In this most unpredictable of years, is there room for one final twist? It would be the ultimate irony if the prize ended up, after all, going to the act who seemed like Plan A throughout the audition stages but hasn’t had a single pimp slot in the live shows and was, this time last week, being dismissed as bland and compared to a butterless sandwich. Matt is now favourite on Betfair again.
Matt was never going to win the battle of the homecoming VTs, with both Dermot and Simon calling attention to how that they’d never seen anything like Saara’s Helsinki welcome on the X Factor before – Matt’s Bromley homecoming VT was perfectly fine, with respectable crowds and the requisite familial tears, but the 10,000 people in Helsinki looked as stunning as expected.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the night, though, was how Nicole introduced Matt – “England, it’s your very own” – and how she pointedly said, in her comments to his first song, and making sure that she found the camera as she did so, “England, please get behind your very own”. If producers were on board with a Saara win, it’s surprising that was allowed to happen.
If producers were back on board with Matt, however, then it’s surprising that Saara got the better comments. Simon referred to her “star power” and her ability to grow to fill the big stage; in contrast, he’d earlier referred to Matt’s nerves and said the vocal was “good”, which is about as faint as praise tends to get in the final.
Then, as Demot filled before Louis Tomlinson’s performance, asking the judges about the first set of songs, Nicole again shouted out “please vote for Matt” before Simon pointedly said it was “quite obvious” that “somebody” had just “killed it”. One assumes he didn’t mean England’s very own.
It’s possible to view the duets in two ways. If you think the key to a good duet is interaction between the act and the star, then Saara’s won hands down: Adam Lambert held her hand and treated her as an equal, while Matt might as well not have been on the stage as soon as Nicole walked on. Against that, ‘Purple Rain’ had much the more winner-y staging, with a cosmos backdrop, confetti and a pyro curtain. Overall, it felt more squarely aimed at an ITV Saturday night audience, many of whom may not know that Adam Lambert is now singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for a living.
Tomorrow’s songs of the series are ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Matt and ‘Oh So Quiet’ for Saara. That feels more positive for Matt: he gets to be James Bond, while Saara is in the full-on crazy mode that the week 8 focus group seemed less than keen on.
As for third-placed 5 After Midnight, we’re left wondering why producers went to all that trouble last week to pimp them into the final. Their first performance, as vocally underwhelming as ever, looked like it was set in a level of Goldeneye in Nintendo 64: graffiti, bursts of fire and a helicopter with slowly spinning blades as if it has just been shot down. The duet with Clean Bandit and Louisa Johnson looked alarmingly like they’d never met before and were making up the choreo on the spot.
Will the Finnish underdog get over the line, or will England come through for
Nicole Matt? We can’t call it. Let us know how you saw the Saturday show below.