X Factor 2016 Week 8 Review: The Curious Case of Saara Aalto

Fudd: “I still think there were enough signs during yesterday’s show to say that producers aren’t fully behind Saara.”

The previously discussed yo-yo treatment of Saara Aalto went into overdrive last Saturday. We learnt at the start of the show that she was drawn #2 in the running order, an unpromising slot from which 5 of the last 6 quarter-finalists have ended up in the singoff. But her VT did have one gent in the focus group say, “She’s my winner,” to which Saara gasped for joy and commented, “now I can dream about being in the final”, the first time such possibilities had been mentioned. Sharon would repeat the idea, “you belong in the final”, in the second VT.

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To our eyes and ears, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ didn’t start promisingly. The arrangement was unusual, Saara’s hair was done up and contained a strange headpiece, the stage was dark, and we quickly got a cutaway of a bored-looking Sharon. And yet as the song went on, Saara seemed to rise above these issues, firstly with a strong first chorus. Despite plenty of red on stage, her massive second chorus saw a particularly effective sweeping long shot as the audience got to their feet, and Sharon did too. By the end, all the judges were standing, and ultimately effusive in their praise.

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What was going on here? A possible insight comes from Brian Friedman’s column for the Gay Times this week. “The honest truth about that number is that it was potentially one of my least favourites to begin with.” Brian managed to bin the original idea of following the original version until going uptempo, into a heartfelt piano ballad throughout, his favourite performance of the week. Was this the input that enabled Saara to have a “moment” instead of being taken down?

Interestingly, Brian also defends Saara’s second performance from the judges’ critique. We felt like the Diamonds mash-up was a reverse play of what happened in first song, this time going from hero to zero in the space of seconds. Firstly, there was the realisation that she was getting the coveted pomp slot for it, a switch almost as big as Louisa Johnson’s #1 and #10 at the final-five stage last year.

We thought the ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ performance began promisingly. Sure, she started high up on a cloud, but the spotlight was on her, and she was being allowed to showcase her vocals with a straightforward arrangement. There was then the wow moment of her falling into the backing dancers’ arms, before a routine that looked like a suitable tribute to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, as iconic UK landmarks flashed up on the backdrop.

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It was only when Saara moved to the chaise longue in front of the judging panel that it felt like her skills were overshadowed by unnecessary frivolity. This time Nicole and Simon remained seated at the end, and were determined to point out its faults. Nicole found a euphemism for “bat-shit crazy”, and called it a “cheese explosion”, which Simon was determined to reiterate with a loud “A little?!” Her figure-skater outfit was referenced by Nicole, which reminded us of the moment in her first VT when the focus group felt she was “cheapened” by “big costumes”.

Some of our commenters reckoned that the references to the better first song were a positive for Saara at this point. But that line wasn’t useful for 5 After Midnight, and we don’t think it was intended to be helpful to Saara either. If they’d wanted to pimp her further, Simon could have said “you showed us how well you can sing in your first song, and now you’ve shown us how well you can entertain”. Instead he was at pains to put down the staging which the VT had indicated was all Saara’s idea.

Ultimately, there were quite a few rotations of the Saara yo-yo last weekend. At times, her treatment suggested she had become the underdog, feelgood Chosen One, and at other times hinted she was still way too wacky for her own good.

Painting a Matt Finnish?

Tom Davies: “The fact Saara is now appearing with Matt in different appearances (the ‘Irish section for Louis Loves) suggests to me that TPTB think this should be the final Sunday.”

We also noticed Matt and Saara having some time together over the weekend, so went back over the shows to see if this felt like coincidence or something more. Saturday’s Xtra Factor was what really planted the seed. Nicole was questioned whether her comments that Saara “had just taken first place” meant she thought the Finn was better than her own charge. As the judge gave a diplomatic answer, there was a nice moment as Matt put his arm round Saara, who was standing next to him.

Just five minutes later, there was a lovely segment about Saara and Matt bonding in an Irish pub, as part of the Louis Loves theme. It again ended with Matt’s arm around Saara.

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On the main shows, in Saara’s second VT, Matt was there explaining, “that medley is going to sound incredible”, as she played the piano. Funnily enough, virtually the same thing had happened the previous week during Saara’s VT. As she practised ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the piano, Matt was there, commenting, “your voice is just huge… I’m worried.”

Coincidence or not? It’s worth bearing in mind that there are very few people left in the competition, especially non-novelty soloists. Having Matt be the one to praise Saara’s vocals during her VT makes more sense than having any other act do it. Similarly, the thought of Emily or Honey G pulling pints with Matt or Saara at the Irish pub doesn’t feel so apt. And whilst it could have been any member of Five After Midnight, producers may have decided it was best to show Matt with female company for a cosy evening out.

For now, we think coinicidence is more likely. But could a Matt / Saara final two still be on the cards? Possibly.

Stuck In The Middlemas With You

Scott: “[Emily] only really has one lane, she’s not the versatile performer who normally goes on and wins shows like this”. Sindi: “Emily’s treatment last weekend wasn’t as helpful as she would have needed and I don’t think they care much”.

Regular readers will know that we usually assume any disagreements between the judges are just pantomime – scripted, for whatever purpose. But there are times when we wonder if, actually, genuine behind-the-scenes differences of opinion are seeping into public view. Emily’s treatment since the week 4 triumph of ‘Creep’ has been one such instance.

In week 6, following the dirge of ‘Wishing On A Star’, the other three judges seemed more than usually animated in calling for Simon to allow Emily an uptempo number. The next week saw Emily summoned to Simon’s office in Syco, where she received a headmasterly telling-off for agreeing with them and was sent out with another slow number, which the other three duly praised.

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This week, there were more niggles on the panel. After ‘Toxic’, Louis said nice things then added “but I still want to see you dance”, to which Simon loudly interjected, in a strangulated tone, “she’s not a dancer”. Nicole claimed credit for having advised Simon to allow Emily an instrument, to which Simon responded “this is all down to you, is it? What an ego.”

Emily’s VT for ‘Human’ ended with Nicole saying: “I can definitely tell Simon didn’t pick it, so that’s already better”. Nicole ended her feedback by saying “I still feel like you’re playing it a little safe…”; Simon turned to her with palms up, saying “shh… shh… please… please… please”; as Nicole persevered, a wide-angle shot caught Sharon and Louis sharing a laugh.

If we interpret all this as the usual scripted banter, then you would have to say it’s calculated to harm Emily’s chances. In week 6, she’s asked to do uptempo; in week 7, she does another slow song. In her first week 8 performance, Louis asks her to dance; in her second performance, she doesn’t dance. They set up expectations, then don’t allow her to meet them. And still Nicole wants more.

But another interpretation also fits the observable facts: all the judges are trying to help Emily, but they disagree about what she needs. Under this interpretation, the other three judges’ week 6 pleas for an uptempo were a continuation of a behind-the-scenes discussion; the week 7 headmaster’s office and pimp slot was about Simon making the other judges kiss his ring; and this week’s “shh… please” represented genuine annoyance on his part, which Louis and Sharon enjoyed.

Brian Friedman’s columns for Gay Times lend credence to this interpretation. About that week 7 performance, Brian had revealed that Simon ditched the creative he’d prepared; in this week’s column he wrote that “against all odds” he’d been allowed to “finally put dancers out there and give her a production that has a little bit of life to it… I think we had a win in a creative respect”.

That word “win” suggests a behind-the-scenes battle. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to imagine Brian and the production staff growing frustrated with Simon’s insistence that he knows best for Emily, and that vibe seeping through to the other judges. But if Emily’s treatment reflects neither apathy nor harmful intent, but instead a clash of well-intentioned egos, what would it mean for her?

On the one hand, it’s encouraging. If Simon indeed sees Emily as his pet project, it suggests he has post-show plans for her – and if that’s the case, he would presumably prefer her to get into the final without a singoff, and ideally to the final Sunday. On the other hand, if Simon and producers can’t agree on a coherent vote-motivating plan for her this weekend, she could end up being dragged down in the crossfire.

History Boys

HenryVIII: “Cowell said on Saturday’s Xtra that it wasn’t like most series where it was obvious who was going to win but that it keeps changing at the top.” Stoney: “There is every chance [Matt] has been hoovering up the floating voters… As Ben Haenow did”.

We always say that predicting X Factor is a two-part process: figuring out what producers want, and asking if the voting public will oblige. How close does the vote have to be at this stage for producers to be able to engineer the winner they want? It may be useful to remind ourselves where the vote was at the quarter-final stage in previous years, in relation to what producers seemed to want to achieve.

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2015: Louisa Johnson finished only third in the quarter-final, beaten by a bouncing Che Chesterman and Reggie N Bollie, and was just 2.7% above the singoff. But margins were tight: just 1.1% separated the top three, so producers were comfortably able to get Louisa back on top in the semi-final and to a wide-margin win in the final.

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2014: Fleur East never bested Ben Haenow in the vote, despite consistent ramping, and Ben increased his margin over her in the quarter-final, winning with 26.4% to Fleur’s 17.9%; Fleur was only 0.1% above the singoff. This was evidently when producers decided to embrace Ben as their inevitable winner, giving him a feelgood week 9 VT having Christmas dinner with family.

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2013: the quarter-final margin was much tighter than the betting would have suggested at the time, with Sam Bailey beating Nick McDonald by only 2.3 percentage points – she went on to win the semi-final by only 1.4 points. At this point, producers could easily have pushed either of them over the line, and they preferred Sam.

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2012: the quarter-final immediately followed the singoff in which producers had to choose between their two most commercial propositions, James Arthur and Ella Henderson. They chose James, and bounced him to a wide-margin win in the quarter-final, with almost double the votes of second-placed Christopher Maloney. From here it was an easy job to steer him home.

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2011: Little Mix had hit the top for the first time in week 7. In the quarter-final they were beaten by 1.4 percentage points by a bouncing Amelia Lily, but margins were tight all round: Little Mix were also just 4.1% above the singoff. It was all close enough for producers to engineer the win they wanted.

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2010: Matt Cardle had topped the vote every week since week 2, but had only just won week 7 – by 1.6%. He slipped the field again in the quarter-final, however, polling 32% – way ahead of Rebecca Ferguson (14%), Cher Lloyd (13.2%) and presumed ideal winner One Direction (11.9%, just 0.6% above the singoff). From here, Matt must have looked unstoppable to them.

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2009: Joe McElderry didn’t top the vote till week 7 but in the quarter-final his 37.1% put him well clear of Stacey Solomon (20.1%) and Olly Murs, whose bounce after the previous week’s singoff took him only to 18.9%, along with the early favourite Danyl Johnon (12.5%). It would have been a Herculean task to stop Joe from here.

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2008: at this point, producers could have had their pick of Alexandra Burke and JLS as winners – they practically tied the quarter-final vote, ahead of the unwanted long-time leader Eoghan Quigg.  JLS then won the semi, and it’s widely assumed that the duets (Alexandra enjoyed a moment of TV gold with Beyonce, while JLS were lumbered with Westlife) made the difference in the final.

In summary, that’s four out of eight years where the quarter-final vote was close enough for producers to choose their winner; and four where a young, male soloist was way ahead. In one case (James Arthur), it was the winner they wanted; in the other three (Ben Haenow, Matt Cardle and Joe McElderry) it was more a case of them acquiescing in the win going to an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road act with appeal to the voting public but dubious commercial prospects.

Looking back at the voting statistics for these years also cautions against reading too much into what we’ve been told so far. In week 5, for example, Dermot said there was 1% between the top two; but Ben Haenow won week 5 by just 0.8%, and Matt Cardle won week 7 by just 1.6%. We’ve also learned that we’ve had three different vote-toppers; but the same was true in Joe McElderry’s year – Danyl, Stacey and Rachel Adedeji all topped the vote in weeks 1-6. It was only in either week 7 (Joe) or 8 (Matt Cardle, Ben) that the act in question started to look uncatchable.

There are obvious similarities between Matt Terry and Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle and Ben Haenow. But there’s also one big difference – none of them had looked like producers’ preferred winner during the audition stages. Matt did. But is he still? His treatment this week felt like a holding pattern, neither overly hyping nor damaging him. Was that to see how much they could hold back his vote, or was it merely an attempt to continue to give the public the impression that this race is more open than it really is? Do let us know your thoughts below.

Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

223 comments to X Factor 2016 Week 8 Review: The Curious Case of Saara Aalto

  • Spiidey

    Matt presumably swamped the Week 7 vote with his Bond theme so I wonder if the question is, just how close did any contestant get to him this week?

    If the answer is “not close at all” then he has it in the bag given the holding nature of his performance.

    If any contestant got close, or dare I say overtook, then week 9 is all to play for. The smart money still has to be on Matt though – it’ll take many more poor performances, or less “moment” performers, to get him over the line than any of the other three, so if the producers don’t want him they’re going to have to work their butts off to engineer it.

    I also don’t think it’ll make any difference to the outcome the fact that Matt was TCO prior to the live shows whereas McElderry, Cardle and HaeNow weren’t. And for one simple reason – he hasn’t been rammed down our throats in the live shows a la Louisa last year (and hence at any risk of any backlash). That’s actually testament to how high a chance he stands of winning also.

  • GsP

    I felt that in weeks 1 and 2 the show was fairly neutral on Saara. Her Let it Go was exceptional, 3 judge SO, great comments, hurt by early starting position. River Deep Mountain High was well received (bar Louis’s “cold” comment). They weren’t actively pushing or hindering her.

    The public just didn’t know her or buy into her. They have done since and she’s doing well.

    I’m not sure that the show has really changed its treatment of her at all. They seem kind of happy to let her do her thing and see what happens. Last week finally dropping some winner/finalist comments suggest she’s clearing Emily since week 5 in the vote I think.

    • HL

      Her problem was that they were treating her poorly before the lives and it took time to change people’s views. A person with her singing ability would have got through weeks 1 & 2, if she had been treated nicely or even neutrally before that.

    • 360

      I disagree on her week 1. Let It Go is a well-known, positive Disney song also with resonance to the LGBT community, the fact that Saara is a lesbian and voiced the Frozen princess in the Finnish dub would have made it obvious that they should do a straight cover if they wanted to test her vote potential. Instead they gave her a dark, almost eerie staging and arrangement, completely changing the context of the song and letting her powerful vocals be the standout, coming off an audition process which painted her as distant and somewhat haughty – Let It Go would have been the perfect choice to soften her had they changed their mind at that stage,

      No, for me week 1’s primary goal as for the Overs was to firmly establish Honey G as the alpha, and throw everything at her to possibly result in that outcome; to test the strength of her vote.

      Has Brian’s blog ever been especially positive about Honey G’s performances? Having seen Honey’s grumpiness revealed the week before last, and having seen week on week her general lack of performance ability, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the backstage staff preferred the pliable, bubbly and competent Saara as the Over they would prefer to work with and support.

  • Dendrite

    Repeating the YouTube exercise I did two weeks ago (definitely easier the second time), there are now 33 clips with views in seven digits. The current Top 33 (in millions of views) is as follows:

    6.009 Christian Burrows Audition
    5.183 Saara Aalto Audition
    3.047 Bratavio Audition
    2.995 Honey G Audition
    2.880 Caitlyn Vanbeck Audition

    2.497 Sada Vidoo Audition
    2.380 Saara Aalto Week 3
    2.320 Saara Aalto Week 4
    2.154 Saara Aalto Week 1
    2.096 First look at the new series Audition Preview

    2.002 Christian Burrows Six Chairs
    1.869 Saara Aalto Week 6
    1.812 Saara Aalto Week 7
    1.733 5 After Midnight Audition
    1.663 Ivy Grace Paredes Audition

    1.448 Saara Aalto Week 8.1
    1.381 Sam Lavery Audition
    1.313 Saara Aalto Sing-Off 1
    1.310 Honey G Week 1
    1.247 Saara Aalto Week 2

    1.216 Saara Aalto Six Chairs
    1.172 Emily Middlemas Audition
    1.150 Louisa Johnson Week 4
    1.098 Matt Terry Week 1
    1.078 Rebekah Ryan Audition

    1.063 Honey G Audition Preview
    1.039 Saara Aalto Week 5
    1.025 Honey G Six Chairs
    1.015 Saara Aalto Sing-Off 2
    1.014 He Knows She Knows Audition

    1.014 Brooks Way Audition
    1.010 Saara Aalto Judges’ Houses
    1.010 Emily Middlemas Week 4

    All in all, there are thirteen clips of Saara (aided by an unknown number of Finnish views), four of Honey G, and two of Emily and Christian Burrows each. The rest are one-hit wonders. Furthermore, were I to redo this list two weeks from now, just three of the other existing clips could realistically be expected to break the million-view barrier: Gifty W1, Saara W8.2 & Saara S-O 5.

    • HL

      A minor detail: Saara’s week 6 (Enough Is Enough) is not comparable, because they misspelled her name so that it could not be found by her name in several days. That is why there are more than million views elsewhere, too. It is her most popular performance (excl. audition) so far, although it does not look like that.

      • Dendrite

        True, that. These numbers are strictly from the official X Factor YouTube channel. Anthony Ying’s YouTube channel, in particular, receives a lot of hits from those who also want to watch the VTs and comments. One more factor that may be skewing Saara’s weekly numbers is that, for the past couple of weeks, there has been a delay in posting the performances on Anthony’s channel (just VTs and comments available for a day or two) and this, undoubtedly, has helped to direct more traffic to the official channel.

        • HL

          I am almost tempted to follow in your footsteps and combine these view counts with Anthony Ying and some other channels. Some performances have even more views via Anthony than the official channel, for example Matt Terry’s audition (these two channels summed up almost 2 million views). But not all video clips, just few exceptions. Sounds an awful lot of work…

  • stoney

    Just bare in mind because of the judges continuously giving Contestants standing ovations, (pretty sure honey g got this the 1st week she was in sing off) people aren’t that bothered by them anymore and i doubt they have half the influence from say 5 years ago

  • Dana

    I’m not sure if Friedman is a blessing or a curse for Saara. On the one hand, he fought to make the WTIA performance happen but on the other hand he keeps overloading her with kitsch to the extent Sharon Osbourne has to be the voice of reason (her insistence on scrapping the nonsense Saara and Friendman originally had planned for the Titanic song).

    If Saara wants to get to the final, it’s the ballads now that will get her there.

  • James BC

    Why would they want Matt to win? I would have thought 5am would be by far the best commercial prospect, and much more so as winners than runners up.

    • stoney

      There is no doubt 5am would be their preferred winners in an ideal world. But it’s nigh on impossible to make happen

    • 360

      They just have a lot of voting blocs to get past. Presuming Emily has Scotland behind her and the ‘indie girl’ vote and some of the ‘fans of female singers’ vote, Saara has the ‘talented’ vote, the ‘ballads’ vote, the music fan vote and the gay vote, as well as the rest of the ‘fans of female singers’ vot and appealing to floaters via the quality of her performances compared to the others, and Matt there hoovering up random votes from women and girls of all ages, what do 5AM have? They’ve proved themselves to be poor singers which won’t help them do a ballad to reach broader appeal.

    • David Cook

      I don’t think there was ever any chance that 5AM would be troubling the winner’s rostrum, and TPTB will have known that even when they chose them. It’s simply a case of could they justify an investment in them for future and could they get far enough in the competition to give them a good platform to launch from. Based on what you’ve seem would you invest in 5AM? It’s an honest question and I’m not giving an answer.
      In terms of the competition it’s as good as over for them now.

  • GsP

    Saara’s recording of Oh Holy Night is absolutely divine. I suspect she’ll get a camped up All I Want for Christmas is you, then a ballad for song 2 (maybe reprise Chandelier), but they could do a stunning version of OHN with string orchestra, limited, classy, production.

    Be interesting to see how this lands.

  • David

    FWIW, a friend of mine was told early on in the season by someone at Syco that Matt was the “chosen one” this year. I know that’s been obvious since Day 1, but some people are starting to doubt it.

    It is odd though – I don’t rate his chances at being the next Olly Murs myself. But on the other hand I would struggle to pick out any of the top 28 or whatever it was as an obvious star.

  • Spiidey

    Saara just posted this on Facebook – is this a Freudian slip shes in the final? Or is google translate not working correctly?

    “Information to all Finns!
    HUOMIO SUOMI : The X Factor -semifinaali ja finaali nähdään LIVENÄ Suomessa telkussa Subilla tuloslähetyksineen!
    All info: http://bit.ly/2fQFpgD

    • Dendrite

      Basically, she just repeated what the Finnish newspapers were able to tell earlier today – that the semi-final and final are broadcast live in Finland, as well. Thus far, there has been a delay of two weeks that seemed impossible to renegotiate. A couple of weeks ago, the Finnish TV started showing Xtra Factors live, though, and apparently they have finally reached an agreement regarding the broadcast rights of the show itself.

      • EM

        If Finnish TV have paid money to show the final live it’s going to fall a bit flat if someone Finnish isn’t in it….

        • Curtis

          That’s just the gamble they’ve had to take, I don’t think it provides any insights into producer’s intentions or anything like that.

        • Spiidey

          This is a really promising omen for Saara, depending on the exact content of the broadcasting deal.

          Have they signed to show both the semi and final live? If so they must have indicators that Saara will be in the final.

          Or are they definitely showing the semi-final and just reserving the option to show the final IF Saara makes it?

          • HL

            Surely Saara will beat her rivals on Saturday. I mean The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Producers, Hercule Poirot, DCI Banks, The Holiday and so on. (I was just looking at the Finnish programme charts for Saturday evening.) She is playing in the big leagues now. 😀

    • Dana

      I notice X Factor had only one season in Finland. Maybe Cowell has an eye on franchise expansion.In theory, it is possible for Finnish people to vote on the app-not sure how likely it is though.

  • Rose L

    I have to keep coming back to what is for me the bottom line – can any of the others really be the winner the show both wants and can get? That’s not to say that Matt is their perfect winner, but if he is solidly ahead at this point, they may have resigned themselves to the win while holding him back a little to make it seem fairer and less obvious than last year – the aim this year being to run a seemingly more exciting competition.
    Five After Midnight strike me as the ones most like Fleur East – a modern, urban act that would give the X Factor the best shot at looking relevant if they won. But as we all know, 5AM’s singing is dubious when unsupported and no number of standing ovations can hide that from the public. They fell into the bottom two after a second performance that was painful to watch and listen to at times – and I say this as a fan (and NOT a teenage girl by a longshot, whoever it was who said that was their market!) So I think realistically they can’t push them to the win but having them in the final at least guarantees entertainment.
    Emily looks lost to me – she just isn’t memorable enough; in the lane that Svengali Cowell has got her in, her voice should be more interesting than it actually is. She is still struggling to have much impact on me and despite the strength of the Scottish vote, I don’t see her as a potential winner. That said, if Svengali thinks he can make something other than the usual dire album of covers from a winner who vanishes without trace soon after with Emily, then I guess she may still have a shot.
    And then we have Saara. Yes, she can actually sing and perform, and it is a lovely warming story to see someone so beset by jingoistic prejudice at the start now doing so well and being treated with the respect she merits. But winning the X Factor does seem to me a step too far for a foreign, professional singer in the eyes of tptb. She’s also a bit of a generic singer, without much quirk to her voice – that “recording quality” that they go on about isn’t really her. If they want a winner who will sell records, that isn’t likely to be Saara, unless she really taps into the Gaga vein which I think would require a major investment from the record company from the start. Can we see her wearing meat suits in the near future? Her camp kookiness to date has been decidedly old-fashioned.
    So I come back to Matt. I can’t see that there’s another winner in the pack now who could a) win and b) be more of a success than he can. Limiting the talent this year has led to a rather dull top four. I think they’d have been better pushing Gifty over Emily and allowing the likes of James and Christian into the live shows too.

  • Sindi

    I believe the the judges’ pickering about Emily’s song choices is mostly scripted. It has also been shown non-live. If Simon could get the praises of week 7 out of the others, wouldn’t he and the producers have sufficient control over them at all times. At least enough to not to have so much talk about a subject he didn’t want to be mentioned.

    It can be true of course that there are disagreements backstage about how she should be treated.

  • OT: we’re heading to Minsk in 2018.

  • Tpfkar

    Just needs a catchy chorus
    ‘When I say dance you say Belarus’

    and it’s a surefire winner.

  • https://mobile.twitter.com/FinnEmbassyDC/status/803970587110625280

    That’s in DC but the British embassy is noticeably starting to retweet X factor things about Saara.
    Is this the week?

    In other news, the mobile game that my baby cousin is obsessed with, Clash Of Clans, is Finnish. Guys, stopping voting for Saara because she is Finnish is hypocritical if you are 99% of phone users.

    • Jessica Hamby

      OhGodNo.

      No embassy. No herring. No fermented fish bit.

      Please.

        • Edie M

          Please no, they can’t do this to her!

        • Jessica Hamby

          Oh fuck. Now I know how Stoney felt in the massacre of 2014.

        • Spiidey

          Uh oh.

          I was just going to say that, in the absence of the Embassy, the Finnish TV station now screening the semi-final and the final live was an opportunity for them to deramp Saara.

          In fact, I wonder if this was already a done deal last week (from the ITV side) given the judges comments that almost prelude this (Louis asking all of Finland to pick up the phone and vote).

          This could easily be repeated in this week’s show to Saara’s detriment (I’m starting to speculate a bit now but bear with me). The subliminal being that its not just us lovely UK people that want Saara to win – its now the ‘bloody’ Finns as well. How dare they (in a Sharon-esque voice)!

          This can also be twisted against Saara in another way – she’s now got the Finnish vote to rely on (this would reaffirm Louis’ point from last week despite Saara’s/Nicole’s rebuttal) and they could repeat this comment again this week (if they did it would be interesting to see if anyone, including Saara, denied it).

          Or maybe they just surprise us all and go with a lovely edit at the Embassy, coupled with the Finnish TV station on board and give her the full on pimping treatment. And she cruises into the final.

          If things don’t become clearer by Saturday though my money pre-show will be on a double whammy of Embassy and Finnish TV live coverage Finnishing her off.

          • George

            Well this last week taught me to reserve judgement until the show. Who the hell knows with Saara!

          • Alan

            Week 9 predictions :

            Target – Saara. No all out hatchet job but i think they will try to get her under 5AM so they can take it to deadlock in the sing-off.

            Bottom 2 – Saara & 5AM.

            Saved – 5AM. On deadlock.

        • PolarNight

          Odd, as she surely has invitation to the embassy on Dec 6th (Finnish independence day). If she makes to the finals it would be almost too juicy not to cover. But it would look bit silly to have embassy VT:s two weeks in a row. Of course they might be successful dropping her this week if they want so.

        • Dendrite

          An embassy visit? How unimaginative. They likely could have managed a visit to the Finnish Ambassador’s residence on Billionaires Row, as well – now *that* would have been interesting (or are they perhaps saving it for the elusive Final week – in other words, does anyone here know where the independence day reception is held?).

        • Sindi

          Somebody’s reading this site and they are messing with us.

    • Spiidey

      I wonder if, along with the Embassy visit, they’ll also mention that the U.S. embassy has been tweeting about her / have them involved somehow.

      That could go one of two ways – more subliminal “what are other countries doing taking over our X Factor” (i.e. It would associate Saara with not just one but two foreign countries) and could further deramp her vote.

      Or it could perhaps be viewed as a positive if the biggest music country in the world, the U.S., is interested in her in some way.

      The more and more I think about it, that big flashing gold spider in last weeks TWTIA performance looks like it’s out for revenge.

  • Woofie

    I will have to look again over the judges interactions regarding Emily to decide if they are part of the pantomime or reveal genuine backstage squabbles. My view is that these are seasoned judges and probably Simon’s preferred judging panel. They have worked on his shows in the UK and the US. They know the ropes and more importantly are totally dependable. I am not sure if these judges would allow backstage disagreements to seep onto the main show. Maybe the odd rogue remark or side comment, inside joke etc., but each week? Why would they be especially invested in Emily? Even if they disagree in her treatment I’m sure those discussions would be confided to the off stage meetings with the production staff. These sorts of comments are used to put doubts (weaknesses) in the audience minds about the contestant, sometimes being very effective when they are true. Also these type of judges interactions are often being used as a distraction, wasting time, taking the focus away from the contestant and the performance.

    It was interesting on the Xtra Factor Louis was asked which judge will lose all his contestants first, he said Simon without hesitation. The following night Nicole was asked the same question she said Simon. Simon was then asked as it won’t be him then which judge would it be… he was stumped and jokingly laughed it off without answering the question, because he of course, at the time, had at least one vested interest in each of the other judges’ categories. All this was done in their usual way if there were any raw nerves surely they might have surfaced?

    • Spiidey

      I wonder if it’s just part of the overall plan to ensure Emily doesn’t win?

      They know the Scottish vote is large, and anything negative from her own mentor (Simon) could actually galvanize, rather than demotivate, that vote.

      On the other hand, if Simon is happy to let it happen, then the other 3 judges could be seen as the more platonic voice of reason, who neither motivate nor demotivate the Scottish vote.

      Simon never seems as if he is OVERLY grumpy when the others make these comments, it’s more in a playful arc sense which makes me wonder (a) if he’s content with the comments being made and/or (b) is happy to have a playful disagreement with the others (Nicole in particular); knowing full well that the other judges negative comments and/or the playful argument will distract the audience and/or result in him running out of time and unable to give the mentor “vote push ” feed back that as the head honcho of the show he probably doesn’t want to give.

      Having said that Emily has had some wonderful staging and there’s Simon’s ego at play as well.

  • Henry VIII

    I think there’s a good chance XF does the embassy VT with Saara regardless of its effect on her. It’s interesting TV and it looks good for XF that an important foreign government institution with its ambassador takes an interest in XF UK. The London embassy has been retweeting stuff about Saara but Fester’s link about her is the DC embassy amazingly.

    A Finn once told me they are like a village in mentality – a large country but with a small population who feel close to one another.

    • Henry VIII

      OK, just seen Tina’s link. Done deal.

      • Spiidey

        If you’re suggesting (and end up being correct) that the Embassy VT is going to be used as a positive given historical treatment Henry that has to be the 2nd biggest shout of the series (after Jessica’s 80/1 on Saara).

        • Henry VIII

          No, the post was neutral to the effect. Just stating XF’s motivations and surprise that the DC embassy follows her.

          Embassy VT’s are happy affairs but imo a negative to the average voting pleb (who is not on the fan-sites and never gives their views online).

          • Spiidey

            Ah ok.

            Who’s had an embassy VT before? Is it just the recent two years with Andrea and 4th Impact? Anyone else?

          • Jessica Hamby

            Embassy VT’s are happy affairs but imo a negative to the average voting pleb

            I’m inclined to agree. It emphasises the subject’s foreignness. My feeling is that this alienates some (not all, but a significant proportion of) voters.

            I remember oxygen thief Mark Wright telling I’m A Celebrity voters to vote for Charlie wossname on the spin off show because Ashely Roberts was not British. Charlie duly won despite having done next to nothing. I don’t know how significant Wright’s intervention was, but it is certainly representative of an attitude shared by some voters.

    • Jessica Hambvy

      It’s interesting TV and it looks good for XF that an important foreign government institution with its ambassador takes an interest in XF UK.

      I agree with this too. The brand always comes first. A visit and reception with an ambassador gives the show’s status a boost. The deramp for the contestant is an inevitable side effect but it is not the main intention. They can deramp you in a million ways without needing an embassy visit. The embassy visit is to give kudos to the show.

      • George

        I think people are jumping to conclusions. Last week she had a VT.speaking with her family in Finnish (double whammy – missing home &, foreign) yet she still got through.

