X Factor 2014: Ben’s sausage and Fleur’s chips

Lots of things to say this week in our regular pivot off your conversations in the comments.

1. Is there a Mel B situation?

Donald: “Mel B was certainly off script.” Fudd: “A big question for me: Has Mel B gone rogue or is she still following a script?… The comments towards Fleur especially yesterday were quite de-motivating”. Biffy Beans: “The judges deliberations looked for all the world like a last-second change of plan.” Eurovicious: “Simon’s decision was genuine and Mel B was told to vote for SK so the final decision was left in his hands.”

There were a couple of odd moments with Mel B this weekend. Her comments to Fleur after her second song were not what you would expect for an act being set up for the win – Mel pointed out that Fleur’s voice was “strained in the higher register”, then praised her for “committing” to the song before pointedly limiting her priase with a “for that, well done”.

Then there was the “don’t come to me next” to Dermot in the singoff. What was that about?

Our assumption is that before Sunday’s show, producers must gameplan with judges the likely bottom two combos and decide who’s saving who in each eventuality. Perhaps this time, with the Kicks at the bottom and second-bottom nip-and-tuck, the gameplan for a Lauren-SK singoff was “Simon will decide at the last moment”.

If that’s the case, what Mel was really telling Dermot was something like “look, I’ll save Stereo Kicks if I absolutely have to, but you know I’d rather not if it’s not necessary, so please go to Simon first so I can see what he’s decided”. Dermot – the voice of producers – somewhat testily came back with “I’ve decided to come to you”, which would translate as “you’re damn well doing the dirty work even if it does prove superfluous”.

That’s possibly an interesting insight into the backstage dynamics, something about which there’s a lot of speculation on Sofabet – it would portray Mel as willing to toe the line, but making it clear she’s not happy about it. And if that’s the case, could it suggest that Andrea’s kinder-than-many-expected treatment this weekend was the result of Mel making a fuss backstage and requesting at the very least a dignified exit?

2. So why were the Kicks kicked out?

Arthur: “I think it definitely was the plan for Lauren to leave tonight, but after the quality of the singoff – there was no way for the TPTB to save SK & save even a little bit of face. It would’ve been contemptible even by their standards.” HenryVIII: “Cowell has become responsible in his dotage. Gone are the days when Katie Waissel fell to the ground, said “you know what sod it”, and started laughing, all during her sing-off, and was then saved.”

Unlike many in the comments, we struggle to believe the singoff performance itself saved Lauren. As we saw earlier this series with Stevi and Jay, the judges can still be entertainingly shameless when it suits the overall plan. That said, we can still believe that it was a last-minute decision on Simon’s part to ditch the Kicks over Lauren.

Our guess is that it was based on knowledge of the final vote, and that the thinking went something like this: if the Kicks were a long way adrift at the bottom of the vote, producers may have calculated that they would likely also finish there in the semi and would need another 3:1 save over Andrea. To get them to the final, then, would have involved four singoff saves in all, the last two in a row.

If they have commercial plans for the Kicks, there comes a point where they have to worry about brand damage. Better, arguably, to cut them loose in week 8 with a modicum of dignity than to drag them to the final in a way that risks making them a laughing stock.

It seems plausible to us that at the time the show went on air, the state of the voting will have made it a borderline call whether it would be wise or unwise to save the Kicks, and that was the decision Simon was mulling over.

3. Oh we of excessive faith

Fudd: “The first VT was a mess, I cringed throughout it… The flirting towards one of the mother’s also took them away from their core demographic of teen girls.” Bob: “The SK VT was a particularly sloppy bit of production.” Donald: “SK never really got going properly, struggled through the live shows”.

In tipping Stereo Kicks to win the entire thing before the first live show, we wrote:

Arguably an even bigger worry is how One Direction went backwards during the lives: compare their judges’ houses version of ‘Torn’ (very good) with their grand final rendition of ‘Torn’ (not very good). We’re trusting producers to have got to the bottom of whatever went wrong there

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – for ‘Torn’, read ‘Run’. Actually, on a rewatch, we didn’t think ‘Run’ was that bad – but for some reason the boys looked distraught afterwards, and it was that more than the performance itself that created the sense of disconnect with the judges’ highly positive comments.

Similarly, on a rewatch, we still felt the mums VT was intended to be positive for them. Indeed, after Fleur’s ‘I’m Every Woman’ last week, it felt like an attempt to transfer some of the mature female demographic into the Kicks’ camp this time around. Presumably the tagging of Reece’s mum as a milf, reinforced when Dermot spoke to her in the audience later, was intended to be flattering to this demographic. But in retrospect perhaps it was misjudged.

We certainly struggled to see any evidence on a rewatch of the Saturday show that producers at that stage had any intention other than to favour the Kicks over Lauren. Indeed, it was noticeable in the first round that Lauren was the only act who didn’t get either to meet or to Skype her celebrity song-choosers, instead hearing Little Mix voices over the phone – and what little opportunity that created for Little Mix to bestow a winning aura on Lauren was immediately undercut by Stereo Kicks meeting Tulisa, who directly compared them to Little Mix and ended the VT by telling them to go on and win it.

A couple of things about the Kicks’ treatment on Saturday seemed careless, though. First, the camera angles in the second VT didn’t manage to disguise that there were almost more of Stereo Kicks than there were girls waiting to greet them; indeed, commenter Bob spotted the same girl seen twice in a different outfit. (Still, at least they were present in the flesh and fans of the act; Lauren was somewhat bizarrely taken to the Langham Hotel to talk on Skype to a fan of Cheryl).

Second, why was Cheryl allowed to criticise them for standing in a line after their first song, when the choreography for their second song was going to feature them… standing in a line again?

4. Why the dialling-down of effort on Fleur?

Stoney: “Fleurs treatment puzzled me. Especially off that back of the weekend that took her into hot favourite. Seemed like a definite deramp in there.”

