This felt like a hard show to read, and that’s reflected in the next elimination betting market: it was pretty much a case of “as you were” in the odds for 4th Impact (13/8) and Lauren (2/1) after the show as before. Ché shortened to around 3/1 after his unfortunate ‘Hello’ misstep (chin up, Ché), flipflopping with Reggie N Bollie, who drifted out to around 10/1 after more fun and big productions.
We’ll need to watch the show again, but this is a first-reactions post, so here we go with our initial impressions.
Louisa was sent out first in what seemed to be a show of confidence, just as Ben Haenow had been for Jukebox week last year – but unlike Ben, she was later also given the help of the pimp slot, which felt like the opposite of a show of confidence. That’s just one of many mixed messages to untangle from tonight.
Her VT portrayed her as a star in the making, before she got to hang out with her friend. Current chart hit ‘Love Yourself’ featured a band at the back, like it was an informal gig, and her bandana reminded us of her first audition, which Nick went on to reference in his comments.
Her vocals weren’t quite at her best, which Simon pointed out, though Louisa made the point that she wasn’t feeling very well, and she sounded genuinely throaty. She’d reached for her throat and looked slightly sheepish as the song finished, suggesting she was well aware it wasn’t her best performance.
Fourth Impact had the first post-Louisa slot. Their VT featured a visit to the Filipino embassy, which reminded us that Andrea Faustini finished in the bottom two after a similar trip to the Italian embassy. They had nice enough if unremarkable staging, with flowery purple backdrop, which did however also have the effect of making them look about two inches tall.
Simon said it was “vocally the best you’ve sounded so far”, though he undercut it by referring to Almira as Girl “B”, recalling his “A, B, C and D” insult from the previous week. That turned out to be a setup for the second performance, but other comments still struck us as less than helpful. Grimmy observing that “dolphins will be arriving in Wembley” as Rita imitated the high note was not exactly the most flattering way to praise a vocal.
Reggie n Bollie’s first VT started with Cheryl giving us an exposition to the “Whip Nae Nae”, which was a way of helping us to understand the performance. They were then shown being loved by all demographics whilst out at Winter Wonderland, and cutely learning the dance moves from their kids over Skype. (And just like last year, Fleur East was appearing in every VT. Producers can’t help themselves).
Like Fleur and Lauren Platt last year, they had members of their family appear with them on stage, this time their kids. They also got their judge up dancing with them and joining in the fun, the first such interaction we can remember prior to the final. Audience reaction was huge, and Simon didn’t just paint them as finalists but as contenders. Rita said they were “credible recording artists”.
Lauren’s intro wasn’t promising, with Rita saying she had to change the mood – the implication, after the huge reaction to Reggie N Bollie, being that Lauren would bring the mood down again. Lauren questioned her song choice in her VT and was shown enjoying donuts before her visit to an Essex nightclub, reminding us of the running “donut deramp” joke about Andrea in these parts last series – although we’re not suggesting it was significant here.
Things seemed better for her once it was clear she was up above the crowd like Louisa last week – perhaps producers felt their favour had previously been too obvious in granting Louisa the heavenly position, and they had to share out the favours. The lighting was a lot less spectral than Louisa’s, though. Some commenters compared it to a black hole; our first thought was that she was in a tunnel but at least it meant the focus was clearly on her. Judges’ comments were mixed, with a distracting argument over song choice.
Ché’s VT showed us his disappointment at a singoff appearance last week. To cheer him up, Nick gave him some gigs, reminding us that the show has a career in mind for him. His staging saw him in a cage of light, usually a negative sign, although at least with an opening for him to peer out of.
Unfortunately, he missed a cue and a whole first part of ‘Hello’, although he did mange to recover his thread. Comments were clearly intended to include some element of a setup to be paid off in the second round, as Cowell’s “you looked like you have just turned up from work” prefigured Ché’s change into much smarter garb. But the lyrics flub dominated judges’ comments, with expressions of sympathy and poor Ché looking mortified.
Simon’s half-time ranking was Reggie n Bollie, Louisa, Fourth Impact, Lauren and Ché.
