X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 2: Aidan and a-Betting

The second weekend introduced another five auditionees among the 32 rumoured to have made judges’ houses. None have troubled Grace Davies and Rak-Su at the head of the Betfair market. Those two both trade in single figures, while each of this weekend’s crop trade around 20.0 or higher at the time of going to press.

Unusually, it was the Sunday episode that introduced more acts of interest. Let’s start with the recipient of the pimp slot, Aidan Martin, a 27 year old bar worker from South Shields, hometown of 2009 winner Joe McElderry. They’ll have been near-contemporaries – as Joe was 18 when he won, he will be a year Aidan’s junior.

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Aidan had got the memo about doing original material, explaining that his song, ‘Punchline’, was about having been “really in love with someone”, feeling hurt and not wanting to be seen as a joke. It mirrored last year’s winner Matt Terry, who milked an “I’ve been dumped” sob story throughout the audition rounds – but while we were left in no doubt that it was a girl who’d dumped sex-symbol Matt, there was a conscious effort not to specify the gender of Aidan’s ex, with Cowell carefully choosing “them” and “they” as his preferred pronouns.

“You’re not a joke”, Nicole assured Aidan after he sang. It was no coincidence that Aidan’s audition directly followed that of the unfortunate Andy from Scunthorpe, who very much was portrayed as a joke. Producers were making good use of the contrast principle here, serving up two acts whose ostensible similarities – 20-something male northerners singing an original song – had the effect of focusing attention on their differences: having invited us to view Andy as hopeless and deluded, producers were priming us to see Aidan as talented and genuine.

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There was much to like about Aidan’s segment. We were invited to invest in his family relationships, especially with his Mum, and there was a heart-on-sleeve vulnerability that came across well in the lyrics to his song. Sofabet commenter Phil was reminded of Chris Maloney, saying Aidan “could be a juggernaut if he makes the lives”, though commenter Martin wondered if what we saw “seems like a build up to a sad judges houses rejection”.

It may or may not be significant that, although 27, Aidan is in the boys category: usually, the overs are over-25, and there must be a reason they’ve upped it to over-28 this year. When they did the same thing in 2010, for example, it was presumably to try to help clear a niche for One Direction. What’s the reason this year? Perhaps they already know who they want in the overs, and there was another 25-28 year old they wanted through as well. If so, it may not be Aidan, of course – the same could be said about Ant Russell from week 1.

Another act introduced on Sunday had been much anticipated in the Sofabet comments section. The Cutkelvins are a telegenic, young family threepiece from Scotland. We were impressed by how smoothly they introduced themselves with lines that they’d presumably been fed by producers, saying: “What’s different about this band, we’re brothers and sisters, we’ve got that instant connection right there… It’s all natural”. The judges reinforced these themes after their performance, Louis immediately saying “it was very natural” while Simon opined “the fact that you’re family is what makes it exciting”.

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Their performance of ‘Runnin’ was most noticeable for lead singer Shereen’s excellent vocals; she told us she’d been with the group Neon Jungle for a couple of years. One assumes that Sharon had been primed to say: “You should be more upfront, and the guys with the harmonies and the raps should be behind you… You should be the main thing”, given that Nicole then reiterated the point.

What to make of this? We’ve previously seen that intra-group bickering about who gets to be lead singer doesn’t go down well with voters, most memorably when one of the members of thrice-saved 2007 girlband Hope complained that they might as well be called “Phoebe and the Woo-Woo Girls”. In 2011, Gary Barlow asking the other members of The Risk “when will you realise that Charlie is the lead singer of this band” precipitated their departure.

Interestingly, before the Cutkelvins’ performance, the judges extracted the information from Kyle that Shereen and Jay “fight every day”. But family means it’s a different dynamic, and there could be an ultimately heartwarming storyline in Jay coming to terms with the idea of a supporting role in Shereen and the Woo-Woo Brothers.

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There were a couple of other nagging doubts. The performance didn’t get as much post-production as Rak-Su’s, which meant there was a slightly rawer feel to the harmonising. And the audience cutaways were less in evidence and less enthusiastic, with polite applause among the waiting auditionees rather than the raptures that we saw greeting Rak-Su.

Still, with the exception of Blonde Electra, siblings have a decent enough record on this show – Scottish duo The MacDonald Brothers placed fourth way back in 2006, while brother-sister duo Same Difference went one better the year after. Simon reached for a more flattering comparison, the Black-Eyed Peas. Even more encouragingly, he said “I hope you end up working with me on the show”. Simon does indeed have the groups this year.

