It’s that time of year again. Traditionally, in the run-up to the lives, two things happen. First, we at Sofabet have a bit of fun by trying to predict the full finishing order (see our 2011 and 2010 attempts). Second, producers mess everything up by announcing a twist. At least this year they told us the twist before we embarked on our prediction.
As always, we (Dug, Andrew and myself) started by considering producers’ intentions. Which acts will they push and which ones will they be happy to dispose of? In each category we tried to work out the alpha, beta and gamma acts, based on editing at the audition stages. This has been most difficult for the groups, about whom we feel at our most speculative.
Of course, producers’ best laid plans can go awry; at this stage last year, their alpha girl and boy were apparently Janet Devlin and Frankie Cocozza. Both examples indicate the unpredictability of the live shows, whether because producers change their minds, or the results of the public vote change their minds for them. The as yet unknown identity of the wildcard adds an extra element of unpredictability.
So the whole process of naming a 1-13 finishing order is a series of stabs in the semi-dark, and all the more fun for that. Why not post your own 1-13 in the comments, too? Because it will give you the chance at the end of the series to say “I told you so”, four of the most satisfying words in the English language.
1st: Ella Henderson
Current odds: 7/4
We believe this is Ella’s contest to lose, and we don’t think she’ll do a Devlin. The sixteen-year-old has put the A into the audition stage: a series opener pimp slot; her own song; the interview in the recording studio on Xtra Factor; the bootcamp pimp slot; the judges’ houses pimp slot among the girls; the favoured judge as mentor; and a set of vocal performances that have only got stronger.
But where Devlin went off-script in the live shows, Ella so far appears entirely comfortable with the restraints of the competition. If there is a weakness, it may come from the ‘singing candle’ syndrome. We’ve seen her be very effective with torch songs. She’s even turned a modern disco classic, Cher’s ‘Believe’, into an effective torch song. She will have to show she can mix it up a little more in the live shows, though it won’t worry producers too much: young, female singing candles sell lots of records.
All told, we can’t really advocate backing her at current odds, having indicated going into bootcamp that she would be our choice at 7/1 if offered a free bet. But Tulisa cleverly encapsulated Ella’s appeal on putting her through, when twice explaining “you’re my little star”. That mixture of humility and talent can keep Ella out in front with the voting public.
2nd: James Arthur
Current odds: 8/1
It’s fair to say that troubled troubadour James failed to impress the Sofabet team at his first audition. It says something that we now think that he is set for the runners-up spot.
Authenticity is an overrated concept in the world of pop – but, while his mum might have amusingly called into question the veracity of his heart-rending backstory, in other ways James exudes this quality, with his earnest delivery, guitar, lack of good looks and numerous tattoos. He injects more passion into his performances than anyone else in this competition. Ed Sheeran provides a template that indicates a significant portion of the public respond to this kind thing. For that reason, we reckon producers are thinking of James as their alpha boy.
Over the last day or two, there has been a storm in a social media teacup over some of his tweets, subsequently deleted, angrily laying into his critics on the Digital Spy forums (come hang out in the more rarefied atmosphere of the Sofabet comments instead, James). I don’t think this will have any impact on his prospects in this competition, as long as it isn’t a foretaste of more mouthiness to come. If James sticks to expressing himself through the songs, it can take him all the way to the final.
3rd: Union J
Current odds: 20/1
You want a speculative, longer-odds interest on who is going to do well in X Factor this year? Sofabet suggests a modest each-way bet on Union J (their odds have been shortening through the week. At the time of writing, while you can get 20/1 outright, the longest odds available with bookies offering each-way terms are 18/1).
We’re not at all sure what is going on with the groups this year, but we’re intrigued. Our reading of the runes places most significance on two interesting things that have happened since Triple J were rejected at bootcamp in a suspiciously highly staged singoff for the final judges’ houses place, despite vocally besting rivals GMD3.
Firstly, producers decided to add guitar-playing George Shelley to balance the mix. We now have two boys who can sing and don’t scare the horses, and another two who look great and aren’t completely tone-deaf. The new addition looks like a cross between One Direction members Harry Styles and Liam Payne, a laboratory-perfect boyband combination. The camera lingered on the result at judges’ houses, and his appeal to girls was played up on Xtra Factor.
Secondly, we got the start of a journey for Union J. In Saturday’s judges’ houses show, Sharon Osbourne pointed out unnoticed “novice-like bad habits” as a way for Louis to come back with the concept that “with a bit of work they could be fantastic”. In Sunday’s episode, Louis reiterated that there is “an awful lot of work to be done” and “the work starts now”.
