X Factor 2014: Fleur’s Journey – from Nightclub Singer to Uptown Girl

Something changed at judges’ houses. Until then, everything about Fleur’s treatment said “cannon fodder”. Since then, the show’s producers have pushed her determinedly, all the way into pole position for the final weekend – literally pole position, in the case of the battle buses lined up at the end of Sunday’s results show.

my-fleur-lady

[Illustration courtesy of Sofabet commenter Heisenberg]

So what changed? Simon Cowell must be a busy man, and it’s always interesting to wonder how much he delegates and at what stage he seriously engages attention. Our best guess is that producers sent Fleur to Simon’s judges’ houses as the intended disposable over, and Simon surprised them by taking a liking to her and instructing them to push her instead. The decision not to have a disposable over has come at quite a cost for the rest of the series.

Producers went into the lives with two disposable groups (Blonde Electra and Overload Generation), whom they eased out in the first week, and one disposable girl (Steph Nala), despatched on the second Saturday. Without a disposable over, they were then relying on getting their most disposable boy into range. However, that was Jake Quickenden – likeable, good-looking and afforded plenty of tearful audition screentime. It took them another week to drag him down. And so they ended up with a week 2 singoff they didn’t want: Chloe-Jasmine and Stereo Kicks.

Had they had a disposable over to target early, too – a Lorna Simpson, a Sami Brookes – that might not have happened. Chloe-Jasmine could have been saved to last a few more weeks, and Stereo Kicks might have avoided being tarnished by an early singoff.

It wasn’t until halfway through the competition that one of the overs, Jay, was put on the disposable list. That’s a remarkable situation for one of traditionally the weakest categories – indeed, the last time it happened was the last time Simon mentored them, in 2009. Having decided to throw their weight behind Fleur, why did TPTB not continue in the lives the hatchet job on Jay that they’d started at judges houses? Alternatively, why did they not ditch one of Ben or Jay, and let Helen Fulthorpe or Lizzy Pattison play the disposable over? It’s a puzzle.

But back to Fleur. She had, let us recall, not been shown at all at the room auditions. It’s worth reminding yourself of how deeply unpromising was her treatment in the arenas and bootcamp performances: the brevity of screentime they were afforded; the edgy styling and provocative moves; the cursory nature of the yeses from judges, after they’d joked about Simon’s undone shirt rather than made a point of telling us how brilliant Fleur was. According to our theory, Simon’s attention was not fully enaged at this point – we suspect that audition filming of acts not intended to be around for the long haul simply involves the judges following producers’ cues on their cribsheets.

fleur-nightclub

Most telling is how Fleur is tagged onscreen as a “nightclub singer”. While we’re not familiar with Fleur’s employment history, there must have been plenty of other ways they could have chosen to describe her to set up an ordinary working girl backstory. It’s hard to believe they would have chosen something that sounds like a euphemism for stripper had it crossed their minds that she might win it.

And then, at judges’ houses, the 180-degree about turn. Her positive treatment continued into week 1 of the lives with ‘All About That Bass’ keeping the impressively flat abs on display but toning down the sexuality of styling and moves from the audition stages, so as not to put off Middle England. After that, and with Fleur’s odds in the region of 28/1, Sofabet commenter stoney made the call of the season, writing: “Backed fluer today for the win. Straight on the nose. The underdog who grows week by week and takes the crown.”

Fleur’s week 2 ‘It’s a Shame’ saw her hit the headlines with Mel’s “cheating” row over the backing track, which was paid off after week 3’s ‘Lady Marmalade’ as she said she’d been proved wrong about Fleur’s vocals. In truth, though, throughout the competition Fleur’s vocals have been neither more nor less than adequate – it’s her genuinely stellar performance skills that set her apart.

And that’s one reason why many punters – including, to our regret, ourselves – remained sceptical for too long about the level of Fleur’s ceiling in the competition as her odds steadily contracted: if there’s one thing most X Factor winners have traditionally been able to do, it’s belt out the glory notes.

Another reason for our misplaced early scepticism is that the X Factor voting public have traditionally seemed to prefer their female soloists portrayed as in need of external validation as they go on the fabled Journey To Self-Belief, from starting points ranging from the ditsy (Stacey Solomon, Alexandra Burke) to the demure (Rebecca Ferguson, Leona Lewis) to the downtrodden (Sam Bailey, Mary Byrne). That’s not a journey Fleur has needed to go on, having always come across as a strong and self-possessed go-getter who needs nobody’s validation.

Week 4 was when it first looked like Fleur was being set up for a moment, with the recreation of the ‘Thriller’ video. But while she did it well, by common consent it wasn’t quite an unequivocal gamechanger. The same applies to week 5’s ‘Will You Be There’. Producers kept pushing: week 6 is when we started to notice the VTbomb trend, with Fleur popping up suspiciously often in other acts’ VTs – notably as Lauren’s de facto big sister – and she was given the pimp slot to reprise ‘Bang Bang’, her judges’ houses turning point.

The ramping continued in week 7 with ‘I’m Every Woman’, which saw her joined on stage by her sister and mother and becoming favourite in the betting for the first time. By now it was clear that she enjoyed producer backing of Little Mix proportions; week 7 was the first time Little Mix topped the vote, and it will be intriguing to see – when the statistics are released after the final – whether the same was true for Fleur.

But then, in week 8, producers oddly seemed to take their foot off the gas. Neither ‘A Fool In Love’ nor ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ showed her off at her best; comments were dialled down, and speculation was rife that she might have been the act Dermot mentioned escaped the singoff by only 800 votes. We’ll find out from the statistics, which should enable us to reverse-engineer what producers were thinking: was Fleur’s vote strong enough by week 7 for them to ease up on the pimping, or weak enough that they’d resigned themselves to the possibility of a singoff save and James Arthur-esque bounce to the final?

Fleur ceded favouritism to Ben after her weaker week 8, but swung back to the head of the market after week 9 saw a return to full-on ramping. The VTbombs were back: most amusingly, while we got to see both Fleur and Ben enjoying Christmas cheer in person with their respective families, poor Lauren had to make do with Fleur delivering a letter from her grandparents.