In the girls category, Sunday’s show introduced Deanna from Anguilla – sorry, British Anguilla. She appeared at the end of a segment about foreigners coming over to audition, but twice in the opening moments of her introductory VT, the point was made that this is a “British island”. There have been quite a few mentions of Britain already this year, Simon last week criticising Holly Tandy for not sounding British enough when she sings, and telling Ant that he represents Britain. Perhaps the intention of drip-feeding “British” and “Britain” is simply to distract attention from how many overseas acts producers are having to bring in as the home-grown talent pool runs dry.

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Deanna speaks with an American-Caribbean accent, and sounds like an American when she sings. She had a nice pop voice but wasn’t enough of a belter to do justice to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’. I’d have chosen something else instead, and Simon implied the same: “Do I think this is the right material for you going forward? No…. Where do you go and where’s your lane? But with a voice, a personality, a look, we’re in a good place.”

There was little here to suggest that Grace’s presumptive casting as alpha girl is under threat, but the roles of beta girl and gamma girl – with the chance to move up the pecking order if the alpha fails to fly in the vote – currently look wide open.

Saturday’s audition show introduced the first two overs alleged to have made judges’ houses this year. Three of the reported six are foreign acts, attempting to follow in the footsteps of Saara Aalto. Having moved to London to be with his girlfriend, Parisian electrician-turned-musician Kevin Davy White threw his hat into the ring with a sub-Joe Cocker rendition of ‘It’s A Man’s World’.

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Just a year ago he was failing to get any judges on France’s version of The Voice to turn for him. That’s not very encouraging for his chances of progress here, despite the professed enthusiasm of Nicole (“you can make a record”) and Simon (“amazing voice”). We’re in agreement with commenter Fudd that having two foreign acts through in the same category would seem strange, suggesting that Kevin is up against the force of Slavko’s whiplash.

Saturday’s other overs act of interest was Talia Dean, a 32-year-old from west London, who explained that she’s had a few brushes with celebrity as a VIP concierge at Heathrow. There was plenty of backstory here, including a young son and a battle with lack of confidence. She then tried to channel Amy Winehouse as she sang ‘Put A Spell On You’.

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It was a little inconsistent, and the judges’ comments reflected this, with various euphemisms for being slightly ragged. “Was it perfect? No”, said Simon, while Nicole chipped in: “You’re raw, you’ve got a great big voice.” Simon then waffled on about Talia as an example of why they have an overs category: to make sure they have at least one sacrificial lamb for the first live show find people for whom it inexplicably hasn’t yet happened. Having said which, Talia does have a personality which can connect.

As ever, do keep your thoughts and theories coming below.

Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

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28 comments to X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 2: Aidan and a-Betting

  • Uzair

    Deannu could be a solid beta. Kevin could be alpha he’s a bit like anton. Talia can be sacrificing lamb. Aaron is Christoper Meloney part 2. The cutkelvins treatment was shocking not the biggest support for the alpha group but I saw them at 6CC and their performance was good much better then pitchy and non singing rak su. Rak su aren’t bad but it’s like 5am all over again and they just weren’t good enough they had to be pushed by producers. The cutkelvins are good they are Scottish and we have shereens neon jungle fans for help so they will have a good vote if they are shown with good peroformances they could go far

  • At this early stage, my gut feeling is that the Groups are being given a real push this year. Maybe I’m just desensitised after years of watching this show to lone warblers but I felt last week that Rak-Su got an excellent edit and once again the Cutkelvins did very well too. Rak-Su step on 5AM’s gap in the market so I won’t be backing them.

    The Cutkelvins strike me as a credible threat, the girl Shereen in particular is quite excellent. The brothers are, frankly, disposable. Who knows the boys’ names? I found their vocals ropey but I rate their chances probably more than anyone we’ve seen so far for reasons I can’t really explain. I personally don’t understand the Grace Davies love. I’d sooner listen to the Cutkelvins than Grace.

    TellyStats.com once again collected the stats for the past two episodes and the result is completely inconclusive in my opinion. Aiden got the most Likes and Views on YouTube but probably only by virtue of getting the pimp. However no standout leader in the entirety of the auditions so far. This in my mind lends credence to the idea that they’re keeping the mood on the individual singers fairly evenly spread to give a Group the best possible chance of success. Early days yet of course but we’ll see what happens.