The narrative being set up is that if they work hard, X Factor could turn them into something. That’s straight from the One Direction playbook, as is the presumed need to “gel as friends” (in Louis’s often-used phrase from 2010) with the addition of George Shelley. Union J are at least as vocally strong as the 2010 bronze medallists, and if producers continue to develop the hard work and bromance narratives through the lives, they can reach the same position.
4th Lucy Spraggan
Current odds: 18/1
In recent years, Diana Vickers, Cher Lloyd and Misha B have made fourth place in the competition the reserve of quirky female songstresses. Even more than these examples, Lucy has her own niche. With her own whimsical material, whimsically performed with acoustic guitar, she is the antithesis of the traditional X Factor contestant. This makes it especially difficult to guess her likely trajectory in the show. But what can’t be doubted is the chord struck with the public by the two original compositions she has showcased so far, ‘Last Night’ and ‘Tea And Toast’.
Quite how much of her own material she will play week-in, week-out, and how she will handle each theme is very much open to question. Our prediction of 4th for Lucy reflects a belief that the high profile she enjoys going into the live shows should give her enough first-choice votes to see her through the early weeks, while her niche-ness will become more of a hindrance when it comes to picking up undecideds in the latter stages.
5th: Kye Sones
Current odds: 8/1
Depending on your point of view, Kye either ticks plenty of boxes or is rather forgettable. There’s his middle-of-the-road voice, which has a nice tone but not a great range; his middle-of-the-road looks, reasonably handsome but not a knockout; and his middle-of-the-road personality, the chimney sweep looking for a break who has in fact been around the industry block a couple of times.
Middle-of-the-road can get you far in this competition, as Marcus Collins showed last year. There’s something more beige about Kye, though, and it’s hard to get excited about him. Producers, recognising that a lucrative post-show career is unlikely, may feel the same way, and our guess is that he’s not currently being thought of as the alpha over. But we also reckon producers may come to realise that he represents mentor Gary’s best hope, and will end up giving him a push into the later stages as a result.
6th: Rylan Clark
Current odds: 66/1
Just as quirky girls have monopolised fourth position of late, Katie Waissel and Kitty Brucknell have established seventh as the position of choice for the live shows’ most colourful and divisive characters. We had a feeling in our bones at his first audition that this was Rylan’s destiny. What has surprised us since is the discovery that he’s the only such character in the live shows, which is why we’ve elevated our prediction for him to sixth.
It will be imperative for the sake of ratings for producers to keep him in for some time, no matter how unpopular that proves to be. Rylan may be vocally average and bewilderingly vain, but he is also self-aware and witty. His reaction on getting through at each stage has been hysterical, in every sense. Expect the same to be the case in a singoff or three.
7th: Carolynne Poole
Current odds: 20/1
Carolynne Poole and Frankie Cocozza couldn’t be more different. But, as with Frankie, producers may find that Carolynne provides the biggest disconnect between their hopes and viewers’ responses. So far she has been marketed as the alpha over – she got the pimp slot in the final audition show, at which Gary urged us to “remember that name”, and a segment to herself for judges’ houses decision-time. We think she will continue to be treated very favourably.
There are a couple of problems. Carolynne is a highly attractive, talented woman over 30 who has a tendency to turn on the waterworks; we don’t think this will go down well with female viewers (and the fortunes of Victoria Pendleton on Strictly will further test this theory). She’s also being trumpeted as bringing a country sound to the competition. But this isn’t American Idol, and we don’t think the idea has wings over here.
We reckon Carolynne is relying on producer support to get her as far as we project, but even then we don’t think it’ll be enough to get her to best in category.
8th: Jahmene Douglas
Current odds: 15/2
Currently second favourite in the win market, Jahmene Douglas is our selection for the ‘shock early exit’ headlines which are an annual obligation on this show. Vocally, his gospel style has its moments, as the first part of his original audition showed. But he also has a tendency to lose control, even when not overcome by nerves, and such errors are magnified with a voice as big as his.
There is also the question of how the public will take to the Asda worker. From the beginning, the programme has been keen to play up his foibles, such as his nervous laugh and sensitive nature. Nicole’s comment when selecting him at judges’ houses to “go have a cry and grow some balls” continued that theme. We’re not convinced that he’ll have lasting appeal to the mainstream tastes of ITV viewers, and there may come a point when producers feel they’ve got as much mileage as they can out of his nervousness and cut him loose to keep Rylan around.
