X Factor 2010 Review: How Was Matt Cardle Allowed To Win? Part 2

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.

[This was part 2 of 10 in our X Factor 2010 Review series. Next: The Journeys of Wagner and Katie Waissel]

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12 comments to X Factor 2010 Review: How Was Matt Cardle Allowed To Win? Part 2

  • James

    Hi, fantastic article as always. I’ve been following your updates almost from the start of the show, but I never really had anything to add until now.

    What’s your view on Simon’s “best vocal of the competition” comment to Treyc in week 1? Do you think producers were hoping for her to become a contender? It seems odd to me, as I would have thought if that were the case they would have put her through directly, not as a wildcard.

    The only theory I can come up with to explain it is that it was to take some of the heat off Cheryl, after all the controversy surrounding her picks for the live shows.

    • Daniel

      This is a great point. Remember also that Simon claimed later in the series that Katie was originally scheduled to have the pimp slot in Week 1, but her position was switched with Treyc because the latter was impressing in rehearsals. I think the two theories you have mentioned are both relevant and not mutually exclusive. It’s quite possible it was a way to see if Treyc could become a contender AND take the heat off Cheryl. Treyc did, after all, put up a good performance that week, I thought, though the public felt otherwise it turns out. Were you impressed at the time?

      • Andrew

        It’s a fascinating question. My speculative theory is that Gamu was initially intended to be the wildcard, and that giving Katie the week 1 pimp slot and judge praise would then take the heat off Cheryl by vindicating her choice at judges’ houses. And perhaps then, as you suggest James, they went into crisis management mode when they saw the extent of the negativity of press coverage of Cheryl, and switched Treyc into the pimp slot instead. This would also explain why they ran such a big risk of losing Katie in the first week with a so-so slot in the running order, something which would otherwise be hard to fathom.

      • James

        It wasn’t a bad performance, I thought, but nowhere near deserving of the praise it got. The “by a mile” part was the bit that really surprised me tbh: She did sing well, so I could almost understand Simon saying it was the best vocal of the night, but that level of hyperbole seemed slightly out of touch when Mary was so obviously the public’s favorite that week.

  • hanna

    I enjoyed your ‘dissection’ of the shows all the way through and was happy to accidentaly notice you wrote a new set of entries!

    There is one thing i was wondering about on more than one occasion…
    It’s obvious that the result – end or of a particular live show is not always as we suspect the producers would like to have… And we see a whole set of methods repeatedly used to try to influence the outcome… But how difficult would it be to actually influence the results by beeing dishonest about them? Who actually counts the phone calls? many people said when dismissing the leaks that about 20 people know the actual results that’s why it’s improbable any would leak them, cause it would be easy to trace back… well with only 20 people i’t funny that they pull ridiculos tricks like the treyc/katie sing of situation, or the operation save cher in the semifinal, which look silly and fixed…
    so basically what i wonder who and how the fairness of the show is verified, if they ‘fix’ the show as much as judge’s quite possibly know when they can leave a decision to deadlock and when not to save a desired act, why isn’t it easyer to simplu lie somewhat on the percentages rather than pulling so many strings? …don’t get me wrong, i am happy they don’t, i was just thinking about it….

    • Andrew

      Hi Hanna, welcome back! I don’t know who counts the votes, but I’m 100% confident it’s honest. Back in 2007 (I think) there were a number of scandals involving TV phone votes, and I don’t believe for a moment that they would take any chances there.

  • Martin

    Hmmm. Not convinced Im afraid. I’m in the camp of they really did want Matt to win from the start and their problem was really to keep his momentum while also giving the semblance of a close run thing to keep the votes coming in.

    Lets face it if they were as on top of the voting and able to manipulate events as you think (and I do think theres much merit in that belief) they could have finished him off at any time. For example when he was ill. They didnt have to point it out to the extent they did. Mary got none of the same sympathetic VT. And Rihanna as a stage partner doesnt suggest they wanted him to fail. They also gave him pole position in the final – going first is a positive advantage in voting. If they are in control as you say and wanted to stop a leader, especially one not on top form, they had weeks to do it.

    I suspect it was more that they were working to keep him on top while not appearing to favour him. After all Simons endorsement isnt exactly a passport to musical credibility these days is it? And it actively helped Matt not to be pimped by him but to be seen as admired but not favoured. I do think theyre as Machiavellian and effective as you think but then following that line of thought…I think they got exactly what they wanted and didnt abruptly lose their powers when confronted by the Cardle phenomenon.

