly motivational to vote, unless of course you happen to reside in Devon.
There was nothing in these comments that would make it awkward for the judges either to save Luke or ditch him tomorrow, depending on whom he finds himself up against.
Rough Copy’s second VT had them in the Wembley Arena, planting the thought in viewers’ minds that they deserve to be there – a theme explicitly hit by the judges in their comments. As last week, a potentially Middle England-alienating urban performance in the first round was followed by something much less edgy in the second. Their harmonies were still terrible, but judges predictably praised it and Gary shilled for votes by pointing out that groups have traditionally needed to get to the final to enjoy success after the show.
Sam was in the pimp slot for the biggest-selling single of all time. There was a mention of the c-word (cruiseship) in the VT, but no mentioning of the diva allegations from this morning’s Sun – indeed, Louis made a point of saying how Sharon says she is a dream to work with.
Last week’s c-bomb and this morning’s diva story still feel puzzling, and you could argue the comments were complacency-inducing, but it would be an astonishing shock if she didn’t top tonight’s vote from the pimp slot and overall the sense remains that Sam is cruising to the victory with producers’ acquiescence.
In summary, then, we reckon the equation is fairly simple – if Nick’s in the bottom two, he goes; if he isn’t, Luke goes. But will Nick be in the bottom two? I had been dutching Luke and Nick in my elimination betting, but I’m now leaning towards Luke.
Do let us know your reading of the show below. In the meantime, we’re off to use a Samsung tablet to re-read our live show 1 review and marvel at how far we’ve come since then.