X Factor 2014 preview

X Factor returns this weekend. You can expect our usual coverage of its machinations and manipulations here on Sofabet. We can’t wait to share our thoughts – and hear yours in our invaluable comments section.

It’s a crucial moment for the franchise: having suffered a decline in ratings over the last few years that has seen it fall behind Strictly Come Dancing, svengali Simon Cowell returns in a bid to boost the show’s flagging popularity.

What can we anticipate? Here are five points based on what we’ve heard so far.

Party like it’s 2010?
2010 was arguably X Factor’s most glorious year and a ratings high point. It was also the last time we had Simon Cowell and Cheryl on the judging panel. Now they’re back and Simon is extolling the virtues of the novelty act – 2010 witnessed two of the best in Katie Waissel and Wagner.

Simon would give his flat-top haircut to match that year’s success, and it would be no surprise to find some equivalent contestants. Chloe Jasmine already looks like being lined up as this year’s Katie Waissel, and we have an eight-piece boyband who will attempt to emulate the success of One Direction.

Simon and the Overs
I’m interested in the fact that Simon has given himself the traditionally weakest performing category. Cowell has never finished worse than third with his charges. Last time he mentored the Overs, in 2009, it contained Plan A Danyl Johnson, Olly Murs and Jamie Archer.

In his three-year hiatus doing the US show instead, Simon arguably mentored his first-choice category each time, winning twice. On this basis, Cowell and the Overs should not be the outsider of four in the winning mentor / category market at the pre-rehearsal stage (at a best price 7.0 with Stan James when this article was posted).

The impact of free voting
For the first time in the UK show, the population will be able to vote five times for free via the app. In theory, this may favour those acts supported by emotion-rich, cash-poor teens. But will it make an appreciable difference? Time will tell, but its availability in the US didn’t prevent MOR acts still winning out over those aimed squarely at the teen demographic.

The audition shows
Although this year’s show retains the closed-room audition / arena audition double whammy, according to TV previews, we are going to have a few weeks of the former followed by a few weeks of the latter, rather than last year’s Saturday / Sunday split.

This means no more immediate pay-off from contestants seen in the closed room on Saturday having their arena audition shown the next day. The front-loading of contenders in 2013’s opening weekend was as pronounced as ever, with Sam Bailey, Tamera Foster, Hannah Barrett and Luke Friend all featuring.

Front-loading in the earlier audition shows is a regular tactic, and I expect it to continue. But if those TV guides are right, we’ll have to wait beyond this weekend to see who gets that first arena audition show pimp slot that’s been granted to the likes of Tamera, Ella and Janet.

A twist?
Early in the summer, there were rumours that one reject from each category at judges’ houses would end up in the lives with their own mentor. This would give us 16 instead of 12 acts in the live finals, with room for further twists such as double eliminations (as happened in 2010). Nothing more has been heard on this front though, and we may have to wait till early October to see if it comes to pass.

What do you think of these points and which of your own would you add? You can expect our review of the weekend’s audition programmes once the Sunday show is done. In the meantime, keep us updated with your thoughts below.

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19 comments to X Factor 2014 preview

  • Dan

    Hello Sofabet team. Good to have you back for the X-Factor – this year should be a good one.

    I’m thinking that given the lower age limit (14 down from 16), free voting, and rumours of various frankenbands, the aim this year is for a winner in the groups category with a boy band.

    Because of the way the groups get chopped and changed, it’ll be difficult to predict what we will be dealing with until the live shows. I have no doubt that things might even get changed at the Judge’s Houses stage, particularly with the eight member boyband.

  • Mel Zzz

    It’s going to be a very interesting year. Good call to mention 2010 as it does seem to mirror that year in many ways.

    My initial reaction when the voting changes were announced was that they would be looking for a male winner or a male group. This has been clouded by the categories the judges have been given.

    My thinking is that they won’t have an over winning 2 years in a row. But this leaves Simon as a loser.

    I expected Cheryl to have a “triumphant return” as part of her contract, but I had lined her up to have the boys not the girls. Does this mean that there’s a very strong female singer in the mix, or that Ella H’s success has given TPTB food for thought?

    Will Louis have a group winner?
    OTY are a good and likeable group with 2 males/2 females. I can see them doing well given the right editing.

    The 8 boy group is an odd one. They have received a lot of pre-show hype, but the comments I’ve picked up on are ones such as “It’s like One Direction but bigger” and “Simon will have to find a group to replace One Direction as they [1D] won’t go on forever”. These comments will hardly endear the group to 1D fans.

    This leaves Mel with the boys category. I would expect a male winner but Mel is not a liked judge.

    Here’s a video from one of this years’ acts talking about her experience on the show.

    • I think OTY will do very well – they already have nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter. It’s also rumoured they are already through to the lives, along with Electric Blonde and the 8-piece boyband.

      Someone who saw all the girls said none of them are that impressive apart from Steph, and it seemed that Cheryl kept rejecting decent singers. Does this mean they don’t want a girl to win?

  • ***SPOILERS***

    From what I can gather from Digital Spy, this is the top 24.

    Boys

    Paul Akister (auditioned in 2013)
    Jake Quickenden (auditioned in 2012)
    Andrea Farella (appeared on Italian talent show Ti lascio una canzone)
    Jack Walton
    Danny Dearden
    Jordan Pass

    Girls

    Steph Nala (formerly of BGT finalists Luminites)
    Lola Belle Saunders (Simon said at 2nd auditon she is a “potential winner”)
    Chloe-Jasmine (appeared on The Face, novelty act)
    Chloe O’Gorman (auditioned in 2013)
    Emily Middlemas
    Lauren Nicole Platt

    Overs

    Lizzy Pattinson (Robert Pattinson’s sister, had hits with Aurora in 2002)
    Fleur East
    Jay James
    Ben Haenow
    Stevie Rochie
    Helen Fulthorpe

    Groups

    Only The Young (2 boys & 2 girls, recently won competition to sing at Capital Summertime Ball)
    Electric Blonde (American twin sisters, novelty act)
    Manufactured 8-piece boyband (Tom Mann, Barclay Beales, Jake Sims, Casey Cody Johnson, James Graham, Chris Leonard, Reece Bibby, Charlie Jones)
    Manufactured girlband (Saffron Silva, Leah Gooden, Amelia O’Connell, Abi Garrido, Abby Louise Eades)
    Concept (boyband including Harry Styles’ cousin)
    The Brooks (15-year-old twin brothers Kyle & Josh)

    Reports from those who were at the six-chair challenge suggest that there was a lot of producer interference when the judges were choosing who to take through. Cheryl rejected a girl called Monica and the crowd booed loudly and some even walked out. Then later on she switched out someone who was good with a novelty act (possibly Chloe-Jasmine) and it was obvious that she was just doing what the producers told her to do. Similar story with Louis and the groups – there would be a sing off between two groups, and a producer would talk to Simon before Louis was allowed to make a decision.

    Ones to watch out for on tonight’s show:

    Chloe-Jasmine
    Chloe O’Gorman
    Lauren Nicole Platt
    Jordan Pass
    Jay James
    Charlie Jones
    Reece Bibby

  • Donald

    Hi Daniel and all on Sofabet, best of luck for the season,

    I think allot of what happens could be influenced by ratings and ‘Strictly’. They were already scraping the barrel for headlines today. This group I was told about last year are still floating around this year, although 5SOS are doing so well and 1D, will ‘Sony’ really want another…

    Let the madness begin and hope we all make a few quid at it!

  • Nissl

    Ah, you beat me to posting the DS list Ben. I will probably be watching this on delay in the US on official TV through the audition stages, then pony up for a proxy server when the competition goes live so I can participate in the discussion on machinations and performances more immediately.

    I’m not sure there’s a favored category this year. A few years ago they wanted a groups winner to validate the category, and I argued last year they might be in the mood for an over to get rid of an emerging narrative that that category was pointless. Having gotten both of those recently, I don’t see any narratives they’d want to quash. Well, maybe flop male winner, but that depends on having the right talent, doesn’t it? Posters on this site always seem to wind up convinced they want “any winner from category x” (usually girls, which is almost always the stacked category) and it just doesn’t seem to pan out.

    Simon taking the overs was a surprise to me as well. One of the DS audition spies said to look out for Jay James in the category. But in general I think they had to give Mel B a good category her first time out and didn’t want to stick Cheryl with a weak category in the midst of a key campaign for her. Louis taking the overs yet again would look too predictable, even though he had 2/3 finalists last year. Perhaps they are also looking to avoid tagging the boyband with anti-Simon sentiment? He became more of a team player on XFUS I thought, and he certainly seems to be settling back into the villain role if his comments on Chloe-Jasmine are any indicator.

    As for ratings… I would bet that they will bump a little but stay largely static, in line with BGT. It’s a crowded market and the format is well-known at this point. Luckily for XF its ratings are 1/6th of the UK population, not the ~3% that reality shows manage in the US these days.

  • LolaLola

    I must admit that the only thing I like about Autumn is reading Sofabet’s x-factor analysis. Welcome back!

  • Nissl

    Did they really lead with Blonde Electric? I missed the first 10 minutes. Interesting decision. Good novelty act, very polished patter, nice stage presence, clear vision for what they want to accomplish, and not too terrible vocally. I was smiling by the end.

    Chloe-Jasmine wasn’t what I expected at all. I guess this is why they’ve gone out early trying to sell her as a sexy posh hate figure, because Simon’s first impression of “kooky” is much more on the mark. She wears everything so lightly, mostly self-aware, more than happy to try to sell whatever “annoying” things the producers want in the hopes of entertaining people. I was cracking up hard at her, even more than Blonde Electric. Voice wasn’t amazing, but at least solid and interesting, easily competitive with the other JH girls we saw today.

    If Jay James is indeed the alpha over, that’s pretty disappointing. Somewhat better than Joe Whelan or Jonjo in my estimation, but still. He’s passionate – lots of extra affectation – and good looking, but there’s basically nothing on his voice, no real presence/connection. What are they playing at here? Why does Simon have this category?

    Chloe O’Gorman has decent determination and stage presence, voice & tone probably not quite enough, likely JH reject. And I try to not comment on appearance, but seriously those eyebrows.

    Lauren Platt has a nice sweet voice but it’s not really recording artist tier at the moment and she has no stage presence whatsoever. Likely JH reject.

    Reece Mastin is a solid but bland boyband member. Charlie Jones is ok for filling out the band I guess, something about him rubs me the wrong way a little. Obviously they are going to make a decent push on the boyband, no surprise.

  • Phil

    2 points to make:

    – Chloe Jasmine is FABULOUS.

    – Wouldn’t Jake Quickenden be an over?

    Nothing jumping out at me so far to make me think *winner*, but I think they’re focussing more on making an entertaining show right now than the end product of a viable recording artist.

  • eurovicious

    Not watched X Factor yet but there was a total meltdown on a new Saturday night talent show on German TV tonight (“Rising Star”, which is coming to ITV in spring). 2 contestants, after not getting through, said the song had been forced on them by producers and they hadn’t wanted to sing it, while the host frantically tried to counter by saying “but you chose the song together with our musical director, DIDN’T YOU?” The Twitter hashtag and the show’s Facebook page have exploded and the broadcaster is trying to do damage control by deleting people’s posts on Facebook, and – worst of all – forcing the other contestants from tonight’s show (the ones who got through) to make videos talking about how they chose their song themselves. They’re like hostage videos. It’s all totally backfiring, no-one believes a word of it and their damage control is making it worse…

  • David Cook

    Well that’s an hour and a half of my life I’m not going to get back. To be fair there were a couple of acts that were OK, but for me no-one who looked remotely like they might be relevant in terms of being the winner or making it to the final. That’s a bit surprising given the build-up to the show with Simon’s return – I would have expected at least one really decent act to be showcased on the opening show. The comments for Jay James seemed OTT to me – yes he was decent, but I think we’ve seen too many similar acts before. Hoping things improve – if that was the big opening it’s looking a bit flat.

