Influence and the X Factor

After a new judges’ houses format that may need a little more thought, finally we know our final 12, the only significant surprise for punters being the inclusion of Max Stone at the expense of Jennifer Phillips. The Sofabet team is now going into purdah to ponder our traditional pre-lives predictions. White smoke will appear later in the week. Until then, here’s a book review.

influence-main

In the 1980s, psychology professor Robert Cialdini signed himself up for a variety of training courses in sales. He learned the tricks of the trade, analysed them from a psychological perspective, and wrote a book that became a classic – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s a fun read, based on the premise that if you recognise the techniques, you can protect yourself against salespeople using them on you.

Can the book teach us anything about the techniques deployed by the X Factor and similar shows to “sell” certain contestants to the voting public, while steering them away from others? (Hat-tip to commenter zoom for raising the question ages ago.) Influence has seven chapters, and at least five seem to be describing techniques we have observed on the X Factor over the years.

Influence book coverChapter 1. The Contrast Principle

Line up three buckets of water: cold, room temperature, hot. Hold your left hand in the cold one and your right hand in the hot one. Now plunge both hands together into the room temperature one. Notice how your left hand feels much warmer than your right hand, even though they’re in the same bucket?

This is the contrast principle at work – we are hardwired to perceive things not as absolutes but as relative to recent experience. Caldini gives the example of a car salesperson who waits until the price has been negotiated before suggesting a range of add-ons – metallic paint, alloy wheels, go-faster stripes. Having just signed up to pay a five-figure sum for a car, adding another couple of hundred here and there feels negligible in comparison.

The contrast principle is why a slow song after a fast song feels even slower, a fun song after a dirge feels even more fun, and so on. We especially see it at work in the technique of the big-name sandwich – when producers arrange the running order so that a mediocre performance by an act they’re hoping to get eliminated is both preceded and followed by much more memorable performances, helping to make it seem even more mediocre in comparison.

Chapter 2. Reciprocation

We are hardwired to feel obliged to return a favour, and this feeling kicks in even if you didn’t ask for the favour – Cialdini’s examples include the Hare Krishnas foisting “gifts” of flowers or books on passers-by, then asking for donations. We don’t see an obvious application of reciprocation in motivating X Factor votes – the show isn’t in a position to have favoured acts bestow small favours on viewers to create a feeling of obligation to give a vote in return.

Chapter 3. Commitment and Consistency

Purely hypothetically, if you were to be asked to spend three hours collecting money for a cancer charity, do you think you might agree? Quite a lot of people say “yes” to this question, safe in the knowledge that it’s only hypothetical and they won’t actually have to follow through on it. If you simply ask people to spend three hours collecting, the number who agree to do so is much smaller.

Now, imagine you’re asked the first, hypothetical, question – and, a few days later, you’re unexpectedly asked to do it for real. Cialdini relates that when a cancer charity tried this sneaky technique, it resulted in a 700% increase in the number of people who put in the three hours.

This is the principle of commitment and consistency at work: we experience unpleasant cognitive dissonance when we are aware that our actions are in conflict with our beliefs about ourselves. To avoid that cognitive dissonance, we have to alter either our actions or our beliefs. Uncomfortably aware that we have already committed to a view of ourselves as the kind of person who’d agree to collect for charity, we feel the need to act consistently.

The principle of commitment and consistency may be one reason why producers like to front-load the favoured acts into the first audition show: they encourage viewers to emotionally commit to an act at an early stage, making it harder for later auditionees to dislodge those acts from viewers’ affections.

Another possible way in which the show can exploit this principle is to encourage viewers to conceive of themselves as committed fans of a certain act – perhaps by coming up with a name for an act’s fans. Once a viewer has mentally committed to this kind of self-identification, they may feel more compelled to be consistent by voting every week.

Cialdini, incidentally, emphasises that commitment and consistency are a danger for punters – the example with which he opens the chapter is a study which found that racetrack punters who had just placed a bet expressed much higher levels of confidence in their selection than punters who were just about to place a bet. His explanation: doubts are prominent in our minds when weighing up the bet; but once the money is committed, it would risk cognitive dissonance to dwell on the doubts, so we mentally shut them out.

When that study was carried out, bets were effectively irrevocable. It would be interesting to re-do the study among punters on Betfair, which now makes it possible to close down bets in running at any stage – does the awareness of this possibility reduce that feeling of cognitive dissonance and maintain the degree of doubt?

Chapter 4. Social Proof

We tend to see an action as being more appropriate when we observe others doing it. The uses of this principle are myriad – laughter tracks on sitcoms, Comic Relief presenters showing us people giving money, product placement in entertainment shows, and so on.

The X Factor uses this principle in many ways. In the audition stages, for example, there are cutaway shots to both the judges and the audience to suggest to viewers at home how we should be reacting: bored, surprised, enthralled. During performances on the live shows, cutaway shots to the judges have the same purpose.

