Plinkiplonk: “Surprised how harsh they were to 5AM… Maybe punishment for bad behaviour behind the scenes?” Fudd: “To me it felt like a shot across the bows from the show”.
How frustrating it must be for X Factor producers when an act they’re actually trying to help is uncooperative behind the scenes. The ingrates!
What do you do? Our guess: give them a warning shot and one last chance, with negative treatment that is nonetheless careful not to do any damage that can’t be undone the following week if they take the hint and fall in line. That’s how we interpreted Emily’s treatment in week 1, following her “not practising enough” VT. And we agree with our commenters that this is how 5AM’s treatment this week looked to us.
Their VT informed us that Nathan is a dance teacher. We then saw the three boys bickering with each other as Brian Friedman told us “they’re eating up my time”. The implication: they think they can choreograph better than Brian Friedman. Bad move, boys. Just do what Brian tells you!
Bickering is a very damaging look for groups on this show – historically, voters have responded better to groups shown as having a strong bond. Nonetheless, the VT was careful not to hole them below the waterline – three times it framed the bickering as “brotherly”, which gives them an opportunity to put it behind them.
Simon’s comments couldn’t have been much clearer: “I don’t know what’s going on in your heads right now. Let me give you some advice. This is a platform where you can have a career. Sort yourselves out.” Given a second bite at the cherry by Dermot, he added: “Too many people were in your ears this week”, but then he offered them an olive branch – “sometimes you’ve got to have a weak week so you can be better the following week. Right?” Capisce?
Let’s see if the boys heed the warning. Producers will surely be hoping so. History suggests they won’t stand for continued backstage insubordination, but they can ill afford to lose the boys – with seven live shows left they have only three male acts, one of whom they’ve already been looking to jettison. They did all they could this week to build Matt Terry up as a sex symbol, but they ideally won’t want Matt to be entirely responsible for attracting female demographics as the show reaches is business end.
Sex SLavery Scandal
James Martin: “I’m with Nicole. It was beyond awful. The song, vocal and production were all too big for her… and she looked like roadkill. Did Nicole go rogue I wonder?”
Speaking of 5AM’s Nathan, earlier this week, The Sun reported he’d been “romping in a cupboard” with Sam Lavery.
X FACTOR hopefuls Nathan Lewis and Sam Lavery romped backstage in a cupboard at last weekend’s show. The pair face a dressing down from bosses after production staff spotted them emerging from the …
Last Saturday we’d wondered whether Sam’s apocalyptic staging for ‘Earth Song’ was deliberately setting out to be damaging by visually associating her with steaming scrap metal and industrial pollution, or was it just arty high-concept stuff.
The plinths for her musicians reminded us of “Kye Fawkes night” from 2012, when Kye Sones was unsubtly plonked on top of a bonfire. It’s also worth remembering that the last time ‘Earth Song’ was used on this show, for Andrea Faustini, the backdrop was meteors smashing down on London. (A visual metaphor for immigration? That’s something they haven’t done to Saara Aalto… yet).
We also wondered about the comments: high praise from everyone except Nicole. Was the intention to help Sam, and Nicole had gone rogue? (Reasons for wondering this below). Or was the intention to deflate Sam, by having the other judges supply wildly overcooked hype so viewers would see Nicole as the voice of reason?
The picture may be clearing thanks to another story in The Sun, which appeared yesterday. The headline: THE TEXT AXER. The subhead, quoting “heartbroken” Acea Brabook, a 24-year-old barman: “Fame-hungry X Factor wannabe Samantha Lavery dumped me by text after promising fame wouldn’t change her”.
WANNABE pop star Samantha Lavery dumped her boyfriend by text — for telly glory. Heartbroken Acea Brabrook has told how the message arrived just days after she vowed that winning fame on the X Fact…
There are two things to say about this story. The first is that it’s horribly unfair to Samantha. The headline and lede make her sound awful, but when you read the story it’s clear that there’s nothing to it. It turns out that Acea had only been dating Sam for “a couple of months”, and that the split came “as she prepared to take part in the live shows” – and not, which is the conclusion you’d jump to if you didn’t read the story carefully, following the alleged cupboard romp.
The Sun published a text conversation between Acea and Samantha, which is captioned “Devastating . . . texts exchanged by the pair”. Leaving aside the ethics of sharing a private exchange of messages with The Sun, the actual converation shows her being considerate and letting him down gently.
So, to summarise, the case against Samantha is this: having got through to the X Factor live shows, in anticipation of spending weeks away from home in a big city, she told the guy she’d been dating for just a couple of months that “it’s best to just leave it for now”. Which sounds… well, very wise and sensible, and maturely handled. And then, as a single girl, she allegedly hooked up with a single guy. The horror!
Anyway, from a punting perspective the second thing to say about this story is that it sounds an alarm bell. We assume that stories don’t get published in The Sun unless the show either actively wants them published, or is sufficiently relaxed about it not to stop it. And this isn’t the kind of story you would think the show would want doing the rounds about an act they were invested in for the long term.
A Clean Kill
Rose L: “The last thing a girl group need to do on the X Factor is sex themselves up so why did Nicole and Sharon suggest they should unless it’s misleading sabotage?”
Simon introduced a new verbal kill shot on Saturday: “clean”. To Ryan he said: “I thought the performance was clean. Almost too clean. It needs roughing up.” To Relley he said: “For me it was all too clean again”, before going on to contrast with the “edge” of the week 1 rap.
