Time for our regular weekly pivot off what you’ve been saying in the comments.
1. Swinging into inaction
Jessica: “IMO Lauren is being deramped and has been for some weeks now.” Stu: “I definitely see Lauren being the one sacrificed out of the “Power Four”. Dean: “Simon’s boring remark was perfect timing in week 6 if they want to get her by week 8 or so.”
Is a swing the new plinth? We’ve speculated that being stuck on a plinth can isolate an act from its audience. What about a high swing towards the back of the stage?
It’s not exactly inspired production. Especially when a similar prop was used for the same song back in 2008. Diana Vickers at least got to swing back and forth a little for her rendition of ‘Smile’.
Lauren had no such luck, and post-performance we weren’t allowed to forget it.
“It’s not easy to sit down and sing an entire song with such commitment and emotion,” said Mel with a straight face. “It was a bit boring, the performance,” added Simon, who couldn’t resist laughing as he joked,”it needed someone to give the seat a push or something”. Cheryl repeated Mel’s line, praising: “Being able to sing sat down on a high swing.”
To ram home the swing meme, Dermot continued the theme: “What’s it like singing a song like that sitting down?” “I’m just so glad the swing didn’t snap,” replied a slightly nonplussed Lauren. Simon got a chance to add, “If the swing had moved a little bit more in the middle it would’ve been a little bit more exciting.” As poor Lauren walked off stage, Dermot gave the swing a push for good measure.
It doesn’t seem fanciful to relate all this to Lauren’s week 4 rehearsal meltdown over a few simple dance moves. Choreographer Brian Friedman had been quick with criticism of her “limitations” at the time, but it seems producers waited an extra week for payback.
The “boring” tag is perhaps most damaging among the comments she got. This season alone, Mel called a Steph Nala performance boring, Louis did the same to Jack Walton and Simon to Paul Akister. Abi Alton was called boring in week 3 of 2013. Janet Devlin and Sophie Habibis were both called boring for the week 3, 2011 nuking of the girls. We’re trying to think if anyone has recovered well from being “boring” – perhaps you can help us out.
What else suggested a Lauren deramp last weekend? Her second consecutive early slot in the running order; a frankly boring VT which can be summed up as, “Fleur is great and I have a brother.” To be fair to her, the rest of the staging was cohesive and attractive, with a curtain of threaded diamonds motif. We got one cutaway to mentor Cheryl applauding, and Louis called her a “born recording artist”. So it wasn’t all bad. But what was supposed to linger in the memory was the swing, flapping back and forth as Lauren trudged off.
It’ll be interesting to see if she’s perched on top of a very high plinth for her week 7 performance.
2. Mystery of the East
R: “Fleur’s pimping on Saturday was so heavy I have to question the reason.” Dean: “It also could be just because they wanted to give their plan A her moment no matter where she is in the votes.”
There’s little doubt that Saturday’s programme may as well have been renamed ‘The Fleur East Show’. In Andrea’s VT she was on hand to teach him some English slang, in Lauren’s VT she was shown to be the caring big sister, whilst her very own sister and mother were interviewed before JJ’s performance. Three prominent shout-outs long before her big pimp slot production of ‘Bang Bang’.
Does this mean Fleur is Plan A, or was it just to help her clear the bottom two if she’s struggling for votes? Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.
There’s no doubt producers would love to see her win, as a credible, commerical performer. We were guilty of underestimating her at the start before the live shows, resorting to the idea that in the past it’s seemed to be difficult for the public to get behind a confident black female. She’s had enough chance by now to show she’s a very likeable individual.
The next hurdle seemed to be not having had a “wow” moment vocally. Her week 5 VT teed up Michael Jackson’s ‘Will I Be There’ as just that, though Andrea’s pimp slot ‘Somebody To Love’ allowed it to be overshadowed. Fleur’s VT this week had her elatedly coming off stage after that performance, saying: “I finally got to show people that I can sing.” She was then given the mother of all pimpings whilst playing to her strengths.
We reckon Saturday’s show was all about seeing how high Fleur can fly in the vote when allowed to shine whilst her main rivals in the outright market were kept under the radar. We’ve already gone into the ways in which Andrea and Lauren were deramped; Ben at least had exemplary golden staging and a heartwarming VT, which will have kept his vote ticking over, but judges’ comments tended to be dampening.