More importantly, Fleur finally had her moment. It had looked like a hail mary pass on the part of producers, with Fleur being given a song that hadn’t been released yet, ‘Uptown Funk’; speculation in the Sofabet comments beforehand had been that most viewers’ unfamiliarity with the song, together with its lack of a memorable vocal, could limit her potential to connect. However, Fleur nailed the performance, and afterwards the talk in the comments was about how it had, ingeniously, enabled her to look more like a Sunday guest star introducing a new song rather than a Saturday contestant covering a known one – a theme the judges made explicit in their comments.

In five of the six years for which the X Factor has released voting figures, the winner of the semi final vote has gone on to win the final; the exception is Alexandra, who lost out to JLS in the semi but overtook them again with the help of a Beyonce duet. That kind of favour won’t be bestowed on any of Fleur’s rivals – so if you believe her storming performance on iTunes and YouTube at the weekend was reflective of the vote, it should be straightforward for producers to get her over the line from here.

What nobody can doubt is the ferocity of producers’ desire for Fleur to win. In that sense, the closing vignette of Sunday’s results show must rank as one of the most hilariously shameless pieces of unsubtle voter steerage in the show’s history, as Dermot led the acts outside to show them three battle buses in which they would tour the country – but the only one we got to see from the side was the one with VOTE FLEUR EAST emblazoned on it. We saw Ben get into the second bus and Andrea into the third; as Fleur’s bus pulled away Dermot slapped the message on the side, and turned so the camera would follow the departing Fleur bus rather than give us a view of the others.

bus-02

The funniest moment came as Ben joshed with Fleur in front of her giant picture and the VOTE FLEUR EAST message. “There are two more buses for you two”, Dermot informed Ben and Andrea. “Are there?” Ben asked, looking genuinely surprised.

One of our stock phrases on Sofabet is that acts producers want rid of get “thrown under the bus”. We’ve used that plenty this season as Fleur’s rivals have fallen by the wayside, and we were hugely entertained that producers decided to show us the actual bus. Do you expect Ben to be under it on Saturday night? Do share your take on Fleur’s journey below.

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133 comments to X Factor 2014: Fleur’s Journey – from Nightclub Singer to Uptown Girl

  • Ben

    I’m only a casual X factor punter, so when speaking to a friend before the live shows started about the contestants he gave me a quick run down of each runner. When we got to Fleur he said “you might know this one, she’s done some drum and bass stuff”. Needless to say i did. She’s got a song on DJ Fresh’s album and also toured with his live show at some pretty major festivals (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRrp3-Kma9s&spfreload=10).

    I often look back at bets i did or didn’t place and think what could of been. Upon reflection 50/1 for an accomplished singer with vast amounts of stage experience in-front of the biggest crowds the UK can put together was far too big a price. Alas, i got on at 7/1, i really should of been on at 50’s.

    Absolutely no mention was made of Fleurs achievements to date, where as it was randomly mentioned Jay James was a failed artist by Simon one week.

    “Nightclub singer”.

  • Stu

    Great review! I don’t think she was necessarily set up as the Plan A straight after her Judges Houses performance. I think she was just getting recognised by Simon and the producers. I think originally Jay was the Alpha Over but then Ben blew every Over out of the water during Bootcamp, therefore dethroning Jay as Alpha Over and then Fleur last-minute leap-frogged Jay as Beta Over during judges houses. I think it was after Fleur proved herself not to be a fluke during week 1 which made her “the chosen one”. Fleur is the type of act that shines best when she has a big stage, big production and a big show. The earlier stages of the competition were never going to do her justice because she’d have to rely on her voice mainly. Look at her moves during her arena audition – they look slightly ridiculous since there was no production. If she wins this weekend, it’d be a truly remarkable result. She always needed to get to the live shows in order to prove herself but she probably just narrowly scraped it through to judges houses.

  • EM

    Ok here’s one for you…

    I can confirm your thought that at room and arena auditions the judges are (mainly) following the pre-production decisions – send this one through they have potential, they’ve got a dead grandad, will be funny, will cry lots when you reject them later etc

    And you must presume there are some that are sent through because they’ve been scouted (or connections) like Jay, Only The Young and Fleur? You’d assume that given both her work with DJ Fresh and her previous on X Factor (mentored by Simon and dumped by Louis) would mean she wouldn’t arrive unnoticed or unannounced for her room audition.

    So is it possible she did the room audition which was recorded with full mention of her past appearance but they declined to show it because they didn’t want to make mention of her prior form on the show? Either cos it looks like favouritism or she gets the reject tag? Instead she was given brief edits and allowed to sail almost unnoticed into the live shows…

    • Dean F

      The potential problem with this though is a tarnish B2 appearance early on as you have less of a fanbase to start, but she was actually popular on forums etc. from that JH moment so it may have been part of the plan to make it seem like she came from nowhere due to that performance

  • Heisenberg

    Great article! The Battle Bus(es) were hilarious, certainly the laugh-out-loud highlight for me. Unabashed genius.

    Also, I’m pleased to report a small piece of Twitter interaction with TPTB – it’s good to know they’re seeing the funny side!

    http://goo.gl/zGurpo

    • Dean F

      I followed you lol

      They definitely read this and I am sure do those things just for a laugh at sofa bets expense yet also great subliminal stuff there

    • Dean F

      Reading Mark Sidaway’s Twitter he is not even remotely unbiased with his pimping of Fleur

      He is hasty to add in his bio that all views are his own not Simon’s or ITV’s hmm

  • Jessica Hamby

    http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2014/dec/08/fleur-east-uptown-funk-performance-x-factor-bruno-mars-mark-ronson

    Also let me say it again. Great call Stoney. I’m hoping she wins too. As long as Ben doesn’t I’m happy too.

    • Dean F

      On the face of it, was a good performance of course but the main reason for its popularity was that it was current but not well known, but also lively of course. Something for XF to look into for future shows

      • Jessica Hamby

        “On the face of it… but…”?

        It sounds like you’re saying that in reality it wasn’t a good performance and the reason it was well received is that it was unknown. The usual opinion is that obscure or unknown songs are a disadvantage to the performer.

        Imo it was the standout performance of the series by a mile. She was given loads of support, true, but none of the others could have done it even with the same level of support.

        • Stu

          True! She was just as favoured during her Thriller and Bang Bang performances but didn’t get the same response she got after Uptown Funk. That should tell us the public genuinely enjoyed it regardless of what the producers wanted them to think.

          • Dean

            Yes more because it is a more current song. Not being funny but how many times has thriller been reprised?

