We were promised a ‘new chapter’ in X Factor for the first of the 2011 audition shows, but much of it felt dreadfully familiar despite the changes to the judging panel.
As indicated in our preview article, Gary Barlow played the stern, authoritative, Cowell-esque role, and Tulisa is the new Cheryl – the sassy, pretty girl made good – whilst Kelly seems to have stepped into Dannii’s shoes as the sweet, constructive judge.
Some of those auditioning also drew comparisons with performers from previous editions of the show. More on Kitty Brucknell as the new Katie Waissel and Goldie Cheung as a potential Wagner-type figure later in the article.
We had mentioned that producers like to start the series with a bang, so as well as the requisite controversial tabloid fodder, we also saw a potential contender for victory in Janet Devlin.
Devlin has already divided opinion in our comments section, with Mike Quigley shrewdly taking 16-1 about her right after the show (she is a best-priced 5-1 at the time of going to press), while Euan felt that she is too one-dimensional to win.
She does have plenty going for her: likeability, youth, prettiness, a regional base and a distinctive voice. I can imagine her appealing to a range of demographics. She is marketable.
The amount of screen-time she garnered (tellingly including VT footage of her rural home, as Mike pointed out), and the requisite doe-eyed expressions of the judges as she performed, also strongly hinted that the producers are investing in her as one of the intended stars of the series.
It is rumoured that Kelly is mentoring the girls this year (rumours which have been reflected in the winning mentor prices, in which Kelly has come in from the outsider of four to 5/2 second-favourite while Tulisa – rumoured to have the groups – has drifted heavily). Kelly’s brand of self-esteem-boosting positivity would seem like a natural fit for the shy Ulster lass.
All in all, Janet Devlin seems like a must to qualify for the live shows. And given that the final 12 or 16 always has plenty of padding, I agree with Euan that she has an excellent chance of making the top 5. (There doesn’t appear to be any way to bet on this yet, however; and only Coral are offering each-way terms in the outright market, which is not much use when they have Janet Devlin at a miserly 2/1).
I can also understand Euan’s fear about her being one-dimensional, in that I can imagine her little-girl-lost vibe wearing thin as the live shows progress, though I think it’s too early to be sure of this after just one performance and I do see her a contender. But I won’t be backing her at current prices, given this is early days with plenty more contenders to come.
Indeed, in the audition show I went to watch, there was arguably an even stronger package – one who didn’t just elicit the adoring gaze of the judging panel, but had Kelly sobbing rather theatrically. Interestingly, clips from the auditions I saw were shown last Saturday, but this particular one has been held back. (There didn’t seem to be any attempt to suggest any logic to the order in which we watched the auditionees: we started in London, switched to Birmingham, and before we knew it, were back in London.)
The anticipated tabloid fodder in the first audition show came in the shape of Kitty Brucknell. Performing ‘The Edge of Glory’, she showed herself to be on the edge of sanity and mediocrity, as well as setting my teeth on edge.
The judges’ rather generous assessment of her singing abilities, and the newspaper headlines that followed on Monday (The Sun splashed with “Sex and the Kitty“) alleging work as a honeytrap detective and claiming that she had been invited to appear by producers, clearly suggested that she is being set up to become a major talking point of this series. It would therefore be no surprise to see her in the live shows at the expense of other more likeable and talented auditionees, in the same way that Katie Waissel managed last year.
So far she has come across as a low-rent version of Waissel, which is saying something. If producers have a Waisselesque route mapped out for Brucknell, I reckon it would have to be even more shameless – but when has that ever stopped them before?
Goldie Cheung also demands comparison with one of last year’s talking points, the Latin lothario Wagner – she’s foreign, fun, and bizarre. There should be a place for her in the live shows, especially as the rumours have Louis mentoring the ‘Overs’ category, suggesting that this is where the pantomime fun will be concentrated this year. (Kitty could also find herself in the overs, if the age limit reverts to 24 from last year’s 28).
If you think producers have a Wagner trajectory in mind for Goldie, and bearing in mind how ridiculously low Wagner traded last year, you might be tempted by a speculative back-to-lay at her current odds of 200/1 – although it’s not one I’m playing myself. Remember, too, that last year’s first audition show heavily promoted another kooky mature lady in Shirleena Johnson, who didn’t make it to the lives.
The final auditionee to garner plenty of screentime in the first show was Frankie Cocozza, who played the cheeky chappie with the names of seven girls tattooed across his backside.
Despite the averageness of his rendition of ‘Valerie’, it’s well worth bearing in mind that X Factor has been reported as planning to offer us more Big Brother-style voyeurism of the contestants’ living arrangements this year. And Frankie would be ideal for that, so he may well make the live shows. But if he does, it seems likely that producers will be more interested in hoping he will work his way through some of the female acts than in planning a post-show career for him, so he makes no appeal in the win market at his current price of 33/1.
Otherwise, we got a brief glimpse of girlgroup SoSo Status who had a rather more controversial time on stage than was indicated in Saturday’s show. I watched them mess up their first song at the O2 audition, before getting it together when offered a second chance. The fact that we saw very little of this suggests that whatever their fate, they face an uphill struggle.
Agree or disagree with any of the above? Do let us know what you thought of the first audition show in the comments box below – and please also use the comments box to react to this coming Saturday’s second audition show. We’ll be back with a review of it in the middle of next week.