We’ve decided not to do the in-depth staging reviews of each performance like last year, principally because by the end of the last series we felt like we were flogging the same familiar themes and occasionally in danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Instead we’re planning a more general midweek post that picks up on thoughts raised in the comments section – it’s what makes Sofabet, but we realise not all readers will have time to fully engage with all the comments – in an attempt to summarise some of what you’ve been saying, and add our own ideas. We’ll include selected staging thoughts in this.
Here’s a selection of this week’s hot topics.
1. Lauren at 6/1 or Lola at 20/1?
Dean reckons “Lauren for me is obviously alpha girl”. Donald concurs: “Lauren is the real deal pop star”. Nissl says: “I wonder how invested they are in Lola at this point.” HenryVIII on Lola: “I can’t see her coming anywhere near winning now due to her nerves”. But Marc wonders, about Lauren, “what is her arc? Where does she go week to week?”. On Lola, he says “I saw it very much as the start of a growth story for her.” Stoney compares the odds and concludes “I know which one I’d rather take!”
Here’s the thing – that ludicrous dress Lola was wearing surely didn’t result from a last-minute backstage “ah, haven’t thought about what to dress Lola in. I know, how about this?”, or a “hey, I think Lola would look great in a curtain”.
You would think that a costuming choice this outlandish was purely intended to set up this comment from Simon: “It’s really important that you dress and do what you want to do, to be the singer you want to be”. In other words, it played into the narrative arc they’ve been constructing around Lola through the auditions. Recall in the arenas, we had a suspicion they’d deliberately underdressed her so that her eventual makeover would be more striking:
If that’s the case, then the week 1 trip to the haberdasher’s looks intended as part of the plan to ultimately be able to say “Lola, what a journey you’ve been on, you’ve come so far from the fishmongers, you’ve conquered your nerves, you look amazing, you’ve found who you are as an artist” [cut to telegenic grandad, eyes glistening].
Whether she actually can conquer her nerves is another matter, but to our eyes and ears there was precious little to suggest producer negativity in her treatment on Saturday. You might wonder if sending her out second in the running order is a negative sign, but although that’s usually an unfavourable slot, historically in the first live show it has tended to be where they send out a big-hitter. In the last few series, the second berth in show 1 has been occupied by the likes of Nicholas MacDonald, James Arthur and Matt Cardle.
As we say, there’s no denying that Lauren’s cause was advanced hugely in the first live show, or that she deserves to have leapfrogged Lola in the market. But should Lola really be more than three times the price? The curtain doesn’t necessarily spell curtains.
2. Keeping a lid on Paul?
Dean says about Paul: “He went first which isn’t good, got red and black treatment and also was on a plinth. Many things this stage perceives as dangerous.” Missjensa: “I did not think Paul A treatment was favourable at all.” Lenny: “it’s not screaming favourite.”
Indeed not. In contrast to the historical strength of berth 2 in the first live show, the very first act hasn’t fared so well of late: FYD (eliminated), Amelia Lily (eliminated in the twist), District 3 (targeted but survived), and last year Hannah (in retrospect, not a huge producer favourite). Regular readers will be au fait with Richard Betsfactor’s theory that red and black is in some contexts a negative colour connotation, and with our suspicion that large plinths distance an act from the viewing public, so there are clear danger signs here for Paul:
On the other hand, there is a single spotlight shining straight at Paul, which is generally seen as a positive sign, focusing viewers’ attention on him. And the red fairly quickly becomes, if not gold, then at least a kind of lava-lamp orange. So the staging messages are mixed.
As with Lola, there has to be a suspicion that Paul’s current odds – he’s drifted out to 16/1, having been close to favouritism throughout the audition process – could conceivably look big in a week or two. There are two reasons for saying so. First, he has it in him vocally to deliver a moment, if granted the right material. Second, he has a journey mapped out for him, if producers choose to allow him to go on it – the idea that he needs to get better at connecting with people, stressed at judges’ houses and reinforced in his week 1 VT.
