X Factor: Why I’m sticking with One Direction

Over two months ago, before the live shows, Daniel and I posted our prediction of the finishing order of the then-final 12. It was a hugely speculative exercise and has naturally proved far from perfect (although in part because the addition of the wildcards rebalanced the show). But please forgive us a moment of self-congratulation given that we’re still in with a fighting chance of getting the 1-2-3-4: we called it as 1. One Direction, 2. Matt, 3. Rebecca, 4. Cher.

Predicting a win for One Direction was based on our early sense that they were the act producers most wanted to win. We’ve seen nothing in the last nine weeks to change our minds about that. But in that time Daniel and I have evolved different opinions about whether the producers are going to be able to engineer the outcome that we think they want.

Tomorrow, Daniel will be explaining why he’s now switching away from One Direction, and which act he is backing instead. In this post, I’m sticking up for our original prediction and explaining why I still think One Direction can win this thing.

The cornerstone of my case is a conviction that producers will do all they can for One Direction this weekend. Last week I wrote that I would be very surprised if One Direction didn’t sing 4th or 5th of five in the semi-final and producers duly took no chances, sticking them on last of all for both performances. I would be equally surprised if they don’t sing last of the four acts in the final.

Leroy wondered in the comments to Monday’s post whether producers would really have the brass neck to double-pimp One Direction for two weeks in a row. Given their track record so far this series – saving Katie Waissel from four sing-offs, instituting an unprecedented semi-final singoff to shake off poor old Mary Byrne – my feeling is that yes, they certainly could.

The running order does seems to be surprisingly significant, even in the final. The previous series have seen four three-act finals (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and in all but one of those, the 1-2-3 running order has translated neatly into a 3-2-1 finishing order.

The exception was Rhydian, who sang last in the final in 2007 but still fell to Leon. I was pretty sure then that the show didn’t intend Leon to win, and my theory on what went wrong for Rhydian is the final duets, with Kylie Minogue’s superior celebrity stardust rubbing off on the Scottish underdog.

If I were the show’s producers and I wanted a One Direction victory, I wouldn’t be making that mistake again. At the time of writing, it is not yet known who the celebrity duets will be for each act this weekend. But if One Direction get the biggest name, that could be a gamechanger for them.

I’m not going to claim that One Direction are the best vocalists in the final (though their ‘Chasing Cars’ did, surprisingly, involve some actual harmonising, and they seem to have hit on a formula that makes sense: Liam, the best singer, gets the opening solo to ensure an in-tune start; Harry, the second best singer and the emerging sex symbol, gets the later solos to melt the girls’ hearts).

I do, however, think they have a plausible alternative route to the summit. If they can’t win this thing on ability, they’re going to have to do it on likeability. And here I think the show has played an absolute blinder.

We have commented repeatedly throughout the live shows on certain themes being hit time and time and time again in One Direction’s VTs and judges’ comments – their closeness as friends and how hard they work. Why does the closeness thing matter? I have no idea, but the voting public does seem to like groups who appear close to each other: JLS, top group in 2008, were clearly good friends; Jedward, Same Difference and the McDonald Bros, top groups in 2009, 2007 and 2006, were siblings.

Maybe it’s just an “aah” thing: we like seeing shared happiness. Maybe we tend naturally to think more highly of people as individuals when we observe others thinking highly of them.

The “hard work” angle is easier to figure out: it gives us the sense that these boys deserve success, almost shaming us into voting for them. A recurring subtheme is how much responsibility they take for their own choices, which came through again this week given Simon’s absence with “man flu” (and was subtly reinforced by the opening lines to their second song: ‘We’ll do it all / Everything / On our own’).

The message we’re meant to get is that they are mature, worthy individuals – not at all the pretty, empty ciphers one might expect from such a manufactured boyband.

We even got character references for them from Cheryl this week, as she referred to taking over Simon’s mentoring duties. And while she was critical about their choice of first song, it was for being too “current” – which sounds like the kind of backhanded “I work too hard” response to an interview question about your biggest faults.

In short, aside from the not-insignificant matter of their questionable talent, nobody seems to have much of a bad word to say about these kids. That’s a testament to some meticulous image management on the show’s part, and I still think it could prove to be enough to get them the win.

If the One Direction boys are to win on likeability, it would help if hot favourite Matt comes across as a bit less likeable. He has certainly been portrayed in the media as being opinionated about the show and about some of his fellow contestants, in particular appearing miffed at the headline-grabbing acts outlasting better singers. The trouble is, as Matt is so clearly the best singer of all, this risks coming off as more than a little bit self-interested.

