X Factor 2014 Auditions Week 1: Pieces of Eight

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.

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28 comments to X Factor 2014 Auditions Week 1: Pieces of Eight

  • Ben Cook

    There is speculation on Digital Spy that the three groups through to the lives are Only The Young, Blonde Electric and the 8-piece boyband, which seems plausible based on what we have seen already.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if OTY (rather than the boyband) is the reason Simon has given himself the groups. There hasn’t been a successful mixed pop group since Liberty X a decade ago. It’s a very difficult thing to get right, but they look really promising. Having recently performed at Wembley Stadium for the Summertime Ball and having 45,000 followers on Twitterm you’d think they don’t really need this show though.

  • Hey Ben, apparently Simon has the Overs, not the Groups.

    • Oh yes, I got confused because you’d think he would want the groups but has given himself the overs. I wonder why that is.

      • Hi Ben, here’s one theory: if they’re planning to push the boyband as a 1D rival/replacement, it makes some sense for Louis to have them rather than Simon, in that it allows them to combine two trusty old narratives – “battle of the boybands” and “Louis vs Simon”.

        Louis gets to yell “you’re the next big boyband!” at them every week, and Simon gets to remind everyone that he manages the world’s biggest band every week, while telling the 8-piece that they’re promising but not quite at 1D levels yet. And when Simon eventually announces that they’ve won him over, his praise will feel more hard-won.

        • Dan

          I do wonder about the 8-piece boyband; how is that ever going to work in practice? They could use half a programme just on VT to introduce the members, but if they don’t then they remain anonymous and don’t bring the votes in. Also in practical terms, just stage managing each performance will be a nightmare and how do they give each member a chance to shine?

          My theory is that they will either split them in half as part of a twist or cull a few, unless Cowell is trying to put together the new Blazing Squad or something…

          • Luke

            I thought they would split them at judges houses, but that evidently didn’t materialize. I can’t work out why 8 and not 7, or not 6, or 5. The only thing about this boyband is that there are 8 of them… maybe they’ll go down the So Solid Crew route of playing three shows at the same time…

  • Nissl

    You’re probably right that we should wait for more Jay James before dismissing him. Supposedly his arena performances were real standouts.

    In my earlier posts I said that they would look to get rid of any emerging narratives about the treatment of specific types of acts on the show, but couldn’t think of any major ones left. This morning it occurred to me the “odd” ordering of acts this weekend – a novelty act starting the series, the (probable) absence of the top few boys and girls, a relatively heavy rejection clip ending the weekend – is probably the show attacking narratives about the most favored acts going first/last on the first few shows. It’s similar to the way they were willing to get a bit risky by putting most of the favored acts on early in the first live show last year to go after that narrative.

    That’s smart, and perhaps they’ve concluded that slightly less effective ordering in the taped shows just doesn’t make that big a difference, particularly if many viewers are tuned into it.

    It’s useless as far as betting, but since it seems very likely producers scan here regularly I’ll mention I notice that Chloe Thwalla – who impressed me yesterday – is standing out from the other overs on a DS poll, even with her tiny clip and impending rejection. I get that she’s too old to launch as a real popstar but I hope we see more of her on some other show.

    • Hi Nissl, I wouldn’t be too sure yet that the show is attacking any narratives. Early days but it wouldn’t be surprising if the first show turns out to have introduced us to two alphas in their cateories (Reece’s boyband, Jay James) and the two big intended talking points of the lives (Blonde Electric, Chloe-Jasmine), as well as possibly another girl (Lauren/Chloe). They may well still be operating from the usual front-loading playbook.

  • EM

    The 8 piece boyband is going to be extremely hard to make fly. Given the time constraints of the live shows it will be hard to get to know any of them or for all 8 to demonstrate their individual ability. The performances might be messy and overblown production numbers too.

    There’s a reason that successful boybands from the Beatles to One Direction tend to have four or five members – easy to identify them but something for everyone.

    Which leads to two options – a lot of pimping or some pruning, maybe in a judges houses controversy?

  • Hello Sofabet… I’ve been out of the X-Factor loop since the 2012 series (losing 6k on Ella Henderson!) – but have decided to get back into the game this time round. I probably won’t be betting quite so heavily this time round, though… 🙂

    For me, these first two episodes were about seeing whether I could spot the very obviously ‘scouted’ acts, against the ‘walk-ins’. For all I know they could all be scouted these days, but the ones which stood out as glaringly obvious were – of course – Blonde Electric, Chloe-Jasmine and Only The Young, followed by Chloe O’Gorman and Lauren Platt.

    I’m surprised to read that Jay James is an industry vet. Despite protestations of agnosticism from our chief scribe, that was a horrible vocal performance. Before reading this article, I had him pegged as a genuine ‘try-out’, with a typical backstory, whose below-par audition had been deployed to round off the first episode in heartwarming fashion. I honestly thought Cowell was pulling his best poker face and lying through his teeth when he promised him it was ‘only the beginning’ – I thought it had ‘end of the journey’ audition fodder written all over it.

