Unsurprisingly, the much-hyped girls were first out of the blocks for the six chair challenge last weekend, and those selected have been rewarded with a trip to Los Angeles to perform for mentor Rita Ora. Rather than merely hark back to each successful performance, we thought we’d look forward to judges’ houses by ranking the chances of the remaining six based on coverage so far.
Had we tried this last year, we would’ve been fooled by some of what followed. Jay James went from looking like Plan A for the whole competition to walking wounded in the Overs category, whilst his compatriot Fleur East went from barely-seen also-ran to new best thing. Bearing that in mind, let’s have a go at guessing the lie of the land in producers’ minds before we have any idea what the girls’ LA story will bring.
Suggested Alpha: Louisa Johnson
Current Odds: 5/2 favourite
No surprise here – our most recent article explained why we think Louisa is Plan A for the whole series. She wasn’t given the pimp slot at the six chair challenge, as she had been at the audition stage and the first phase at bootcamp. But the standing ovation from three judges (not to mention the audience and her rivals), cemented her place as the producers’ and bookmakers’ favourite. Rita gushed over mentoring her shortly afterwards on Xtra Factor.
We’ve already mentioned in that previous article a need for producers to develop a back story or sense of “journey” for the Essex lass. Last Sunday, she used the same line we heard at boot camp, about “not fitting in” at school. We could do with more variety in song choice too, beyond the vocally full-on numbers showcased so far, to prove she can add finesse and nuance to power. We would also suggest songs more contemporary and relevant than the likes of ‘And I’m Telling You’ – the only version of which you need to see is the original: here (from 3:12).
Suggested Beta: Kiera Weathers
Current Odds: 6/1
Kiera seems easily the most likely back-up to Louisa in this category. We were encouraged to emotionally invest in her from her arena audition pimp slot with the back story of her mother’s death, a subject returned to with emotional resonance in the six chair challenge. She let her emotions get the better of her vocals for ‘I Will Always Love You’ on Sunday, but it also encouraged viewers to feel her pain.
There’s plenty else going for her, as her current odds indicate. Her journey from Labour Club barmaid to potential stardom has only really been explored away from the main show, on Lorraine and last Sunday’s Xtra Factor. Her St Helens hometown gives her strong regional identity and support (unlike anyone else in the category). She’s offered a wider variety of song choice than Louisa so far. This all gives producers plenty of options.
But she’s not quite been given the total positivity afforded Louisa. Most notably, Simon’s aside that, “I don’t like her voice”, put a dampener on her second boot camp audition. Cowell has otherwise been highly encouraging, so that currently looks like a blip. But it would never have been used against an initial Plan A, like Louisa.
Suggested Gamma: Chloe Paige
Current Odds: 40/1
The most difficult decision was our guess of producers’ third choice in this category, who thus gets a run at the live shows. We think it’s a toss-up between Chloe and Lauren. The latter is a shorter price after her six chair challenge pimp slot last weekend, but Chloe just gets the nod on the basis that she fits the bill of the show’s traditional gamma girl. Think Jade Ellis or Sophie Habibis – an attractive female with an interesting tone to her voice that will find a few fans, but lacks the pizzazz to be a producers’ priority.
Actually, Chloe came across as really funny and smart when interviewed in her home environment on last Sunday’s Xtra Factor. We had initially been introduced to her family, market trader job, and the wit that goes with it in the first weekend of arena auditions. She made a relatively brief appearance during the first phase of boot camp (though it was full of praise), overcame a sore throat during the second phase, before her a cappella version of ‘Amazing Grace’ last Sunday. The latter indicated she might bring something slightly different to the category than Lauren.
Nonetheless, the usual fate of the gamma girl is to be given a half-chance to shine in one of the first two weeks, before being disposed of around week 4 if they don’t take off.
Suggested Delta: Lauren Murray
Current Odds: 28/1
Lauren has had a slightly bigger billing than Chloe throughout the audition process, and it would be no surprise to see her as the third girl in the lives. Bookmakers’ odds suggest it will be so. But producers build up certain contestants to accentuate the heartbreak of a judges’ houses rejection, most memorably with Gamu. It’s also worth speculating that Lauren’s powerful voice has her more obviously stepping onto the territory of Plan A Louisa Johnson, which may count against her.
Lauren’s arena audition back story reminded us of Kerrianne Covell, the most controversial judges’ houses’ rejectee among the girls in 2014. In that first segment of the first audition show, like Kerrianne, she revealed taking a day off work to attend. Since then, Lauren’s journey – like Kerrianne’s – has had viewers rooting for her: she was too nice to ask for more lines in the group boot camp performance; then lost momentum by fluffing her lines in her individual audition. Last Sunday her odds shortened thanks to her pimp slot in the six chair challenge. Who was given the same position last year? You guessed it – Kerrianne Covell.
Suggested Omega: Monica Michael
Current Odds: 66/1
In 2013, that six chair challenge pimp slot was given to Melanie McCabe, which brings us onto Monica Michael. Because as that McCabe link foretells, if there’s one thing even more heartbreaking than a Covell-style build-them-up during auditions to knock-them-down at judges’ houses, it’s the agonising rejection of a returning auditionee. We think Monica Michael will follow the fate of Jade Richards and Melanie McCabe: so near and yet so far – again.
Monica is a big character whose rejection at the six chair challenge was given high profile last year and this time, with Cheryl calling it “her biggest regret”. Like Melanie, Monica has promised this will be her last run at the show if rejected. Her fulsome coverage, against rival Princess Diamond at boot camp, and triumph at the six chair challenge, only sets up the greater tragedy for the Greek-Cypriot north Londoner. Which is ideal in sparking headlines for the brand, just as the live shows approach.
Suggested Zeta: Havva Rebke
Current Odds: 50/1
Havva has received less screentime during the audition process than any of her rivals. And what screentime she’s had indicates she’ll be out of her depth in the live shows. Still, that didn’t stop producers putting through Steph Nala last year, helping to create controversy, and an easily disposable gamma girl. But Steph already had form with Syco, having got to the final of Britain’s Got Talent as part of The Luminites. Havva doesn’t even have that going for her. We don’t totally discount lightning striking twice, but we’d still be very surprised.
Agree or disagree? Let us know your ranking and further thoughts below.