Ella Henderson has become the seventh act to be voted out of this year’s X Factor live shows, after losing the Sunday-night sing-off to James Arthur.
The most surprising bottom two in the programme’s history – which will cause headlines to be written about the show’s credibility, and seemed to anger the judging panel – was settled by deadlock after the judges’ vote was tied.
Comedy contestant Rylan Clark and shaky balladeer Christopher Maloney, along with unfancied boy band Union J, surprisingly avoided being in the bottom two.
Ella had been the hot favourite to win the competition since her audition on the first programme of the series, until this week when Jahmene Douglas became the bookies’ preferred contestant. She was, however, still seen as a certainty to reach the final on 8 December.
On Saturday night, Ella had embraced the week’s guilty pleasures theme with one of her best performances, reinventing You’re The One That I Want as a torch song, while James sang Can’t Take My Eyes Off You on an acoustic guitar, in the style of Lauryn Hill.
In the sing-off, Ella went first, performing If You’re Not the One by Daniel Bedingfield – a solid, emotive performance, although she struggled slightly with the song’s notorious falsetto chorus.
James – introduced by Nicole Scherzinger as “one of the greatest talents ever to grace this stage: this is James Effin’ Arthur!” – responded with Fallin’ by Alicia Keys, who had appeared earlier in the Sunday night show. With James accompanying himself once again on guitar, it was a typically gritty and heartfelt performance that appeared by far the stronger of the two.
Beginning the judging, Ella’s mentor Tulisa Contostavlos – who had seemed to be on the verge of tears during Ella’s performance – said the public vote was “ridiculous”. Nicole Scherzinger agreed that the bottom two line-up was “a great tragedy”. Each saved their own act, leaving the scores level.
Going next, Louis Walsh said: “I’m in shock, I thought they were two finalists.” After praising both contestants, he chose to vote against James, perhaps with Gary Barlow’s likely vote in mind. Barlow, who on Saturday had said James was his favourite contestant despite not mentoring him, reminded Britain that The X Factor is “supposed to be a singing competition”, before predictably voting against Ella.
This sent the result to deadlock – Ella had polled the fewest votes and was eliminated.
A poll of RadioTimes.com readers, voting on the strength of the Saturday performances, had said Christopher Maloney most deserved to go home, with 47% of readers wanting him out. Rylan Clark received 38% of the vote, with Union J on 9%. Ella, James and Jahmene Douglas polled just 2% each.
Union J, Christopher Maloney, Rylan Clark, Jahmene Douglas and James Arthur survive to sing again next week.