X Factor 2014: Is there hope for a Stereo Kick-start?

Often, in previous years, we’ve got the impression that it’s around about this stage of the series that producers are starting to assess the fate of the trial balloons they’ve floated in the first couple of weeks and decide who they’re going to throw their weight behind. In 2011, for example, the Janet Devlin takedown started in week 3, and the Little Mix boosterism in week 4. Last year there seemed to be a flirting with a Sam Bailey deramp in weeks 2-3, before seeming to accept her as unstoppable in week 4.

So we can presumably start to expect more clarity in the next week or two about who is alpha girl, which still seems an open question: this week they turned Lauren into an angel, with white dress and halo lighting, but they also continued to set up Lola for a potential journey with Simon’s “80%” comment. We should also start to get some more definitive clues re alpha male over: Ben has been treated positively both weeks, but Jay got a chance to show how well he could poll from the pimp slot.

However, you would think that the agenda will be topped by whether and how they can salvage Stereo Kicks, which has also been dominating the conversation below the line. That’s where we start this week’s midweek pivot off what you’ve been saying in the comments.

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X Factor 2014 Week 2 Post Mortem: Stereo Kicking

It’s fair to assume that wasn’t in the script. After Steph had departed first, no great surprise after her treatment last night, producers were left with the dilemma of a singoff between two acts they had surely earmarked for another few weeks in the competition. They must have been regretting not doing more for Chloe-Jasmine, which remains a puzzle given it was always possible she would end up either bottom or pitched against another act they wouldn’t want to lose.

Betfair punters were in no doubt that Chloe-Jasmine would be sacrificed for the boyband, as she traded around the 1.1 to 1.2 mark, and so it proved by majority verdict. While I agreed that this was the most likely outcome, in such an unexpected singoff scenario I wasn’t tempted to get involved at those odds.

So where now for the Stereos after this Kicking?

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X Factor 2014 Week 2: Nala games

Unlike last week, when the 65-minute Strictly overlap represented something of a blunderbuss for producers, the 25-minute overlap this week gave them more of a chance to focus their fire. Those in the crosshairs were Jack and Steph.

Jack’s VT bestowed a Louis Tomlinson blessing, but after that positive start it was downhill from there. His staging put us in mind of Christopher Maloney’s cassette deck backdrop from the 2012 final, with roaming spotlights scattering viewers’ attention. Jack’s VT mentioned he’d never heard of the song, and it was one of the least known of the night. Judges’ comments were, to our ears, relatively lukewarm postives offering no motivation to vote; it was a negative that Cheryl bigged up Jack’s relationship with Mel, before Simon pointed out she hadn’t even bothered to pay him a visit in person. Both Simon and Cheryl casually implied he’d still be here in the coming weeks. Perhaps it’s confirmation bias, always a danger when the money’s down, but we were surprised to see consensus in the comments calling this as positive for Jack.

Still, given what came next, there’s no doubt we have a worthy favourite for third elimination.

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X Factor 2014 Week 2 Elimination: Hit the road, Jack?

Producers have a certain power over punters before the second live show – they know the results of the first week phone vote and will act accordingly. We can assume they want the likes of Chloe Jasmine and Stevi Ritchie to avoid polling last, or singing off against each other in another double elimination. That will mean targeting the other acts considered most disposable and vulnerable in their eyes.

Hopefully we’ll be much clearer about who that might be after tonight’s show. But amidst this caution, an elimination market initially headed by last week’s sing-off survivor before a potential bounce, followed by the two producer favourites mentioned above, has offered some value for speculative punters.

Which act you might take a chance on is very much your choice.

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X Factor 2014: Curtains for Lola? And other questions

We’ve decided not to do the in-depth staging reviews of each performance like last year, principally because by the end of the last series we felt like we were flogging the same familiar themes and occasionally in danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole.

Instead we’re planning a more general midweek post that picks up on thoughts raised in the comments section – it’s what makes Sofabet, but we realise not all readers will have time to fully engage with all the comments – in an attempt to summarise some of what you’ve been saying, and add our own ideas. We’ll include selected staging thoughts in this.

Here’s a selection of this week’s hot topics.

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X Factor 2014 Week 1 Post-Mortem: Overload and out

A couple of years ago we attempted to reverse-engineer how many people vote in the X Factor and came up with a guesstimate of half a million for the early weeks, based partly on Dermot trumpeting over a million votes in that year’s semi-final. So with Dermot mentioning in Sunday’s show that over two million votes had been cast this week, it seems fair to assume that the advent of free app voting has had quite an effect.

The question is, is there any significant difference in people’s voting habits when they don’t have to pay? In our own first ever experience of voting, Andrew and I were surprised – as Cath noted in the comments – that the first thing we saw was a big invitation to vote for Andrea, requiring swiping to get to the other acts. In political elections there is a small but significant advantage to being listed first on the ballot paper and you would think the same might apply. It will be interesting to see if producers are happy for Andrea to retain this (presumably alphabetical) advantage as the series advances, or if they choose to switch it around a bit. It might be a small way to help an act they don’t want to lose but who’s struggling in the votes.

Not that they needed any such help tonight. In an impressive display of sharp shooting, the three acts obviously targeted in Saturday’s show were the three who ended up propping up the votes. Producers must have wished they could change the rules and have a triple elimination.

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X Factor 2014 Week 1: Electra? Complex

We started the night with an introduction to the four wildcards. Lola and Stevi got personal surprise visits from Louis and Cheryl, while Jack and Overload got cursory phone calls from Simon and Mel. Now, which of those four do we think the show wants to stick around for the long term?

Paul kicked off the show with a VT setting up his journey-to-self-confidence trajectory and a performance of the latest big hit from an X Factor alum. His vocals were solid but he needs to learn to work the camera more. Next up was Lola, whose VT rushed through Louis’s visit and reminded us of her nerves (check), fishmongering (check) and grandparents (check). It was a case of solid vocals and ludicrous dress for Lola, which also plays into the trajectory of finding the confidence to be herself as the series progresses.

Overload Generation had their name changed, much as 2012′s beta boyband had in their first week, and were given a song producers had used in their 2009 takedown of Lloyd Daniels (the line “hope her boyfriend don’t mind it” sounds titillating from Katy Perry but sleazy when a boy sings it). Comments were hilarious: Mel B pointing out their lack of rhythm, Cheryl saying “there’s nothing fresh” about them (and what did she say when watching the eight-piece at bootcmap? “Fresh, fresh, fresh”), then Simon called one of them gormless. It was a classic hatchet job and their much-vaunted Twitter following will certainly be put to the test tonight.

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X Factor 2014 Week 1 Elimination: Going Blonde?

At last, the live shows are here. From this point, X Factor takes on a new dimension of staging, production and thus treatment of its contestants. No more 1-16 prediction lists in our comments section can be accepted after 7.30pm tonight, because the clues start piling up.

The song choices, revealed yesterday lunchtime, are clues in themselves. There’s a brief analysis of these below, but it’s always worth bearing in mind that arrangement and production can lift what might seem like a poor song choice, or deaden an apparently great selection.

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