X Factor 2014: Does Andrea’s Italian-ness matter, and why?

Once again this week Andrea’s VT focused heavily on his Italian-ness. Introduced by Mel with “forget pizza and pasta, here’s Britain’s new favourite Italian dish”, we saw him learning some new English words from Fleur, baffling his family on Skype with “amazeballs”, then being dressed up in a Union Jack hat and sent around London on a double-decker bus having afternoon tea – on one level, embracing Britain; on another level, something which obviously only a foreigner would do.

That comes after last week’s Roman homecoming, week 4’s visit to the deli and implication that Italians know nothing about Hallowe’en… the list goes on. There’s been much discussion in the Sofabet comments about whether producers are trying to tap into some kind of UKIP sentiment among voters: bloody forriners, coming over here winning our talent shows, aren’t there enough British kids down the Job Centre with charming personalities and powerhouse vocals, eh?

Our theory is that the Italian emphasis may indeed be intended to be unhelpful for Andrea, but for the exact opposite reason. So let’s flesh out that theory and invite you to pick it apart.

While some xenophobic voters may be put off by Andrea’s birthplace, we suspect that many more – like us – have warmed to him, are happy to have him as part of our Saturday night entertainment, and hope that he feels welcomed and at home here. Likewise, and respectfully contra some in the comments, we didn’t feel that the extensive subtitling of Andrea’s emotional homecoming VT was intended to be offputting in any way – we just felt it straightforwardly reminded us he was Italian, and straightforwardly invited us to feel good about him and his proud and loving family.

How does that add up to a strategy to stop Andrea from winning? Potentially – and this is speculative – it involves the concept of acts having a journey, and producers’ power to suggest to voters what would be a narratively satisfying conclusion to it.

Sometimes you hear judges strongly imply, or explicitly say, about an act that winning the show – or getting to the final – will make all the difference to their careers. Obviously, that’s intended to communicate to people who have emotionally invested in the act that their votes are required for the act’s journey to have a happy ending.

Contrast the comments, say, Mary Byrne received from Simon in the 2010 semi-final: “‘I think whatever happens, and I genuinely mean this, you’re going to sell records, you’re going to have concerts. Let me tell you, Mary, you are not going back to the Tesco checkout.” Translation: “Mary voters, no need to vote any more. Her journey is over, she has reached her destination.”

The possibility we see with Andrea is to suggest that the emotionally satisfying end to his journey is not him winning, but him being embraced by the British public. The 2011 week 4 VT of Johnny Robinson is a masterclass in portraying an outsider’s acceptance by the public as a satisfying end to a journey – and once this is achieved, by implication, votes are no longer required from people who are emotionally invested in the act’s validation.

On this theory, the repeated references to Italianness are only one side of the coin – it has to be accompanied by repeated assurance that Brits love Andrea. Where this might ultimately lead, should producers wish, is comments in the final along the lines of “Andrea, you’ve come over from Italy, you’ve won over the British public. Let me tell you, whatever happens tonight, your place in the affections of this nation is secure.” No need to tap UKIP anti-immigrant sentiment – quite the opposite.

You could even imagine another act in the final – presumably Fleur or Ben – getting some seemingly-innocuous trademark Simon praise along the lines of “it makes me proud to be British that our country can produce a talent like you”. Or perhaps, if Andrea goes into the final as favourite, a variation for Fleur or Ben on Simon’s comments to Stevi on Saturday: “One thing I love about being British is that the British love an underdog”.

Having explained the theory, now to raise a couple of doubts.

First, would it work? The big difference this year is free app voting. In the Mary Byrne and Johnny Robinson examples, people had to pay to vote. It’s probably easier for a “journey completed” klaxon to dissuade an act’s fans from picking up the phone and parting with money than it is to persuade them to chuck some free app votes at someone else.

Second, do they even want to stop Andrea? Sofabet commenter HenryVIII has made the intriguing point that with the indigenous talent pool inevitably drying up as the franchise passes its eleventh year, its longevity may depend on being able to attract overseas talent by demonstrating a realistic possibility of winning.

It’s not a calculation we feel confident passing judgement on, given that we didn’t anticipate producers eggsterminating Richard and Adam to push Hungarian dance troupe Attraction to the Britain’s Got Talent title in 2013. After that, it would be dangerous to assume that producers won’t want Andrea just because he’s Italian (they may not want him to win for other reasons, such as because they’d prefer a winner they see as more commercially viable).

Producers have certainly been keeping punters on their toes by blowing hot and cold on Andrea. Week 1’s barnstorming pimp slot was followed by application of the brakes in weeks 2 (when Simon first mentioned the gurning), 3 (“six donuts“) and 4 (the astonishing gold paint job). Week 5’s pimp slot seemed plausibly to indicate that they might have resigned themselves to him winning. But the knives were out again this week.

The evidence? Well, per the speculative theory above, there was obviously plenty of Italian-ness in the VT and also more Brit love in the comments: Louis called him “the people’s diva”, and reliably on-message Dermot telling him “everywhere I go people are talking about you, what does the support of this country mean to you?”, before waving him off the stage by saying his name in an Italian accent.

Then there was the running order – he was first up, the only act to perform while Strictly was still on the other side; given that Jay turned out to be their elimination target, producers must have been tempted to stick him on in that slot. And Simon’s comments: criticising of lack of “gritty passion”, in an implicit comparison with Ben; calling attention to him “pulling terrible faces, not only during your singing but afterwards”; and telling us his version wasn’t as good as Leona’s.

More speculatively again, the staging. Red and black lighting and fire are two well-known danger signals. We also have a speculative theory that backdrops featuring clocks or clockwork may have been used in the past with negative intent, perhaps subliminally planting the idea of time passing an act by. Andrea’s dandelion clocks have the additional connotation of a flower that once was in bloom but is now nearly dead.

andrea_dandelion

All that said, two facts remain: Andrea can sing, and he is likeable. That’s why he remains at the head of the market at odds of around 2.5. Are you an Andrea layer or backer at those odds? Do let us know below.

127 comments to X Factor 2014: Does Andrea’s Italian-ness matter, and why?