VTs use the principle, too – in both positive and negative ways. Social proof is why One Direction’s VTs showed them being besieged by screaming fans: these girls love them, you should too.

Social proof is also behind the infamous “Sophie Habibis in an empty pub” VT from 2011. For those who didn’t see it, poor Sophie was filmed in a taxi crossing London for a hometown visit, explaining how she was leaving the X Factor bubble to see how excited everyone is about the show. By the time Sophie enters the pub where she used to work, we’re expecting her to be greeted by a cheering crowd. Instead, she is met by one friend. They are shown chatting, Sophie’s friend assuring her “everyone’s supporting you” as we see others in the half-empty pub ignoring them completely. It was cruel and effective – Sophie left that week. Being shown that nobody else is interested in Sophie Habibis, subconsciously we draw the lesson that we shouldn’t be, either.

Cialdini explains that social proof is most powerful when the people we observe doing the behaviour are people like ourselves. Footage of screaming girls didn’t do a great job of broadening One Direction’s vote appeal sufficiently to enable them to challenge for the win in 2010, but it nicely primed their intended fanbase for their post-show career. And if you want to undermine an act’s repeated survival in the public vote, you can suggest their votes are coming only from a segment of the population that most people don’t identify with – old-age pensioners voting for Chris Maloney, for example.

Chapter 5. Liking

We are more likely to be influenced by people we like. It’s a simple principle, exploited in many ways in everyday life: salespeople try hard to be agreeable; advertisers get popular celebrities to endorse their products.

It’s no coincidence that most X Factor winners are portrayed during their time on the show as likeable and humble. One way you can undermine an act’s appeal to the voting public is by using a VT to suggest that they are arrogant, miserable or difficult to work with.

Endorsements from celebrity guests also use the liking principle, analogously to the rationale for getting celebrities to advertise products. When celebrities pop up in the X Factor audience, it’s usually worth listening out for which act they say they’re supporting – on the assumption that producers will have ascertained what the answer will be before deciding to have the presenter ask them the question live on air. This technique was heavily in evidence in 2011 and 2012, when you could safely predict that the answers to those questions would be “Little Mix” and “James Arthur” respectively.

Chapter 6. Authority

Cialdini uses the famous Milgram experiment as evidence that we tend to allow ourselves to be influenced by figures we perceive as having authority or expertise in their field.

On shows like the X Factor, this is the role of the judging panel. They’re supposed to have the credibility to be able to tell us that the solid performance we just witnessed from an unfavoured act was just barely passable, and that the tuneless screeching we just heard from a favoured act was world class and deserving of an immediate recording contract.

The first bit is easy enough, as pretty much anyone can dial down enthusiasm with some lukewarm praise. It’s the credible hyping of acts that’s difficult: Simon Cowell’s unique genius in the early days of the show was to persuade people that he was a tough-but-fair judge whose praise, being hard won, could be trusted to be genuine.

Chapter 7. Scarcity

Any waiter knows that the way to sell a particular dish is not to wax lyrical about its virtues, but to casually mention that “the chef says we’re almost out of this, so if you want it then you’d better order it now”. We can’t immediately think of any X Factor applications of the scarcity principle.

Are there applications of Cialdini’s ideas that we’ve missed? Do let us know below – and, of course, keep the conversation going about this year’s acts. One request, though – please hold off from posting your 1-12 predictions in the comments for now, as it’ll be easier to calculate bragging rights at the season’s end if we keep all the entries under our own 1-12 article. We’ll post that as soon as possible.

115 comments to Influence and the X Factor

  • Chris

    Nice article – thank you!

    I wonder if the show has veered off track on the authority part by having Grimmy as a judge. Knowing that he didn’t/doesn’t sing, produce or promote music, I’m certainly left feeling that his opinion can happily be ignored (even if I wasn’t watching the show through sofabet tinted spectacles).

    There might be an aspect of scarcity in the appeals for people to vote. Ordering your meal before it runs out has a parallel to vote now or you wont see your favourite act again. In the results show, telling the viewers that the voting is close and the deadline is soon amplifies the “grab it or lose it” motivation.

    • Thanks Chris and everyone for the kind words!

      Had wondered about that scarcity aspect but I guess the difficulty is in framing it as a limited time to vote for a specific act. Just saying “only two minutes of phone lines open to save your favourite act” is as likely to motivate votes for the act you’re looking to get rid of as the one you’re looking to keep safe.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Enjoyable article. Thanks.

    I can’t remember ever having heard a judge say vote for x or they WON’T be here next week but rather vote for x to MAKE SURE they’re here next week. The difference is that the former suggests an act is struggling, the latter says don’t take them for granted.

    More subtle is when they use the opposite and suggest an act has “done enough” and the comments are peppered with assumptions that an act is fine – the implication being that there is no need to vote.

  • eurovicious

    Love this, very good stuff. (“fan’s acts” = “act’s fans”?)

