The final audition show proved a damp squib for punters and viewers alike. It lacked any potential contenders and there was barely a ripple in the market, with the pretty awful Terry Winstanley at 50-1 doing best in bookmakers’ lists among the show’s performers. It would be a surprise to see any of them in the lives unless one or two of them join a group.
Talking of which, tabloid headlines suggesting a cull of contenders in the groups section at judges houses due to ‘romping‘ have thrown this category into even greater confusion. Among those eliminated at this stage, according to Judge’s updated spoilers, are allegedly the urban boyband featuring Derry Mensah and Marlon McKenzie (which we had speculated could be a good match for mentor Tulisa) and the only group who have made any kind of dent in the betting during auditions, The Keys.
Another red-top story that required some reading between the lines indicated that a leading contender had failed at the bootcamp stage due to losing his voice with laryngitis. Internet forums have understandably come to the conclusion that this was most likely to be Lascel Woods, although there seems to be no confirmation about his bootcamp fate or that of show 6‘s impressive John Adams.
With these rumours swirling around, there seems little clarity for punters despite the fact that we have now seen every televised audition. So should those looking for a flutter just wait and see?
There are two sides to this argument. There is certainly a good case to hold fire until we learn what bootcamp throws up – it was here last year that Matt Cardle was catapulted to favouritism based on his rendition of ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. We also saw the creation of two new bands, including One Direction, who eventually placed third. So if we wait a week, we get to see which of the auditionees display some versatility, and what is the composition of the new groups (more on this below).
But with bookmakers going 13/2 the field yesterday, showing that they are equally clueless at this stage, there was arguably some value to be had. In uncertain times, those who play the stock market gravitate to ‘safe havens’ such as gold or German bonds. Using similar reasoning, the Sofabet team took the last of the 13/2 on Janet Devlin after last night’s show.
Janet is now a best-priced 6/1, the same kind of price she’s been since her audition stole the very first show. And while we have repeatedly said we thought those odds were skinny while there was still time for other contenders to emerge, we now reckon they look pretty reasonable (Sofabet commenter Ronnie was waiting for such a price only a week ago). Janet seems the safest bet at this very early stage. She should be in the final half-dozen at least.
This is partly because there seems likely to be plenty of padding among the final 16. The overs category looks very weak once more, with three pantomime acts listed by Judge and a dearth of credible talent to complete the foursome (commenter Annie points to rumours that soldier Jonjo pips barmaid Sami, but these do not come with the provenance of Judge’s track record). This means a quarter of the field for the live shows can immediately be discounted as potential winners.
The groups category also seems to be struggling to find plausible contenders. Remarkably, in all seven audition shows, only one group have entered the betting at less than 50/1 (a capella outfit The Keys) – and they are said by Judge to have been eliminated at judges’ houses. Apart from another pantomime act who Judge says are in the lives, Essex girls 2 Shoes, this category is looking distinctly murky.
Bootcamp will, of course, tell us a lot more. Judge’s list has a manufactured girl band going through, as well as a manufactured boy band featuring Stefan Romer (thanks to tpfkar for pointing out that the surname is Romer, and not Ramos as had previously been thought). The identity of the fourth group remains even more mysterious.
We are, however, struggling at this stage to discern any rabbits that might be lurking in Tulisa’s hat. Stefan Romer’s audition got all of 37 seconds of screentime – a far cry from the full-on treatment afforded to One Direction members Liam Payne and Harry Styles in last year’s audition segments. With Derry and Marlon allegedly out of the frame, there does not seem to be too much scope for producers to stitch together a group of auditionees who are high enough profile to enter the lives with much momentum.
What are producers thinking? Regular readers will know that we have, throughout, worked on the assumption that producers will not want to embarrass Tulisa by lumbering her with four no-hoper acts. We have assumed that they must have at least one credible act for her up their sleeves, and presumably something “urban”. This thinking informed our view – shared by commenter Mark – that Louis was worth a punt at 7/4 to be the first mentor with all acts eliminated (that best price is now 6/4).
But with it becoming increasingly unclear where this credible group might be coming from, another highly speculative thought occurs: Would it be far too cynical to wonder if producers might actually welcome an embarrassingly early decimation of Tulisa’s category, as this could then be followed by parachuting in Cheryl to replace her midway through the lives? It would be a highly controversial move – we at Sofabet are far from alone in having enjoyed Tulisa’s judging a whole lot more than we ever enjoyed Cheryl’s – but controversy is the lifeblood of the show.
This is rather wild speculation, however. Returning to the firmer ground of the girls category, it seems clear that Kelly has easily has the most strength in depth. Judge alleges that Misha, Amelia and Janet are three of the four finalists in this category. They seem most likely to be joined by either Jade or Melanie, with bookmakers currently favouring the former after Melanie got surprisingly little screentime on Saturday. Any combination of four among these would be respectable contenders.
We think Janet is the safest bet of the four, at this stage, as her appeal currently appears to be the most universal and she has the classic journey towards self-confidence to go on – a feature of each girl to reach the top three in previous series. Her appearance in the first audition show, and the way she featured last night in the montage of highlights from this segment of the competition, also suggests that producers are investing heavily in her; as Euan’s excellent analysis a few weeks ago pointed out, the winner and runner-up have most often come from the earliest audition shows.
While the girls dominate the betting, punters thinking of piling on Kelly as winning mentor should bear in mind that not since 2005 has the final 5 contained more than 2 acts from the same category. That will surely be no accident – rivalry between mentors is integral to the appeal of the show, and producers will naturally hope to ensure it continues down to the wire. It’s a safe bet that producers will not want a final weekend comprising only Kelly’s acts.
That means we can expect producers to try to ditch at least a couple of Kelly’s acts before the business end of the competition. We are suspecting, therefore, that the girls category may see one or two “shock” early exits (indeed, it is often a girl who suffers this fate – Lucie Jones and Laura White spring to mind).
It also means there may be some value elsewhere as a result. With the overs looking hopeless and the groups still impenetrable, it is therefore to the boys category that we must turn – also the category that traditionally does best.
I think two of the boys who Judge has going through to the lives – Craig Colton and Frankie Cocozza – simply aren’t vocally strong enough to be contenders for the win. James Michael is a dark horse (and has been backed in from 25/1 to 16/1), but his paucity of audition screentime does not suggest producers have especially big plans for him.
A process of elimination thus leaves us with Marcus Collins, which is why I took the last of the 14/1 on him during the week (he is now a best-priced 12s). From what we have seen in auditions, he is easily the most accomplished performer among those in this section that have allegedly got through to the live shows.
This weekend’s bootcamp episodes should be a lot more revealing than the last two audition shows, and a stellar performance from a hitherto less-heralded act could turn the market on its head. Punters can be forgiven for waiting to see what this stage brings, but the danger of such a strategy is that you may see any value disappear before you take a chance. Which is why I have dabbled with small sums on Janet and Marcus, who I consider to be the two most obvious contenders at this stage, and at a decent enough price.
As ever, please do let us know what you make of this reasoning – and share any emerging news – in the comments box below.