          • Jessica Hamby

            Are you really saying you think her performance was no better than any of the others on the night and that the big thing in her favour was that the song was unreleased and unknown?

          • Dean F

            Well the fact they made every other performance w dirge set it up for that. There is no coicedence they made every performance quite boring or awkward, even Fleur’s first, but followed with what was an upbeat current performance.

            I still prefer a vocal masterclass over a great performance (judging by past winners alot of the public are the same), so for me yes it was a good performance which TPTB have allowed to seem one of the best, but for me it’s not a top 3 ever XF performance. Wouldn’t even be my top 10, but that’s down to taste

            However the reaction, the way producers enabled this performance to shine much brighter than others, that is why Fleur is now fave.

        • I agree that the fact it was unreleased helped. As I’ve said before – and it’s been cited in this article – subliminally it made her look more like a Sunday night guest. A star.

          (On that note, Richard Betsfactor has done an excellent new blog. Worth a read.)

  • Face

    due to the popularity of the Fleur version… the Bruno Mars / Mark Ronson (original) version of Uptown Funk has been brought forward by a over a month… now available to download on iTunes… currently #28

  • EM

    If Ben wins do we all have to return the compliments to Stoney? 😉

  • Tim B

    I’m not saying it means anything yet (or anything at all), but even after the weekend just gone, Ben still has by far the most momentum with Facebook comments. Looking forward to the YouGov poll.

    • Boki

      I’m quite sure the YouGov poll will show Fleur leading, the question is what the margin will be. Last year Saturday was much closer than they predicted.

    • Fleur survived 9 weeks without falling into the B2 with mega-pimping almost every week. Ben survived as far without neutral-to-positive treatment but without significant pimping. That implies to me Ben’s vote has been higher throughout, otherwise they wouldn’t have felt the need to sell Fleur so strongly. But obviously they think they can leapfrog Fleur over Ben in the final and are gunning for that.

  • Caro

    According to the Daily Star she will be singing Uptown Funk with Bruno in the final, so that should seal the deal.

  • Great review. It’s an unashamed pimping not seen since Little Mix in 2011.

    That said, be wary of the “embarrassing situation” that is the Susan Boyle/Diversity factor. There is precedent.

  • Stu

    The YouGov poll is going to be really interesting this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t call the right winner like it has done three out of the last four years though. It’s the most open final in the history of X Factor in my opinion. Fleur is far from having this competition sewn up.

    • It wasn’t too far off in 2011 either: Marcus 31%, Little Mix 28%, so within the margin of error. Of course, this lead was reversed after TPTB employed their dirty pro-Little Mix tactics, like having Marcus sing ‘Hey Ya’, the Reverand Marcus singing ‘Higher and Higher’ and then all alone on the big stage on the Sunday for ‘Last Christmas’ and then LM in the Sunday pimp slot.

  • Stu

    Some online polls (couldn’t find any more):

    Digital Spy:
    Fleur: 57.75%
    Ben: 25.11%
    Andrea: 17.14%

    Digital Spy Forum:
    Fleur: 53.45%
    Ben: 29.74%
    Andrea: 16.81%

    Tellymix:
    Fleur: 43.99%
    Ben: 31.35%
    Andrea: 24.66%

    Radio Times:
    Ben: 40.12%
    Fleur: 38.95%
    Andrea: 20.93%

    They make it look very clear cut that Andrea doesn’t have anywhere near as much popularity as the others do. I’m not sure how accurate these polls were in previous years.

    • Heisenberg

      This poll goes out to 265K Twitter followers each week – even if only a few percent engage, its numbers are still comparable to Tellymix and DS.

      http://goo.gl/S30dOJ

      • What we know is that Andrea polled, at best, third on Sunday. One wonders if deadlock would have been used if Lauren really polled bottom.

        From that and a two B2 appearances at the business end of things vesus none for the other two, I do not believe he can win. If you laid him early on, enjoy the cash.

        I’ve made a mix of brilliant calls and spectacular gaffes this year, but my gut instinct tells me this pimping will backfire and Ben will get over the line – just. I still think it’s in her best interests to come second.

        My mother, who I’ve inducted into the fun this year, immediately called the bus thing though. It’s amazing how many things she’s spotted of her own bat after I started pointing things out to her.

    • Sagand

      They did a poll on This Morning as well
      Ben: 42.32%
      Fleur: 37.58%
      Andrea: 20.1%

      http://www.itv.com/thismorning/showbiz/the-x-factor-semi-final-rylan-clark

  • David

    Fleur is going to Uptown Funk it up again this weekend, but she won’t win, don’t believe me just watch, don’t believe me just watch, DON’T BELIEVE ME JUST WATCH, hey hey HEY COME ON!

  • darylll

    All the hype for fleur reminds me of Leah mcfall on the voice UK she got a song high on iTunes and everyone thought she was going to win but didnt. I know The Voice is a completely different show but I wouldnt be surprised if Ben wins by a small percentage.

  • Curtis

    We can talk about Susan Boyle of Leah McFall all we want – when was the last time that the favourite did not win an X Factor final? A long time ago I would suggest! Neither we nor the producers should be complacent of course, but it really looks like Fleur has this.

  • Stu

    I still believe Ben has this. I think the fact Fleur’s so high on iTunes (and is getting media coverage for it) could work against her. A lot of people probably assume she has it in the bag. Ben isn’t too far behind her on the online polls (in the Radio Times one he is leading) and he fits the criteria of a typical X Factor winner – more so than Fleur.

    Fleur winning the competition depends on how much of the momentum she gained over the weekend she can sustain. Little Mix were pimped ridiculously in the final few weeks of the competition and still won so I don’t think the pimping of Fleur will backfire too much. It’s not comparable to Susan Boyle at all. Susan was getting coverage in America (maybe even being interviewed over there) and getting millions of views on Youtube just after her audition, Fleur’s pimping is more Little Mix and less Susan/Leah.

  • David Cook

    This may just be me being cynical but I am wondering if it was as late as Judges Houses when they decided that Fleur was an act they really wanted to run with.
    Firstly it seems obvious from her background that TPTB were aware of her and that she was probably invited to audition. They were also probably aware that certainly the room auditions, and even boot camp were arenas where Fleur was likely to be poorly perceived. But she still got through – was this on the basis that they knew she could perform much better than this. I agree that showing so little of Fleur would be a risk – but possibly not so much of a risk as having an act that the public perceived to be a poor performer.
    With the benefit of hindsight it certainly seems possible that by the time they went to Judges Houses they had Fleur in mind. I would certainly question the presence of the backing singers, which at the time seemed slightly superfluous. There was only one act whose performance really benefited from the backing singers and that was Fleur. Is it possible that this was actually set up for Fleur to have a breakout performance rather than it just happening.
    At what stage do the judges / categories get decided? To me – and again this is with hindsight – it seems unlikely that Simon decided to lumber himself with a category where Ben, Jay and Stevie were going to be his ‘star’ acts (or Lizzy or Helen for that matter). Ben is almost your default winner – a decent act who fits with the demographics of the viewers – but probably not the sort of act Simon had in mind when he decided to return. It seems more likely that Simon chose the category because it contained an act that he really did want to push.

    • Chris

      Not that cynical. On the youtube of Fleur’s Judges Houses performance, Simon says “This is the first time I remember her.” This, just a few weeks after he himself turfed (the unforgettable) Raign out of a chair at the six seat challenge to put Fleur into it. If Fleur had been given the first seat and just stayed in it, then fair enough, but given that they largely hold the strongest acts back in the 6SC to facilitate swapping “drama”, it’s unlikely that Fleur was genuinely under the radar.

      FWIW, is there any actual evidence that Fleur actually did a room audition?

      • EM

        It might well be that in working out the backstory for the final 16 they thought that Jake and Paul should be lumbered with the returning contestant narrative and Fleur shouldn’t be saddled with that slightly shop soiled feel so some editing was done to take that story away from her

      • Jessica Hamby

        I think the show is scripted before the auditions start, with allowances made in case someone of exceptional interest cokes along. Even Stevie, the mad, macerick joke act, was known to tptb before he went on the show. I think every live act was scouted in some way. Little Prix’s stage invader was wearing an earpiece. The whole shebang is a sham from start to finish. Well done again to Stoney for piercing the veil of bullshit.

        • Chris

          Do you think Fleur actually did a room audition Jess?

          • Phil

            I’m sure we’ll see footage from it next week in either her “here are your best bits” or the winners song video.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Who knows? Probably, just for the form of the thing and in case some newspaper decided to go rogue and ask awkward questions. Far more interesting to me that the musicians at JH all knew Bang Bang so well given it was only just out and hardly a repertoire staple. Tey will have had to learn it specially.

          • Chris

            If it came out in the press that there was no room audition, would it blow the wheels off the battle bus?

          • Marc

            There was a room audition – I believe they showed a very brief clip of it before her arena audition on TV. She was singing Ordinary People by John Legend and it was set up as a ‘Simon is bored’ thing, Cheryl asked if she could dance and she said yes. Cue dancing in the arena. Brilliant.

          • Jack

            Yeah, I agree with Marc; there was definitely a Room Audition. The likes of Steph Nala also had a Room Audition as well.

          • David Cook

            I’ve attached a link to the arena audition which shows the room audition. Make up your own minds – but as Marc says above it sets up perfectly for the arena audition. It gives the impression of someone just being discovered, and doesn’t really taint her with the room audition, because it’s immediately surpassed by arena performance.

          • Chris

            Thanks sleuths, it took me a few extra videos to check that the judges clothes were the same as at least one other audition (Stevie), but that’s put my mind at rest!

          • David Cook

            Do you mean Stevie – the planted joke contestant – Ritchie.

          • Chris

            The very same, but Stevi’s audition was part of the joke and features the milling friends and family watching him from the holding room. I guess they could have cgied Fleur into the audition of someone else (two brief long shots of Fleur and the judges on screen together and only Mel is heard saying Fleur’s name, but the camera is lingering on Cheryl at the time), but if so, it’s good enough to be believable and wouldn’t stick.

        • Jessica Hamby

          Chris

          December 9, 2014 at 12:29 pm

          If it came out in the press that there was no room audition, would it blow the wheels off the battle bus?

          Come on Chris. You know the answers to this stuff, or at least you should by now. In the short term it would make little or no difference at all – at most it would be a nine-day-wonder. In the medium to long term it would chip more of the last shreds of the show’s credibility away.

          The problem you have is that you want to have a set of acts you can predict and control to give you the right sort of mix and storylines and, ulitmately, final and winner, so they are scouted and checked out and chosen well in advance – but you also need the public auditions to give the public a sense of involvment and investment in the show. Without the public belief that they can rock up to an audition and find themselves in the final the show loses a lot of its appeal and becomes no different than the voice.

  • At this point, it would be a disaster for the show if Fleur doesn’t win.

    • EM

      Disaster is a bit strong, sure they seem to want Fleur to win and Ben to come second but they can easily position Andrea as the people’s champion if he wins or Ben as Mr Consistent and go away and create a career for Fleur no matter which position she comes,

      So they’d be mightily disappointed if Ms East doesn’t win but it’s not a disaster.

      I’m thinking now of how they will nuke Ben a bit to get Fleur over the line, song choice for sure, a duet where he looks ordinary and probably lots of journey over tactics, get him saying he’s a winner just getting to the final, maybe even bring his girlfriend back into the mix, lots of static stage work too.

      • Jessica Hamby

        They can do him the same way they did Jay and Paul, only politely. Dress him in black and have him sing in the dark, have a woman dressed in her underwear dance on a plinth in the background distractingly and out of time, as if to a different song, give him the Hitler Marching Through Belgium remix.

        On Fleur, the only other contestants in the last two years (didn’t watch 2012) with the dance skills, experience and stage nous to do what she did on Saturday are Blonde Electric and they were nuked before the lives began. Their best genre was funky r&b too.

    • Cowell won’t be angry, just disappointed. It’s not a disaster if Ben wins. It’s not even a disaster if Andrea wins, but that potentially could be an “embarrasing situation” for Cowell, and because of that I think The General Plan is “doesn’t matter which one wins end of the day because SyCo will pick them both up, but Andrea must be nuked into third at all costs.” I’m still a little surprised they took him to the final over Lauren for that reason.

      • Jessica Hamby

        They want the Fleurs, Tameras and 1Ds to win because it cnfers credibility on the show, not for the acts. Doesn’t really matter either way for the acts.

      • Dean F

        I guess in week 4 if you told me they would take Andrea over Lauren into the final of the XF I would have called you nuts, as they seemed prepared for a full on nuking of Andrea while they were happy for Lauren to steadily jot along, but not win the competition.

