Britain’s Got Talent is the most manipulative of TV competitions – and that’s really saying something. There’s little time for acts to build up a following before the semi-finals, which gives great power to Cowellian tactics such as running order, staging and judges’ comments. This year the direct qualifiers filled the following slots in the nine-runner fields (public vote winners in bold): 7, 9, 7, 9, 8, 9, 8, 9, 8, 9.
That carries on into the final, partly because the semi winners have yet to compete against each other. Last year, the acts that won their heats were given the last five places in the running order. Of these, first up was Fracince Lewis who finished tenth of 11, whilst next came Richard & Adam, who were given far less useful staging than in their heat. Winners Attraction got the pimp slot.
So treatment on the night is crucial. That’s particularly the case this evening because each semi was won by singers whilst the other qualifying acts do something else. It would be surprising if tonight’s running order gave us all the non-singing acts in the first six slots followed by all the singers.
We’re thus left guessing at Cowell’s intentions, which is crucial given his ability to usually get the result he wants.
There is commercial appeal in each of the semi winners, which is why they were pushed. Bars & Melody are a Bieber-esque child duo, Collabro a younger Il Divo, Lucy Kay a younger Katherine Jenkins, Jack Pack a younger bunch of Michael Bubles, whilst James Smith sings in the style of James Arthur but is more clean cut and, you guessed it, younger.
Bars & Melody have already enjoyed exposure in America, were Simon’s “golden buzzer” act and boast a huge Twitter following that dwarfs their rivals. They will reprise their audition song with its anti-bullying message that provided them with such a good backstory. They are most likely to be Simon’s most favoured tonight and that means they’re worth their place at the top of the market. Any attempt to motivate the Welsh vote will reiterate this.
The arguments against them include a relative lack of talent, and thus ability to create a “wow” moment. They don’t necessarily fit the profile of previous winners either – the other pre-teen winners were dance acts George Sampson and Diversity (based on the fact that little Perry was centre of attention). All seems to depend on how broad their appeal really is.
Second favourites Collabro fit the winners’ profile more readily, popera having a fine record on the show. The first semi pimp slot is traditionally given to a heavily favoured act too. It’s been handed to two previous winners and each act has been placed from here. That’s a record to be respected even if Collabro don’t have the backstory of their main rivals, having been put together shortly before the contest.
Collabro’s place in that first heat pimp slot doesn’t necessarily bode well for Jack Pack, who as another ensemble male singing act, albeit in the swing genre, maybe chasing a similar demographic. Nonetheless, they were given a full-on pimping from the last spot in the last semi (which Attraction had last year), and therefore cannot be discounted.
Neither can Lucy Kay, whom I would argue has the most natural ability to create a “wow” moment from her voice alone. I think James Smith has plenty of talent too, and he’s immensely likeable to boot, though the WGWG (white guy with guitar) profile doesn’t have a great record in previous finals.
Ultimately, there’s no edge to be got in the current win market without first knowing the running order. In the semi-finals, afternoon money indicated some level of knowledge about who was being favoured, and anyone taking tonight seriously needs to be watching out for the market moves.
The same can be said of the top 3 market. It feels like there is space for a non-singing act to sneak in there by offering something different, but it totally depends on which (if any) are favoured by the draw and other tactics.
We can only speculate here: magician Darcy Oake is my idea of the most likely among the six. He qualified from the usually-favoured first semi, can produce a wow moment, and offers just the kind of niche that Cowell could see commercial value in.
Of the dance acts, Paddy & Nico’s momentum was checked when they failed to win their heat, Yanis Marshall, Arnaud & Mehdi are likely cannon fodder, and Addict Initiative make most appeal at long odds. That leaves us with violinist Lettice Rowbotham and wildcard Jon Clegg, an impressionist – I can’t help feeling that both need significant pimping tonight to sneak a place.
Ultimately, having taken some easy money from the semis, I don’t feel inclined to plough back much of my winnings before tonight’s show reveals Cowell’s hand. I think the market has it right with BAM, Collabro and Lucy Kay heading the market in that order, and Darcy best of the non-singers. Do continue to let us know your thoughts below, however.