We at Sofabet feel that Misha Bryan is one of the few genuine stars of this series of X Factor. She has style, originality and attitude – and that may be the problem. There is a place for her in the charts, but whether there is a place for her in the hearts of enough of the voting public is another matter.
We’re not the only ones to fear this. Responses to our pre-twist 1-16 prediction article included tpfkar‘s “Very good at what she does, but too niche for the X-Factor”; Jack‘s “I love her, think she’s brilliant, but I think she’ll be the traditional shock Week 5 girl exit. She has too limited an appeal for this show”; and Dug‘s “I love her and I think she’s wonderful and in my experience that always means she’s going home stupidly early”.
Nonetheless, after receiving a big production and lavish praise for her opening week take on Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’, Misha is now as short as 7-2 second favourite for the main prize. This seems like an over-reaction, based on one pimped performance that told us nothing new about her vocal abilities. A comparison with previous contestants tells us that Misha still has many barriers to surmount.
It’s an argument we have made before but worth reiterating: successful females in this competition have been demure and non-threatening. Rebecca, Stacey, Alexandra and Leona – the only ones to reach the top three – all showed high levels of self-doubt. Misha’s two remaining rivals in the girls category – Sophie and Janet – fit this template. The Manchester lass does not.
Strong, confident females more comparable with Misha have done less well, notably Rachel Adedeji and Rachel Hylton. Adedeji was particularly unfortunate. Despite being one of the better vocalists in the competition, the public put her in the bottom two for three out of her four weeks in the competition, and she exited despite her rendition of U2’s ‘One’ being one of the strongest performances on the night.
However, there was never a sense that producers had any interest in keeping Adedeji around (she was sent on first in the first show and had the fourth slot for the next two weeks). On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, producers are doing their best for Misha, from the moment she was given the starring role at the end of the second audition show.
Just how much producers are investing in Misha became evident in the first live show. As remarked on by tpfkar and Matt in the comments, there were multiple references to Misha’s Britishness – from the judges, Misha herself, and set designers in the shape of her Union Jack throne. (Something similar happened with Rebecca Ferguson last year, so presumably producers think it is more necessary to hit patriotic buttons with non-white contestants, though we find it deeply patronising).
We also had a continuation of her judges’ houses reinvention by Kelly as “Misha B” (as surnames go, Bryan is not very ‘street’, which is the best response I can think of to tpfkar’s point that Bryan is typically British-sounding if this is indeed something that producers want to emphasise).
And, of course, she got the biggest production of the night. This helped her odds drop from 11-1 before the weekend. Sofabet commeters such as Simon “le chat” and Oli were universal in their praise. But whilst there was much to like about her performance, it did not assauge the doubts we’ve always had about her.
Primarily, she looked as fierce as ever whilst performing, which doesn’t go down well with a voting public that likes to see a softer side to its contestants. Misha does have a softer side, as she showed when crying at the sight of Jennifer Hudson at judges’ houses – but it’s not how she performs.
Most notably, there’s an edginess thanks to the original rap she has so far added to her performances. This shows more artistry than any other contestant. But it only adds to an overall effect that can be rather jarring. In the case of this week’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’, the rap didn’t sit particularly comfortably with the rest of the song, and Misha remained slightly screechy on the bigger notes.
Styling-wise, she made quite the statement with her paper dress. It makes her far more interesting to watch than most, but I don’t think it flies so well with mainstream taste.
How can producers counteract this? For a possible indication, we need look no further than Cher Lloyd in 2010. She also made a name for herself by rapping part of the way through her early performances. But she had by far her best week when ditching this style and coming across as sweetness and light for her fourth week pimp slot performance of ‘Stay’.
It will be interesting to see if producers time something similar for Misha, who needs to prove she can do angelic for a ballad too. As Sofabet commenter and Misha fan stableboyuk notes, “It’s vital if she is going to remain in the competition that she sing something normal for a change!”
Indeed, it will be interesting in general to see how much producers are willing to push Misha – in particular, will she get more help in running order slots, song choices etc than Sophie Habibis? One way to read the latter’s lack of audition screentime, in conjunction with the early nobbling of Amelia Lily, is that of all the girls in the final four (or who could have been in the final four, such as Melanie McCabe or Jade Richards), Misha represents the least threat to the programme makers’ apparent Plan A, Janet Devlin.
If Misha is indeed helped to become the last girl challenger to Janet, she will find it hard to go all the way as she remains an urban artist in a show which ultimately favours middle-of-the-road contestants. She is as far removed from the likes of Joe McElderry and other X Factor winners as it’s possible to be within the constraints of the competition. For that reason, and much as we’d like to be saying otherwise, her current odds to win the series strike us as particularly bad value.
What do you think? Have you become more positive about Misha’s winning chances as a result of her first week performance, or do you still find it difficult to imagine? Let us know in the comments section below.