With the Strictly 2020 contestants reaching the half-way point, song selection couldn’t be more important

The competition for this year's Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball trophy is tighter than ever, and so choosing the right song to dance to is critical, Lauren Morris says.

Clara Amfo

Over the last 16 years, Strictly Come Dancing has established itself as one of the BBC’s best-loved entertainment shows, with millions tuning in each week to watch various celebrities Jive, Quickstep and Waltz their way to the next round – and yet, the show’s song selection rarely gets the recognition (or the scrutiny) it deserves.

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It’s easy to forget that Strictly is as much about the songs as it is about the dances. Despite the show’s weekly shout-outs to Dave Arch and his magnificent orchestra, music choice doesn’t seem to factor hugely into the judging criteria, with the panel focussing mainly on the celebrities’ technique, footing and posture – and yet it can make all the difference between shooting to the top of the Strictly Come Dancing leaderboard and plummeting to the bottom.

Strictly’s 2020 series is now heading into Week Four, with the remaining nine couples dancing to an eclectic soundtrack of different genres – from the likes of Julie Andrews and Cyndi Lauper, to The Sugar Hill Gang and BTS – and at this stage of the competition, choosing the perfect backing track to accompany your performance couldn’t be more important.

Last weekend saw the elimination of American Footballer Jason Bell, the second celebrity to leave Strictly 2020 after receiving the lowest score of all the contestants for his Star Wars-themed Paso Doble. While the competition is incredibly tight this year and no one else deserved to be sent home really, many viewers agreed that the sports presenter’s Paso potential wasn’t done justice by the poor song choice.

Fans took to Twitter to declare that Bell was “completely stitched up” by the music, with one user describing the song choice as “difficult” and another saying the choice was “shocking for a Paso”. Even former Strictly pro James Jordan chimed in, tweeting at Bell: “Thought you could have gone a long way mate.”

The slow tempo of John Williams’ Star Wars Theme combined with its lack of dramatic, bull fighter-esque climaxes made it an unconventional and dangerous song choice for a Paso Doble – a risk which wasn’t worth taking considering the unprecedentedly high calibre of contestants Bell was competing with on this year series.

In the first two weeks, Bell was landing towards the middle of the scoreboard and could have lasted at least another week had he not been given a tricky song to perform a passionate Paso to.

The American Football player isn’t the first example of promising celebrity being let down by their song choice. Former Coronation Street actor Catherine Tyldesley, who competed in last year’s series with Johannes Radebe, was improving steadily each week and had the potential to get far into the competition – however her Strictly journey was cut short in Week Six, when she performed a Halloween Cha Cha to Steps’ Scared of the Dark.

Although the couple weren’t the lowest scoring of the week, she was voted out of the competition after losing her timing, with many viewers blaming the song choice for her demise.

While song choice can break a performance, it can also make one – so many of Strictly’s historically iconic performances were given an extra push by the excellent music choice.

Take 2015 winner Jay McGuiness’ Movie Week performance. His Jive to a mash-up of songs from Pulp Fiction is still the second most-watched video on Strictly’s YouTube page with over 5.6 million views and while that’s mainly down to Aliona Vilani’s fantastic choreography, it’s the fabulous choice of songs that ties the whole dance together.

In terms of this year’s shows, HRVY won the very first nine of the series with his Jive to Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande’s Faith, an energetic, relatively current and bouncy hit which made an ideal Jive song, while Bill Bailey climbed the leaderboard to second place with his dramatic Paso Doble to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme.

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With Week Four now upon us and the competition incredibly tight, every mark counts – and so it’s clear this year’s contestants can’t underestimate the power of good (or a terrible) song.

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday 14th November at 7.10pm. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or take a look at our new TV shows 2020 page to find out what’s airing this autumn and beyond.