With the X Factor’s list of song choices this week recycling some familiar numbers, we can recycle one of our favourite Sofabet headlines, right? We first used it regarding Abi Alton. As recounted in our deep-dive retrospective on Abi’s journey, after inadvertently reducing her to tears with their treatment, the show granted Abi a dignity-recovering week of positivity before moving in for the kill.
This week’s elimination market revolves around whether they’ll extend the same courtesy to odds-on favourite Saara Aalto, whose singoff last week was introduced in this undignified fashion:
Sharon: “Now is the songword from abroad…” [blank look]
Sharon: “Ffff -” [realises that this is not Saara’s name]
Poor Saara. We had remarked last week that her mix of kookiness and belting vocals reminded us of Kitty Brucknell, and producers have given her Kitty’s week 2 song, Bjork’s ‘Oh So Quiet’. You may remember the staging, which referenced the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Kitty only just avoided the bottom two from the pimp slot.
That doesn’t bode particularly well for the Finn, trying to bounce after appearances in both singoffs so far. Being from “abroad” has been her main storyline, and it feels like that doesn’t have much further to run. Still, there’s no reason why they can’t offer Saara a big, fun production, and kinder comments than Louis suggesting nobody likes her last week.
And we can’t rule out a third consecutive singoff save. It’s a storyline, after all – one they last ran with when Katie Waissel hit the bottom two in weeks 4, 5 and 6. Here’s a tip for Saara: precedent suggests that the way to survive a third consecutive singoff is to interrupt yourself mid-song with “you know what, sod it” and sit down on the stage.
Ryan Lawrie is next in the elimination betting having been saved from last week’s bottom three. As a cute boy from Scotland, there are two reasons why certain parts of the voting demographic could be motivated to provide a “sympathy bounce” out of this week’s danger zone.
If so, he would be the first example of it this series, and it remains to be seen how closely the phenomenon of the sympathy bounce is linked to surviving the drama of the singoff, rather than merely having been revealed to be low in the vote. When the US X Factor experimented with revealing the full finishing order each week in 2012, those revealed to have been just above the singoff didn’t benefit in the following week’s vote.
Ryan takes on Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’ this time, which – like Freddy last week – runs the danger of being called out as too big for him. Along with the whole of Coatbridge, we’ll be watching to see if producers are willing to work with any potential bounce.
Freddy was one of only two acts in the Strictly overlap last week. That window is 20 minutes tonight.
Four of Diamonds have been backed from 16/1 for next elimination to around half that price. Last week wasn’t the most promising return for the girlband, with both staging and song arrangement not allowing them to shine in a rendition of ‘Keep Me Hanging On’ that felt very karaoke. It was a muted comeback compared to previous surprise returnees such as Monica Michael and Amelia Lily, and both those acts were treated far worse the following week.
They’ve been given a mashup of ‘Lady Marmalade’ and ‘Bang Bang’. On the plus side, medleys can be useful if handled well, and these were two songs given to promote Fleur East in her 2014 run to the final. Looking at potential negatives, the songs are thematically aggressive and sexually suggestive – see girlband Hope’s take on Lady Marmalade from 2007 – when something more demure may better suit the youngsters. A ballad would also have given them more chance to show off their “60s harmonies” which they’ve told us is their USP.
Relley C may be 26, but she continues to be given 40-year-old songs – this time ‘Natural Woman’ – alongside her 40-year-old styling. Interestingly, the last two times ‘Natural Woman’ has been heard on this show were as the singoff song of two acts who were promptly eliminated, Lola Saunders and Sami Brookes.
To be fair, the positivity for Relley continued last week, with an appearance from her father and more shout-outs to Birmingham. There was no real softening then, and I’d have to see evidence of it in the show itself to start worrying about her immediate future.
The girls remains the most intriguingly open category. Gifty Louise looks like she’ll be displaying a gentler side for the Middle England audience with Sam Smith’s ‘Lay Me Down’. It feels like a suitable choice. Sam Lavery’s ‘Earth Song’ worked to good effect for Andrea Faustini when he won the week 1 televote in 2014.
Emily Middlemas’s ‘How Will I Know’ has been used on the show previously for Sam Bailey, Lucie Jones and Lauren Platt. We may see a version a lot like Lauren’s in 2014, that started slowly before going upbeat halfway through. At this point, it felt like producers were putting a lid on her vote with a succession of early draws and colour vomit staging, so Emily’s choice is possibly the least promising of the three.
Some of our commenters have questioned Honey G’s choice of an ‘Ice Ice Baby’ / ‘Under Pressure’ mashup as it relates to the Divas theme. But the songs worked well enough for Jedward in their week 6 bounce, and it gives the opportunity for another massive production.
That leaves outright market leaders Matt Terry with Mariah’s ‘I’ll Be There’ (previously covered by Fourth Impact, Lauren Platt and Union J), and 5 After Midnight with Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ (Che Chesterman’s final-opening song last year). Both choices could give some leeway for the first qualifications among judges comments, should producers not want to make it so obvious that both acts are intended for the final.
Returning to the elimination picture, it really feels like Saara’s story has run its course, unless they want her to continue as the singoff assassin. In order of likelihood, I see Four of Diamonds, Ryan and Relley as the most likely to join her. It’ll be interesting to see if they keep the Sunday flash vote to save one of the bottom three. One of its effects so far has been revealing one more piece of dead wood in the early polling than strictly necessary.
Let us know your continued thoughts below.
Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor