The X-Factor 2013 Live Show Four: Abi Alton prove she’s a survivor & Sam Callahan in the world’s weirdest boxing match

by Matt D

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It’s hard to admit when something’s not working and even harder to tell everybody that you were wrong. That was evident tonight when the shiny, new flash vote system that The X-Factor had employed over the last three weeks was scrapped indefinitely. The announcement was initially made online and was explained away by the fact that the Chic and Nile Rogers performance meant there was no time for a flash vote. But, at the end of the show, it was quite clear that the old format was back in place and the flash vote had died a quick death. Though it was an interesting formula, it was brave of X-Factor to ditch it quite so early and my theory is that maybe Dermot just really didn’t want to do that speed-interviewing bit every week.

The aforementioned Chic opened the show with a medley of their hits, which took performance of the night for me. Anybody who saw their Glastonbury set knows how great the group are and they were definitely the act of the week. The tricky task of following Chic was given to Luke Friend, who was described as ‘the dark horse of the contest’, and he did actually take the challenge head on. In what would be a recurring theme throughout the evening, Luke was one of the many teenage contestants who had no idea what disco music meant. After reading the disco music entry on Wikipedia he seemed to believe that the era was defined by flared trousers and the Bee Gees ‘Stayin’ Alive’ hand gestures. Luke’s gold platform shoes and flared shirt created quite an impact but thankfully they were only an afterthought after everybody had heard him sing. His version of ‘Play That Funky Music’ was definitely his most accomplished performance to date and I have to say he’s really matured in the last few weeks. The judges were full of praise for Luke with Gary describing him as incredible and Nicole using the word funky an indefinite amount of times. Kingsland Road’s VT told how they were worried about Matt taking on some of the dance moves as everybody tried their hand at singing some of ‘Blame it on the Boogie.’ Despite their performance feeling tight, Kingsland Road suffered from a very unimaginative stage set which basically consisted of a video screen displaying broken TV sets. The consensus from the judges appeared to be that they loved the boys’ energy but felt that they took things a little bit too seriously.

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Rocking from Gary’s Stars in Their Eyes comment last week, Tamera came back fighting as she told us she wanted to grow as a singer. Tamera’s perception of disco music seemed to be a combination of afros and roller skates, an image intensified by an afternoon visit to a roller disco with Nicole Scherzinger. Her version of ‘Wishing on a Star’ was very enjoyable and benefited from a lack of extravagant staging save a revolving disco pentagon. It must have been a joy to Tamera’s ears when Gary told her that she’d really grown up this and that she no longer sounded like a girl trying to emulate her idols. But the biggest complement came from Sharon who’d finally learnt how to say Tamera’s name, it’s just a shame the same can’t be said about Louis. We went from the sublime to the ridiculous, and while there’s nothing particularly comical about Sam Callahan his surreal staging definitely had me laughing a few times. Sam’s first mistake came when he decided to sing ‘Relight My Fire’, a song recorded by Dan Hartman but made famous by Take That. However, it was the choice of a ladies’ boxing match as the setting for Sam’s performance which really made no sense. From the dancing coaches, to the ring girls who resembled the Cheeky Girls, everything about this two minutes was pure cheese. So I was surprised to her positive comments from Sharon when she praised Sam’s perseverance and told him he’d delivered a great performance. Luckily Gary brought us back to reality when he told Sam he hated his performance while Nicole twisted the knife in further when she criticised his nasal-like vocals. Later it seemed that Sam’s dad wasn’t too happy with Gary’s disparaging comments and almost appeared to want to fight the Take That frontman.

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Gary’s mood improved somewhat when his group Rough Copy nailed their performance of Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’. To me, Rough Copy were the only act to really understand what disco meant and their lively turn was one of the major highlights of the show. Their performance was enhanced by a great disco band and I loved the fact that there was no silly dance routine going on in the background. Sharon rightfully described the group as infectious while Louis implored the audience to vote for the group as they made the contest relevant. Nicole’s ‘glittery little butterfly’ Abi Alton, seemingly wanted to prove her doubters wrong after picking up numerous negative comments about her performance last week. Abi wanted to take things back to basics and was fairly quick to tell us that she’d picked the song and the arrangement herself. I felt that this statement was made in order to absolve Nicole of any blame if Abi were to be eliminated tomorrow, but I for one felt that she came out fighting. I’ve always thought Abi should have stayed behind the piano and she demonstrated why she should with an incredibly enchanting take on ‘I Will Survive’. While some will criticise Abi for not performing in a classic disco style, I found her interpretation utterly engaging and I really hope she stays in the competition. Thankfully she garnered positive praised from Gary and Louis while even Sharon admitted Abi was brave for interpreting Gloria Gaynor’s song in a completely different way.

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Nicholas wanted to take on Gary’s challenge of enjoying being sixteen as he tackled his first upbeat song in the form of Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’. Once again, Nicholas had to contend with a lot going on behind him, which this week included a couple of guys roller skating over all of his backing dancers. Though his performance started out a little bit dodgy, he got going once he reached the chorus and I’m sure he’ll be safe once again. Gary praised Nicholas for adding some youth to his performance but Sharon wanted Nicholas to be even naughtier with Nicole agreeing that Nicholas had to let loose a little more. Hannah described being in the bottom two last week as ‘the worst thing that’s ever happened to her’, obviously ahead of all the rows she had with her mum and having to serve tepid sausage rolls at Greggs. Hannah was given an ideal song in the form of ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ but I did feel she did overplay it at times. What I felt Hannah gave us this week was a cheekier side to her personality especially when she told Dermot how the dress she was wearing prevented her from performing certain functions. Finally, the new glamorous Sam Bailey offered up another outstanding vocal turn on ‘Enough is Enough’ as she seemingly chased a group of fembots around the stage. Sam demonstrated that she can definitely do up tempo songs but, even though she’s a fantastic vocalist, I still don’t feel I’ve connected with her in the same way I have with some of the other acts.

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Even though there were some great vocal performances on tonight’s X-Factor, I felt overall the show was a little bit underwhelming. I think The X-Factor is lacking the sense of fun that it once had and, without anyone filling the comedy category this year, there’s no one contestant to really look forward to. Sure there are four or five contestants who consistently deliver, but The X-Factor isn’t just about singing and I feel the producers have forgotten that a little bit. But there is room for a little more entertainment now that the flash vote has gone which means we’re back to the Sunday night bottom two sing-off. More excitingly this means the prospect of the dreaded deadlock and the hope that Louis Walsh might make a terrible decision that ends up garnering press headlines on Monday morning.

What did you think to tonight’s episode of The X-Factor? Who delivered the best performance?

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