The duets of the final weekend have emerged as a major factor in predicting the X Factor winner. It would appear that the celebrity firepower of a contestant’s singing partner significantly influences the votes cast.
In this article, we look at how the choice of partner has impacted previous years’ results, and speculate on who might be the most likely or suitable pairing for each of the five acts remaining in the competition, should they get through this semi-final weekend.
Duets first appeared in 2006, but only for the final two, when Leona Lewis and Ray Quinn sang with Take That and Westlife respectively. This was probably a net benefit for Leona, but the kudos difference was small in comparison to the years that followed.
The first hint of the power of the duet came in 2007. It was Dannii Minogue’s first year as a judge, and she persuaded sister Kylie to perform. Dannii had two acts left; Kylie lined up with Leon, while red-hot favourite Rhydian was paired with Welsh opera singer Kathryn Jenkins. Same Difference got Jason Donovan.
It’s hard to prove, but easy to suspect, that Kylie made the difference in Leon’s shock win. The X Factor is probably not Kathryn Jenkins’s natural market. And the relative stocks of Kylie and Jason had diverged widely since their their Scott and Charlene days.
In 2008, winner Alexandra Burke was gifted a duet with Beyonce, while JLS and Eoghan Quigg were lumbered with Westlife and Boyzone respectively. No contest there.
In 2009, Stacey Solomon drew the short straw with Michael Buble and duly exited the final first. On paper, a George Michael (Joe) might only just trump a Robbie Williams (Olly), but Joe’s advantage widened when the former pairing looked like polished professionals while the latter resembled mates male-bonding at a pub karaoke night.
It’s a puzzling phenomenon, for sure. Why would you vote for Leon because you like Kylie? Perhaps people view the duet as an endorsement, and think they must back the star’s choice. Perhaps Leon-leaning voters were enthused to vote, or vote more, by Kylie’s presence in a way that Rhydian-leaning voters weren’t by Kathryn Jenkins’s.
Whatever the reason, you can be sure the producers are well aware of this evident effect and will take any opportunity to bolster their preferred act at this crucial stage of the competition. This is why we think they will have lined up someone special for One Direction, who we have long reckoned are Simon Cowell’s Plan A.
A less inspiring choice would be Take That handling over the boyband mantle, but the stage may look a bit crowded, as it did for JLS duetting with Westlife. Justin Bieber, as the biggest teenage star in the world right now, is another possibility, but they may look more like his backing singers.
A female soloist is probably the most obvious way to go with them, something to play up their sexiness and put them with someone teen girls want to be. That leaves us with the possibility of Rihanna, who is a big enough name, has guest starred a couple of times, and offers something a bit different. For more of the same, Kelly Clarkson could join them for ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’, which they peformed earlier in the series.
Another possibility is Nicole Sherzinger – especially if she’s keen to please Cowell to get a US judging role. Dermot made the point of mentioning last Sunday that she chose three of them at auditions. And she seems to have been a huge hit with X Factor fans as a guest judge so it could help motivate votes for them in that respect.
As for Matt Cardle, two of his best live show covers could offer inspired choices with the original singer. There’s Roberta Flack, who sang ‘First Time Ever I saw Your Face’ and made an appearance at the Grammys this year. Of more star wattage, relevance and excitement would be a duet with Britney Spears on ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’.
If producers are less keen on him to win, they might stick Take That with Matt rather than One Direction. If they wanted Matt to do rock, producers could ask Bon Jovi back, or for something more akin to pop royalty, they could do their best to bring in Paul McCartney, after the recent Beatles week.
When it comes to Rebecca, fans of a certain age would happily see her teamed up with Sade, which seems like a natural match, but whether it would motivate younger or wavering viewers is another matter. Some of the others already mentioned could also be used: a Rebecca / Paul McCartney duet would certainly get the Liverpool vote.
Nicole Sherzinger could perform a rescue mission by duetting on an upbeat number that involves plenty of movement for the rather static Liverpudlian lass, though you think they would have tried that in her live show performances by this point.
They might dump Michael Buble on her as they did with Stacey Solomon last year. A more interesting choice for her would be Usher, who guested on the first live show, or will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who is a buddy of Cheryl, and is looking to flog the band’s new album.
Talking of the Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am or even better Fergie, would be a decent pairing with Cher, who as a more distinctive performer than Rebecca, has some interesting possibilities, including Usher or Pink. Christina Aguilera might also be a good fit, and the latter is already rumoured to be performing in the final with American veteran of stage and screen, Cher.
I suppose a Cher / Cher duet would be too much to ask for, and a more sensible pairing would be with Alicia Keys (who has been a previous guest on the show) on ‘Empire State of Mind’, though it was called a ‘copycat performance’ when the 17-year-old performed it in the live shows. Jay-Z would be another inspired choice, but Alicia a better fit (leaving Cher to do the rapping).
Mary has a few options. They could wheel out Shirley Bassey, though she would show up the Tesco worker as a pale imitation. Susan Boyle would cause the most fuss, but more likely we might see a Westlife collaboration that would motivate the Irish vote.
Susan Boyle reminds us that Simon Cowell has a vested interest in bringing in acts he already manages. A SuBo / One Direction duet sounds strange but may work to help ensure they have a broader base (menopausal women as well as teenage girls).
Leona Lewis has claimed she is probably not participating, but is another Syco opportunity. She’s hardly a charismatic personality and it may not be in the best interests of Matt to repeat ‘Bleeding Love’ with Leona, who would definitely not suit Rebecca either – they are as worthy but dull as each other.
What are your views on these possible pairings, and are there any other names you’d throw into the pot? Do let us know in the comments box below.