We’ve heard that members of the production team read Sofabet, and every time we publish a new post it amuses us to wonder what they’ll make of it. We’d like to believe there are at least occasional moments when they think “you worked that out”. But we’re sure there are many other occasions when they think “you have no idea what’s really been going on”.
We reckon producers changed their minds about Sam Bailey after week 3. Up till then, we think they hadn’t been intending for her to win; after week 3, we think they decided to run with her as their best viable option. That’s the part of this article where we suspect producers will be thinking “you worked that out”.
And yet, and yet – something funny has been going on, with manifestations in weeks 6, 8 and arguably 9. But we’re not sure what. This is the part of the article were we imagine them thinking “you have no idea what’s really been going on”.
Here’s our take on Sam’s journey.
Sam was always lined up to be one of the stars of the series – that much was clear from the amount of screentime she was allotted in both the room and arena audition shows on the first weekend. But she also appeared to be a less obviously commercial proposition than, say, Tamera – also introduced in that first show. Tesco Mary and Cher Lloyd from 2010 were the obvious comparisons, though Sam seemed to have got off to a stronger start than her Irish counterpart.
So would Sam be pushed to the win, or put on the Tesco Mary checkout belt of frumpification to clear the path for younger and cooler acts? We split the difference in our pre-lives 1-12 prediction, slating her for 3rd – midway between the win and Mary Byrne’s finishing position of 5th.
Tesco Mary, you’ll recall, smashed the first week’s vote – the only act ever to best Matt Cardle. And when the figures are revealed on Sunday, we’ll be surprised if Sam didn’t do the same with ‘The Power of Love’.
Certainly week 2’s treatment suggested that producers had been sufficiently spooked by the strength of her week 1 vote to want to apply the brakes. She was sent out first in week 2, with Strictly still on the other side, and there was a deliciously awkward moment in comments as she struggled to work out how to react to Louis calling her “Screwbo”. Sharon shrieked and the audience jeered as Louis ingenuously protested “it’s a compliment!”
Well, yes, Louis, it’s a compliment to compare a vocalist to SuBo; it’s generally not a term of endearment to call a prison officer a screw. It’s a bit like expecting an opera-singing policeman to be delighted if you call him “Pig Potts”.
Week 3’s treatment suggested the producer feet were still pressing upon the Bailey brake. Her VT was all about her experience singing on cruiseships, ahead of singing ultimate cruiseship movie theme, ‘My Heart Will Go On’. She was dressed in a curtain.
“Cruiseship” is, of course, about as damaging an adjective as exists in the X Factor lexicon. Along with the likes of “lounge bar” and “karaoke”, it’s the very antonym of the classic X Factor phrases of praise, such as “world class” and “recording artist”.
We reckon producers held a meeting after the week 3 vote, though, and decided Sam was the best winner they could hope for. We assume they didn’t view Sam as their best commercial proposition, hence the week 2-3 brake application – but that they viewed her as more desirable than Nicholas, who the Star tell us won week 2. Hannah was in the bottom two in week 3 and Tamera was probably only just above it, as she landed there a week later – so we reckon producers reluctantly concluded that if Nicholas were to be stopped, Sam was the only game in town.
Week 4 saw her styled much less frumpily, sent out in the pimp slot and showered with golden tickertape.
And since then, it’s been plain sailing, with unremittingly positive treatment for Sam that has seen her price progressively shorten to 2/7 for the outright win. Unremitting positivity except for just two or three things.
The first fly in the ointment came in week 6, when The Sun splashed on Saturday with a leak that Sam was walking the vote. Unlike the Star, the Sun doesn’t have form for being accurate – quite the opposite, it has form for printing things that aren’t true but producers would like you to believe (like Jedward winning the vote).
This puzzled us, and still does. Usually when we see a story like this, we would assume its intention is to dampen an act’s support. Indeed, the Star later leaked that Nick had won week 6 – and our article on Nick’s journey explained how producers seem to have been trying to undo this damage ever since. And in week 7, Sharon pleaded for Sam’s fans not to be complacent.
The next sharp intake of breath came in week 8, when Nicole – the judge we trust to be on-message and ultra-professional – unleashed the c-bomb: “cruiseship”. True, she applied the epithet to the production rather than the vocals; a bit like bombing a munitions factory at night, that carefully avoided civilian casualties but was still an act of aggression. Lest we think this may have been done without producers’ blessing, they showed it again in the Sunday show. Twice.
Then ahead of week 9 The Sun carried a story about Sam’s alleged “diva demands”. On the face of it this seems unhelpful, but you could arguably spin it positively in that it suggests Sam has become a star – or you could see it simply as indicating desperation to get the show in the news, by any means possible. Tamera’s skeleton-packed cupboard aside, it hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for column inches.
What to make of these two, possible three, blemishes on Sam’s otherwise impeccable treatment since week 4? We don’t know, though two speculative possibilities spring to mind. Perhaps, as we speculated in our article on Tamera and shape-shifting lizards, the production team aren’t all pulling in the same direction this year?
Even more speculatively, if there is anything at all in suggestions that Sharon may have gone rogue in the last singoff save or two – a theory we’re far from committed to – could it be that there have been backstage tussles involving producers and Sharon? If we assume that Sharon wants to win, but knows that producers also want Sam to win, and therefore thinks they have no hold over her, could it make sense to interpret these as shots across her bow: “don’t think we can’t still stop your Sam Bailey if you push us too far”?
We raise that not because we believe it, but to spark discussion as we’d love to hear what you think.
Otherwise, the last six weeks have been all about Sam’s transformation from everymum to superstar. As Sofabet commenter Heisenberg put it, “you know you’re the chosen one when a cameraman climbs into your oven”.
Producers may have been impressed not just with her vocals and the way she had already connected with the audience, but also with her determination to succeed. Her week 4 VT focused on her weight loss as a result of getting fit during the show. Sharon took her to a spa, as a way to look after her. Judges stepped up their comments about her physical appearance, Nicole complimenting her curves on more than one occasion.
She was an ordinary woman living the dream. The show has transformed her life. In her week 5 VT, she met one of her heroes, Michael Bolton. In week 6, it was Celine Dion. In week 7, it was Leona Lewis. In week 9, she was invited to mentor Sharon Osborne’s house. Yet she’s remained incredibly likeable and humble on screen, sticking up for Tamera after the latter’s ‘Impossible’ mistakes, for example.
Her popularity with the public was evident in the weekly Channel 4 cult hit ‘Gogglebox’, which films a wide variety of British households watching television. Sam Bailey is the only contestant to have been given airtime on the show, from ‘The Power of Love’ onwards, and the response from the different demographics is always positive, adding to the sense that she’s a “People’s Champion”.
She goes into this weekend’s final in a seemingly strong position, favoured by producers and public alike. She’s the shortest-priced favourite in the show’s history. Her song choices look judicious, and indicate The Powers That Be will continue to do their best to help her over the line. The Sofabet team fully expects to see a pimp slot pimping. Anyone care to argue otherwise?
Do let us know your thoughts on Sam Bailey’s journey below. What do you make of the apparent push from week 4 onwards, and is there anything more than column-inch fluff behind the “cruiseship” and “diva” mentions? Let us know below.