    #5 – poor Misha B’s plummet to bottom of the vote the week after she was branded a bully, followed by her return to 2nd in the vote the week she had a tearful sympathetic VT, radically softened styling and a warm ballad to sing is exemplary of this.

    #6 definitely doesn’t always work on the public when the gulf between what we’ve just heard and what the judges say about it is too wide, as in the case of Lola’s ballsed-up “breakout” performance last year and the overly vicious drubbing of uncool yet competent crowdpleaser Maloney in 2012.

    #3 is really interesting and kind of why I came unstuck back when I was betting large sums. On the other hand, #1, the contrast principle (though I didn’t know it by that name) is why I successfully went again the market and fan opinion in laying Moran Mazor and Axel Hirsoux to qualify in ESC 2013 and 2014 respectively. Each was a visually unappealing and thematically/linguistically inaccessible dirge performed by a non-aspirational figure that immediately followed a fun, appealing and visually well-presented upbeat song by a charismatic performer (Alcohol Is Free and Tick Tock respectively). Toilet break klaxon.

    #4, social proof, is something I’m very averse to, X Factor et al are really blatant in constantly cutting to shots of audience members’ and judges’ faces to cue you on how to feel.

  • David Cook

    Really interesting article.
    Although I think Louisa is the favored act at the moment I certainly don’t think it’s in anyway clear cut. In many ways it’s probably one of the more open years that we’ve seen particularly as there doesn’t seem to be a ‘default’ winner amongst the twelve acts. Whoever wins is probably going to need a good deal of producer help, so it’ll be interesting to see how these techniques are applied. The majority of these techniques result in ‘marginal gains’ – so you have to keep going to obtain a cumulative effect – will we for example see a string of celebrity endorsements for Louisa week in week out.
    It’s also probably fairly clear which acts are being favored and which aren’t, but what might not be so obvious is the reason why. A favored act might be one which they want to win and is doing well, but equally it might be someone struggling who they just want to try keep out of the danger zone. At the other end of the scale are they trying to undermine an act to get them B2, or just trying to hold someone back. In some cases, as with Sophie Habibis, it may well be obvious, but certainly with Andrea last year it was more difficult to judge where he stood in the vote and what they were trying to achieve.

  • I wonder if there has been a tipping point in accepting the judging panel as an expert authority. If they are no longer credible, you can get the voting equivalent of “You’re not the boss of me!”

    • eurovicious

      Apropos of this, is the contrast principle not used within the jury itself, with Louis Walsh (and now Nick Grimshaw) widely seen as not credible and Simon/Gary respected?

      • Jessica Hamby

        There is probably some truth in this but they also use verbal misdirection with apparently meaningless phrases and slip the important stuff in while your mind is still going “what?”.

        Also they are part of the repetition of key messages. From Louis or Grimmy alone it might be disregarded but when repeated by the others, week after week, a message can become accepted wisdom.

  • The maestro

    Chelsea have more chance ov winning the premier league as Louisa has ov winning X factor no like ability whatsoever 9-4is a ridiculas price I’m betting Shaun at 9s and Kiera at 18s with a view in laying them for a healthy profit

  • Jessica Hamby

    What is an x factor match bet and how does it work?

    Can anyone tell me?

    Also, Skybet have a market called Top Woman which only features one act – Bupsi – at 40-1. If she’s the only person in it then surely she has to be top woman even if she goes out first. How does that work? I mean they’re not just going to give you 40-1 on that are they?

    • Match bet is basically a head to head, whoever progresses the furthest in the competition will be deemed the winner.

      Max v Anton for example.

      You back Anton, Max goes this weekend Anton is settled as the winner, and vice versa.

      Skybet have Top Women, they have the 4 women quoted, Kiera/Louisa/Lauren/Bupsi, again whoever progresses the furthest will be settled as the winner.

  • The maestro

    It’s a match say between Louisa and 4th impact whoever goes furthest in completion wins

  • I’m ready for the elimination prediction game…lol…i have mine done already…i’m confident i’m royally wrong…lol…

  • Tim B

    Telly Mix are speculating whether or not there might be a wild card. Simon is quoted as saying they are considering it.

    http://www.tellymix.co.uk/reality-tv/the-x-factor/237307-x-factor-2015-may-have-a-wild-card-act-who-do-you-want-it-to-be.html

  • Stu

    Just looking at the odds for which act will sing last on Saturday – obviously Louisa is favourite but the rest of the acts have decent odds. So I’m wondering – does the Plan A always close the first live show? My memory regarding performance order in previous years is quite poor. I know Leona closed the first live show in 2006, Laura White sang last in 2008, Danyl also did in 2009 and I think Janet might have done in 2011 but that may have been when there wasn’t a public vote…

  • Janet definitely took the opening week pimp slot. If Louisa doesn’t sing last I’ll eat my hat.

  • I’ve called my first elimination, but it looks like everyone else has too if “the exchange” is to be believed.

    • Alan

      Do we know what the plan is in terms of the number of eliminations?

