This time last year, Sofabet tried to predict the finishing order of the initial 12 finalists, with mixed but respectable results. This year, the task feels much more difficult – and not just because there are already 16 finalists, whatever the 2011 ‘twist’ may be.
As commenter Euan summed it up with tongue in cheek after judges’ houses, “I’m not feeling I’ve seen the winner”. We know what he means. Every act comes with significant doubts – so much so, it’s tempting to conclude that nobody can win. But, of course, at some point in the last seven weeks, we have seen the winner.
So here again, just for a bit of fun, is our ridiculously speculative attempt to predict the full 1-16 finishing order of the 2011 X Factor. Please let us know in the comments where you feel our reasoning is most awry. And why not post your own 1-16 in the comments, too? Bragging rights are up for grabs at the end of the series.
1st. Marcus Collins
Current odds: 14/1
We’ve gone for Marcus as our winner because, in an open year, we feel he ticks the most boxes, and at 14/1 with Boylesports he remains a very attractive price in our eyes.
While Marcus has not been as blatantly pushed by producers as Janet or Frankie, he nonetheless seems likely to be the kind of act producers will want to keep around until the latter stages. Marcus is a versatile performer, having got the audition arena clapping along to an upbeat ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ before showcasing his “hardcore seriousface”, in commenter Dug’s memorable phrase, at judges’ houses. He has a commanding stage presence, and he is vocally solid. In short, they will be able to rely on him to put on an enjoyable show, week after week. This is not to be underestimated.
Nor is the likely appeal of his personality – to borrow another of Dug’s phrases, Marcus “emits cheeriness like nuclear radiation”. We think this is a good thing. As is the fact that he has an escape-from-poverty backstory but wears it with an endearing lightness, as evidenced by his auditions comment about wanting to have enough money to shop at M&S. He has appeared fiercely loyal to his single-parent mother, without it being turned into an overly cloying sob story.
He is one of three Liverpudlians in the competition, so he must initially survive a three-way split of the regional vote. But whoever is the Last Scouser Standing will inherit this strong base. Marcus’s middle-of-the-road likeability, down-to-earth normality and manifest talent should also see him well positioned to pick up floating votes in the closing stages against potentially more divisive rivals.
The doubts? Though he has youth and looks on his side, a slightly camp hairdresser is unlikely to command the teen girl votes which have helped the boys category win three of the last four series. On the other hand, swathes of other female demographics probably quite like camp hairdressers. As Simon “le chat” says, “don’t underestimate the granny and mom vote, and the vote of the silent masses of viewers who do actually treat this as a singing competition and put through the best voice”.
In an open year, we think Marcus has a range of credentials no other act can match.
2nd. Janet Devlin
Current odds: 4/1
Producers have invested more in Janet Devlin than anyone else so far. The shy 16-year-old was handed the starring role in the first audition show, and closed the preliminary stages with an edit showing her getting in ahead of strong rival Jade Richards at judges’ houses.
There, mentor Kelly sobbed “you can have it all” as Janet still doubted her abilities. The path for Janet is both clear and well-trodden – it’s the path to self-confidence that has taken the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis to the final. It’s the best way for a girl to progress in the show.
The Ulster lass has a quirky little-girl-lost persona and style that has immediate impact. She makes her voice crack in a way that is very popular in the charts right now – her rendition of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was very reminiscent of Elie Goulding’s version. It can produce the occasional goosebump-y moment that is so effective on shows like this. She represents youth and innocence in a set of finalists where this is otherwise curiously (deliberately?) lacking; the contrast with fellow 16-year-old Amelia Lily, who comes across as far more knowing and mature, is especially striking.
But there is a but. Further exposure to Janet has already created something of a backlash, and we’re not even in the live shows yet. There are fears that her vocal shtick is very particular and she may lack versatility. Her hippyish vibe, with the barefoot judges’ houses audition, may also rub some up the wrong way. Plenty of comparisons have been made with Diana Vickers, whose quirky style ended up wearing thin and saw her finish fourth in 2008.
