X Factor 2011: 10 Questions for Judges’ Houses

The momentum is building on this season of X Factor. After this weekend’s double bill confirms the lineup for the live shows, we can expect Betfair to open its market on the final 16. This will allow punters to hedge any fancy prices taken during the audition shows, should we wish to do so, as well as start betting against those we feel are over-rated. We can also expect markets on the first elimination to get our heads around.

The judges’ houses stage of the competition is always an entertaining one, but it is worth remembering that this is a very different environment – with contestants performing just in front of their mentor and another celebrity in the intimacy of a front room – than the arena auditions, which are a much closer fit for where the acts will ultimately be tested. It might therefore be wise not to over-react if there are any apparent leaps forward in contestants’ vocal abilities.

As an indicator of producers’ intentions, though, judges’ houses should be full of clues. So what should we be looking out for?

1. Will they take the wraps off Melanie McCabe?

Our article analysing the limited screentime given to James Michael and Melanie McCabe sparked a flurry of speculation in the comments as to why the Dublin lass in particular had been given such short shrift in her audition edit and at bootcamp. As Ron mentioned, she received a standing ovation at her O2 audition for her rendition of ‘One Night Only’. But all TV viewers got to see was the very worst segment of her second song (come to your own conclusions from the audio of her full audition), as she fell slightly behind the beat on Rihanna’s ‘Only Girl in the World’.

What was the reasoning behind this? Do we run with the straightforward explanation that producers simply don’t want Melanie to do well? But if that’s the case, why put her in the lives at all?

Sofabet commenter tpfkar reckoned there might be some reverse psychology at work. By making sure she doesn’t look like a favoured candidate at this stage (especially compared to Janet Devlin), producers may be playing a long game, mindful of the public backlash that can occur against acts perceived to be getting too much assistance. After all, they’ve known of Melanie’s potential since her appearance on the show back in 2008 (the fact that she was eliminated at bootcamp there has not yet been mentioned, as it often is when contestants re-audition). So perhaps they are looking to reveal her talent slowly, relying on the Irish vote to keep her safe as the rest of the audience gradually cottons on to her ability.

In which case, will they continue to underplay her big voice at judges’ houses? If so, they may attach more controversy to our second point.

2. Why and how will Jade be rejected?

Sofabet readers who have been following the so-far accurate spoilers provided by our commenter, Judge, have been kept on tenterhooks about whether Jade or Melanie would receive the final place in the live shows among the girls category. Jade has featured far more prominently in the series so far, and even challenged for favouritism after revealing her heartwarming backstory and wowing judges during the third audition show.

She would clearly be the most surprising exclusion at judges’ houses, so it will be interesting to see how it is played. Will the editing try to heighten the controversy, as occurred last year in the same category when Katie and Cher were put through despite messing up at this stage? Or will producers try to avoid riling Scottish viewers by making it clear that Jade just happened to come up against some excellent rivals in a competitive group?

One thing we can confidently expect is for Jade to be one of the last two girls to discover their fate on Kelly’s sofa. But which other girl will be shown in the interspersed clips, her joy pointedly juxtaposed with Jade’s disappointment? Melanie would generate the most controversy given her relative anonymity so far; if it’s her, that will surely indicate producers want her to be a talking point of week 1, with a big performance to vindicate Kelly’s decision.

Or perhaps producers will be tempted to put the wind up Janet’s fans by editing an apparent Janet/Jade standoff for Kelly’s final place? That would certainly make for tense television for viewers who haven’t been following Judge.

3. Just what shenanigans took place in Mykonos?

Reports in the press after the filming of Tulisa’s judges’ houses intriguingly suggested that certain contestants were chucked out for romping. Judge tells us that Marlon McKenzie was thrown out of The Risk and replaced by Charlie, the lead singer of The Keys, with his four bandmates going home. Whether or not any of this occurred for romp-related reasons we have no idea; other media stories have burnished Tulisa’s urban credentials by claiming she rejected The Keys because three of them went to public school.

The big question for punters is whether we get more of a whiff of conspiracy or cock-up from the way this is handled on screen. Might producers conceivably have been angling for a way to get Charlie without his bandmates, for example? Or do we get the impression that Tulisa has been left with a weaker category by having to restrict her choice to non-romping contestants?