        However, as stated by many I think they see Andrea as better TV and put on more of a show, which is more important for Wembley on XF final night, and ratings. The Andrea from Italy thing is also good and could see people from other countries do this more often. Lauren will still get a career in music of some sort, and her age and performance suggested she still needs time, so no point of giving her an even bigger platform to perform on.

        I honestly feel they have had Andrea’s vote under control since week 4 though, that is why he has had a couple of pimp slots, but also deramps along the way to ensure his momentum is completely halted, but that he does eventually get to the XF final (where I have no doubt he will finish 3rd).

        It has to be said that maybe Paul and Jack aside, the show has been rather nice this year. Even some of the funny stuff they have done with Andrea, has been all good humour, as they have also showed to give Andrea necessary pimping when needed (and 2 sing off saves). Remember way back when, even the sofabet team did say Andrea could be bought to the lives as a novelty that can sing, that is how its proven to be. Even Lauren’s subtle deramps, were all rather nice, apart from the ‘boring’ comment, but her treatment has never been overly bad, in fact it has always been rather good when it comes to staging (aside week 6) and nice comments (but lukewarm too). Her only really bad week was week 6 which was when they halted her momentum. Her running order had always been bad, but this was to halt any momentum too as Lauren had a solid fanbase for a long time. So all in all a rather nice show this year, which is surprising given Simon Cowell was back.

        • Jessica Hamby

          Agreed. Apart from Blonde Electric, Overload,Steph Nala, Jake, Jack, Jay and Paul, and as long as you don’t count them destroying Only The Young by deliberately turning them into a children’s band, it’s all been very civilised.

          How could anyone think they’re a bunch of sociopathic bastards who exploit the young, desperate and vulnerable for their own benefit.

  • Dean F

    BTW I know many are saying BM and FE will duet and sing uptown funk but isn’t the duet normally a separate theme and another theme is them singing something have already sung. Of course I guess FE can repeat 2 songs

  • JessikaK

    I think it is interesting that X Factor have allowed (or at least not been able to stop) the Bruno Mars version of Uptown Funk to be released several weeks early and get to number 1 – there’s a good chance that they may have ruined their own chances of an X Factor no. 1 at Xmas by doing that. Perhaps that indicates that Fleur isn’t topping the vote, but Ben is, and they are prepared to sacrifice his no. 1 for hers?

    New to sofabet this year – this is my first post – have really enjoyed all the articles and posts – great insight!

    • EM

      Welcome Jessika – I’d imagine X Factor are powerless to stop Bruno capitalising on the popularity of the song that X Factor has generated and it doesn’t really reflect on what’s happening in the vote.

      If anything Fleur can bask in the glow of giving an established star like Bruno Mars a leg up to a number one hit!

      • Jessica Hamby

        Yeah. It’s a rubbish song and would have flopped without Fleur.

        Still, I suppose he can bask in the glow of having been a little help on her journey to becoming Scowell’s latest cash cow.

        • You reckon? I love it – going to be huge on the dancefloors this Christmas.

          • Jessica Hamby

            I think it’s a great song. I was being sarcastic at EM’s ridiculous conceit that Fleur will be responsible for any success that Bruno Mars has with his own song.

            The reality is that, once again, syco has been a sneak thief and pre-empted the man’s release of his own song. It’s no wonder so many musicians hold them in such low regard.

          • EM

            Jess, I must try harder and not leave too much nuance and subtly in my posts, must remember my audience. Thanks for the reminder, useful.

          • Jessica Hamby

            So you were being sarrky to the new poster (hi Jess).

            I thought you’d be better than that. How silly of me. :p

          • EM

            See even on a second interpretation my intended meaning hasn’t been communicated, I obviously need to make sure my writing is clearer and easier to understand in future. Thanks for pointing that out.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Heh!

            Once you’ve eaten your cake it’s gone luv. You don’t have it any more.

    • Stu

      The X Factor doesn’t need to give its permission for Uptown Funk to be released. If anything Simon probably feels lucky the label let Fleur perform the track despite it not being available to buy at the time. I wouldn’t read anything into its early release in regards to who is topping the vote.

  • Martin

    It is remarkable how things chance over the series. I had Fleur down to finish 15th, out on the first show!

    I’m of the opinion that judges houses was when she peaked Simon’s interest. Her first two performances were, by any standard, below average. If she was slated as a potential winner, why was a performance of “Paper Planes” shown? – it’s not a massively well known song, it allows for little-to-no vocal skill to be shown, the lyrical content is questionable and it’s an awkward mid-tempo. If they had her in their sights at that point, they could have showcased her better at that point after letting her slide by at the first and second stage.

    Although the counter argument of allowing her to bubble under before her “moment” at JH is a strong one – it was a risky strategy. If they truly believed that she was a contender pre-live show she’d have been given more of a story/journey.

    Irrelevent anyway, I think she will run away with it.

  • Stu

    I’ve looked at some more online polls and the general consensus seems to be:

    Fleur: just over 50%
    Ben: just under 30%
    Andrea: around 20%

    It looks like a comfortable lead for Fleur but Ben is leading in a couple of others.

  • tpfkar

    There’s lots I didn’t know here as I missed several pre-live shows. I didn’t know she was a nightclub singer, hadn’t been shown in the room auditions, or had been as suggestive in arena auditions. I’d also put her prior XF appearance to the back of my mind. The producers have done an incredible job suppresing all this – there are millions of more casual viewers than me.

    I agree with JessikaK (welcome!) that Bruno Mars releasing Uptown Funk is a downer on Fleur – as he will destroy her in the charts and show that it’s the song not the singer that made it so popular. I can see the final glossing over this.

    As for her journey, it does seem to be inconsistent. If Simon decided at judges’ houses that Fleur was to have a lead role, then surely there would have been time to edit her a longer audition? We’ll find out when the votes are released but I’m wondering something like:
    -Fleur impressed enough at judges’ houses for them to give each over a couple of weeks of live shows to get some reaction, before deciding who was expendable.
    -Lola went into lives as Plan A, certainly Alpha girl. But was destroyed by Lauren in the votes and didn’t enjoy the live shows. (Have you ever seen as poor a running order as Lauren had for any contestant? They must have been terrified of her. I wonder if Lauren topped one of the first three votes.)
    -Stereo Kicks as Plan B. But they were toxic outside their teen girl demographic (see them laughed at on Gogglebox) and TPTB conceded they’d get slaughtered on vote transfers in the later stages.
    -Fleur comes in as Plan C behind Lola and Stereo Kicks, having done better than expected in the first two/three votes and impressed producers. They decide there’s not much point in establishing a back-story so late in the process, so just feature humble roots in Walthamstow and her family – making a mockery of our attempts to analyze each contestant’s journey.
    -This may have coincideed with Jay James’s “500 miles” pimp slot. I wonder if he didn’t do well enough to look like he could win the thing, and Fleur was then unleashed.