    – Dan (TellyStats.com)

    • R

      Hi TS,
      Grace has had over 2 million views on YT & over 13 million on FB. Those are massive stats.
      While this is mainly due to Roots being pinned to the top of the X Factor’s FB page, this shows strong support from the show and gives her far more coverage than any other contestant so far. She may not be to everyone’s taste, but she has been given a definite early boost.

      • No denying she’s been given a boost, but then Janet Devlin, and Ella Henderson also received widespread coverage.

        Grace’s video was uploaded 15 days ago and has 2.1m views (140k p/d). Shanaya has 1.8m views and her video went up 14 days ago (130k p/d). Talia has 1m views and her video has been up 8 days (125k p/d), so half of Grace’s time and half her views.
        So while Grace’s views are impressive, we need to take into account timeframes – and that’s exactly what TellyStats does, it shows that while Grace does have a slight lead, it’s hardly overwhelming compared to other contestants. These timeframe stats are ultra important and just checking Facebook/YouTube at face value isn’t enough, TellyStats gathers the stats programatically to the second to get the exact and accurate results.

        The question is also whether or not she has the X Factor or if she can just sing nicely. Is she marketable, can she make money, is she a feelgood winner? She reminds me of a The Voice contestant, nice sounding but not much else – Cowell already has Matt Terry well on his way to being an X Factor flop. In a final of a semi-decent Group vs Grace I’d be more interested these days in watching the Group.

        Perhaps I’m jaded from watching too many of these series and hearing the same voices, people thinking that simply being able to sing means they have a shot at being a star when in fact being a good singer isn’t a particularly rare talent whereas being interesting, current and marketable performers is.

        • Nail on the head…

          “people thinking that simply being able to sing means they have a shot at being a star when in fact being a good singer isn’t a particularly rare talent whereas being interesting, current and marketable performers is.”

        • R

          I disagree. The lengths the show had to go to in order to prevent Janet from winning have been widely discussed.

          Ella being voted out is an odd one, but she was given down slowed down pop songs, and if they’d kept her in instead of James, she could easily have taken the win by using the same tactics used to push James to victory.

          Also, those statistics are misleading as a large chunk of the views come within the first few days, then drop off dramatically. For instance, Grace hit 1 million views in 36 hours. It’s taken Talia 8 days to reach the same number. I doubt Talia will hit anywhere near the 2 million mark in the next 7 days.

          I’m not saying Grace will win, as anything can happen, but I do see her starting the live shows in pole position.

          Grace already had over 50 million listens on her Adele cover without any publicity. If Syco can’t turn that into sales with all their publicity they might as well give up.

          • Of course, they went onto to knobble Janet in the Lives, but we haven’t yet reached the Lives this series. I’m not suggesting we’ll reach the Lives without her in pole position either, I’ve only said I doubt she’d win. We’ve seen enough favourites turned over to suggest there’s a high chance she won’t make it either –
            perhaps she will – but my very personal opinion is that she’d be a poor winner.

            I’m afraid the figures you’re posting are incorrect. Although the YouTube figures on TellyStats only go up to 1 day, behind the scenes they’re actually recorded at the 48 hour (2 days) and 72 hour (3 days) mark too.

            48 hours after posting, Grace’s video had 819,010 views, only at 72 hours did she had hit 1,114,092, so quite a bit longer than 36 hours. Not to mention, TellyStats takes stats in smaller increments too so it’s easy to see how quickly views were racked up in the first few hours as you mentioned – Grace’s views were only 140k after 12 hours and and 390k at 24 hours.

            I look forward to seeing you become a Premium Member when the time comes so you can see for yourself 😉

            50m listens on Soundcloud nothing to be sniffed at but it’s a little selective too, it must have been featured somewhere because the popularity didn’t seem to carry over anywhere else, even to her other songs. Her subscribers on both YouTube and SoundCloud are relatively modest too. That one I’ll give you anyway, but as mentioned above, a nice voice doesn’t make someone a star and 50m listens may not necessarily translate into purchases.

            – Dan (TellyStats.com)

  • Chatterbox5200

    Interesting to see that Rak-Su have removed their music from Spotify. In answer to a tweet asking why, the reply was…

    “Ahh we sent out a load of tweets, we’ve taken down but we’ll re release the music in a few months with some backing from a label hopefully!”

    Didn’t that happen with another act that made it through to the lives in a previous series?