Those are a couple of big ifs, however, given the suspicion that Paul is not the most commercially attractive of propositions and therefore that producers might wish to limit his opportunity to gain traction with the viewing public. On the other hand, they might decide they need to turn up the heat under Paul if they want to distract attention from…
3. Andrea – uncatchable, or peaking too soon?
Jessica thinks our huggable pug-lover “may become uncatchable if he isn’t already.” Face is more cautious: “it’s only week 1… which is why I think he had the pimp slot so early… so they don’t need to give it to him again… and they can slowly erode whatever lead he may have”. Stoney: “I still get the feeling they are setting him up for a fall… felt like his final performance of the show rather than his first live show performance.”
What can’t be in doubt is that producers were happy for Andrea to smash the first week phone vote, which we can assume he did. Not only did they give him the pimp slot, they gave him angelic lighting:
And the audience got lamps to wave. But why did they feel the need to drop bombs on a rainy central London in the backdrop? (Start at 01.59)
Either a runaway pillar-to-post win or a slowly-deflating balloon look entirely possible trajectories for Andrea at this point. His treatment over the next couple of weeks will be fascinating to observe.
4. Is eight a crowd?
Eurovicious on Stereo Kicks: “You can’t get to know them the way you could 1D or Little Mix, they all look the same and have the same haircut, it’s just a sort of eruption of identikit boys, a Pussycat Ken Dolls of bopping quiffs in tight trousers. Where’s the cute one, the “ethnic” one, the “bad boy” one, the floppy-haired one? This being as it is, I wonder whether Syco is trying to pioneer the Japanese/Korean boyband model (a large number of very similar members, sub-groups that branch off from the main group, member turnover) for a Western audience.”
Says tpfkar: “It’s going to be a hell of a struggle getting the Stereo Kicks to the final, let alone to win the thing. They don’t seem to have any identity as a group at all, and what was with having half of them only coming on after a minute?”
Hmm. When selecting Stereo Kicks for the win in our pre-lives 1-16 prediction, we said we were trusting producers to have figured out why One Direction underwhelmed repeatedly throughout the lives. On week 1’s evidence, the signs are unfortunately not promising. It was all set up for them – a great Katy Perry song choice to contrast with Overload Generation’s crappy Katy Perry song choice, fireworks, their new name up in lights:
But it didn’t quite come together, did it? Unsurprisingly, they’ve drifted out to 9/1 in the outright market as a result.
Mel’s mardy remark about blowing the pyro budget was surely off-script. But what about Cheryl’s comment that it seemed overwhelming with eight of them on stage? At judges’ houses, Simon had similarly wondered if eight was too many prior to putting them through, but we’d just put that down to the need to raise some kind of doubt about each of the acts in order to keep viewers in suspense. They also specifically requested no names with 8 in the title…
But we’ve never been able to believe that producers would seriously contemplate a cull, not once the lives had begun. It would look as daft as The Risk’s revolving door – and once you’ve invited fans to choose and emotionally invest in their favourite, wouldn’t irritating fans of the ones you drop outweigh any benefit?
Perhaps the sowing of seeds of doubt about eight, and the odd opening with only four of them on stage, backs up Eurovicious’s musing about the Japanese/Korean style model? It’s not yet clear to us how producers envisage this eight-piece evolving – let’s hope it’s clearer to them.
5. How far can Fleur fly?
There is growing appreciation of Fleur as a potential outsider-to-contender. Stoney has backed her for the win, suggesting: “The underdog who grows week by week and takes the crown.” Tim reminded us that being overtly sexual or aggressive is not a traditional vote-grabber for a confident black woman.
With that in mind, her production for ‘All About That Bass’ last Saturday was a fascinating tightrope exercise in making her look sexy yet unthreatening. They clearly wanted to show off her impressive abs and dance moves, but there was an attempt to make it playful rather than in-your-face. Tim mentioned the slut-drops, but these and her other moves were tamer than they otherwise could’ve been. The song also had a sweet, melodic chorus and a positive, anti-skinny message.
One only has to compare it with her more aggressive rendition of ‘Paper Planes’ at bootcamp, which started with her sat down, legs spread wide, had her donning sunglasses, and ended with her singing “All I wanna do is take your money”.
Did they get the balance right last Saturday and will it be enough to start Fleur on a journey to the latter stages? Do let us know your thoughts on these questions below.