  • Tim B

    And what do you do to dandelion flowers? You blow them away…

    Think it’s been mentioned already, but “Stop” by the Spice Girls was playing during his VT and two of his comments “Hi, I’m the Queen of England and I’m voting for Andrea” and “I love the Harrods toilets” came across to me as cringeworthy. Facebook comments towards him were unkind this weekend, with many saying he is a one trick pony and they’re bored of him etc.

  • Dean

    As I said a few times Andrea is too short. Whether he wins or not it’s clear TPTB don’t want him to win, but also would have him as a finalist. Floating votes look to be going to Ben now too.

    What I suggest is Fleur is plan A but not so high in the votes as the constant huge pimping may suggest while deramping anyone close, Ben they don’t mind winning given his journey so far. Andrea is doing well in the votes, but they are confident enough to get him overtaken in the final. Lauren is the one they feel they can get down towards a B2 with a group before the final allowing a group in the final for variety. All speculative but that’s how week 6 looked.

  • i think i am a “coverer” of Andrea at present as opposed to a definitive “backer” or “layer”. My book is heavily Ben/Fleur biased, but I have made sure that Andrea is neutral for me. This then gives me the opportunity to switch allegiance late on (ideally Andrea will dip out in 3rd or 4th). The de-ramping is helping as it means he is still 2.5 as opposed to 1.8

  • Curtis

    Maybe I’m not being cynical enough but I wonder if it would be wrong to read too much into the Italian thing. For X Factor to work as a TV show it needs to make characters out of its contestants, to make the audience feel some connection to these people. The role Andrea has been assigned is the cute, Italian guy, and therefore these points of him are just being emphasised for the sake of the show.

    This is maybe slightly controversial of me to say, but whilst I think xenophobia has run amok in this country, I think Western Europeans are pretty safe from that. I don’t hear people complaining about Italians. If he were Romanian for example it would be a more worthwhile point.

    I don’t disagree with you that there is a running theme of getting the British public to adopt Andrea, and also to make Britain a second home to him in the eyes of the public (“You are home” or something like that Dermot said), but if these are the journeys then his journey has surely ended already. They’ve repeated the British public’s love for Andrea enough, and obviously Dermot has already said the aforementioned line.

    I think their strategy to stop Andrea winning is best emphasised in the performances. Red and black, death slot, similar song choices and performances every week, a well judged comment from Simon that people seemed to agree with largely on Twitter. I think they realise they need to tread carefully and not do a full assassination on Andrea, because if they push too hard they could trigger a very strong and potentially decisive sympathy vote.

  • Dean

    It is always around week 6 when the winner’s scenario comes into play. The first 5 weeks was about getting their desired tour slots. No doubt in my mind the only change they would make is having Chloe instead of Jay on the tour and still in the show for controversy.

    Now the tour slots are set, they want to get the desired finalsts and overall winner. Week 6 was a big telling point of their plans. Don’t think they will slow down on Andrea now.

    Interestingly OTY have the most likes of all the performances on Youtube, they definitely have a fanbase and could be aimed for the final

    • Dean

      Just a correction, OTY are 2nd to Stereo Kicks. I find it interesting also that SK managed to survive the bottom 2 and their last bounce has last 2 weeks. What do we make of this and why are they getting more votes than previously? Was it more a solid execution of Jay and Stevi’s lacklustre performance that helped this? More teen girls deciding to vote for them? I don’t know. I thought their performance was average too on the weekend.

      • Curtis

        Maybe their fanbase has grown over the last two weeks for some reason. Maybe vote transfers from Jack? I’ll confess to being confused, I felt for sure that they hadn’t done enough to avoid the bounce comedown that is so particularly prominent with boybands. Yeah, maybe Jay and Stevi were just so unworthy of votes that SK got away with it.

        • Dean2

          Their fanbase has grown because their performances have been getting better and their personalities have come through stronger on social media. They have the most interactive outreach of all of the acts and have been hustling hard to build a fanbase.

          • Phil

            I agree about their performances getting better – they were really good this weekend I thought. As well as all the trickery and subliminal stuff we know full well is going on, the biggest thing that motivates people to vote is a good performance. I don’t for a second expect them to win, but they had a decent week and I think too much can be read into “bouncing” and “coming down from a bounce”.

          • Dean F

            Hello another Dean, just because I feel it is quite bad for you to call yourself Dean2, shall we go with Dean followed by initial? so my name is Dean F. Might be better for future reference.

  • uncalquera

    There’s a pivotal question with Andrea’s posibilities to win: free votes distribution in the final

    Given that (most probably) Andrea’s potential for voting transfer has reached its peak with the elimination of JJ, from now on it is other acts (imho, Ben) that will be receiving most of the transfers.

    So, if there is a simple set of five votes for all the final Andrea could win because transfers would be prevented and he has enough of a core support to win it. However, if there is a new set of free votes for every elimination during the final, transfers will take place and perhaps Ben could get to win it.

    • David Cook

      I would think that it will work the same as the double elimination week. After an elimination the voting will re-open with previous votes still counting and a new allocation of 5 free votes. This is also how the free voting worked on The Voice this year. So vote transfer will come into it.

  • David Cook

    I wonder if last week’s pimp slot and generally good treatment wasn’t done to get it out of the way early. Andrea is technically the best singer, so if they want to stop him I think they’ll noble him in a way that doesn’t appear unfair – it is supposed to be a singing competition. Andrea’s had two pimp slots (what could be fairer than that), but they certainly won’t have to give him another in the run up to the final. I’m sure that the favoured acts will get the pimp slots now, as Fleur did at the weekend.
    I think a similar thing may apply to the song choices. On the face of it he couldn’t go wrong at the weekend, and I’m sure the song and the performance delighted his supporters (no complaints of unfair treatment). Yet I think many other viewers will have been left stone cold by the performance of a song that made it barely recognisable. To me he appears to be someone who gives a performance of singing rather than a performance of the song (if that makes sense). From the point of view of TPTB what could be better than performances that delight the demo, but at the same time limit the change of picking up new votes.
    Interesting to see whether they continue this with the Whitney theme at the weekend.

  • Natasha

    In my opinion Fleur does not have a strong enough vocal to win even though TPTB keep pushing her on us, I see her coming no higher than 3rd place. Yes she can dance etc but her voice isn’t strong or distinctive enough or anything special. I definately envisage Ben and Andrea for the 2 top spots but I can’t at this point see which one would take 1st and 2nd spot. It’s Whitney and Elton John next weekend and I would assume Andrea would be given a Whitney song which would delight his demo just nicely. Especially if he reprises ‘I didn’t know my own strength’. However, if he gets a song which doesn’t fully showcase his range or the passion in his voice, then myself, as an Andrea lover would be dissapointed as would many of his core fans.

  • Stu

    I definitely see Lauren being the one sacrificed out of the “Power Four” (if the producers can’t get Andrea) in order to get a group into the final. The final would be a much more boring affair without one. Compare the finals of Alexandra/JLS/Eoghan, Little Mix/Marcus/Amelia and Matt/Rebecca/One Direction to the ones of Sam/Nic/Luke and James/Jahmene/Christopher. I’m pretty sure at this stage a group will be there since a 4-act final is looking likely.

  • Dean

    Just a quick look at the DS forum shows how quickly people/voters can change their tune. In the week 7 favourite contestant poll many saying ‘used to be Lauren but not now…’ Simons boring remark was perfect timing in week 6 if they want to get her by week 8 or so. Give her another slow arrangement with a song that doesn’t go places this week and next week and they can probably justify getting her out to a group. I hope they give her a 2nd chance to prove something but something in week 4 just didn’t happen for TPTB and they decided to slow her down to not reach the final.

    OTY head that poll by double the votes and SK are bottom of it. Hmm.

    • MW

      Yeah, the DS Forum poll is kind of nuts. OTY were always quite popular there, but now they’re just utterly dominant. It doesn’t mean much in itself, but it’s quite interesting from a trend perspective seeing how votes have leached from other acts that were once much more popular.

      It’s also notable that in place where OTY have huge support (DS, Popjustice etc), SK seems to be incredibly unpopular. Again, that doesn’t mean much in itself, but I think it’s quite an interesting point when people make out that OTY and SK are swimming in the same pool for votes. I’m not sure that’s actually the case.

      • Dean2

        Judging by Twitter and Tumblr, SK fans and OTY fans *despise* each other and the other’s group. The same happened in 2012 with District STD and Union J.

        • Phil

          I think you’re making the mistake of thinking that *all* of their fans are the type who go on Twitter and Tumblr and talk about nothing else but how much they love such a band and hate their ‘rival’. In reality that’s a very small section of both bands’ fanbases, and certainly not something I’d pay attention of to influence who I’d place money on.

          • Dean2

            No, but it does support the previous supposition that OTY and SK aren’t sharing the same voting pool as much as previously thought…

          • Jessica Hamby

            Agree with Phi on this, vocal minority rather than a genuine phenomenon.

          • Dean2

            To Jessica —

            A minority with the highest Twitter followers, YouTube views, and iTunes sales? Their votes may be suffering because they don’t connect with the 34-and-older voting majority, but the marketability is there and now that 1D are crumbling at the seams and Fifth Harmony can’t find traction, Simon needs a new cash cow.

          • Jessica Hamby

            To Dean:

            Read the posts before replying. The vocal minority I am referring to are those who support one band and “hate” the other. There will be many more people who are fans of both.

    • Dean

      ‘Lauren could be any sort of popstar that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini/Simon Cowell/ITV want her to be. However, at the moment, she looks deflated and defeated, drifting between theme weeks, wondering how Brian Friedman is going to make her look even more awkward than the last.’

      Haha so true

  • Stu

    This week should be the week we know just how the producers feel about Only The Young. If the show is looking to give the group a shot of proving their post-show potential, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t reprise Something About The Way You Look Tonight, the song they performed in their first audition. If they are given a cheesy 80s Whitney song or something equally “fun”, it is clear they are just being kept in as one of the few acts to provide actual entertaining performances.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Last time I looked Cheryl was 5-2 to lose all her acts first. I took 7-2 but some might consider the 5s good value.

    I think it would be a mistake to neglect the groups. Imo tptb’s ideal final would be Ben, Fleur, OTY and SK. They may yet get their way.

    Watch out for cake trays!!!

  • Jessica Hamby

    I think the position of alpha dog, although nominally Fleur’s, is still up for grabs. After Highway To Hell Ben was offered a shot at it with Man In The Mirror but couldn’t deliver. Fleur has had three goes with Thriller, Will You Be There and Bang Bang but each time has somehow been wanting. OTY delivered with Monster Mash and should get another shot with Something About The Way You Look Tonight on Saturday. The break out performance hasn’t happened yet (apart from maybe Lauren and Andrea on week one, but it’s what comes now that counts). Also, loath as I am to say it SK are improving.

    As long as Andrea is being hindered and not helped it’s still all up for grabs imo.

    • MW

      I do think Fleur seems to get about 95% of the way to a killer performance but she never quite makes it all the way. It’ll be interesting to see whether they keep on trying to make it happen.

      The closest things to break out performances for me have been Lauren’s Happy and OTY’s Monster Mash. Both were fantastic, and have had quite a big impact on the show. Lauren has basically lived out on Happy since the first week, and I reckon a big chunk of her residual popularity stems from people hoping she can deliver something like that again at some point. Monster Mash was a definitive Halloween performance, and a key turning point for OTY in showing that they could deliver something no other act could.

      • Dean2

        The thing about OTY’s Monster Mash is that it was a cheat… they’ve been performing that song with that arrangement for years, and released it as a paid professional single in early October. The fact that tptb allowed them to perform it speaks volumes about the level of fix in this year’s show. It shouldn’t really be counted as an “X Factor” performance, and even with months of rehearsal, it wasn’t that great.

        • MW

          It’s hardly a cheat to do a song you’ve done before the show – that happens all the time with loads of acts. Its not like any of them walk in off the street never having done music before.