Those doubts are enough for us to oppose Janet at a short price, but not enough for us to put her as low as fourth. She can, after all, rely on a strong regional base in Northern Ireland, and the failure of Melanie McCabe from Dublin to qualify may also send some votes her way from the south. And on evidence so far, producers will throw the kitchen sink at her.
3rd. 2 Shoes
Current odds: 66/1
We feel that in an ideal world, producers would want each of the three new judges to have a horse in the final. So whoever ends up being Tulisa’s last hope will, we feel, be in line for some producer goodwill. And while a group has never won the show, we’ve had a group in the top 3 for five out of its seven seasons.
We have no hesitation in plumping for 2 Shoes as the vocally strongest, most entertaining and most endearing in this category. They are the only ones who were not manufactured at bootcamp, and thus tainted from the start as being comprised of rejected soloists. It is also interesting that, in four of seven seasons, the top group has had only two members. Admittedly all were sibling duos, but these two girls were clearly close friends before auditioning – one of the factors of group success in this show which we identified in our post-mortem analysis of what went wrong with One Direction.
It also just so happens that 2 Shoes are the longest priced group. Punters in sympathy with our positive view of their chances could consider the 50/1 each-way with Coral, 11/1 with Boylesports for a top-3 finish, or 11/2 with Betfred to be top group, all of which we feel represent decent value.
2 Shoes were clearly set up to provide the surprise factor when making a giggly entrance at their first audition, but it has since come to light that Charley Bird is a recording artist and her partner in crime, Lucy Texeira, a professional vocalist. While the ditsy Essex girl act astutely rides on the coattails of ITV2’s successful ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ and should appeal to the celeb mag-reading demographic, the fact they have genuine talent means they can broaden their appeal.
It has also since come to light that Charley is pregnant. If we were the show’s producers, we would gladly embrace this as a feelgood story. But it does raise a nagging doubt – what if producers are worried about the risks of a pregnant contestant? Any suggestion that the stress of the competition could be interfering with Charley’s health would be toxic. If so, they could take the opportunity of the 35-minute overlap with Strictly this weekend to try to get rid of the duo early on.
This would be a shame, as we think 2 Shoes have the potential to become one of the big talking points of the series. If they aren’t nobbled in the first week, we can see them emerging as the surprise package.
4th. Frankie Cocozza
Current odds: 17/2
Frankie has been the producers’ second most favoured act behind Janet in the preliminary stages. He was, like Janet, introduced in the first audition show – right at the beginning of it, in fact – with his credentials as a ladies’ man writ large over his unattractive arse.
His philandering was also heavily featured during bootcamp, and although he claimed he wanted to be taken more seriously at judges’ houses, Robbie Williams summed up how he has been positioned when praising his bum graffiti as “proper behaviour”.
As has been recognised by his mentor Gary Barlow, his vocals are not the strongest. They are, in fact, breathy and without any kind of range. He tends to talk his way through the song. While Frankie is outstripping his rivals in Twitter followers (how much this translates into votes remains to be seen), his vocal weakness coupled with the blatant favouritism shown towards him have seen the south coast lad become a polarising figure.
In the early stages of the show, it is definitely better to be talked about than not talked about, and Frankie has plenty of momentum going into the lives. You can bet your bottom dollar, so to speak, that producers will be hoping for Frankie to make some conquests within the X Factor house to feed the tabloids with gossip.
But we foresee a similar trajectory to Cher Lloyd last year, for whom producers did everything they could before the majority of people who didn’t take to her were able to coalesce around a smaller number of rivals. We reckon Frankie could be in the bottom two a couple of times on his way to our predicted finish of 4th, with judges saving him due to a “charisma” which plenty of viewers find hard to detect.
