Saturday, 13 December 2014

Fleur and Ben v Andrea

For some totally inexplicable reason Dermot appears suspended on cables and gradually descends to do his usual sort of exaggerated half-twirl, introduces the judges and finalists and then gets hoisted up and away again. His departure looked most odd and I could have sworn that he had been detached from the device so may be that was a crafty bit of CGI. Anyway, the first half of the final is under way.

Tulisa seems to have been fortunate in getting back into people's good books and substitutes for Mel B who must be pretty ill to miss this event.

Take That, or what's left of them, start with an interesting but safe set of duets - I don't know the correct word for three singing with three but they paired off and Fleur was first to sing of the finalists - a pleasure to hear her going straight in with perfect tuning. No-one really did all that well but it was just a sing-a-long. I did notice the odds between Fleur and Ben swap, though, with Fleur becoming favourite!

We get shown bits from Ben visiting Croydon and various other cold-looking places where, of course, there are lots and lots of fans all promising to vote for him. Eventually he starts singing. Demons is exactly right for him and he makes a super job of performing this. Nice start, Ben. he also gets a lift device but the problem is that it stops in the air and he ends the song looking a bit odd stranded in mid-air.

Ben started just behind Fleur in the betting odds. He stays there despite that. Feedback from the judges was good but no-one really went out of their way on his behalf. All very nice.

Andrea next. Now he's starting at over 20-1. He can surely only improve on that. The producers had a bit of a problem as they could hardly take the Faustini battle bus to Rome or wherever he lives. So we get a restaurant scene and then a pile of people driving around London, hoping to catch some Italians on the streets here and there. He gets The Royal Albert Hall, though, which is far more impressive than some bandstand in Croydon which was Ben's venue. Interesting. he certainly 'looked' the bigger star in that comparison.

On to his performance. It's his excellent version of I'm Feeling Good. I say 'excellent' as he managed to stay more in control than he usually does and produced quite a classy act. The camera didn't linger on his front teeth as it normally does. That helped a lot. All in all he did really well and looked so much more professional in a smart suit and well presented. Despite all his best efforts, though, his odds didn't move at all. If anything, they widened to 23-1. I've said in a previous post that he isn't the right person to represent UK chart material around the world as people like One Direction, Little Mix, Olly, Leona and lots more X Factor successes have. As a quality performer of a certain type of ballad, however, he deserves respect and good luck to the fellow. Just how many Italians are there watching this show? If they can vote on apps abroad then anything is possible!

None of the buses had far to go. Fleur's turn. Walthamstow! Her fans seemed to fill the streets and looked most impressive. She performed in a sort of cinema. We didn't hear anything and it wouldn't have matched Andrea's venue.

She arrives on stage in a sidecar. I've no idea why but it looked good. The song I don't know. The City Can't Hold Us might have been its title. A big, fast, chunky performance of a dance tune with rapping and lots of good moves. She did look impressive and completely owned the stage and led the whole thing. Not my choice of music but there was real star quality for sure. Marvellous, even for a modestly uninteresting track. Louis says Simon has found an international star. Tulisa lays it down clearly that Fleur has it. Cheryl regards it as 'criminal' if she doesn't make the final. Compared with the reviews of the other two, that was quite remarkable. Simon says that if she isn't there tomorrow 'something will have gone very wrong'.

For all that, her and Ben's odds grew together, hers actually widening slightly and his staying about the same, Andrea's going towards 25.

We get Meghan Trainor doing her classic All About The Bass. It's the first time I've seen this girl. At the end she is joined by the three finalists. Of course, it's Fleur who looks the most comfortable!

Ben is very lucky to get to sing with Ed Sheeran and does a nice job of starting the song off. Ed is fresh from a very successful week on TV already so this can only help Ben. They sound pretty good together. Ben is reliable and this was an inspired choice. Ben's relaxed on the outside but you sense he is a bit overawed still. Another very nice job, though. He was so delighted to have been there.

