Tonight’s clear target for elimination was Sam, not given any of the positivity afforded her main rivals, Saara and Ryan. Sharon actually introduced Saara by signposting for us, “She’s amazing tonight.” Her VT was pleasant enough, showing her meeting some of her British fans.
Saara, wearing a futuristic silver outfit, started on a small plinth encasing a glitterball. She came off it soon enough for a decent production with backing dancers and just the right amount of kookiness, after last week’s overkill. It ended with a four-judge standing ovation. Louis used the words, “star quality… Incredible”. Nicole felt that, “this is your week, Saara”. Simon piped up with, “about as close to perfection as we’ve had,” the implicit comparison being Saara’s other performances.
Sam Lavery was up next but Simon’s introduction that she was “amazing” and “from Newcastle” felt like it was the most positive aspect of her coverage tonight. Her VT showed her moving on from her disappointment at being in the bottom three last week, to having two friends come to visit her at the studios. “You have friends?!” Simon jokingly commented. The last line of the VT was “I want everyone to see I’m having fun when I’m performing.”
Which was unfortunate, as her rendition of a slowed-down ‘I Will Survive’ was no fun at all. Having also promised to show she was just 17 in her VT, her styling had her look middle-aged from the waist up. She stumbled on her very large platform shoes at one stage. No judges stood afterwards. Nicole claimed her favourite part of the performance was the stumble because “that’s when you came alive”. She agreed with Louis in criticising the song arrangement. Simon claimed it was the first time she controlled the song, but no one gave any motivation to vote.
Ryan’s VT started with his joy in avoiding the bottom three last week, and moved onto an intimate gig at a Camden pub. The message being Ryan has worked hard from doing this to getting onto the X Factor stage. Producers did a great job of hiding how poorly attended the gig was (I was there). Ryan’s staging was similar to last week’s. He came off a plinth, and there were plenty of dancers. Monochrome featured in the backdrop, and red which later turned to blue.
Nicole was the only one who stood at the end with a pointed “Yes!” Still, Louis said, “it’s like you’re a new person, that was your best performance yet.” Sharon changed her tune from last week’s critique by saying, “you looked happy, you looked upbeat, and you sold the song really well”. Dermot reiterated the point by asking Ryan, “Where does the energy and confidence come from?”
Incidentally, every act got their own segment between ad breaks apart from Sam and Ryan, meaning Sam was the only act tonight whose appearance wasn’t followed by an ad break. There’s a theory that performing just before an ad break is a slight advantage, as your performance lingers longer in the memory before being overtaken by the next one.
5 After Midnight’s VT was a heartwarming one, filling in some backstory about the least well known member of the trio, Nathan. He was returning to the dance school where he teaches, and was congratulated for his hard work and being, “such an inspiration to the kids”. Nathan then went on to meet his similarly hard-working Dad in a caff, a scene that reminded us of a Che Chesterman VT from last year.
For their performance, the boys started on sequinned stairs at the back with pink stars on the backdrop. It always feels like extra vocal assistance is required when they are singing solo, as in the early part of ‘Boogie Wonderland’. But the backing track kicked in when the mashup switched to ‘September’. The pink turned to gold, and it got a four-judge standing ovation. The audience reaction was huge and early judges comments could barely be heard over the din. Simon said, “now you’re showing your sense of personality” which tied in nicely with the VT. Louis mentioned the final and their “future career”, something Nicole had said a few weeks ago.
Matt’s VT started with him explaining his worry before being last called safe the previous weekend. However, it soon moved onto something much more positive about his hard-working parents. Matt went back to being a waiter again, and we were told at the end that he wants to win to change his life and his family’s life. It all felt very Haenow-esque.
He had a big production of ‘Best of My Love’, starting in the car park as Honey G had last week. Staging was gold with dancers on plinths. Vocally he wasn’t quite at his best, and only Nicole stood. Sharon said he was “growing”, with “more to come”, and he was “pushing himself”. Simon dampened the party by explaining, “the first half of the song didn’t work, because it didn’t feel like it was you… Second half was fantastic… I agree with Sharon, I still think there’s a lot more to come from you.”
Emily’s VT had her spending time with her best friend at an otherwise empty roller disco, which had shades of the infamous Sophie Habibis in the pub VT. Simon’s last line was, “The last three weeks have been incredible so we’ve just got to nail this. You know you’ve got a shot [of winning].” Unfortunately Emily’s vocal was underpowered from the very beginning (she had been ill the day before), and she was stuck on a huge platform at the back of the stage. We also got one cutaway to a bored set of judges, none of whom stood at the end of the performance. It felt like a deramp.
The judges comments reiterated this. Louis said, “It was a little bit of an anticlimax. It was disco and you didn’t move at all.” Nicole, like Louis, blamed Simon for these faults. Simon made reference to Emily’s ‘Creep’ performance from two weeks ago. Emily agreed with the critique. Next week will tell us if this is a sustained deramp, or setting her up for doing something uptempo and different.
Honey G displayed a fine line of self-deprecation in her VT, claiming that she didn’t hear the boos from the audience when she was called safe, “because I was too busy falling flat on my face” in her celebration. Otherwise, her VT showed her on the promotional circuit, talking of “global domination” and excited to play the O2 arena on the X Factor tour.
For her performance of the N-Trance version of ‘Stayin Alive’, she started backstage and threw in a few “when I say Honey, you say G” shout-outs at the start. We liked how the Studio 54 logo in big letters on the backdrop had been converted to Studio HG. It was a typically fun, big production.
Louis said, “I think you can make the final, I really do.” Nicole added, “I am scared of you because you’re getting better every week”, but went onto say something strange about banoffee pie. Simon explained, “You know what’s amazing about you…. You’re all about connecting with the audience at home… And you are winning.” Honey G reiterated this to Dermot, saying she wanted to go all the way to the final, and win it.
Sam got by far the worst treatment tonight, and is odds-on favourite to be eliminated tomorrow. Still, her main rivals Ryan and Saara were also given early slots, if much more positivity. What do you think about this evening’s show? Do let us know below.