Week eight of the live shows.
Celebrity choreographer and creative Brian Friedman dishes the backstage goss and reveals his top five moments from this week’s episode of The X Factor.
5. 5 After Midnight — Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson
I loved the way it looked on stage.
I think it was really difficult for them to take that song on because we know it so much from Bruno and from Fleur East as she had such a breakout moment on the show with it. I think if you take that comparison away and act like you’ve never seen it or heard it from then, if you watch this on its own I think it would have had a bigger moment.
They were great with their dancing – I loved seeing them moving with the band, and I loved the dance break, and we saw Kieran flipping and flying through the air again. It was a win for me across the board.
It’s odd for me that I didn’t rank Matt this week. He would have been in there this week if Saara hadn’t been so darn incredible! He came off from such a high having done Writing’s On The Wall last week, that to come back I need to taste that. I need it to be just as a good as that for it to be on my radar now. There was something that wasn’t quite authentic enough for me in his Alive performance. He sounded good but something wasn’t clicking and Secret Love Song as well wasn’t as plugged in as was others.
I do still think he’s a front-runner and I think he will be in that final.
4. Emily Middlemas — Toxic by Britney Spears
Not so much because I think it was a ‘WOW’ moment or because she sang the song so much better than the original or did it on the ukulele, but I’m giving it to her because it went against all odds.
Everyone said she couldn’t do anything with personality and had to stand there and be stripped-back with these dreary songs. She went and did a song with personality and showed that she’s a musician and showed that she can play. I love that we were able to finally put dancers out there and give her a production that has a little bit of life to it.
I think it was young which is a change for her, and it seemed like something would really work for younger fans of hers. I think we had a win in a creative respect.
3. Honey G — Push It and Black Beatles by Salt-N-Pepa and Rae Sremmurd.
For the sole reason that we did The Mannequin Challenge live on The X Factor stage. Everyone else records their’s and uploads them to YouTube and I wanted to do something a little bit different.
For someone like Honey who you’ve seen her with her up-tempo songs, you’ve seen a dance break, and you’ve seen the Honey-isms that she needs. Entrance walks and everything. So what do we do now to make her second performance special? This was the way to go and I’m so glad we did it. With the exception of a couple of people in the audience that couldn’t sit still, I think we pulled it off without a hitch! I love that the judges got on board and weren’t afraid to join in.
I think Honey owned that moment and I have to say her being eliminated and going out so graciously and being so thankful and grateful for the experience. I think everyone really did get to see who she is and we worked with every week. She’s humble, she’s sweet as can be and she enjoyed the process and didn’t for one second take it for granted.
She definitely gets my number three spot this week!
2. Saara Aalto — Diva Medley of Diamonds are Forever and Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend by Shirley Bassey and Marilyn Monroe
My number two is Saara – I think she was incredible! The judges didn’t get her ample credit for what it was she did.
I kept hearing ‘cheesy’ and thinking, ‘What’s cheesy about this? It’s authentic! It’s theatre.’ If you were watching Chicago or any of these other musicals that are so famous, it’s on that level. I don’t think you have to do a pop track or ballad to be considered credible, or even to be considered current.
I think what she did was respectable and the fact she fell of a platform. It was seven feet in the air, lifted over head spinning around and then running around the stage in stiletto shoes, going in and out of choreography with dancers and all while singing perfectly and owning the song. I think the judges should have given her a little more accolade for that. They didn’t and focused on it being ‘cheesy’ or ‘the first song being better’. Well, yes! The first song is better and is different. It’s not really better, just different, but they’re both incredible and both things they’d do on stage at her tour.
They’re both songs that work so I think they’re underestimating all of her capability and only focusing on one thing and I don’t think you should ever pigeon hole anyone, or turn then into a one-trick pony. She is everything and should be everything!
1. Saara Aalto — Winner Takes it All by Abba
With her throne! The honest truth about that number is that it was potentially one of my least favourites to begin with. That’s because they planned for the track to be based on the original which went into an up-tempo version. I listened to the first routine of it and the way she sang the song was so passionate and heartfelt that I immediately reached out to the music team and asked if she could play the piano on this. I know she really wanted to play the piano.
They said yes but it was going to go into an up-tempo bit, and she wouldn’t have been playing once that happens, so I asked them if it was possible to keep it as a ballad the whole time. They really didn’t want that to happen. They said it’s such a treasured song with it being the way it is so I spoke to Saara about it staying as a ballad and she fully agreed… and then we had to convince Sharon.
Once we get her support, it was finally a go. That’s how I saw it from when I first started creating it – a stripped-back ballad. I wanted her to have this moment and it makes me really happy when the stars all line up and we get what we want – we make something like that to happen. That’s who Saara is as she has so many different layers. It’s important for the public to see her as a credible musician and not just someone who can do over the top performances.
In the same respect, I think she should be able to do the over the top performances. I think that’s really important and she’s definitely my number one. She SMASHED it!
The X Factor airs live on Saturday night at 8pm on ITV. For more information visit itv.com/xfactor.