Andrea is singing with Ella Henderson Ghost. It is much too fast and he is squawking a bit. I don't like this as much. Ella is very strong. She must be amazed to be on that stage just two years after being voted off the same programme in what I think was just 6th place. They get it together as the track ends and that was OK and not as bad as it could have been. Dermot says that she is the first contestant ever to be invited back for a duet in the final. That's interesting. It's also a reminder - as if, with One Direction and Olly Murs on the programme we need it - that the real winners are often the contestants that don't win!

Fleur is also very lucky and Simon tells her that Labrinth actually asked to perform with her. That's quite something and he introduces her. That's a first. It says a lot too. A fabulous performance that has the judges and almost everyone on their feet. They work well together. She is so good.

Oddly, the bookies have her going out to 2-1 and Ben back as clear favourite, very clear at the moment. I don't understand that. Looking at another betting site, though, I see that they went the other way so clearly it is anyone's guess. All that appears certain is that Andrea is not expected to stay.

Ed Sheeran is back and debuts his latest track. Nice. A good programme tonight.

Finally, Dermot brings us the results of the first decision - which two make it through to the Final Part 2 tomorrow? First through is Fleur. Excellent. And second is Ben. That seems right to me. Andrea gets plenty of appreciation. It was his time to go and he'll be looked after, I'm sure.

Apparently one of the Stones will be joining One Direction tomorrow night and we'll have Olly and the delightful Demi Lovato. And we'll have a winner for X Factor 2014.

One of these will represent UK's pop music industry. And there's Ben. Mustn't forget Ben.

This picture from the Daily Star says it all. Seriously, who would be the natural choice for a career in the UK's pop charts? Someone to represent what the UK mainstream is all about at the end of 2014?

Andrea is a nice fellow, from what we've been told, but it's time to bid him farewell and leave Sunday to Fleur and Ben. Some papers, however, are saying that Andrea will win. This seems to be based on the number of people mentioning him in tweets or updates or searching for his name on-line. Sorry, I'm not convinced. I have probably referred to him far more times than either of the other two finalists but usually because of something that has annoyed or amused me and that certainly shouldn't be taken as a guide to who I reckon should or will win.

Crazy but some reporters just don't understand data and if you mention Google too they think no-one will argue. There is also the small matter of a massive difference between the population likely to vote and the population who may have wondered who this chap is or mentioned him in some post somewhere.

At the time of writing with just a few hours to go, Ben is actually favourite. Andrea is at 20-1. Nice odds if someone really does feel confident about the Italian!!

I have heard the Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars version of Uptown Funk that Fleur performed last week and it simply doesn't stand comparison. The guys are good but there was something about Fleur's interpretation that made theirs pretty forgettable. They have now brought forward the release of their track from mid-January to cash in on the publicity but I would have been inclined to suggest they let Fleur and Syco get on with it and happily collect the royalties.

Fleur really ought to be the winner of this year's competition and I can see her putting the win to effective use. She may not be an act that I am going to download or rush to see or hear but she's got it - that X Factor - and is very likely to match some of the best contestants from previous years when we look back and see what ever happened to so-and-so in 2018.

The only reason she won't will be if the audience doesn't get her songs. That is possible. They have, after all, kept Andrea in this far and took a while to get rid of Stevi Ritchie, despite all his best efforts to annoy people.

Then there's Ben. Oh, yes, nearly forgot about Ben. The favourite, no less. I don't see it, other than as a purely 'X Factory' type thing where the little old ladies and odd people vote in their hundreds of thousands (it used to be millions but not so many bother nowadays) vote for the nice boy or the one with the sweet story and, apart from buying the Christmas album, don't really do a great deal afterwards. Ben does look good and sounds pretty good too. He's a nice chap and tries hard. He'll get upset on the stage and Dermot will give him a cuddle. We'll wish him well as he rasps through one track, belts out another and, well, I have no idea what he'll do with the 'winner's track' as it's not something I know. Rumour has it that it suits him far better than Fleur which may be the main reason he's favourite.

