I wasn’t wrong in my feeling that Louis was hinting the live shows would be a free-for-all.
There were obviously Bella’s lyrics that Louis made sure to single out and support. His bold defiance to basically flash a neon sign on those lyrics even though that’s the opposite of the image 1DHQ has forced on him for so long is breathtaking.
And then there was Armstrong.
I’m not sure if Armstrong has ever had reason to fall victim to the Daily Mail or any of the other UK news outlets, but it seems a bit unlikely. Most of the 2nd verse of his rap couldn’t apply to himself nearly as much as Louis, which makes it very likely that he and Louis wrote it together. It feels a bit too on the nose that Armstrong chose a 1D song, rapped about the media that he hasn’t had nearly as much contact with as Louis has, and put 1D directly into his lyrics.
Moreover, obviously there was more to that rap simply because Louis flashed another verbal neon sign at the lyrics of the 2nd verse.
While I don’t think Louis would manipulate a contestant or ask them to put so much focus on Louis at the risk of taking away focus from themselves, it’s possible that Armstrong isn’t aiming to win and is willing to take some risks to knowingly help Louis out with some shade. The X-Factor can be a great platform, but savvy artists sometimes aim for the recognition without any of the attached strings of placing too high. I can’t imagine how else that performance came about tonight.
The rap particularly feels well-timed since Louis all but said 1D was broken up during Brendan’s segment. The rap feels like a response and a negation of that clip. 1D was always so vehement about not breaking up- they fiercely denied it in a way that made it clear that they had to counteract someone else who was pushing the opposite, in a way that indicated they might be forced to say the opposite themselves at some point in the future.
Another interesting thing is that I really get the sense that Louis doesn’t like Vibe Five/United Five.
I don’t think he dislikes the boys particularly, but I don’t get the sense that he’s impressed by them. He didn’t smile at all during his reaction clips when they performed. This may in part be because he knows they’re being pushed to replace 1D, being manipulated by Simon. There’s almost always a group like that in The X-Factor, but it’s never come close to working as well as it did with 1D and this year is particularly awkward with Louis there.
While I don’t have a dislike for the United Five boys either, I do feel like they’re pushing too hard for something that’s not coming naturally. They started talking about how they have amazing chemistry from day 1, yet they never really showed it; they just mentioned it over and over without fail every appearance. It feels kind of like someone gave them a step-by-step guide on how to act as a boyband, specifically a 1D-like boyband, and they’re trying really hard to follow it. It’s like someone has told them “touch each other as much as you can, talk about how amazing it is that you’re so close already”. Even the name change from Vibe Five to United Five sounds more like One Direction’s name.
I think Louis is seeing the disconnect between what they’re trying to be like and how they actually come across too. That’s what’s putting him off of them so much.
Robbie’s comment was also obviously calculated. There’s no way United Five can be compared to how 1D were on the show, so trying to say they have better chemistry is just ridiculous. To be completely honest, you’re going to be hard-pressed to have as good a chemistry as a group with two pairs of teenagers mooning over each other, plus Niall who has always made friends with everyone instantly and who seems to bring out everyone’s protective instincts.
Robbie has to know that United Five don’t compare to 1D in that sense. Exaggerating a little to make your act look better is one thing, but it doesn’t work when it’s obvious how much they don’t live up to your hype. It was also a terrible move to say it when the crowd was so clearly full of 1D fans. They were very audible singing along to SOML to the point where you could tell they got thrown off because Armstrong changed the timing of some of the lines. Trying to compare United Five favorably to 1D in that atmosphere is only bound to make the audience dislike United Five instead.
I would say that Robbie either badly miscalculated by saying that or that he had no choice but to say that because it was scripted from the start. Louis’ response not being audible at all through his mic makes it look even more like it might have been planned ahead of time. I’m not sure how those mics work, but it seems to me they’re generally all on during comment time because there have been plenty of points where the judges have interrupted each other otherwise.
If anything, I feel sorry for the United Five boys. They don’t seem to be able to follow the template they’ve been given quite well enough and they don’t seem to have the rebelliousness to break away from it either. They don’t feel like they’ve got a personality of their own as a group and so they’re lost trying to follow instructions that aren’t working for them. In the end, they’re just being used by the show and Simon, and they probably have no idea exactly what’s going on. They’re just trying as hard as they can to run with the only opportunity they may ever get. They also may end up feeling like Louis has a grudge against them because Louis is being put in the position to have to stick up for 1D so much.