Up first, and apparently back in the bad books after last week’s pimp slot, was Andrea. He got an Anglicisation VT which saw him go from being Mel’s “Italian dish” in the introduction to “proper English”. Simon called attention to Andrea’s habit of pulling faces, and compared his version unfavourably to Leona Lewis. Then we had the much talked about Sainsbury’s advert to catch viewers turning over from Strictly.
Presumably this was a “silly Strictly viewers, should have tuned in from the start” running order decision, rather than the use of the Strictly bus to attempt to get an act in trouble for tomorrow – but there seemed to be plenty of alarm bells for Andrea backers following last weeks’ positivity. We’ll unpick them in the midweek article.
Lauren’s VT introduced us to her little brother, following which she not only had the same song as Diana Vickers had performed in Big Band week, like Diana she also did it on a swing. While she got a “born recording artist” from Louis, Simon called it “boring” and “good but not fantastic”, which we suspect will likely have struck most viewers as fair comment. This was a case of being on a swing, but not getting a push. Will it have been downbeat enough to see her drift into the singoff?
After the break, Dermot introduced us to Fleur’s sister, Fleur having featured prominently in both Andrea’s and Lauren’s VTs.
Jay had a family-themed VT, featuring his infant daughter, his mum’s love of Sinatra and his grandad’s suit. It ended by him saying that if he didn’t have his “moment”, he could be going home. The song choice should at least have delighted the demo, but Jay did look rather dissolute with his bow tie undone and cavorting with a girl in the cocktail glass having just been pictured with his wife.
Louis called it karaoke and started an argument about the staging, Mel criticised the song choice and called it “almost comic”. Cheryl mentioned the girl in the glass again and called attention to Jay’s slightly odd-sounding American accent. Producers seemed to be trying to dampen rather than heighten Jay’s anticipated sympathy bounce following his singoff survival last week. They have successfully suppressed a bounce once this series, for Steph Nala in week 2.
Louis introduced Stereo Kicks as the “biggest boyband in the world”, presumably in the numerical sense. We had an action-packed VT: a reminder of their stage invasion, the red carpet, go-kart bromancing and the song change drama: “Mack the Knife, what’s that?” Well, boys, it’s a cheerful song about a serial murderer.
Comments focused on there being too many of them and how they need to be introduced more individually. This could conceivably be reigniting the cull debate – and it was noticeable that in their VT, the go-karting had them split into two teams – but it seems equally likely to be intended as an excuse for why it’s taking them so long to gel with the public. And, of course, as an excuse to save them again, if the need arises.
Ben started off being treated extremely positively. His VT, taking his supermarket worker mum to a film premiere, could hardly have been more heartwarming. His lighting was golden. His hair was slick. But his comments were only lukewarm: “went off a bit at the end” from Louis, “good” from Mel, “not your best week” from Cheryl. Again, a second viewing will help read the runes for the win market.
Only The Young got plenty of positivity for the second week running – a VT featuring the red carpet and supportive family members, and explicit shoutouts for votes from Louis and Simon. Mel helpfully pegged their demo for us as 3-15 year olds (her kids having apparently switched their earlier alleigance from Stereo Kicks). Reaction in the comments was mixed as to whether the performance had fully delivered on the anticipated fun, but clearly punters had erred pre-show in suspecting they were going to be this week’s unambiguous target.
Interestingly, Only The Fun were followed by Stevi Ritchie’s enjoyable carcrash of a Wagner/Jedward homage, which had a big producton right from the start. The verbal interplay with Mel B afterwards was right from the Rylan playbook though other elements in downbeat judges’ comments went against the grain of a helpful slot in the running order.
Simon then raised expectations of something “incredible” from Fleur, whose VT sounded the grandad klaxon, portrayed a journey from humble origins to the red carpet, laid out a hope of making the final and reminded us that her judges’ houses performance of this song had been the point at which she apparently went from fodder to contender – or as Simon put it, “changed everything”. She got a big production and for the most part did it justice, earning a pimping that saw her and Ben establish clear second-favouritism in the win market at half the price of Lauren. Louis called her a star who will sell records, and Simon said he sincerely thought she could win it.
It doesn’t feel like an elimination market to get heavily involved in. The odds-on favourite didn’t have a great night but is due a sympathy bounce; the second favourite is a joke act whom producers continue to place near the end of the show; third favourites are a boyband whose comments seemed designed to set up a save if necessary. Could there be value elsewhere? This is a week where discretion seems the better part of valour, and a Sunday re-watch seems more necessary than ever. How did you read it? Do let us know below.