I just don't see Ben making much headway after the tinsel has been taken down and the tickertape has been swept off the stage. The charts are full of new male acts, many with fabulously different voices, some writing their own material and lads like Olly Murs have got all the running when it comes to getting on to programmes and promoting more 'average' chart stuff of the sort he's likely to be competing with. Just as the excellent Matt Cardle got swallowed up and is seldom seen now, I fear Ben will just be around for a while and then fade away. Much better off and not exactly despondent but he won't be getting two or three album deals or doing duets with attractive female stars from the States.

So Ben can win. Fleur should win and will probably get the better contracts in the end whatever the case. Andrea really shouldn't win but I may put a fiver on him just in case.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Top 4 Perform

Cheryl's dress is what gets all the attention at the start. Once we remember this is a singing competition and have got over Dermot''s well-rehearsed dance at the start and the fact that Peter Dickson introduced him as Santa's Little Helper, Fleur opens the show.

Fleur East

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah CareyThis is a classic, of course, and she gets every note right and performs well too. She is pretty accomplished and the only thing about that was that it was just a bit ordinary. Mel was expecting it to be 'cooler' which is a fair point but she decided to play it very straight and did look good in the tight red leather outfit. I do believe she deserves to be in the final and hope the public votes to see that happen. In many ways she is the most accomplished performer by a long way and someone you feel could be completely relied upon to deliver on a show or in the studio. Whilst she does have a 'modern' repertoire I am yet to be convinced that she would be a chart success for long. So much would depend on who write for her and whether she gets to be a little wild.

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson
Even Simon hadn't heard this song before so that makes me feel better. Obviously it is one that someone reckons suits her and will achieve this crucial vote for her. She had a change, apparently, from All About The Bass, at the last moment. This, Simon says, is what she would be all about in the real world. Wow. That was impressive. She could have been an established guest act with a new release. Not something I would rush out and buy but I can well see that making the charts easily. That surely has to see her through to the final. She can dance and act and is totally reliable. Well done. Simon puts that in his Top 3 best ever X Factor performances. That single performance really ought to put someone out tomorrow. The thing is, though; you never can tell. Some weeks the public do weird things or the maths just don't work for a particular act. Are there enough people who both support Fleur's material and vote on X Factor? 

Lauren Platt

Stay Another Day by East 17/Girls Aloud
Lauren could easily have been a Girls Aloud girl so she should do well with this. It is one of those awkward start songs and those few seconds are wasted. The low register does not suit her voice at all. The main chorus section works well and she tries hard to make the most of the sections that match her voice. I wasn't impressed, though, with that song choice for her. It didn't work after all. That may not have helped her so, at the moment, she is going to have to hope someone else is less popular and that her second song is something special. That was a bit disappointing.

Story Of My Life by One Direction
Nice song. She needs this to be very very good. It was quite good but not stunning. She was accurate but the low register doesn't give us the kick that we get from the middle bits. She had a go at making 'a moment' but I do feel, unfortunately, that she will be lucky to get through. Will she get the public votes? She needs more than Fleur or Ben or Andrea. It is still possible.

Ben Haenow

Please Come Home For Christmas by The Eagles
Slightly cheating, with two Christmas linked singles. Alexandra Burke made Christmas No.1 with it. Anyway, it's a game and Simon knows how to win! This is a simple affair. Ben does his raspy thing, looks pretty good and even has a choir in a sleigh on stage. Quite a nice job done. Sugary and not what I would expect to see him do but that'll be popular I am sure. Lightweight but probably all that he needed to do.

He gets a really nice compliment from Cheryl. A warm and cuddly programme tonight.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
You just know that Ben will make a super job of this. For a moment at the start I did wonder and it may not be my favourite version of it but that was pretty good. It was a bit of a risk. His story about his mum and general 'niceness' should carry him through. It won't be his performances that get him through this week when compared with the others. He is still the bookies' favourite to win at the time of writing - just ahead of Fleur. 