  • Dan

    Hmmm, interesting show last night. If we apply the logic from previous years of the front-loading of favoured acts, we’ve already seen some of our finalists. Presumably these are Chloe-Jasmine, Electric Blonde, Chloe O’Gorman, and Jay James then. According to the Mirror, Jay James has already had an album out (http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-reviews/x-factor-back-single-tear-4134483). The programme seems to have gone off the whole acts with their instruments thing as well. Probably a good thing in my view as there’s only so many twunts with guitars I can put up with.

    I watched Xtra Factor in the hope of seeing if any of the favoured acts got any more airtime. Only Chloe-Jasmine did but she wasn’t singing. Bit of a waste of time to be honest.

    Overall then, not that impressed with the talent so far but I’m looking forward to seeing more of the groups and how these get put together. Roll on tonight…

    • Nissl

      Chloe O’Gorman is far more likely a JH reject I think. She doesn’t even have an audition clip up on the official account on Youtube atm.

      Speaking of which, neither does Jay James. Very odd considering his pimp slot.

  • caz

    hey, long time lurker here. I’ve learned so much about Xfactor (or casting shows in general) from all of you. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge on this web site.
    One thing which came to my mind when watching chloe jasmine (who is certainly talented) was Alice Fredenhams short time in the sun last year. Do you think that the producers were looking for an act like that (old fashioned music and clothing) to retry the failure they’ve had with Alice ?
    @ eurovicious: i’ve watched rising sky as well. It was awkward^2. The biggest problem in my opinion was that the jury probably wasn’t informed about the way the songs were assigned to the singers and seemed really surprised that the production team gives them songs they don’t like.

  • Nissl

    Well. Not seen any winners yet, I hope. Could be a good sign for the groups. More likely there’s a couple boys and girls being kept under wraps as they don’t want to make the big favorites too obvious or they want to save them for next week’s ratings competition. Dangerous for interest in the show to not have any clear (pop) stars on yet though.

    Big emphasis on fun, entertaining acts this year. Don’t think either Steve Richie or Andrea Farella have all that much of a voice though. Helen Fulthorpe was a thoroughly solid but unremarkable over, does have a nice shy swan starting block. Chloe Thwalla had the most impressive big note so far and actually has a nice star look, but I know she doesn’t get through so oh well. Maybe too threatening? Too many Chloes this year? I could see her sounding a little forced on a full song too I guess.

    Not sure about any of the groups, they were mostly cut off. OTY probably the best, and they’re clearly fresh in the market. They had more charisma but were a little rougher vocally than I was expecting from Youtube. Just need to see more of them. I could easily see Concept and Overload going south where they were cut off, but there are definitely some things there producers could work with. Though it seems likely they’re both out at JH, and I do have a tough time making the case for their appeal relative to 1D. I thought Arize (??) were easily the best vocally, but again we know they’re not through. I had a hard time buying them as stars. They’d make very good backup singers.

    Well, let’s see what next week brings.

    • David Cook

      Hi Nissl – I tend to agree that so far no-one has really stood out Best so far have been OTY who I can at least envisage being in the live shows. The act lacked a bit of polish but it’s early days, and at least it’s something different from the groups who have featured over the last couple of years.
      At the moment a lot of the acts going through would seem to be acts who could provide some entertainment for the arena shows, but without being serious competition.
      Andrea Faustini’s was a case in point, he was likable and will probably be entertaining at the live audition, but his take on Who’s Loving You had no where near the impact vocally of Iesher singing the same some on The Voice earlier in the year.

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