X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 3: Group Think

There were slim pickings for punters from the third weekend of audition shows, which introduced only two acts among the 24 rumoured to have got to judges’ houses. That leaves ten still to come this weekend. However, one of the two has shaken up the head of the betting, teenage Irish brothers Sean and Conor Price replacing Rak-Su as clear second-favourites behind Grace Davies.

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The recipients of the Saturday show pimp slot, Sean and Conor have plenty going for them, including personalities brimming with cheeky Irish charm, and an apparent good fit with this year’s authenicity agenda – as Cowell said, as they left the room after their audition, “keep practising. Originality, right?” Producers chose James Arthur as background music; James, of course, won in 2012, the last time this show was seized by a sudden urge to proclaim itself a promoter of guitar-wielding singer-songwritery types.

The brothers, now aged 17 and 15, explained how they come from a small town in County Wicklow and had first braved the bright lights of Grafton Street as buskers aged 13 and 11, a story that demonstrated both precocious initiative and a love of performing. We got two cutaways to a Scottish woman watching in the audience, to guide us on what to think: “Aww, look at their smiles, little cuties”, she said; and, later, as Sean whipped out his acoustic guitar, “good to see them using their instruments, isn’t it?”

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Their cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ showcased Conor’s distinctive vocals and an enjoyment of putting their own spin on the classics, although the addition of some self-referential meta commentary in Sean’s rap – “just two Irish kids, keeping it real, trying to reach the top while seeking a deal” – probably shouldn’t be repeated too often.

“So young and so authentic”, gushed Louis, clearly delighted to have an Irish act he could heap praise on without looking ridiculous. Simon was equally glowing: “probably one of the best auditions we’ve had… I don’t want to change a single thing from what I saw and heard today… what I love about you is it’s all coming from you and this is rare, really really rare… every so often I sit in one of these auditions and I think thank god we’ve found people like you.”

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In the Sofabet comments, Stoney reckoned that a reliance on rap means “it will be hard to see them win”; Tim B countered with the examples of Little Mix and James Arthur. The latter’s early edge was strategically set aside when he was cleaned up and put in a suit for his breakout week 8 rendition of ‘Let’s Get It On’. It isn’t hard to imagine the cherubic Sean and Conor also having the potential to attract floating votes from a broad demographic towards the business end. They should also have an Irish vote: the voting rules for this year haven’t yet been published, but last year’s rules included provision for votes from the Republic.

There’s an emerging consensus in the comments that, aside from Grace, the groups are where it’s at this year. Rak-Su certainly got alpha group treatment in week 1, but with evidence from previous years suggesting that analogous acts (e.g. 5AM, Rough Copy) tend to need some heavy lifting, it doesn’t feel unreasonable that the market prefers the Irish duo at this stage. As ever, their relative treatment in bootcamp and the six-chair challenge will add clues about the pecking order.

We still have two more groups to see, both girlbands. Logic would dictate that one of those two or the Cutkelvins should make the lives to give the category some gender balance. On the other hand, last year’s original selection of groups – 5AM, Bratavio and The Brooks, before the latter were forced out and replaced by 4 of Diamonds – were all-male. Interestingly, all three have analogues of sorts this year in the shape of Rak-Su, Jack and Joel, and Sean and Conor respectively.

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Last weekend’s other act of interest, Tracyleanne Jefford, is nudging a triple-figure price on Betfair and appears to be competing for the role of gamma over at best. The 34-year-old from Sunbury on Thames explained that she’d been married at 17, as is common in the culture of the travelling community from which she comes, and that she’s recently divorced and trying to be brave for the sake of her three children. The incidental music, Kesha’s ‘Praying’, was again significant: “I can make it on my own. I’m proud of who I am”.

There’s probably a place for only one of her and Talia Dean, if either, and as with week 2’s comments to the latter, the judges were keen to gloss less-than-flawless vocals for Tracyleanne’s ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. Louis: “you’ve got a good voice, it’s not amazing but you are amazing”. Simon added: “you deserve to be here, not actually based on your story but the fact that you are really memorable, likeable, a real voice, exactly the type of person we like on this show”.

