With last week’s quarter-final bringing a few twists – Andrea returning from zero to hero, Lauren being saved over Stereo Kicks – there’s an intriguing amount of uncertainty about this weekend’s events. Crucially, I’ll be waiting for Dermot to confirm whether there’s a repeat of the 2013 innovation of a singoff at this final-four stage.
The surprise among the song choice revelations yesterday was Fleur East doing ‘Uptown Funk’, a tune not yet released in the UK. As EM noted in our discussion thread, this feels like a risk – especially as this stage of the competition – though on the plus side, as Stoney pointed out, her uptempo tunes stand out in an otherwise ballad-heavy programme of songs we’ve heard many times before.
Lauren is a shade odds-on in the elimination market after her fourth of five placing last week. At the last four stage, it had been the case that every year since records began (2008), the act polling bottom among the remaining contestants the previous week failed to rise above any rivals – until last year. Luke Friend bounced well above Rough Copy having finished just behind them in week 8, and survived in their singoff duel.
We know that Lauren was behind the third-placed act by only the smallest of margins last week, which means a Luke Friend scenario is not out of the question. If there is a singoff tomorrow, Lauren needs to come in the top two to avoid it, which would overturn the trends. Her song choices of the Girls Aloud version of ‘Stay Another Day’ and ‘Story of My Life’ don’t particularly inspire, but it feels like her fortunes hinge on the treatment of Andrea, second favourite in the elimination market.
I took some of the 11/4 on offer for Andrea to go earlier in the week just because it felt like a pricing error; he is now 7/4. A bottom two appearance in week 7 tells us that producers have already brought the initial public favourite below this weekend’s rivals, before they appeared to work with the grain of the bounce in week 8.
Quite what producers do with him this week is open to question after the gold paint, donut deramp and three pimp slots. Many of our commenters, though not all, are of the opinion that they will want to put the brakes on the momentum of last week’s bounce. That makes sense, though it was surprising that producers helped him out as much as they did last week. His song choices are ‘O Holy Night’ – which was the Christmas song given to runners-up Andy Abrahams and Rhydian in their respective finals – and the far more contemporary ‘Wrecking Ball’, which could go either way.
The consensus seems to be that the most consistently pimped act, Fleur East, was the one who just escaped the bottom two last week, though this is no guarantee it was her. If so, that presents producers with a dilemma. I think they really would like her to win, despite the often better commercial record of placed finishers in the contest. The question is: are the public buying it? No act since tallies started in 2008 has won having finished third at the final five stage – indeed the only eventual winners to be beaten at this point were Little Mix, who were not far behind a bouncing Amelia Lily before returning to the top of the phone vote in the semi-final.
If producers are hoping to get Fleur to the top in this year’s semi, which I would’ve guessed so, the choice of previously-unreleased ‘Uptown Funk’ is a surprising way to go about it. The song won’t be known by the vast majority of the audience, and doesn’t show off a compelling melody nor need for stellar vocals. However, it’s all-round performance that Fleur excels in, and it does at least offer the opportunity of another big, upbeat production. She will also sing ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Tackling Mariah Carey is a challenge, but it is the most popular festive song of the last 20 years.
Ben has a more predictable set of songs, especially once you check out what another rock vocalist, Josh Kracjik, covered in X Factor’s first US season: ‘Hallelujah’ at the semi-final stage and ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ in the final (Ben performed Josh’s other semi-final song, ‘Come Together’, last week). I tend to find predictability more reassuring at this late stage, though production and staging can always make a difference. Ben is the deserving outsider in the elimination market before the show.
At current prices, I don’t have strong views on this week’s elimination betting before we have seen the semi. Having backed Andrea at bigger odds earlier in the week, my current plan is to build a rounded book, reflecting the caution and intrigue producers have instilled in punters after last week. Let us know your continuing thoughts below.