        Her being Finnish is hardly a secret. I can’t see why it would suddenly change someone’s vote if she visited the embassy.

        • HL

          Easy. You know it, but don’t actively think about it, until someone reminds you.

          • George

            Except we’ve been reminded most weeks. Is it a hindrance that could stop her winning? Perhaps, but it won’t be a new or exclusive thing that would drag her down (by itself) in the semi-final.

          • DGiles

            We’re reminded about 5000 times each week. Have they ever missed an opportunity to say it?
            Introducing he before she sings
            Several mentions in every VT
            When she speaks in the VT
            During the judges comments
            Dermots Finnish jokes…..etc

          • HL

            She is so likable and keeps on singing so well that people forget her origins 5000 times each week and need constant reminders? 🙂

            Sharon missed one opportunity when she said “Saara from London” in week 6. Next week she was Zara from abroad again. One week of marketing was enough!

            Embassy or not embassy, this week they will double the reminders, because who would not use the opportunity to link her with Santa and snow.

  • GsP

    Boooo! Embassy VT.

    Still, it had to happen, and maybe her other VT will be better!

  • Alan

    Predictions:

    Target – Saara. No all out hatchet job but think they will try to get her under 5AM.

    Bottom 2 – Saara & 5AM

    Saved – 5AM on deadlock

  • GsP

    One possibility. In both her audition and Jk judges houses reference was made to Saara living in/near Lapland “where the Santa Claus lives”.

    With this week’s Christmas theme, could they be doing something fun around her meeting ‘her neighbour’ Santa?

    Matt and Nicole seem to have been filming at Winter Wonderland.

  • Spiidey

    The interview with Saara linked in the Embassy VT page is interesting as well, particularly this bit:-

    “And [duet with] someone from this season?

    Well I’m closest to Kieran from 5 After Midnight, but everyone is constantly telling me to sing with Matt. I think our voice could go really well together.”

    Hmm I just wonder who “everyone ” is. The fellow contestants? Their families? The back stage staff? Or the producers?

    http://www.maximumpop.co.uk/interview-saara-aalto/

  • Christmas theme gives an excuse to have Saara sing as a reindeer with nose and antlers.
    http://sofabet.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/andrea_gold.png
    Probably not but I’ll wait for the rehearsal photos on Saturday. As Freidman said he wanted the living dead writhers for Saara in w7 it would seem he’s capable of de-ramping an act independently and unintentionally.

    • George

      Makes you wonder how much of the stuff we analyse to death on here is actually unintentional.

    • Martin

      I think Brian is perfectly capable of letting his ego/creativity running away with him, regardless of the shows adgenda. I think Matt’s halloween performance proved that he will do anything on that stage, providing the powers that be say yes.

      Ultimately, the show now seems to have found a way to deramp and ramp acts regardless of staging. The subliminals we see these days seem to be far less related to producer intentions than their VT or judges comments. They were more than happy to keep Ryan in complimentary staging and song choice and harm him through those methods. Similarly with Matt, you could argue that two or three of his performances and staging could have been interpreted as negative, similarly with Emily and they have not been in trouble. The performances are the main spectacle of the show, and I think that the show has accepted that Brian is the biggest jewel in their production crown, and grant him a bit of free will when possible.

    • Sindi

      I wonder if Saara’s week five was not meant to be as much of a deramp as it looked. As there’s a battle of wills going on about the arrangements and staging, maybe Brian had his way and failed. I remember Simon saying to Saara: “You’ve become the costumers’ puppet… It won’t happen again.”

      I admit though that giving Saara that song was a little suspect to begin with.

  • JM

    Hi! I’m just popping in after taking an interest in UK X-factor ever, thanks to Saara.and yes I’m from Finland myself.At least reading Saara’s instagram she has posted this: “Filming day!! Having so much fun! You’re gonna see this on Saturday” Doesn’t sound very negative to me.But ofcourse I’m just a regular viewer, who doesn’t analyze every little detail.Right now I’m just reading through a social media because I’m so excited for all the positivity and support that Saara is getting from people.

    IMO I can’t even understand how she ever was in the bottom two, let alone many times.There was never anything wrong with her vocals.I think it was more about the settings and the fact that people didn’t know her.So she has to work double compared to everybody else who has a home base.Simon giving mixed signals: “Oh so quiet” was good but “diamonds” medley he was rolling his eyes and it was cheesy.What?! Those two were similar performances.At first he wants crazy and when Saara gives him crazy it’s not good.Make up your mind.

    Also I’m confused how you guys analyze even colors of lightnings etc.But ofcourse if you are a die-hard and/or betting money you go deep on things.I doubt regular viewers care about much such things.They just vote what they like and as the time has gone by (?) they grown to like Saara because she IS a solid performer.Always has been.She just needed time and I’m glad she had that.If something is not good it’s not because she can’t sing it.

    She wishes to stay in UK after X-factor and I’ll believe what ever happens from now on she’ll have some work to do there.

    I’m grateful to (UK) people who are giving her to chance, more than Finland ever did.

    On a sitenote: That show needs some serious updating on themes and song choices in general.Or a little break.

  • Matt terry is probably a 1/3 shot to win x factor going into the semis. The field has been so weak this year compared with years 2008-2013. Emily and 5am haven’t been good enough and saara won’t topple matt in the final. Matt certainly fits into the mceldrey,cardle,heanow bracket but he’s also plan A as someone mentioned earlier.

    • Why do you think they want another McElderry, Cardle, Haenow type winner?

      But I’m crediting Cowell with too much logic. He may just fancy Matt and fantasise about seducing him.

      • David Cook

        OK I’m going to say it – I think Ben was a much under rated winner. Not because he was a great singer or because he ever gave a single oustanding performance – because he didn’t. But equally I don’t think he happened to win by luck. Look back at what he actually sang that year – he was really versatile in what he sang and everything he did was at least competent. He didn’t start with a huge share of the vote but he built a wide coalition as each week he added steadily to his vote. He was the act picking up the votes as others dropped out. Fleur just didn’t have a wide enough appeal to beat him.
        It’s not about being the best singer or the best performer or being the most current or whatever – if you want to win you’ve got to be able to pick up votes from as wide a section of the viewership as possible – and that’s what Ben was able to do.

      • Henry i believe they want another male winner just by looking at the other 3 remaining.their not good enough. The girls category has been unravelled at the lives and what a joke of a decision to not let caitlyn through to the live shows. I’m pretty sure she’d of been in the final with matt. They obviously thought she was to similar to louisa would of made the competition a lot more interesting with caitlyn in.

  • David Cook

    I thought it might be worth reviewing the much maligned Andrea VT of the embassy visit. There’s no doubt that the VT was damaging to Andrea – but It’s not really about the embassy visit per se. The VT starts with the comments about face pulling – which of course rang true – and this was helpfully accompanied by Andrea pulling faces. This part alone was probably quite damaging. The most damaging part of the embassy visit itself is at the end where he says his favorite part was eating cake – again helpfully accompanied by Andrea stuffing himself with cake. This really built on previous themes of Andrea eating too much and of course the infamous doughnut de-ramp.
    So now we come to the single most important question of the week – are Maccy D’s available at The Finnish Embassy?

    • Also worth recalling that we have a second data point on foreign acts and embassy visits – Fourth Impact last year, in the week they exited the competition –

      Their second VT that week featured them talking a lot of Filipino to a news crew

  • David Cook

    Also note Andrea’s VT sets a precedent for asking Emily if she supports Celtic or Rangers!

  • Dana

    Saara being from Finland is rammed down our throats most weeks. I don’t believe an embassy visit will make any difference unless it is part of an all round negative VT, which seems unlikely in the semi final.

    If they want her out, they just have to give her rubbish songs and silly outfits to drop her to 3rd place or lower- job done. No need to mess around with VTs.

    • Sindi

      I agree about the embassy visit, would make no difference. I’m not expecting them to mess with her song choices etc. It would be really stupid to not use her whole potential for the benefit of the show.

  • Steve

    I know I’m becoming a bit of a lone voice regarding Emily (and I have my hat looked out to eat when she is destroyed and taken down on Sat) but I still think she has a good shot at coming second. Oh and before I’m accused of confirmation bias most of my dosh is on a Matt win

    Watching ‘Human’ again I thought it was a good (although not standout) performance and I throughly enjoyed it. The original is still flying high in the iTunes chart and I feel Emily’s performance certainly delighted the demo and may have picked up some new voters. I’m aware 4OD helped get Wilson Phillips back in the chart without any increase to their vote but that was already a well loved song that people might have forgotten about.

    Could it be that it was Saarah who was 1% above 5AM and Emily was clear in 2nd. The last time a Scottish person was in the quarters was Nicholas M and he was polling really well at that point while being pretty gash it must be said. I think Emily is far more likeable and will appear to a larger demographic than Nick did. As such I think they may be keeping her in her lane to prevent her polling above Matt (something I’m sure she did with Creep). If she did do uptempo and it worked well then she would possibly have increased her chances of winning.

    You have to go back in time to find a final where only one person had not been in the bottom two. Bearing in mind the desire to show that it’s an open competition TPTB would surely rather have Emily in the final. Otherwise it’s a pretty foregone conclusion that the crown is Matt’s. Factoring in Emily appearing to be Simon’s pet project and him not wanting to be first judge out may suggest that this is their plan.

    Probably something and nothing but the advert for the semi shows the contestants in the following order: Matt, Emily, 5AM,Saarah. Preferred finishing order??

    • stoney

      Your not alone i said there is no way she would leave last weekend and that id eat my hat if she didn’t make the final
      I also only yesterday questioned what the producers would do in the event of a 5am saara b2

    • Curtis

      I don’t think it’s too outrageous an opinion to think that Emily will come second. There are only two acts left that have yet to drop into the bottom 2, and she is one of them. Therefore based on only the concrete info we have it would be a logical conclusion to say she’ll come second.

      That being said, I personally believe she was the act within 1% of being in the bottom 2 last week and I certainly saw no producer love for her last weekend – so if she were to drop to the bottom 2 against anyone I would expect her to be ditched. But maybe that Scottish vote will push her into the final.

      • Steve

        Part of me did imagine swathes of my countrymen and women voting as if their life depended on it when Dermott said it was close at the bottom. I wonder if that will kick start them to vote earlier on Sat?

        • stoney

          Naturally looking at the odds we had to assume that it was Emily narrowly avoiding the bottom 2m logically and statistically it should have been saara narrowly avoiding the bottom 2. They couldnt get Maloney into the bottom 2 before the final so it would be quite a feat to achieve it with A much more likeable contestant from an even stronger regional area

          • Sagand

            Maloney would have been in the bottom two if there had been a semi final singoff.

            The one percent difference also assumes 5AM were fourth which I don’t think is certain.

