The odds suggest Union J will be this weekend’s semi-final casualties. I took some of the 10-11 earlier in the week and they’re now best-priced 8-11 to go. Noises are suggesting – with no official confirmation yet – that there won’t be a singoff, which would only cement their status as elimination favourites.
Richard Betsfactor did the math in his article on Sofabet earlier this week. Without a singoff, 25.1% would guarantee you a place in the final. Historically, at least 18% of the phone vote is required to put you in with a shout. Union J’s bottom two appearance in week 4 suggests they had about 5.5% of the vote at that stage. Admittedly there were a greater number of rivals back then but two further singoff appearances aren’t encouraging.
As Nicky pointed out in the comments after last Sunday: “every act that survived the bottom two at the five act stage has been eliminated the following week, ie, finished fourth. (Diana Vickers, Danyl Johnson, Cher Lloyd and Misha B.)” However, in 2008 Danyl Johnson only narrowly missed out on a place in the final having been in the bottom two as early as week 3, whilst Misha B survived a week 4 bottom two appearance and two further singoffs before also just falling short in the 2011 semi.
These examples may indicate it’s not an impossible task for the boyband. But Danyl and Misha were perceived to be the most divisive yet talented acts in their respective years. The same can’t be said for Union J who are the blandest of the remaining contestants this time.
If there isn’t a singoff, Union J’s chances of making the final diminish on a number of levels. Firstly, such a decision may indicate that producers don’t feel they can get or even want Chris Maloney in the bottom two against the boyband. We have to assume that they want Jahmene and James in the final having been name-checking them as such for a good few weeks now.
Secondly, if the decision is taken not to have a singoff it will affect the way the acts are treated in tonight’s show. At the semi-final stage the obvious criticism and damaging productions are usually toned down, and we’ll explain below why that may particularly be the case for Chris. However, without a singoff it will be even more necessary for producers to hype the likes of James to ensure his place in the final. As a result, I don’t think Union J will enjoy the all-out pimping that boyband predecessors One Direction were helped with at this stage in 2010.
As for Chris, who would have predicted that he would become the act to lay bare the machinations of the show unlike anyone before him? We’ve had two live shows with judges commenting on his productions in a way that was once the preserve of Sofabet and similar sites. This week we’ve been told in The Sun that producers don’t want to see more negative stories for fear of stoking a sympathy vote, followed by, ahem, a raft of further negative stories.
Quite how long it has been happening is open to debate (Sofabet commenters such as R have been saying it for a while), but it seems clear by now that producers are embracing the Christopher Maloney phenomenon as the best headline-generating story of the series. This week’s column inches suggest programme makers recognise it is going all the way to the final. If those Daily Star leaks are true and he extended his lead in week 7, they may not have had much choice.
I’m still sure they don’t want him to win this competition, but how to stop a runaway train? My guess is that tonight will see the bullying from the judges superficially ease up whilst still trying to plant the thought in viewers’ minds that he somehow isn’t ‘deserving’ or ‘right’ as an X Factor winner. A continuation of what we’ve seen in the press all week, basically. I’m not tempted by the 10-3 best price on him being eliminated next.
Generally priced at 8-1 to go, James’s press this week has largely been about his abilities as a ladies’ man which producers have tried to push all series. Physically and musically he has always been something of an acquired taste but there has been an attempt to broaden his appeal in the last few weeks. We haven’t had a mid-song rap with its associated stomping around the stage since week 5’s ‘Don’t Speak’. This was when his backdrop of red triangles pointing downwards looked least helpful.
This gradual change failed to fly with the public in week 7 when a safe choice of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ put him in the bottom two. That and last week’s ‘S.O.S’ felt a little Cardle-esque in its everyman-with-a-guitar vibe. But producers stepped up a gear with his styling and production for ‘Let’s Get It On’, which looked like an attempt to morph the now suited James into some kind of Michael Buble, unlikely as that seems. His performance of the soul classic won him rave reviews and helped him bounce out of the bottom two. I’m expecting more of the suit and a continued absence of rapping this week in a bid to push him to the final.
That leaves us with 10-1 outsider to be eliminated Jahmene Douglas, whose treatment tonight intrigues me the most. I think producers still have in mind a place in the final for him. But why did Tulisa, who behaved as if she didn’t believe what she was saying when pimping him to the heavens after week 5’s ‘Listen’, put on her bored face for the cameras during his ‘Tracks of My Tears’ last week? And unlike week 6’s ‘Angels’ and week 1’s ‘Imagine’, why didn’t they give him a choir for ‘I Have a Dream’, a song that from the Abba original to the Westlife cover always uses a choir of children?
He didn’t get the ‘winner’s lighting’ that we saw in weeks 5 and 6 in particular. He was also on a big plinth for both songs, as for week 7’s ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’. And Gary stepped up the mentions of his tendency to ad-lib. Maybe I’m reading too much into these things. After all, a positive VT ensured the ‘awwww, he loves his Mum’ vote remained motivated. His name was up in lights. I couldn’t help but detect mixed messages, however.
In theory, producers not wanting to see Chris win should be continuing to do everything they can to pimp Jahmene as the act who has, according to the Daily Star, been his closest rival in the public vote and competes for a similar demographic. Do producers feel he has failed to halt the Maloney express and was that why he was decoupled from Chris in the week 8 running order for the first time since week 4? I’m confused and thus intrigued to see how tonight pans out for Jahmene.
Do let us know your thoughts on this and all the other semi-final points of interest below.