    I still struggle to comprehend that Jay is/was a signed artist. I’ve listened to his audition three times now and he clearly has little or no innate musical talent whatsoever. The alleged ‘passion’ is no mask for the shockingly poor vocal technique, phrasing and breath control. His first two lines were so bad I wasn’t sure at that point whether he was being set up as a hero or villain.

    Props for having a cute baby, though.

    By contrast, Lauren Platt was outstanding: a very good, natural singer, with obvious musicality. Likewise Reece Bibby, and I’m surprised to hear he’s been put into a six-strong boyband. That wouldn’t have happened in Barlow’s time…!

    The other great talking point, of course, was Chloe-Jasmine. She had ‘Cowell pet project’ stamped all over her, and if she wasn’t handpicked a long way ahead of time I’d be very surprised.

    It says a lot (to me, anyway) that to get noticed in 2014 you have to make Katie Waissel seem sober and reserved, but there you are. Chloe-Jasmine is Waissel squared; a live show shoe-in, I’d have guessed; and possessed of an excellent voice. She’ll be loved and hated, etc, etc, as was always the plan.

    Peace out.

    • EM

      Eh…. You seem to think this is a singing contest 😉

    • TommySauce

      I always go with the teeth – he looked like he’d had a lot of expensive dental work…unlikely for someone just out the forces trying out for the first time, much more likely for someone already a few rungs up the music career ladder. TPTB have been desperate to get some traction round a “Hero” for several series now, I think he’s just the latest attempt – big play on the ex-Navy thing, despite the truth being (as KS points out) he left the service in 2007 and has had a pro music career (plus an album) more recently…which strangely went without mention.

      On another subject, did anyone else notice there seemed to be a lot of production going on for some of the room auditions, and very little on others? Bland Electric particularly stood out with an audition which made me wonder if they were actually miming.

      • KaraokeSauron

        True… His teeth were impressive. And yes, the ‘Hero’ storyline has been attempted with varying degrees of success more than once.

        It could have been nerves – or perhaps an unsuitable song choice foisted upon him by the producers. I’m led to believe he gets much better in later rounds (or gets tighter auto-tuning) anyway.

  • David Cook

    I think it’s a little unfair to lump Chloe Jasmine in with Katie Waissel. As you say Chloe actually had an excellent voice, unlike Katie who had very little substance at all. Chloe may well have been picked well ahead of the show, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she did make it to the live shows. Beyond that we know she isn’t going to win simply because someone singing in that style is never going to win XF no matter how well they sing, and the posh act isn’t exactly going to endear her to a large proportion of the viewers.
    Never mind – I’m looking forward to seeing her on CBB next year.

  • Understand what you mean that Lauren Platt could be a slow burner or someone who doesn’t make the lives. However at 16/1 she rated a large bet as the upside is huge and if she goes well at the judges house i see her as 3/1 favourite, i just need to get her over the first couple of hurdles and shes a massive runner.. A couple of things in addition to her great voice and personality, the way Cheryl and Mel looked at each other and Simon’s words.. similar to the Joe McElderry praise at the first audition. I hate betting when some people may have already been booted out but i’ve bet Concept as well at 40s as the look like they could develop into a decent band, i though 1D and JLS were awful early on so their potential is huge to me as they were decent..

    I’m all over Lauren at 16s and will have no hesitation toping up if she makes the lives and she is too big still.

    I have a decent record in this, McElderry, Alexandra Burke, James Arthur and Matt Cardle have been main bets here well before boot camp. Lauren is my main bet here.

    Confident despite her age which is something they usually beat them with,

  • sistermym

    For the first time ever, I have missed the beginning of XF. Totally forgot that it was even on. As a slightly obsessed viewer and occasional better, this may or not say something about the ratings. I hang around with a lot of musicians and singers and their general consensus is that XF is not for the actually talented as the live music scene is alive, varied and full of opportunity to play paying gigs. Mostly they don’t want to be associated with the show and its ability to destroy musical credibility. Still I will be watching and reading Sofabet for that extra perspective. However I feel quite uninvolved this year and yhis may reflect the viewing public. It seems so far there are no big wows coming and no particular reason to get to stuck in

  • Donald

    Nothing new last week really, nothing really great either, they will struggle in the ratings with this type of talent. Considering the “Pieces of Eight” headline have had a nibble at Louis and Groups for wins in Judges and Category markets as prices are decent enough. It is no doubt front loaded and included as much tabloid fodder as they could manage. Be interesting what they do this weekend with ‘Strictly’ starting tomorrow.

  • Nissl

    Boys: Jack Walton looks like a star of some kind. He’s an all rounder but I guess if I had to pick on something, just a bit teensy bit stiff. His absence from the boyband makes me doubt it’s really their strong plan A this year. I suppose he’s Mel B’s weapon for the lives, and a fairly good solo postshow prospect, as teen boys go.

    Paul Akister, I’ve got no idea if he goes through to lives from that. Good voice but not amazing as I was expecting from people’s audition comments last year. Doubtful he’d be a solo popstar. Hope he finds a career singing in some capacity.

    Boys is still murky to me, with 3 contenders not shown yet.

    Girls: Lola really looks like she’s going through now, obviously. At bare minimum she would make good TV and be a good story for Cheryl. I was eyeing her as the gamma before her huge pimp slot. But with the right development, I wouldn’t completely write off it actually working out for her…. I want to see Steph before speculating on how this category shakes out.

    Overs: Ben Haenow is a somewhat better version of Jay James in my opinion. Decent level of producer support as well.

    Groups: Brooks Brothers are a cute act but not that amazing vocally or charismatically at this point in development. If I were the producers I’d cut them at JH and encourage them to develop for a couple more years. And I’m guessing that’s what happens.

    James Graham is probably the cutest 8-piece member so far. Really a mixed crew they’ve thrown together, haven’t they?

    Casey Johnson has a decent voice and ok look but rubs me a bit the wrong way.

    So far I feel I haven’t seen the 8-piece’s Harry, or even Zayn or Liam really. (Well, I have, but he’s going through solo.) I’d want that before feeling too confident they’ll triumph over OTY.

    Obviously it doesn’t look promising for the girl group that made JH as we’ve seen nothing of their members yet.

  • Stu

    I think Lola is definitely looking to go far in this year’s competition. If you think about it she combines the two qualities of Cheryl’s only two winners to date – she’s female so Cheryl can relate to her in a girly way (like Alexandra) and she’s from Newcastle so she’ll have the bond with Cheryl that Joe had. Her room audition was brilliant (which is a rarity now that we as an audience are used to the grand arena auditions) and apparently she was the standout of her session in the arena auditions according to posters on Digital Spy.

    She’s the only act that’s winner material which I have seen so far – bar possibly Only The Young. Jay James will get hyped up until the live shows and then he will be sabotaged mid-series until he loses momentum. He’ll either be a Kye Sones or a Nicholas McDonald. Hopefully the former to be honest.

  • Nissl

    Hmm, final audition show with a ton of pretty good people who get cut very late at bootcamp. I don’t really have any questions why for any of them.

    As for those who get through to JH, I think Emily has serious potential but is not really ready to be a pop star in a year or less. Lizzy is more interesting and charismatic than Helen but I have a feeling would still be out in the first third. Surely a Lizzy/Ben/Jay combo in the overs would be an awfully young look for the category. Jake was decent and obviously he has a narrative with Mel B now. I’d still be pushing Jack for alpha boy if I were the show but that seems to be a minority position.

    No screentime for Steph Nala, what’s up with that? I know they’ve kept acts under wraps before, but surely they would want some kind of audition up…. Also missing two boys, Fleur East, and all the manufactured girl group members. Those are a lot less surprising though.

  • Does this sound like Lauren has made it through? Just the tense she talks in and what they talk about and the fact she probably told the presenter if shes through or not?

    http://www.phoenixfm.com/2014/09/09/x-factor-2014-lauren-platt-interview/

    It does to me…

  • I am leaning towards Lauren has made it at the expense of Steph with a judges house shock.

  • Chatterbox5200

    Is there a twist to come? According to today’s Tellymix article. (196520-x-factor-2014-to-start-air-three-nights-a-week.html)
    The X Factor live shows will start on Saturday 4th October. As ITV have already announced that the final will take place on the weekend of 13th/14th December (the prize winner receives tickets),

    That means that there will be 10 x Sunday shows between the first live show and the final. I can’t imagine an intended final of just two acts, that will either means a week without an act leaving, or more than a total of 12 acts taking part. Given the history of acts being kicked out, leaving, and double eliminations, this could add weight to the idea of a wildcard, or possibly judges having more than 3 acts each.

    • Nugg

      Unless I misheard, it was very briefly said at bootcamp lives that 16 acts would be in the live shows

    • Hi Chatterbox, I think tellymix got confused. The quote in that article – “Boot Camp and Judges Houses are always longer shows, and this year we don’t have the space to accommodate a long show on Sundays for these stages, so we have decided instead to strip the shows across three nights” – implies 3 x bootcamp and 3 x JH episodes, I think tellymix misunderstood in drawing the conclusion that they were cramming both bootcamp and JH into one weekend (which would also be very unlike the show, it’d be much more like them to spin it out).

      On ITV’s site they describe the Fri 26 show as “kicks off a special triple bill of Boot Camp this weekend on The X Factor, as the remaining contestants fight for a coveted place at Judges’ Houses” –
      http://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep9week39/x-factor

      That means 3 x JH episodes Oct 3-5, and live shows starting Oct 11, which would bring us into line with the usual 10 weeks of live shows including the final.

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