I’m reluctant to rush to judgements before tonight’s live show, having pondered a Ryan / Emily bottom two in week 7, and a difficult week 8 for Saara. Whatever producers reasons for not following either path, it’s worth bearing in mind that they seem happy with how the competition is progressing. There’s been no Maloney-style takedown or Faustini-esque doughnut deramp.
Song choices this week seems to be keeping the four remaining acts to their respective paths. Let’s start with the much-discussed Saara, easily the most popular competitor in our comments section. It seems likely that she’ll get a big production for ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ followed by a chance to shine vocally by reprising audition number, ‘Chandelier’.
Fleur East covered the former at the same stage in 2014, opening the show with a workmanlike performance before her memorable ‘Uptown Funk’. Meanwhile, the biggest danger with ‘Chandelier’ is the potential for producers to create an end-of-journey feel by returning full circle to her first song. But this is a great song, and Nicole was particularly bowled over by her excellent rendition. It was also seen in 2014 when covered by Andrea Faustini, another entertaining foreigner with a great set of pipes.
Saara remains the closest challenger to Matt Terry in the outright market. Matt’s price drifted further over the last 24 hours despite getting ‘Silent Night’, the holy grail of Christmas songs, given to previous winners Little Mix and Alexandra Burke. That may have partly reflected a more surprising choice for his second song, Jessie Ware’s ‘Say You Love Me’, only performed once before on the show, by Lauren Murray in last year’s 6CC. It won’t be known to the vast majority of the audience. The song promises to suit him however, and his supporters will be hoping that he finally gets the pimp slot.
Emily Middlemas hasn’t been in the bottom two yet, but is second favourite for elimination this weekend. Mentor Simon Cowell is answering her critics who have complained that she does too many slow numbers by giving her the exceptionally slow Donnie Darko version of ‘Mad World’. It was done to some acclaim by Aiden Grimshaw in 2010’s first live show. Let’s hope there’s not a dance beat added halfway through as in Jay James’s horrid 2014 cover. Emily’s Christmas song is John Lennon’s ‘War Is Over’. I’m envisaging a choir of children clad in white as I type this.
Five After Midnight are attempting to bounce out of their first bottom two appearance last week. Their Christmas number is East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’, done at the same stage by Lauren Platt in 2014 before she was eliminated. Their other song is Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)’. Nicole referenced Stevie Wonder for the trio’s highly praised pimp slot version of ‘Say You’ll Be There’ in week 5. Given their vocal frailties, it doesn’t feel like a promising selection of songs for the boyband.
Since the voting stats were published since 2008, only Luke Friend in 2013 has managed to escape elimination having polled lowest of the remaining contestants in the quarter-final. That doesn’t bode well for 5 After Midnight.
It’s also worth mentioning that for the past five years, the final four acts have consisted of two who have already been in a singoff, and two who haven’t. It’s only in James Arthur’s year that the final 1-2 hasn’t been from the latter two.
Precedent thus suggests that Saara and the boyband are more likely to be fighting for third at best, possibly after going head-to-head in Sunday’s singoff. But Saara has already confounded precedent with her unusual path to the semi-final. Such trends may well be smashed this year as they were in 2012.
We must also await confirmation during the Saturday show that there will be a singoff this weekend. It was only introduced at this stage in 2010. Add to all these uncertainties an eye-opening Daily Star article this morning, and there are many more questions than answers before the Saturday show.
Keep your thoughts coming below.
Photos via ©ITV