Thanks to those who posted the leaked judges’ houses picks on Friday. The portraits of the final 12 had the obvious look of the pre-lives makeover, and so it came to pass. They will be joined by the four wildcards – one in each category – next Saturday.
As a result, there was a certain predictability about the weekend’s events, with one notable exception: the harsh treatment meted out to the previously pimped Jay James, which has been extensively covered by our ever-alert commenters.
It’s traditional for judges to offer a note of doubt about each act they go on to pick, as a way of building suspense. But the edit went much further about JJ. Was this just a misjudgement that producers will put right in the live shows or a sign that Simon’s golden boy has lost his sheen for good in the competition?
There was no need to showcase JJ’s deteriorating rendition of ‘Everybody Hurts’ with its jarring last minute at all, given his decent performance of ‘Desperado’ and the good comments that followed, seen only on Xtra Factor. Beyond Simon’s repeated Saturday-night criticism, (“you’ve got a habit of singing through your nose…awful… awful”) the pimping of Ben and previous gamma fodder Fleur suggested a possible reordering of priorities in the overs category.
On Sunday, there was a sense of it being brushed off as a bad day at the office when JJ was put through. It also gives him a redemptive storyline beyond the naval injury. Is the show trying to do for Jay James at judges’ houses what it did for Lola Saunders at bootcamp: knock-em-down with a too-bad-to-be-true audition, only to see them rise like a phoenix?
Lola’s rejection in the climax to Sunday’s show was the second big talking point of the weekend. It had wildcard written all over it, as was confirmed by the blooper on Xtra Factor, showing her in the background of the contestants’ lodgings. Many thanks to Saoirse for the screengrab posted on here last night.
The redemption storyline works beautifully for Lola with her youth, nerves, humble job, rejection and return as the wildcard. The worry for JJ’s supporters is he doesn’t have any of those advantages. What’s more, Simon attacked the way Jay has sung in general since after the first audition. And whilst the other overs were being bolstered, the inclusion of gamma fodder Steph makes the girls category look weaker, and Lola’s place within it stronger when she does return.
The rest of the weekend panned out pretty much as expected. We started off with the groups: Blonde Electra are through but still under-utilised and again repeatedly tagged as “annoying”; Only The Young had the misfortune to have Louis of all people worry that they “lack edge”; whilst the eightpiece boyband were namechecked and have viewers helping them choose a name. No prizes for guessing the alpha in this category. If another set of lads do get the wildcard, expect some pretty obvious nobbling.
Paul and Andrea impressed for the boys. The concerns expressed about Paul were his inability to draw out his personality, and that will be his journey in the lives. Andrea is still making anyone with ovaries (and many without) cry every time he sings. Jake has looks and charm but this is still constantly prefaced with the worry that he’s not a strong vocalist, even by his mentor. Jack looks like the most obvious wildcard and one they’ll want to discard quickly to avoid fishing in the same pool of votes as the boyband.
As mentioned, they seemingly tried the mantle of alpha over on Ben this weekend, and it looked like fitting. Amidst all the praise, even Simon’s doubts lacked consistency (on Saturday it was “bad habits”, on Sunday it was “do you know what kind of artist you are?”). Fleur, previously treated so cursorily as week 1 elimination fodder, never sounded better, and her fortunes now rest on whether this is maintained. Stevi still looks like novelty wildcard mayhem, in a good way.
Of the girls, Chloe-Jasmine sounded almost suspiciously stronger than she had in the arena, but is Waissel-esque TV gold. Lauren was as vocally adequate as before, the worry being that the whole package she offers is rather beige. Steph goes into the lives with less audition screentime than anyone else. It was no coincidence she was pitted against Lola at the climax to maximise the controversy.
The Betfair win market is now open for the current final 12, though it doesn’t include the wildcards. It has been a tradition to showcase the wildcards at the start of the first live show, but we can’t help wondering if it’s better to introduce them only when it’s their turn to sing. That way you draw out the suspense, save precious time in a long show, and don’t have four similar “I was so happy to be brought back” VTs. Basically, we want to see Simon surprising Lola by asking for haddock at her fish shop given its rightful plaice (ahem) towards the climax of the show.
We will see. You can expect our playful, traditional first-to-last prediction later this week. Do try to hold off giving your own until we have posted it so that they are all under one article, but please add your other thoughts below.