5th. Amelia Lily
Current odds: 5/1
We have mixed feelings about the 16-year-old from Middlesbrough. We recognise her abilities as a decent singer, which have led many to see her as the most likely ‘default’ winner in a year where a good case can be made against every act. She also benefits from having her own niche among the finalists, with no one else stepping onto her rockier turf. This is not to be underestimated – one only has to see how much further Jamie Archer went than his talents deserved.
There is, however, something slightly anonymous about her within the confines of the show. This is because there is, as yet, no decent backstory or journey for her to go on – all they’ve had to flog so far is that her dad loves her very much (one would hope she is not alone among the final 16 in this respect).
For that reason it wouldn’t surprise us to see her fall into the bottom two at an earlier stage than her odds suggest, like Laura White and Lucie Jones – accomplished but relatively anonymous girls from previous seasons. We wouldn’t discount a shock early exit. We choose her as the second-placed girl, though, because producers have given her far more airtime than Sophie Habibis, and she has more broad mainstream appeal than Misha Bryan.
6th. Nu Vibe
Current odds: 16/1
There are two boybands in this competition, which is one more than it needs. Our reading of the edits since the two were formed at bootcamp is that producers are going to concentrate efforts on the younger model, Nu Vibe. The brief glimpse of the makeover shots at the end of judges’ houses showed a vibrant look for the boys that will appeal to their teenage girl demographic.
Nonetheless, we can’t see Nu Vibe reaching the heights of last year’s third achieved by One Direction because producers have invested far less in this outfit. In stark contrast to the plentiful audition airtime given to One Direction’s Harry Styles and Liam Payne last year, Nu Vibe’s lead singer Ashford Campbell wasn’t even featured on the main show during the audition stage.
7th. Kitty Brucknell
Current odds: 50/1
Which of Louis’ poor set of acts will they try to keep in as long as possible? Hello Kitty. She has very clearly been set up as this year’s Katie Waissel, another for whom producers pushed as far as they could last year. Therefore, we have placed Brucknell in the same finishing position this time around.
Actually, there were aspects of Katie’s fame-hungry chutzpah we really enjoyed, whereas Kitty so far seems closer to the edge of sanity. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt in our minds that her antics will be a talking point of the early weeks of the show. It wouldn’t surprise us for there to be shocking rumours about her and Frankie.
It’s interesting how many people, both in forums and among our commenters, are prepared to defend Kitty’s vocals and other aspects of her performance. That will make it easier for judges to save her from a sing-off or two or three. Producers will have seen how good for the show it was to rescue Katie Waissel again and again, and being able to choose the timing of a double or single elimination helps them control events to some degree.
8th. Sophie Habibis
Current odds: 12/1
We’re more unsure about where to place Sophie than any other act among the final 16. We haven’t seen enough of her. She has a vast screentime deficit to make up against the others in her category – completely under the radar at the first audition and only briefly sighted at bootcamp, she got significant producer attention only at judges’ houses.
With such a lack of momentum, it wouldn’t surprise us to see her go very early. If producers decide to ignore her for the first couple of weeks, the North Londoner has no regional base to keep her safe.
However, we would also not be surprised to see her knocking on the door of the final. She showed herself to be vocally very distinctive in that judges’ houses performance, and if she is able to gain a foothold, she could gain momentum with the voting public. With such uncertainty, we’ve split the difference and stuck her in the middle of the pack.
9th. Misha Bryan
Current odds: 11/1
A controversially low placing here, but not one that reflects our opinion of Misha’s talents: she is one of the most original and interesting performers in the final 16. Producers know this, and have given her plenty of airtime.
Unfortunately, we fear that the general public finds a strong young black woman, especially one who is rapping at them, a little intimidating. Rachel Hylton and Rachel Adedeji are the two examples we have used on more than one occasion. The latter in particular was much more talented than many of those she finished behind in the public vote, and we fear the same fate for Misha.
10th. Johnny Robinson
Current Odds: 66/1
Johnny is now shouldering alone the pantomime burden that was to have been shared with Goldie, and producers will look to keep him in for at least a few weeks on the basis of that. Out-and-out camp can take you only so far – think of Diva Fever – but Johnny’s likeable personality and entertainment experience as a drag act should keep him safe for a few weeks.
11th. Craig Colton
Current odds: 16/1
Craig was one of the revelations of judges’ houses, as the intimate setting of the Los Angeles back porch saw him take the biscuit with a soulful and moving rendition of ‘Halo’. But we had previously been unimpressed by his stage presence at his first audition, and we are worried about how he will get on back in the big arena. Our suspicion is: not well enough to last for more than a few weeks.
12th. Sami Brookes
Current Odds: 44/1
The fact that Sami was initially rejected from judges’ houses and reinstated only after the withdrawal of Goldie Cheung means that she is one of the favourites to go first. She is after all, the substitute in the weakest category of the lot.
However, she seems to have her fans and the Rhyl singer also has an important regional base to rely on. This may keep her safe in the early stages, when it probably takes a relatively low number of votes to escape the bottom two. But producers are unlikely to have much interest in keeping her around, and we think she is too vocally limited to survive for long.
Current odds: 66/1
The only girlband are the favourites to be the first eliminated, and for good reason: female groups have a notoriously poor record in the competition, and Rhythmix are newly manufactured from soloists who had little exposure in the audition shows.
However, if producers are hoping for some philandering from Frankie, will they want to lose so many potential targets so quickly? Last year producers tried to keep the dire girl band Belle Amie in for a couple of weeks with kind placings in the running order, because a group of pretty young girls is always good for tabloid interest even without a Frankie in the house. We’re therefore expecting a good slot in the running order for week one.
14th: James Michael
Current odds: 16/1
Yes, we know this one’s controversial – James built up quite a head of steam in these parts after Judge named him as a finalist and we got only an intriguingly short glimpse of him at his first audition. But we are very concerned that producers continued to show little interest in him in the editing of both bootcamp and judges’ houses. Of all the solo artists, including Sophie, he is the one they have bothered with least.
It must be remembered that most of the voting public probably don’t follow X Factor forums on the internet, so they will hardly know who James is – and the glimpse of his makeover after judges’ houses shows that they have killed his signature curly locks. His regional vote is split three ways, and if producers give him graveyard slots and songs that involve him looking half-hearted on stage, he could be in line for a surprisingly early exit.
Could it be that, with the girls category looking so strong, producers have been keen to have at least one boy they could jettison early to avoid the first few weeks being simply a bonfire of the groups and the overs? It’s just a theory, but how else do you explain James’s treatment so far?
15th: The Risk
Current odds: 20/1
Most people don’t have The Risk down for such an early exit – and regular readers will know that we previously had high hopes for the group based on early rumours. But we have changed our minds having sensed that producers seem keener for Nu Vibe to do the best of the boybands. And if that’s the case, why wait to ditch The Risk? The second choice boyband gets tough treatment in this show – just ask FYD, who were sent on first in the first show last year as a sacrifice to help One Direction on their way.
Although The Risk are vocally more talented than FYD, they have a bigger hurdle to overcome, which is that lead singer Charlie currently looks like an opportunistic turncoat for ditching his previous band at judges’ houses, and this is a group who we haven’t seen perform together at all as a result. That’s not promising, although if they can get through the first few weeks, Charlie and Derry’s vocal dexterity may see a much more respectable finish.
16th. Jonjo Kerr
Current Odds: 50/1
There is a theory that, as a soldier, Jonjo will have patriots supporting him en masse and producers will want to keep him around until the finalists record a “Help for Heroes” charity single. We’re not buying it. Jonjo is an anonymous and average performer who looks overawed on the big stage, and we’d be surprised if producers have any interest in keeping him around over other acts who offer far more entertainment value. An early slot in the running order in the first week could mean he’d need the SAS to keep him safe.
Our next post will be a fuller look at the week 1 elimination market (you can be alerted to new posts on Sofabet via Twitter, Facebook, RSS or email). In the meantime, we look forward to your thoughts below.