The opinion pollsters defied some fierce scepticism from the right-wing blogosphere in the U.S. presidential election last month, and YouGov has likewise defied some fierce scepticism from much of the Sofabet comments section with James Arthur’s win tonight. Although the X Factor is harder to poll than political elections, because the show itself can change opinions, I was happy to trust YouGov for reasons I explained in my preview of the final.
The Sofabet team is delighted for James. Andrew and I have fully shared the evolution of opinion described by Dug in his recap of James’s journey, from a highly negative reaction to his first audition through to rooting for him for the win. We send him our hearty congratulations and best wishes for his future career.
It’s a good win for the X Factor franchise, too. Firstly, James becomes the first act to win having been in the bottom two, breaking a hoodoo for future series just as Little Mix’s win for the groups category did last year. Secondly, James has always seemed most likely of the finalists to enjoy commercial success, and it’s always helpful for the franchise to have a successful winner – especially a credible one. Just don’t let Gary Barlow pen his first original single.
Producers set their stall out last night in no uncertain manner, pimping James to high heaven. We will have to wait and see what the voting statistics say, but my suspicion is that James enjoyed a healthy lead after last night’s show – he was given a mighty push, and the YouGov poll suggested that it would be pushing at an open door. No act in any of the years since the show started releasing statistics has come from second place in the Saturday voting freeze to take the crown, and as Saturday showed producers were clearly on James’s side.
Tonight started with Jahmene and James reprising their performances of ‘Angels’ and ‘Let’s Get It On’. It didn’t feel like this round was a game-changer. James’s supporters were thankful that he didn’t sing ‘Don’t Speak’ again.
Producers seemed to be playing it fair. Jahmene was given a great production for ‘Let It Be’ and VTs that reflected the incredible journey he has gone on. It was followed by James’s take on the much more contemporary ‘Impossible’. Viewers had been offered a clear choice.
It’s far from a bad result for Jahmene. Before the series we and many other Sofabet commenters had Jahmene pegged as a shock early exit – although, to be fair, this was before any of us knew about his tragic childhood. While his commercial viability as a recording artist is open to question, you get the sense that he cares far less about fame and fortune than about having a platform to inspire, and being a gallant runner-up rather than a winner seems unlikely to hamper his public image and ability to carve out a role for himself.
All told, it’s not been a great year for the X Factor. Ratings are down, the Carolynne Poole singoff exposed the wizard behind the curtain to a wider audience than Sofabet reaches, and they surely didn’t intend to lose Ella as early as they did. But, to their credit, they adapted to that week 7 shock by ensuring the most headline-grabbing act of the series, Christopher Maloney, was still around to generate interest up to the final weekend. A final two of credible James and feelgood Jahmene – and a celebration of the mentoring of Nicole, the true breakout star of the series – is surely what they have been hoping to achieve for the last three weeks. But it seems to us that a Simon Cowell return is the show’s only hope of getting much beyond its tenth series next year.
For us, the highlight of X Factor final Sunday is still to come – not the Christmas songs, not the winner’s singles, not even the announcement of the result. It is, of course, the publication of the voting stats, when we get to look back on the last ten weeks with the joy of hindsight. Assuming the Star leaks were right, when did they succeed in dragging Christopher back to the pack? How much of a bounce did James get after his singoff save? Was Ella’s early position as hot favourite never reflected in her popularity in the vote?
In past years, they have put the voting stats up on the X Factor website in the early hours of Monday morning. If we’re still up, we’ll post an instant analysis – if not, we’ll do so in the morning.
In the meantime, a big thank you to all of you who have shared your wit, wisdom and insight in the comments section over the course of this series. Do please keep the conversation going below.