It will be fascinating to see if the show chooses to feed this sense of Matt as prickly and entitled, and how they might do so. I wondered if that was how to interpret Simon’s comment after Matt’s first song in the semi: “Having got to know you more over the past week, I want to vouch for the fact that you are very sincere”. While this could simply have been aimed at minimising the possibility of anti-Simon votes going to Matt, it also subtly reminded us of those opinionated quotes in the press (“sincere” being an excellent euphemism for this purpose).

Matt has been favourite for a very long time, and we’ve observed before that long-standing favourites (Ben Mills, Rhydian Roberts, Diana Vickers, Olly Murs) have had a habit of falling short.

I was feeling confident about our original prediction of third place for Rebecca until a nagging doubt was introduced by this week’s Digital Spy thread from Abigail88, the mysterious source of the infamous Aiden “Twitter vote leak“, which had Rebecca “storming it”. If there’s any truth in that – and Sofabet’s social media guru Nick also reported that “Rebecca has shot up in terms of iTunes comments and You Tube views from previous weeks” – then the Liverpool lass could be carrying some serious momentum into the final.

Rebecca has been a frustration this series. She hasn’t noticeably developed much self-confidence or stage presence, she moves less fluidly than Mary Byrne, and while she comes across as perfectly nice, it’s more in a personality-vacuum Leona Lewis kind of way than an adorable Stacey Solomon kind of way. But while I personally found her ‘Amazing Grace’ as much of a damp squib as her other recent performances, it seems I was in a minority and there has to be a danger that a shrewd song choice could yet see her ignite in the final.

Still, though, there hasn’t been much evidence of producer love for Rebecca since her week six pimp slot disappointment, and we saw with Cher in week four and week five that producers are just as capable of dampening down hysteria as they are of whipping it up.

Speaking of Cher, I completely agree with Wagbo’s assessment in his excellent comment to the post-mortem article that we can expect “a credible duet to establish and latch on to a fanbase but that’s it”. Going to such lengths to get Cher into the final was surely with an eye to her post-X Factor music career rather than with any intention of her winning the thing.

Under normal circumstances you might expect Cher to get a sympathy bounce following the sing-off, but the sympathy bounce is primarily about fans reacting with surprise to the realisation that an act is less popular than they’d imagined, and none of Cher’s fans could have been under any illusions about that before the semi. It would be a turn-up now if she bests fourth.

She might just, though, help to pave the way for a One Direction victory, by acting as a lightning rod for howls of protest about favouritism – a role she has taken over from Katie Waissel. By the time it sinks in that One Direction are really the ones the producers want, they may already have succeeded in smuggling them over the line.

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13 comments to X Factor: Why I’m sticking with One Direction

  • geoff

    andrew i really hope you are right
    i have a nice chunky 7-1 ew on one direction and also a ew on cher im now at the stage where im thinkin shall i sit happy with what i will get or try cover someone else to ensure the big win my main worry about 1d is it looks like people can see they are not great and that people think the show is trying to fix it for them to win.
    also if abigails leaks were correct could rebecca be just taking over at the right time?
    or could it be that she had such a good week because matt was ill and not at his usual best. i will try and hold out now until the duets are revealed

  • alex

    Lay off your bet, 1d WONT win. thank me later!

  • i agree lay off ur bet geoff i av had a monster bet on rebecca at 7-1 and had just about given up on her untill last week now shes back in the game give her the right songs and she has a big chance the public arnt stupid and 1 direction simply arnt good enough also they will never have a vote winning show stoping performence like rebecca,s amazing grace or matts roberto flaks song u can forget little miss attitude cher she simply as no chance i belive she has been bottom in 2 ov the shows and it will take a miracle 2 turn the public around this final could be the closet ever certainly in betting terms never before has the song choices judges comments and running order been so inportant i av a gut feeling that matt will win and rebecca second and idirection 3rd u can get 3-1 which is a fair price im gona watch the showfirst with a view 2 avin a large bet when i c what running order is and song choices if u avin a punt good luck and come on rebecca ferguson sing ur heart out

  • Wagbo

    Thank you for the kind comments on my earlier post.

    Overall I think it’s too risky to go large on the winner for several reasons.

    One Direction aren’t “natural” winners (that is on their own not good enough to get the votes) but everything is being thrown their way to make that happen. Some of it must work.

    Matt is a well backed favourite for good reason. He can sing, well of voting age women find him attractive. The right songs and duet might just tip him all the way.

    Rebecca is where my money is after looking at a) the history of female winners Leonna, Alexandra over good looking boys like JLS, Ray Quinn etc. The fact she just might pull off a show stopping performance, she’s never put a note wrong all contest.

    Cher – not gonna happen! Lay, lay, lay.

  • Andrew

    Good luck, Geoff, with however you decide to play it. I do agree with Wagbo that this isn’t one for going large on – Matt’s claims are indeed obvious as you’d expect from an odds-on fav, and while I didn’t much rate Rebecca’s chances before, if she was indeed clear at the top of the semi vote then that has to be serious pause for thought. JLS did win the semi and lose the final, but they didn’t win the semi by much, and it was from the pimp slot.

