The pre-live shows speculation is fun, but as a punter, it’s nice to finally get down to business. Talking of that speculation, here on Sofabet in our article and the responses to it, there were seventeen 1-13 finishing order predictions. Adding up the placings of each act from each prediction gives the following totals, the official projection of the Sofabet community as a whole:
1. Ella (27 points with 11 predicting victory)
2. James (69, with one predicting victory)
3. Kye (72, with one predicting victory)
4. Lucy (90, with two predicting victory)
5. Union J (93, with one predicting victory)
6. Jahmene (110, with one predicting victory)
7. Carolynne (124)
8. Rylan (133)
9. GMD3 (147)
10. Melanie (159)
11. MK1 (168)
12. Wildcard (177)
13. Jade (179)
Three of you didn’t name who the winner of the wildcard would be, of those that did, 9 went for Chris, 4 for Amy and one for Adam. This is not dissimilar to the odds that were on offer, which hardened throughout the week in Chris’s favour.
The lines closed at midday today and the thirteenth act will be announced at the start of tonight’s show. Does that mean the wildcard winner will have the death slot and sing first?
Maybe, maybe not. All that’s clear is that we were mistaken in our wildcard analysis piece to work on the assumption that the wildcard winner would get the favoured pimp slot, as Amelia Lily did when she was brought back to the show in week six last year – then, lines were kept open until after three of the other six acts had performed and the announcement was made after all the other acts had sung, so there was nowhere she could sing but last of all.
This time, producers have cannily kept their options open. They can put the winning wildcard act anywhere in the running order they choose – very possibly at the start, immediately after they announce who it is, but not necessarily. (If it’s Shaky Maloney, it might well be wise to give him a bit of time to recover.)
It’s a very important question for this week’s elimination market, because the death slot is disadvantageous for the public vote and a sign of producer disfavour. In the last two years, the acts singing first for the first public live show vote – FYD and Nu Vibe – have been eliminated. In the two years before that, the acts opening the show – Rachel Adedeji and Girlband – were in the bottom two but saved in the sing-off. The year before that, Kimberley Southwick had the death slot and was eliminated.
From 2007-11, that’s five out of five death slots in the first public vote leading to an appearance in the bottom two. Three of those five were sent home. The death slot is a grave, though not necessarily fatal, blow – and that’s especially true for groups. In five of the eight series, the first live show with a public vote was opened by a group, and every one fell into the bottom two, with three being sent home (and one of the two survivors faced off against another group, when Girlband were sent out first in 2008 but survived the sing-off against Bad Lashes).
In the circumstances, punters will rightly be on the edge of their seats with fingers hovering over computers tonight when the show opener is announced. However, if it’s the wildcard who sings first, then we’re into uncharted territory – it’ll be not so much a death slot as a resurrection slot. Who can say if it will have the same effect?
And if the first to sing is the wildcard in the resurrection slot, will the second act up effectively be in the death slot? You can imagine the second to sing feeling a bit after the Lord Mayor’s Show.
There is another difference this time around. Unlike previous years, phone lines are open from the first song onwards, rather than after the last. Will this make a difference? We can’t know for sure, though my instinct is that it shouldn’t prove to be too much of a game-changer. It didn’t change the bias in favour of later performing acts in Eurovision, which reverted back to the old system this year, though that’s a very different kettle of fish as a viewer experience. In the later stages of X Factor, when acts sing two songs each, lines open halfway through the show, and it still seems more favourable to perform late.
We should also, of course, remember that it’s not all about the death slot. There are many other tricks that have been and can be used to depress votes effectively, especially in these early weeks before acts have had much chance to cement a loyal fanbase. Equally fatal can be an early-to-middle slot in the running order, lukewarm VT and comments designed neither to stir a sympathy vote nor an enthusiasm vote, and then being immediately followed by a high-profile act so everyone forgets about you.
In our 1-13 prediction piece, we pointed out that it is easier for producers to set out to nobble a group from the first public vote, because viewers typically need more time to build up a rapport with a group than with a soloist. In other words, it’s less of a risk for producers that groups will prove unexpectedly popular than it is with soloists.
Which of the groups seems most likely to get positioned over the trapdoor tonight? The market says MK1, favourites for elimination at odds of 3/1. As we pointed out in our 1-13 prediction piece, we believe MK1 have been least kindly edited of the three bands, and it would certainly be no surprise to see them be thrown under the bus tonight. Choosing to remind viewers that “accountant” Will stands to skim off 33% of MK1’s future earnings should be enough to dissuade many from reaching for their phones.
In our prediction piece, we speculated that GMD3 – now apparently renamed District 3 – may be tonight’s fall guys from Louis’s category. This was based partly on our surprise at two boybands being included in the live shows, when a more category-balancing and suitably Walsh-esque alternative presented itself in the shape of Poisonous Twin. The investment in a new telegenic member of Union J, the boyband brought back for judges’ houses and given an intriguing edit there, has led us to speculate that producers have switched horses. If so, why let GMD3 hang around?
Our placing of GMD3 in last place of our 1-13 was also influenced by the odds on offer. Then, they were a tempting 12/1 in the first elimination market, four times the price of MK1. Now, they are a general 7/1 and as low as 11/2 in places (though you can still get 10/1 with Boylesports at the time of writing). The value has been drying up.
Nor indeed can we be sure that it won’t be Union J, thus blowing our theorising completely out of the water. I’m not sure whether it’s confirmation bias in action, but I have been noting in recent days Union J pulling even further ahead of GMD3 in terms of Twitter followers. I hope producers have taken note too.
How they handle the name change for GMD3 could give us a clue. It could be great publicity for them, as it was for Rhythmix, or it could simply confuse viewers, depending on how producers choose to handle it – and if they do go home tonight, it will hardly have helped their brand for resuming their post-show career. Sofabet commenters Rad and R both point out that the new name calls to mind the Hunger Games trilogy (Wikipedia tells us that District 3 is “very poor and typically doesn’t do well in the Games”).
It will also be intriguing to see how the reported appearance of One Direction is handled. On the face of it, you would think that reminding viewers we already have a One Direction shouldn’t help motivate votes for either of their putative rivals – The Risk were eliminated last year after their VT showed them chatting to JLS. But perhaps there are opportunities here for producers to favour one of the boybands over the other, should they so desire.
If it’s not the wildcard, nor a group, who else might get the black cross of producer disfavour tonight with the death slot or at least an unhelpful early berth? I think it’s unlikely to be any of the three boys, given that the show will be desperate to keep Rylan around, whilst Jahmene and James are also big personalities in terms of exposure on the show.
That leaves us with the gamma girl and the gamma over, who we believe are Jade Ellis and Melanie Masson respectively based on their edits during the audition process. It is no surprise that these two acts follow MK1 at 9-2 and 7-1 in the elimination market.
Once again, the running order will tell us a whole lot more about what producers are thinking, but to our minds the hints were stronger that Melanie might not be hanging around as long. The storyline that she was missing her young family, and Gary’s concern about this when putting her through, seemed set up to give viewers a reason not to vote for her. She also offers less raw material than Jade for a “journey”. A long career as a session singer and an affluent enough lifestyle are hardly the stuff of X Factor’s favoured plotline of overcoming adversity to achieve your dreams.
Jade, on the other hand, is using X Factor to improve her life. We’ve been given the storyline over and over again of the young single mother living in a tower block, giving viewers a personal reason to keep her in the show. There’s also a strategic reason for the show to keep her in, at least for a week or two: we reckon she is the Ella spare if the producers’ Plan A fails to fly in the early phone votes.
I can see Jade as a recording artist, but not Melanie – I agree with Boki, who finds her old-fashioned. And if it is Chris who wins the wildcard, then Melanie could easily become quickly surplus to requirements in the overs category. Therefore – like Sofabet commenter Heisenberg, who writes that he has been poring over variables including exposure in the ‘Read All About It’ video and treatment in GMTV interviews this week – I’d much rather be on Melanie at 7-1 to be eliminated this week than Jade at 9-2.
Elsewhere, bookmakers suggest it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if Carolynne Poole was the first elimination – she is a best-priced 14-1. But, like Rylan Clark, I think she has producer favour on her side, and that should be enough – unless of course she was in the bottom two with Rylan. I’m envisaging a helpful slot for Carolynne in tonight’s running order.
Overall, given uncertainty over the wildcards and the groups, I am currently sitting out this week’s elimination market – at least until the show starts answering some of our questions. I can’t wait. What are your thoughts? As ever, do let us know below.