    All speculation – we’ll find out on Sunday.

    My guess is that it is mighty tight and Ben has won “a few” weeks so far, and probably more than Fleur, but producers think the win for Fleur is achievable. They won’t worry about a backlash, unless taking Ben down ruins the final.

    • Stu

      I think the only weeks Fleur topped the vote were week 7 and week 9 – finally enough, at this stage, Little Mix also only topped the vote in week 7 and week 9. Hmmm….

    • Jessica Hamby

      PI can’t believe Lola was ever the real plan A. A show like this involves such a huge investment of time and money that there is no way they would select something as central as the contestants without proper due diligence. Lola was at best a decoy, a pretend plan a for the conspiracy theorists to latch on to. It was clear she was a choker before JH and if any more proof were needed look at the joke of a makeover they gave her. Same dress two weeks in a row in a different colour. Is that how you treat your potential champion? I don’t bloody think so.

      I think this winner was chosen before the public process ever started, and in a way that’s not surprising after last year’s debacle. I think story lines were mapped out and alternative paths prepared for as a risk management strategy. Perhaps if the Little Prix kite had started to fly they might have gone with that but I think Fleur was plan A all along. Last year showed how important experience is, Tamera looked like a novice next to Sam. They weren’t going to have that again.

      As I said, the only act with simlar performance skills and experience to Fleur were nuked in week one, and proper nuked. Noone’s even quite sure what their name is.

      • bixi

        I agree with you Jessica. I also think they perform thorough due diligence before the auditions…and draft the scripts, prepare storylines & “journeys” well in advance. As for the “plan A/B/C” – they probably have several scenarios in place (along with the risk mitigation activities) and then work on them depending on how things go when the live shows start.

        They have wealth of experience from the previous seasons – it would be difficult to imagine that they are not including past learnings into the preparations and “modelings” for the new show…But surely, and as you said in one of the previous comments – they want the likes of SK, 1Ds, Tameras and Fleurs to win the show – for the credibility of the show.

        • Jessica Hamby

          I bet James Arthur and Tamera have forced them to vet contestants properly. You won’t get homophobic tweets or accusations of bullying, shoplifting or anything else from Andrea, Ben or Fleur.

          • bixi

            Agree. It’s much cheaper (and simpler) to invest in proper screenings (background checks, personality assesments…) than damage control. I know this may sound OTT, but it’s not. It’s just (show) business.

          • Sagand

            I assume they did all these thorough checks on the members of Stereo Kicks as well?

          • Jessica Hamby

            Jake will have told them about drug use. Might have held back about ketamine or been tpo out of it to know there were pictures. And once the ketamine came out, so did they. Risk management. Protect the x factor brand and if/ when the band are relaunched next year it’s already out there and forgotten.

          • Sagand

            I was just pointing out that scandals came out about contestants this year, as they did last year and will probably do next year.

            The most likely reason Fleur’s audition wasn’t shown is that her song was ‘Ordinary People’ which was featured prominently on the Voice and they didn’t want to invite the comparison.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Preparing to deal with controversy would only be a small part of x factor dd I think.

            I’m on a phone so not going to do a long post on this but it would involve examining a set of porential finalists to come out with a suitable last 16 (and some reserves) who between them will provide the variety necessary to sustain interest during the live run.

          • bixi

            Again, I agree with Jessica. I am sure they’re not only prepared to deal with controversy, but also welcome it to a certain extent. And, no matter how many checks you perform on someone, there’s no such thing as absolute certainty. Things do fall trough the cracks, for whatever reason, hence there will always be some scandals, controversies etc. But it’s all about the ability to manage the risks and keep the positive benefit:risk balance (for the show).

          • Sagand

            I wasn’t trying to make any larger point than disagreeing with Jessica’s comment “I bet James Arthur and Tamera have forced them to vet contestants properly. ” I doubt vetting has been much different this year than any other as both of you have said controversy to an extent is the life blood of the show.

        • Jessica Hamby

          I don’t know about psych tests but I’m certain they will have done everything they can to make sure plan A isn’t an asshole. James Arthur’s twitter account started to damage the x factor name and Tamera was a lost cause before the lives started because of the bully stories (http://metro.co.uk/2013/09/04/x-factor-favourite-tamera-foster-branded-a-violent-bully-after-attack-on-teenage-girl-emerges-3950248/).

          I think in selecting a plan A they will have done as much as they could to avoid another person like that.

  • Paul

    For me, I think there must have been some acceptance of Fleur earlier than Judge’s Houses, or else why would she get put there in the first place after (a hideous) bootcamp performance over someone like drama-central Raign, or even Janet Grogan (typical judge’s house reject contestant) or Kisela Berice (never shown but adored by the judges in the rooms and arenas and who filled the same sort of slot).

    I think she was always perched to go through, given her background and experience.

    What I am surprised at though is why they didn’t decide to take Lizzy over Jay at judge’s houses, then give Jay a second shot as a wildcard. That leaves you with Lizzy as the disposable over (but attracting some press with her brother), and they could play Jay how they liked (redemption or continue the battering). Simon’s comments to Lizzy were very interesting, especially when after piling on heaps of praise he told her that he was sorry “it didn’t work out THIS TIME.”

    Of course, that causes you to lose Stevie, but they could have added protection to Chloe, and even if they had wanted to have a silly/fun novelty act you had Blonde Electra (who really deserved to make it through the first show and probably would have with some kinder treatment). Get rid of Overload Generation and Steph Nala in week 1, and then you have Lizzy/Jack/Jake to remove on the Saturday and in a sing-off against either Chloe or Blond Electra on the Sunday.

    • David Cook

      Stevie had to be the wild card. Simon couldn’t actually pick him to go through, but he was probably first or second name on this year’s casting list. Way above the likes of Jay and Paul.

