Ryan was the clear target tonight – the only act under the Strictly bus, as a bit of padding at the start of the show ensured BBC viewers will have been turning over just as Gifty was singing. It was a full-on hatchet job for the Coatbridge lad, and it would be a surprise if he clears the bottom three. But if there, will the flash vote save him again?
Interestingly, the vote was open from the start of the show. If memory serves – and we stand to be corrected – when they did this in 2012, we had a couple of early exits from late running order slots (Carolynne Poole, Melanie Masson), but it ultimately didn’t seem to change much. However, we think this is the first time they’ve done it since the app vote. Perhaps that will change things: if people who are used to free voting splurge their free votes early, will they pay to vote for later acts? We’re guessing this is the kind of thing producers are interested in experimenting with, too.
Anyway, we wouldn’t be surprised to see 4 of Diamonds and Saara Aalto – the last two acts to perform – down at the bottom with Ryan. Here’s our quick take on tonight’s performances.
Ryan’s treatment will be one to rewatch for those learning how the show dampens a vote. His VT showed him struggling to choose a song, in a way that implied the choice was crucial to his survival, and that he’d have done worse with anything other than his choice of ‘Rolling In The Deep’. It ended with the words “I hope I can avoid the bottom three”.
Ryan was on a big plinth, something we feel can disconnect an act from the audience, with uninspired monochrome staging. There were cutaways to the judges looking very bored. Louis said he went through the motions and it was like busking; Sharon lopped three years off his age; Simon came up with one of his distracting food analogies, saying “if I imagine what a pancake would be like if it sang” to illustrate the idea that it was “flat”. He also called it “too clean”, a curious criticism he’d later roll out for Relley.
“You’re going to need Scotland to pick up the phone after that”, Simon said, before introducing Gifty with “back to the real singers, back to authenticity”. Ouch.
This felt like it was intended to be a breakout moment for Gifty that perhaps fell a bit flat. We had an emotional VT about Gifty’s mum’s untimely death, and she was given Tamera-esque hair extensions which had the effect of softening her image but perhaps went too far in changing it. The staging was beautiful and the pimping was huge, but it didn’t move the market.
Last week was all about positivity for Matt and 5am. This week 5am got a bit of a kicking, with a mixed VT that said they were like brothers (good) because they bicker (not so good). Their routine was criticised by Simon as “terrible… this is a platform where you can have a career. Sort yourselves out.” Later, taking to Dermot, he said “sometimes you have to have a weak week to be better next week”. The boys will hope this is all part of their journey, not a permanent falling out of favour.
Sam’s staging had some highly questionable connotations, with her backing band stuck on plinths that appeared to be constructed from smoking scrap metal, against which her brown dress somewhat camouflaged her. Big-screen images of industrial pollution added to the apocalyptic feel, and her vocals again didn’t sound entirely on-point to us. It all turned into a bit of a mess, visually and aurally.
Sam’s comments were interesting, with Nicole being the voice of reason amid praise from the other judges that we suspect may have struck some viewers at home as unrealistically profuse. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to us to see Sam in trouble.
Matt had a Haenow-esque VT that emphasised his normal-bloke nature, with mates and brothers. He was perhaps a bit pitchy in places near the end of the song but that’s splitting hairs – it was another week of nice staging, with brightly-shining lightbulbs, and high praise from the judges.
Matt ended the show as 1.76 favourite on Betfair, Simon saying “the winning post is in sight” – in week three. We’re surprised the show is being this obvious this early in proceedings: they were last year with Louisa, but that was a seven-week run of live shows. Usually in a ten-week run they don’t show their hand quite this early.
One possible explanation is that if Matt hoovers up a very large proportion of votes among people who vote on the basis of singing prowess, that may make it easier to keep Honey G above at least three of the others.
Honey G’s VT gave us a glimpse of Anna, being a DJ, as she assured us she’s “the realest chick in the game” and told us her dream is to be “the first rapper to win the X Factor”. It was reported in the papers, though not referenced on the show, that legal issues prevented her from straying from the lyrics to Ice Ice Baby. Perhaps it was for the best to take a week off her usual schtick, given the risk of it getting H to the old.
Louis said “the show wouldn’t be the same without you”, and Simon commented that he gets “so many more calls about you than anyone else”. These are the kind of comments that lay the ground to justify a singoff save should one be necessary at some point, though Dermot’s call for “Granny G” tweets for next week made it clear that producers foresee no chance of her not still being here.
“You win when people are talking about you”, Simon told Honey, referring both to her and what she’s doing for his show.
Relley got the standard-issue sympathetic vocal rest VT, but dated styling and staging – our mental connotation was a giant roll of pink Andrex – and, despite a three-judge ovation, some worryingly damning words from Simon: he said her having a cold made no difference to the fact that “no-one’s going to be talking about this tomorrow”, and implied that she’s been going downhill since week one.
Sharon reassured her “there’s nothing to worry about”, which may not have been the most vote-motivating thing to say. Dermot, the silent assassin, started his conversation with Relley with the words “everyone gets colds on this show, it’s the nature of the game”. If Relley clears the danger zone tomorrow, these were not comments that boded well for her longevity in the competition.
Emily’s VT heavily featured her relationship with Ryan, perhaps because producers want to milk it as much as possible while Ryan remains with us. It was a very sweet VT, carefully establishing that Emily had turned Ryan down several times before agreeing to go out with him, and that while they’d known each other for three or four years, they’ve been going out for only eight months. It helpfully made clear that Emily is by no means a young lady of loose morals.
We got momentarily excited by the suggestion that Emily was going to be performing in front of a Sofabet backdrop.
The actual staging was beautifully understated. Louis reached out to John Lewis, Nicole told Emily “you’d be an epic recording artist” and Simon told her “tonight you turned from a competition contestant into an artist”. Those looking for negatives will point out that Simon again referenced her voice not being big, though he did follow that up by calling it “unique”. On a personal level, Emily continues to come across as adorable.
4 of Diamonds had a VT that was about them taking control and that promised much, setting the bar higher than their performance was going to reach. We saw them meeting Little Mix, which reminded us of how The Risk had met JLS in their VT the week they were eliminated. Perhaps the subliminal is that we already have a Little Mix, so do we need a 4 of Diamonds?
Comments featured Nicole demanding more “sauce”, Sharon wanting it to be more “dirty” and saying they’re “sexy” – quite a contrast to the general feeling that a key to Little Mix’s success on this show was Tulisa’s line that they’re not the kind of girls who’d steal your boyfriend. Louis said “we’re going to be better next week”, taking for granted that they’ll be here next week. We didn’t see much motivation to vote.
Simon told them they have to be “British”. Coincidentally, up next was Saara, whose VT showed us her saying “I was always the outsider, I didn’t fit in”, before an extended hug from vocal coach Annabel prompted her to say she now feels accepted.
Our feeling was that the general vibe from Saara’s comments and interaction with Dermot, too, was that she’s already had her validation in the form of the four-judge ovation and positive reaction from the studio audience, and therefore doesn’t need people to vote for her to give her that validation. There was obviously lots of positivity, with the show doing plenty for Saara, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she’s still in the bottom three, despite the pimp slot.
We loved the performance, though – classic Brian Friedmanesque craziness, delivered by someone who really enjoys performing. What a shame this is the first time the show has made the most of her.
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