Rumours abound that next Saturday’s show will see one wildcard from each category added to the final stages of the competition. Later this week, we will consider who else may go through if this is the case, and the impact on the chances of other contestants. In the meantime, however, we know for sure that these 12 are in, and attempt a speculative prediciton of where each will finish. Strongly disagree or agree on any of our choices? Let us know!
Archetype: Pretty young boy (x 5)
Previous examples: Lloyd Daniels (5th, 2009), Eoghan Quigg (3rd, 2008)
When 16-year-old Liam Payne was given such a lot of screentime during auditions as a solo act, he looked a certainty for the final twelve and a strong contender to win the whole competition. Visually he is straight from the “pretty young boy” mould of Lloyd Daniels and Eoghan Quigg, who went far in the competition (thanks to the teenage girl demographic) with far weaker voices than Liam’s.
So when Liam was shunted into a manufactured boyband, mentored by Simon, we concluded that the producers intend this boy band to do very well indeed. As we have argued previously, the producers want the winner to be a commercially viable act. We imagine that the success of JLS has convinced them that money can still be made in boy bands, and that the Justin Beiber phenomenon has tempted them to form a boyband from 16-year-olds who look like they should be starring in shampoo commercials.
First, however, the producers face the non-trivial hurdle of getting this manufactured boy band to actually win the competition. On the one hand, this should be a breeze: if one pretty young boy can attract so many teen votes, then shouldn’t five of them – carefully chosen, we have no doubt, to appeal to subtly different teen demographics – attract even more? On the other hand, they’ve tried this trick of manufacturing groups from rejected solo artists before, with Hope and Futureproof in 2007. And that didn’t work out so well.
But we think they’ve learned a lesson from that experience – and the lesson is that they have to include in the boy band at least one act who has already built up a fanbase from heavy exposure in the audition stages. Hence Liam Payne. However, this will also have presented the producers with a problem: how to make it look plausible that Liam was rejected as a solo artist at bootcamp after his standing ovation from Simon during the auditions?
Their solution was a roundabout one: raise the age limit of the overs from 24 to 28, thus bulking out the boys category with strong 25-28 year olds. On the face of it, this decision to weaken the overs – traditionally a weak category anyway – was bizarre. But if you view it as a cover to justify siphoning off all the cute 16-17 year olds into a group, then it makes perfect sense.
So we think One Direction are the producers’ Plan A this year. The best laid plans go oft awry, of course, and a group has never won X Factor – but still, we feel that no group has ever gone into the competition with a better shot.
Archetype: Mid-20s male musician
Previous examples: Ben Mills (3rd, 2006)
Matt Cardle is something of a one-off. We compare him to Ben Mills from 2006 not because their voices are similar to each other’s, but because they both stand out vocally from the typical power-ballad X Factor contestant. Both are mid-20s males with a distinctive vocal style who appear to have a musical hinterland (as opposed to the more typical X Factor combination of a pretty face, decent pair of lungs and insatiable thirst for fame). Both impressed enough in the audition stages to propel them right towards the head of the betting markets.
Distinctiveness tends to be an advantage for most of the competition, and Matt has a broad appeal. His sensitive yet blokey nature already has him down as one of the most personable and genuine contestants. The glimpse of an image change at the end of the judges’ houses episodes was a revelation: ditching the cap and posing in smart clothes revealed someone with good looks that women of all ages will appreciate. We expect Matt to get all the way to the final, and he is up there with a shout of winning the whole thing.
Archetype: Ugly duckling
Previous examples: Leona Lewis (1st, 2006), Alexandra Burke (1st, 2008)
As we noted in an earlier article, the producers undoubtedly choose the final 12 with potential narrative arcs in mind. A tried and trusted narrative arc is that of the ugly duckling who is lacking in confidence and for whom we are invited to root on their “journey” to the swanhood of self-belief, accompanied by such judges’ comments as “you need to start believing in yourself” and “you don’t know how good you are”.
Rebecca Ferguson seems clearly set up to follow this narrative arc in 2010 – perhaps too clearly. Her lack of confidence has been arguably over-emphasised already, while the quality of her vocals has been arguably over-praised. The ugly duckling is, however, traditionally a very strong archetype on X Factor – both Leona and Alexandra are examples – and Rebecca has a couple of other things going for her, too.