      • Chris

        Emily could be the frontrunner, if you’re only considering concrete evidence. We know that Matt has been handed the halo, but it’s still speculation that he is leading in the voting.

        • stoney

          Absolutely. But what wouldn’t make sense in that scenario is the taming down of matt last weekend

          • Chris

            Could just be “holding pattern” like in Daniel’s article. From the Dermostats given out so far, it seems that the close race is only amongst the also-rans.

  • Scott

    A theory: Saara being presented as a possible winner and being given huge productions last week could be to give the impression of giving her a fair crack at the whip, and make it even more shocking when she’s eliminated this week.

    I’m not sure this is what’s going on, I just want to throw it out there as an option.

  • So, everyone, so far, who do you think Is B2?
    Saara/5AM
    Saara eliminated on deadlock. Also, didn’t reggie and bollie have a embassy visit?

    If Saaras song choices are bad she is a goner.
    I thought from the start Honey would go on the quarters and Saara on the semis.

    • You can get good odds on Saara being eliminated.

    • Chris

      Saara/5AM for me too with Saara leaving so that they don’t have to drive the battlebus in circles around the Finnish embassy for 5 days (remember the cringe of about 20 randoms riding Andrea Faustini’s battlebus around London?)

    • Sagand

      I’m thinking Saara / 5AM singoff but with 5AM going home Rough Copy style.

      In the years they had a semifinal singoff:

      In 2015 they were pushing for a Louisa win so lost the other solo girl in the semis.

      In 2014 they were pushing for a Fleur win so lost the other solo girl in the semis.

      In 2013 they were pushing for a Sam Bailey win so kept both young boys to split that vote.

      If they want Matt to win losing 5AM makes the most sense plus then they get a tense final between Emily and Matt and do all the wacky stuff they like with Saara.

      • Pls Master Sagand be right once again.

        Oh yeah, you’ve been right enough times to have the title of master.

        I never thought of the 5AM Matt thing but HOW HIGH could Matt be flying? No pimp slots and safe every week. The only thing I could even remember of either of his performances is the chorus to Alive. Also if they really want 5AM to have a career, you could finish JLS or one direction style In the final. The embassy visit could just be santa and all that. Anticipating the song choices reveal.

      • A Matt and Emily final wouldn’t be tense at all. It would be a foregone conclusion.

  • Lmao The official twitter for the X factor has a picture of a bunch of xmas trees. With Saaras face on them. If she is actually effing walks on as a xmas tree along with being scared for her on Sunday I will be laughing.

    • GsP

      No they don’t. Those are backing dancers from Leona’s One More Sleep performance. It’s a pic from when she performed on the show a couple of years ago.

      • Spiidey

        Agreed. I wouldn’t put it past them to put Saara in one of those outfits – that would be a huge deramp as you wouldn’t be able to see most of her face. Plus it would look ridiculous.

  • Dendrite

    The Tellymix Spotify charts for Week 8 are up (and have been up for a good while):

    1. Saara (Winner Takes It All) 34001
    2. Emily (Toxic) 27953
    3. Matt (Secret Love Song) 27807
    4. Matt (Alive) 24323
    5. Emily (Human) 23914
    6. 5 AM (One Dance) 17172
    7. Honey G (Push It) 11991
    8. 5 AM (Uptown Funk) 10621
    9. Saara (Diamonds) 9896
    10. Honey G (U Can’t Touch This) 8923

    Combining the numbers we get the following ranking:

    1. Matt 52130
    2. Emily 51867
    3. Saara 43897
    4. 5 AM 27793
    5. Honey G 20914

    • Curtis

      I think Saara can take great encouragement from her piano ballad version of a decades old song being top of the Spotify charts. Emily and Matt are acts that should be performing well on the Spotify charts, Emily especially with her younger target demographic, so it’s no surprise to see them with the highest totals. You would think that applies to 5AM too but they haven’t been doing well on Spotify in general have they? Which begs the question who on earth has been voting for them?

  • Poker Coach

    If I see Saara visiting Embassy, I will back her again.

    I believe that whole community would overreact for the visit coming and therefore I can get some value 🙂 When the community will see that Saara is embassy-immune, her odds will get even lower, because if she could survive the embassy, she could…

  • Sindi

    I think Matt could have come off last weekend much stronger, had he succeeded vocally. He was given opportunities to shine but his voice was strained. Of course he still is going strong.

    Maybe he wasn’t given Alive to have him pale in comparison to Saara but to suggest viewers that these two should be battling for the win?

  • EM

    Confirmation here that the vast majority of X Factor viewers are over 35

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/planet-earth-2-ii-young-viewers-x-factor-bbc-itv-david-attenborough-vieiwng-figures-ratings-a7449296.html?cmpid=facebook-post

    Yes viewers and voters aren’t the same thing but proof the audience aren’t all teen girls

    • DGiles

      I wonder how app voting does actually affect the vote. I think the assumption is that it boosts the younger vote, but maybe that is too simplistic and there may be a few things to bear in mind:

      1) It opens up the vote to everyone and I think the older demographics are much much more technologically able than they were even just 5 to 10 years a go. Whether they’d be willing to go as far as download as Xfactor app is another question though,

      2) I’d say the younger voters are traditionally more prone to multi voting, so the 5 app votes may not boost their voting number quite as much as expected. It may even limit those that used to multi vote by phone, as this method restricts it to 5 and sublimally tells voters “OK, that’s enough now”

      3) On the other hand, older voters were likely to be more conscious of the costs of phone votes and able to control their urge to vote non stop, are now able to throw 5 votes at their favourite act, rather than just the 1, potentially boosting their voting numbers (especially as we consider that the vast majority of viewers are over 35)

      4) Over the course of 24 hours, this may also reduce the voting power of die hard fans and voting blocks and anyone who traditionally multi votes like mad. They’re probably extremely powerful in votes with a very short time frame (such as bottom 3) as they’ll be the ones with their fingers closest to the buzzer, while the joe floating voter types are less likely to subscribe to the urgency and panic of the vote (and may be less inclined to go to the app to vote twice on the same weekend, even if free)

      Just a couple of thoughts, could be completely wrong, but ultimately it’s all assumptions at the moment. Some will be right, but I suspect some will be very wrong.

      • Hammo

        I’m in the demographic EM describes… I used to be a casual viewer but now I have young kids (and am therefore not as likely to be out on a Saturday night) I watch the show more often (also to place a wager or two).

        Before the introduction of the app, I had never voted by telephone as I didn’t want to pay for the privilege (DGiles’ 3). However, I voted in almost every round last series and have done so again this year. Not saying I am typical of the audience but I think the app has actually opened up voting to DGIles’ 1 type of viewer, more than ‘da kidz’.

  • So I’m a bit dubious about the Embassy VT thing affecting Saara’s vote, as others have said, they’ve definitely made more of her being from Finland than any other ‘foreign’ act imo. Song choices will be crucial, if she gets two belting ballads, we know she’s being ramped, if she gets two camped up productions then we know that deramps her vote. I really don’t think the VT is going to make a huge amount of difference at this stage of the contest.

  • stoney

    I think the producers will easily be able to bounce 5am above tut act that was 1% above them last weekend, and bearing in mind they got another name check even when at the bottom end of the vote i think producer intentions are clear. The only question is who do they leapfrong into the final?

  • The odds are predicting a Saara de-ramp and that’s probably right.

    But would it work? It may be too late. Momentum is definitely with her. She may just need to excel at one of her two songs.

    • When I say de-ramp I’m thinking wacky number with silly costume. But dressing someone up in a wacky way may not de-ramp if the performance is still enjoyable and if the act has already established themselves as technically talented. (As long as they don’t do a dreadful performance – Faustini’s devil).

    • Sindi

      They have managed to get a large fan base for Saara and there’s a wide expectation of what’s the next big song from her. I don’t think it would make any sense dramatically to let that expectation down right now. I think what’s happening is the same as last week, people overreading signs.

  • Woofie

    Until the show airs its difficult to call. I can’t watch the show live this weekend and have decided not to opt for a running commentary, just going to visit the forum to see the outcome and see how it might play out.

    The inconsistent treatment creates doubts as to what the real intentions are but I think with regards to 5AM it is likely to be clear from early on. Like last week when then featured Simon’s negative critique in the opening recap VT on the Saturday. They are the outsiders and will need the most help to make them bounce. They cannot afford a lukewarm performance or a negative critique from Simon, they need the full works like their week 2 and disco week 6 performances and for them to be on their game. I’m not even sure they can afford the not so good first song to build up the second song tactic.

    They would also need to restrain the others somewhat but surely not to a point that the show becomes dull, as they still need to create a bit of an event to set up the final? If they get fully behind Matt and Emily it’s game over for 5AM.

    Saara’s treatment will be the most interesting and I guess likely to cause the most speculation. She is the most experienced contestant having finished 2nd in The Voice and that will count. The producers know this. I do wonder if restraining Matt and Emily to core support pleasing performances without creating a perception they are in trouble and allowing Saara’s momentum to continue might assist 5AM and if there is not a B2 in the semi-final? Seems very risky unless the voting is tight and that the producers are confident of getting the outcome they want.

    I am sure it will become clearer as the show progresses where it is going. Song choices reveal will be interesting but we have to be careful not to overthink those like a few of us did last week.

  • Steve

    So Saarah doing Chandelier
    Emily – mad world
    Matt- say you love me (Jesse ware)
    5AM – sign sealed delivered

  • GsP

    That would be a good pimp spot song for Saara but they’ll need to give it to Matt this week surely.

    It does look like they are now pushing towards a Saara/Matt final 2.

    I guess this means Saara is doing All I Want For Christmas. I wanted her to do Oh Holy Night as her version is absolutely breathtaking, but up tempo then ballad is a better way round I think.

    5AM choice is tired and cheesy. Emily’s is lazy and boring. Too samey.

  • Chris

    Saara – All I Want for Christmas is You
    Matt – Silent Night
    Emily – War is Over
    5AM – Stay Another Day

  • stoney

    Matt gets the little mix treatment with silent night. Looks like his first pimp spot is coming

  • EM

    If the Telly Mix song spoilers are right they can be read anyway but Matt’s seem questionable but potential, Saara could be positive and Emily she will do well but will that be enough or just the same old same old

  • Martin

    Christmas songs are all much of a muchness. At least nobody has “Last Christmas” ala Marcus Collins.

    I’m more interested in the other choices. “Say You Love Me” did a great job for Lauren Murray at SCC last year, I think it also plays to Matt’s strengths.It hasn’t been performed before, and I think it has the potential to be his “moment”, particularly as it hasn;t been done on the live shows previously. 5AM and Emily’s choices are very much in their established lane, although Emily is back with two more drab choices and I wonder if that is to motivate their voters, or motivate judges criticism yet again. “Chandelier” could provide a great “end of journey” story for Saara, or catapult her with momentum to the final. The second week in a row she has reprised a previous performance of hers.

    “Stay Another Day” and “Chandelier” also both saw off Lauren Platt and Andrea Faustini in 2014, didn’t they?

  • Spiidey

    Saara’s song choices surprise me somewhat – doesn’t look like she’s getting chucked under the bus on the face of it.

    However, as last week’s show proved, it’s now almost impossible to tell.

    Based on what we know though with the song choices, they’re all pretty much expected if you were trying to pick songs that actually suit each artist, which makes it fairly open to me. 5AM are going to need one hell of a back track though unless they alter the tempo of Stay Another Day.

    Saara could have a moment with Chandelier depending on whether Brian Friedman can be kept in check. It’s also notable that it appears that she’ll be doing the wacky up tempo first and then the ballad (unless they butcher Chandeliers arrangement). AIWFC also gives her the opportunity to do an acapella at the start of the song, which I thought worked well for Diamonds last week. What’s the chances she’s dressed as a Leona One Last Sleep Tree though?

    Matt looks like he’ll be ok and could end the weekend even firmer favorite for the win. Likely he’ll get the pimp slot this week.

    Emily definitely being kept in her lane, I’m not surprised at the songs and looks like she’s got the weakest of the bunch.

    If I had to call it right now, I’d say an Emily/5aM bottom 2 with 5 am leaving on a high after their two performances.

    • Spiidey

      Or perhaps no bottom 2 and 5AM leaving on a high after their two performances without being forced to embarrass themselves in the sing off again.

      Unless they again have backing vocals for 5AM in the sing off – I’m sure they used them last week (we’ll need to watch back) which kinda defeats the purpose and is very frustrating/annoying.

  • Dana

    Hopefully Brian Friedman will resist the temptation to get Saara to swing from an actual chandelier above the judges desk during the song.

    • Spiidey

      It’s so cliched that it will be right up his street so I can see it happening.

      I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing – so long as the arrangement remains similar to the original, or is stripped back even further (so long as there is no funeral pace/death beat to it), she’ll sing the pants off it. What I will be looking for during this performance is (a) any creepers on stage (b) red and black / nasty creatures e.g. Spiders somewhere on stage (c) funeral arrangement and (d) up tempo. If any of the above happen I’d class that as a de ramp

    • Spiidey

      Ideally they’ll put Saara at the piano for the entire song.

      Sharon’s comments are also going to be extremely interesting and will be a good indication of whether she’s being pimped for the final or groomed for exit.

      Sharon didn’t hear Saara do this at the auditions (which I’m sure was the main reason she didn’t put her through to JH initially).

      Will Sharon get behind the redemption arc

      “I didn’t hear this when you did your audition, but like the rest of the British public I’ve seen how you’ve grown in the competition and I’m glad I’ve seen you perform this now as that was absolutely stunning”

      or whether she’ll try and dampen the vote

      “I missed your audition Zara and had this song /performance played back to me and I just couldn’t connect with it. I’m sorry to say Zara but there was something missing again tonight. I’m not sure what it was. (Then any ludicrous comment) Now tell me this missus ….. /long dramatic pause and hand flare/ …. Why didn’t the Finnish Ambassador join you on stage?”

      Followed by ensuing judges “arguments”/distractions.

  • Saara”s song choices give her a shot at absolutely blowing the rest of them away- Chandelier is a potential show closing ‘moment’ but they really do need to give Matt a pimp slot unless they’re holding it for the final.

    I joked on DS when Christmas was announced that Emily would get Mad World but it’s so depressing to see it actually happen. At least she”s not doing it as her Xmas song but War is over isn’t exactly a vote winner in the way Silent Night/AIWFCIY.

    5am got decent if unspectacular songs, Stay Another Day is the least Christmassy of the Christmas songs, and Signed Sealed Delivered will be fun, I don’t think they’ll be able to bounce them into second here though so looking like Emily v 5am

    Matt hasn’t exactly got anything exciting but does it matter? I wonder whethe they might want to try and manoeuvre him into the bottom 2 if they can- I really think as solid as he is Simon can see it would be a waste of a record contract as he’d be dropped pretty quickly but then if they’re trying to dampen Emily then clearly that won’t happen

  • They can give Saara the wacky nonsense for her first song but I can’t see them messing up Chandelier. It’s her favourite song and what impressed the judges in her audition.

    • Spiidey

      I’d like to think so too Henry but remember we were just a Mrs O away from the creepers on Titanic and a Brian Friedman away from an up tempo The Winner Takes It All.

  • Spiidey

    5am already drifting in the win market and Saara shortening since last night

  • Ben Cook

    Great choices for Saara. She’s definitely making the final 2 now IMO and I still can’t rule out her causing an upset.

  • Dana

    Only just realised Sia is 40 years old. In the unlikely scenario Saara beats Matt, I wonder if they will try creating a Finnish Sia?

  • Woofie

    I don’t like to get too involved in the song choices reveal… but it looks positive to me for Saara, ok her Christmas song could be a cheese fest but isn’t that what Christmas songs are anyway? Matt has the potential to be heartwarming. Emily in her lane but not exactly allowing her to show her fun side. 5AM kinda of expected Stay Another Day and now an actual Stevie Wonder song. Has the potential to be fun and entertaining but how it is handled will be important, not sure if those choices give them the kinda power needed to bounce clear of the B2.

    It will depend on how they present this week’s show: lighted hearted full of warmth and fun or very serious getting down to business.. maybe a show of two contrasting half’s?

  • Over the moon with Saara’s songs. I hope Brian Friedman goes into xmas winter wonderland meltdown with Santa and a few reindeer, dancers dressed up as elves and 10 tonnes of snow. = a feelgood/entertaining bonanza extravaganza!!

    As for the Sia song — matte (beige) terry , watch and learn ..

  • David Cook

    I’m still not convinced they’ll have B2 this week. The main reason for having it is if they want 5AM in the final at any cost.
    If they finish third (or higher)they wouldn’t need the sing off. If they finish bottom – well that means they finish bottom after being B2 last week. The sing off exposes their main weakness yet again. If they get pushed through they’re zombie finalists. So if they do finish bottom wouldn’t it better to just let them go and then make a decision on whether to sign them?

    • stoney

      Why are they certs for bottom when they were only in the bottom 2 by 1% last weekend?

      • David Cook

        I’m not saying they are – I’m saying if they finish in the top three places they wouldn’t need the sing off. If they finish bottom then there’s very little point pushing them through and therefore they don’t need the sing off.
        The public see that the top three have gone through – without knowing who was third. It makes the final look much more interesting.

        • stoney

          I agree they may as well leave the sing off because with the 1% gap they could easily get them through to the final. It’s fairly important that they get 5am to the final. No group has gone out before the final and gone on to have a successful career

          • HL

            A cause and an effect… Have there really been several exceptionally great groups backed by the producers that only made it to the final four and thus were destined to fail? Or mediocre groups with dodgy voices that were dragged till the end and went to have a successful career?

      • Woofie

        But Stoney we don’t know for absolutely 100% that they finished 2nd from bottom last week.

    • Spiidey

      Apologies, long post warning.

      I agree. The sing-off actually does 5AM more harm than good, as it completely exposes their vocals.

      They’ve given Saara pretty good song choices so its going to be difficult to get 5AM above Saara. Matt is almost certainly in the final even if he farts the whole song on stage. The voting so far (i.e. who’s been/not been bottom 2) suggests Emily’s fanbase is still behind her, meaning its difficult to get 5AM above her.

      In fact, this week I’d say its difficult to get 5AM above any of the acts.

      A number of things come to mind then.

      1. Do the producers want 5AM in the final at any cost?
      2. Do the producers want a great ‘vocal’ final?
      3. How big is the Scottish bloc vote and where has Emily placed in relation to Matt in particular?
      4. Do the producers, and/or Cowell, want Emily to get to the final?
      5. Do the producers want Emily to get to the final without a sing-off to increase the drama/tension/nail biting final where it is unclear which act is going to win?
      6. Does Saara’s momentum negate point 5?
      7. Have the final duets already been lined up?
      8. What are their long-term plans for Matt and Saara (and indeed Emily)?

      1. If the producers want 5AM in the final at any cost, I’d suggest they’ve only got 1 way to get that, and that’s with a sing-off. But the sing-off will once again harm their potential career as it completely exposes their vocals. However, the other side of the coin here is that being in the final is a better platform for launch. The question I think comes down to, on balance, what is more important to them for 5AM – a crap sing-off and more exposure in the final, or a straight elimination in the semi without the damage another sing-off could have on them. And how this balances with the other points above.

      2. I think they do. The brand comes first and Matt & Saara will deliver (and Emily give the Scottish angle).

      3. I think Stoney answered this one succinctly – if Emily was a danger to Matt then I don’t think we’d be seeing Emily getting the later running slots, great staging and the apparent backing of Cowell. And we wouldn’t see Matt in the early death slots. I think they’re keeping her firmly in her lane and have been happy to let her meander through without picking up floating voters or increasing her vote share on anywhere near the level of Matt and Saara. I also posted earlier this week that I think they have been potentially targeting a semi-final exit for Emily, with the later slots in the earlier weeks allowing them to put her up e.g. 1st/2nd in the first set of songs and then 1st in the second set of songs and give her de-motivating vote comments.
      4. See 3 above. Cowell definitely does. I think the producers would accept her in the final but it will be difficult to get both her and Saara there – in all the years of the show, there’s only been one year where there have been two female acts in the final – 2011 with Little Mix and Amelia Lily. And Amelia only really got there by default having been hyped prior to her late entrance into the competition.

      5. I’d say in an ideal world yes, as it provides more suspense. Ideally considering this point alone, then having a Matt/Emily/Saara final with 5AM eliminated this week without a sing-off would give the greatest level of suspense – that would mean the final 3 acts hadn’t been in the bottom 2 in the 4 weeks preceding the final. However, the flipside of this is that Emily is Scottish and therefore is a dangerous act vote wise – we’ve seen it before with the dirge of Nicholas McDonald and more pertinently Leon Jackson – the Scottish vote CAN carry an act to the win.

      6. See 5 above. If she blows it out the water this week it really could set up a potentially huge showdown with Matt in the final. And it wouldn’t be too big a stretch of the imagination to think that she would outsing Matt for the Winner’s song if they were the last two standing.

      7. This one I’m not sure on. What has happened in the past with regard to this? I know they’ve been announced in the run-up to the final in some past years, but they must already have bookings confirmed for the final. Perhaps the booking is done on the basis that a guest star will get a performance of their own song and IF the act they’ve been lined up to duet with makes the final, the contract/booking requires them to carry that part out in addition.