9th: Christopher Maloney
Current odds: 40/1
Speaking of nerves, although we wouldn’t take odds of 2/5 on him winning the wildcard vote, we’ll run with Shaky Maloney as the most likely wildcard winner. Assuming he gets the Amelia Lily treatment – in the pimp slot for week 1 – then he should be safely through to the following weekend, and may receive enough momentum to survive another couple of shows.
But we have never been impressed with his average voice, and there’s only so far the ability to shake like a pneumatic drill can take you.
10th: Jade Ellis
Current Odds: 33/1
Jade very much looks like the gamma girl right now, despite a soulful enough voice and a cheery personality. If this is to get her beyond the early weeks in the competition, her supporters have to hope for a couple of things.
Firstly, that Amy Mottram doesn’t win the wildcard vote, which would demote Jade early on even further within her category. Secondly, that the early votes show Ella Henderson proving less popular with the public than producers anticipated, or that producers otherwise have second thoughts about Ella. If that happens, we could easily see Jade being brought onto the front burner with an Alexandra Burke trajectory that could carry her all the way through to the final.
At the moment, however, given Ella’s strength that seems a forlorn hope – just a bit too forlorn to make it worth chancing Jade at 33/1. We reckon the most likely scenario is for an increasingly anonymous Jade to be Sophie Habibised at around week 4.
Current Odds: 50/1
We’re projecting that we’ll be down to one group by week 3. Yes, we know that seems harsh for the mentor in question, but it’s only Louis. And he’s the worst possible fit for this urban duo – a style that anyway doesn’t tend to go down well with ITV viewers.
In our reading, singer Charlie and rapper Simeon haven’t been given treatment that suggests producers are significantly investing in them. Their audition was all about ditching “accountant” Will, a storyline which offers a perfect way to depress their vote if producers so desire – simply remind viewers that the dickish former third member negotiated himself a 33% cut of MK1’s future earnings.
At bootcamp, Charlie didn’t play fair when hogging the stage, suggesting there may be a likeability as well as a genre problem to overcome. And producers intercut their performance with VT at judges’ houses, depriving them of a proper chance to shine. They’re good at what they do, but we’re not envisaging a long run in the competition.
12th: Melanie Masson
Current odds: 25/1
Melanie surprised the audience with the power of her voice at her first audition. We expressed our doubts then about how far she could go, citing a possible lack of versatility. Nothing we have seen of her since has changed our minds, and Melanie is our biggest difference of opinion with our friend Rob at EntertainmentOdds.com, who puts her as high as 2nd in his own 1-13 prediction.
Producers don’t seem keen on her, as recent coverage has seen her short-changed in relation to the other overs. She had both her bootcamp and judges’ houses edits intercut with VT. At judges’ houses, producers played on the storyline of Melanie being kept away from her young family during live shows. And in our view, that’s intended to give viewers a good reason not to vote for her – do her a favour by letting her return to her kids, eh?
Though Melanie was born in Glasgow, the North Londoner hardly comes across as Scottish enough to stir the regional vote. And if wildcard favourite Christopher Maloney does indeed return, that will likely relegate Melanie to fourth over.
Current odds: 20/1
In five of the eight previous series, a group has been first to go. That’s no accident. It’s harder for groups than it is for individuals to establish an immediate connection with the voting public, which also makes them a bigger target for producers to aim at taking down in the first week, when it’s harder for them to predict who voters will warm to.
But if a group is to be given the Nu Vibe treatment this time, which group? As we said above regarding Union J, we’re far from confident about what’s going on with the groups this year. Why two boybands, when a category consisting of MK1, one of the boybands and Poisonous Twin would have been both much more balanced and much more Louis?
One theory is that this is a ‘battle of the boybands’ narrative, which would imply MK1 would be first in line for a Nu Vibing. Another possibility, and a chance we’ll take at the odds, is that producers wanted to keep their options open on Union J and GMD3 so they put both through. And if that’s the case, why wait to get shot of the least favoured?
GMD3 should be easy enough to nobble. Like Nu Vibe, they have a competent lead singer but not much strength in depth. That can be pointed out (“Mickey, you’re the main man”), and Union J can be meanwhile praised to the rafters (“you’ve gelled as friends, you’ve worked so hard since Vegas and improved so much”). We’ve also been promised a change in GMD3’s band name this Saturday. That’s either good publicity or highly damaging, depending on producers’ spin – if they choose to skate over it in the VT, it could simply leave viewers confused.
We wouldn’t be at all surprised to be proved wrong here, though. As always, do please let us know in the comments below which of the above predictions you feel is likely to prove most wide of the mark. And if you’ve been a longtime Sofabet reader but not yet made an appearance in the comments, then why not take this opportunity to join in the fun with your own 1-13 prediction? Bragging rights are up for grabs.