4. How will the new groups bed down?

And not in the literal sense. We saw various new groups created during bootcamp: The Risk, Nu Vibe, Rhythmix and The Lovettes. Whilst I would like to know who thought up these dreadful names, of more pressing interest is how well they perform together with more practice and which will get the most favourable edit this weekend.

If any of this year’s manufactured groups seem to be gelling vocally, we could see a significant plunge in their odds (currently we have Nu Vibe at 14s with Rhythmix and The Risk at 20s). A word of caution, however: last year, One Direction looked very promising when harmonising on the show for the first time at this stage, and then they notoriously failed even to attempt another harmony for the first eight weeks of the live shows in the more challenging environment of the studio arena.

It’s no surprise that the lowest-priced manufactured outfit is currently Nu Vibe, as they were most favoured by the edit at the bootcamp stage. Will the young lads led by Ashford Campbell again get the lion’s share of the limelight within this category, or will we get to see more of The Risk and Rhythmix this time around?

5. Will James Michael look like a flash-in-the-pan or a genuine contender?

Moving on to the boys category, James remains the most intriguing contender. Producers didn’t make up for his lack of audition show screentime with the bootcamp episodes edit, but still punters continued to back him down, from an initial post-audition price of 25-1 into 12-1 before bootcamp and now 8-1 at the time of writing.

As we see more of him, will that gamble begin to look like a very wise pre-emptive move, or may further evidence show him in a less flattering light? The jury is out in our comments section, with some such as Stableboyuk nailing their colours to his mast while Nicky suspects the live shows may show up vocal weaknesses suggested in the full version of his audition.

6. Will Craig Colton’s inclusion in the live shows cause some controversy?

Here at Sofabet, we can’t understand how Craig Colton has apparently managed to get into the lives, endearing guy though he appears to be. The Liverpool region is already well provided for in this category, thanks to both James Michael and Marcus Collins. Indeed, in the comments Noisy suggests the splitting of the Liverpool vote is an indication of how much producers want to avoid a male winner this year, along with the early exclusion of the impressive Lascel Woods and John Adams.

It was interesting that Craig’s name was the last one called of the eight through to bootcamp, meaning that for fans of Lascel and John, he already looks like the man who shot Bambi. We suspect most viewers who don’t follow the spoilers will be expecting the more vocally distinctive Joe Cox or the more vocally talented John Wilding to make the lives instead. Does the wisecracking biscuit factory worker perform brilliantly in front of mentor Gary Barlow to justify his inclusion? Or will we still be scratching our heads about why he remains in the competition?

7. How will the show play the withdrawal of Goldie Cheung?

Goldie Cheung looked like being a highly enjoyable cult figure for this series. Unfortunately, having been chosen at judges’ houses for the live shows, she has since pulled out. Tabloids initially suggested this was because she did not like being made into a novelty act (in which case one wonders what possessed her to drape a leg over Gary Barlow or writhe around on the bootcamp stage). In the time-honoured tradition of politicians resigning to spend more time with their family, however, the statement on the official website gives Goldie’s reason as “I knew I would miss my family so much.”

It is also suggested there that her withdrawal will be shown this week, and her replacement announced. How will this impact on the editing of the other acts? Will we see more bigging up of Johnny Robinson, now likely to be shouldering more of the pantomime burden?

8. Who are the other qualifiers in the overs category and can either of them help Louis avoid the wooden spoon?

Judge’s spoilers suggest that novelty acts Kitty Brucknell and Johnny Robinson are through to the live shows. Who will join them? The most likely candidates are barmaid Samantha Brookes and soldier Jonjo Kerr.

I don’t see either ensuring that Louis has a candidate in the final half-dozen acts this year, and having mentioned it when he was 7-4 and 7-5,  I still think the current best price of 11-10 that the Irishman loses all his acts first is a decent bet. Then again, perhaps someone will come into their own from this category in Barcelona.

9. Will the mentors start to indicate who their favourites are among their acts?

The relationship between the mentors and their charges can be an important aspect of X Factor. Cheryl’s evident rapport with Joe McElderry, who hailed from the same neck of the woods, surely helped his chances. But any signs of favouritism have to be carefully handled – only a year later, Ms Cole faced criticism for allegedly being more interested in Katie and Cher than Rebecca and Treyc.