      8. I think all 4 remaining acts could get a record deal in some shape or form. But this is where I’ve changed my outlook completely. There’s a gap in the market (excuse the pun) for Saara. Whether that’s the European (and potentially Asian) market or as a younger Sia I’m not sure. I’d be inclined to think she could potentially do well in the European market given she’s now had the exposure, if she’s given the right material. And do they really want another fairly dull beige winner?

      I think the ideal scenario is Emily goes this week which removes the threat of the Scottish vote, gets 5AM in the final and the biggest exposure from the show they could get, and clears the way for Saara and Matt to be the final 2 standing. I’m starting to come round to the thought that they’re priming Saara for the win.

      However, I get the feeling we may see a return of the 2010 (?) position where the announcement of whether there is a bottom 2 is only done on the Sunday show i.e. the Saturday show will be silent.

      At that point producers can make a call based on the various permutations as to whether its worthwhile having one.

  • Alen

    If there is no bottom 2 when is the latest they have to announce it? sunday show? or saturday already?

  • Spiidey

    Apologies, long post warning.

    With respect to the sing-off, I’d hazard that this actually does 5AM more harm than good, as it completely exposes their vocals.

    They’ve given Saara pretty good song choices so its going to be difficult to get 5AM above Saara. Matt is almost certainly in the final even if he farts the whole song on stage. The voting so far (i.e. who’s been/not been bottom 2) suggests Emily’s fanbase is still behind her, meaning its difficult to get 5AM above her.

    In fact, this week I’d say its difficult to get 5AM above any of the acts.

    A number of things come to mind then.

    1. Do the producers want 5AM in the final at any cost?
    2. Do the producers want a great ‘vocal’ final?
    3. How big is the Scottish bloc vote and where has Emily placed in relation to Matt in particular?
    4. Do the producers, and/or Cowell, want Emily to get to the final?
    5. Do the producers want Emily to get to the final without a sing-off to increase the drama/tension/nail biting final where it is unclear which act is going to win?
    6. Does Saara’s momentum negate point 5?
    7. Have the final duets already been lined up?
    8. What are their long-term plans for Matt and Saara (and indeed Emily)?

    1. If the producers want 5AM in the final at any cost, I’d suggest they’ve only got 1 way to get that, and that’s with a sing-off. But the sing-off will once again harm their potential career as it completely exposes their vocals. However, the other side of the coin here is that being in the final is a better platform for launch. The question I think comes down to, on balance, what is more important to them for 5AM – a crap sing-off and more exposure in the final, or a straight elimination in the semi without the damage another sing-off could have on them. And how this balances with the other points above.

    2. I think they do. The brand comes first and Matt & Saara will deliver (and Emily give the Scottish angle).

    3. I think Stoney answered this one succinctly – if Emily was a danger to Matt then I don’t think we’d be seeing Emily getting the later running slots, great staging and the apparent backing of Cowell. And we wouldn’t see Matt in the early death slots. I think they’re keeping her firmly in her lane and have been happy to let her meander through without picking up floating voters or increasing her vote share on anywhere near the level of Matt and Saara. I also posted earlier this week that I think they have been potentially targeting a semi-final exit for Emily, with the later slots in the earlier weeks allowing them to put her up e.g. 1st/2nd in the first set of songs and then 1st in the second set of songs and give her de-motivating vote comments.

    4. See 3 above. Cowell definitely does. I think the producers would accept her in the final but it will be difficult to get both her and Saara there – in all the years of the show, there’s only been one year where there have been two female acts in the final – 2011 with Little Mix and Amelia Lily. Little Mix were pimped to high heaven and Amelia only really got there by default having been hyped prior to her late entrance into the competition.

    5. I’d say in an ideal world yes, as it provides more suspense. Ideally considering this point alone, then having a Matt/Emily/Saara final with 5AM eliminated this week without a sing-off would give the greatest level of suspense – that would mean the final 3 acts hadn’t been in the bottom 2 in the 4 weeks preceding the final. However, the flipside of this is that Emily is Scottish and therefore is a dangerous act vote wise – we’ve seen it before with the dirge of Nicholas McDonald and more pertinently Leon Jackson – the Scottish vote CAN carry an act to the win.

    6. See 5 above. If she blows it out the water this week it really could set up a potentially huge showdown with Matt in the final. And it wouldn’t be too big a stretch of the imagination to think that she would outsing Matt for the Winner’s song if they were the last two standing.

    7. This one I’m not sure on. What has happened in the past with regard to this? I know they’ve been announced in the run-up to the final in some past years, but they must already have bookings confirmed for the final. Perhaps the booking is done on the basis that a guest star will get a performance of their own song and IF the act they’ve been lined up to duet with makes the final, the contract/booking requires them to carry that part out in addition.

    8. I think all 4 remaining acts could get a record deal in some shape or form. But this is where I’ve changed my outlook completely. There’s a gap in the market (excuse the pun) for Saara. Whether that’s the European (and potentially Asian) market or as a younger Sia I’m not sure. I’d be inclined to think she could potentially do well in the European market given she’s now had the exposure, if she’s given the right material. And do they really want another fairly dull beige winner?

    I think the ideal scenario is Emily goes this week which removes the threat of the Scottish vote, gets 5AM in the final and the biggest exposure from the show they could get, and clears the way for Saara and Matt to be the final 2 standing. I’m starting to come round to the thought that they’re priming Saara for the win.

    However, I get the feeling we may see a return of the 2010 (?) position where the announcement of whether there is a bottom 2 is only done on the Sunday show i.e. the Saturday show will be silent.

    At that point producers can make a call based on the various permutations as to whether its worthwhile having one.

  • Stu

    It’s interesting to note that Lauren Platt performed Stay Another Day in the semi-final a week after her first bottom two appearance. She bounced to third. Although I’m admittedly dubious that 5AM will have the same luck.

    Seeing this weekend’s song list, 5AM’s choices are the ones that strike me as suspect. Why give a dancing boy band such a slow and dated track – especially after they landed in the bottom two? The only hope for them (considering Matt has the victorious Silent Night and Saara has a show-stopper in Chandelier) is Emily’s dud Mad World. It’s one thing having a panel of “experts” nag you to go up-tempo only for you to seemingly ignore their advice. But to sing the mother of all depressing ballads, along with a suitably less fun Christmas song can’t be a vote-motivator.

    From the song choices alone, it looks like 5AM’s week to go.

    • Woofie

      I agree Stu, but there’s a little something. Nicole has being consistently saying “funky” and you “Stevie Wondered” Spice Girls. It is dated but if they update it, making it more uptempo, “5AM twist? Who knows on face value looks like their week to go.. but we were thinking Saara was heading for B2 last week….

  • Scott

    The song choices look sensible, rather than conspirational. Boy band gets the boy band song, the person who can belt out a song gets Mariah, Emily gets something that can be done at a slow pace and Matt gets something where he can show off his vocal. I don’t think the Christmas songs will show us where it’s going, I suspect the second songs will.

    Chandalier, as I recall, was sung by Andrea Faustini after a week where he had unfavourable tabloid coverage. It lends itself to lyric connection and dodgy staging, and won’t be known by the older audience. It does allow you to show your voice off though, so it doesn’t read to me like a full-on kill.

    Mad World for Emily – another slow song after her previous slow song. Now most of the public like ballads/slow pace over dance, so that won’t necessarily be a negative, but you wonder if the judges will reference it. One plus – it’s multi-generational as an older audience will relate it to Tears For Fears.

    5AM – Signed, Sealed, Delivered could really expose their voices, but that can be covered up with the backing vocals notched up to 11. Question is whether the show wants to take the risk on them in the final, or whether the franchise comes first theory means they’ve gone as far as they can.

    Matt – Jessie Ware’s song sounds like a good fit for Matt. It is, however, the one song that I had to go on to YouTube to check as I couldn’t remember it. Which isn’t a good sign given I pay more attention to new music than most of The X Factor audience. It’s also doesn’t really go anywhere. Plus point – definite opportunity to bring a choir in. If I could get a bet on that I would.

    My thoughts are straightforward: the franchise comes first. And they are trying to push the idea that it’s anyone’s race. If they want to take that to its natural conclusion, then they could actually play it straight. If any of these guys wins then it’s not a disaster.

    Going by the usual X Factor playbook though, I’d guess the following:
    Out this week – 5AM (vocals are too ropey to risk it)
    3rd – Saara (adds quality to the final but will be Andrea Faustini’d)
    2nd – Emily (a good singer, but will be clearly found out by the audience as being inferior to …
    1st – Matt (Middle England friendly winner with a decent voice who will seem a fair winner in comparison).

    If they want to get a career out of 5AM then they don’t need to win the contest to sort that for them. They probably won’t do anything with Saara. They might get some Mother’s Day albums out of the other two. That’ll be that. I can’t see any global superstars coming out of this one.

  • Tina

    So Kieran released a song with his friend yesterday, which is a bit odd as he should be promoting the group and not himself. Is it just me or does it make it seem a bit like a solo career is what he really wants to do and not drag those two talentless guys with him?

    • Sindi

      Not sounding good to their prospects at all. Especially if the rumours of them not getting along so well are true.

      • Tina

        I bet they’ll be split up in six months. The amount of work they need to do to cover up the other two’s bad vocals is just time wasted. Kieran should go solo and it seems like he will. What a strange timing to promote his new song on the group twitter when they should show people that they are committed as a group.

    • Blair

      Seems like that the production really wants them through to the final, though. Check out X Factors page on Facebook since yesterday. Most posts are about 5AM. They’re definitely pushing them all the way into the final. But of course, once the tour is over, I strongly believe that Kieran is going solo and 5AM will be history.

    • Woofie

      Yes Tina I saw that and his pinned tweet is his music and covers. I think if they go out this weekend, they will go on the tour. If Simon or his Sony network have no post show plans for them I would be surprised if the group stays together without a deal via the show.

  • Andrea Faustini’s Chandelier. I really didn’t like his version and also thought the dancers were distracting.

    Less subjectively: he did his usual face pulling; only his mentor stood at the end; he got criticism from Cowell, and yet he scored 2nd out of 5 with it.

    • David Cook

      Well it’s obviously very subjective as I seem to remember lots of comments on DS as to how good people thought it was. Personally I didn’t like it either – basically because Andrea did his usual trick of going overboard on the vocal gymnastics. Again it’s personal preference but I thought Saara’s version was much better because it was so beautifully judged – yes there was plenty of technique in there but it added to the performance without going OTT.

  • Alison

    I absolutely loved Andrea, but his version of Chandelier was awful.

