As William Goldman once said, “nobody knows anything”. Anybody who has unwisely skimped on their salt supply while monitoring the so-called “spoiler” thread on Digital Spy will have found tonight’s show uncomfortable viewing: the widely-touted Starboy Nathan appeared only in a montage and under the name of Nathan Fagan Gayle; Poisonous Twin, rumoured to be Louis’s new Jedward, were relegated to the Xtra Factor; and Leanne Robinson, heavily speculated about in the girls category, was absent entirely (unless, as Sofabet commenter R posts, she was in fact the rushed-over Leanne Dlamini from last night’s show).
Bookies’ odds on previously-seen auditionees, meanwhile, are up and down like a yo-yo. Having taken a strong view on acts such as Ella Henderson, Kye Sones and James Arthur – pushing them right out to 9/1, 14/1 and 33/1 respectively a few days ago – Ladbrokes have now slashed these three back to 5/1, 10/1 and 20/1 respectively. Meanwhile, other bookies are lengthening their odds on the same acts. The market is not so much speaking as mumbling incoherently to itself.
And while we’d obviously prefer to have spoilers of the calibre Judge offered in previous years, in a way this state of confusion feels oddly liberating.
So what’s going on?
It may be that we are simply witnessing the success of the X Factor producers running a tighter ship this year when it comes to leaks. However, we should also not ignore the cock-up theory. Our main overall reaction to tonight’s show was that it struck us as hastily cobbled together, with a whole bunch of mid-length auditions that felt rushed through – could it really be that producers got to the editing suite for the seventh show and realised they had too much to fit in?
According to their own website, the first act shown, Rough Copy, are not ones punters need waste any time considering – they were forced to withdraw from judges’ houses due to visa issues. That didn’t stop bookies pricing them up, and indeed somebody backing them in from 100/1 to 50/1 with Sportingbet. If those punters are to get a run for their money in the lives, the visa story will have been the mother of all headfakes.
We then had a couple of acts shoehorned into a “perving over Tulisa” themed montage – the memorably-monikered Clapz Shizzayne and 17 year old Dale Ali, whose audition was – somewhat oddly – repeated at greater length on Xtra Factor. He’s priced up at 100/1.
Rumoured to have made it as far as judges’ houses, Adam Burridge showcased eye-candy looks and affected vocals in what felt like the first in a series of rushed edits. He was priced up between 33/1 and 100/1. Next up, and in bookies’ lists at 25/1 to 40/1, were yet another three-piece boyband, Triple J, a lesser version of 2011’s The Keys.
There is no particular reason, from their audition edits, to believe that the show is investing in either of them. The same can be said of the next act up, 18 year old George Shelley, who added a guitar to a similar package offered by Adam before him – vocally affected, visually pleasing – and also ended up quoted at 100/1. It has been rumoured that he ends up grafted onto the two remaining members of MK1. It has to be said that this does not appear to be the most obvious of arranged marriages.
Then came the much talked about Starboy Nathan, already an artist with an album and a couple of top-40 hits to his name. If there is any producer intention to use this series as a relaunching pad, you wouldn’t have guessed it from his colour-by-numbers montage treatment – a winning smile, a solid vocal, “four big yeses” and a stage-exiting cartwheel.
Nathan’s reputation precedes him, however, and despite the paucity of screentime he stands at a top price of 16/1 (offers of 33/1 from one bookie during the show were quickly taken). What’s going on here? Who can say?
The same question applies to the next auditionee of the night, homeless Robbie Hance. He was a rare blast of actual reality in a “reality” show – unlike all those deceased grandads and inspirational nans, he presented us with a rare case of an affecting backstory that you feel he couldn’t reasonably have auditioned without telling. He also offered a pleasing vocal, and would be an intriguing proposition in the lives.
If you read the Sunday tabloids, you’ll have seen stories that Robbie has gone missing. Here’s what The Mirror said:
Producers sent a team out to scour the streets after losing contact six days ago.
If Robbie is not found in a fortnight his dreams of turning his life round and being a recording artist could be over.
A show insider said: “He’s a fantastic artist and he blew everyone away at auditions.
“He doesn’t have a phone and the only point of contact was through a friend. Producers last spoke to him on Monday but they can no longer reach his friend and have no idea where he is. It’s a real worry.
“If he doesn’t get in touch by the end of next week, then he’d have to kiss goodbye to any part in the show, which would be a tragedy.”
But hold on – it’s been widely reported that judges’ houses have been filmed already. Are we to understand that Robbie has a place in the lives? Otherwise, it wouldn’t make much sense for producers to be scouring the streets for him. Or are we merely to understand that the “show insider”, and/or the journalist, are assuming the average reader has no idea that judges’ houses has filmed already?
Search us. If pushed our money would be on the latter explanation, but if you sniff a miraculous reappearance just in time for the first live show, you can get a top price of 33/1.
After a brief segment of rejections that also felt untypically cobbled together, the uber-pimp slot of closing the final audition show was handed to last year’s judges’ houses reject Carolynne Poole. And finally we have a plausible challenger to chimneysweep Kye Sones for the putative role of Gary’s alpha over. Carolynne came across as real and highly relateable, with a raw backstory about a failed relationship and rediscovering her self-image as a “fighting Yorkshire lass”.
She has a solid and pleasing voice. But does she have the X Factor? In an open-looking year, and with Gary’s “remember that name” ringing in our ears, it’s not surprising that punters backed her down to 11/1 from an opening quote of 22/1 during the show. The latter price would have been tempting; at the former, a watching brief for bootcamp is probably adviseable.
Over on ITV2, we saw the audition of Liverpool duo Stephanie and Sophie, aka Poisonous Twin. Despite not actually being twins, the parallels to Jedward here were unmistakeable – big characters, shakey vocals, a regional base, and Louis – as their mentor apparent – leaping to their defence against the scepticism of the other judges.
We can’t have a Louis category without a pantomime act, can we? The very fabric of the universe would be rent asunder. And these two would appear to have “Louis’s pantomime act” written all over them. But then why were they on the Xtra Factor, not the main show? We have no immediate explanation to suggest.
Speaking of pantomime acts, one thing that does look more solid after tonight is the theory that Rylan Clark is being lined up to play this role, after the image-obsessed Essex lad got the Olly Murs interview. If you fancy a back-to-lay strategy on Rylan, 80/1 with Bodog is currently the best price available.
What did you make of tonight’s show? As ever, do share your thoughts and theories below.