      • Stu

        I don’t think it has been announced but I assume it will go:

        Week 1 – 12 to 10
        Week 2 – 10 to 8
        Week 3 – 8 to 7
        Week 4 – 7 to 6
        Week 5 – 6 to 5
        Week 6 – 5 to 4
        Final – 4 acts

        Having three double eliminations could be disastrous for the producers. Surely it’d be too risky – especially since their favoured acts could be unpredictable with the public’s response to them (Seann, 4th Impact, Louisa, Alien Uncovered). I think a 4 act final gives the producers more chance of securing their chosen one(s) a place in the final week. 2 acts can be cut on the Saturday and then 2 on the Sunday unless their chosen one finishes third in the vote then it’ll be 1 on Saturday then the rest of the results on the Sunday. 😉

        • Chris

          Last year’s 1st live show had 16 contestants and ran for 150 minutes, this year’s 1st live show has (on the face of it) 12 contestants and a running time of 245 minutes (source wikipedia).

          How are they going to fill that time? Previous form and current rumour suggests one/several of :
          – a wildcard reveal
          – a flash vote on the app with a flash result
          – a 5th judge reveal (I still think Louis will return and have acts to mentor).

          I would be surprised if this week is a straightforward “12 acts perform and 1 or 2 leave” job.

          • Jessica Hamby

            This bloated nonsense is the curse of the x factor. I’m a fan of the show. It’s a huge guilty pleasure for me but even I’m sick of all the pointless padding and waffle.

            I think part of the problem is that it has to be seen as a competition between judges so as not to infringe copyright of Popstars (and so have to pay Simon Fuller a ton of money). If you just wanted to run through VTs, performances and judges comments you could do it in under 75 minutes. If you just want performances you can probably do that in less than half an hour.

            I can’t believe the show is going to be more than 4 hours though. That’s just bloody daft. Even I don’t want to watch that. I think whoever wrote that article is making up the 245 minutes. And then with xtra factor on top the whole package will have a running time of over 5 hours. Ridiculous.

          • Chris

            Apologies, typo. 145 minutes.

          • Stu

            I was going to say! 245 seems a bit excessive! I think having a wildcard category would be a disaster. That would mean 16 live finalists being cut down to just 1 over 7 weeks. Maybe they will do a The Voice-style elimination where one act from each category is cut during live show 1?

            That’d mean:

            W1: 12-8
            W2 – 8-7
            W3 – 7-6
            W4 – 6-5
            W5 – 5-4
            W6 – 4-3
            Final – 3 acts

  • Pete

    Which site is offering odds for who sings last on Saturday please?

  • Curtis

    Great article, really interesting topic – something a bit different to what you usually do.

    My take on “scarcity”.- I don’t think it has a completely direct translation to X Factor, but there is one analogy I can think of. When the judges say something along the lines of “Please don’t assume that X will be here next week. Please vote for X!” with the implication that they need your votes. The idea is that X’s time in the competition may be “scarce”, unless you vote for them. Contrast this to when they casually talk about what they’d like to see from acts next week, with the assumption they’re going to get there. This usually happens to disposable acts.

    It’s not quite the same thing, but I think it’s similar because it has the structure “If you’re thinking you want to vote for X, vote for X right now because you might not get the chance later”. Hence scarcity.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Mark Ronson’s criticism of Che was very vague and confused. He seemed to say that Che didn’t sing as high as Gary Neville (yeah, I know) but that he did sing as high as Gary Neville but iconic something something.

    What was he on about?

    Here’s the original track

    http://youtu.be/VuEhsQrSnvo

    • Alan

      If Che continues to sing songs like that he’s got no chance. So ridiculously old fashioned for a teenager. He needs to show that he can sing modern pop songs like Sam Smith or something along those lines. He’s never going to have girls throwing knickers at him but he might stand an outside chance with the right song choices. Be interesting to see what he is given by TPTB.

      • Martin

        I think he pigeonholed himself at his first audition by saying there’s nobody singing “old school soul” anymore. I think it will be used to restrict him, rather than benefit him.

        • Jessica Hamby

          If Mason wasn’t there he could do some more modern r&b but Mason has the look, the style and the presence that Che lacks.

          Unfortunate for him.

  • Tim B

    As much as I’ve enjoyed watching Bupsi throughout the audition process, as nice as she is, as fun as she is and as funny as she is, she is completely and utterly unvotable. She reminds me of a little Lorna Simpson crossed with Shelley Smith from 2013, both of whom were in the week 1 sing off.

    “Having said that”, will she be bottom of the vote, eliminated in the sing off or saved in it? I don’t know.

  • Stu

    In my opinion I can’t see Bupsi picking up many votes. I know it’s not exactly a clear indication of popularity but she’s doing the worst (or at least she was because I haven’t checked recently) in the DS favourite act poll on their website. Her being eliminated depends on who she is in the sing-off with – she’s extremely disposable since there are a lot of acts this year with entertainment value but if she ends up in the bottom two/three with a couple of “undesirables” then she could be saved, with the producers knowing she’ll be a safe bet for elimination the following week which will help protect their favoured acts.