We can’t remember “too clean” being used as a criticism on this show before – so when it’s used twice in one show, and both acts end up in the bottom three, it makes our ears prick up. We’re struggling to come up with a theory, though, as to why the word “clean” might demotivate votes. Answers on a postcard, please, in the comments below.
Interestingly, the bottom three was rounded out by 4 of Diamonds, who got a thematically similar critique – not a complaint about excessive cleanliness, but a request for more dirt. Nicole said: “I’m a saucy girl, I want more sauce”. Sharon said: “Get down and dirty, it was too polite… and you’re so sexy, stop trying to hide it”.
At least here the thinking seems easier to discern. As Rose comments above, precedent suggests that sluttiness is a bad look for girl groups on this show. But if the judges had called the performance “sexy”, “saucy” and “dirty”, that might have created an awkward atmosphere and some vote-motivating sympathy for them. By getting the judges to ask for more of these qualities, it still associates the words with them, and makes viewers think “hang on, they were dressed in short skirts and cavorting suggestively with sailors! You want it even saucier?!”
It’s also, of course, helpfully terrible advice for next week. Let’s see if the girls take it.
Scherzy Off Script?
Daz: “Anyone else notice Simon telling Nicole to sit down after Ryan’s performance as if she’s not doing what she’s supposed to do.”
He did indeed do that. (She sat down). He also told Nicole to stand, like the other judges, after Emily’s performance. (She stayed seated). And while we usually assume that judge bickering is all part of the pantomime, like any workplace there will surely be behind-the-scenes disagreements, which may occasionally spill over into public view.
We get the impression that Ryan is well aware of how he’s being treated, and it must be difficult for him to process emotionally – there must be some envy of Emily’s kinder treatment, followed by guilt about the envy. It doesn’t seem implausible to wonder if he’s poured his heart out to Nicole, who has sympathised and sought to fight his corner internally.
And if that is the case, Simon’s comment after Ryan’s performance – that Nicole had been neglecting her mentorly duties to focus on rehearsing her own show-opening routine – might have riled her. It made us wonder whether her critique of Sam, and her questioning of the momentness of Emily’s moment, might not have been entirely on-message.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Edie M: “Well they’ve totally middle-englanded Gifty, whether or not that’s a good sign of voting history, it certainly seems she has producer support.”
Here at Sofabet, we’ve developed a slightly unhealthy obsession with the contestants’ hair. The week after Ryan’s curls were changed out of all recognition as part of a serious deramp, Gifty came on stage with her trademark short locks covered by a wig that looked like it had been transferred from Tamera Foster’s head.
Except the treatment for Gifty remained as positive as before. The VT about her mother’s death at a tender age was clearly an attempt to build an emotional connection between her and viewers. Afterwards, “emotion” was used by Louis, Sharon and Dermot (twice), with Nicole and Simon expanding on it by agreeing she had “opened up”.
The performance itself had featured golden lighting, a choir on the stairs, and Gifty adjacent to the judges (as close to the audience as possible), where Tamera had coincidentally ended up in her week 3 Beyoncé cover. Afterwards, she was called a “star” three times by Louis, once by Sharon, and “stellar” twice by Nicole.
Louis, Simon and Dermot also talked about the new wig, and it stayed on for Sunday night’s results show, where the attempt to soften Gifty had an unfortunate setback when she dropped the f-bomb. You couldn’t get a more obvious symbol of the show’s attempts to make Gifty’s image more palatable to Middle England by covering her colourful short locks with a blonde wig.
To us, it clearly suggested she hasn’t been polling as well as they’d like. But what will happen to her hair when Fright Night comes around? Our unhealthy obsession is set to continue.
Stoney: “The steamtrain tanks on.”
Last year, we’d reviewed Louisa Johnson’s journey from first audition show pimp slot to odds-on favourite for the final weekend, by making the point that there hadn’t been much of a journey at all: she’d always been favoured, and never faced any significant obstacle or negativity on the show. It’s beginning to feel similar with Matt Terry this year. His VT involved him hanging out with his brothers and friends, a set up to show his attraction to the opposite sex (most notably his mentor Nicole), which is how it’s been from the very start.
Like Louisa, Matt’s strengths include a strong enough voice, and a willingness to go along with whatever is thrown at him, most notably at 6CC, when he had to restart his song a “half-step” lower, and then sing again with Christian Burrows for the final seat. This week, his main market rivals, 5 After Midnight, discovered the perils of not playing ball so consistently.
After performing ‘I’ll Be There’, the judges’ unqualified praise included Simon saying, “you can see the winning post maybe in sight”, which is unprecedented with seven weekends to go. It prompted Dermot to say, “early days.. but every single week you’re getting this great feedback”. Matt had looked close to tears after Louis’s comments, and Dermot suggested this was still the case: “You’re breaking up on me. Don’t cry yet.” Coincidentally, Louisa and Rita had gone a half-step further in week 3 last year, squeezing a good few tears out between them.
Matt is now a shorter-priced favourite than Louisa was at this stage. But with ten weekends of live shows to get through, instead of the seven that Louisa experienced, will producers mix things up a little by qualifying their praise at some point? Even if they do, it currently seems unlikely to be designed to damage his chances of taking the prize.
Please let us know your thoughts on these points, and any others, below.
Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor