It seems a long time ago that we made our ridiculously speculative initial 1-16 prediction and invited commenters to do the same. It was before Frankie Cocozza was kicked off for boasting about drug-taking, before The Risk replaced Ashley with Ashford, before even the twist was announced that saw Amelia Lily, among others, eliminated early; let alone her eventual return five weeks later.
These events are a reminder of how capricious the show can be, which is why I don’t get involved in the win market to the extent that I bet on the week-by-week eliminations. How frustrating if you backed Misha B pre-bullygate or Janet whilst she was still the producers’ golden girl, then watched future events unfold.
Of course, there is always the option of hedging one’s bets and profiting from fluctuations in the market, as producers’ intentions change. But in 2011, you had to keep an eagle eye on the daily papers and forums as well as the live shows to see whether the wind had changed.
It goes without saying that, like everyone, we got some things right and plenty of things very wrong – especially as it seemed like such an open year. But going through our and others’ original lists is a helpful way of reviewing subsequent events and learning some lessons.
We are obviously pleased that Marcus Collins, who topped our list, is in the final. The death slot in week 3 suggests it wasn’t necessarily always the case that he was “the kind of act producers will want to keep around until the latter stages” which we had predicted. Having survived that, however, producers seemed to follow our original assessment that, “they will be able to rely on him to put on an enjoyable show, week after week.” A further asset that we marked out was his “middle-of-the-road likeability”.
This was clearly not just evident to us, because having made the argument, plenty of our commenters agreed that the Liverpudlian would go far. Simon first nailed his colours to Marcus’s mast as the most likely winner at this point. Panos suggested shrewdly, “I am very confident in him being in the final but not confident at all for victory.” Dug had him in second, explaining “there will always, ALWAYS be at least one boy in the final 3”. Tpfkar put him in third, agreeing that “he’s the strongest male contender”. Props also to Ronnie and Jack who both predicted he would fill the runner-up slot.
In second place we had the apparent producers’ Plan A at the time, Janet Devlin, who eventually finished fifth. As the 4/1 favourite, she was an obvious choice for a high placing, and was selected as a likely winner more than any other act among our commenters. It’s rather amusing with the benefit of hindsight to read what we got right and wrong about Janet. When we said, “on evidence so far, producers will throw the kitchen sink at her” the mental image we now get is of producers hurling Belfast sinks at the Ulster lass to get her off the show, the opposite of what we meant at the time.
We made great play of her “innocence” and “path to self-confidence” but Janet’s problem for programme-makers was that there was a surprisingly steely inner confidence to her after all. Within the context of the show, she refused to surrender her “innocence” hence the succession of damaging VTs and early draws that eventually got her out at the quarter-final stage.
Our speculative each-way selection at 66/1 was 2Shoes in third. Quite what the staying power of the Essex duo would have been is unknown as they were victims of the first week twist. We had qualified our enthusiasm with a fear that Charley’s pregnancy might see producers want to get rid of them straight away, and that seemed to be the case, because within the same category there was no interest in keeping Nu Vibe for long either.
In fourth we put Frankie Cocozza as the “second most favoured act” during the audition stages. Few of our commenters put Frankie as high, reckoning that his weak vocals would not allow him to get so far. Our justification was that, “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.” There was one sing-off survival for him, after the first public vote, but with seven contestants remaining, his behaviour was perceived to have gone too far.
Fifth place was given over to eventual finalist Amelia Lily, of whom we said, “We recognise her abilities as a decent singer, which have led many to see her as the most likely ‘default’ winner.” Among our commenters to suggest we under-rated the Middlesbrough lass were Jack and Noisy, who named her as their winner at an early stage, whilst tpfkar predicted second place, Ronnie and Boki suggested third place and Dug fourth. Our fear of a lack of an obvious journey for her was trumped by a controversial early elimination and return, which has given her such a story.
The category we really got wrong in our original prediction was the groups. I will say in our defence that this was arguably the hardest one to get right because three out of the four acts had been manufactured at the audition stage, thus giving us less to go on. Nonetheless, our assessment that Nu Vibe would do best of the new bands in sixth place, based on the coverage given them at bootcamp, proved very wide of the mark.
Kitty Brucknell did however fulfil our prediction of seventh place. I had put her in this spot to accentuate the analogies with Katie Waissel, who finished in that position last year. The polarising but headline-generating figure needs to hang around reasonably long for the purposes of tabloid coverage before being jettisoned when the competition really hots up. The Katie Waissel Memorial Spot theory will probably inform my prediction next year too.
Sophie Habibis was in eighth place in our list, and ultimately finished a little lower. We were more uncertain on Sophie than anyone else because of the lack of coverage she had received at the audition stage. Sophie’s journey remains one of the bigger head-scratchers. Kept in over apparent contenders Melanie McCabe and Jade Richards at judges’ houses, and Amelia Lily in week one, she was then shown no interest by producers from week 3. One possible answer is that her public vote when in the penultimate slot in week 2 may have shown she was failing to gain any traction.
In ninth place we put eventual fourth Misha B. We were concerned right from the start that, “the general public finds a strong young black woman, especially one who is rapping at them, a little intimidating”. Bullygate unfortunately tapped into this notion, seeing her endure the bottom 2 as soon as week 4. That she eventually got as far as she did is testament to how far producers can get even those acts which seem to generate plenty of public antipathy.
In tenth we placed Johnny Robinson on the basis that his schtick would be entertaining and useful to producers for a few weeks before it would be put to bed. Of course, after his week 3 rendition of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, it looked as if it may get him very much further, but producers had other ideas and managed to kill off the cult figure within the next few weeks.
We were guilty of underestimating Craig Colton by predicting a finishing position of eleventh for the Kirkby boy. His week 1 ‘Jar of Hearts’ may not have persuaded us he was going to win, but it showed that there was more there than we had previously given him credit for. Craig looked set for a very high finish until producers did all they could to get rid of him in week 7, resulting in a sixth place finish.
Our biggest blind spot of all is obviously that of Little Mix, who we had down in a lowly thirteenth. This was based on a couple of things: the poor record of girlbands; the difficulties faced by groups manufactured at the audition stage; and the sense that they didn’t look like your normal girlband. The latter ended up being one of their strengths, something which we were still blind to even after week 4, by which time plenty of our commenters were trying to put us right on their prospects.
Before the first live show, however, most of our commenters also had the girls down as also-rans in their 1-16 lists, which was hardly surprising given that they were initial favourites to be first eliminated before the week 1 twist was announced. The notable exception even at this early stage was fiveleaves, who if we had a Sofabet Crystal Ball Award, would win it for standing out from the crowd and putting the girls at number three in his top four prediction.
Our other also-rans included Sami Brookes (we predicted 12th), James Michael (14th), The Risk (15th) and Jonjo Kerr (16th). Of those, only The Risk looked like they might seriously embarrass us after an excellent week 1 performance saw their odds plummet. It was to be their high point, however, and who knew that by the time they finished bottom of the public vote in week 5, it would be with Nu Vibe’s Ashford among them.
It’s a reminder that a lot of water flowed under the bridge since those initial predictions were made – the tears of so many contestants shafted by producers for starters. Who surprised or disappointed you most compared to what you foresaw back in early October, and what lessons have you learnt when it comes to approaching future series of X Factor? Do let us know in the comments section below.