Simon Cowell smashing a guitar to pieces was the most significant moment of the weekend audition shows. It was his way of burying the Barlow era – I wonder if James Arthur got the message. The extended paean to Cheryl Cole on Saturday night and repeated references to 2010 alumni One Direction reinforced this attempted return to the glory days – as did some of the acts.
The important opening-night first slot, recently awarded to the likes of Luke Friend and Frankie Cocozza, went to Blonde Electric. They felt like a female equivalent of 2009’s Jedward long before Simon quipped, “It’s like you’ve been invented by Louis in a computer”. Cowell went on to say, “You might divide the nation,” as if this wasn’t already obviously the intention.
We well know that producers often try to keep in the novelty acts because of their value as talking points – both during auditions and the live shows. Jedward themselves made it to week 7. However, I think the public will be less forgiving of this shtick from a pair of twentysomething women, than they were from the pre-pubescent twins. Electric Blonde are a best price 34.0.
The next two acts to appear on Saturday night – Reece Bibby and Charlie Jones – apparently become part of the eight-piece boyband reported to have been formed at bootcamp. Such early billing suggests strong producer backing for the new group, the name of which we don’t yet know. Both these pieces of the jigsaw were given the “potential” tag by judges; there were repeated descriptions of Bibby (who received far longer billing), as “cute”; and One Direction played on a backing track as Charlie celebrated.
It was probably wise to lead with two of the youngest reported members of the boyband – they are 15 and 14 respectively, and thus benefited from the lowering of the minimum age in this year’s competition.
Next up were two young female soloists reported to have made it to Judges’ Houses – Chloe O’Gorman and Lauren Platt. I was more interested in the latter due to superior vocals, styling and treatment. Bookmakers respect her more too – at a top-priced 15.0 compared to 21.0 for Chloe.
Simon’s words were: “We may have found something special with you. I’m going to remember this name, Lauren Platt.” She then got the family group hug in the audition room, whilst Chloe trooped off alone. However, there wasn’t a huge prologue to Lauren’s audition, and I’ll be watching her appearance in the arena to see if it’s more likely a case of slow burn or slow death.
The next candidate reported to have made Judges’ Houses was Chloe-Jasmine, who was clearly being set up as a divisive figure in the mould of 2010’s Katie Waissel. With her “posh” persona, kooky appearance and jazzy style, she’s as distinctive as it gets, which bodes well for her chances of making it to the live shows, and she’s 15.0 in the win market. Like Katie Waissel, Chloe-Jasmine reportedly ends up with Cheryl as her mentor.
30-year-old Jay James got the coveted opening-show pimp slot. In terms of treatment, the show could not have done more for him, right through to the final Cowell handshake with the words: “This is just the beginning.” Jay ticks plenty of traditional X Factor boxes, being an attractive, humble everyman with a former stint in the military, a regional vote and a telegenic young baby who got plenty of screentime. What’s the betting that at some point during the live shows we see a heartwarming VT featuring Jay and his mentor Cowell with their respective infants, bonding over fatherhood?
In the comments to the last post, Nissl and David Cook weren’t overly impressed by his vocal performance on this occasion, a view I have some sympathy with, but I’m happy to remain agnostic in this respect until the arena audition. He’s currently 8.0 favourite overall.
As Dan commented, Jay has previous in the business, having supported Rebecca Ferguson on tour and put an album out in 2012, but the show was keen to suggest that ending up on X Factor was a logical part of his “journey”, rather than just another way for the industry to help him break the big time.
After Sunday’s programme, his closest competition in the win market comes from Only The Young, currently at 9.0. This was another case of treatment being key, the foursome’s close friendships established in a prologue, a luxury not afforded to the rival groups featured next, of whom Concept are reported also to have made it through bootcamp.
The vocals were not consistently great for their twist on ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, but the buzzword from the judges for this mixed group was “refreshing”. This is another act I’ll wait on till the arena auditions, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if they turn out to have been one of the groups to have made it to the live shows. (Louis has reportedly already filmed his judges’ houses, in storm-affected Bermuda, but as far as we’re aware there’s no word yet about who got through).
The only other act from the weekend’s second programme to make any dent on the win market is Andrea Faustini, who provided the Subo-esque narrative of eccentric-character-can-actually-sing on Sunday night. He’s currently priced at 15.0.
With his soulful voice – and a “favourite audition so far” from Mel B, who ends up as his mentor – he’s interesting competition in the boys category for last year’s Judges’ Houses reject Paul Akister, who reportedly makes the same stage this year. It would surprise me if there was room for both in the live shows, although it’s worth pointing out that if there is – as Saturday’s show suggested – producer backing for the eight-piece boyband, the boys category will have to be filled with acts occupying different niches. That was the case in One Direction’s year, when oddly enough the boys category also featured an eccentric Italian, in the shape of Nicolo Festa.
Helen Fulthorpe is the only one featured in the subsequent montage of overs who is reported to make it past bootcamp. She sounded like a reasonable vocalist, but being montaged at this stage marks her out as the Gamma Over at best – although at least it was more airtime than last year’s gamma, Lorna Simpson, got at this stage.
And on that theme, one final point is worth making for anybody who’s new to this game. In case you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned other acts such as Amy Connelly, who got extended screentime and judge enthusiasm on Saturday’s show, it’s because reports suggest she gets cut at bootcamp. Ben Cook very kindly posted in the comments to the last post a summary of the acts reported by people who attended the filming of bootcamp to have made it to judges’ houses.
Bookies are aware of that, too, which is why poor Amy is on offer at between 33/1 and 66/1. Ditto the 66/1 about Reece Bibby, which of course would become a loser as soon as he’s cut from the solo competition and becomes part of the manufactured boyband.
These spoilers are generally accurate, although it’s worth bearing in mind that they’re collated by people who were in the audience at bootcamp and there is generally some potential for some mishearing or confusion. For example, Ben’s list includes a Stevie Rochie in the overs category. Is this Stevi Ritchie, the Essex cheeky chappie who featured on Sunday’s show? I’d assumed he was just audition show comedy fodder, but it never pays to underestimate Cowell.
Please add your own views on the weekend’s shows below.