It’s midweek, which means time to look at some of your comments about last week’s show and discuss further.
1. Who had the best homecoming VT – Lauren, Ben or Andrea?
Henry VIII: “Why, if they [producers] wanted it, have they given her [Lauren] terrible VTs?” Fudd: “My goodness, they’re showing Cheryl her baby photos.” Kinski: “Congrats Andrea you got deported.” Curtis: “I think that VT was helpful. Is this the week the producers give in to the power of Andrea?”
The top three in the outright market all got an emotional reunion VT last weekend. We retuned to Billericiay with Lauren and her parents; to Rome with Andrea and his family; and to Ben’s white van with his brother. Which one was most effective? It’s an important question, because the VTs that focus on the acts’ backgrounds rather than rehearsals give us an even better chance to connect with them at an emotional level.
Lauren’s came first. Her parents have a lovely house in Billericay, in which we started off with a supportive chat. The three of them proceeded to walk down the High Street where locals voiced their support and wanted their picture with her. Posters were up in the Chinese restaurant and other places.
“I’ve got a best friend in Cheryl,” said Lauren, as we switched to them having tea and cakes with her mentor at the plush Langham Hotel. Having been made to feel like part of the family by looking at an old photo album, Cheryl explained, “I’m gonna win it for her, just to let you know.” The bond between Cheryl and her young charge was the strongest aspect of the VT. Otherwise, Lauren’s comfortable background and tender years tended to highlight – to us at least – her lack of a journey.
It wasn’t technically another homecoming for Ben (previously pictured supping tea from a Union Jack mug in his mum’s flat), but his white van has been such a recurring motif of his journey it’s close enough. Driving Ben was his brother Alex, with whom he gigged from the age of 16. Unfortunately, tinnitus put paid to Alex’s career. “It just feels a little bit weird not being up there with you,” Ben explained. “I’m up there living our dream,” he added in the pub before wiping away some tears and getting a hug from Alex.
Ben’s advantage over Lauren is his many years’ headstart which gives him more of a backstory. Is that what makes him more relatable in our eyes? It certainly felt like a more effective VT, although mentor Simon could only manage a phone call.
Finally we had producers filming Andrea’s return to Rome. To the strains of ‘Nessun Dorma’, Andrea revealed he was going to surprise his family, and duly sent his mother, father and grandma into raptures when he knocked on the door. Sure, it all had to be subtitled, but the visuals clearly told the story of family pride and love. There were some nice moments of locals greeting their returning hero too.
This was the best VT of the three in terms of being memorable and emotional. Its potential downside is ramming home the fact Andrea is Italian. An Italian who loves his mama and her pasta, no less – though Andrea did a great job of countering this when saying after his performance: “I feel the love of this country.” Dermot replied, “You’re at home, my friend.”
2. The two remaining groups teed up for The Hunger Games?
MW: “They would surely be crazy not to push for OTY to stay around for a while yet… I don’t see that SK offer much in the show in comparison.” Jessica: “It also wouldn’t surprise me to see them [Stereo Kicks] saved against OTY. I honestly wouldn’t like to say how that one would go.” Tpfkar: “I couldn’t call that now they’ve both made the tour.”
Week 6 in 2012 saw the two remaining groups – Union J and District3 – sing off against each other and confirm suspicions about which producers favoured from the start. It’s not fanciful to see a repeat of that scenario next Sunday involving Only The Young and Stereo Kicks, who have three singoff appearances between them already. How apt that the teen rivals have just been to the premiere of the latest in The Hunger Games franchise.
There’s no doubt the show has previously invested more in Stereo Kicks, who have thus failed more dismally having been saved twice already. Cheryl’s comment about a lack of hysteria surrounding the eightpiece that preceded their first singoff felt more like a flub than an act of sabotage, whereas Only the Young were made to look whiny and argumentative in their week 3 VT before they fell into the bottom two.
Staging-wise also, whilst there are arguments that certain aspects of Stereo Kicks’ ‘Everybody’ in week 4 didn’t end up being helpful, it wasn’t as bad as the messy productions Only The Young were given in weeks 2, 3 and 5. Recent slots in the running order also indicate that Stereo Kicks remain favoured over Only The Young.
Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that we’re at a stage of the competition where the deadwood is gone and producers have shown themselves even more ruthless about switching at will – as they arguably did in the 2011 battle of the Scouse soloists Craig Colton and Marcus Collins. The evidence up till now makes me think that Stereo Kicks would triumph in such a singoff, but who’s to say Simon’s highly positive comments about Only The Young last Saturday weren’t a precursor to a similar switcheroo this weekend? The treatment of both next Saturday will tell us more.
3. When will Stevi Ritchie become a ‘Creep’?
Nugg: “Surely Stevi has served his purpose now.” Stu: “They’ve got Stevi on the tour so job completed?” EM: “If I were running the ship, I wouldn’t be getting rid of Stevi yet.” Martin: “To keep thing entertaining, I think they need him.”
Stevi has so far followed the show’s ideal novelty arc as exemplified by Wagner. A series of amateurish but fun performances have seen him avoid the bottom two whilst much better singers have departed. Some question his suitability for the role, finding the joke wearing thin from the beginning, but then that’s the whole point of the novelty – they’re supposed to divide opinion.
Wagner was famously brought down to earth when he had to perform ‘Creep’ from the coffin slot without a plethora of dancing girls during the last weekend of November 2011. Rylan stuck around until the same point, although may have been intended as a target the week before when James Arthur and Ella Henderson fell into the bottom two instead. If following the same timing, that would suggest Stevi getting past Big Band week at least.
Against this, it’s worth pointing out that he has achieved his dream – to sing ‘Music of the Night’ – before the return to epic productions of a comic hue with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But producers haven’t even had to save him in a singoff yet, and you just know they enjoyed the social media reaction to the “controversy” of Paul’s elimination. So the full range of options remain credibly on the table: try and steer him clear of the bottom two again, controversially save, or ditch altogether.
Which is it most likely to be? Do let us know your thoughts on this and the other points below.