Consider this. Two acts have a VT showing them walking the streets of their hometown with a sibling, and someone yelling support from a car. In Act A’s case, the car driver already knows the act (and his nan), and the rest of the walkabout includes hugs and/or selfies with five other people. In Act B’s case, the car driver has to confirm the act’s identity before offering their good wishes, and the only other person the act interacts with is an elderly priest who needs reminding when the show’s on.

If that’s all you knew, you would say Act A was the favoured act, right? And yet several Sofabet commenters felt that Act A’s (Ben’s) walkabout VT was a negative for him, but nobody in the comments suggested the same about Act B’s (Fleur’s).

Or consider this. Two acts have a VT showing them returning to school – one gets a full assembly of kids waving signs, the other gets just a single class, having apparently slipped unnoticed into the school as we first see them alone on a staircase. Sounds bad for the second act, right? But the first act was Lauren, who ended the show odds-on to leave, and the second act was then-favourite in the outright, Fleur.

What to make of these contrasts? On one level, it simply shows the power of pre-existing narrative, aka confirmation bias – because we are all primed with the frame of reference that producers favour Fleur, we instinctively tend to ignore any negatives that we might immediately pounce on if it featured in the VT of an act we had a prior expectation that producers would be targeting.

We’re not suggesting for a moment that these VTs were actually calculated to damage Fleur. Indeed, our interpretation of Lauren’s school visit was that it was supposed to convey to viewers the idea that Lauren belongs back at school; Cheryl had introduced her with there being a message in ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ (i.e. Lauren is still a child), and Lauren was shown expressing a desire to return.

But it did feel lazy to us that not one but both of Fleur’s VTs were based on her and Keshia aimlessly wandering the drizzly and deserted streets of Walthamstow in the fading grey light of a winter’s day, having been introduced eating a bag of chips on a damp park bench.

fleur-walthamstow

fleur-chipsWe’re surprised that producers didn’t go to more effort to maintain Fleur’s sense of momentum after the week 6 pimp slot and the inspired week 7 family-fest. A similar remark applies to song choice, staging – the first was a bit cabaret, the second too static – and (see above) judges’ comments.

We were also struck, on a rewatch, by another Ben-Fleur contrast. In both cases, Mel’s criticism was followed by a cutaway to a reaction shot of their sibling (plus, in Ben’s case, girlfriend) in the audience. Ben’s brother and girlfriend were giving it the full pantomime performance with both thumbs down, as the crowd booed lustily. Keshia was just seen scowling, as the audience remained relatively quiescent.

There has been much speculation in the comments about Fleur being the act Dermot said finished just 800 votes above Lauren. If that is the case – and it may not be – we can surely expect a return to full-on pimping mode if they want to keep her above Lauren in the semi-final.

5. Fire, suitcases and Ben’s sausage

Regular readers will know that fire is generally accepted as a staging negative, and Ben’s stage and backdrop for his first song was full of it.

ben-fire

There was plenty of raunch on display as Ben was surrounded by dancing girls, two of whom at the back of the stage made sparks fly by masturbating with angle grinders as Ben suggested they “come together, right now, over me”.

When we’ve speculated in the past about why fire seems to have been associated with lower public votes, the best theory we can come up with is that it pushes subliminal buttons of “don’t touch, stay away”. But did it have the same effect here? Context is everything and it seems possible that the fire might simply have fed into the pushing of a subliminal button that said “hot”.

There does seem to be quite the vibe of sexual innuendo over Ben recently. In week 7’s VT, he’d been telling Simon he was trying to be “gentle” with his song, to which Simon replied “don’t be, give it a slap”. In Ben’s second week 8 VT, it may or may not be coincidental that we saw fans testify that he was “hot” and “fit” immediately after we’d been invited to associate him with the idea of a sausage.

ben-sausage

And let’s just pause for a moment to appreciate the line “I’ve got a sausage named after me in Beckenham”. Readers interested in Ben’s sausage might like to know that it contains “red chilli pepper, honey, garlic, coriander, sage and oregano”.

Moving on, the staging for Ben’s second song had him sitting on luggage with his name on.

ben-baggage

Again, at first blush this would appear to be pushing negative buttons subliminally – “bags packed, time to go”. Against that, these were obviously the boxes musicians use to transport their instruments when on tour, so the subliminal buttons being pressed could have been “proper musician”. This would continue a theme from the VT that preceded this staging, in which Ben was shown giving an interview in a radio station, also an image associated with musical stars; and was reinforced by the guitarists and drummer on stage with him.

So while it certainly would be possible to regard either of these as negatives, we’re struggling to get too worked up over them. Do you agree? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

6. Celebrity endorsement watch

At around this stage of the series we always like to see who the celebrity special guests say is their favourite of the remaining acts. We suspect it’s no coincidence that practically everyone asked this question in 2011 said Little Mix, while in 2012 most of them seemed to be fans of James Arthur. We assume that, at the very least, producers will have determined what the answer to this question will be before they allow Dermot to ask it. On Sunday, both Ella and Union J nominated Ben.

7. A transfer of the Italophile vote?

Heisenberg: “what about the sudden appearance of Haenow’s Italian-ness? Andrea’s VT was Italy-light on Saturday (okay, I know he sang Italian) but I was fascinated to see this theme transferred to Ben with the introduction of ‘Nonna Rita’… with Louis Prima’s Angelina / Zooma Zooma playing in the background”. EM: “when they introduced her my jaw dropped, it surely had some significance.”

We also were fascinated that when Ben’s first VT honked the nan klaxon, it turned out to be the nonna klaxon. Nonna is Italian for nan. Did we already know that Ben had Italian heritage? Have producers decided the Italian deramp was so successful for Andrea, they’re going to apply it to Ben? Will next week’s VT see him salivating over a cake at the Italian embassy?

bens-nonna-rita

Or does the deployment of Nonna Rita suggest producers are preparing the ground to transfer the all-important Italophile vote from Andrea to Ben if the former leaves this weekend? Perhaps Andrea’s semi-final VT could feature him flying his nan over from Rome for some bonding with Ben’s nan. Maybe they could have tea? From a three-tier stand. While their respective grandsons get their make-up done.

