X Factor USA 2012: In Vino veritas

For those of you not suffering from X Factor fatigue, the first live show of the US equivalent begins Stateside at 8pm ET tonight. Unfortunately, the UK will be an unnecessary week behind when broadcasting the shows from 8-10pm Thursdays on ITV2. If you’ve missed the audition process so far, there’s a quick primer below and YouTube should bring you up-to-date pretty quickly. The standard is very high.

One minor tweak is that three of the four categories are age-based. Britney Spears mentors the strongest-looking category, the teens; Demi Lovato is in charge of the most intriguing category, the young adults; LA Reid has the Overs; and Simon Cowell the groups.

Sixteen finalists remain. There is no public vote in the first week. There’s not been official confirmation that, like last year’s US and UK shows, each judge will choose a member of their category to drop instead, but this article proceeds under that assumption. Odds are available for the win market already and, when the time comes, British punters should be able to get odds about who goes each week.

The Teens
Win market odds: 7-2 Carly Rose Sonenclar, 5-1 Diamond White, 15-1 Beatice Miller, 20-1 Arin Ray

It’s no wonder Britney Spears is odds-on favourite to be winning mentor. Her acts have the advantage of matching vocal prowess without any emotional baggage, which can’t be said of some of their rivals in the other categories.

Overall favourite is 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar, who was certainly pimped like one for her audition performance of ‘Feeling Good’. Her strength may also be her only weakness. With extensive musical theatre experience already, she’s the finished product. American audiences don’t mind the kind of precocity and confidence she displays, but the lack of a journey may still be a chink in the armour.

Also just 13, the brilliantly-named Diamond White is a bit rougher around the edges as a performer, but she does have a backstory of deprivation and more of a sense of a journey to go on. As a result, bookmakers have her second favourite in the win market.

Rather overshadowed in this category are Arin Ray and Beatrice Miller. The former competed last year as part of the group InTENsity. I don’t seem him being strong enough to reach the latter stages, but he offers some eye candy for teen girls. Beatrice performs in a rather mature way for a 13-year-old and against two rather similar rivals looks likely to be a sacrificial lamb in this category.

The Young Adults
Win market odds: 8-1 Willie Jones, 9-1 Jennel Garcia, 9-1 CeCe Frey, 28-1 Paige Thomas

The main narrative in this category has been the rivalry between Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey. The former, a Rihanna lookalike, is more fragile and slightly less confidently vocally. The latter, with her distinctive leopard-print make-up, has been portrayed as a ruthless bitch. As part of that storyline, CeCe and the show are now trying to tell us that we will grow to like her but I fear the damage has been done, despite her vocal strength.

Otherwise we have young black country singer Willie Jones, whose USP is that he’s a country singer and young and black. I’m not sure if that’s going to get him enough of a demographic to go far. Finally we have my personal favourite Jennel Garcia. Think Britney Spears’ Latina younger sister. She’s excellent vocally and a sultry performer. My fear for her chances is that the American audience prefers wholesome to slutty, and Jennel tends towards the latter when on stage.

I can’t see Demi getting rid of either CeCe or Jennel right away. Willie provides variety so I’m guessing it’s going to be early heartbreak for Paige.

The Groups
Win market odds: 10-1 Lylas, 10-1 Lyric 145, 12-1 Emblem3, 33-1 Sister C

Simon Cowell takes over this category after its poor performance last year which saw groups fill the bottom two places in the first two public votes and all sent home after four public votes. His boyband are Emblem3, a trio of California surfers who might be better described as a dudeband. There are two girlbands, a manufactured one called Lylas who Simon is pimping and Sister C, who are clearly their poorer relations as far as the show is concerned. The category is completed by manufactured urban act Lyric 145.

I think Simon is going to struggle despite his best efforts. I’m pretty confident he will ditch Sister C early. I don’t see Lyric 145 being any more popular than last year’s urban act Astro. Emblem3 are unremarkable. His great white hopes are Lylas, who are vocally strong enough but hardly relatable at the moment, which will make it difficult for this girlband.

The Overs
Win market odds: 12-1 Vino Alan, 16-1 Tate Stevens, 33-1 David Correy, 40-1 Jason Brock

As the odds indicate, the strongest act in this category looks to be Vino Alan, a rough diamond father-of-one in the Joe Whelan mould. He has a strong, soulful voice. His bootcamp duel can also be described as an ink-off with the even more heavily tattooed David Correy, who as a weaker, less interesting version of Vino looks the most likely for an early exit within this category.

Otherwise we have Tate Stevens, who looks and sounds like you’d imagine someone filling the traditional country niche to do. The cowboy hat won’t come off, I’m willing to bet now. Finally there’s the token flamboyant one, Jason Brock. I hope he’s not killed off straight away because based on entertainment value alone he’s worth a few weeks in the competition proper.

Conclusion

It’s a very young, girly place at the top of bookmakers’ lists. Much as I like Jennel Garcia, and 9-1 is reasonable value, I think she might suffer in comparison to her younger, more innocent-seeming rivals. In these circumstances I’ve plonked a few quid on Vino Alan each-way at 12-1 to follow a similar trajectory to last year’s grizzled runner-up Josh Krajcik.

Are you watching? As ever, do share your thoughts below.

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42 comments to X Factor USA 2012: In Vino veritas

  • Steven

    I’m watching this much less closely than XF UK, but this lines up pretty closely with what I’ve taken away so far.

    One wrinkle, in my eyes, is the possibility that the ratings will just fall off a cliff after the extended break and the absolute mess of the last judges’ houses episode. The ratings were already below expectations. If they get any worse I think it’s important to think carefully about what that means. A couple of guesses:

    1) Emblem3, being the closest thing to something that tween girls would go crazy over as far as I can tell, could do better than expected due to lowered overall vote votals, and

    2) The producers may use increasingly desperate tactics to keep CeCe around as long as humanly possible for dramatic reasons.

    But overall I’m not quite seeing any narratives as obvious as the ones in the UK series, and even those haven’t been borne out very well…

  • Are they doing that “big twist” again this year over there? Does Simon even realise how much of a spectacular failure this was last year?

  • Daniel

    Actually Stephen, it turns out that this year’s twist is even more ridiculous. In tonight’s results show, judges will choose two from their category that are in danger of elimination. There will be a singoff between each (so four singoffs in total) and all the judges will vote on each duel.

    So one from each category will be sent home, but in a ludicrously Byzantine way.

  • lolhart

    I managed to catch a bit of the show. The alpha group seems to have changed as the Lylas were deramped (silly new name, mixed comments from judges), whereas Emblem 3 were ridiculously praised. They even seemed to use the UK tactic of “You’re the main man (girl)” on the Lylas. I was suprised as they entered the lives with the most favourable treatment and hype out of all the groups. Perhaps the girls aren’t getting on behind the scenes. Sister C seem to be there just to annoy Britney and Demi.

    I can see CeCe being a more talented Katie Waissel type figure. Daniel, as you pointed out they’ve villified her to the degree it will be hard for her to redeem herself. They even had her getting through at judges house after a slightly annoying performance, while the much more likeable Jillian got the boot; very Gamu and Katie. I also don’t get Paige’s harsh makeover (Rachel Adedeji anyone?) and I can see Jennel’s sexy senorita stereotype being off putting for girls. I actually think Willie could be a bit of a dark horse. He comes across as a nice guy and is “safe” enough to appeal to middle America.

    I only saw part of the show on a not so good stream, but it seemed quite sloppy compared to the well oiled machine that is the UK version. The new hosts in particular really need to improve, but that’s what you get when you hire a Kardashian with no presenting experience. Also, I’m surprised they still have the pantomine squabbling between LA and Simon after it apparently was a turn off for viewers last year.

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, had a quick look and I’m surprised you took some Wine :). My impression is quite opposite to the grizzly Josh who is more a bear to hug, while Vino is dark and a little scary to watch so I don’t see him getting anywhere…

    • Daniel

      Hi Boki, you could well be right, and his first live show performance was a disappointment, having said which the sound mix throughout was atrocious.

      I was just searching around for an alternative to the army of Stepford girls on the show. Actually, whilst Vino is scary to look at, he’s also humble, polite, has a cute kid and performs for the US military. His appearance may also partly stem from childhood abuse, which has been brought up on the show. So he has all these things to mitigate those first physical impressions.

  • Daniel

    Some genuine surprises in the first results show. Here were the singoffs with an asterisk next to the act sent home:
    Diamond White* vs Arin Ray
    Willie Jones* vs CeCe Frey
    Sister C* vs 1432 (the new name for Lylas)
    David Correy* vs Jason Brock

    • lolhart

      Definitely some big surprises in the sing-offs, especially Diamond White getting the boot. She seemed like the perfect X-Factor contestant (backstory; likeable personality). I was completely wrong about Willie in the end, as I was convinced it would be CeCe v Paige, but to be fair Paige gave one of the better peformances the previous night. Interestingly, the judges actually seemed to base their decisions on the sing-off as I felt the act who gave the weaker performance went home. From a punting (not talent) point of view, I prefer the UK version where things are much less objective.

    • Rave

      I was pleasantly surprised that LA picked Jason! He looks like he’s going to be Mr. Entertainment the joke act.

  • I think there’s going to be a lot of mileage in Tate now. I’ve spent some time in the states and Canada and there’s no end to the popularity of country music over there. He’s a likeable guy and has been treated very favourably so far.

  • Rave

    From tonight’s show, I still think LYLAS (1432, whatever their new name is) is Simon’s top group and favored winner.

    The very over the top criticism yesterday, and the bottom two singoff just seemed orchestrated to make them appear like “underdogs on a journey” rather than frontrunners.

    And then tonight, LYLAS closes the show yet again, and Simon pulls a people’s choice re-name stunt live on air.

    • lolhart

      Rave, I agree with you watching back. American viewers do indeed like a “journey” with their contestants and the Lylas can have that now. The judges’ comments after the sing-off were a complete 180 from the previous night. Also, allowing the public to choose the new name means people will possibly be more invested in them. I wouldn’t be suprised if they get pimped next week and Demi will comment how they’re really starting to bond as a group etc.

    • Daniel

      Agreed on this. Their treatment on the first night reminded me a little bit of Union J’s treatment in our first live show. The judges were excessively critical but it’s something they get to comeback from, alongside getting the public to choose their name etc.

  • Boki

    After seeing all of them it looks to me the overall level is poorer than last year. Also interestingly no big belters this year like they want to be sure they don’t get Amaro reprise. I don’t dare to judge the groups since US public is so different. Btw now I see that Vino has some chances, he certainly look interesting comparing to many others but my money would go to Tate as Kieran suggests (I say ‘would’ since I have to wait for better betfair odds).

  • eurovicious

    I know this is off-remit, but apropos the US, is anyone else betting on the presidential election?

  • Boki

    Hi Daniel, do you expect weekly elimination market or not?

  • Steven

    Apparently they’re going to reveal the voting placement of EVERY act tonight.

  • lolhart

    Demi’s acts are really struggling. It’s hard to tell if they are not favoured, or it’s incompetence on her part as a mentor. The decision to reveal the voting definitely seems an attempt to deramp Tate and Vino. They are exactly the type of act Simon would not want to win. He’ll be pleased that the public seem to be taking to Fifth Harmony though.

    • Jake Kl

      Well we guessed right, 5th Harmony are the favoured group. I actually thought it would b Emblem3 after their pimp slot last week. The look on their face when they got told they were 6th, priceless

  • Daniel

    I think all those Sofabet readers interested in the X Factor franchise should watch the following. It’s the clip from last night’s US show, after the singoff, when the unprecedented decision is taken to reveal the ranking of the public vote.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVrBytR0lJ0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Does this indicate that the Daily Star story about Maloney topping the early votes was correct, and producers in the American show want to be more effective in changing public opinion? That’s certainly one way to look at it.

    • Steven

      The intent is there, but I’m not convinced it will work. One of the theories that I subscribed to after The Voice UK is that lower viewership makes vote manipulation much more difficult.

      This isn’t to say that there weren’t other factors in that show’s failure to get Jaz and Ruth to the final (BBC viewers vs ITV viewers, the general incompetence of the production staff), but I think casual viewers are critical for producers’ goals to be met (particularly when votes don’t cost money), and US XF just keeps shedding viewers. I think this will make Tate, Vino, etc harder to sink.

      Admittedly, much too early (both in the life of XF US and this season of it) to know if this theory is true.

    • Phil

      Interestingly, during the reveal they went to Demi to ask her thoughts after one of hers was ranked fairly low. She said words to the effect of “it’s all pretty much as planned”.

  • Daniel

    For those interested in USXF, the UK has now caught up the week it was behind and last night’s live show has just started on ITV2.

    PS it is a double elimination this week. The show has also just implied that the revelation of the public phone vote each week is here to stay.

  • Daniel

    Not only did they continue with ranking all the contestants in the public phone vote on USXF this week, they also commented on how much was in it.

    Same top three as last week (Tate, Carly, Vino), with Emblem3 in fourth and CeCe Frey sympathy bouncing from the pimp slot up to fifth.

    There was only 0.33% between first and second, and only 3% between the top four.

    Jennel and Lyric145 eliminated.

  • annie

    It’s quite intriguing, and actually funny, because I think they do this to avoid Tate winning, I’m sure he’s not what simon would want… yet he tops the vote again. I think this reveal makes a difference to those close to the bottom 2 (beatrice,arin) cause their fans will vote more, and is dangerous for those just below mid-table as their fans perceive them safe, yet they can dip. like it happened with the ladies who were in B2 now. But obviously at this stage the reveal doesn’t have a major impact. will be interesting who it will work with less ‘players’ .

  • Jake Kl

    Agree with Annie. Some1 mentioned on another site why they were doing the ranking order again this week. Its obvious Simon doesnt want any of LAs acts in the finals, Hes hoping Carly will get there with one of Demis acts(although unlikely after last nights results) and one of his own acts. Im still unsure who he wants between Emblem3 and 5th Harmony. The fact the former were highly pimped 1st week, the latter in 2nd week and both were around the same this week means Simon wants to push both as far as possible. I still struggle with the fact we’ve already got 1D and LM so why would he want 2 similar bands.

