As expected, the first of the judges’ houses episodes provided plenty of clues as to what producers are thinking – this is, of course, their last chance to tee up the trajectories the chosen acts may follow in the live shows. And despite our words of caution in our preview article about not reading too much into the vocals in this very different environment from the studio arena, it is difficult to be entirely unswayed by the performances.
As the show did, let’s start with the groups. There was more screentime for The Risk than at bootcamp, and the reported replacement of Marlon with Charlie from The Keys was nicely set up with plenty of coverage for the latter and a telling clip of Marlon admitting he did not feel entirely comfortable in a group. It looked to us like Charlie is being lined up to be the star of this apparently soon to be re-manufactured outfit, but they will need plenty of airtime in Sunday night’s show if they are to go into the lives with significant momentum.
The other boy group Judge’s spoilers tell us are through, Nu Vibe, looked cute and lead singer Ashford is perfectly capable by boyband standards. But given their unfamiliarity from the auditions to viewers who don’t switch over to ITV2 for the Xtra Factor, momentum to get through the early weeks has to be a question here too.
Rhythmix’s edit certainly suggested they are heading through as well, as Judge tells us. They seem to be going for a quirky Katy Perry style vibe, but vocally they were no more than average. Girl bands are usually cannon fodder in this show and we fear a similar fate is in store, although producers may want to keep them around for long enough to ensure that Frankie gets a crack at them.
2Shoes continue to intrigue us. Having alerted Sofabet readers to their unexpectedly impressive professional backstory when they were 100/1 (thanks to a comment from Alan), we were duly impressed by their vocal in front of Tulisa, and can see them doing better than their current odds (a general 33s) suggest – especially with Charley’s pregancy giving them a great theme for their weekly VTs.
Onto the girls, and the big news is that Melanie McCabe is still being kept under wraps. Her performance was intercut with interview snippets, the treatment usually meted out to those in line to be rejected, while Amelia, Misha, Jade and Janet all got their interviews shown beforehand and a fuller treatment of their audition.
While commenter Annie wasn’t impressed, the consensus from most of you in the comments to the last post is that producers must be playing a long game with Melanie, flying her under the radar in the expectation that she will wow us in the live shows. We are coming round to this point of view. And if this is the case, her current price of 9/1 could look very big in a couple of weeks time.
[Update: Judge, the source who has so far proved entirely accurate in his spoilers, commented after tonight’s show on our site that he is worried about having been misled concerning Melanie’s inclusion in the live shows over Jade and Sophie Habibis, who also got more extended screentime than Melanie. However, Donald saw a potential clue that Jade hadn’t got in by her performing in Cardiff this last Friday. We have no choice but to wait for Sunday’s show to find out.]
Although we took 13/2 about Janet after the final audition show, she is starting to look like a very opposable favourite at her current price of 11/4. Rob notes in the comments that he is “starting to detect a growing anti-JD movement in among the forums”, and her performance in front of Kelly suggested she may struggle to demonstrate the versatility she needs to avoid her vocal style starting to grate.
Amelia Lily once again looked solid vocally and performance-wise, and once again we question whether she has an interesting enough journey to make to justify her position as solid second-favourite. There’s only so far they can flog the “supportive dad” line.
Misha impressed and the edit certainly tried to soften her image, which will be necessary if she is to escape the territory of the Rachels Hylton and Adedeji and ascend to the heights of an Alexandra or Leona. We remain sceptical about her prospects of doing so.
The overs came next, and there is not much to say about them. With Goldie gone, we can confidently predict that producers will move heaven and earth to keep Johnny and Kitty in for as long as possible – and despite Tim making the case in the comments for 66/1 shot Kitty to be taken seriously as a contender, we still reckon some fairly heavy lifting will be required with them both.
Judge still has no news on who fills the last two places, and frankly we’re finding it hard to care. Jonjo, Sami and Terry – the most likely-looking contenders – all seem genuine enough and vocally capable, but none of them have the X Factor. While Matt worries in the comments that the forces vote might enable Jonjo to endanger the “Louis first to lose all acts” bet, we reckon he comes across as too anonymous for that to carry him through more than a couple of weeks.
The surprise package among the boys was Craig Colton, who sounded a lot better than we’d heard from him before. Whether this will carry over into the lives remains to be seen, as he looked a lot more at ease performing in front of a Los Angeles infinity pool than he did on stage in his audition. But it means his purported inclusion will not now look like as much of a shock as we’d expected.
James Michael continues, like Melanie, to be kept under the radar, with a relatively brief appearance. The exchange about him usually performing with his guitar leads us to expect he’ll be allowed out with it at some point and thereby portrayed as this year’s genuine muso, a role which served Matt Cardle admirably. This dark horse continues to interest us, though whether or not there is any value left in his price is open to question.
Dug made an interesting comment earlier today about “the kind of male singer who represents the Brookstein/Ward/Cardle (charming, a bit working class with a ‘surprising’ vocal talent) and as much as I like him, I don’t see Marcus fitting the bill (too fun, too smiley – he should do something about that if he wants to be taken seriously)”. Well, Marcus’s journey to seriousness seems to be underway based on his performance, although he will have to learn to do serious with his eyes open.
We already know Marcus is a confident stage performer, and this performance showcased another string to his bow. He must be taken seriously in our opinion.
Finally, there’s Frankie. Gary’s comment about not wanting him to behave tells us all we need to know about the role scripted for him, and it doesn’t have much to do with his singing voice, which – although praised as a step forward – sounded to us as weak and breathy as it ever has. Malcolm gave us stats in a comment today that shows Frankie appears to be winning the Twitter wars hands down, but to what extent this translates into votes remains to be seen.
Ultimately, however, we will be happy to oppose Frankie once the Betfair market opens as we still see him as likely to be too Marmite to be in with a chance of the main prize. The further he gets, the more opportunity there will be for the many voters who we expect to find him annoying to coalesce around alternative candidates.
Sunday night sees the final 16 finally revealed. Has the first instalment of judges’ houses changed your mind about any of these acts? Do let us know in the comments below.