It’s believed that judges’ houses for the overs and boys have now been filmed. In the latter category, market moves look discouraging for week 2’s headline act, Aidan Martin, who drifted to trade as high as 120.

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Meanwhile, a combination of market moves and Twitterology suggest that Ant Russell was dropped at some point, and also that his place was taken by fellow Liverpudlian, plasterer Sam Black. Unlike with Aidan, there’s still interest among Betfair punters in backing Sam, with his last price matched being 23.0 at the time of writing.

If Sam has indeed made it to the lives, what to make of it? You could see Sam as a Matt-Terry-meets-Ben-Haenow type, who could potentially appeal to a wide age range of female demographics, and whom producers shouldn’t risk letting loose on the lives if they’re not comfortable with the possibility of him doing well. Sam’s audition certainly established the sex symbol narrative, along with showing him taking responsibility as a new dad – apparently he proposes to his girlfriend later in the series.

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Alternatively, you could plausibly see him as a Jake Quickenden type, who could be there for producers to indulge their gladiatorial instincts with a game of torment-the-beefcake: put him through to the lives for his looks, then have him mercilessly torn apart by the judges for being there only because of his looks.

It’s worth pointing out that the show does have some history of changing plans on the hoof. You can debate whether the trajectories of wildcards like Ryan Lawrie were always planned, but at least one of Saara Aalto and Honey G wouldn’t have made it last year without bureaucratic intervention. So it’s not impossible that producers might decide to run with Sam even if they hadn’t originally planned to – and nor can we rule out that this might actually be part of a plan. We’ll have to await details on how the apparent Ant/Sam switcheroo plays out to see whether it smells more like conspiracy or cock-up.

Given the effort that has seemed to be going into Rak-Su and Sean and Conor, the fact that Louis has the boys, and an assumption that they’ll want someone unlike Matt Terry to win if only for the sake of variety, we have been assuming that this year’s crop of boys will all have been carefully chosen to have some obvious kryptonite. But it may yet become necessary to revisit whether Sam’s prominent role in the first audition show looks more significant than it did given the state of spoilers at the time.

In other news, it’s confirmed that we’ll have six weekends of live shows, presumably starting on October 28/29. But the details remain opaque: “guest performers on both Saturday and Sunday. Acts will perform for votes on both nights and voting could see contestants leave the show a day early on Saturday nights… less predictable for viewers and acts will perform across the weekend”. As far as we can tell, that could, in theory, mean pretty much anything:

  • every act performing on both Saturday and Sunday with one elimination each night, as we’d been assuming;
  • some acts performing on Saturday and some on Sunday;
  • a flash vote on Saturday then acts-in-danger performing again for the public vote on a shorter Sunday show.

As ever, do keep the conversation going below.

Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

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61 comments to X Factor 2017 Auditions Week 3: Group Think

  • Uzair

    So have we removed the cutkelvins from the potential alpha slot they r still 4th favourite to win behind the other 2 groups they r better then raksu. Sean and the cutkelvins rapper r about the same in terms of rapping but shereen is probs the best female vocalist this year (in general) while connors quite good. Not to mention the guitar thing could be a deal breaker as they could be pigeonholed. A final of Sean and Connor and grace would be boring. Raksu will provide entertainment but r they good enough. I stand by that the cutkelvisn r a mix of both originality and talent as well as marketable and uptempo. Shereens amazing vocals also r good as most groups have troubles with all members singing. Jay also has a good falsetto (the other male singer) so there vocals r solid. I could see the new girl group making it over lemonade. We saw lemonade earlier in the series in the ed Sheehan montage I doubt they’ll get their own screen time. I could see the “u belong in a girl group” montage next week. In terms of who will get through I think it’ll be Sean and Connor rak su and new girl group but the 3 I want to be through are lemonade the cutkelvins and jack and Joel

  • I wonder if Simon has ideas for them to be a mini-One Direction heartthrob target for teenage girls. Videos and posts aimed at this particular demographic do tend to get more attention than perhaps other contestants’ but worth outlining all the same…

    Sean and Conor Price received the highest number of YouTube hits after 24 hours of any contestant shown in the Auditions so far AND the highest number of Likes on their YouTube video.