First off, she’s a single mum – a backstory that did Stacey Solomon no harm in 2009. And secondly she’s from Liverpool, probably a strong regional vote judging by how Ray Quinn’s tearful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone carried him into the 2006 final at the expense of the better-fancied Ben Mills. We expect Rebecca to be the last girl standing, which should also enable her to pick up some extra votes from Cheryl fans.
Archetype: Quirky girl
Previous examples: Diana Vickers (4th, 2008)
The parallels between Cher Lloyd and Diana Vickers of 2008 are too obvious to resist: a young girl with an unusual style; an early rapport with Cheryl, who ends up mentoring her; and – more crucially for predictive purposes – an instant and stark division of opinion on internet discussion forums, with some people loving her but many others not understanding what the fuss is about.
Marmite acts tend to get through the early weeks on the strength of their loyal following, but fail to broaden their appeal enough to make it to the business end of the competition. We foresee a similar fate for Cher. We also feel that her capacity to connect with the public will not be helped by coming across as a middle class girl trying too hard to be street – it’s notable that in the last two series, it’s the working class survivors in the girls category who have come out on top.
Previous examples: Rhydian (2nd, 2007), Jedward (6th, 2009)
Nicolo Festa is this year’s potential cult figure – someone who could conceivably capture the public imagination. His eccentricity alone will probably give him enough of a loyal following to get him through to about the final six. How far he will get after that depends on a couple of things. First, will his charm wear thin? Maybe – but so far, his eccentricity has come across as very genuine. And second, will he develop well enough vocally to make people who enjoy his personality feel that his talent also justifies them picking up the phone?
We put Nicolo in the “eccentric” archtype, which by definition means he’s a one-off. Our comparisons of him with Rhydian from 2007 and Jedward from 2009 are therefore far from exact, but what these acts all have in common is that many viewers will likely tune in to see what outlandish thing they’re going to do this week. (Watch out for a false flirtation with Cheryl, for example). Nicolo appears to harbour a decent voice and we can easily envisage him, like Rhydian, starting off as a bit of a fun character but blossoming into a more serious contender than people might otherwise have thought.
Archetype: Mature lady in menial job
Previous examples: Nikki Evans (4th, 2007)
We expect Mary Byrne to be comfortably the longest-lasting of the over-28 category. She has a decent voice and comes across as likeable. She will also be helped by a rapport with Louis based on their mutual Irishness (though perhaps not to the same extant as Joe’s regional rapport with Cheryl probably helped him last year) – especially if and when, as we expect, she becomes Louis’s only remaining act. The older voter demographic should see her comfortably through the opening weeks, but we’d be surprised if she can broaden her appeal sufficiently to make the final.
Previous examples: Kandy Rain (12th, 2009), Bad Lashes (12th, 2008), Girlband (11th, 2008), Hope (5th, 2007)
Girl bands have a terrible record in X Factor. It has to be said, however, on the evidence of their performance in front of Simon Cowell, Belle Amie will do better than many previous female groups. They have more talent than most and are not tabloid fodder like Kandy Rain. They do have to overcome being brought together at the last minute, but the best placing by a girl band, Hope’s 5th in 2007, came from a group that was also manufactured at bootcamp.
However, we can’t see Belle Amie in the final stages of the competition because it is so tough for girl bands to win the public’s support. Indeed, Hope had already been in the bottom two twice – including as early as week three. The paucity of screentime allotted to the constituents of Belle Amie, compared with the screentime allocated to New Direction, suggests that the producers aren’t seriously invested in this act doing well, which leads us to suspect a mid-table finish.
Archetype: Northern stage performer
Previous examples: Joe McElderry (1st, 2009), Ray Quinn (2nd, 2006)
Aiden is a lovely-looking northern lad with a winning smile who appears destined for a career on the stage. In that sense his closest analogues in previous series are probably Joe McElderry and Ray Quinn, but we feel he’s unlikely to do anywhere near as well as those two. Three reasons. First, being from Blackpool, his regional vote will be more limited than Ray’s (Liverpool) or Joe’s (Newcastle). Second, voice-wise, he appears on evidence so far to be much weaker than Joe and probably not even as good as Ray (who, it should be recalled, narrowly escaped elimination in 7th place). And third, he’ll face stiff competition for the teen and granny vote from the five young boy band members.
