With the conclusion of the Blind Auditions on Saturday we now know the line-up of acts aiming for a place in the live shows. Ahead of the Battle Rounds which start this weekend we’re taking a look at some of this year’s leading contenders.
The format is similar to last year, with the teams of twelve being reduced by half during the Battle Rounds. Each coach gets two steals to make up a new team of eight. In the Knockouts which follow, each coach will be choosing three acts to take through to the live shows.
This year Ricky seems to have established the strongest team overall. As he says he’s got lots of girls in his team, but it’s a couple of the boys who are out in front.
Leading the field overall is Stevie McCrorie (5/2) who made his appearance in the pimp slot on week one. Stevie’s rendition of Kodaline’s “All I Want” has been one of the really standout performances during the audition rounds. With a favourable VT focusing on his job as a fireman and his young family, Stevie seems to have ticked most of the right boxes for a potential winner.
Another stand out performer in the team was Emmanuel Nwamadi (10/1), all the more so because of the striking difference between his speaking and singing voice. With a beautiful arrangement of Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo” he showed he has great tone, range and skill.
If both seem destined for the live shows that makes competition even tougher for the rest of the team. Autumn Sarif (20/1) was the stand out act in the final round of Blind Auditions this weekend. Singing Katy B’s “Crying For No Reason” she made a tentative start, but got stronger as she grew in confidence. She has the most powerful vocal of the girls on Ricky’s team whilst clips on Youtube show how well she can perform. Hannah Symonds (20/1), who had hit song with band Templecloud, has a distinctive gritty tone. Her audition performing her own song “Powerless” was good, if slightly nervy. Nineteen year old Vikesh Champaneri (33/1) had a strong vocal and great tone and he may give the other two boys a run for their money.
Will seems to have turned for fewer acts this year. It’s been a strategy which has produced mixed results. He has a number of strong acts but he’s also managed to pick up a few weaker ones along the way.
We’ve seen Sheena McHugh (4/1) previously on X Factor in 2013 where she made it through to the six chair challenge. She was criticized for her lack of stage presence, but that certainly wasn’t lacking in her performance of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. It wasn’t a perfect performance, perhaps slightly affected by nerves, but it was still one of the best from the audition rounds.
Esmee Denters (12/1) was a Youtube sensation who went on to get a record deal with Justin Timberlake. Her performance of “Yellow” by Coldplay was strong and confident. She sounds and looks the part, but her vocal seems to lack the distinctive quality which could really make her a contender.
Lucy O’Byrne (16/1) took the unusual approach of singing “Ebbenn Ne Andro Lontana” as she isn’t an opera singer. However she can certainly sing and as she can perform a wide range of styles Lucy may turn out to be one of the dark horses in this year’s competition.
Amongst the boys in Will’s team Jake Shakeshaft (20/1) gave a good performance of “Thinking Out Loud”. He must be impressing people as his is the most viewed of the audition performances on Youtube.
Will’s procrastinating cost him in the end, leaving the last place in his team to the final audition. He duly landed Tina Turner impersonator Andrew Marc – propping up the field at 100/1.
Rita’s plan seems to be to stick with what she knows. That means that she’s turned for the more current sounding acts, sometimes regardless of apparent merit, and mostly avoided anyone else. Again it’s resulted in a rather mixed bag but there are a few very good acts in there.
The bookmakers have placed Clark Carmody (8/1) as Rita’s top act. Whilst his performance of Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” was nice enough it wasn’t entirely convincing. At times it was a bit uneven, so he’ll have to do better to really compete with the top acts. The same could be said for Joe Woolford (20/1) who gave us Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”. Again a generally strong performance was marred by going off pitch in places.
Amongst the girls Liss Jones (16/1) looked and sounded like a readymade pop star as she delivered a professional sounding version of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”. Olivia Lawson (25/1) performed an unusual take on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, although her breathy style may be more of an acquired taste rather than having general appeal. Karis Thomas (20/1) stood out with a great performance of Joss Stone’s “Right To Be Wrong”. Her vocal, with a slight edge to it, was one of the more distinctive from the audition rounds. Not perfect but she looks like she could do well if she can improve through the competition.
As ever Tom has assembled a rather eclectic team.
The bookmakers have Howard Rose (9/1) leading the way. His performance of “My Generation” was confident and probably one of the best technical performances of the audition rounds. If there is a criticism it is perhaps that for a rock song it sounded just a little too smooth and polished.
The same criticism cannot be levelled at Sasha Simone (12/1). Her audition, a mash up of “XO” and “Royals”, was probably as raw as you can get, and she certainly divided opinion. There’s no doubt that she has some talent, but can that be harnessed in the short timescale of the competition?
Irish singer Claudia Rose (12/1) made a big impression with a confident performance of “Love You I Do”. Tom was the only coach to turn for Lara Lee (25/1) despite a great jazzy take on “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.
Sharon Murphy’s VT told us about her time in an orphanage and the racial abuse that she suffered as a child, experiences which had strongly affected her life. She put the emotion into her singing with a touching rendition of “Forever Young”. Of all the audition performances this was the one which seemed to move Tom the most.
That completes the rundown but have the bookmakers got it right? In the previous series no favourite has won, so can Stevie McCrorie break that trend by leading all the way from the first audition? Who is the strongest competition and are there any acts that have crept under the radar? Please add to the debate below.