    • Jessica Hamby

      I f Fleur is the chosen one then BE have to be nuked. Their best performance was Goldigga, right in Fleur’s sweet spot. Also they potentially have the talent and personality to be a success post show with a different label so nuke them out of sight, make them look idiots, literally take away their name. That way they’ll never compete with Fleur for what is a finite market share.

  • Caro

    Now that they have got an iTunes no 1, and proved that the show is ‘relevant’ (at least according to The Guardian!!!!!!), producers are now in a good position to get high viewing figures for the final.
    I keep hearing/reading in the media that this is the closest XFactor final for years (when it may well not be – we’ll have to wait and see) rather than ‘Fleur’s got it sewn up’ – so this is surely the line that is being spun by the show itself.
    3 capable (very different) singers should translate into lots of votes (= revenue), so I hope they don’t ruin it by nuking Ben.

    And a thought on the free voting app – so far there will be lots of people who have voted without paying, but it does mean that they have psychologically invested and backed their favourite.
    We know how seductive that is… look how many Sofabet commentators lurk in their first year and then start betting in their second…
    So the app may mean that some people will now start voting over and above their free votes in order for their favourite to win. Whether that will be in significant numbers or not I have no idea.

  • Heisenberg

    Ben’s homecoming VT content so far – first up, the local pub performance with brother on guitar:

    http://goo.gl/dQETPw

    Next, the mandatory return to school (Fleur already did this in a recent VT, it’ll be interesting to see what her substitute visit will be – maybe a trip to Bruno Mars’ old classroom?):

    http://goo.gl/5K6Ha3

    But… here comes Ben’s Mum. He surprises her hard at work in the supermarket, freeing her from the shackles of hard labour to climb aboard the Haenow battle bus. This makes me think back to when she visited the house and sobbed at the prospect of ever living in such comfortable surroundings – is the bus ticket a metaphor? Has Ben now done enough to provide for his nearest and dearest? No. Need. To. Vote. Anymore.

    http://goo.gl/u4sE59

    http://goo.gl/PwAWjQ

  • David Cook

    I think Andrea’s got this in the bag. His homecoming is Leicester Square. Last year Sam Bailey’s home coming was Leicester. It’s all in the subliminal messaging.

  • JessikaK

    Just wondering whether anyone thinks that there is a risk that Fleur has peaked too soon and that people are now going off of her because of the perceived favouritism and manipulation? That’s certainly the view amongst my friends and family plus on some of the forums, although perhaps the large majority of viewers won’t know any of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff and just take things on face value?

    Either way, perhaps she is feeling the pressure now, as there is an article saying that she is going to do a ‘death-defying stunt’ in the final: http://www.bestdaily.co.uk/showbiz/news/a615497/fears-for-x-factors-fleur-east-over-death-defying-stunt-for-final.html

    Anyone know what odds are being offered for a contestant dying in the final? Lol…

    • EM

      Goods point – all the superstar and “you’re more like a special guest than a contestant” comments could backfire if people think she’s already a winner or doesn’t need to win to succeed

  • Heisenberg

    Andrea reunites with his Italian family in an Italian restaurant:

    http://goo.gl/LmJjvy

    I saw a photo earlier today showing pizza being delivered to the Faustini battle bus.

    Andrea performs in Leicester Square with a personal appearance by Dermot who’s brief is to prevent Andrea’s wonderfully infectious charm from rearing its cuddly bear-like head – aka affection limitation.

    Stage decoration – tricolore.
    Festive jumper – tricolore.
    Flags – err, tricolore.

    http://goo.gl/kUk7ya

    • JessikaK

      I notice that Ben and Andrea’s performances were announced on the morning that they were taking place, with many fans complaining that it was not enough notice for them to make it. Fleur’s has been announced 24 hours before, giving all her fans time to change their plans and ensure larger crowds, implying more popularity. I can’t believe I never noticed all this manipulation before – it’s so clear once it’s pointed out!

  • Possibly unpopular opinion. I think having Fleur perform with Bruno Mars before votes are cast could be dangerous. Bruno is an amazing performer and could expose her limitations.

    She might end up seeming like a backup dancer in Bruno’s performance. I also don’t know how he’d feel about doing the truncated version Fleur did last week.

  • Face

    i know there has been a lot of commentary on here about how similar this year is to 2011 when Little Mix won…

    and there was even an article asking whether Ben is Marcus from that year… to Fleur’s Little Mix

    now, I didn’t see much of XF 2011 as I was working abroad… for all bar the final 2 weeks… while I have watched majority of this year…

    the key differences to me between 2011 and this year, are that Ben… seems a completely different character and performer to Marcus…

    unlike Marcus, Ben is late 20s, straight, a rocker … with the whole ‘last chance salon, this will change my and my family’s lives’, humble everyman backstory … that (based on previous years) massively appeals to the core XF viewer…

    I wonder… regardless of how much pimping TPTB have given Fleur… and how much of a ready made pop star she is… and how deserving of the crown she may be considered by many… can she overcome all that…

    especially as historically by the final… the show continually bangs the ‘this is a talent show’ drum… and the general XF public have been conditioned to interpret that as ‘biggest and best singer’… and whether you love or loathe them… must would argue that both Andrea and Ben technically trump her there…

    not to forget… the ‘better singer’ beat the ‘marketable performer’ in 2010, 2009, 2008… and I think what helped Little Mix in 2011 and James Arthur in 2012 is that they were a combination of both…

    should make for an interesting final this weekend…

    • Face

      duh… that should read “most would argue that both Andrea and Ben technically trump her there”…

      • Jessica Hamby

        Which is why Ben’s going to be performing the Horst Wessel song in a basque, stockings and suspenders while Andrea’s going to do 2 become 1 in a Ginger Spice wig while standing on his head in a bucket of shit and eating a pug.

        And both will have Maloney’s eyes.

        Seriously Fudd. Do you think they’ll let a little matter like being the best singer get in the way of the winner they want? 😉

  • Martin

    The Bruno Mars song is nothing but a positive today. Fleur has been on every Radio One news bulliten today apologising for “forcing” Mark Ronson to bring forward the release of “Uptown Funk” forward by five weeks thanks to demand after her performance.Whan an inconvinience having a single storm straight to number one must be for everybody involved.

    • EM

      Yeah terrible inconvenience eh?!