    • Tim B

      If there’s a double elimination, as is fairly likely, bottom of the vote would go without facing the sing off.

      • Stu

        In that case, I think it’d either be R&B or Bupsi – or both.

        • Martin

          Do you think? I think 100% Bupsi will be somewhere in the bottom three, probably last in the voting but I’m expecting Reggie & Bollie to be kept around a few weeks just to brighten things up when things get serious. I can see them going for a “controversial” save and sacrificing one of the singers (probably Max or Keira).

          • Stu

            It depends. If the producers want to give 4th Impact the best chance possible, they’ll need to dispose of at least one group. Little Mix did far better once all of the other groups were out of the competition because it is easier to connect with a group when they’re the only one – same goes for JLS. Being the only group left in the competition automatically gives them a USP: they’re not a group, they’re THE group. I don’t think the producers would want to get rid of Alien so soon which leaves R&B to be thrown under the bus.

    • Jessica Hamby

      It’s a single elimination.

      • Martin

        ooh is this is fact? how do you know?!

        • Jessica Hamby

          I’ve read a few articles today saying 1 person is leaving on Sunday. No mention of Saturday and only 1 on Sunday. Too busy to find links atm.

          • Sagand

            Last year the only weeks they had Saturday performers were double eliminations. Ben Haenow being on Saturday and the length of show the show leads me to believe it will be a double.

          • Jessica Hamby

            That’s a good point. I forgot that. There’s nothing to stop them announcing a “shock” elimination on the night. You’r probably right with that.

  • 360

    This thread on DS about Seann Miley Moore is pretty illuminating – http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2113254 – one thing to not forget, we have no idea how many people and what kind of people are watching X Factor, especially now that it’s not the behemoth it used to be with everybody and their grandmother tuning in.

    Although there’s support there for his alternative style, there’s already vehement disgust from some viewers – and this is before we’ve even got to the live shows. Not to get ahead of myself with the prediction thread coming up, but it’s a reason I can see Seann having more of a Misha/Cher trajectory than a McElderry/Jahmene/Marcus Collins.

    • Alan

      I think it very much depends on how he is portrayed. I think if TPTB push it a little bit too far it could well put some people off. But as Jessica said in her counter argument when I made this point before the British public generally speaking have a good tradition of taking outsiders (for want of a better word) like Seann to heart.

      I do think he would be easy to nobble by the producers though. There’s a fine line between camp and cringe-worthy and it wouldn’t take a lot to push Seann’s staging the wrong side of the line. I think he might get to a position though where they don’t bother to nobble him and at the moment he’s probably my choice as winner.

      • Martin

        I’ve seen that thread – a lot of it seems exaggerated and even made up, but there are still people out there who will be alienated by him. The thing to remember is, it’s the people who like him that will vote, not the people that hate him. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I think he’s a bit too “diva” to win. If I were producing, I’d want him in the final and I’d play up to the individuality, the “inspirational” be who you are message with him and try and humble him up a bit. His accent doesn’t help him, either.

        As you say Alan, there is a fine line and it helps that he can sing and put emotion into his songs like no other contestant does, but for me he’s too divisive and there’s too much to leave in the hands of TPTB to convince me that he’ll go on to win. I’d agree with 360 in that he’ll trouble the bottom two a few times – the contestant he reminds me most of is Kitty.

    • Stu

      Regardless of the public’s attitudes (which will surely be very divisive when it comes to Seann), the producers can pull a “Jesy from Little Mix” and have Seann crying in his VT to Mason (a more macho guy) about the hateful things he has read about himself on social media. Cue an emotional/inspirational song choice to follow the VT up with and the judges all reassuring Seann that it’s okay to be who he is and they could even explicitly dismiss the people who have insulted him post-performance.

      Basically, if there is a backlash towards Seann, I think the producers could utilise that in order to get a major sympathy vote.

    • Jessica Hamby

      Be careful of taking that sort of thing from Digital Spy too seriously 360. People make things up to get attention. Further down the thread the OP says he spat on a vicar who was in the pub abusing Seann. I don’t believe it.

      • Jessica Hamby

        Plus you can’t vote against people, only for them.

        As for “very divisive”: this is showbiz for fecks sake and we live in the country of pantomime dames and Lily Savage. Dame Edna Everage is an institution. Feck off with your imaginary queer-baiting vicar. Of course there will be some haters, but ” very divisive”? Where do you live? 1950?

        It’s early days yet. Please don’t go down the rabbit hole.

        • Martin

          I wouldn’t call it disappearing down the rabbit hole to have doubts about whether Seann will fly with voters. We don’t know what the public response to him is yet – online polls can’t be trusted and personally, I think his treatment has been positive with a few questionable elements. I do think he is fabulous though, probably the only one capable of being a genuine star after the show. I heard him on Radio 1 this morning and he was captivating.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Believing that DS thread is going so far down the rabbit hole you’ll pop up in Darwin.