8. The curse of Mel B’s daughter

EM: “At times like this it’s good to think of others, especially someone who has consistently backed the loser, someone who has declared love in a very public way, been proved foolish, bravely declares a new allegence and has once again been proved wrong. Someone who must now be feeling confused, humiliated and lonely. Pray for Mel B’s daughter.” Fudd: “The three horsemen of The X Factor apocalypse: 1) The Walton-Akister Memorial Makeup-Chair-Next-to-Ben-Haenow of Doom; 2) The Three-Tier Cake Tray of Incipient Surfeit; 3) The support of Mel B’s daughter/s”.

We’ve amused ourselves this season by postulating hexes – the makeup chair, the cake stand – and now we have Mel B’s daughter to add to the list. Mel informed us that her three kids loved Only The Young, and Only The Young departed. Then she noted how the 15 year old was in the audience going wild about Stereo Kicks, and Stereo Kicks departed. Watch out for the endorsement, Andrea!

What else did you spot this week? Do keep the conversation going below.

110 comments to X Factor 2014: Ben’s sausage and Fleur’s chips

  • Dean F

    So will Andrea’s VT this week contain Andrea speaking in Italian to Ben who is sitting beside him, with 5 three tier cake trays beside him and later Mel B’s daughter now firmly backing Andrea?

  • Heisenberg

    “Commenter bob spotted the same girl seen twice in a different outfit”

    I love this! Excellent work bob – here’s the proof as requested:

  • Henry VIII

    I agree with “last-minute decision on Simon’s part to ditch the Kicks over Lauren” but I do think it was a decision based on the sing-off. Mel was instructed to do the dirty, giving Simon (with knowledge of the vote) the power to decide.

    They’ve been de-ramping Lauren the most all series, and ramping SK the most. If it was any closer eg if Lauren’s illness made her mess up the sing-off and SK had impressed then Simon would have sent Lauren home. The opposite transpired and Simon didn’t want to start SK’s career on a negative so did the only credible thing.

    Fleur could be TCO again next week, this week could have been just to show how “fair” they are.

    • Henry VIII

      …. I don’t think they would have saved Lauren just because she thrashed SK in the vote. Even if she did, only us and a tiny amount of viewers will ever get to know or care.

  • bob

    in answer to why the kicks were thrown out I think we may have all missed a trick with this from our preshow bias. Many of us were convinced that it was Lauren who was targetted this week. I wonder if she actually targetted at al to go home but rather just be a b2 save. If they wantedto get rid of her they would have given her the Jay treatment over her illness rather than the sympathy appeal they decided to go for. Agreed her song choices were poor but I saw this more as a deramp then a knives out scenario.
    I also think something happened backstage the weekend before last to piss off Simon. He was asked during sundays show who he felt should leave and him and Dermot had a converstaion along the lines of on saturday he thought no one deserved to go but on the sunday he wanted one act to leave but wouldnt mention details. Perhaps it was some of the SK boys trying to tuck into Betsy or the drugs stories which broke his support from them. If you watch the show and forget everything from the previous weeks you would probably come to the conclusion that SK were the target this week. I also felt that the name the kicks section this week focused on the less prominent members of the band which probably hurt them. When you see an advert for Real Madrid you put Ronaldo and the best known players on the poster and not the peripheral also rans

    • Dean F

      Yeah we have to take this into consideration. Lauren also got the ‘star’ treatment on Saturday also. I felt DYWC was a good song choice, the first one and the whole average production was very meh though.

  • bob

    thanks H. This is probablty my favourite x factor clip of all time now. I just can not understand how a wadrobe change for extras gets past those in charge

    • General Hogbuffer

      I actually wouldn’t read too much into this. If we can take it that these girls are real fans, then I would say the footage of them is simply cobbled together from different days. Still embarrassing, though…

  • Stu

    The one thing I don’t get is why would producers actively want Ben to win? Syco have never done well with acts like him in the past. The only reason I can thinking of for pimping him is because he may be the only one who could stop an Andrea victory. If Andrea does leave this week, would Ben be the most unfavoured finalist? Surely Lauren and Fleur would make better winners than Ben?

    If there’s a bottom two this week, I expect everyone bar Andrea to get pimped to high heavens. Lauren and Ben probably have the most potential (due to pre-lives fanbases) to prevent Andrea from sailing through to the final. Or would producers take a risk and just heavily pimp Fleur and Ben with the possibility of a Lauren vs Fleur bottom two? Producers must know that if Andrea gets into the final, he has more or less won.

    • EM

      There are some really simple reasons why the producers would want Ben to win

      1. They like him and believe they can make money with him, have they really had a winner like him before?

      2. They want Fleur and Lauren to come second or third to launch them without the pressure of the winner tag.

      Not saying either are factual just saying there are solid reasons why Ben might be the chosen one.

      Also Andrea will win if he’s in the final? Really???

      • Stu

        The reason why I think if Andrea is in the final, he’d win is because there are a lot of people who only watch/vote in the final and because Andrea comes across as really likeable and endearing as well as the fact he’s got the most powerful voice. Traditionally the biggest vocalists in the final win – Sam, Joe, Alexandra, Leona, Matt (not exactly powerful but more so than his competition). Also I think a big part of the reason why he was in the bottom two was because there was a lot of complacency amongst his fans. The bottom two appearance would only encourage his fans to vote even more – whereas Fleur and Ben’s fans could easily get complacent since they’ve never landed in the bottom two. Maybe the “he’s more or less won” line was a bit OTT but it’d be a huge risk putting him in the final nevertheless – especially since there aren’t any powerhouses to battle him.

        • EM

          I’d counter by saying the winner is normally whoever the show decides it will be rather than the strongest singer.

          For me Andrea would be a big outsider in the final, given his treatment (so far) and his bottom two appearance shows he doesn’t have a reliable core support (or didn’t at the time).