      You mean Fleur’s basking in the glow of helping Bruno Mars to number one – who ever would have predicted such a thing 😉

      • Martin

        Well yes, that. I just found it hilarious that the tagline for the story was “X Factor’s Fleur East has issued an apology to Mark Ronson after her performance forced him to bring the release date forward five weeks”…

        • EM

          It is hilarious, it’s just all adds to that winner’s aura – she’s not a Andrea Faustini type contestant being weird and kooky – she’s “helping international mega stars achieve a number one single”.

          Ben and Andrea must be wondering if there’s any point in turning up. Which is my one warning, will people wonder if there’s any need to vote for her?

          • Jessica Hamby

            She’ll probably be in a photoshoot with a couple of cute dogs and a slightly slutty xmas jumper before the end of the week. They’re not going to drop the ball now.

          • Martin

            it depends how many fists are banged on desks. I don’t think the issue of “forgetting to vote” is as strong this year – everbody gets five free votes after all. It could still be a factor though – the VTs and comments should be very vote-pleading heavy for Fleur and not so much Ben and Andrea.

  • Henner

    I feel the producers have got it right having Fleur as plan A. Too many times viewers have seen Ben types win the show, Matt Cardle, Steve Brokstein, Shane Ward, Leon Jackson. Good looking, good voice, humble but haven’t really lasted long in the industry, but if this year the winner is Fleur who can dance as well as sing, has experience and all, it is a risky investment but it could be winner. Ben needs to sing something other than rock to keep those viewers who want their vote to have longlevity, he needs to perform something relevant to the industry that will last! That’s why Fleurs Uptown funk went down so well, it’s so current and fresh. Wise move Mr Cowell. Fleur should be the winner if they continue like this.

  • Stu

    Fleur’s Uptown Funk shooting to #1 on iTunes and accumulating over 1 million views on Youtube already should suggest that she’s got the attention of people who may not even watch X Factor but could watch the final this weekend to see what all the fuss is about. Surely that would go in her favour (unless she underwhelms).

    • uncalquera

      And even if she were to underwhelm, if she is already leading she could win it all provided the attitude of those new casual viewers is “don’t know what the fuss was about, it’s another piece of…” and not “didn’t like it at all and she is being heavily pimped, I’m voting one of the other two”.

      In any case, I’m not sure she can win it without those new voters, because I’m not sure she is really leading the pack. In fact all the fuss about this song (most tellingly, not one, but TWO different pieces in the Guardian in which she is almost called the Saviour of the format) smells of casual-voter bait. (And why could casual voters be needed? Might be because she has not so comfortable a lead, if she is indeed leading.)

      • Jessica Hamby

        I’ve never heard of a brand, product or other commodity that stops promoting when it reaches #1.

        Why would Fleur? That she’s being hammered in the media right now proves nothing except that she’s hot. Noone’s talking about Ben. Tptb don’t control bbc radio. Fleur is who they’re interested in and that can only be good for her.

        I think you’re overcomplicating things.

        • uncalquera

          I have a tendency to overcomplicate things in general and my personal life in particular, but that’s rather offtopic hahaha

          I don’t know, I just suppose that producers have to tread carefully in order to avoid the damage in credibility for a given act if the act is perceived to be overpimped, and they are pushing her so much regardless of these possible consequences that I had to conclude the deal has to be far from done.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Equally she could be a runaway train or an avalanche and the current publicity might be generated by the various media themselves.

  • Stu

    Does the casual viewer really think that Fleur has been incredibly favoured though? Ok us on sofabet do and die hard XF fans on forums do but does the majority of the viewers see it? She been called a cheat by Mel in week 2, Mel said her vocals were compromised in week 4 and Mel also said she struggled with her higher register in week 8 with even some slight criticism from Mel about her AIWFCIY performance not being cool. Then a lot of the guests on X Factor back Ben and Andrea for the win as well as Fleur, Simon said Ben was the stand-out performer in week 8, Andrea has finished the show three times in the past…

    Obviously Fleur was very much favoured last weekend with the feedback from her performance (justified in my opinion) and obviously bus-gate. But beforehand, taking the running order out of the equation which the public don’t really think much about, all of the praise (and criticism) she has received has never seemed unfair – unlike Stereo Kicks for example where sometimes a few members sung completely out of tune but it was never addressed.

    To suggest Fleur is being pimped so much it could backfire is just over-thinking it all. She’s not being pimped anywhere near as much as Susan Boyle or even James Arthur (Tulisa banging the desk not pleading but demanding basically that everyone votes for James). If she doesn’t win, I don’t think it is down to the public protesting against the show’s “clear” favourite. I think it’ll be because a performer rarely can top the singers in the final vote (Olly/Joe, Marcus/Little Mix [Perrie was the best singer, Marcus put on a better show]).

    • Sagand

      I think the risk is not that there will be a backlash against favoritism. As you pointed out the vast majority won’t notice anything. But that expectations are raised so high that she can’t do anything but disappoint.

    • EM

      Stu – inspired by your post I’ve just asked the ordinary X Factor viewers I’m sitting with what they thought about the final, first reply:

      “it’s such a fix that show, they’re obviously making it so that Fleur will win”

      So (small sample size) but now we know!

      • Stu

        Do they believe that because of the Uptown Funk performance or other reasons though?

        • EM

          Not sure what difference it makes but it was an overall point that Fleur is the one they want to win, has loads of experience so isn’t the girl off the streets they portray and gets more help than any of the others.

  • Heisenberg

    The flags. It’s relentless.

    http://goo.gl/c297nD

    • Jessica Hamby

      A photosoot with Mario Balotelli and the message that “Liverpool is behind you” in The Sun on Saturday morning should finish him off nicely.

      Preferably with the Fleur bus somewhere in the background.

    • Caro

      Andrea got lumbered with the worst Spice Girls tribute act ever instead of his mentor. Did you see them?

  • Heisenberg

    Andrea sang Hero at the Royal Albert Hall tonight:

    http://goo.gl/HkTVyf

  • Mark & Bruno already #1 on iTunes. Insane reaction.

  • Heisenberg

    Ben could have an ace up his sleeve, imagine the joyous tears rolling down Nonna Rita’s lovely old round cheeks – I’m getting emotional just thinking about it:

    http://goo.gl/RXtJ89

  • sparkly_roy

    Just seen Fleur doing link segments between shows on MTV with the regular presenter & talking about the final on Sunday, encouraging voting etc. Interesting…..are Ben & Andrea doing this too?

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