    I suspect the proof will come by watching Matts career. He was given permission to write his songs and have a band pretty much on day 1; he has a top A & R man guiding him, his single was different to any other winner’s and proved a huge success; he’s perceived as a musician and he’s changed the image of the Xfactor winner when it needed it most after the RATN debacle. Why wouldn’t Cowell have wanted him? Perhaps Mr Cowell is capable of thinking ahead to the image of the show in this crucial year not just to the next buck?

  • Bridget

    I agree with Martin, I can’t see why the producers would not want Matt to win – he has proved himself, in my opinion, to be articulate in interviews, an extremely talented singer/musician and seems to be a really likable person. Surely these qualities would be a godsend to the producers and the X Factor brand

    • Daniel

      Hi Martin and Bridget. I think you both have a good point in one sense: if it were me running the show, I would have been backing Matt from the beginning as the most talented artist who would be a credible winner for X Factor (although plenty of others seemd to think his post-win career would follow the downward trajectory of Steve Brookstein), something I stressed in my posts throughout. I just find it hard to think he was Plan A for two reasons. Firstly, One Direction were clearly given as much help as possible. Secondly, if Matt had been Plan A, they would have not put him on second in Week 1 and first in the Final (the only other finalist to be put on first and win is Steve Brookstein and the last couple of winners were on last in the final, so I personally think it’s still the “death slot” even if the lines are open already). Perhaps, as Martin says, this was an attempt to make the whole thing closer than it was, but I see it as the only way of trying to get him beaten by One Direction – or by Rebecca come the final. The winner’s song choice was an inspired one, I agree, but they had to change the goalposts for that after the disaster of last year’s ‘The Climb’.

  • annie

    I think they wanted the boys to win cause they spell money much more like matt does. Matt is a talented guy, good musician, but more likely the type to have a long, steady career with decent but not always chart topping songs.
    the boys are young, inexperienced, will probably do as told in every aspect and more likely to cause over hyped justin bieberesque hysteria, leading to lots of record sales, leading to lots of cas$. plus i think everyone, including viewers-like me-were hoping (even before getting to know any of the finalists) that after 7 seasons a band would finally win. i kind of liked them at the beginning, but felt a bit disgusted how much they were being pushed to succeed.it was also surprised how much praise they got from almost everyone interviewed on xtra factor for example.

  • Riddle me dis

    It was obvious they didn’t want Matt to win which makes it all the more hilarious to see their pathetic attempts to thwart him (how many forgetful slots did he get??) fail so hard. You can manipulate the show but you still cant fck with the Cardle.

    It’s also delightful to see how many outraged fans of past/current/American Idol contetsants continue to remain outraged. Steady trying to convince themselves that he wasn’t ‘all that’. HAHAH. Good one. Stay pressed bitches.

  • Martin

    Hello Daniel!

    Can I say first of all that I very much admire your analyses on here! I think though that perhaps you give Cowell too little credit as a tactician? If we can see it theres no reason he couldn’t: Matt is the ideal winner at a time when the franchise was taking a RATM beating. Different, credible, extremely media friendly & articulate, sex appeal to a female/young demographic. Of those 4 assets arguably Rebecca would have given Cowell only credibility; 1 D maybe 2 (sex appeal and different).

    Putting him first in week 2 with a current song was actually a huge push to his bandwagon surely? Then giving him ;The First Time again, ‘ Hit Me Baby with guiter; Yellow Brick Road; Nights in White Satin – in my view they worked hard to build his credibility and sex him up. if you think of how many memorable moments he had over the series ..including the vest…I cant help thinking he couldnt have done all that on his own with producers and judges put to stop him.

    I thought too that first to sing in the final was a bad placing until I actually watched and voted. In my view it definitely gives momentum with floating voters and theres no time to forget the performance when there are only 4 then 3 then 2. I saw Rebecca fans afterwards bemoaning that a bit.

    Personally I think 1Direction were built up to do exactly what they’re doing now. To create a profile and fanbase that will most probably make Cowell alot of money. They didn’t have to win to do that- just be pushed to the final – but they did need alot of help to get even to 3rd, as Rebecca did to give Matt any real competition.

    I do have high hopes for his career now and I believe Cowell will allow him to do what it takes to succeed because he can see his potential, but thats just my own amateur analysis.

    Riddle Me – yes I’ve noticed a number of Idol fans seem a bit hostile to Matt. I cant say I understand why.

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