In this second article reviewing X Factor 2010 with the help of the voting statistics to see what we can learn for X Factor 2011 betting purposes, we pick up on yesterday’s argument that Matt Cardle won almost by default.
Had he faced an emerging force like 2008’s Alexandra Burke, who came from relatively low voting percentages in the early weeks to storm to victory, he would have been highly vulnerable. As we argued yesterday, we don’t think Matt was the producers’ preferred winner. And, partly due to illness, he was below par for four of the final five weeks – there for the taking, if anyone had been capable of it.
Producers gave several different contenders every opportunity to manufacture some winning momentum. But every time one of them was put in the pimp slot and hyped up, they failed to dislodge Cardle from the top spot. In this piece, we look at how Matt’s opponents failed to grab their chances.
Regular readers will know that we thought One Direction were the act that producers were hoping would win from the start. We’ll have much more to say in a coming article in this review series about reasons for their failure to catch fire. For now, suffice to say they had two cracks at the pimp slot and fluffed them both, first in week 5 when they sang ‘Kids In America’ but were smashed in the vote by Matt’s ‘First Time’, and then again in week 9.
Indeed, in week 9 – the semi-final – One Direction enjoyed a double pimp slot, singing last in both rounds of performances. This suggests producers were still hoping they could turn things around at this late stage, especially as Matt was stricken with a sore throat. But the boyband missed their open goal – their vote barely saw an uptick.
We reckon it was probably after this that producers decided to switch away from One Direction (as indicated by lumbering them with Robbie Williams as their finals duet partner) and try to manouevre Rebecca Ferguson into a winning position instead.
It was a plan that smacked slightly of desperation, because they’d already tried once with Rebecca. After One Direction’s week 5 pimp slot disappointment, they gave Rebecca her big chance to stake her claim with the pimp slot in week 6. But her ‘Candle In The Wind’ was underwhelming. This was when we first started to realise that Rebecca might not be able to act out the script of growing self-belief that had clearly been written for the shy Liverpudlian since her very first audition.
Still, Rebecca’s steady trendline – dipping slightly below 100% of the mean on only one occasion – showed that she was a consistent performer who was picking up votes every week as other acts departed. And their choice of duet partner and song for her – Christina Aguilera, with ‘I Am Beautiful’ – seemed like a clear last-ditch attempt to breathe new life into the “blossoming self-belief” narrative.
It might have worked – except that the static Scouser looked completely overawed by being on the same stage as Christina and fluffed her cue on what looked like three separate occasions. That was surely what sealed her fate.
What happened to some of the other serious contenders?
Fourth-placed Cher was given a huge amount of pimping in Week 4 for ‘Stay’. She still failed to beat Matt that week, despite the judges’ tepid words for the latter’s ‘Bleeding Love’. It was at this point producers seemed to realise she would never be universally popular enough to win. She divided opinion too starkly, as we guessed in our analysis of that week’s performance (and indeed in our original Top 12 prediction article).
Instead they decided that the best they could do would be to get her into the final. So they helped dampen her support by criticising her first-up ‘Empire State of Mind’ in Week 5 and giving her an unsuitable arrangement of ‘Imagine’ in Week 7.
This put her in the bottom two, which gave her the sympathy bounce in Week 8 (though as our commenters pointed out, she still wasn’t coming across as particularly likeable to the audience), before the surprise semi-final sing-off in Week 9 allowed her into the bigger-than-usual, four-act final. Result achieved.
Fifth-placed Mary holds the distinction of being the only competitor to have out-polled Matt, after her Week 1 rendition of ‘This Is A Man’s World’ (though it has to be said, Matt did well to finish second from the number 2 slot with a song not designed to show off his talents – an indication that producers did not want Matt getting off to too flying a start after his bootcamp ‘First Time’ had propelled him to pre-show market favouritism).
At this point, a SuBo-like story of middle-aged rags-to-riches seemed possible, as sensed by a highly enthusiastic audience and judges. But it was to be her high point. I felt that even her Week 2 performance of ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ had something of the cruise ship about it.
Week 3 may have been her downfall with producers. Allegedly struggling with the song she had been given, she had to switch back to her audition number of ‘I Who Have Nothing’. Perhaps it was this confirmation of her lack of versatility which explains why the show displayed little interest in keeping her momentum going afterwards. She was damned by a series of terrible draws, outfits and song choices (no wonder she looked pissed off in Week 5) until the axe was wielded controversially in the semi.
One moment when any of the other contestants looked like a plausible winner was Aiden’s powerful performance of ‘Mad World’ in Week 1. Drawn 15th of 16 and garnering exceptional praise, he was briefly bookmakers’ favourite on the back of it.
Yet it turned out when the results were released that despite all this, he only managed fifth place in the phone vote that week. Rather like Cher, his was too niche an appeal. Every week thereafter, his relative vote declined, and producers seemed to give up on him from Week 4, with three poor draws in a row sending him below even Katie in Week 6.
Treyc was given the pimp slot in Week 1 and won some plaudits for her rendition of ‘One’. She became a lively outsider in betting markets as a result, down to 16-1 with some firms. But her eighth position in the phone vote showed that the public weren’t interested and meant she never stood a chance.
So really, who was there to beat Matt? The producers did their best to find someone, but grew increasingly desperate before Rebecca became the last of their hopes to fluff her lines. In this case, literally.