We start with a Sofabet exclusive. On Sunday, viewers saw Sharon seem to prepare to send Ryan home, only to change her mind at the last moment and name Sam. We have obtained unseen footage of another camera angle which sheds light on what happened.
Now on with the rest of the week’s review.
Is Matt Terry more of a Matt Cardle or a Marcus Collins?
Daz: “Maybe Matt is going to have more of a Marcus Collins run and 5AM come out of nowhere and take the lead like Little Mix.”
Back in 2014, we asked if Ben Haenow’s fortunes were set to mirror most-of-the-way winner Matt Cardle, or never-quite-winning Marcus Collins. Turned out he was more of a Cardle than a Collins. Our commenters are now asking a similar question of Matt Terry.
For the first four weeks, the Matt Cardle trajectory felt more likely. His performances were strong (the standout arguably being his week 4 ‘Put A Spell On You’), the judges were overwhelmingly positive, and he was a heavy favourite in the outright market. Week 5 saw an application of the brakes. Terry was put in the coffin slot, with the uninspired song choice of ‘I’m Your Man’ (previously performed by Marcus), some red-and-black staging, for a performance described by Louis as “karaoke”. Vocally, he wasn’t at his best.
Still, mixing things up a little is to be expected in a ten-week run of live shows, otherwise the show becomes far too predictable. Cardle faced something similar with his week 4 performance of ‘Bleeding Love‘.
The stats reveal his lead was cut to under 1% at this point. Coincidentally, when Dermot told us that 1% separated both first and second, and second and third that Sunday, the general feeling among our commenters was that Terry still headed the vote. But the following week, Cardle was allowed to reprise his bootcamp breakout song ‘The First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face)‘, with a full-on pimping, including a four-judge standing ovation, that trounced the opposition in the phone vote.
There wasn’t such a pimping for Terry. Sure, he had a better week 6 than his week 5 – it was a big production with a golden colour scheme. But only mentor Nicole stood afterwards, and Simon produced the definition of a mixed message by criticising the first half of the performance and praising the second half. Simon went onto say just afterwards on Xtra Factor that Terry “hasn’t been himself” for the last two weeks.
On Sunday, Dermot tried to cloud the picture further with his garbled tease about the state of the vote. We argued in the post-mortem post that what he actually said was grammatically incoherent, but that one plausible interpretation of what he meant to say is that two acts who hadn’t previously been top had topped the vote at some point in the last 24 hours: that might be consistent with, say, Saara and 5AM briefly topping the vote during the show, before Matt took over and eased to a comfortable win.
Clearly, the intention was to make us think that it’s an open race. And it may be – there are other plausible interpretations of what Dermot might have intended to say. But if it turns out that Matt won this week easily, don’t complain to Ofcom: basically, Dermot told us nothing. The teases on the last two Sundays are consistent with the hypothesis that Matt won weeks 1-4 easily, week 5 narrowly, and week 6 easily.
Even if Terry isn’t Cardle-ing the vote, he reaches this point looking in a much stronger position than Marcus Collins. Marcus was a mid-series afterthought in 2011. Initially poorly treated, he survived the Strictly bus with a surprisingly decent week 3 performance, and an entertaining week 5 rendition of ‘Reet Petite’ positioned him as best supporting act in the Little Mix show – but it still left him only second in the phone vote, and producers never intended him to go any higher.
One could also consider the Ben Haenow trajectory. Ben polled consistently well, and whilst he never surrendered the lead after gaining it in week 4, it was a close run event up until week 8, when his Middle-England friendly credentials helped him gain more floating and transferring voters than his rivals.
There were quite a few aspects of Matt’s treatment this week that reminded us of Ben’s at a similar stage. The heart-throb / top bro / humble job / doing it for his family VT. The golden staging, but not ideal song choice. Largely positive comments with some qualification (in Ben’s case, the criticism usually came from Mel B with occasional help from Cheryl). The overall sense that although not as pimped as some of his rivals at this point (in Ben’s case, Fleur; in Matt’s case, 5 After Midnight), there’s no unnecessary damage to his long-term prospects.
Now that the show has been able to claim it’s an “open race”, producers can get behind Matt more emphatically, should they so wish.
Middle-amiss, the sequel
Jessica Hamby: “There are only two possibilities here. They are going for a “moment” next week or they have decided to cut her loose.”
Emily suffered a big deramp last Saturday. The first clue was song choice ‘Wishing On A Star’, used to dampen both Austin Drage and Tamera Foster. Unlike ‘Creep’, Emily wasn’t going to take this poisoned chalice and make it her own. Instead, she struggled on a large plinth at the back of the stage. As Nicole commented, the whole production swallowed her up. Sharon’s “Debbie Downer” remark also seemed harsh but fair.