  • lolhart

    I wasn’t surprised that Paige was saved over Jennel as the former has definitely had more producer love. They completely messed up Jennel with the horrible makeover and dated rock tracks that would not appeal to her target demo. I actually feel that their treatment of some of the contestants is so disastrous that it feels more like incompetence rather than sabotage. The whole show feels like a hot mess.

    I think that the effect of the vote reveal is that we’re going to see quite different and random bottom 2s each week. I agree that it leaves the mid-table acts in the most danger as it shows they are not that popular and the fans they do have are lulled into a false sense of security that they are safe.

    I have a feeling that Simon is testing both his remaining groups at this stage. Emblem 3 would probably be the easiest to have a post-show career with and they’re different enough to One Direction to not be direct competition. However, 5th Harmony are still getting a lot of producer love and Simon would probably love to add a girlband to his roster. I think Little Mix are going to need a real push to have any Stateside success, whereas it would be a lot easier with 5th Harmony.

  • Daniel

    For those interested in subliminal messages such as red and black, it’s worth watching the following two examples from the US show.

    Firstly, Arin Ray’s treatment before being eliminated last week:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH2YDq3SRt4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    You’ll notice the red and black, spotlights all over the place and the plinth. Judges comments fninshed him off.

    Then last night, Fifth Harmony, who dropped to seventh out of the remaining eight back then, were thoroughly sent up in flames:

  • lolhart

    Don’t know if any Sofabet readers are still watching X-Factor USA, but the producers did a great job getting the girl group Fifth Harmony into the final (which was a big upset). A really good first song choice that allowed each member to shine with cute Alice in Wonderland customes and staging. They also had a helpful backing track One Direction style. The second song had parts in Spanish which allowed them to tap into the Hispanic audience. Above all, the mixed comments from the judges and talk of them being the underdogs really rallied their fans to vote for them.

    Daniel, I think the backdrop for the Stronger performance you mentioned above were a misguided attempt to make the girls seem feisty and strong rather than “up in flames”. They’ve been shown a lot of producer love and had a sympathetic VT that week with one of the girls losing her grandfather.

    • Steven

      I’m still watching… producers did indeed do a good job there, but it’s hard for me to see them getting past Tate or Carly Rose, not if they’ve been top 2 the entire season.

      To my untrained eye it seemed like last week was a bit of a deramp for Carly Rose, at least moreso than for anyone else. Tate on the other hand got to talk in his VT about how being on this show has probably made him lose his job and so if he loses he has nothing to go back to…

      I really have no idea why producers would do that though, it seems like they’d want to avoid an AI-esque white guy with guitar winner at all costs?

      What are your thoughts on the final?

      • Steven

        Upon thinking on it a bit more, Fifth Harmony do have a few more advantages than I had thought… to the extent that Emblem3’s votes transfer, it’ll be mostly to them, and they’ve been positioned as the most contemporary of the acts left. But, as an American, it’s hard to see Americans liking the idea of a girlband enough to push them all the way…

        • Rave

          Emblem 3 fans despise Fifth Harmony (look at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc).

          Because one of 5H is dating one of E3. Also they are blaming 5H for E3’s demise.

  • Jake Kl

    After the live shows, every article i read, every performance i watched, 75% of the comments were for 5th Harmony.
    By Semi Finals, It was obvious 5th Harmony were heading straight to the finals (at the expense of Emblem3).
    Having said that, i doubt they’ll go further than 3rd place. Question is who’ll win between Carly and Tate. Tate topped the votes 3 times, Carly did it twice. Carly is also the producers favourite and the one who will most likely get the votes when 5th Harmonys gone.
    Id go for Carly but Tate has alot of country fans and he could narrowly take it

  • lolhart

    Steven, I agree there was a slight deramp for Carly last week. I actually think they might prefer a Tate win at this stage. The ratings have been merely ok (they are beaten by The Voice every week) and so I think they need a winner who has some kind of recording career post-show to give it credibility. They could probably have this with Tate. Carly’s been extremely popular on the show, but I have difficulty picturing what kind of artist she’d be if she wins. She’s a bit too adult contemporary and musical theatre to be the cool young artist Simon and LA would clearly prefer. They were hoping that axing Diamond and then bringing her back would have allowed her to do a Melanie Amaro.

  • Steven

    Duet partners announced.

    Fifth Harmony – Demi Lovato
    Tate Stevens – Little Big Town
    Carly Rose Sonenclar – Leann Rimes

    Sources:
    http://twitter.com/TheXFactorUSA/status/280827603823255552
    http://twitter.com/TheXFactorUSA/status/280828480848023552
    http://twitter.com/TheXFactorUSA/status/280828350249975808

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