          I’ve always said Susan Boyle about him. I don’t stand back from that now.

        • Natasha

          Agree with you stu. If he did make the final though they would have to literally chuck him under that bus and hold him down so he doesnt get back up lol

    • Boki

      Why do you think Andrea would win if he gets into final !? With a ‘proper treatment’ he doesn’t stand much chance imo or am I so wrong?

  • Donald

    Mel B indeed and the daughter. Is the daughter in UK or LA? Hilarious. I did hear Mel B is a right handful for TPTB and give me Sharon any day was supposed to have been the word.

    As I said in post last night Mel B in a final with Andrea may well be a real bridge too far for TPTB. She wants to win and is passionate about it, not what TPTB ideally would want at Wembley Arena. But on the other hand if they want to stir up press and rumpus in the press before the final they have their woman.

    No way in the world were they going to give her the actual decision on Sunday night although in fairness to her she made a fair attempt to get the power slot. She was willing to have a go though and by choosing the way she did she really put Simon on the spot and then casually said sorry to Cheryl for good measure to really make her point. S

    Mel B is likable as a judge because while she plays their games and goes along with stuff she does actually say it as it is, especially when off script. There is no doubt she was out to de -ramp Fleur and it would be fun to be fly on the wall in production meeting when and if Mel B told Andrea not going to final this weekend. She got progress last weekend, who is to say she won’t get more and we end up with final of Cheryl, Mel B and Simon with acts in the final for peace in the camp. Makes for better viewing figures also which do come to count for something or do they anymore? They should!!

    So just maybe both of Simons acts slight signs of de-ramps last weekend do stand for something and the knife given to lovely Louis this Sunday after Simon sending home SK this weekend.

    For the reasons above and having had time to think it all through I would advise caution on Andrea going until see the actual show on Saturday. Bookies seem to be generous which always makes me nervous, big difference between value and they seeming generous.

    One of the reasons they may have backed off Fleur is they thought was safe enough and wanted to see traction gained with pimping. VT was odd. Ben staging had all the signs of de-ramp.

    Dominos Pizza do sponsor the X Factor App and have had nothing much on the show yet. Big calzone on Saturday maybe.

    Having mentioned food, in Fleur VT aren’t chips meant to be fattening.

    Same girl different outfit says it all about SK, never got going.

    Hard to call early again this coming weekend.

    Will Mel B be able to continue to fight her way to the final? Now there is food for thought. She certainly looks like not going down without a fight for it.

    It’s a me or you in the final type line to Fleur would be some ball for Dermot to try catch on the hop and no better woman to throw it either based on last weekend,

  • EM

    Daniel and Andrew: another great piece of writing, I have to say I think the quality of write up this season on Sofabet has been the best yet.

    As always I’m full of thoughts! Point by point.

    1. Your thought about a pre-show game plan given to the judges is very probably true. Given that the situation was fluid this weekend it’s highly probable that Mel had to remember one or two possible scenarios for her vote, got flustered, forgot her lines and that’s why she asked to go elsewhere. Let’s face it this is a confident woman who isn’t scared of having an opinion and knowing her own mind suddenly not knowing what to say??

    And agree that the decision wasn’t made on the strength of the sing-off – that has NEVER been the case on this show. It’s a device designed to fool the public into thinking the elimination is based on public vote and talent.

    2. They were awful 😉

    3. Agree with your reading of the Stereo Kicks VT. I think one of the drawbacks of the Sofabet comments is a lot of (how do I say this politely?) “older” people guessing at what age certain acts appeal to (especially the youthful ones) and then second guessing how they think and act. What a 45 year old bloke thinks is naff and obvious will be delightful to a 14 year old (but most 14 year olds aren’t watching and think the show is dull)

    4. One of the things to note about Fleur is that she has a radiance and easy confidence which makes me look like a star no matter what situation she is in. This might mean good things for her in terms of vote because she looks “starry” or a bad thing because she looks good and easy even when sitting on a bench in the rain.

    The vicar thing was curious. The X Factor has no sense of humour about itself. Sure Dermot knocks the judges sometime but on the main show there is never ANYTHING that would damage the brand… nothing exists outside X Factor world as far as the show goes so to have vicar saying “what time is it on?” stood out a mile for me, again not accidental.

    5. Very good spot on making Ben look starry. Very interesting he was the one being shown getting the media attention, I think only Stevi has had the same? Meanwhile the others are Skyping “fans” in the obligatory product placement slot.

    Ps the “the boxes musicians use to transport their instruments when on tour” are called flight cases in da industry 😉

    6-8. I’ve had my thoughts elsewhere.

    • Donald

      They’re not even proper flight cases 🙂

      I had a go at those figures based on few previous years, no real insight.

      funny they showed Ben in a station and never showed OTY or SK at Radio 1. (shows power of Radio 1 listeners for X-Factor votes, about as good as support from Mel B daughter)

      You are right, my nieces have lost that bit of buzz since OTY and Stevie left and if Lauren had gone I doubt if they would tune in again. The only song they liked last week show was Lauren first song and they only really wanted to see Ella on Sunday. They hated what Ben did to Ed song. They don’t really care who wins, One Direction ticket sales advert was THE MOMEMNT of the weekend or should I say mayhem part for my sister again.

      Fleur is a Beyoncé really except for the voice.

      i’ll be around Wembley early part next week… I know where to go, I might make after show Sat but flight not land till 7 ish.

      • EM

        Interestingly I saw vote transference from Stevi to Stereo Kicks at the weekend from the young but a very small focus group.

        On the numbers on the last five stage last year 3rd and 4th were very close as this year but no real insight there other than to say Rough copy did even worse the next week.

  • I still fully believe tptb could make any one of the 4 winners using the last 2 weeks to engineer the outcome. Just hope they see Fleur as the best prospect. Theyd be mad not to I think 🙂

  • nicky14

    I think the Mel B being off script is being over played. they need to show a bit of disagreement between judges and not 100% positivity towards acts or it’s too obvious that judges are on script. They’re trying to portray Mel as the judge who speaks her mind… Which would not work if it was all gushing..