Her VT had also rung alarm bells. We were promised a homecoming moment, which turned out to feature merely Emily and her best friend at an otherwise completely empty roller disco. Even Tamera’s roller disco VT before the same song had comprised a supporting cast that included mentor Nicole. After all this, it was no surprise to see Emily drift significantly in the betting, an unloved fourth favourite by the end of the weekend.
A future change in direction was indicated by the judges comments. Sharon said, “I need to see another side to you.” Louis commented, “Simon, you’re playing it safe with her every week.” Nicole joined the others in primarily blaming the mentor. If Emily shines with something upbeat next week, it would showcase a hitherto hidden versatility, and do her prospects plenty of good. She certainly looked ready to show us a fun side as she left the stage after performing last week.
But we could also have another ‘Mmmbop‘ on our hands. This was a similar change of direction for Janet Devlin in 2011 that fell flat on its face, and indeed saw her eliminated. If Emily was close to the bottom two last weekend, a scenario that was implied but is in no way confirmed by having her wait for ages until being last called safe, the temptation this coming week may be to engineer a singoff with boyfriend Ryan Lawrie. Our commenters have long speculated that such a scenario would be TV gold.
Emily backers will be taking crumbs of comfort from the news that the winner’s single is an acoustic ballad penned by Ed Sheeran. That sounds like it would perfectly suit her, and not inconvenience Matt Terry. It’s not so promising for 5 After Midnight and Honey G, as an inside source was happy to tell The Sun.
AFTER last year’s winner’s song flopped in the charts, X Factor bosses have pulled out the big guns to avoid an embarrassing repeat. I can reveal superstar singer/songwriter ED SHEERAN has sent SIM…
Saara, citizen of the UK!
Scott: “Saara spoke to half the United Kingdom and was introduced as being from London this week.”
If Emily went from hero to zero in the space of a week, the opposite was true of Saara. The Finnish lass has been treated in yo-yo fashion by producers and her own mentor, her foreign status being a bellwether of this. In week one, Sharon introduced her as “Zara from Norway”, and could barely remember her name for her second singoff in as many weeks.
Sharon’s memory and bond with her act improved during weeks 3 and 4. But in week 5, an unfathomable Japanese routine to ‘Sound of The Underground’ presaged a third singoff appearance. We had noted then, “Saara’s VT credited tolerant British X Factor viewers for teaching Finns that it’s okay to be different. Sometimes you just have to admire the show’s chutzpah.”
Sharon’s introduction, “Saara Aalto, from London!” was an indication of producers taking the chutzpah up to 11 for her VT last Saturday. The theme was of Saara appealing to different geographical parts of the country, given she lacks a base of her own in the UK. Saara appeared on three regional radio stations.
Coincidentally, two of them were the bases of her elimination rivals, Scotland (home of Ryan as well as Emily), and Newcastle (associated with Sam). The Scottish presenters said, “I’m sure you want everyone in Scotland to vote for you,” and added with no apparent sense of irony, “we are right behind you”. Saara then took to the streets of London to shill for votes, meeting fans from Northern Ireland along the way.
When will we get the VT of Saara visiting the Finnish embassy, discussing in Finnish her favourite Finnish football team, whilst salivating over Finnish delicacies that make her feel homesick? Will it feature a Finnish sauna? Someone should warn her.
And finally, Sofabet goes undercover
Ryan Lawrie announced early last week he was doing an intimate gig just down the road from where I live. The opportunity to check it out was too good to miss. I joined the queue, which for a long time numbered only 13 people, mainly young women. We were promised a special guest, and Nicole duly turned up. She was an absolute trooper, encouraging everyone to contact nearby friends to join the gig. Producers sent extra tweets out. After we were let in, the crowd roughly doubled.
Inside we got to meet both Ryan and Emily, a personable pair who happily chatted and posed for pictures with allcomers. (I resisted the temptation to introduce myself and check if they’re reading Sofabet every week). Nicole, playing bartender, pulled me a pint.
Ryan eventually performed three songs, the last one repeated after producers had told the audience to put their phones away to concentrate on the performance for the cameras. The X Factor team and Nicole got the crowd going as much as possible, and were highly successful given what they had to work with. Everyone enjoyed themselves, not least Ryan himself.
The VT did its best to portray this, keeping shots close in, so that individual enthusiasm rather than paucity of numbers was the general impression. It’s amazing to think how differently it could have been spun: imagine an opening shot of a small queue waiting in the fading light outside a tatty London pub; then inside, numerous longer range shots showing a small venue nowhere near capacity. But Nicole’s appearance was the best indicator that producers wouldn’t go down that road. It would have looked too damaging for her.
The positivity of the VT was largely carried through in the rest of Ryan’s treatment at the weekend. His prospects this week look less promising, if his Twitter feed is anything to go by. Yesterday, he tweeted, “Aw okay, I’ll do that then.” Tellymix indicated he went even further in expressing his unhappiness. We imagine this may be another Sunday with Ryan waiting stoically on stage, the familiar knowing-yet-bemused look on his face.
Let us know your thoughts on these points, and any others, below.
Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor