“So where do we go from here?” asks Dean, in relation to finding the 2013 X Factor winner. Good question! Especially as we approach the halfway stage of the live shows and it still looks like a wide open contest. By this stage last year, the panel were already name-checking their preferred finalists and signposting that Chris Maloney was the fly in the ointment. This year there were no such comments during week 4.
Instead, the acts we thought went into the lives as Plan A (Tamera) and the most likely back-up (Hannah) have already been in the bottom two. Sam Bailey’s storming pimp slot has JScouser marking her down as a winner; she’s the new 9/4 favourite. Andy agrees, Caro is inclined to agree, whilst Kevin plays devil’s advocate, Heisenberg thinks it’s far too early to say and eurovicious doesn’t think so despite being one of her biggest fans.
There’s a lot to get through here. I feel the need for some sub-headings.
1. Can you come back from an early bottom two appearance to win the show?
James Arthur broke the bottom two hoodoo last year after his week 7 singoff save; Little Mix broke the groups hoodoo the year before; could we see someone overcome an early bottom two appearance this year?
It’s worth bearing in mind that Little Mix only received 6.0% in their week 3 poll, Alexandra Burke got 8.82% in her week 4 poll and James Arthur received 7.7% in the week 5 poll. This was no more than 2% above the bottom two in those weeks and probably a similar amount above the percentage polled by Hannah Barrett in week 3 and Tamera Foster in week 4 this time around.
In other words, a lowish early vote doesn’t preclude a winning run, and James Arthur showed how rapidly one can go from singoff to poll winner. Furthermore, I don’t think an early bottom two appearance automatically makes an act irrevocably “tainted”. That’s because the narrative spun by the show makes its excuses: the public thought you were going to be safe; or the public is getting it wrong.
A bigger problem is that those examples of eventual winners starting slowly came with acts that were under the radar, whereas Hannah Barrett and Tamera Foster had plenty more exposure in the early stages. Despite this, they still haven’t connected with the public – yet.
We do have a precedent of a pimped yet divisive act bouncing from an early bottom two appearance (in week 3) and falling only 0.6% short of making it to the final. That’s Danyl Johnson in 2009 – a comparison Roxie also makes. The show was able to turn his shock singoff appearance into a journey of redemption, from arrogance to humility.
Watch them try this with 3/1 second favourite Tamera Foster. In fact, her narrative from the last two weeks sets up this storyline perfectly: she’s been too young to be sure of her identity, hence imitating the likes of Beyonce and her immature behaviour reported in the press. Expect Tamera to “find herself” pretty sharpish in the next few weeks and that new self to be incredibly humble.
Trouble is, will enough viewers buy it? As Tim B pointed out, the bad press that was a feature of the first few weeks, continued today. Jessica and Natasha summed up Tamera’s image problem with the vital female demographic. My own view is that the damage is bad enough that only extreme nobbling of other acts will be enough to see her win this show; if they’re not willing to do that, the question is whether they can push her into the final.
20/1 shot Hannah doesn’t seem to be winning round viewers despite her bottom two appearance. The lack of nuance in her performances, and a sense that “she is losing her likeability factor” is nicely summed up by Lolalola and Kevin. Her other problem is Tamera. Producers may view pushing one early singoff survivor towards the final as a misfortune; pushing two early singoff survivors towards the final as carelessness.
I can’t believe they won’t give Tamera the chance to rebound in the nation’s hearts – and the bad press this week can be seen as further setting up a redemption storyline. That leaves Hannah looking highly dispensable, sad to say given that we tipped her in our 1-12 prediction, but it’s foolish to cling to your initial views in the face of evidence to the contrary.
2. What about the current phone vote frontrunners?
According to the Daily Star, who have a very reliable record in this department, Nick McDonald won the week 2 phone vote. Otherwise it seems safe to assume that Sam Bailey was the week 1 and week 4 winner and possibly managed it in week 3 too.
It’s worth reiterating the obvious point that in recent years, Matt Cardle was the only early frontrunner to keep his lead right through to the final, whilst James Arthur showed us just how things can turn around in the latter stages.
Last week was obviously a great one for Sam Bailey. It’s interesting that they gave her the pimp slot for her disco number this early on, if it turns out they deny her another opportunity with a belting ballad later in the competition. Also, judges’ comments focused on her performance, rather than making any point about her prospects for the later stages of competition or the charts. The Powers That Be may hope that this way her momentum is not unstoppable.
I’m with Boki that much depends on how producers treat her from this point onwards. They applied the brakes sharply in week 2 after her stellar week 1 performance. Will they do the same after her winner’s staging pimp slot for ‘Enough is Enough’? Heisenberg reckons, “I can only see Celine Dion’s appearance working as a negative for Sam B…. it would signal an end of journey vibe.”
If they don’t deramp her this coming week, it will be very hard not to check her momentum towards a place in the final, and it could indicate what Ben Cook says about prodcuers, “throwing their weight behind Sam Bailey if they still want a female winner”. By week 4 in 2010, the less versatile and half-as-impressive Tesco Mary was already being gently pulled down against a stronger field before her semi-final elimination.
The Powers That Be have been careful not to turn Wee Nic, a 7/2 shot currently, into an unstoppable force from the begining of the live shows. After an early slot in weeks 1-3, his better position in the running order for Disco Week heralded an underwhelming performance that, “started to reach a level of uncoolness that threatened to morph into Eamonn Holmes,” as put by Monk Seal’s blog.
The forthcoming weekend feels like an important one for Wee Nic, who is being marketed as the “Baby Buble”. If producers want to see a return on their investment in him during the audition stages, they should give him a chance to shine with the Big Band theme. Especially as, like Sam Bailey last week, it’s still early enough in the competition to bring an act back down to earth in the later stages.
If, on the other hand, they allow Nicholas to be overshadowed once more by Luke Friend, it will suggest to me that he’s lost his alpha boy status.
3. And then there are the “dark horses”.
Let’s start with 7/1 shot Luke Friend. He was called the “dark horse” enough times last week to make him no longer the dark horse (though I do like the concept from Monk Seal that it’s “reality tv slang for ‘4th place'”). As eurovicious puts it, Luke “has an underdog narrative, one of an ordinary relatable lad finding his feet on the show”.
Chiggs sums up nicely the state of play with Luke. Having worried about his similarities to last year’s winner James Arthur, he adds, “‘Dark horse’ means yes Luke you can win but you’re not the chosen one. And I think this is the message behind the [week 4] staging.”
Rough Copy have come back down to 8/1 in the win market since their continued ramping in week 4. As Chiggs (and EM) pointed out, beyond Tamera, Rough Copy have been treated the kindest, “because TPTB believe they have the best chance of selling records”. Louis Walsh made the point again last weekend, explaining, “there has to be a place in the charts for Rough Copy,” a compliment that hasn’t yet been given to anyone else.
Chris Bellis, who thinks they can go all the way (as does Donald and, at a pinch, Jessica), points out that, “Rough Copy has one singer who is flat, but we’ve heard what a bit of sound engineering can do, as well as clever harmonies from the backing singers.” That has certainy been the case so far.
A bigger problem may be how well Rough Copy are actually connecting with the public. eurovicious sums this up: “RC’s narrative ended for me when the group were made into a threesome again. Since then, it’s just been the same-old-same-old every week.”
One way producers may try to overcome this is making Gary the de facto fourth member of the band now that they are his last remaining act. The show can appeal to Gary’s fans to support them for his sake in his final season.
Some of our commenters, such as JScouser, are suggesting that 40/1 shot Abi Alton is back in the game after her moving rendition of ‘I Will Survive’ last week. For her too, this coming week is a crucial one in telling us whether this is the case. Dean sums it up nicely, “This goes 2 ways for me now. Her narrative has ended… Or her narriative is just beginning.” I tend to agree with Dean that, “I feel it will be the former still.”
It’s always possible that they’ll have had a rethink since Saturday if Abi did particularly well in the phone vote or shifted loads of sales on iTunes, but I’d be surprised if that’s the case and I didn’t see anything in their treatment of her last week to indicate that they had any long-term interest in her.
She got everything her own way, but producers still only gave her a middle slot in the running order, whilst judges’ comments did more to suggest it was the end rather than the beginning – focusing on how “brave” she was rather than a “you can sell lots of records” narrative that would indicate a push into the later stages. Only a surprisingly good result from her ‘I Will Survive’ performance will change that.
Things are up in the air, aren’t they? The volatility is fascinating and good for traders who like build reds and greens in the win market. I’m suggesting that this coming week will tell us more, and here’s a reminder of my views on the most likely scenarios for week 5.
Having invested plenty early on in Tamera and Wee Nic, I reckon producers will be as positive as possible for both this coming weekend. The former may be significantly bounced, and the latter may be allowed to play to his strengths.
I think brakes may be applied to the runaway Sam Bailey train – but to what extent will be fascinating. Rough Copy and Luke Friend fall into an interesting middle. Because they are commercially viable, most likely they will continue to be treated favourably to boost them into the later stages, unless either are not polling well enough and may need a singoff appearance to bounce there.
I agree with R that the narrative for Abi, Hannah and Sam Callahan is likely to determine which of these are eliminated over the next few weeks. There seems little doubt that Sam Callahan is emerging as this year’s annoy-Gary novelty act, but I’ll go into more detail on that in this weekend’s podcast and elimination market post.
What do you think of the views expressed here, and how do you call it from this point onwards? Do let us know below.