  • Dean F

    OT but talking of acoustic, for me one of my fave ever x factor performances

  • Alan

    Love reading these comments although I’m not so sure that the producers are that worried about controlling everything. Yes I understand they have a vested interest in who stays and who goes but surely some of it must be left to chance.

  • Stu

    Re: VTs, I didn’t find either of Ben’s or Fleur’s remotely negative. Maybe I’m just not a believer in some of theories thrown around here. It wasn’t exactly a “Habibis” situation. I thought Fleur’s VT focusing on her and her sister was actually just reinforcing the notion that Fleur is “every woman” and represents “woman power”. If the ‘confident black female’ not being a popular act theory is true, her hanging out with her sister and having a laugh, hugging children etc softens that persona. The only de-ramping I saw of Fleur was Mel B’s comments and I just think she’s playing dirty to be honest. She’s probably pissed that Andrea was being thrown under the bus last week so she’s got in the driver’s seat this week.

  • Dean F

    Hi my only disagreement with point 2 above is that Stereo Kicks indeed polled better than Andrea last week. They would have a sympathy bounce in week 9 while Andrea would be coming down from a bounce. Every opportunity next week they could engineer an SK save by deadlock against Andrea if this was the case, even if they were a little way off the pace this week.

    Maybe the whole dampening of Lauren has been misinterpreted in one way or another. Maybe TPTB and indeed Simon have changed their mind with her, considering a spirited performance in week 7 from slot 1 and battling through week 8 despite being ill and giving good performances and eventually a tremendous sing off. It may have been a late call, but could any of this influenced what they were thinking with saving Lauren, maybe all along they were planning to save her? I guess we will never really know, but it was a big surprise she stayed,

    All that said, aside from the running order recently, and the boring comment in week 6, most things about Lauren has still been wholly positive. In week 8 she still got starry or glittery staging for DYWC and for Clarity she had stars above her head and a big production, which would have pleased the younger market.

    What we do surely know now is Lauren must be due the pimp slot in week 9? Could she be given a complete game changer? All to be seen…

    I also will add this week would not be surprised if Andrea top the vote as I stated yesterday, but his vote will be surpressed this week for sure and he will probably finish bottom of the vote. I expect the other 3 to have some positives and Andrea to have none, but we misinterpreted week 8, so week 9 is now tougher than at first thought.

  • Bixi

    I don’t live in the UK (but watch UK TV through my provider) and I don’t bet, so I hesitate to post on Sofabet as my comments could never be as valuable/knowledgeable as those of regular contributors. Yet, I read everything on this site (well, everything re: the XF) and really enjoy all the detailed analyses.

    So here are a few thoughts (with a BIG caveat that I am a total outsider and a non-expert in this field):

    1) For a show of this caliber, I couldn’t imagine that they don’t have pre-show game planning…I also suspect that Andrea’s kinder-than-expected treatment might have resulted from Mel B making a fuss backstage. Yes, the judges are paid to play their roles and follow the producers’ instructions, but there must be a line or two in their contracts regarding their “artistic integrity”, “reputation” or something along these lines, which would allow Mel B to challenge certain decisions or request something in return (though it’s difficult to know to which extent). Equally, she seems to be very attached to her acts and to genuinely care about them…so your theory about the reasons for Andrea’s treatment seems plausible to me.

    2/3) Lauren vs. SK: also agree. I don’t know the specifics (missed the sing-off on Sunday), but generally speaking, any/all acts are disposable – it’s the Show that must go on. The voting statistics will soon be in a public domain, so they need to maintain at least some credibility. SK had support from the producers, but the public didn’t play the ball. If they have commercial plans with SK after the XF, then they also had to think about damage limitation. Additionally, they now have time to clean the shop (if/as needed), develop the group, etc.

    4) Interesting analysis of Fleur’s vs. Ben’s VTs…I quite liked Fleur’s VT, but after reading your analysis, I realized that I still have a tendency to favor info that confirms my preconception (= confirmation bias). Dangerous thing in the finance world…and I suspect it can be quite harmful in your world too…If that’s the case, of course.

    5) Ben – who knows? I like your insightful analysis. To me, it looked like they were pushing negative buttons, but it could be that those were the HOT buttons after all!! Generally speaking, he is good looking, he appeals to a wide age-range, decent vocals (he is not Matt Cardle – but does it matter?)…If I am not wrong, Alexandra name-checked Ben on the Xtra Factor, though she was clear that Andrea was her favorite.

    Andrea…. Mamma Mia…I don’t particularly like him, but he is a good singer. Would be interested to know why he chose the XF and not the Voice…(perhaps the XF scouts did a better job…)

    Apologies for the long post (especially from a non-expert in this field…)

    • EM

      Great comments Bixi, and definitely better than anything I could write about a foreign TV show!

      • Bixi

        Oh, I am sure you would be able to write much better comments about foreign TV shows if you watched them as much as I watch the UK shows!

        Another thing – the thing with the sausages in Ben’s VT – it sort of reminded me on the previous finals and the pizzas/cakes baked by the proud home crowd bakers…Not that it means anything – just an observation.

  • Stu

    Rumour has it Fleur is doing Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing). It’s possible that this could be her “Idol” song but Kiesza did a live lounge mash-up of the song along with Sigma’s Nobody to Love (a song Fleur has covered on her Youtube channel) so if the rumour is true, it could be with either theme. Have to say it is an inspired song choice but I don’t know if Mel or Cheryl would like it.

  • EM

    If anyone brings up the iTunes sales stats this weekend please feel free to point them to the fact the best selling performance on iTunes currently is Stereo Kicks’ Run!

    • Stu

      People need to realise that the performance of each act’s iTunes sales is more determined by the song choice rather than it being indicative of an act’s popularity. I believe Fleur polled really well in the vote after her ‘Thriller’ performance but she was one of the lowest on iTunes. I voted for her that week because it was a very strong performance but I didn’t buy her track because (a) her vocal was a off in the first half and (b) it’s not a big “vocal” song that’s worth buying. Notice how every week the ballad performances are the ones that are selling on iTunes.

    • Curtis

      I think the best way to use things like iTunes sales stats, youtube views and whatever, is not to compare the acts to each other, but to compare them to themselves from previous weeks. Stereo Kicks have consistently sold well on iTunes throughout the competition, so the fact that they were first should not have raised any eyebrows.

      Even then it’s not a foolproof way of doing things, but it’s certainly a better way than just expecting the iTunes sales chart to match up to the votes. That shows a pretty basic misunderstanding of demographics.

  • Rickyrick

    I actually didn’t interpret Fleur’s VT to be negative at all. If anything, it felt like a VT from someone who’d actually won, revisiting and taking time out to reflect – it felt very ‘humbling’, in a way. Eating chips on a bench with her sister, meeting her community vicar, it felt very softening rather than undermining.

  • EM

    Hey come seventh on X Factor and you too could be at the event of your dreams https://twitter.com/otyofficial/status/540129728423026688

  • Lauren still favourite for next elim, anyone really think that’s going to come to pass?

    • Heisenberg

      If she receives staging similar to last week, then she’s clearly favoured for the final, this is on a par with anything Sam Bailey ever had:

      http://goo.gl/ONaz0i

    • Donald

      There were only 800 votes in it last weekend. Andrea was helped last weekend. Close affair all round and depends how hard Mel B batting for place in final. Could finish up with Simon loosing an act even for peace in the camp.. Very hard weekend to call. Lauren no value at the minute and Andrea has shortened allot. There is value in the other two though. If Lauren no bounce and no help could happen and has had no pimp slot yet. I still expect Fleur to be given pimp slot though.

  • Heisenberg

    Calling all lip reading experts:

    • Face

      is he not just singing whatever lyric of the song he is up to at that point… probably some part of… ‘come together right now, over me’… or I am being a bit dense as to what you mean?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Wow!!! Shock exit there. He was 18/1.

    Anyone have a taste of that?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Sorry. Wrong thread.

  • Heisenberg

    An interesting semi-final teaser shown during tonight’s I’m a Celeb ad break.

    If you missed it – it went something like this…

    – –

    Simon:

    I think that song may have saved you” followed by Lauren shown nodding in agreement.

    Louis:

    You’re the one to beat in the competition” begins as voiceover with Lauren still onscreen, then cuts to Louis (originally from Ben’s 2nd Saturday performance).

    Female voiceover:

    The final is within reach” spoken over quick shots of Andrea & Fleur.

    Female voiceover:

    Can they hold their nerve?” spoken over Simon looking worried followed by Ben.

    Mel B:

    I could feel that you weren’t enjoying it” edited to look like she is addressing Fleur but originally from Lauren’s 1st Saturday performance.

    Simon:

    Show us – show the audience at home what you’re really capable of” edited to look like he is addressing Lauren but originally from Stereo Kick’s 1st Saturday performance – then cuts to Cheryl applauding.

    – –

    Positive vibe for Lauren, question marks over Ben/Fleur, Andrea the least featured.

  • Just speculating here, but I think Andrea is value in the outright now. I think we might be getting a bit too fixated on Ben and Fleur just because they have a bit of consistent momentum, at least until last weekend.

    To the best of my memory, the articles have only ever suggested Andrea’s reason for an exit would be an end of journey theme by suggesting that he was accepted by the UK. Producers have deramped him some weeks, and massively pimped him in others, and yet he’s only made one rather late B2 appearance. To suggest Andrea’s time on the show is over at this stage with cultural acceptance here seems a bit too anticlimactic now, it’s too late for that, that’s something you use to kill off dead wood in the first half of the lives. No statistics to back this up, just a feeling.

    My point is, Fleur appears to have been deramped last week for various reasons, although I think the bag of chips in Walthamstow could be intended for relatability rather than anything negative. It screams “London girl”.

    Meanwhile Ben is getting repeatedly criticised any time he leaves his rocker pigeonhole, which saddens me because I thought he was at his best in weeks 1-2.

    Given Andrea’s inconsistent treatment, and his undeniable status as still the best singer, is it really implausible that producers have just been experimenting with his appeal, milking him for entertainment value, while retaining confidence in his ability as a vocalist? Something about Andrea’s journey so far feels like he’s been coasting.

    What’s clear is that when Andrea is pimped, it’s very powerful, There’s no reason that can’t suddenly happen again in the final, especially in the larger arena.

    Also, just another theory here, but X Factor does have a reputation for its winners not really going that far in many cases, the runners up tend to make longer lasting careers. Winners tend to be the best singer and most endearing characters. That’s Andrea. No reason Simon can’t milk him for a quick covers album, give Fleur and SK a record deal, Lauren will go off and do her own thing ala Diana Vickers or Ella Henderson, and Andrea will end up at Eurovision for Italy in 2019. 😛

    God, I wrote more than I wanted to there.

  • Alen

    So my question of the week is WHY don’t they want Andrea to win actually?

    Sam Bailey was unmarktable imo too yet she had a great voice and people liked her. They tried to deramp her but it didn’t work. It worked with Andrea but why make the same “mistake” just a year after with casting a powervocalist that isn’t really marktable? If that’s the reason why they don’t want him to win.

    • Martin

      I’ve said it before, I think Andrea is a lot more marketable than many may think, especially more marketable than Ben. Sam Smith has done amazingly well this year and I think Andrea could so something similar to him. Sam has his songwriting to his advantage – so far we’ve seen no artistry to Andrea but if they put him in a similar vein I think Andrea could actually be commercially successful. If they want to make the effort, that is.

