Imagine, if you will, a member of the typical X Factor viewing audience. Did you picture an ex-military single parent eating pork-pies impaled with miniature St George flags? Or perhaps a hormonal, double-dialling tweenybopper high on pixie-sticks? I imagine that the words ‘ITV demographic’ will conjure a different image for everyone.
In my mind, the figure is a sort of dumpy, overly talkative and borderline racist Northern female. In fact – and I have realised this only as I type – the figure is not a hundred miles away from Gillian Duffy.
I don’t mean to be a snob about those viewers who watch the X Factor with less hubristic cynicism than I. The stereotype of lobotomised working-class heroes playing along to the tune of Cowellian bullshite may be a little harsh. Still, since stumbling across Sofabet in 2010, I have found X Factor-related chit-chat with day job colleagues has become a near impossibility. Water cooler moments are utterly devoid of even rudimentary analysis.
They do, however, offer us punters our most personal insights into the thinking of viewers who aren’t given to using terms such as “pimp slot” and “sympathy bounce”. In this spirit, I offer – anecdotally and unscientifically – despatches from my own workplace’s water cooler.
Finding Number 1 – People are rooting for Ella
Of course everyone around my water cooler thinks Ella is fantastic. What they don’t seem to have realised is that everyone else thinks the same thing. Despite Ella having dominated a favourable and lengthy segment to close almost every stage of the competition, people feel like Ella is their hand-picked favourite. They see something special in her.
Finding Number 2 – Most people seem to like James and/or Lucy too
Both seem to receive a lot of praise around the water cooler, although both are capable of drawing an uninvited yet more than occasional ‘yeeeeesh’ from the corner of the room. Both are praised for their musicianship, yet both are divisive – even grating – acts.
Finding Number 3 – Everybody’s talking about Rylan
Rylan is the subject of much damnation around my water cooler. Regular comments focus on how talentless he is or how little he deserves to be in amongst better singers in the competition. Of course, these comments in themselves validate Rylan’s very purpose in the competition, but the water cooler is not to know that.
Finding Number 4 – The boybands aren’t liked, but respected
Union J and District 3 are regularly mentioned in ‘who do you think will win?’ conversations but rarely raised as an answer to questions such as ‘who do you like?’
After Ella, James, Lucy, Rylan and the boybands, the conversation usually turns to other topics or else descends into awkward silence until a single yet sizable air pocket wobbles upwards through 25 litres of Mountain Spring and the working day resumes as normal.
No Jade, no Christopher, no Kye and – most intriguingly, given his position in the betting – rarely a Jahmene. They are almost eerily absent from my water cooler. What I am intrigued to know, dear Sofabet commenters, is how my findings compare with the discussions around your own (literal or otherwise) drinking stations?
As I return rehydrated to work, I tend to draw a couple of conclusions. First, the public do seem to be playing ball rather spectacularly this year. Hooray for independent thought!
And second, this year feels more like 2010 than 2011 to me. Remember that at this stage last year, the big hitters were Janet Devlin, Craig Colton and The Risk. By the time the final rolled around, however, they had morphed bizarrely into Amelia Lily, Marcus Collins and Little Mix – all of whom had previously looked like early weeks fodder.
2010 was quite the opposite – Matt, Rebecca, One Direction and Cher were pimped from the outset with Katie Waissel playing the unwilling pantomime villain. Cher and Katie took a little extra pushing but producers had no problems getting the public to bite with their top 3.
I certainly wouldn’t go as far as to say that ‘Frankella’ has an immeasurable lead on her fellow dobbins (and at prices like 4/5 would you really want to chance it?) – especially as, with the travesty of Brian Friedman having been flown back to the US, we may now see six weeks of her doing slowed-down Adele covers in couture until every member of the production team has committed suicide or been pecked to death by doves struggling for premature release.
But a top 3 featuring Ms Henderson besting James ‘performance of the entire series’ Arthur with Union J in third feels just as viable – if not more so – as when we published our pre-lives 1-13 prediction piece.
In that piece, we had Lucy slated for the 4th spot occupied by Cher two years ago. She’s almost trebled in price since then, to 50/1, but judging by conversations around my water cooler I can still see her getting that far, as long as producers continue to see her as less disposable than Jade. I’m not yet seeing any reason to doubt that.
And what of the disposability of boybands? There has been much debate in the comments about whether last week’s treatment might have portended a switch of horses. I’m still inclined to agree with the Guardian’s Stu Heritage in his excellent description of District 3 as “Never Let Me Go-style organ pods that exist purely in case anything nasty happens to one of Union J”.
District 3 certainly put on the more exciting show last Saturday and were generally more memorable. Union J were, nonetheless, blessed with pyrotechnics (golden shower, anyone?), the expense of which Dermot pointed out, almost in the manner of a Sofabet commenter.
Ultimately, as many have said, District 3’s early appearance in the bottom two has marked them as damaged goods/ sloppy seconds / nobbled pie / pavement pizza / soiled briefs or something of such description.
So I’m sticking with the gut feeling that we’re on course for a final four of our front-running golden girl; two likeable, original – if slightly irritating – troubadours; and the makings of One Direction 2.0.
Is my water cooler causing me to underestimate the appeal of Jahmene (whose vocal gymnastics are not so much McKayla Maroney as Barbara Mosely), or the oft-debated necessity for Gary to take an act to the final? As ever, our comments section awaits.