          In this case, they specifically referred to the fact that they had done it pre show in the VT, so it was hardly some great secret. Was it a boost for them to do it? Sure, but that’s no different from any helpful song choice.

          Obviously whether you like the performance or not is a matter of opinion. But it’s certainly one that a lot of people mention as a stand out of the series.

        • Chatterbox5200

          It’s no different to Paul Akister (or Jay awakes, etc) performing a song he’s done 100’s of times before at pub/club gigs. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing wrong singing a song you’re already familiar with.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Copied from the previous thread:

    pm · Reply A thought on the three tier cake trays. DONUTS. Or more specifically Simon’s comments on donuts. Last week Lauren got them and people started to get a bit sick of her, too much of the samething. This week Andrea got them and people are starting to get a bit sick of him. Is the donut deramp a thing? It’ll be interesting to see if someone else gets them next week.

  • Jessica Hamby

    OT: is anyone doing IACGMOOHN this

  • R

    Fleur’s pimping on Saturday was so heavy I have to question the reason.

    If they are already pushing her so hard to reach the final won’t they have to do this for the next few weeks to keep the momentum going? And won’t this become as obvious as Cheryl’s miming?

    Is it possible she polled badly last week and they had to give her every assistance to ensure she didn’t end up B2.

    Taking the others into consideration:
    Ben, Lauren & Andrea were seemingly safe for the weekend, with the latter two receiving slow deramps.

    OTY and SK may have started picking up more votes to move closer to, or above Fleur.

    Jay James & Stevie may also have been close to Fleur last week, requiring the deramps to fall behind her.

    With the bottom few acts usually within a few percentage points at this stage, my guess is that they wanted Jay out, pushed OTY & SK above him & Stevie, but also had to push her extra hard to make sure she did end up falling bottom 2.

    • Jessica Hamby

      She has the look of someone peaking too soon. OTY and SK seem to be pacing things better. I get the feeling we’ll be getting a “had enough of Fleur” message soon, an afternoon tea and a surfeit of salvers.

    • Dean

      I agree I said as much the pimp Fleur at all costs even to make the show crap was quite obvious. That said it also could be just because they wanted to give their plan A her moment no matter where she is in the votes

  • Stu

    I think whoever is the week 8 sing-off survivor should bounce into the final. So I’m expecting:

    Week 7: Group (less favoured) vs Stevi – Stevi goes
    Week 8: Group (more favoured) vs Lauren – Lauren goes
    Week 9: Group (less favoured) vs Fleur – Group goes

    Then a final of Top Group, Fleur (on a bounce), Ben and Andrea.

    Is this right if producers get their way (assuming they can’t bring down Andrea in time)?

    • Fudd

      Will they want to dispatch Andrea before the final? I agree, they don’t want him to win but I think they’ll be able to dispose of him at Wembley. Andrea, Ben, Fleur and Only the Young seems to be the best final on paper as all four can perform – much needed in an arena – yet the Plan A (whether it be Ben or Fleur) is there.

      • Jessica Hamby

        I absolutely think they want to get rid of Andrea before the final. Of course they can use all their de-ramping tricks but the quality of his voice compared to others will be more apparent when their performances are not interrupted by VTs.

        I think we’re on for a nuking in the semi-final. We’ve been building up to it for a few weeks now. The more I look at this the more I think Stereo Kicks (or possibly OTY) are looking good for the win.

        Lauren is finished. Fleur is peaking too soon. Ben is an attractive character but Man In The Mirror and Big Band Week (can’t even remember it) showed how limited his range is (and how easy he is to de-ramp). If they can get rid of Andrea the way is clear for both groups to have a shot.

        They’re still at pretty good odds at the moment too.

        • Dean

          Harsh on Ben really, he gave a good shot of Cry Me A River I felt and was one of the better on the night, but hes nothing like Buble

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caLUrjeHruo

          Fleur is also not really peaking too soon, if you want to win it, Week 6 pimping is just what you need. I don’t think Fleur made the most of it though personally as her remaining 3rd favourite entailed.

          • Jessica Hamby

            We’ll have ot agree to differ on that. I thought he was very poor and the song was not at all suited to him.

          • Dean F

            You sound like Cheryl (what she said on the night), it was big band week and he got a standing ovation from a lot of the audience.

  • Phil

    Has the Whitney vs Elton John thing actually been confirmed? I know Cheryl mentioned it this weekend but I took it as a joke (I think she said it a few weeks back on Xtra Factor too) – is it not a reference to the themes being too narrow and not suiting everyone?

  • Donald

    Dandelion clocks, that a new one, valid. I think they will ultimately defeat Andreas, they have done a real good job deflating his interest with the general public past few weeks and he would not have gotten many new viewers on Sturday with Strictly crossover.

    Not a back or lay for me at the current prices, the time may come to lay at much better odds than now. I went against early on with Lauren and Ben at decent prices and joined Sofabet Stereo Kicks prediction with Louis as winning judge as odds were more attractive when I did. So not much point changing my position at the minute but am watching de-ramp progress when to lay Andreas and with less risk that current odds.

    Susan Boyle finished second in BGT as was pointed out on a post comment here (sorry I forget by who) and is a valid point.

    I am worried about Lauren treatment but hoping it may change but gut says they after her and if Fleur pimping needed more than boosting then the scenario of two groups, Ben and Andreas final not beyond TPTB reach.

    TPTB seem to have orchestrated a very open position at present and seem to have their house well in order this season with Simon steering the ship despite SK and OTY hitting bottom two early doors.

    The break out song or moment hasn’t happened yet, Can’t see them risking a Whitney $ note on Andreas this weekend as he would pull it off so just maybe I’m Still Standing will appear as his song choice.

    It is wide open amongst four acts for the final the two girls and the two groups in reality so TPTB have power and Stevie for cover for another week at least if they want.

    They will get Andreas the way they going but he not a good lay at current odds.

    Vote transfers and apps vote swings the great unknown to us.

    Saw a young guy tweet on Saturday ” Going our 5 votes to OTY” . The OTY shouter is either room plant or guest as doubt very much he would mange to actually get into Fountain every show.

    Wait for song choice and preparing for decent win when Stevie goes and watching for the SK stunt for this weekend. Can both groups avoid bottom two this weekend and Stevie bounce? That would leave an interesting bottom two. Louis saving Stevie over Lauren or Fleur and deadlock, wide open. TPTB are on top of this with Simon steering ship. Overall Andrea is in their sights.

    • Henry VIII

      Susan Boyle lost out to a spectacular performance in BGT. And she wasn’t especially likeable really, unlike Andrea.

      • Donald

        She sure did and Diversity were 16/1 – 20/1 on the day. Susan had big following YouTube etc. and was thought a shoe in for the win just like Andrea in the run up to lives. It is a decent example of what can actually unfold with these TV shows.

    • David Cook

      I’m going to disagree – I think the better option (if they want to stop Andrea) is to give him a Whitney song this weekend. It does n’t really matter how well he does it because everyone already knows that. But it reinforces the view that he’s a diva song singer – a one trick pony. Keep his fans happy, but stop new fans or vote transfers. The last thing they need is him to do a stand out performance of an Elton John song and gain new fans.
      If they really wanted to have a go at him they would allow him to reprise “I Did n’t Know My Own Strength” (perhaps with some helpful advice to push it a bit further). That would give them a chance to say how great it was – but that somehow they did n’t enjoy it as much as the audition performance. Start planting the seeds of doubt (As usual Louis would need to be the fall guy for this – but allowing Simon to agree with him).

      • Donald

        You have a point, I just thought the might go Christopher Maloney route with him, they have sprayed in gold and put devils horns on him already. Be interesting how the keep subtle de-ramp going.

  • Stu

    I wonder if the Stereo Fix is inspired by Tamera last year. After her bottom two appearance and subsequent bounce, she had two weeks of poor performances overshadowed by forgetting lyrics/poor timing which also managed to keep her safe. As soon as she gave two solid performances again, she was voted off. It seems that after SK’s second bottom two appearance, producers are looking for ways to encourage votes for them despite average performances. I wonder if there will be a trick this week and if not, will it spell another bottom two performance.

  • Henry VIII

    I agree that the SCD overlap, red and black, dandelions (and picket line fires) were unhelpful for Andrea. And more so was Cowell’s cultivating his “you pull ugly faces” seed. None of that for Fleur.

    So he’s not been allowed the smooth progression of Cardle or Bailey and has been damaged. But I have a feeling they’re just playing with him, maybe getting him to shed some votes for others to pick up. Ultimately he was centre stage doing his thing. They didn’t give him a vomit background and cover him up with distracting dancers. I think they got complaints when they forced him to dance. And I can’t see Cowell criticising his best singer every week if he wants to remain credible with his customers.

    To try to answer the question of his price – if I were new to the market, without liabilities, maybe a good time to back him is now, after the Saturday when he was sidelined and some others gave relatively excellent performances.

    • Mr Cliché

      Not sure how you can say if you were new to the market now would ever be a good time to back Andrea! His price is only what it is because of his early popularity and his last pimp slot, and I would say it is very short odds he is going to get one again. If anyone came in now, looked at polls, looked at YouTube numbers, looked at Facebook likes, read forums to gage hype and looked at his treatment on the show, you wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole at 2.6 on betfair.

      • Henry VIII

        Cowell doesn’t critisise him every week, it’s up and down. Cowell has publically apologised for critisising him on Saturday saying that he (Cowell) had had a bad night and wasn’t being fair. I’d expect a good week for Andrea next week, and not in the SCD overlap.

  • Mr Cliché

    * not going to get one again!

  • Jessica Hamby

    OT:

    For the Eurovision fans…..

    Nick Clegg’s followers are fans of the Eurovision song contest.

    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/nov/17/like-sweetcorn-cliff-richard-market-research-firm-reckons-you-are-rightwing

  • Jessica Hamby

    Just had a look on Oddschecker and both groups are still available at 40/1.

  • David Cook

    Or why not really push the boat out and go for the top 2 combo at 250/1. Stranger things have happened (can’t think when).

    • Jessica Hamby

      Do you have to get the order correct?

      Got to be worth a tenner of anyone’s money. You could drop a tenner down the drain and not be too bothered about it.

      • David Cook

        No – order doesn’t matter. tbh some of the combinations with SK and OTY do look tempting if you think they might get one of them up to top 2.

        • Jessica Hamby

          They do, don[‘t they.

          Fleur and OTY at 40/1, or Fleur SK at 50/1?

          As for strange things happening – Little Mix, Maloney’s laser eyes, girl dancing in a champagne glass, Conway Sisters saved over Maria Lawson, Simon Cowell voting against his own act, the girl that stopped singing and sat down on the stage during a sing-off and was still saved……

          This is X Factor. They will have no shame in achieving their goals.

          Our task is to work out what those goals are, not what is unlikely or strange.

          😉

          • Dean

            I think we have to proceed with some caution when thinking OTY can win it. They are growing and popular especially with the younger viewer, but they are 40/1 for a reason. They had a B2 appearance already and there is nothing to suggest they can get above Andrea, Ben and Fleur.

            It would take something huge for this to happen. Only positive is a DS forum poll which bares little resemblance on the nation in general.

            The free app votes means we have to take younger people into consideration more in general, but there are still enough older voters and middle England voters.

            At 40/1 it’s worth a punt, but I really don’t see it. What I do feel though is that Lauren and OTY are fishing in a very similar pool in terms of votes so when 1 goes a good vote transfer will go to the other.

            As for SK I really don’t see them with a chance but I can see TPTB maybe allowing SK to go into the sing off this week whether it be with Stevi or Lauren and saving SK knowing they can probably get a bounce to the semis and job done.

            This weekend we will see if they really feel a group can win it as I have a feeling the preferred group will get a pimp slot.

          • David Cook

            The thing is that with the combo’s they don’t need to win – second would be good enough. I wouldn’t say it’s likely – but it’s not impossible.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Dean, I’m not suggesting you put the house on any of these.

            I do think OTY have been getting clear support from tptb these last few weeks, and SK are improving and getting a bit of momentum and as well as tptb support.

            If either (or both) of them make it into the final, particularly if Andrea gets nuked before then, anything is possible.

          • David Cook

            Anything isn’t really possible. You have to consider the transfer votes. If by some means OTY and SK did make the final, I would still suggest that it would be impossible for them to finish one and two. Where are the MOR / older voters going? If it’s going to happen the combination has to be one group and one MOR act (realistically Ben / Andrea).

          • Jessica Hamby

            That’s where we differ.

            I think OTY are an MOR band. The songs they sing have a cross-generational appeal and they do a lot of older songs which will appeal to older voters. They’re fishing in everyone’s pool.

          • David Cook

            It’s the X Factor – everyone’s MOR. I couldn’t think of a better term, but I know what you mean.

          • Blake

            Yes, you’re making the mistake of assuming that because Cheryl keeps saying that OTY are going to be great for kids, that these are the only ones voting for them. I’d say that they have a massive crossover appeal, perhaps even more than what Little Mix did in their year. There song choices, have put them as an alternative for Middle England to get behind, in a way that I just don’t think Fleur will manage to.

            I also can’t believe tptb have taken so long to back OTY. They really could be absolutely huge post-show, and they’d be stupid not to get them as deep into the competition as they possibly can.

          • MW

            I still don’t really think OTY have much chance of winning (though I have a bit of money on it, as the odds were stupidly good).

            Let’s remember its not long since people presumed they would be gone well before the tour cut off.

            I think, while they definitely have gathered some momentum, getting to the final would be like winning for them. Even getting where they have is quite a success.

            While I think their appeal is a lot wider than the “for the kidz” nonsense that is sometimes presume, I just don’t see them getting many votes in from the sort of older women demographic that tends to be the X Factor’s bread and butter by the time the final hits.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Another possible game changer from Only The Young.

  • Heisenberg

    After sharing my recent exclusive decryption of Bat Out of Hell from Mel B’s Instagram – I’ve spotted another lyric sheet challenge.

    Yesterday X Factor vocal coach @CamillePurcell posted a Twitter photo from Lauren’s session.

    Here’s an enhancement of the sheet with the lyrics of How Will I Know added.

    http://goo.gl/xwV1OT

    I think it’s a close match, in which case she would be reprising her arena audition. This could be a green flag if she’s awarded this week’s pimp slot which is due, however, with Simon’s ‘boring’ label still fresh in the memory and combined with a less favourable running order position it may also provide further deramp ammunition. Another slow version of a well known uptempo song? Looks like a risk to me.

    • Dean

      You are like the master of decryption and riddles haha, nice stuff Heisenberg. I think it should be a green flag to sing this again, but they could also use this as a deramp if need be as another ‘boring’ tag…. but she sang it really well in the audition so she should do well with it.

      Lauren is due a later slot anyway, not that this matters as proven with Janet in the past. Could be a case of give Fleur a pimp slot and lauren a subtle deramp, then vice versa the following week to see how they fair in the votes?

    • Jessica Hamby

      If she goes slow she’s in trouble. She needs an uptempo performance to show some range.

      Mind you, it’ll be good for me.

      I’m on Cheryl to lose all her acts first.

      • Dean F

        If she sings as her audition she will do well especially from a later slot.

        I believe Lauren has a future so it would be wise for TOTB to give Lauren her moment so they can sign her up and shift records after the show whether she gets to the final or not

        • Jessica Hamby

          IMO Lauren is being deramped and has been for some weeks now with Brian Friedmans’ comments after her dancing and Simon’s “boring” remarks last week.

          Any future she has is not for a few years so it’s not a big deal for her to win it now. In fact it would be disadvantageous to her becuase she’s not ready.

          • Dean

            Not doubting her deramp and it did come some time in week 4 when they decided to do so. It seems they have said ‘fine Lauren lets do it your way, you stand (or sit) there and just sing a slowed down version of a song and see how you do’

            Could be another similar thing this weekend, but given her audition she was fantastic as you heard in the video, I think it would be good for her and at least she has not been Janet Devlined yet (Mmm Bop, Jackson 5 song etc. which they clearly forced on Janet to ensure she sucks). Actually think it would be worse for Laure if she does sing a song out of her comfort zone now, she has a fanbase and maybe keeping to basics will keep her in longer than being crap doing something she just can’t do.

            Would be interesting if anyone sings Rocket Man, wasn’t Aiden destroyed with this song in 2010? Maybe Stevi?

          • Jessica Hamby

            Well we all see things differently. They way I interpret tptb’s intentions towards her, she’s not long for the show. Given the way things fell out for Paul and Jay it doesn’t matter whether she sings a funeral march or Flight of the Bumble Bee. She’s still going home before the final.

          • Dean

            I think we have to consider Lauren has only had 1 negative judges comment in the whole time, the problem is the word ‘boring’ was said which is difficult for acts to come back from. The word will be used time and again now by judges and the public. Especially as some of the public already thought this. The only benefit is if they use it as a kind of narrative for her to overcome, but she is passed that stage now.

            That said I see a bit of Abi Alton, but later in the show with this week. I think it will be a redemption week for Lauren as they probably have her vote under control, followed by a (surprise perhaps for others outside of sofabet?) exit next week to a group. Only thing to change my feeling and yours would be if she gets a pimp slot, but I doubt it now.

        • George

          The only thing is, Syco have Ella Henderson already who’s been huge this year. Will they really want Lauren as well? Her treatment the past few weeks tells me they don’t.

    • Fudd

      If they wanted to spin Lauren into a favourite again they should ask her to sing How Will I Know uptempo. Her slowing down ANOTHER number will definitely be a de-ramp at this stage.

  • Curtis

    This is very unrelated to basically everything, but Kingsland Road are trending on Twitter. How can they still be a thing?!

  • David Cook

    Ben’s performance was poor at the weekend. To be fair he gave it a good try, but the song choice and arrangemant was just ridiculous – he was never ever going to carry that off.
    However to his credit over the past six weeks he has probably covered a wider range of styles than anyone else – some more successfully than others – but still probably picking up votes from a fairly wide demo. If he gets a couple of weeks where he can do something more in his own style he should make top 3 at least.

    • Dean

      Right now I see no reason why Ben can’t win it. He has obviously been fairly consistent in picking up floating votes, has been name checked by celebs coming on to the show, has topped the FB likes for the past 2 weeks by a long way despite some on here saying he has not been that good and as you say has covered a wider range of styles than anyone else.

      He is also your every day English guy who seems to care about his family and is very likeable. Unless TPTB give him a good nuking soon enough there is a big chance the Gold medal will be going Ben’s way and I don’t think they mind too much if it is Ben (but Fleur seems to be plan A as she could be a hit if she wins this show). They know they can sign up the others they want too now anyway and Ben is your feel good winner.

      • MW

        I think Ben was pretty terrible at the weekend, but I still have him as the most likely winner. I suspect he’ll be the second choice of quite a lot of people, and so I think by the time of the final he’ll have hoovered up quite a lot of votes.

    • Curtis

      Honestly I enjoyed Ben at the weekend. It’s not something he’d release, but I thought it was an enjoyable performance. I don’t think the show would mind if he won – they might even be able to get a successful album out of the guy. They can sign Fleur regardless.

      Unlike most of the other acts, I can’t imagine many people strongly disliking Ben, so as people have suggested, that’s probably good news for him as we go on as he’ll pick up lots of vote transfers. I still think beating Andrea is not going to be straightforward.

  • Tptb’s plan A has won pretty much every x factor going. The Cardle year is questionable I guess. Knowing how precise they have been in picking off their targets week after week I think they will get the exact winner they desire this year. Like every other year.

    • Jessica Hamby

      Agreed. I don’t think that’s Andrea, Lauren or Ben.

      Not sure who it is though?

      Probably Stevi.

      • Dean

        If we take week 6 as gospel the true plan A is Fleur, unless we have a U-turn between now and the end. Still not sure how Fleur is doing in the votes though would be interesting, especially after her pimp slot.

        • I’m staying out of the debate on who is plan A as I’m biased. But make no mistake about whoever is the plan A at this moment in time will win the show.

          • Dean

            My only thing against this is Ben. Obviously I am with you stoney and have been from before that Fleur was minimum one of two they wanted to win (with Lauren, but now Lauren has gone off the rails ‘it seems’) I just think Ben is the only one that can possibly win even though I don’t think he is plan A. Its been weird with him because no matter what he does he has been solid every week and could be getting a good share of vote transfers.

          • Jessica Hamby

            I know who my top three is, and Ben isn’t in there. Sadlyif Im right it means the 250/1 won’t happen, but it still leaves some pretty tasty opportunities.

            And, of course, a tenner on the big one just for sh!ts and giggles.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Ben: Is your backing for Ben based on producer support or on his performances?

            If it is on producer support, what gives you the impression that he is better supported than any other contestant?

            If it is on performances, what makes you think that performance quality is the most important criterion in determining the winner? (For this question and this question only let us assume that Ben is the best performer left in the competition)

          • Jessica Hamby

            DEAN!!!!! NOT BEN.

            Question is for Dean.

          • Dean F

            I’ve not backed Ben my only hefty win bet is almost dead on Lauren and I’m just sticking to elimination betting now.

            I just feel Ben has been likeable and picking up a lot of vote transfers. If they make a big attempt to slow him down this weekend for Fleurs benefit it would back up my point even more. I’d be very surprised if Ben was not in the top 3 as a minimum.

            I just wish I backed him each way at the start when I thought he was alpha male over while others said it was Jay.

    • That’s supposed to read plan A at this stage in the competition

  • For every one convinced you need to be a big ballad Netleyl belter to win see James Arthur

    • Jessica Hamby

      No belters in my top 3. Only one left in the competition.

      Maybe they’ll get him to do I’m Every Woman, or Step by Step, or the Shoop Shoop song (Whitney’s not Cher’s). Or maybe he’ll do that 1991 national anthem she did which prompted someone to say she could sing the telephone directory and we’ll have to agree that he truly is underampable.

  • Dean2

    Stereo Kicks got a big pimping today on BBC Radio 1.

  • Heisenberg

    Couple of facts so far:

    • Stevi will sing Elton John (confirmed on Loose Women)
    • Lauren’s elimination odds are shortening very fast

    • Dean

      I just checked, she is 12/1 (Generally 8-10/1) which is what she was yesterday morning for the bookies that has it available so not really very fast, but indeed if they give Stevi a chance to bounce she will be in the firing line no doubt.

  • Dean F

    Running order bias, update

    Andrea Faustini
    1. 16/16
    2. 3/14
    3. 4/12
    4. 6/11
    5. 9/9
    6. 1/8

    Ben Haenow
    1. 12/16
    2. 5/14
    3. 12/12
    4. 1/11
    5. 5/9
    6. 5/8

    Lauren Platt
    1. 10/16
    2. 4/14
    3. 7/12
    4. 7/11
    5. 3/9
    6. 2/8

    Fleur East
    1. 14/16
    2. 6/14
    3. 9/12
    4. 3/11
    5. 8/9
    6. 8/8

    Stereo Kicks
    1. 8/16
    2. 7/14
    3. 11/12
    4. 10/11
    5. 7/9
    6. 4/8

    Only the Young
    1. 15/16
    2. 13/14
    3. 2/12
    4. 9/11
    5. 4/9
    6. 6/8

    Stevi Ritchie
    1. 9/16
    2. 12/14
    3. 10/12
    4. 11/11
    5. 6/9
    6. 7/8

    Well SK, Fleur, Stevi and OTY’s running order looks more biased by the show. Andrea has had a fair crack as to an extent has Ben though he had a first slot followed by 2 middle running order which isn’t exactly great. Andrea will also get nuked now in running order no doubt. Lauren with the worst running order so far taking into account her last 2 weeks.

    Would not be out the realms of possibility to see another final 4 acts of the weekend go to Stevi, SK, Fleur, OTY in that order with Lauren or Ben on first and Andrea 2nd or 3rd. Especially if they are aiming for a Lauren B2. Can they be this blatant though? Well yes they can, see Devlin, Janet.

    Its not really been said but OTY have had good running order except in week 3 where they ended in the B2. Possible that an early slot for 1 of the groups could see them hit B2 this weekend, would be interesting to see if they do aim for Lauren and a group.

    Still my personal opinion is Stevi’s time is up. He does not really have a fanbase to ensure he bounces and the fun side of his act seems dead. If TPTB feel it is time, they can get rid of Stevi this weekend, once again probably in a B2 with a group and if they can somehow justify a Stevi save over Lauren, I would really like to know how? Louis would have to be the fall guy, but this is a man who just saved Jay over Stevi. How would they possibly make this work without being a blatant manipulation which is why they are losing so many to ratings as it is?

    • Jessica Hamby

      I thikn you’re complicating it too much. It’s clear that the b2 bounce is not a major factor this year with out tptb help.

      Stevi / Lauren b2 this week. Stevi out. Lauren b2 next week (with ? – I’d say Ben) and Lauren out. Andrea / Ben b2 in the semi, Andrea goes on deadlock.

      Houston we are all systems go.

      • Dean

        Can’t say this when only Jay has not bounced. Steph aswell but week 1 and 2 this can happen to those without a fanbase

      • David Cook

        I think it would require massive manipulation by TPTB to get this result – OTY, SK and Fleur all to finish above Andrea and Ben in a vote and without the aid of a B2 bounce. I just can’t see it happening – but as ever I could be wrong.
        To get anywhere near I think they would need to get 1 act B2 next week and hope they bounce into the final, and get another B2 in the semi with a sing off into the final.

        • Jessica Hamby

          David, no one’s offering odds on a top 3.

          But I can’t be arsed to argue wtih you about it anymore. You don’t think it’s worth a tenner (or even £30 to cover all possible combinations of a Fleur / Sk / OTY top two), fine . Me, I don’t mind if I lose it. That’s why it’s called a punt.

        • Jessica Hamby

          And I disagree about b2ing anyone to achieve such a 1/2. All they have to do is deramp the others. People who have free votes and are watching the show will use them. If they don’t go to the “wrong” people then they’ll go to somebody else. Deramping is a powerful tactic when voring is free and there are only a few contestants left.

  • Heisenberg

    Nice Twitter exchange between Stevi and Dermot today:

    http://goo.gl/9V85bf

  • A little weird in the betting this afternoon with Lauren being heavily backed to be eliminated this weekend AND also being heavily backed to WIN the whole thing???

  • Oty should have been sent packing the second they finished performing the worst ever sing off performance I’ve ever seen. Although having said that I’d like to see them out last sk

  • Jessica Hamby

    Did anyone get the 250/1 on SK and OTY in the top two?

    It’s now been suspended. Only available at Ladbrokes. Proba ly back later at differrnt price.:(

    Oh well, at least I got a few quid on.

    • I seriously don’t think I’d take that punt at 1000/1. Although if they do a semi final sing off like last year they could almost make it happen themself as long as they don’t end up in the bottom2 together

  • Jessica Hamby

    I agree it’s not worth a huge punt but £20 out of my current pool is insignificsnt and potentially returns £5k.

    Given that OTY and SK are two of the three acts tptb seem to be favouring most at the moment it seems like a sensible cover. Lose and I won’t really miss the £20. Win and I take £5k. And does it beat Richard Betsfactors call on Little Mix? I’d like that.

    If it comes in you’ll all have to call me Queen Jessica for a day and I want my own icon.

    • Donald

      I been at those combos also but with Ben in the last two with a group. There is value and one of the few value fun small stakes bets left for decent return.

      Few of us on here were well on Little Mix at big prices here also that year early in the lives just before the price dropped and having lived through that with money down wouldn’t rule anything out happening yet. But because we were on at decent price and with money down it was easy to keep covered and trade to keep stake covered. I wouldn’t have given either group a prayer two weeks ago but with the way TPTB have managed so far I am at least now beginning to reconsider as a possibility.

      This is a crunch weekend song choice VT and running order etc.

      Part of me thinks that while they have a chance of getting the groups or a group to the final anyone else is more than fair game for home time and the only one who seems to be avoiding that is Ben.

      My book was built Lauren and Ben led at decent prices against Andrea with Louis as top judge.

      The big immediate possible payday is nailing when Stevie goes but one has to be careful until absolutely sure he going. It is imminent but which week not sure yet. He is a handy save for a group so not so sure he goes just yet.

      Louis would save Stevie v Lauren and not bat an eyelid. The show needs you Stevie. National uproar again and loads of press.

      This is the weekend some clarity should appear. Anything can happen yet, bookies favourites or not.

      • Jessica Hamby

        I think Stereo Kicks is plan A. It’s interesting to take a look back at the predictions thread and see how many of us put them in the top 2.

        Last week was much better for them and if they kep improving they have every chance of achieving that.

  • Caro

    Thank you Andrew for an article about ‘the journey’ because it is something I have been thinking about a lot as a theme. It has clearly been used very effectively over the various series, and I think the producers are able to manipulate acts more effectively (from their point of view) if an act has one.
    I have been intrigued by their treatment of Andrea, and the various facets of his being Italian. I agree that it is more complex than xenophobia: he is being presented as an example of ‘the other’, something different, a bit exotic, a bit strange and a bit comical. His campness is being played up – I am sure a lot of the audience understand the connotations of him consistently being called a ‘bear’….
    Their treatment of him is very entertaining: he is like a joke act, but with talent – almost a new ‘type’. They could have just played it safe and turned him into ‘a young Pavarotti’ and let people get bored that way, but instead they have given him feminine/diva songs – something that seems likely to continue with Whitney.
    The show needs a variety of characters and Andrea has certainly given us a bit of variety this year. The journey is a big part of the show (contrast with Lauren who could have done with one – they can’t even effectively use the ‘and you are only 16’ as she doesn’t even seem particularly vulnerable or young).
    Andrea’s popularity may have made made his journey more extreme if the producers were having difficulty deramping him, and so they just use the material they have – he is not British, he is camp and he looks like a bear.

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