  • David Cook

    I’ve pasted a link to a Daily Mail article published shortly after the end of the last series which was the first announcement that free voting would be introduced.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2537651/Simon-Cowell-instate-free-voting-X-Factor-engage-younger-viewers.html
    They said: ‘We believe Sam Bailey would’ve been beaten by Luke Friend, One Direction would’ve beaten Matt Cardle and Olly Murs most certainly would almost certainly have received more votes than Joe McElderry.
    The point of this is that when they introduced free voting the entire point seemed to be to avoid getting winners like Andrea and to get winners like Fleur or Lauren.
    There is a fundamental problem in that just giving free votes won’t engage younger viewers, if they’re not even watching in the first place. The free voting may not be working in the way that they had hoped – but I still think that it tells us that they would prefer to avoid winners like Andrea.

    • Dean F

      I really do not think Andrea can win it. He was in the B2 in week 7 when many did not think it would be that early. yes he blunced in week 8, but mostly with producers help. I believe he did top or come 2nd in the vote last week because of this. Why TPTB chose to help bounce Andrea is another question, and it probably has something to do with Mel B.

      However they surpressed his vote quite easily already and nothing about Andrea strikes me as James Arthur in 2012 when the integrity of the viewers was being questioned to allow contestants like Maloney and Rylan get above James and Ella in the votes. That lead to a huge bounce for James and they continued to push this.

      I am almost certain Andrea this week will be in the bottom two if they choose to have one, mainly through producers help, and will be gone if indeed he is.

      Last 5 to Last 4 acts in the recent past have rarely bounced. However , I do believe this year is much closer than most normal years where 1 or 2 escape away by week 8 in the voting (We could still be lead to believe Ben and Fleur have escaped away, but not so sure). So this year I do expect there to be a chance for Lauren to bounce into the top 2 of the voting, leaving one of the overs and Andrea in the B2. Whatever happens it could be a wide open final this year.

      Since 2010 last to last 4

      2010 – Cher 5th of 5, 4th of 4
      2011 – Misha B 5th of 5, 4th of 4
      2012 – Union J 4th of 5, 4th of 4
      2013 – Luke Friend 4th of 5, 3rd of 4 (saved both times)

      So we should expect! a B2 appearance from Lauren given those stats in normal years, but if you also check their pecentages in the past years they are much further behind the top 3 (aside from Luke Friend who bounced above Rough copy and nearly got to Nick, just 2% off)

      What we know for sure is Lauren was 4th of 5, and just a fraction of a percent off 3rd, and we probably have to believe that the first 2 are not exactly running away either (and my personal belief with nothing to back me up is that Andrea was in the first 2 last week and he will be coming down from a bounce, which Lauren has in her favour)

      Sorry for the long post.

  • Apparently one of the themes has been changed to xmas songs. Not sure who this is most likely to favour.

  • Dean F

    For the first time in ages Brian Friedman’s XF column has nothing about Lauren, which can be a negative. His points bought up.

    1. Just saying he is not surprised as Cheryl that Mel B saved Stereo Kicks as she maybe just wanted them to have another chance (erm yeah)

    2. They still don’t know what the duets will be in the final which is scary as normally they know by now (is this him saying TPTB really are unsure what to do and that the voting is so close they are yet to prepare)

    3. Simon Cowell hated Fleur East performance in rehearsal but they decided to stick with it (surely a negative?)

    4. Louis Walsh took the dancers out of SK performance 30 minutes before showtime so deserved what he got when they left on Sunday

    • Liam

      Regarding the Fleur performance Simon hated, I’d imagine he wouldn’t have a choice if he hated the Tina Turner track, a huge choreographed number, a VT formed around ‘Emili Sande’s song choice’ released to the public earlier than usual song choices and the other was selected with a public vote.

      I’m not sure if it’s negative exactly, but perhaps a revised history for the show. Simon and Fleur watch the performance again and pick up flaws the Audience had pointed out in her next VT?

  • Heisenberg

    What are the odds that the same 4 people would sit in the same seating order on 2 different sofas, on 2 separate occasions?

    I make it 575/1 (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Couch potato coincidence or settee’d up for victory?

    http://goo.gl/QNjvOq

    (And don’t spoil the fun by saying something logical like, “they’re arranged by category.”)

    • Heisenberg

      That would be a 575/1 sofabet, literally.

    • EM

      It’s a height thing and the odds of Chatty Man’s production company arranging people the way ITV would like to too is bigger than 575/1!

    • I believe what you suggest is only 23/1. Happy to explain if required.

    • Heisenberg

      Thanks Mike, I’m no Good Will Hunting but for what it’s worth this was my calculation method:

      Possible outcomes = 24
      Probability of independent event is 1/24

      Probability of both independent events is:
      1/24 x 1/24 = 1/576 or 0.0017 or 0.17% = 587.23/1 odds

      That’s my final answer – but happy to be corrected!

      • Dean F

        Wow I was thinking 575/1 was too high, but that makes sense :/

      • Sagand

        Well they had to sit in an order the first time so the odds are just if they sit in the same order the second time. Which is 1/24 in probability or 23/1 in odds.

        But if you were looking the specific order favourite to least favourite in odds it is 575/1

      • Hi again H. Yes they are independent events, however the question you are asking (I believe) is what is the probability of them sitting down in exactly the same order on the second occasion as the first occasion. IMO you take the first instance as a given (whether this was random or not – it doesn’t matter). Then consider the contestants one at a time for ease of understanding for the second sit: the first person can sit in one of four positions; the second person in one of three remaining positions; the third person in one of two remaining positions. The fourth person has no choice where to sit. So it’s 4x3x2x1 = 24 or 23/1.

        Daniel and Andrew are both Oxbridge graduates so could provide a view!

    • David Cook

      Although the events are theoretically independent in practice you will find that having sat in one position, when people return to the same situation they will try to sit in the same position as they did previously. I read about this, and having done so it’s amazing to note how often this is actually true. I often have to attend meetings for various projects – after the first meeting you normally see that at subsequent meetings people will indeed try and sit in the same chairs or at least in the same order around the table. It’s uncanny. There’s bound to be some proper analysis on this. So if someone offered 23/1 it should be a good bet.