            In my opinion, obviously.

            Of course there will be some haters. Enough to stop him winning? I don’t think so. As I said, you can’t vote against an act.

            Some people hated Eddie Izzard when he wore a dress. Didn’t hold him back.

            http://youtu.be/Bq03xebtbeU

        • 360

          Didn’t mean to suggest Seann would fall victim to becoming a hate figure, Jess!

          I was thinking more in the vein that the last few winners haven’t really inspired strong emotions – positive OR negative. Sam Bailey led from the off in a weak year, but Haenow largely flew under the radar, yet won. Nobody was loudly pro or anti – the middle of the road-ness won through. Of all the winners, the only ones you couldn’t apply ‘bland’ to would be Alexandra and Little Mix. Individuality and, yes, talent, only really take you so far. We’ve still got to see how the producers present him – the Kitty comparison someone made above might end up being apt. Kitty was a great singer and could have easily been presented more in the vein of Stacey Solomon as a bit of a lovable ditz, but instead they took the Hammer Horror route. The first show will be telling of their intentions. I’m reserving judgement until then!

          • Jessica Hamby

            I’m sure there are people like that UKIP councillor who said that the floods were God’s punishment for gay marriage but I doubt many of them watch X Factor and probably even fewer of them vote.

            DS is as much of a bubble as Sofabet, probably more so.

            As you say, tptb intentions and public support (or not) should become clearer after a show or three.

    • There are people on this very site who, 18 months ago, were convinced that a bearded drag queen could not win the Eurovision Song Contest. Instead, they won by a landslide representing a country who hadn’t won for nearly 50 years.

      Maybe the Conchita thing is causing bias in my thinking, but I am not ruling a Seann win out.

      • Sagand

        The difference between winning a gay friendly competition with a one shot performance against 25 others where the biggest challenge is being remembered and winning a multi week prime time contest where likeability rules and there’ll only be two or three others in the final is stark.

        SMM will have the fan base to still be there at the sharp end of the contest but when it comes down to it bland wins.

      • Seductive Barry

        Don’t you think that Seann lacks the vulnerability and fragility of Conchita? You couldn’t help but wish Conchita well, but Seann to me is brash, entitled and just plain unlikeable. He is also overtly competitive, he is there to win. Who else’s reaction to Mason returning was to worry about the added competition, who else is begging for votes before the contest has even started? http://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/615237/The-X-Factor-2015-Seann-Miley-Moore-begs-votes-BBC-Radio-One-Twitter I loved Seann’s first performance and was really looking forward to seeing more, thinking he could even be our answer to Adam Lambert, but despite decent performances he’s become my least favourite finalist.

  • Donald

    Sofabet a bubble. Oh dear Jess 🙂 lol. That is so apt on an “influence” thread. Loved the comment about bloated series. Hope the live shows been worth the wait.

    • Jessica Hamby

      Heh. Thanks Donald. We should beware of groupthink, that’s what I’m trying to say.

    • David Cook

      Well if it is a bubble at least it’s a bigger bubble than one’s own personal bubble. The great thing about Sofabet is actually the wide range of ideas and opinions – and that people can generally express them without being ridiculed or shot down. You can’t agree with everything but it makes you at least consider things you may not even have thought about yourself. So long may that continue.

      • Jessica Hamby

        Very true. And apols if anyone was insulted by my post. It was not particularly considered. I like posting here and I value the ideas and input from my fellow posters.

  • Jessica Hamby

    When can we expect the predictions thread? It’s Thursday already!!!

    • Stu

      I’d assume later today. I’ve drafted my final 12 predictions but my 2nd place is a bit bold. But I just know the lives usually see some dark horses emerge.

    • Don’t we need to find out (for sure) whether or not there are any wildcards?

      • David Cook

        It would be helpful – it’s not just adding a person into the list, as it’s the potential knock on effect on others that could be more important. Plus we know that where wildcards have been voted back on by the public that they tend to do relatively well (perhaps an aspect of chapter 3 above).

    • The plan is to post it later today. We will probably just wait for this evening’s Xtra Factor from 7-8pm. If there’s no announcement about a Wildcard then, it seems unlikely to happen and our 1-12 will go up.

    • Martin

      Interesting to look at the media coverage so far this week. We’ve had Seann and Alien granted the sort of (non-)story that other “celebs” get. Poor Mason has got in trouble for waving a gun around in a video, and Max’s girlfriend is jealous of all his female fans (wtf?!) and another curious story about his alcohol and drug fuelled past. Trying to give him a personality, it seems.

      Grimmy is also toeing the party line this week, disucssing how this weeks theme is “all about how the contestants would perform in the current charts”. He also said there are songs being performed from Kelly Clarkson (one of the girls no doubt), Nicki Minaj (Alien?), Jason Derulo (Mason?) and curiously, Lana Del Rey, who’s only commercial song, a dance remix of “Summertime Sadness” wouldn’t really suit anyone.