Andrea Faustini

O Holy Night by Mariah Carey
Oh holy sh*t. This was quite painfully tinny to listen too and not easy to watch. Very wobbly and he might have been better singing in his own language too. The judges were very good to him. I didn't get it at all but I suppose I will have to accept that all those people in the audience and, indeed, many of you readers here, love this guy and will be voting for him.

Will it be enough? I guess he and Lauren are very firmly in the bottom two after round 1.

Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus
I am sort of dreading this. It is a superb song. What on Earth is he wearing? This was actually one of his best performances in my book. The song suited him, strangely enough. That was pretty good and that may have sealed Lauren's fate. There is a chance that there won't be enough Italian votes and that Ben gets the girls' votes and the grannies just don't like anything to do with Miley Cyrus. Mel is begging people to vote but I think it was Fleur who deserved the real plaudits tonight.

It is pretty open. Fleur would win on songs and Lauren might do well on that too. Both girls match what we expect from X Factor. Fleur may have frightened off some voters with that dancing so it's not that easy to choose between them as I feel there are more natural Lauren voters there. Of the boys, Andrea didn't do badly but didn't do that well either. he just wasn't quite as annoying this week. Ben was a little weak but was very appealing. So they sort of end fairly evenly too. It could be anyone that goes. Fleur or Ben would be a shock. Rule them out and it's between Lauren and Andrea. Another passionate and effective performance by Lauren would be needed to make it 2-2 and I couldn't predict which gets the lowest. I fear it would be Lauren. I can't imagine her being 1st or 2nd and so, by definition, she is up against someone and likely to go.

Anything else will be a surprise. Or a shock.

I so hope Andrea does just the song, not the video...

Tonight's song list:

Andrea Faustini

O Holy Night by Mariah Carey
Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus

Oh boy! Or I should say Oh Girl. Whilst the Christmas Song could go down well, I can already see the enormous gnashers biting the other side of the telly screen for the Miley Cyrus hit. Please, please, don't put him nude on some big ball, though, guys.

I am not at all sure these will keep him in. But the granny vote might.

Lauren Platt

Stay Another Day by East 17/Girls Aloud
Story Of My Life by One Direction

After Sunday's remarkable performance, when we finally saw just how capable Lauren can be, and there was genuine emotion that we all felt, I wonder whether she will now get back into the race. She is the bookies' favourite to go by a long way but I still have my doubts and hope she puts on as good a performance as Sunday's. Both songs suit her well and should encourage people to see her as a potential little star.

Ben Haenow

Please Come Home For Christmas by The Eagles
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

I really have doubts about the Christmas song and how many more versions of the otherwise wonderful Hallelujah do we have to hear? He is favourite to win but I am wondering whether his luck might run out tonight? He ought to stay and would win a sing-off against Andrea but against the girls? I am not at all sure.

Fleur East

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey
Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson

Well, everything depends on yet another lesser known track but the writers are very cool and maybe I will recognise it when she starts. You have to admire this lady. Every week she has taken a risk and so far it has worked well for her. In fact, she has also been favourite to win, changing places almost by the hour with Ben. If she drops in the votes and has to sing off against anyone, she should win and stay. I would not want to see Fleur v Lauren, though.

Sunday is a long way off. let's see how they do tonight before any more by way of prediction!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Lauren makes the Final Four finally finding her voice

The sing-off was between Lauren and Stereo Kicks. After several less than brilliant performances recently, probably due to quite a serious throat infection, Lauren might have been the likely one to go but she absolutely brought out something special on Sunday evening. After a bit of a wobbly start she found not just her way and the right notes but showed real passion and that was one great song for her.

It was enough to win over Simon, necessary after Mel had voted to keep Stereo Kicks, which I hadn't expected her to do. They'd been good on the Saturday show but didn't shine in this sing-off at all. So it was down to Simon to save her and he did, thank goodness. We need her to beat Andrea next week and then she has a serious chance if someone can pick good songs and Fleur makes a mistake.