Whether and how tonight’s show chooses to acknowledge last night’s terrible events in Paris is open to debate. Producers have already decided to discreetly change the songs that Monica and Lauren will perform. The former, who had been due to perform ‘Bang Bang’, now gets ‘What is Love’, a reprisal of her six chair challenge performance. The latter, originally given ‘License to Kill’, now has Ariana Grande’s ‘One Last Time’.
Beyond this, questions are: will their VTs and/or judges comments reference the last-minute changes? If so, how much will it be used as mitigation for an under-rehearsed production? Punters have reacted to the song change by backing Mason and Max, as Monica has drifted. But even more than usual, this feels like a show to wait for.
We covered extensively the unflattering staging that Monica Michael was given last week. In truth, even more could have been written about just how unhelpful it was. The Bond-esque fiery backdrop, fire jets, and slow, erotic movements of the backing dancers were reminiscent of the hatchet jobs seen in the nuclear 2011 series.
It didn’t bode well for Monica that producers initially gave her ‘Bang Bang’ this week, the song that featured in the most spectacular staging asphyxiation of 2011 – on Sophie Habibis – a spectacle that merits the description “arachnid hellscape” every time. With the last-minute switch, she has a song with more emotion that she clearly connects to.
Lauren’s initial choice also featured in a successful 2011 red-and-blacking, ‘Licence To Kill’, which helped eliminate Craig Colton from the competition. Lauren was treated far better than Monica last week, with a generous, though not over-the-top, pimp slot opportunity. There was a curtain of fire but no judges’ standing ovation; a faux gospel choir but no starry backdrop.
Overall, it felt more like a short-term moment that kept her as beta to Louisa’s alpha, rather than part of a longer-term upgrade. Selecting ‘Licence To Kill’ for her earlier in the week reinforced that, given its toxic record. The decision seemed like the start of a softening up process that Monica first experienced last week. It’s worth bearing that in mind despite the last-minute song change.
Competing with Monica for favouritism in the elimination market are Max Stone and Mason Noise. Both featured in last Sunday’s recap segment about those “under pressure” in the competition. Mason’s singoff appearance made that abundantly clear. This week he sings ‘Men In Black’, which doesn’t have any particular vocal moments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in Mason’s case, and visuals will be just as important – the staging will tell us how much they want him to bounce, if at all. His fans should be hoping for a big production.
Max Stone’s choice of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Secret Garden’ feels like a step down into obscurity after taking on some iconic songs in the first two weeks. He endured some harsh criticism last week, but was given a relatively sympathetic VT, encouraging us to emotionally invest in some family background to a limited degree. Still, it feels like his time on the show is starting to run its course. I’ll be interested to see if his VT tonight returns to the week 1 theme of diffidence, which wouldn’t be promising for him.
Another act taking on a minor work from a big name are Fourth Impact. They’ve been given Beyonce’s ‘Work It Out’, which encourages the sense that they’re losing momentum as the live shows progress. We’ve been promised some “sass” from them this week. I can only hope that alongside it they give us better vocals than they’ve managed in the first two live shows.
The other song choices look more reassuring. Anton’ choice of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’ suggests a return to his balladeering comfort zone after last week’s showmanship. Reggie n Bollie are attempting to ride their wave of fun-filled productions with a ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ / ‘My Heart Will Go On’ mashup. This sounds like the moment they step into novelty act territory.
Meanwhile market leader Louisa Johnson may be given another moment replete with Plan A staging for ‘Everybody’s Free’. Her main rival in the outright, Che Chesterman, has a suitable soul classic in ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, which also fits into the narrative of Simon’s unusual comment about him “getting more handsome” last week.
There’s a 15 minute overlap with Strictly this week, so it will be interesting to see who is sent out first. Do keep your thoughts coming below.