So which close relationships may emerge? Kelly and Misha appear to be a good fit, though the empathetic American seems likely to lovingly nurture all her acts. Tulisa has already shown some maternal affection for Nu Vibe, describing them as TLM (Tulisa’s Little Muffins) on Xtra Factor. It will be interesting to see how this relationship develops, too. Gary seems more likely to gel with one of his fellow north-westerners than with south coast resident Frankie, but which one?

10. Will there be a twist in the tale?

Last year, producers tantalised us with talk of a surprise, which turned out to be a wildcard that allowed each judge to select a further entrant in their category. This took the number of contestants in the live shows from 12 to 16. From a logistical as well as a punting point of view, it was a bit of a nightmare. Nonetheless, the twist made for good TV, as four acts rejected at judges’ houses received a sudden lifeline.

This time, we’ve not heard of any change in format to what we witnessed in 2010, with four qualifiers from each category. But you never know.

What are you looking out for in particular at Judges’ Houses this year? Do keep the debate going on Sofabet below.

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22 comments to X Factor 2011: 10 Questions for Judges’ Houses

  • Tim

    I disagree that Kitty Brucknell is a novelty act – I see her as a contender and by far Louis’s strongest act. She is very talented vocally and creatively and won viewers over with her bootcamp performance of Feeling Good (and a favourable edit for the first time). She has already been pimped so much by producers (second to Janet, I’d imagine). It’s obvious that the script is for a girl to win this year – Kitty is technically an over but she’s also a girl, and only 26. They could give her a journey towards likeability a la Waissel but she’s already a lot more popular than Katie was this time last year. It’s also worth mentioning that her idol is Adam Lambert – she’s constantly bigging him up on twitter, tweeting him. If she is allowed to take him as her inspiration on the show then she could do very well. I’m not suggesting she can or will win, but I expect to see her towards the end which would endanger anyone who has a bet on ‘Louis first out’. Thoughts anyone?

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim, and many thanks for your views. I don’t feel the same way about Kitty’s vocal and creative abilities, but then she is clearly going to be a Marmite contestant who some will love and some will hate. I wonder how our other readers feel about her. Either way, do bear in mind that Katie’s journey to likeability didn’t ultimately get her that far in the phone vote, with the exception of the week she sang the Beatles’ ‘Help’.

      Even Wagner, who always came across as sympathetic and according to the odds, became a contender before the third-last show, was barely escaping the sing-off every week. Wagner also had the added advantage of appealing to those who wanted to annoy Simon Cowell. They may try a similar tactic with Kitty and Gary Barlow, but I doubt it will motivate the public as much.

      For a reminder of just how weakly Katie and Wagner did in the polls, take a look at our article dedicated to their journeys that formed part of our review of X Factor 2010. But again, I’m interested to hear what other X Factor aficionados make of these comparisons between Kitty and Katie or Wagner.

    • Boki

      I still believe someone like Sam Brookes has more chance than Kitty who performs over the top in order to cover the weaker vocal.

  • Stableboyuk

    I know I’ve nailed my colours to the mast with James but I am starting to think that Melanie could be the real deal and the producers total package!

    Odds of 9’s looks like an absolute gift at the moment and I’m sure that the opportunity for laying her off at a lower price later on will help to lock in a profit.

    I still like 2 shoes as well!

  • Donald

    I have hegded a bit all week, obviously early money on Jade gone and having had some on Janet after heeding Daniel but this week with Melaine not sure excatly why but just a hunch and price was too tempting and can cover along the way if need to. Not easy get money on mind you. Now not defending her going out of time with Rihanna track but monotoring for the artists there was a joke other track well acapella much easier. Just a thought. Kitty Katie Or Wagner? Well Kitty’s health problems been well documented so that 1 worry, if we all right and it Janet or Melaine plan a or plan b will they go with another girl unless of course they turn her first week into Buzz from Toy Story!Been great help everybody on here over the past few weeks. Roll on the lives and good luck to all. Having followed twitter closely which reveals Melaine and Janet have had colds since back from Miami and to give an idea of how much under the radar Melaine is her twitter followers not even at 2000 last night when she tweeted thanking few friends for helping weed out the fake account. If you lookind Daniel her actual account is@melaniemccabe Notice Dan Wooton not even following her but is following Janet It’s good her no’s are low as will give an added indicator once lives start. There will be twitter uproar when Jade not through judging by the general vibe on there and as well mentioned on here this week who she loses out to is probably very important to see this weekend.