      • David Cook

        If this is correct I think this is just so much better than the usual Halloween theme – I’m actually looking forward to this now.
        I think there’ll be quite a few acts who wish they were as uncommercial as Lana Del Rey – her album chart sales are huge. Anyway I think she’s got some good songs so again I’m looking forward to this – although given the distinctive style it could be difficult to pull off.

      • Stu

        Thanks for that info Martin. I can’t think who would do Lana Del Rey – maybe Seann? I think if a Lana song is being performed, it’s either Born to Die or Video Games. BTD’s instrumental is actually used quite a bit on the show so the producers must like the song.

        • Martin

          No problem, he was discussing it on the radio this morning and I only half caught it but I’m pretty positive that’s what was said. I’d plump for Seann doing LDR too, I can’t see anyone else having the guts to pull a song of hers off. Maybe commercial was the wrong word, of course she’s been a massive success but I’m not sure any of her songs are going to pull in the Saturday night voters but Seann is a unique act. I think ‘Young and Beautiful’ would suit him the most of her songs but I can’t see that being performed. the two you mentioned, along with Summertime Sadness, are her most well know aren’t they?!

          • Stu

            Alternative is the word you’re looking for. 😉 Yes they are – both peaked at #9 in the UK. Young & Beautiful is well known too though since it was on the Great Gatsby soundtrack. Whoever picked Lana though, kudos to them for being a bit imaginative. If someone sings Whitney, they’ll be “bussed” sooner or later!

  • Sagand

    I thought it would be interesting before this years to read past years predictions threads and see how well they did.

    If anyone else is interested:
    2014: http://sofabet.com/2014/10/08/x-factor-2014-1-16-pre-lives-prediction/
    2013: http://sofabet.com/2013/10/10/x-factor-2013-pre-lives-1-12-prediction-home-in-on-barrett/
    2012: http://sofabet.com/2012/10/04/our-x-factor-2012-prediction-ella-stellar-union-j-each-way/
    2011: http://sofabet.com/2011/10/05/our-x-factor-2011-prediction-marcus-collins-to-win-2-shoes-each-way/
    2010: http://sofabet.com/2010/10/04/x-factor-final-12-finishing-order-prediction/

    None of them got the winners right at this stage but couple of near misses. A tenancy to over estimate boybands and girls.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Is Mason Noise irretrievably tainted? His odds have drifted to 22-1 and the gun story is a non-story but people don’t seem to like him. I was tempted, just waiting because he was drifting, until the gangster video story came out. Now he’s described as arrogant in the newspapers and I think it’ll be impossible for him to pull it back.

  • Kiera’s song choice: Crying For No Reason by Katy B

  • Alien Uncovered song choice: Do It Like A Dude by Jessie J

  • Jessica Hamby

    Max is doing Someone Like You by Adele. A reggae version? Hmmmmm. I wonder if it’ll work.

    • Fudd

      Something like this maybe?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKeYbih5pTc
      I’m not sure what to make of it. I like it but Steph Nala’s attempt at reggae went down like a lead balloon last year and she was presented as gamma girl from the off. Plus Reggae just cries out for colour vomit. Saying that, I have the feeling they might have higher hopes for Max.

      Che doing a Tears Dry On My Own/Ain’t No Mountain High Enough mash up. Why oh why does that sound familiar? Oh yes…
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbJajIjO_r4
      Has anyone checked his closet for sob stories?

      Anton’s been given Joe McElderry breakout song; interesting. I sense they’re going to give him a strong start followed by a slow puncture; how slow depends on how much they value Max.

      I wonder if Lauren will get to perform with her family a la Fleur? Somehow I doubt it.

  • Martin

    Apologies, it looks like my info was incorrect based on xtra factor – i was half listening. How embarassing, I’ll never post “facts” again!

  • Kenneth Chow

    Monica coming back completely throws off my order

  • Jessica Hamby

    Bupsi doing Let’s Stay Together. That’s another hmmmmm.

  • 360

    I’m pleasantly surprised that Monica’s back, if only because I had her down as one of the girls I thought would get through Judges’ Houses (I was completely off with Havva though, probably should’ve foreseen Alien having exactly the same tricks as her and there not being space for both).

    It seems a bit of a strange choice – does she have a big following? Who are they trying to unsettle? Who will she take votes from – because, as the wildcard, presumably she’ll be more popular for a few weeks. Or is she the love-to-hate Maloney figure? I’m a little off on knowledge of the contestants because I haven’t actually seen much of the show this year – the dwindling ratio of content to ad breaks finally pushed me to the brink.

  • Fudd

    The four acts who haven’t had their songs announced yet… Louisa, Mason, Monica and Reggie & Bollie… all have original numbers as part of their repertoire. I wonder if it’s going to be a X Factor first and all four perform one of their own numbers?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH7USYezTyY&=
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukS9OpkebiI&=

    We’ve already heard original numbers from Monica and Reggie and Bollie on the show.

    • Jessica Hamby

      If Louisa is doing an original song it better be a showstopper or Lauren will overtake her on the first show and likely not let her in again.

      • Fudd

        Though I’m Every Woman for Lauren is ripe for a deramp if required. Considering the theme is This Is Me what does it say for Lauren? ‘My singing future is based around what was successful in the 1980s…’ Whereas Louisa will be knocking out a new song which is current and staking her claim as a commercial artist.

        Of course there’s still a risk that Louisa’s train won’t leave the station if an original number sinks without a trace. But I’m Every Woman gives the opportunity to stop Lauren getting too far away from her, if they wish to play that card.

        • Jessica Hamby

          Or it says she’s someone all the girls can identify with. Total handbag house classic which every girl watching will have danced to on some of the best nights out of their lives.

          That’s what it says to me.

          I’m starting to wish I’d put her first.

          • Jessica Hamby

            Also, she seems to me to have the x factor – you can’t quite identify it but you want to watch her. When she was on the sofa tonight between Louisa and Keira, who were you looking at?

            Plus Louisa seems older than 17. It should be a USP to her to be the baby of the group but somehow it isn’t. Lauren comes across as the sweet one.

          • Fudd

            If the theme was Divas or the 1980s (70s???) then I’d agree but something’s nagging me about someone declaring that ‘this is me’ with a dated song. Yes, Anton and Bupsi have old songs too but they suit them both much more (and I feel a bus is heading towards Bupsi anyway) – Lauren is a young girl.

            As with every pick it’s all down to staging, camera angles and judges comments. I just think there’s enough about the song choice to hold her back if they want to.

          • Jessica Hamby

            You might be right. My question is, why would they want to at this early stage? They could have just picked Havva, a less able singer, and have done with. If they wanted someone to deramp to make Louisa look good then one of the blondes would have been a better choice imo. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

          • Fudd

            It might be that they’re not looking for a deramp but a holding pattern; keeping the Betas in play but not allowing them to run away from the Alphas while they find their original style and voice – for example, Che has been given a mash up previously performed by Jahmene Douglas from the week two death slot. Keep them ticking over and, if an Alpha doesn’t fly, then promote a Beta who hasn’t been overly damaged.

          • Jessica Hamby

            I think the biggest danger for her with that song is that she peaks too soon.

            Your analysis is too deep for me. I don’t think they have that much control.

          • Fudd

            Maybe. Peaks too soon is another risk – I definitely think they’re going down that route with Anton and Dance With My Father.

        • Jessica Hamby

          We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one too. I’m expecting a standing ovation for that one. There might even be tears, if only from Anton himself. I don’t see it as a peak too soon though. Anton will be consistent the whole way through. He’s been doing it too long to be anything else. If anything he’ll get better as he reaches the latter stages. This is his last chance as far as he’s concerned. He’ll use all his experience and talent and he’ll lap up the big occasions. The longer he lasts the more emotional he’ll be and the harder he’ll work.

          Actually I haven’t been this excited about an X Factor for years.

          • Fudd

            Then one question could be… will they be able to apply the brakes on Anton? I think they’ll be looking for an Andrea-like trajectory for him – slowly pull him back and be happy with a third place finish. But could they have a Sam Bailey on their hands where the opposition is so ‘niche’, for want of better word, that the audience gets behind Anton clearly and decisively?

            One thing they have in their arsenal is his performance approach is quite original, a bit like Aiden Grimshaw’s in some ways. But they’ll have to prime someone to continually pick up on this; I can’t think who was uneasy about this in the pre-records other than Simon and his own mentor criticising him for it will just up the sympathy vote.

            I agree with you over being excited for the lives but I think I’d be even more intrigued, as it were, if they hadn’t beggared up Judges Houses to such an extent.

          • Jessica Hamby

            From where I sit you’re overthinking it. You’re trying to work out things by guesswork. All we have to go on is what we’ve seen.

    • Fudd

      I had to overthink it to make my predictions. I need to get out of that mode again now.

      Of course, as said previously, the best song choice on paper can be ruined by judges comments/staging etc. and the worst song choice can suddenly appear inspired so the release of the songs tell everyone only so much.

      I’ll shut up now. :-$

      • Jessica Hamby

        I think we look at things a bit differently. You like to try to predict what tptb might to to get their outcome while I tend to look more at what they have done. Who’s to say which is the better way? What I call overthinking may be perfect for you and wrong for me. If you’re getting good results and you’re enjoying yourself then surely no need to stop. If you’re getting bad results then maybe try a different approach.

        it was probably unfair of me to say overthinking. Do what suits you best.

        • Fudd

          We’ll see what happens tomorrow – the first live show will give an idea on what they’re intending going forward… and whether the public is willing to play ball!

  • £10 says Monica sings her original composition “Pretty Little Sister” this weekend. At the right odds, of course 😀

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