Ché Chesterman departs the X Factor in third position, after a night of the expected full-on pimping for Louisa Johnson. Before the announcement of who was leaving, the betting markets had put even more distance between the three acts, Louisa shortening and Ché drifting.
We’d wondered how they’d fit in three songs each tonight. We learnt when one round of the songs announced yesterday proved to be merely a glorified introductory sequence, an opening prelude to the musical symphony ahead. When the songs proper started, Che was first up with ‘Valerie’. He was shown drumming up support after a tearful family homecoming, then visiting his former school before performing at the Royal Albert Hall. It wasn’t a bad VT – when the crowds were shown, they were decent and enthusiastic.
Fortunately he’d changed the unflattering shirt he wore in the introduction for his performance of ‘Valerie’. As promised, there was a 50s Americana diner theme, with high-energy dancing and the promised hamburgers. The staging didn’t feel quite as messy as we have seen sometimes for the outsider’s opening number, but the “Che’s Diner” visual was hardly a subliminal that suggested a glittering future career.
Rita didn’t have anything more to say than “congratulations for making it so far”. Cheryl praised Ché’s vocals before calling him “dolphin boy”, which reminded us that Nick had joked about “dolphins arriving at Wembley” about a high note in 4th Impact’s performance the week they went home. Do we have a new tactic – the dolphin deramp?
Simon picked up on the hamburgers, criticising the production – a time-honoured tactic to justify a negative tone without motivating sympathy votes – by saying it looked like a “musical”, and calling him the “underdog to win the competition”. He went on to call Ché “a bag of nerves”, in a surprisingly negative tone for the final. The clear sense was that they weren’t taking any chances.
Reggie N Bollie were shown waving to individuals from their battle bus in Cheryl’s home town of Newcastle; Cheryl hadn’t bothered to go there with them, and didn’t give us a reason for it, saying only “while I stay here to drum up support”. They got to show their energy at a gig there. Cheryl did join them in Farnborough, and again it wasn’t a bad VT for them – the bongo drums weren’t as much in evidence as they could have been.
They came through some large RnB initials for a reggae ‘Spice Up Your Life’ with a huge number of dancers on stage and off-stage, before the sirens went off for ‘Boom Boom Boom’. It was rather chaotic, but we didn’t expect anything else.
Simon came out with one of his ostensibly off-the-cuff lines that we assume is intended to have a subliminal effect on viewers, using the analogy “like a strawberry and liver milkshake” to describe the choice of songs for mashup. Yum! Simon also said: “I’m so happy you’re here with the energy you bring … I have a feeling you could actually win this show.” We assume the intention was to make viewers think “no, surely not, they can’t sing! Better vote for someone who can”.
Nick, like Simon, referred to the amazing reaction in the arena. Rita was the party-pooper who called it “cruiseship” and a “shouting competition”. Cheryl only replied, “I want to go to whichever cruiseships you go to.” Caroline repeated the “cruiseship” and “you could win this competition” lines.
Louisa and Rita, styled like sisters, then visited the former’s family and friends in Essex. “We have to make sure she wins,” her Dad said. She visited her primary school and Rita drummed up support for more votes.
We’d talked about the angelic connotations around Louisa in our review of her journey, and they ramped it up, having her again all in white and in amongst the clouds with a vast, white-clad celestial choir. The darkened arena was lit up by audience glowsticks. Simon made the “angel” theme explicit in his comments, with Rita later claiming she was “literally floating” before calling her “an actual angel”.
Grimmy made us laugh by wryly remarking “they love putting you in a cloud, don’t they”, before talking about her desire to win. We were getting worried that they wouldn’t refer to it as a “moment”, before Rita rectified that. Cheryl ticked the “17 years old” box, then Louisa said, “I tried to put every bit of emotion into it.” If you were playing a Louisa drinking game, you’d have been under the table.
Olly said to Louisa “can you believe that thousands and thousands of people applied for this show”, a thought which Ferret in the comments completed with “and none of them had any chance whatsoever as you were invited!”
Onto the duets, each of which were preceded by similar VTs featuring the acts bonding with mentors and families. Ché kicked things off with Cat Stevens’ golden oldie ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, with a rather generic breaking-glass backdrop. When Rod Stewart came on there wasn’t much chemistry between them. It was pleasant enough, and utterly lacking in impact. The vibe was a wedding karaoke between a slightly reluctant uncle and nephew, and Rod couldn’t wait to get off stage.
For the second time tonight, Ché was memoryholed by Reggie N Bollie following directly afterwards with no ad break. They got two duets for the price of one, opening with Fuse ODG before Craig David made his entrance to ‘Rewind’. The dancers, clad in red, stayed off stage, and there was a lot of rapping. In true RnB fashion, it was messy but fun and got a big audience reaction.
Louisa and Rita sang X Factor staple ‘And I Am Telling You’, which Sam Bailey had belted out with Nicole Sherzinger as their 2013 final duet before the former’s victory, and which Louisa had sung once already, at the six-chair challenge. Louisa was in green this time, and everything else was golden – Rita, the staging and lighting.
The following reprise was a technical nightmare, as the song repeated over Che’s first performance, before producers cut it altogether. But while they may have messed up the recap, it looks like the bigger plan is well on track. Since the voting statistics were first released in 2008, the leader at the vote freeze on Saturday has gone on to win on Sunday. Do you doubt that it’s Louisa? Let us know below.