  • Steve

    Interesting article as ever Dan. Will focus on the final pairings as they give the biggest clue to who is favoured etc.
    Firstly the girls I have a Misha v Jade showdown both strong vocally but shall we say unconventional in appearance, I think they will keep Melanie under wraps and wont want to alienate potential votes by having Janet, Amelia would be my 2nd pick.
    The boys will be John versus Frankie for controversy, the great voaclist with no x factor versus the average vocalist with the x factor, the trailers hint at this.
    The overs was to have been Kitty v Sami I think, but the focus on Terry at bootcamp his last shot etc leaves me to believe it will be him versus Johnjo.
    The groups who knows? realistically it should be the Lovettes versus Rythmix but I think the groups will get a lot of coverage at judges houses it all depends how its played.
    Re Melanie and James which one is the “ringer”? its Melanie for me but the expose will come in the 1st live show where a la Aiden Grimshaw “someone blows this whole show wide open” Melanies profile so far is very similar so watch for the draw on live show 1.

  • Daniel

    Thanks Steve, you’re right to consider the who-will-get-the-final-place pairings in each category. I can quite see the Frankie v John or Joe set-up in the boys section. As you say, the trailer sets us up for thinking Frankie may not have made it, and it was mentor Gary who also sowed a seed of doubt by being the one to question the strength of Frankie’s voice at bootcamp. This drama, and the relief for Frankie fans will be a way of keeping him in the spotlight.

    Interesting to re-consider the girls category. Because a popular, talented contestant will be knocked out, being in this final pairing is more of a poisoned chalice. At first I thought Janet’s involvement would create the most suspense. Another argument is that they invested most heavily in the Ulster lass and Misha at bootcamp, and as a result, it may be Amelia who is edited to take the place that Jade fails to get.

    I agree with you on the overs. Terry Winstanley got a lot of screentime during bootcamp with good reason: he wears his heart on his sleeve and is therefore TV gold. I imagine that he will be involved in any will-he-won’t-he final place drama. As for the groups, it’s much harder to say given the changes that occur.

  • Nicky

    Just read all the latest, and noticed that my ambivalence to James Michael has been quoted a few times. However, when I wrote my comments, I had not seen the Xtra Factor that showed more of him on the second day of bootcamp. I was very impressed, and it changed my opinion (he started with a beautiful long, high note,and really gave it some welly). The clip they showed on the main program showed him struggling and was less than impressive. If I were him, I would not have been very happy with the editors. The same goes for Melanie, as has been pointed out, and also, I think, Craig.

    Personally, I liked Craig’s first audition, but thought he sounded rough at bootcamp, even though Gary described his performance as ‘mesmerising’ and he got an ovation from the crowd.

    Melanie got a standing ovation in her initial audition and it must surely be surprising for this not to be televised?

    It seems some contestants are definitely being under-hyped. I find it hard to believe that the X Factor has the subtlety to use reverse psychology! But gearing this weekend’s shows up for shock and controversy is plausible. But the most compelling reason I feel is that these acts may deflect from ‘plan A’ (either Janet or maybe a group?). Melanie is great, but maybe not that marketable (all those whitneyesque diva songs are a bit dated these days). James may be too similar in vibe to Matt Cardle, and a girl winner is favoured.

    Why put these people through to the live shows then? I personally feel that the judges do have some autonomy over this part of the process. However, I’m not sure that Gary would have chosen Frankie without some persuading, as he seems to be all about the vocals.

    I’ve noticed this year that marketability seems to be a definite criteria with criticisms of ‘who would they sell to?’ and ‘I don’t see your market’ being levelled at contestants. Previously, someone could either sing or they couldn’t. I reckon Cowell is fed up of having to make albums that just don’t sell with artists like Joe Mckelderry. Although Frankie may be there to generate controversy and media interest, he seems exactly the sort of act that Syco could shift a few records with, making a fast buck. He’s unlikely to win, but I think they’ll try to keep him in as long as possible for this reason.

    But plan A doesn’t always come of, as last year showed. (If you compare how One Direction and Matt Cardle have been handled since last year, I think it’s clear that Matt isn’t the favoured one). I’m sure producers are aware of this and so want some credible acts to be in the frame as well, as Cowell might have to sign them. The public know what they like and also what constitutes good singing. Whether you like them or not, all the previous winners (and BGT winner Jai Mcdowall), can really sing.