Storm Lee Gardner
Archetype: Pantomime act
Previous examples: Jedward (6th, 2009), Same Difference (3rd, 2007), The MacDonald Brothers (4th, 2006)
Most years there is one act (usually Simon’s or Louis’s) which another judge (usually Simon or Louis) claims to hate, thus leading to pantomime arguments on the judging panel (usually involving Simon and Louis). Storm Lee Gardner appears set up to be this year’s pantomime act: first Simon unnecessarily picks a fight with him at his audition, then he ends up in Louis’s category. We expect the usual shenanigans: audience booing during Simon’s comments, Louis insisting “people like him, Simon”, Storm Lee VTing about how he wants to prove himself to Simon, and so on.
These judgely pantomimes often get an act through a few more weeks than they probably should. But we suspect old Storm won’t stir up public sympathy as much as, say, the more endearingly rabbit-in-headlight sibling pairings of Same Difference and the MacDonald Brothers. The Scottish vote might help a bit, but it didn’t do much for Rikki Loney. Rockers don’t have a great record on X Factor, and Storm shouldn’t be around for too long.
Archetype: Tabloid hate figure
Previous examples: Danyl Johnston (4th, 2009), Rhydian (2nd, 2007)
What, exactly, is Katie Waissel doing in the final 12? We struggle to see where her votes are coming from. Her voice isn’t great. She doesn’t have a compelling backstory. She doesn’t have a strong regional demographic. And she doesn’t come across as especially likeable – indeed, her personality often comes across as downright grating. Hold on, though – it’s this last factor that could provide a clue.
Katie’s VT about wanting to become a musical legend reminds us of some of the daft things Rhydian Roberts was persuaded to say before the live shows stage, like how he’d love one day to be knighted for his services to singing. Last year, Danyl Johnston was widely portrayed as arrogant. (Both these acts were, however, far stronger vocally than Katie has appeared to be so far). We don’t know if producer fingerprints were on Danyl’s image, but we do suspect it can be useful in garnering sympathy votes to set up a narrative arc whereby the contestant can VT sadly, over a montage of negative headlines, about not understanding why they’re disliked.
Is this perhaps the plan for Katie, we wonder? We note that she has already got a lot of backs up on internet messageboards for having apparently already had a record deal once, and for denying a place in the live finals to the popular Gamu Nhengu. More simply, she might be in the finals just because she’s memorable and will give good media – but we’ll be looking out for some tearful, sympathy-inducing VTs.
Archetype: Boy band
Previous examples: JLS (2nd, 2008), Futureproof (9th, 2007), 4Sure (11th, 2006), Eton Road (5th, 2006)
Boy bands have a distinctly mixed record on X Factor, so how long FYD last may depend largely on how well disposed the producers are to them. We believe the signs aren’t promising. First of all, they’ve had very little screentime during the buildup shows. And if we’re right that the producers are intending to manouevre One Direction into a winning position, then we can’t imagine they’ll want FYD hanging around for long to split the boyband vote.
In fact, we also have a speculative feeling that the producers might just be keen to get Simon down to one act relatively early in the competition, so they can create an underdog narrative around him and his one remaining act – this would garner some sympathy votes and counter any hint of favouritism for One Direction. It could be worth recalling that in 2008, two of Louis’s three groups (Bad Lashes and Girlband) were eliminated in the first two weeks, and the remaining group (JLS) almost won it.
What is more, if the wildcard rumours are true, the most likely addition to the groups category would be The Reason, another boy band. That would be at least one male group too many, and FYD would be the ones to suffer, but they’ll be more of this kind of speculation later in the week on Sofabet.
Archetype: Sacrificial lamb
Previous examples: Rachel Adedeji (9th, 2009)
John Adeleye seems like a nice enough chap and a decent enough singer, but has been given very little screentime through the audition shows. As Rachel Adedeji proved last year, this lack of an opportunity to establish a following going into the live shows can sadly be fatal. We reckon if the producers had wanted him to get far then they’d have spent a whole lot more time on him in the buildup shows, so we expect him to be offered up as an early sacrifice.