The order switched around in the second half, with Fourth Impact up first – in a Ché sandwich. Their VT again reminded us they are getting lots of support from their home country, which may not be intended to whip up British support for them – and the extended subtitle sequence again called to mind a Faustini VT. Their staging was some kind of high-concept colour-vomit dolls house, with the girls starting and finishing in boxes; did going back into their boxes at the end perhaps subliminally suggest that they’re all packed up again, and ready to be returned?
The names on boxes and an addition of a “Simon, remember our names” lyric paid off the comments from Cowell last week and in the first round, though it’s open to question whether that was intended to help them seem memorable or distract attention from the performance and carry a hint of “journey completed”.
It’s unusual for an act to sing so quickly again in these shows, but probably no bad thing that Ché got to exorcise the memory of ‘Hello’, at least to some extent. He had a nice VT showcasing his strong relationship with his lorry driver dad, Ché senior, as they enjoyed a fry-up at a greasy spoon – something Ben Haenow had done with his van driving mates in one of last year’s VTs.
Staging was black and white with an old-style TV, firmly pegging Ché to his niche in older songs. This looked like it was intended to have been a good moment for Ché, with all four judges standing to applaud, though reaction in the comments section was sceptical that the vocal this time had merited it and Ché has now drifted out to be rank outsider in the win market. Cowell told him that “the mark of a man is that when he’s knocked down, he gets up fighting, and you just delivered a knockout blow”.
Lauren got a VT of sisterly bonding and dress-choosing with stylist Gemma, and Rita ended her VT with “for the first time you’re going to see Lauren as an artist”. Unfortunately, the combination of dress and sleazy-looking hotel backdrop made us think she’d been sent out looking more like a lady of the night than an artist, and Lauren never managed to get down from being stuck high up at the back of the stage. Consensus in the comments, however, was that she had nailed the vocal, and it did feel like the standout performance of the night.
Cheryl said Lauren had “turned into a different character”, which may not be a good thing given how many of us love the usual one. Cowell’s comments were positive, however, saying that Lauren had “found where she should be as an artist”, the choruses were “sensational” and the song had “put her back in the game”. Lauren’s “I bloody turned it around, didn’t I?” to Olly made us love her all the more.
Reggie N Bollie got another feelgood VT meeting Fuse ODG, and with Cheryl and Grimmy enthusing over their energy. They got to make a rock star entrance from backstage, but initially looked a little lost on stage until they were joined by backing dancers – fewer, however, than their big productions usually get. Multi-coloured laser lights roamed everywhere, which would normally be a staging red flag although that is less of a concern for fun acts.
The judges weren’t on their feet and dancing, but Simon joined Cheryl for an ovation at the end as the studio erupted again. Cowell noted that “the crowd have spoken” before calling them “artists”; Nick told them they’d become “national treasures”; Rita called out the ropey vocals but admired their distinctive style; and Cheryl noted how much they improved the atmosphere.
Having opened the show, Louisa got to close it with Labrinth’s ‘Jealous’, the song which made Simon cry when Josh Daniel performed it during the arena auditions, knocking up 29 million YouTube views. It would have been a perfect moment to build up some emotion around Louisa in her VT, but it felt like an opportunity missed as all we got was her going back to an Essex nightclub and chatting to her mum.
She got winner’s staging, with waves of shining starry lights twinking in the background. She again sounded like she was struggling with sore throat issues, however, and the studio reaction felt very flat afterwards. Cheryl and Nick both referenced the illness, while Simon said: “I’ve got this feeling about you, Louisa, I think you’re really special, really special, you’re potentially one of the best we’ve ever had”.
But Simon also said: “This show wouldn’t be the same without you,” which seemed strangely downbeat. Then a tearful Rita said “regardless of what happens in this competition” you’re going to be successful, which is an odd thing to say about an act if they’re cruising to the inevitable victory the odds still suggest.
Just to indicate how confused everybody is, Lauren has come into second favourite in the outright market but still vies for favouritism at the head of the elimination market. We’re looking forward to a rewatch. Your impressions? Do let us know below.
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