Our midweek article is a chance to pivot off your comments, and burrow further down the rabbit hole about what we witnessed at the weekend. This week, we cover Emily’s treatment, Matt’s love life, Sharon’s absent-mindedness, and the reinstatement of Four of Diamonds.
The Remily Files
Cath: “For me, the shock of the weekend was Emily’s VT. Is she out of favour already or was it badly misjudged? However, her reaction to the last minute change of song and judge criticism was very compliant, so I think she at least won’t get shafted for rebelling”.
Our pre-lives prediction of an Emily Middlemas win is looking, alas, more than a little shaky. And it had all started so well for our core assumption: that producers shoehorned Ryan back into the competition as a way of defining Emily and providing interest for her journey. Emily featured heavily in Ryan’s VT, and in a way we couldn’t have scripted better with the regional vote in mind:
Emily to Ryan: “We are the final two Scottish people…”
Ryan, voiceover: “Not everyone knows yet, but me and Emily are going out together…”
Ryan’s staging then placed him in a bank of theatre seats – a prop which was recalled in Simon’s later criticism of Ryan’s performance as “theatrical”. On second viewing, we wondered if the subliminal this might have visually conveyed was that Ryan is in the audience, not on the stage. That is, he’s not the star. And if he isn’t, who is? Emily, perhaps: in his VT, we’d seen Nicole telling him to imagine he was singing to her.
But then came the car crash of Emily’s VT. For context, rewind a year to last year’s opening week, which saw vocal coach Annabel deliver a withering critique of Bupsi: “Seriously, you’ve got to show up to these sessions prepared… You thought you were on holiday, didn’t you? You got your pool, you got your gym, you got your big house.”
Our assumption was that Annabel had been primed with this line by a producer, to feed into a VT portraying Bupsi as some kind of Benefits Street freeloader. We imagined Bupsi watching it, realising how producers had stitched her up, and murmuring to herself: “et tu, Annabel?”. Since then, Annabel has been known as Et Tu Annabel on the Sofabet sofa.
And now here was Et Tu Annabel, delivering what looked like a similarly well-rehearsed line in Emily’s VT: “Don’t you want to get better?”, she asked, butter-wouldn’t-melt.
The story was that Emily hadn’t been practising enough. This ties into a Sun story, published this week, about Ryan and Emily sneaking out of their respective rooms for midnight trysts on the stairs. We doubt many Sun readers will be clutching their pearls at the idea that a 20-year-old and 18-year-old who’ve been together for a year might have progressed beyond the hand-holding stage and be frustrated by the separate rooms thing, but then came these lines attributed to a “show source”:
“The rest of the contestants have this theory that if they keep going at the rate they are it’s going to harm their chances in the competition.
“It seems as though they’re more eager to release their sexual frustrations than release new music.”
Add to this the awful song choice for Emily – apart from it not playing to her strengths musically, its lyrics paint a picture of illicit sex: “So baby pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover”. And the staging had some low-rent connotations: Emily was imprisoned in a cage, and there were puffs of smoke in the backdrop.
Against that, there were reassuring factors. Emily was put on in the penultimate slot, minimising any chance that she’d be in voting danger. Nicole’s musical critique left viewers with the feeling that Emily had mitigating circumstances for this disappointing vocal. The song choice was current, at least, and so far that seems to be being seen as important this year. All in all, it was damaging, but it didn’t feel like any damage was done that couldn’t easily be undone, should producers wish.
But will they?
The reason for Emily’s last-minute song change was never really explained in the show, certainly not in the VT. Perhaps it was intended unhelpfully, to reinforce the VT message with a performance that was likely to look under-rehearsed. We’d prefer to hope it was intended helpfully, after a belated realisation that her slowed-down version of ‘Toxic’ was dated and pigeon-holing. Or perhaps it was intended a test of her ability to knuckle down and show she could practise hard?
At any rate, we should consider the possibility that we misread producers’ motives for reinstating Ryan. We assumed it was because they have long-term plans for Emily, but maybe the thinking was much simpler – that if you put a couple in the X Factor house, something or other would probably happen that would interest the tabloids.
If you’re reading this, Remily, our advice is to say to producers: how can we help you? Their interest in publicity and ratings happily coincides with your interest in longevity in the competition, for another few weeks at least.
Big Matt Liar?
Fudd: “One issue with Matt… they had Freddy question his girlfriend issues where Matt clearly denied he was going out with his girlfriend again promptly followed by Brian saying ‘I don’t believe you’. He was talking about the performance but that edit wouldn’t have been by accident either – it made it sound like he was throwing out an accusation regarding Matt’s denial.”
The above was a great spot from Fudd. Actually, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was an accident – we do like to take off the tinfoil headwear from time to time, and cockups can be made under time pressure – but, if so, it was an amusingly careless one.
To recap: Matt’s big audition sob story was his girlfriend dumping him. He milked it again at judges’ houses, which was filmed months after the room auditions, singing ‘She’s out of my life’. The week before judges’ houses screened, The Sun reported that Matt and Jasmine Avis had split only “very briefly”, and that they were still living together.
