Janet Devlin, the star of audition show 1. Janet Devlin, golden girl of bootcamp. Janet Devlin, the last act we saw going through to the lives at judges’ houses. Janet Devlin, recipient of the week 1 pimp slot for ‘Fix You’. Oh, Janet, where did it all go wrong?
For the fourth week in a row, Janet got negative comments from the judges. In week 3, Janet was called “boring”. In week 4, she was called predictable and told to do something different. In week 5 she did something different and – in a classically-executed reverse ferret – was told to stick to what she knows.
Most recently, week 6 saw Tulisa say “your style is a bit one-dimensional” and Gary add: “I’m starting to lose interest in you… I just don’t feel like you’re making enough of an effort.” In a highly unusual move, in the Sunday reprise including backstage reactions even Kelly was negative about her own act: “I don’t know what happened… it was just an alright performance”.
It’s hardly surprising there’s a majority view in the Sofabet comments box that (as Curtis puts it) “the producers clearly want Janet out”. However, we’re not at all convinced that’s the case.
Sure, if it turns out Janet hits the bottom two this week and is dropped like a hot potato, you’ll be able to say the writing was on the wall. But something doesn’t feel right about the idea that the show has given up on Janet. Up to week 2, she could do no wrong – and then suddenly, from week 3, she has been able to do no right. If something changed, it changed between week 2 and 3. What could it be?
One possibility is that programme-makers decided Janet isn’t as marketable as they first thought. Now, there is a case against Janet’s being marketable, and Dug makes it: “Janet is aiming at an extremely over-saturated corner of the market… I think that the charts are currently experiencing a bit of a comedown from the ‘unique’, ‘haunting’, ‘ethereal’ trend which has been dominating for a while.” But is it really credible that programme-makers hadn’t thought about this in months of planning, and then were suddenly persuaded of it amidst the heat and fury of organising the lives?
Another possibility is that they changed their minds about Janet herself. Along with her unhelpful VTs and negative judges’ comments, the last four weeks have seen a stream of rumours suggesting that Janet is difficult behind the scenes. Last Sunday, the Mirror reported:
Kelly Rowland, 30, is barely talking to Janet Devlin after losing patience with her constant strops…
Backstage sources say 16-year-old Janet – originally considered the shyest contestant – has become impossible to work with, refusing to wear outfits picked for her and arguing about song choices.
Could it be that the show failed to vet Janet sufficiently before deciding to focus so heavily on her in the audition stages, and it was only a couple of weeks into the lives that they realised she was a nightmare and decided they didn’t want to set her up for a post-show career after all?
Maybe, but we doubt it. We reckon there’s a much simpler explanation for what might have changed between weeks 2 and 3 – this was the first time producers had got to see figures from a public vote. What if Janet absolutely creamed it?
There is suggestive evidence that this might be the case: the Daily Star, who have form in this area, reported an alleged leak on Sunday that Janet has been topping the vote every week; the performance in the early weeks of 2008’s Eoghan Quinn suggests the power of the Ulster vote; and the YouGov survey of earlier in the series had Janet also leading the pack on the mainland.
Let’s assume for a moment that the first public vote told producers that they had substatially over-egged the Janet pudding. On the face of it, if producers wanted Janet to do well, what would be the problem? The problem comes if it starts to seem like the winner is a foregone conclusion, because that could affect ratings. And given the weakness of the field, producers may have calculated from the first week’s results that they could not afford to keep giving Janet positive comments.
However, if we assume that they also wanted to maintain Janet’s credibility as a potential winner, then the dragging down would have to be carefully done, to create the impression of struggling without inflicting any lasting damage. And if we re-interpret Janet’s treatment since week 3 in that light, then it arguably starts to make a whole lot more sense.
Consider the week 3 VT, which showed tabloid journalists telling Janet “we’re writing about Kitty, we’re writing about Frankie, we’re not writing about you” (implication: you’re not interesting), “it’s a popularity contest” (implication: you’re not popular) and it’s part of the X Factor package to have a “personality” (implication: you don’t). We saw Janet replying that “if people don’t think I have the X Factor, they shouldn’t vote” – and, at the time, we were confused about why the show would want to plant this thought in viewers’ minds.
However, you can also view the hidden message in the Frankie and Kitty comparisons as being that Janet is a serious musician rather than tabloid fodder – a message backed up by other parts of Janet’s reply: “I’m here for the music… I’m not going to be someone else just to get votes… I have that respect for myself.”
Janet’s week 5 VT had her saying “I’ve taken control of pretty much everything… I chose the outfit… I’ve even had my input into how the staging is… I know what I like and I know what’s me.” We saw her rejecting suggested outfits and saying she didn’t want dancers on the stage as it would detract from the music. Kelly called her “feisty”.
At this time, this looked like an attempt to feed the rumours that would later be summarised in the above Mirror quote as Janet becoming “impossible to work with, refusing to wear outfits picked for her and arguing about song choices”. However, what is that quote really telling us about Janet? Let’s rephrase it in a more positive light: She knows who she is, and she takes no shit. Is this really supposed to be a bad thing?
It certainly makes for an unexpected and favourable contrast to the supposedly much more self-confident Misha B, who has apparently been content to have the bejesus styled out of her in the last two weeks, with no obvious beneficial effect.
Advancing further into the realms of cynicism, one might wonder whether Janet has been deliberately fed some duff advice to create the storyline of her being difficult to work with and the reported rift with Kelly. And one might wonder whether the confusing advice of recent weeks, to do something different then to stick to what you know, might actually be intended to stir up sympathy for Janet. Dermot even pointed it out in his post-performance interview this week: “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
In the comments after this weekend’s shows, HenryVIII observes: “Gary calling Janet boring on her birthday actually gives Janet votes… Janet’s mentor being cold with her will also help her votes. So they are achieving the opposite effect to their plan, if derailing her is their plan.”
“If”, indeed. And if derailing Janet is not the plan – well, doesn’t it make perfect sense? If producers were asking themselves after week 2 how they could make it seem like Janet was not on a winning trajectory without actually pulling her off that winning trajectory, then giving her criticism that will strike many viewers as unconstructive, contradictory and overly harsh would certainly have been one possibility.
Can we even be confident that the reported bust-up with Kelly Rowland is intended to rebound negatively for Janet? Kelly’s stock is not as high as it was before sicknotegate, after all. Janet’s latest VT showed her listening to Kelly and saying, almost plaintively, “I just want to be myself”. Are voters going to think the worse of her for that?
Rewatching the judges’ comments for Janet’s latest performance, ‘Someone To Love’, also reveals an interestingly ambivalent message. On the one hand, we have the unflattering visual of Tulisa and Kelly clapping perfunctorily while Gary and Louis don’t applaud at all, then the criticism from Tulisa and Gary quoted above. On the other hand, the following things are also said:
- Louis: “We’re looking for a recording star, you are a recording star”;
- Tulisa: “I can see there’s a market for you… there’s people out there who are going to buy your albums… I’d have to be in a certain mood to listen to your album, and that’s the only problem for me” (is there any album you don’t have to be in a certain mood to listen to?); and
- Gary: “You need to take these opportunities and think of them as if you’re presenting us with your first single”.
In other words, three times the judges planted the thought in viewers’ minds that Janet is going to have a post-show career. Even in the middle of Gary’s harsh criticism, there was a clear subtext – it’s taken for granted that Janet is going to have a first single. Is this really the behaviour of a show that is intent on casting its former favourite into the Siberian darkness?
After her most recent pummelling, Janet has drifted out to a top price of 5/1 in the win market – the longest she’s been since before bootcamp. Here’s our case for believing that this might start to look like pretty good value come the final.
We’ve said all along that it would make dramatic sense to have each of the three new judges with a horse in the final, and this seems to be on track. Tulisa’s one remaining act, Little Mix, are getting heaven and earth thrown at them. We also see no reason to change our long-held view that there is room for one – no more, no fewer – Scouse boy in the final. (Which one it will be, we’ll consider in the next article).
Which leaves room for a girl. Which girl? We made the case in our previous post for why we think it would be suicidal for the format to have Amelia Lily last that long. And after Misha B’s second bottom two experience, it’s starting to look like it would require the Glazers and Sheikh Mansour to join forces to fund the phone votes.
So let’s make a leap and postulate a final of Little Mix, Craig/Marcus and Janet. And let’s make a further leap – a speculative but not outlandish one – and imagine that voting figures will tell producers that Little Mix, like One Direction before them, are too far back to be helped over the line. In such a situation, if you were in charge of the show, would you throw your weight behind Craig/Marcus or Janet? We know who we’d choose.
So there’s our case for not giving up on Janet. Have we convinced you, or are we going to end up with egg on our faces when Janet lands in the singoff this weekend and is unanimously dispatched back to Gortin? As ever, do let us know below.