Producers will now be much clearer about where Fleur stands in relation to her rivals, and can act accordingly. If she still fell well short of say, Andrea and Ben, they might recognise that third is the best they can hope for, with a recording contract to follow. But if she was anywhere near topping the vote, producers might feel that it’s worth continuing to dampen those around her for their credible winner.
3. Why are Only The Young called last?
MW: “I think the most fascinating thing is why OTY were again last to be announced as saved. Very interesting choice.” Chatterbox5200: “why did they announce OTY as the last act safe for the second week running? Was this a strategy to: a) Make them look as though they aren’t safe and galvanise their demographic to vote even more for them next week. b) To make them look less popular than Stereo Kicks.”
For the second consecutive week, Only The Young were the act not actually in the bottom two who were made by producers to wait for 20 minutes to hear their fate. Commenters have been debating whether this is a positive for them (their fans think they are in danger and will be more motivated to vote next week) or a negative (it subliminally plants the thought that they are one of the three least popular acts).
While both are ostensibly plausible, we reckon the evidence points to it being negative. If you’re interested in this question of the order in which acts are called safe, do take a look at the article-length discussion of it we did after the 2012 season. A summary of the conclusions: the act called first seemed generally to be one that producers would have liked to be doing better in the vote than they actually were. The act called last was generally one producers didn’t have much interest in.
This year, Jake Quickenden, Jack Walton and Paul Akister were all the last to be called safe the week before they departed. Fleur has been most often called safe first.
The psychology seems to go like this: being called safe first creates a winner’s aura around an act; being called safe last suggests an act is becoming a lost cause. Evidence from the US X Factor season in which they announced the full voting order each week (discussed more fully in the above-linked article) backs up this view of voter psychology. Acts who were revealed to have only just cleared the singoff got no boost in their vote the following week.
So if producers are trying to galvanise Only The Young’s fans by calling them last, then it would be a departure from what they’ve done before, and the opposite of what you’d expect from the USXF evidence. It is also possible that they’re leaving Only The Young till last simply to milk the social media traction being generated by the bloke in the audience who keeps yelling their name.
4. Stereo Tricks
Thé Ferret: “I really can’t fathom who is the favoured group.” Phil: “they [SK] were really good this weekend I thought”.
In many other ways Only The Young have undoubtedly had a lot of producer positivity in the last three weeks. But at the same time, we’re struggling to discern any real signs that the show is giving up on Stereo Kicks. There’s an emerging consensus in the comments that producers will be hoping to drag a group to the final, but which one? It still seems a pretty open question to us.
Perhaps it’s worth remembering how much screentime producers lavished on the individual members of the eightpiece during the audition stages, which suggests a good deal of thought had gone into their post-show commercial potential. To what extent do early singoff appearances cause a rethink of commercial considerations? The signing of Tamera, despite her repeated flubs during the show, hints maybe not that much. Stereo Kicks have also been arguably the show’s most headline-generating act since the premature departure of Chloe-Jasmine, another reason why producers might want to keep them around.
Mel’s comments last week were especially interesting: “I don’t feel the public has got to know you individually enough to support you, and I want that to happen”. Was that a set-up for this week’s VT?
Two more thoughts on the boyband. Those of us wondering if the week 5 stage invader might possibly have been choreographed will have enjoyed the chance to wonder about Louis’s acting skills, as his reaction to the invasion was shown in their week 6 VT:
And what, if anything, do we make of this?
5. The Donut Deramp
Jess: “Is the donut deramp a thing?”
Those of you who get irritated with us for occasionally overthinking things, look away now! After Simon compared listening to Andrea in week 3 to eating six donuts, commenter EM remarked that it was like aversion therapy – associating Andrea with the idea of a sickly excess of food. Now, has there been any recurring motif in Andrea’s week 4, 5 and 6 VTs, by any chance?
Mind you, at least Andrea and Mel together shared only one three-tier cake tray. In week 5, the Platt family and Cheryl ordered five between the four of them:
We love Jess’s idea of the Three-Tier Cake Tray Of Incipient Surfeit. Will it make another appearance this series, or – alas – be quietly dropped, like the Walton-Akister Memorial Makeup-Chair-Next-To-Ben-Haenow Of Doom?
Do let us know your thoughts on these and other pressing matters below.