    And so, despite alack of air time or unflattering editing, it could still be possible for some acts to overcome their disadvantage/saboutage – if they’re good enough and the public like them. And of course, the producers can always change their minds about an act midstream.

  • Nicky

    Sorry about the long winded post, didn’t realise it was so long 🙂

    • Daniel

      No need to apologise, Nicky, I think what you say makes a lot of sense. I completely agree with you that they will try and keep Frankie in for as long as possible. They have invested heavily in him so far, choosing his audition to open the whole series for starters.

      • Donald

        If Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls goes No.1 on Sunday which it looks like it will give Frankie more hype and a banker song although it should be said the Goo Goo Dolls original is particullary good and will have stolen the sales. Has anyone noticed allot of “Sony” songs and covers get pushed along with odd smattering by WBR like Matt last year throughout the show. Betting suspended in PP shops Ireland again today I hear.

  • Rob

    just to note that i’m starting to detect a growing anti-JD movement in among the forums. it’s not being replicated on youtube yet (likes vs dislikes), but will be worth keeping an eye on if you have a few quid on.

  • Ron

    She may end up being a bit of a marmite contestant. She’s perhaps a little too quirky and left field to appeal to the masses.

  • JJ

    Melanie McCabe is the biggest mystery at judges houses. Hyped for weeks from people on line who attended the auditions, but an also ran in terms of coverage. If spoilers are to be believed that she made the live shows then the secrets out and 9’s seem unbelievable value for a contestant that has bearly featured but is an on-line enigma. Or this could be the biggest con job ever pulled off. The fact that Kelly rowland described the girl as ‘phenomenol’ is enough for me, to suggest the former is cloer to the mark.

  • malcolm

    been looking on twitter, not everyone appears to be set up on this and yet others are being followed, impersonated or having others set up fan clubs for them.
    listed in order of the current bookies favorites they have these amount of followers:

    Janet Devlin 17644
    Amelia Lily 5435
    James Michael 243 ? ( a fanpage …can’t find anything else)
    Melanie McCabe 1614
    Marcus Collins 1209
    Frankie Cocozza 79021
    Misha Bryan 1633

    Janet has been the most watched on You Tube and googled contestant, but Frankie Cocozza has the biggest twitter fan base going into judges houses.
    With a weaker boys category this year I think he will rise to the top of this (boys) pile and go a long way, especially as he’s turned himself into some kind of personality already, the judges won’t want him to go anywhere.
    Janet Devlins huge publicity profile hasn’t resulted in twitter followers anywhere near the extent of Frankie. The girls category is stronger, i think Misha will drop off first.
    I have a strong hunch on Melanie. After her 2nd bootcamp audition Kelly said “1 think she was phenomenal” …. “I want the girls”

    • Boki

      Thanks malcolm, this is amazing difference Frankie made on twitter, really the sign something is happening there and should be taken into account imo. I still don’t believe he wins it but might indeed end up higher than first expected.

  • annie

    Ok, I reaally don’t get melanie, even after her judge’s house performance. she looks like someone to go first 3 weeks. boring, no originality and not even a nice sparkling sparkling personality. have no idea what the plan could be with putting her through….

  • Matt

    With Overs yet to be confirmed by Judge am starting to worry slightly on my Louis first out bet that if Jonjo goes through he might get a significant forces boost.

    • I’m now slightly pissed that I put the Melanie spoiler on the site. If true I know I have a good spoiler for live shows.

      If not, the source was trying to discredit my spoilers & feed me shit which wouldn’t surprise me either after the SYCO twitter shit.

      • Donald

        No worries,seems The Keys, Jade Richards and Joe Cox performed Friday 30th Sept at Tiger Tiger Night Club in Cardiff so that maybe an indicator to help. Your info been good so at end of day, you doing your best to help.

  • Boki

    Just after the show got a discussion with my better half (who didn’t know the favorites) about who would you offer a record contract if you were a producer. Amazingly, from girls Amelia & Janet, from boys Frankie.

    Melanie was not interesting at all (even boring), JM still far from convincing, I don’t believe anymore they can pull out a surprise but a definite thought after 1st live show.

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