  • Uzair

    Only 2 acts performing tonight who’ve rumoured to make judges houses Sean and Connor and tracey Leanne. Raksu are promoting their hats and other items is this a sign they haven’t made the lives

    • Forget it. If they’ve removed their music from Spotify at the peak of their exposure so far and when they were No 1 in the Viral Charts
      https://twitter.com/RakSuMusic/status/907636836155224067
      they’re almost certain to make the Lives.

      • Uzair

        Rak su ain’t even good though that’s what irritates me it’s basically 5am all over again. But maybe they remov d their music cus X factor told them to take it down and it could spoil if they made it or not. So maybe they were told to take it down so people don’t know they didn’t make it (if that makes sense). The cutkelvins are so much better but I can’t see the 2 strongest groups in the lives

  • Two acts from tonights show making Judge’s Houses according to the spoilers – Tracy Leanne and the Price brothers.

    I can see the brothers being back up to Rak-Su if the latter don’t take off. With Rak-Su airing in show one they must be favourites to be Alpha Group.

    I imagine one place in the Overs top three will be between Tracey Anne and Talia. Tracey Leanne has more of the backstory which they can explore and, with Slavko presumably providing the comedy, I’m not sure whether the ‘comedy’ side is needed via another act in the same category.

    I don’t think we’ve seen any of the Girlband of Rejects audition yet, unless either Leah or Nicole are the unknown member?

  • Uzair

    I can see Sean and Connor possibly winning surprised they are only 5th favourite to win. 3 groups in the top 5 is very surprising I can tell they really want a group to win so the decision for alpha group would be hard between cutkelvins rak su and Sean and Connor. S and C most likely to win. Raksu won’t wing they’re not good enough. Cutkelvins could win if they’re pushed. Any of them could be signed. If S and C r picked I could see either cutkelvins and raksu making it too but if rak su or cutkelvins r picked I wouldn’t see them putting S and C through as they could threaten the other 2 with their appeal

  • Stoney

    5/1 for the brothers. No thanks. Keep in mind that their live performances are going to largely feature rap and it will be hard to see them win.
    Its now looking a strong possibility the Cutkelvins may not make the lives. They haven’t been pushed as much as Rasku and the brothers, although that could change from the bootcamp shows.
    It does look as though the group’s are becoming the strongest category which is what I’m guessing the producers will be carefully steering things towards in time for the lives.

  • Ben Cook

    Looks like none of the final 24 are shown in tonight’s episode! If my calcs are right, we’re still yet to see 10 of them.

  • Rainbow

    I’m pretty sure the unknown member of the girl group is Imagen Harrison cause of a tweet she retweeted …

  • Tim B

    Does anyone know if we’re likely to get a Final 12, 13 or 16 this year?

  • India Marie

    The Cutkelvins performing Neon Jungle in the Lives. I need that!

  • Martin

    Hard to get excited by anybody this weekend. Tracy Leanne got very nice, sympathetic coverage and there’s plenty to invest in emotionally but I found her hard to warm to, personally. She is classic overs fodder though, and her vocal wasn’t mind blowing so she won’t trouble any favoured contestants if she does get through to life shows.

    The brothers were decent but the rapping is a concern. They’re like a mixture of Mk1 and James Arthur – as Stoney said, we’ve seen rapping from successful contestants in the past – Fleur, James Arthur and Little Mix, but that was toned down as we reached the later stages as a rule. doing that with these two, based on what we’ve seen so far, would effectively make one of the brothers a member of the backing band. LuCkily, the singer is excellent so it may not cause too much of an issue but it’s still a reservation I’d have, particularly considering how short they are.

  • Dan check out other YT channels too. XF YT doesn’t always get the most views. Sam Black has had 3.5 mill views here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2ZRFJ-t3H4

    • Milton

      Something odd about that channel – Grace only has 20k views.

      • Could be the title of the Sam one attracted non XF viewers. Also was it put up before the official one? If so it would be at the top of searches and get all the viewers. Maybe a mixture of both ie it built up views for an odd reason but then took in the XF views too. Can’t be dismissed.

        Although incidentally I don’t think Sam is a strong enough singer for the long haul.

    • Exactly, the reason TellyStats only monitors the official X Factor channel is that all videos are treated the same without undue prominence to a single one, we don’t know what has been done with Sam Black’s video for that user around the internet – and obviously something has happened because those views are disproportionate to all other videos.

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