X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 3: Group Think

There were slim pickings for punters from the third weekend of audition shows, which introduced only two acts among the 24 rumoured to have got to judges’ houses. That leaves ten still to come this weekend. However, one of the two has shaken up the head of the betting, teenage Irish brothers Sean and Conor Price replacing Rak-Su as clear second-favourites behind Grace Davies.

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The recipients of the Saturday show pimp slot, Sean and Conor have plenty going for them, including personalities brimming with cheeky Irish charm, and an apparent good fit with this year’s authenicity agenda – as Cowell said, as they left the room after their audition, “keep practising. Originality, right?” Producers chose James Arthur as background music; James, of course, won in 2012, the last time this show was seized by a sudden urge to proclaim itself a promoter of guitar-wielding singer-songwritery types.

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X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 2: Aidan and a-Betting

The second weekend introduced another five auditionees among the 32 rumoured to have made judges’ houses. None have troubled Grace Davies and Rak-Su at the head of the Betfair market. Those two both trade in single figures, while each of this weekend’s crop trade around 20.0 or higher at the time of going to press.

Unusually, it was the Sunday episode that introduced more acts of interest. Let’s start with the recipient of the pimp slot, Aidan Martin, a 27 year old bar worker from South Shields, hometown of 2009 winner Joe McElderry. They’ll have been near-contemporaries – as Joe was 18 when he won, he will be a year Aidan’s junior.

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Aidan had got the memo about doing original material, explaining that his song, ‘Punchline’, was about having been “really in love with someone”, feeling hurt and not wanting to be seen as a joke. It mirrored last year’s winner Matt Terry, who milked an “I’ve been dumped” sob story throughout the audition rounds – but while we were left in no doubt that it was a girl who’d dumped sex-symbol Matt, there was a conscious effort not to specify the gender of Aidan’s ex, with Cowell carefully choosing “them” and “they” as his preferred pronouns.

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X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 1: Grace and Favour

“It’s only recently that people have started to do their original songs on this show, and that’s what I’m looking for.” Simon’s comment to 2017’s opening act, manband Rak-Su, felt like a statement of intent. The first episode ended with another new number, from Grace Davies. These two acts top the market after the first weekend.

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Actually, we started down this route in 2012. Then, the first episode pimp slot was given to Ella Henderson doing her best Adele impression on a self-penned tune. James Arthur and Lucy Spraggan repeated the feat, but producers didn’t have the courage to follow it through. Only Lucy was allowed to do an original song in the lives – in week 1. She managed fifth in the phone vote with 7.3%, and was back to doing covers like everyone else the following week.

Whatever our reservations on the first weekend’s auditionees, it’s worth remembering that the earliest programmes are usually front-loaded with finalists. In the last four years, we’ve seen 4-5 eventual qualifiers in the opening weekend. As usual, we will be writing these articles with a focus on the alleged final 24 – those reported to make it through to judges’ houses by posters on the Digital Spy forum who attended the filming of the Six Chair Challenge – and largely ignoring the rest.

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X Factor 2017 Preview

X Factor returns for its fourteenth series this Saturday and Sunday at 8pm. That’s a week later than usual – the opening weekend has fallen over the August Bank Holiday in recent years. Talk of an early December final suggests it will end a week earlier than usual too.

The main shake-up seems to be fewer weeks of live shows. Cowell himself explained in an interview, “The early and middle rounds rate well. So the idea is to do more of the middle shows and less of the live shows.” The suggestion is that there will be six weeks of the latter, with an elimination every Saturday and Sunday.

We’ve experienced a truncated set of live shows before – when the Rugby World Cup of 2015 ate into the schedule. On that occasion, Louisa Johnson was the producers’ favourite from first audition show to her winner’s tears. With less time to mix things up, producers didn’t change her narrative at all.

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BGT 2017: The Post-Mortem

The pimp slot act wins. The market’s correct. Cowell is smiling. All’s right with the world. Unlike last year, when our BGT post-mortem assessed head-scratching in the Sofabet comments about what producers had been trying to achieve when magician Richard Jones won from slot 2 in the running order, this year it was very much a case of normal service resumed.

Pre-show joint-favourite Tokio Myers, backed in to odds-on after the performances, won from last place in the running order. Issy Simpson, pre-show third-favourite after a market move during the day, performed second from last and finished second. The other pre-show joint-favourite, Daliso Chaponda, drifted in the betting after underwhelming from the third-from-last position, and finished third.

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BGT 2017: The Grand Final

It looks a relatively open final of Britain’s Got Talent, which means treatment tonight will make all the difference – it seems likely that producers will be able to engineer whatever result they want. But their intentions are far from clear, and “has it reached the stage where they don’t much care who wins any more?” seems like an increasingly valid question. Still, trying to guess their intentions is what we do here.

Market leaders Tokio Myers and Daliso Chaponda both have the advantage of offering the franchise a new type of winner, proving its “variety” credentials. Tokio – as a pianist who mixes the classical and modern – provides something completely different, as Simon told us at his audition. Meanwhile Amanda Holden has often repeated the line “I’d love the winner this year to be a comedian” about Daliso, her golden buzzer act.

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BGT 2017: Running Order in the Semi-Finals

It’s Britain’s Got Talent week, with the five semi-finals from tonight through to Friday, and the final on Sunday. This means we get to update our graphs on who qualifies from which slots, and assess the running order’s importance.

One difference this year, already pointed out in our previous discussion thread, is that the judges will no longer choose between the second and third in each semi-final televote. The public’s top two will go through (and the judges add one wildcard) to the Grand Final.

Whether this means producers will feel the need to skew further their preferred runners towards the end of the show is open to debate. We now have five years of data with nine-act semi-finals (i.e. 25 data points for each running order position). Here’s the average percentage of the vote achieved from each slot:

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Eurovision 2017: Grand Final preview

This year’s Eurovision looks like a three-horse race between market leaders Portugal, Italy and Bulgaria. Last year was nail-bitingly close between the eventual top three, where huge disparities between respective jury and televote scores added to the suspense. I think this renewal will be more reminiscent of 2014, where the top three all scored really well in both the jury vote and televote.

There might not be much between the three, and a good case can be made for all of them. After much deliberation, my selection for the win is Portugal. It’s created the most excitement in the last few days, and with good reason: the performance feels like the “moment” of the contest, and the success of ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ on iTunes Charts around Europe is surprisingly strong when you wouldn’t expect it to particularly appeal to the downloading audience.

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