  • Iain

    I see it as a two-horse race between Matt and Rebecca. The reasons that I’m almost 100% sure One Direction won’t win are as follows:

    1) They aren’t as popular as Mr. Cowell is making them out to be (I’ve looked at polls on tellymix.co.uk, digital spy and the sun website which have them third every time).

    2) Surprisingly, their most-viewed performance on youtube is still their week one performance of ‘Viva La Vida’. This suggests that they haven’t progressed as far as the show would have liked over the weeks.

    3) Each of the finalists will sing their audition song again in the final I presume. This will play into Cher’s hands – her ‘Turn My Swag On’ will remind everyone of why she was so popular originally. One Direction will sing ‘Torn’ possibly. Although this is a good song, it’s hardly a competition winner.

    4) Each of the finalists will also sing their favourite song of the series. Rebecca could sing ‘Wicked Game’ or ‘Make You Feel My Love’, both stood out. Matt should sing ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which will obviously help him massively. Cher might sing ‘Stay’ AGAIN. One Direction….not sure – my point is that none of their performances have stood out in particular.

    So that’s my view – just to say I’ve got Rebecca to win at 6/1 and a Matt/Rebecca final two in any order (dualcast) at 11/8. Good luck everyone!

  • geoff

    its not really worth me laying off 1d
    even if i wanted too because as long as they get top 3 im up on that bet plus since i have cher ew moneys coming back either way.
    the alternative for me is too either back rebecca which would leave only matt to stop a very nice win or like iain said the matt rebecca dual forecast at 11-8

  • marinamau

    I am not a betting woman myself but I find this website to be the only one who offers a sensible objective view on why and how things work at the X factor. Specially this:
    “Going to such lengths to get Cher into the final was surely with an eye to her post-X Factor music career rather than with any intention of her winning the thing.”
    Finally I read some sense refereeing to the Semifinal sing off. It is clear that Cher is going to have a fairly successful career after the X Factor, and in the case that she surpasses the success of the eventual winner the producers need to be able to say well she was a finalist.

    Who is going to win? I agree with some of the above commenters that One Direction is not as popular as the producers imply. Personally I haven’t one single person that likes them the best, second best yes. However we never know what sort of tricks the producers can throw in the way for One direction to win.

  • Andrew

    Glad you’re enjoying the site, MarinaMau! One thing re 1D being not as popular as they’re made out to be is that we can only guess at the effects of multiple-voting. I am stereotyping wildly, but I would guess Matt’s and Rebecca’s demographics are more likely to be more-mature types who will call in once and feel their duty is done, while 1D’s typical voters are the ones more likely to be hysterically hitting redial.

    That’s why I’m not so sure how much we can read into your first point, Iain, about polls which presumably have some kind of control for one-person-one-opinion. But your points 2, 3 and 4 are extremely strong ones, I think.

    • marinamau

      Andrew, you are right about multivoting. I didnt take that into consideration. The demographic that I come into contact with is very specific (80% female 40+) so in second thought it is not very representative.

  • Martin

    I think you may be underestimating Matt’s appeal to teens. Obviously he comes second to 1D there but he has alot of younger very passionate support. I advice a visit to his Facebook site and a look on twitter…always an education! That coupled with his broad demographic appeal could propel him onwards.

    I also wouldnt put too much belief in Abigail… I find the scenario of person in possession of valuable leak which could make said person shedloads of money and cost leaker their job then posting details each week on a well known forum a bit hard to swallow. If you had a golden goose like that (and Im told it is actually nigh impossible to get this data early) would you risk it to strut on Digital spy?

    • Andrew

      No, I certainly wouldn’t… but I find it just about conceivable that someone with a different kind of personality might – it takes all sorts. As I’ve said before, I really don’t know what to believe on Abigail. I’m sceptical but intrigued.

      The idea that Rebecca trounced 1D in the semi does, however, seem consistent with the otherwise astonishing (for 1D) duet choices. Maybe they’d booked someone bigger for 1D who cancelled? But, as Daniel said in the Friday update post, it does look very much like they might have looked at the voting figures and decided 1D can’t do it so they’d better move on to Plan B.

      We’ll see this evening…

  • geoff

    i decided in the end to put some of my guarenteed place money on the 15-8 matt rebecca dual forecast.
    im really starting to think this is looking like the producers are doing there utmost now to secure a rebecca win shes got probably best duet, matts not getting his best songs and also rumours of the pimp slot for rebecca.
    also dont be fooled into thinkin cher is cheryls favourite remeber simon last year with his constant danyl praise, but when they revealed who they thought would win at the end of the series he had olly and then signed olly after while danyl has been unheard of since . i could see rebecca and cher having a similar outcome.

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