This week, Lauren Murray has seen her elimination price come sharply in and her outright price go the other way. Her treatment remains the most intriguing tonight, with a variety of possibilities. A reminder that the big picture is punters are assuming that producers might want to sideline Lauren as a way of leaving the path clear for Plan A Louisa Johnson. There was certainly a stark difference in the amount of thought and effort that went into the girls’ staging last week.
If we work on the assumption that they’d prefer a final without Lauren, the potential problem for producers is that if Lauren finishes in the singoff this week but not right at the bottom of the vote, it would require one of her most vocal supporters, Grimmy, voting to send her home. Otherwise they’ll have a bounce to suppress next week. If that worries them, producers may feel more comfortable continuing with a gradual softening of Lauren instead, aiming for a singoff between the groups this week – then work with the survivor’s bounce in the semi, to get Lauren bottom then.
Much will of course depend on how well the four acts who haven’t yet touched a singoff have been polling. It does seem likely that Lauren will have polled well after her strong showings in weeks 2 and 3. Is it even conceivable that she might have outpolled Louisa last week, despite a low-key week for Lauren and every help for Louisa? The market understandably dismisses such a scenario, but the beautiful uncertainty of the X Factor is that we can’t know for sure until the stats are released. Fleur East never managed to top a phone vote, despite certain live shows being all about her.
This week’s song choices don’t look great for Lauren. With ‘Firestone’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’, she’s got two less-known contemporary dance numbers that don’t promise to showcase vocals. The lyrics of the latter say: “And don’t tell me what to do / And don’t tell me what to say…/ Don’t try to change me in any way…/ Don’t tie me down cause I’d never stay.” We’ve been waiting for a Lauren VT about her not living in the XF house any more because she hates having cameras in her face all the time. This, followed by those ‘Firestone’ lyrics, could be how a serious deramping might occur. We’ll know more from 8pm tonight.
Fourth Impact remain elimination favourites tonight. The strength of their support is also a matter of intriguing uncertainty given their avoidance of a singoff so far. There were mixed messages in last week’s VT and staging. The first half of their VT played up the theme of missing home, but the second half with its message of “we’re doing this for our family” was very positive. The performance felt like the other way round: a promising backstage start followed by a rather unfocused section on the main stage, with Cowell complaining about a lack of individual identity afterwards.
A serious deramping for Fourth Impact might occur by playing up that theme of missing home, or indeed telling viewers that one of their chosen songs – ‘I’ll Be There’ – is something they’ve performed previously on a foreign talent show. These previous efforts are one back story that’s so far been downplayed, and it wouldn’t bode well for the girls if it was brought up now.
Last week saw a huge push for Reggie n Bollie. They got the pimp slot, another huge production, and were namechecked as finalists. The title of most favoured group has see-sawed throughout: in week 1, Fourth Impact were given top billing; week two saw the girls under the Strictly bus whilst the Ghanaian duo had the first of their massive productions late on; week 3 saw some rowing back on Reggie N Bollie, with a possible sympathy spike for 4th Impact after a dizzy Celina. The pendulum firmly swung back Reggie n Bollie’s way again last week, but it’s to producers’ credit that we’re still playing a guessing game between the two.
Further big productions have been promised for the Ghanaian duo this week on the revealing Xtra Factor midweek show. You could argue that ‘Watch Me’ strays into territory that doesn’t work so well with the X Factor demographic, but I don’t think those rules apply if the two are bringing a big fun production to the stage. Their other song, ‘Dynamite’, sits well in their comfort zone, but then so does the Fourth Impact medley of ‘Fancy’ and ‘Rich Girl’. It’ll be fascinating to see who feels most favoured tonight.
I’m more confident in thinking that producers will do everything for Ché Chesterman tonight, whatever his eventual fortunes in the contest. One of his song’s is this year’s biggest – Adele’s ‘Hello’ – for which Instagram rehearsal pics and Xtra Factor chatter suggests sympathetic staging. The production designer suggested the “kitchen sink” would be thrown at his other number, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’. Ché has been namechecked as a finalist; these pre-show clues suggest producer favour for this week at least.
Which brings us to Louisa Johnson, after her “moment” last week with outstanding staging. It’ll be interesting to see if producers feel relaxed enough to ease back on the throttle at this stage. ‘Love Yourself’ and ‘Jealous’ by Labrinth look like decent choices.
With only a five-minute Strictly overlap, those switching over shouldn’t be missing any singing. But when the live shows switch to two songs per act, fortunes have more opportunities to rise and fall. We’re looking forward to a topsy-turvy evening.