Ha, Halloween! It’s the X Factor theme that chimes most closely with the sadistic ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ nature of the live shows. Let’s face it, from early October to mid-December, we’re witnessing a slow-motion slasher movie. The vulnerable cast are put on the altar, face the curse of the judges and are killed off one by one.
This is the week programme makers must cherish most. Last year’s young victim Sophie Habibis performed on a set which looked like Lucifer belching in hell. The year before they didn’t even open the coffins on cue for Belle Amie’s elimination performance of ‘Venus’ (both examples feature in our post from earlier this week speculating about subliminal messages in staging). They might as well have kept the coffins closed.
So who will have a fright night this evening?
So far this year, we’ve done better at predicting the target than we have at predicting the elimination. District 3 dodged the bullet in week one, and Chris Maloney is still alive and shaking despite two weeks of barbs.
It’s fascinating to see how the campaign against the Liverpudlian will proceed tonight. Perhaps they’ll portray him as the slimy shape-changing object of ray guns in Ghostbusters. He’s once again at the top of the elimination market, but having seen him survive thus far, his support is clearly more resilient than I had thought.
This week’s story that Cowell wants rid raises the possibility of a switch of strategy. In past years, this kind of tactic has been used to boost the vote of acts such as Wagner and Jedward. Having read the last two weeks as a concerted attempt to get Shakey’s vote down, I wonder if producers are now giving up on this and embracing the idea of Shakey in the time-honoured role of pantomime villain whose survival annoys the judges, Gary aside.
Or to put it in other words, borrowing Heisenberg’s cheese analogy: “most goat cheeses are aged for less than three weeks, and require regular turning and patting down… We are 3 weeks in and Maloney has been thoroughly turned and patted down – but without success – producers now realise that he’s not made of goat cheese as originally suspected. Sheep and cow’s milk cheeses can be aged for longer and many of them develop more complex flavours as a result.”
Gary has his own pet hate in Rylan, of course, and he is generally joint-favourite at 3/1 to go alongside Maloney. They didn’t make the most out of last week’s Club Classics theme for him, and in the circumstances it was a surprise to me not to see him in the singoff once more.
However, I don’t think he’s outlived his usefulness to the show at all. He celebrated his birthday this week with a big bash, which should allow him a fun VT. The Halloween theme should really suit, too, giving the excuse for something camp and over-the-top.
Kye Sones is next up in the betting at 9/2 after surviving last week’s singoff. As Roach comments, there’s roughly an 80% sympathy bounce strike-rate – that is, acts bouncing clear of the bottom two in the week immediately after their first singoff survival (second-time survivors have a tougher time of it). Purely based on those stats, Kye should be around those odds just to hit the bottom two, let alone be eliminated.
We can dig a bit deeper here, looking at the list of acts who haven’t had a sympathy bounce after their first time in the bottom two: Rachel Adedeji (singoff survived in week 1), Girlband (1), Alisha Bennett (1), Ashley McKenzie (3), Eton Road (6), The Conway Sisters (5), 2 to go (2). Note that four of the seven are groups, and it’s five series now since an act failed to enjoy a first-time sympathy bounce having had more than one live show to build a fanbase.
So sympathy may be enough for Kye in the circumstances. After all, it’s still early days where voting totals are low and Kye, dull as he is, is more sympathetic than most of those who failed to bounce.
District 3 at 7/1 are coming down off a bounce – the phenomenon more often than not lasts only one week. However, last week was an exceptionally positive one for them, giving a big boost to their Twitter reaction on the night according to Toby’s analysis.
Sofabet commenters such as jscouser2002 are wondering if this means producers have switched boyband horses. I remain sceptical until I see further evidence. After all, Union J were also treated perfectly well last week. I woudn’t be surprised to see a deramp for District 3 this week; if so, the question will be whether the lingering effect of last week is a motivated fanbase or a complacent one.
Jade Ellis is also a general-priced 7/1 and she doesn’t have any wave of positivity to ride. I think she’s vulnerable after last week’s performance. Her sore throat VT ensured there was some sympathy for her, but judges tapped into the leisurely production by accusing her of not owning the stage or having done enough. It felt like a definite softening.
As Eddy comments, there is a bullying story from earlier in the week that producers could run with if they wanted to give Jade a boost. But it looked from last week like Jade is in danger of following the Sophie Habibis trajectory – Sophie was also given a glimmer of hope in week 2 before being softened up in week 3, and was then jettisoned in week 4.
Lucy Spraggan got every help last week, keeping Jade least loved in her category. There was another sympathetic VT, a good production for ‘Titanium’ with vital vocal help during the chorus and the chance to allow Lucy to do her own thing for the verses. Producers are clearly aware that they can sell records with Lucy; I don’t think they feel that way about Jade. Therefore, I’m not tempted by 10/1 for Lucy in this week’s elimination market.
With Jahmene’s extraordinarily powerful VT last week still fresh in the memory, Union J continuing to excite the teens on Twitter, and James and Ella getting the alpha treatment, I think they’re all safe this week.
Stakes should be kept small given the probable narrow margins between those struggling at the bottom of the phone vote, and the sense – explored by tpfkar and Chatterbox5200 in the comments – that whereas last year it felt easier to identify the order in which producers wanted acts to go, this year there seems to be more of a “disposable list” approach.
Nonetheless, I’ve taken some of the early prices on Jade this week, and I think 7/1 still represents good value for her to be this year’s Halloween sacrifice. What do you think? Let us know your spooky thoughts and more below.