In the week before the live shows, The Sun’s Dan Wootton doubled down, reporting on Jasmine’s Facebook reaction to the screening of Matt getting through to the lives:
Jasmine, wrote: “HE DID ITTTTTTTTT. This guy deserves EVERYTHING and more. Proud does not come close. Feeling all the emotions!”
Somehow, I don’t think this is something a thwarted lover would say after a devastating break-up, which Matt claimed they went through.
Producers evidently and understandably felt the need for Matt to address this in his VT. However, rather than have him VT tearfully about how the tabloids’ unfounded scepticism has rubbed salt into his wounded heart, they had Freddy joshingly ask him if he was fibbing. Matt replies “no”, then the camera focuses on Freddy’s reaction, which looks like nervously conspiratorial laughter.
Then, just a few seconds later, the first thing we see Brian Friedman saying to Matt is: “My biggest issue is, I don’t believe any of it”. It’s ostensibly to do with the song, but subliminally it can’t help but recall the denial we’ve just seen Matt make to Freddy.
And then, after the performance, Simon tells Matt: “even if you’re dumped, don’t worry about that, because this song is going to get you lots of chicks”. Say what, Simon – “even if”?
This is all most likely accidental, although if we were Matt, we’d still be a little irked at producers’ carelessness in allowing these seeds of doubt to be sown. Anyway, it’s almost certainly inconsequential. Matt is obviously in a great position to win the show, being as he is like an amalgam of some recent winners whom we’ve felt producers have reluctantly had to acquiesce in because they proved to be popular with the voting public (Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle, Ben Haenow).
What still intrigues us is whether producers think Matt would be any more commercially successful as a winner. Or, after last year’s scorched earth policy with Louisa, have they simply decided to run with such a winner from the start, and focus on getting some more marketable acts into the last three or four?
Sharon’s Finnishing touches
Plinkiplonk: “the pantomime about her origins was cringeworthy to the extreme. Could anyone imagine the same treatment for, say, Gifty? ‘Oh, she’s from Ghana. No, from Kenya, or was it Zimbabwe? Who cares, she’s from Africa. She’s FOREIGN!’”
We’ve suggested before that if a mentor appears to take little interest in an act, it can be particularly damaging. Did Sharon choose to pronounce Saara as Zara, and call her Norwegian when she’s in fact from Finland?
It was certainly a theme Louis was happy to run with, and the camera angle had stayed wide throughout her introduction of Saara, suggesting that producers anticipated it would contain some interaction with the other judges. Even the official Twitter account had a good laugh about it afterwards. It felt planned to us – as a way to diminish Saara, through the eyes of her own mentor.
It could be silly to over-analyse anything Sharon said last Saturday. It seemed like she had been celebrating her birthday a day early. Nonetheless, we did find it amusing that, of assumed alpha boy, Matt Terry, her knowledge was good – “it’s a good job you’re only 23,” she said. She didn’t know presumed beta boy Ryan’s age, but at least had the grace to ask. The probable gamma in her own category? Couldn’t say her name properly, and didn’t even know where she was from.
In Saara’s VT, we noted Brian Friedman telling her “we’re blowing all the budget on you, so congratulations”. Given that the staging principally consisted of a few bits of deadwood, this seems unlikely. Putting on our tinfoil hats, was this a subliminal message about hardworking Brits’ money being disproportionately splurged on sponging European immigrants?
We’re still puzzled by producers’ reluctance to embrace the entertainingly kooky Snow Fairy. They could have lots of fun with her, safely knowing she can be despatched to the Finnish embassy when the time comes.
Jay: “Personally I think they’ve been locked away somewhere for two weeks rehearsing and practicing getting them ready for showtime.”
As our regular readers know, we’ve never minded conspiracy theories being expressed on this site. What to make of Four of Diamonds reinstatement after Brooks Way were finally axed – forced change or cunning plan?
We’re currently in the former camp. Last Saturday, Dermot couldn’t move on quickly enough from his brief and vague remark about Brooks Way – it’s one thing to have acts’ dirty laundry aired in the tabloids, but they don’t want it tarnishing the brand by giving it airtime in the show itself. And the padding required from Dermot during and after the introduction of the jukebox twist indicated that the show had planned 12 performances until late enough in the day that they couldn’t think of any better way to fill the airtime.
Anyway, if producers had wanted the girlband in the lives, why not just wildcard them in week 1? It seems like a lot of hassle to reinstate them in week 2 after an embarrassing story. So we’re struggling to believe that producers had any plans in mind for 4oD before the situation with the Brooks forced them into a rethink. Will they develop an interest in them now?
Precedent suggests that live show reinstatements get a week of nice treatment on their return before being slowly punctured by producers. In Christopher Maloney’s case, it was still enough to get him to the final, after winning a public vote to return. Amelia Lily, too, though she returned at a much later stage. Last year Monica Michael showed that without a public vote, producers could take the wind out of a wildcard’s sails more efficiently.
Still, we’re not ruling anything out for Four of Diamonds. Alongside our willingness to contemplate all sorts of conspiracy theories, we’re aware that producers can switch things up at any point. Which seems a suitable moment to hand over to your thoughts on the points above and more.
Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor