Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. When we wrote our speculative 1-16 prediction over two months ago, before the live shows started, we said that in an exceptionally open looking year, Marcus Collins ticked the most boxes. On the morning of the final, we feel exactly the same way.
What an intriguing three-horse race this is. A good case can be made for each, as indicated by the Sofabet comments section, where supporters of Marcus, Amelia and Little Mix each seem convinced their own choice can take the prize. But it is always dangerous for a punter to get emotionally as well as financially invested in an act – in the age of Betfair, when it is always possible to close down a position, hopes should never override judgement.
I’m helped in minimising this risk by the fact that I only dabble in the win market compared to the weekly eliminations. Having taken my own advice – backed Marcus Collins pre-shows, then laid my stake back – I’m sitting on a free bet at double-figure odds. But most of my betting for this series is done, and a Marcus win won’t make a huge addition to my profits for the series.
But of course, I also have my emotional hopes. It’s unavoidable, having tipped Marcus Collins at 14/1 before the live shows, and having also been sceptical about Little Mix’s chances for longer than I should have been. On which subject, huge kudos to Rob at entertainmentodds for having tipped the girls at 66/1, and even huger kudos to Richard at betsfactor for having tipped them at 75/1.
Best of luck to all. Nonetheless, I am going to set out in as objective way as possible why I am sticking with the idea that Marcus Collins will take the X Factor 2011 crown this Sunday, though I should say that I am far from certain about the outcome – a win for Little Mix, and to a slightly lesser extent Amelia Lily, would certainly not surprise me in the slightest.
The most reliable indicators of public support show that there’s everything to play for this weekend. The Survation poll conducted after the semi-final found that there was less than 1% between each of the finalists. Today’s YouGov poll for The Sun (last year’s was pretty accurate) is not quite so tight: it has Marcus on 31%, Little Mix on 28% and Amelia Lily on 21%.
Even so, take into account the significant minority (19%) of undecideds, and the fact that the margin of error in a poll with this sample size (942) is around 3%, and it’s clear any of the three can still win with a strong performance on the night.
Digging into the detailed figures of that YouGov poll, though, you do seem to find more encouragement for Marcus than for his rivals. It seems YouGov have asked the question of how certain someone is to vote in two different ways. In the first, the “Yes” column under “Vote” on the first page of the pdf linked to above, Marcus’s lead is 38-26-23 over the girlband and Amelia. Little Mix are ahead among those who answered “Maybe”.
In the last question on that first page, 41% of Marcus’s fans say they will “definitely” vote for him and 42% “probably”, which is firmer support than for Little Mix (32/48) or Amelia (34/49). These indicators of firmness of support are usually considered significant when analysing political polls.
Those who take an interest in US presidential elections will also know there is significance to the poll question asking which of the candidates voters would most like to have a drink with. For what it’s worth, Marcus wins here. He also wins handsomely when voters are asked who they think is the best dancer; he is one point behind Amelia Lily in the “who is the best singer” question, but both score more than three times as highly as Little Mix on this question. This suggests that voters will see him as a worthy winner.
On page 4, YouGov asks which of the acts will go on to have the biggest career. Little Mix get 37% of this vote, against 27% for Amelia and 23% for Marcus. We reckon this is a positive for Marcus – if the perception is that the girlband will have a great career anyway, and Marcus is most in need of a boost, then it should motivate Marcus’s supporters more.
Given the mentor duets, it must also be a boon for Marcus that Gary Barlow comes out as the favourite mentor, with 34% to Tulisa’s 21% and Kelly’s 16%.
Nonetheless, we repeat, Marcus’s headline lead is within the margin of error and nearly a fifth of respondents haven’t made up their mind yet. When asked who they would vote for in a head-to-head between Little Mix and Marcus, respondents split exactly equally.
What happens over the weekend could therefore make all the difference, and there is room for fluctuation aplenty in the win market over the next 36 hours. All three acts have had their wow moments and their wobbly moments over the last few weeks, and how they will perform in the very different setting of Wembley Arena is an unknown quantity.
In addition, as YouGov’s Joe Twyman writes in an article analysing his survey results, “Compared to earlier rounds the final has relatively few songs and so a greater amount of time will be devoted to backstory. A particularly powerful narrative for any of the contestants could quite easily sway public opinion as much, if not more so, than a particularly strong song belted out on the Wembley Arena stage.”
We will post an update after tonight’s instalment. Beforehand, I believe that Marcus’s individual story, and the way that viewers will be able to make an emotional connection to it could make the difference, especially given the fact this his duet with Gary Barlow will tap into this. My objective reasons for believing in a Marcus Collins success rest on a belief that the subjective reaction of the audience will respond more to this than anything else they will witness during the final.
We wrote in our original 1-16 prediction, “he has an escape-from-poverty backstory but wears it with an endearing lightness,” and, “he has appeared fiercely loyal to his single-parent mother, without it being turned into an overly cloying sob story”. These angles of Marcus’s life will come to the fore on Saturday in VT showing his Liverpool homecoming, and in his duet with mentor-turned-father-figure Gary Barlow. Thursday’s official press conference stated they would sing ‘Always A Woman’ and Marcus has already explained he will dedicate to his mum.
Cheesy? Yes, though authentic as well, and as such the kind of thing that Middle England will lap up in this popularity contest for singers. We have some issues with how Marcus and Gary will perform the song, but so long as it’s not disastrous, that may play second fiddle to the story behind the duet, with the mentor’s fierce loyalty to his younger charge completing the family portrait. This will resonate with the Take That frontman’s huge fanbase among women over 30.
Neither of Marcus’s rivals may be able to offer such a coherent personal connection. For Little Mix it is always going to be that much more difficult because there are four of them. Still, these are four very likeable girls, who have also formed a very close bond with their mentor, Tulisa. The latter will be able to play up her ‘big sister’ role when duetting with the group.
There is clearly plenty going for Little Mix. The 37% of YouGov respondents who felt that they would have the best career post-X Factor indicates how successful the show has been in creating a buzz about them. Today’s front page of The Sun indicates that Simon Cowell may well give them his blessing when he appears by satellite.
Their coverage both on the show and off it over the last week hasn’t been as universally positive as it once was, however. Perrie has been singled out by the judges as the one who should be the lead singer, and in the tabloids for other reasons. Sofabet commenter Dug is right that they no longer look like the plucky underdogs, despite Tulisa’s best efforts to sell them as such.
The news that voting by text will not be permitted for the final will surely have disappointed their backers, too – the YouGov poll gives Marcus a comfortable lead among the 40+ age group, who presumably are more likely to vote by landline, with not much between Amelia and Little Mix.
None of these things kills their chances, of course, but it means Little Mix no longer feels quite like a steamroller either.
It will be interesting to see how far they let Perrie and her strong vocals dominate the Alicia Keys mash-up of ‘Ain’t Got You’ and ‘Empire State of Mind’, and whether they will remind us of the girls best storyline, that of Jesy’s battle against those who criticise her weight. Saturday’s show will tell us more.
Amelia does have a few potentially explosive storylines for viewers this weekend: her battle with diabetes and her efforts to get her bankrupt Dad out of trouble. Either could play well for her, but she may be hampered by a lack of personal chemistry with her mentor and duet partner Kelly Rowland. Tabloid stories today continue to suggest the relationship is not a strong one.
There is also a question mark over whether the British sense of fair play will kick in, given her return after five weeks of absence. 25% of YouGov respondents say she doesn’t deserve to be in the final, against 17% for Little Mix and 9% for Marcus. As Richard says at betsfactor in his article on Amelia’s road to Wembley, “Amelia’s journey has been like someone taking the hard shoulder when there are miles of tailbacks.”
In her favour, the big arena may be less trouble for her big voice. She may seem more at home there given that she looks more the finished product than either of her rivals.
Nonetheless, her appearance in the bottom two in week 7 suggests that her connection with the public wasn’t strong enough just three weeks ago. For that reason, I have to place her in third, where the YouGov poll also indicates she will finish.
If Amelia is first to exit, there is an argument for saying that more of her supporters could switch to Little Mix (they both appeal more than Marcus to a younger audience in general), leaving us with a close-run final duel. However, I have always felt that Marcus is the kind of harmless middle-of-the-road performer who would pick up plenty of floating votes in the closing stages. History also suggests that the individual has trumped the group up till now.
In which case, I’d rather be backing Marcus Collins at 9/4 – a price which is disappearing fast as punters latch onto the YouGov poll, but currently available with Stan James – than Little Mix at 11/8. Quite what their prices will be after Saturday’s first live show is another matter, but for now I’m sticking with the Good Ship Marcus.
Saturday Preview Prediction
- Marcus Collins
- Little Mix
- Amelia Lily
What’s your 1-2-3 prediction going into the final, and why? Do let us know below.