    • Heisenberg

      It should be noted that whereas sofa 1 can accommodate 4 people, sofa 2 is smaller and can seat only 3 people, requiring the 4th person to be positioned on a less comfortable sofa arm. I think this is an important oversight that needs to be factored into the equation.

      I have requested exact sofa dimensions from both ITV and CH4 which should help us to calculate odds of probability to a finer degree of accuracy.

      I would also suggest a dedicated thread for this discussion.

      http://goo.gl/Ari5UR

    • Curtis

      23/1 is the right answer, as many have said. Of course this has the assumption that everyone sits randomly and as that assumption is not nearly true, then the odds are really far slimmer than that!

  • Heisenberg

    If Fleur hits bottom 2 this weekend, is she bulletproof?

  • Stu

    Apparently one of the themes this week is Christmas songs? If it’s true, I’m keen to see who sings Silent Night and who sings Last Christmas. The two songs seem to have been used twice in the past to engineer a contestant to win – Alexandra Burke and Little Mix both performed Silent Night while their competition (JLS and Marcus Collins) performed Last Christmas.

    • Dean F

      Silent Night would suit Lauren down to the ground, but then not 100% sure it would be the right song for her in that people will go back to her being boring again, but she could sing it well.

      What other Xmas songs do we have? I’ve never been a Xmas person myself

      • Stu

        All I Want For Christmas Is You, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, Winter Wonderland, One More Sleep, Fairytale Of New York (this would suit Ben)…

        I wonder if Andrea will get a “Relight My Fire” song choice this week. Maybe he’ll come out singing Jingle Bells…

  • Caro

    Tweet from X-Factor, ostensibly a game, but associating Ben with deadlock:

    ‘Who wants a Follow?! Let’s play #XFactorXmas. We’ll go first

  • Andrea gets wham. I’m calling this now

  • Dean F

    Does anyone know what Cheryl said to Simon when he was making his decision on Sunday?

    Sounded like ‘they are gonna stand in a line’

  • Henry VIII

    [i]”Probability of both independent events is:
    1/24 x 1/24 = 1/576 or 0.0017 or 0.17% = 587.23/1 odds”[/i]

    Good to chat probability. As said above it’s 23/1. But if it was prob of 1 in 576, odds would be 575/1. You need to use more decimal places to convert your way. As many as possible. I always say you can never have enough decimal places.

  • Heisenberg

    Probability of upgrading my calculator tomorrow = 100%

    http://goo.gl/fWOxIJ

  • Dean F

    Does anyone else think they may try get an over out on Sunday night? Or not? Once you get to the SF they can be made marketable after the show anyway, but surely from a TV perspective the final would be better with Mel B, Cheryl and Simon all still involved?

  • Dean F

    One other point. Remember way back at JH it was made clear the lack of ethnic variety on the show. Just 2? Black artists through. Was that to give Fleur a clear market in this sense? Compared to last year where we had Rough Copy, Hannah and Tamera all through to week 6 vying for that share of the vote/market.

    • General Hogbuffer

      That opens a very particular can of worms labelled: ‘black people only vote for black contestants’. I suggest you post this on DigitalSpy and stand well back to watch the fireworks…

      • Dean F

        I apologise for my wording as I didn’t mean it like that, but just meant Fleur was taking that share of the market, the urban kind of edge to it, where as last year there were a few different acts all in that share.

        There certainly was no other similar act as Fleur East on cast this year.

        Urban acts historically have not really proven to go on and win the show though without the need of a few nice ballads thrown in somewhere and perhaps they tried this last week with Fleur (but seemingly failed)

        • Stu

          I actually can see what you mean. I don’t think you’re saying “black people only vote for black people”, I think the point that should be addressed is “some people generally prefer black acts”. This could be down to the stereotypical urban style or the vocals (black and white people have completely different vocals to each other). I’m white but the only acts I’ve properly supported in the show are Leona, Alexandra, Marcus and Fleur.

        • General Hogbuffer

          No Need to apologise, Dean. Like Stu, I was not suggesting that this is what you meant, but merely that this is a dangerous topic that tends to rear its ugly head in places like DS. Whenever a non-white contestant left the show in the past, somebody was sure to start an ‘OMG the British are so racist’ kind of thread.

  • Apropos Ben’s sausage – let the fanfic commence! http://t.co/M7hOHBK282

  • Ben is easing out across the board today. Last xmas???

  • Natasha

    Andrea shortening……………….

  • Natasha

    Andreas Christmas song will delight his demo and IMO he aint going anywhere this weekend……………………….that is of course unless his second song choice is dire which I just can’t see

    I think Fleur could be in trouble though

    • Wearing the andrea blinkers again tash?

      Wrecking ball is car crash for him.

      Fantastic xmas song choice for Fleur

      • Natasha

        Wrecking ball?! Didnt realise the second song choices had been revealed. He weirdly did Chandelier very very well last week so I have no doubt wrecking ball will be equally as good

        He can pull off any vocals so yeh, I don’t think he’ll be leaving this weekend

        Fleur doesn’t have a strong enough vocal for a Mariah song

  • Alen

    All I want for Christmas for Fleur? That’s a really tough song to sing, oh oh 🙁

  • Face

    Semi final song choices revealed…

    Let the analysis commence!

    Andrea Faustini
    O Holy Night by Mariah Carey
    Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus

    Lauren Platt
    Stay Another Day by East 17/Girls Aloud
    Story Of My Life by One Direction

    Ben Haenow
    Please Come Home For Christmas by The Eagles
    Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

    Fleur East
    All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey
    Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson

  • Heisenberg

    Ben singing ‘Hallelujah’ – surely that will fall straight into Mel B’s light and shade trap?

  • Daniel

    New thread has been started to discuss this week’s song choices. Do please continue the discussion there. Many thanks!

  • Wrecking Ball. Brilliant! And look… http://www.itv.com/xfactor/finalists/final-four-song-choice-week-nine – what colour is that on Andrea’s dickie bow?

    Lauren with a 1D song. Could go either way.

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