  • Curtis

    Saara should be happy with her songs. Matt and Emily’s I score neutral. 5AM’s look the most negative to me. However we quickly learned last week that song choice is far from everything.

  • EM

    History buff question – has there ever been a year where (many? most?) Sofabet commenters have been so enraptured with an act as Saara this year? And if she’s unusually popular here what does that say to her wider appeal?

    • Fascinating question! 🙂 Maybe Lauren Murray last year? Andrea the year before? Though not to the same extent as Saara, I don’t think.

      I think viewing the show through a Sofabet lens, you instinctively take more to the acts who seem to be (a) nice, (b) talented and (c) repeatedly stiffed by producers. I think many took to Lauren last year out of a sense of sympathy that she was vocally as good as Louisa but Louisa got all the favouritism, and this year there was sympathy for Saara because of the “Zara from abroad” stuff so we’re all delighted she survived that and got producers, at least to some extent, on her side.

      But how well that translates to wider support I don’t know. I guess that to the extent that we notice the machinations more, we’re going to sympathise more. There’s also always the potential for groupthink – impossible to tell how many commenters aren’t enraptured by Saara but prefer to keep quiet about it.

    • 360

      And if she’s unusually popular here what does that say to her wider appeal?

      I would say take it with a pinch of salt. One or two acts usually clean up and take the lion’s share of the ‘favourite act’ votes on DigitalSpy, which is a larger pool of people than commenters here, I would say, and that person doesn’t always go far. What it’s easy to forget behind the smoke and mirrors is that XF is all about votes at the end of the day. Musicality aside, the winner of the show is the person who can, by hook or by crook, appeal to as many people as possible, whether that’s by chasing and attracting one hugely populated demographic, and getting enough support to outweight all others, or by picking up a lot of votes from wide appeal to as many types of folk as possible. I would hazard that Haenow, McElderry, Matt Cardle and Leon Jackson all won by the latter method.

      Now more than ever when demographics are fractured and less people watch the show than in the past, I would say attracting a wide base and appealing to as many types of people as possible is key. Unless, and it’s a big one, Saara’s performance style of playing songs straight and doing a pure Stars in Their Eyes, accomplished karaoke cover version is going down well with the biggest demographic. That then would be enough to gain a majority.

      That would be where I would see her strength being, if it is enough. We are four years on from a show in which Maloney dominated week on week by singing straight covers without the thrills. I would say a hefty chunk of the public just wants that, entertainment-wise, from the X Factor. On that count, Saara definitely delivers.

    • EM

      Thanks Andrew and 360, some really salient points there.

      I suppose for me it’s the level of her support here that is intriguing rather than the fact she has it.

      If that is down to the fact she can perform, sing and seems likeable then than may just be picked up by the voting public too.

      If the reception here is a bit more down to a rebellion against the shows desires then maybe not so much

  • Jessica Hamby

    And if she’s unusually popular here what does that say to her wider appeal?

    Nothing. If anything it’s a sign that she won’t win.

  • kingston

    i’m not enraptured with saara… but i come on here to see from posts here how much of a threat she is to the small sum i’d already bet on matt terry ha ha

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aljmNEGWzrs

    ready made global star

    apologies if this has been posted before.

  • a uk x factor winner who can sing in Chinese and Japanese….!!!!

    Simon must be counting his billions.

  • Sindi

    I get a feeling Matt’s songs are just a tiny bit boring but his material this week and the two previous weeks has been much better than the stuff he did at some point.

    Saara has catchier songs and they suit her perfectly, I’m looking forward to it.

    Emily’s songs should be ok for her but I wonder if she’ll get to show her quirky side. I’m used to Celine’s version of War is over but of course it was not a big belter originally.

    How is East 17 – Stay another day a christmas song? The other song for 5 am is somewhat difficult.

    • Spiidey

      I know what you mean Sindi. It doesn’t sound Christmassy at all.

      And it didn’t at the time either. Unfortunately, it was Xmas #1 in 1994, beating Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas to the #1 spot. So qualifies on that basis

  • Poker Coach

    EMBASSY WARNING!!!!

    It is happening now. Told by Finnish media. In addition to that Finland has some extra coverage in VT. Make your moves.

    http://m.mtv.fi/viihde/ohjelmat/x-factor-uk/uutiset/artikkeli/paparazzit-yllattivat-jalleen-saara-aallon-poseerasi-suomalaissuunnittelijan-kengissa/6194720

    http://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9331028

    • Translating these I see Chrome gets confused and translates “she” for Saara to “he”. In fact there are no pronouns “he” or “she” in Finnish. Everybody is “it”.

    • George

      If they go with the Finland = Christmas theme I think it could be a positive.

    • Spiidey

      This seems to suggest that the Xmas songs will be the 2nd set of performances.

      In which case Saara would still be doing the ballad first then the wacky performance second.

    • The Finnish Embassy is a major red flag, if Fourth Impact and Andrea Faustini are anything to go by. It just depends now on when the producers are planning to use this for her VT. It’s quite feasible that it could be saved for the final.

  • Dana

    Cowell’s moutpiece from the Sun “reveals” Matt Terry’s “secret boyband past”

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/2317408/x-factor-singer-matt-terry-has-a-secret-boyband-past-as-its-revealed-he-was-in-a-group-called-far-too-far/

    “A source said: “Matt has given the impression on the show that it’s his first time experiencing the music industry but it’s simply not true.”

    • 360

      The gumption of them running an article like that when the lead singer of 5AM has a solo deal and released a single last year working with Rihanna’s producer, and appeared on CBBC music shows to promote it.

    • Sindi

      Are they trying to make a point that Saara is not the only one who has done stuff before?

  • stoney

    These stories make about as much difference as the strictly come dancing stories about contestants having previous dance experience

  • Dana

    Meanwhile, the Star are running a story about a “secret gay relationship” between 2 of the finalists who met at bootcamp.

    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/567212/x-factor-finalists-secret-gay-relationship

    I wonder if this is why they seemed to go off Matt a bit as the series went on?

    • I’m wondering with some of the press that’s starting to come out, whether they might be considering trying to derail Matt and push someone else- A ‘sensational’ story about him and Freddy being together would be enough to throw a lot of his teen girl fanbase into disarray- Remember Danyl who was outed live on air?

      Who they’d want to push over the line in that case is anyone’s guess- Run with Saara or try to really push Emily?

    • Ben Cook

      I love the sneaky way they’ve written that – they’ve basically said who one of them is without saying it.

  • My friend was digging through Matt Terry’s twitter and he has retweeted sofabet. Imagine if he reads it lol.
    Don’t worry Matt, your the chosen one!

  • Ben Cook

    Well this is an interesting plot twist… perhaps Saara easily topped the vote last week and now they’re running with it?

    • stoney

      Why on earth would her topping the vote lead to them publishing degrading stories about matt?

      • Ben Cook

        Because if they’ve changed their mind about wanting a Matt win they need to back somebody else.

        • stoney

          But if she easily topped the vote they wouldn’t need to put potentially damaging stories in the press

          • Ben Cook

            OK, maybe she *just* topped the vote for the first time then. Whatever the case, I am starting to suspect they now don’t want Matt to win and think they can stop it from happening. Tonight is going to be interesting.

          • stoney

            The signs have been there for weeks that maybe he isn’t their preferred winner. They may have left it too late to stop him. His treatment has felt very similar to when they begrudgingly got behind Ben towards the end of the show a few years ago

  • stoney

    If anything Matt is topping the vote and they dont want him to win

  • James

    The article says they “kept in touch” during judges’ houses which sounds like they were in different categories, so I doubt it’s Matt and Freddy. If this turns out to be true it’ll be interesting to see whether/how much it harms Matt’s vote, epecially with the other front runner being openly LGBT.

    • Dana

      The Mirror have an “inside source” saying all 4 semi finalists have topped the vote at least once.

      • I notice that that Mirror article automatically plays Saara’s disco video. The Express article, albeit about her, automatically plays her piano video. (Her two best performances imo.)

        Saara, and her B2 w1 to Win possibility, is the feelgood story everywhere.

        • stoney

          At least thats more plausible than your idea of Honey G winning being good for the show.

          • I still think they at least wanted Honey G in the final which would have been a mega talking point. But she couldn’t cut it – didn’t have the personality and couldn’t remember the Black Beatles lyrics (understandable after being stage invaded).

            My main problem was always with Matt being TCO. Maybe after tonight we’ll see that he isn’t and they’ve got a much better replacement.

          • Daz

            I think the producers realised they could still have honey g performing in the final without actually being a contestant which Simon cowell hinted that we would be seeing her in two weeks time on xtra factor on Sunday night

          • stoney

            I think it’s obvious he ain’t the chosen one now. I still think he will win though

          • George

            If Matt is still TCO they’ll get rid of 5AM this weekend, unless they think he’s comfortable regardless. If they want one of the girls to win they’ll get rid of the other.

          • I think there will be a fairly significant vote transfer from 5 After Midnight to Matt regardless of whether they leave tomorrow night or in third place.

  • Embassy visit is good TV. You can’t really expect them not to show it.

    Much bigger red flag for Matt is the songs he’s been given and the fact that Saara has been given the biggest Xmas song of modern times and the 1.5 billion YT viewed Chandelier, both songs she’s also very familiar with.

    • Tim B

      What makes the embassy visit good for Saara when it was terrible for both Fourth Impact and Andrea Faustini?

      You could say that All I Want For Christmas Is You is the biggest Xmas song, and it probably is, but it was also given to Eoghan Quigg and Fleur East. Both Little Mix and Alexandra Burke won their Finals singing Silent Night, and Matt has also been given a highly popular and contemporary song in Jessie Ware’s Say You Love Me.

      • Sagand

        I think he was saying good TV and indifferent for Saara.

        AIWFCIY has only really been given to acts they are trying to help (and Same Difference) (Eoghan did ‘I Wish It Could Christmas Everyday’). Two of the X Factor USA winners did it in the final and a third they would have preferred to win.

        I don’t think either of them have a bad set of songs and ‘Say You Love Me’ has the potential to be a moment. (See how it done for a male singer on The Voice USA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbratncCutk)

      • George

        Terrible? It didn’t hurt 4th Impact’s or Andrea’s vote at all, they were going to fall into the bottom two/three regardless based on the previous week’s result (Stereo Kicks leapfrogged Andrea because of their pimping).

    • stoney

      Lol@silent night being a red flag

  • Dana

    I think the foreign acts get sent to the Embassy simply because they can’t give them “revisits hometown, old pace of work and old friends” VTs and that’s the closest they can get. Functional, rather than deliberate deramping.

    Will be fun to see if Sharon and Saara are sent to her frozen, obscure Finnish village in the middle of nowhere if she does reach the final though.

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