X Factor: Can Katie Waissel bounce again?

As a former horse racing journalist, I know the value of studying the form when making predictions – and this week’s show throws up a question which studying the form of previous series could help us to answer. Can Katie Waissel escape the bottom two?

As we’ve often mentioned, contestants saved from a sing-off tend to enjoy a “sympathy bounce” which keeps them safe the following week. Katie was in the bottom three in week one, and duly got her sympathy bounce, keeping her safe in weeks 2 and 3.

Last week she was saved in a sing-off again. But can she bounce again? Over the previous series, only seven contestants have found themselves in Katie’s situation (saved once, bounced, then saved a second time) – so let’s study the form.

In all, four of the seven enjoyed a second sympathy bounce that kept them clear of the bottom two:

  • In 2009, Lloyd Daniels (saved in weeks 4 and 6, he got a second bounce in week 7 and was gone in week 8);
  • In 2008, Ruth Lorenzo (saved in weeks 2 and 5, she got a second bounce, for two weeks, and went in week 8);
  • In 2006, Robert Allen (saved in weeks 2 and 4, he bounced again before going in week 6);
  • In 2005, Chico Slimani (saved in weeks 1 and 3, he bounced again for three weeks, was saved again in week 7 and then went in week 8).

The three of the seven who didn’t bounce for a second time were:

  • Rachel Hylton in 2008 (saved in weeks 4 and 6, but bottom two again and gone in week 7);
  • Hope in 2007 (saved in weeks 3 and 5, bottom two and saved again in week 6, gone in week 7);
  • Voices With Soul in 2004 (saved weeks 1 and 3, gone in week 4).

How can this analysis help us to guess whether or not Katie will enjoy a second sympathy bounce? We have to use our judgement to decide if Katie is more like the acts that did get a second bounce, or the acts that didn’t. And I would argue that she’s more like the acts that didn’t.

Chico Slimani and Ruth Lorenzo both had devoted cult followings. Robert Allen came across as immensely personally likeable. Lloyd Daniels had great visual appeal to young girls, a key voting demographic. It wouldn’t appear that any of these things can really be said about Katie.

In contrast you never got the sense that Rachel Hylton was widely adored, while Hope – a girlband manufactured at bootcamp – were perceived by many as being favoured by producers to a greater extent than their talent warranted. And those are certainly things that you feel can be said about poor old Katie, who has endured a torrid press ever since her first audition. Revelations about her previous singing career under different names, and rumours of previous links with people connected to the show (the show’s choreographer, Brian Friedman, recently confirmed that he’d known her previously), fed into a sense of resentment when she secured a place on the live shows ahead of the popular Gamu Nhengu.

Since then the show has tried its very best to keep her around. After almost losing her in week one, they have given her three strong slots in the running order. Her judges’ comments have been mostly very positive, especially from Simon. Above all, they have tried to invent a “fun” persona for her with her last two song choices, ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ and ‘Bewitched’ – but, to me, this persona has felt both insincere and smacking of desperation. Is this really the kind of singer Katie wants to be?

Last week’s bottom two appearance suggests that it’s not washing with the voting public, either – and it’s far from clear what new tactics the show could deploy to try to make us like Katie more.

We’ve had further tabloid front page headlines again this week (Axe Her!) which seemed designed to regenerate sympathy. Is this the show desperately trying to pull out something to save Katie, or squeezing the last drops of controversy from her?

After a series of great slots in the running order, you’d think producers won’t dare put her in the pimp slot again. Another great draw risks provoking resentment whilst an early draw makes life difficult.

Saturday’s show will tell us more, but the feeling I get from studying the formbook is that all concerned will have to come up with something spectacular to avoid another tense, teary sing-off for Katie.

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