    They received the 2nd highest number of Facebook Likes and Shares for their Facebook post, they’re 2nd to Grace who’s post was highlighted by the X Factor, giving it extra prominence, whereas theirs was not. So I count that as a win for them too.

    Would be foolish to oppose them at this point.

  • I don’t think we’ll get ten acts who have made it to judges’ houses shown this weekend. There are normally plenty of people who appear at the Six Chair Challenge stage who we’ve never seen before. Neither Relley C nor Fleur East had their first auditions shown, if I remember correctly, before eventually going on to make the live shows.

  • Shouldn’t Grace be 1.8 already?

  • Uzair

    We’ve got 5 acts who’ve made judges houses the last two of the girls rai Elle and Alisah. 2 overs Matt linen and slavko. And then one boy spencer. That leaves us with 5 acts yet to be revealed we won’t see the girlband so only 4 acts left to be shown. I thinks we’ll get 3/4 I’m guessing both the boys and lemonade

  • Score

    Interesting about Sam/Ant. Can’t see anything on Twitter but that’s a big shift. Wonder what the story is there.

  • Important show to watch tonight then. To see which of the 5 they give a decent edit to. And which are fodder.

  • The Overs look a bit of a puzzle at the moment.

    If Slavko is nailed on, which I’d argue looks likely at this stage, then we’ll have to consider how many foreign acts will be in the final however many we have. There is a precedence for this, with Nicolo and Wagner being put through to the final 16 in 2010; in 2014 Blonde Electra and Andrea Faustini both made the lives and in 2015 4th Impact, Reggie & Bollie and Sean Miley Moore were in the last 13. So actually, thinking back, will they be fussed about two foreign acts in one category? It hasn’t bothered them before. Therefore, should we revisit Kevin Davy White as a potential finalist? Nicole said he could make a record critiquing his audition. We’re still waiting to see Berget from Amsterdam.

    And, as with 2015, that wouldn’t necessarily stop them putting a foreign act through in another category with that likely to be the girls as I’d say we have Deana and Alisha potentially competing for one spot, perhaps with Holly as a fellow belter. I’d say Alisha is the more accomplished vocally but Deana has that backstory which they explore. I’m pretty certain Grace will be Alpha there. Rai Elle is a commercial prospect but wasn’t overly pushed at this stage; I think it’s between her and Georgina for the third spot.

    The Boys seem to be in a bit of a mess too if Sam Black’s return in place of Ant Russell is true. The lid was kept on Spencer tonight and I think there will be a limit on the number of foreign acts they’ll put through; he’s dispensible. I think Lloyd is currently positioned as Alpha Boy in a Sam Smith guise if the Girls… and Groups… really don’t take off, with the knowledge they can dunk him a la Craig Colton when needed. Aidan might be pulled through alongside him – partly because he’s the only other Boy we’ve seen who hasn’t seemingly withdrawn or been demotivated critique wise. We’re still waiting to see Leon James and Jack Mason.

    The Groups seem the easiest to guess at the moment in terms of CutKelvins, the Price’s and Rak-Su. Saying that Jack and Joel weren’t awful either and could be a surprise finalist, maybe instead of the Price’s if producers feel they need another year to mature? Have we seen any of the girls from the Rejected Auditionee Girlband yet? Lemonade may appear tomorrow.

    • Tim B

      Blonde Electra were British, weren’t they? They went to one of those military/international schools where everyone sounds American. They sang Kids In America to make people think they were American, but they were actually not, if I remember correctly.

  • Gage Loverne

    I think that Leon James from the boys category was the oldest of the two brothers from that duo on today’s episode.

    • Yes, the terribly named “ITG”. They must ditch the younger one at BC.

      • Ah interesting, missed that one. I didn’t think they were overly strong as a duo so ditching the younger brother makes sense. Guess he has enough about him to be Gamma; can’t see much more at the moment – otherwise I think they would have split them at the auditions for more impact?

    • Uzair

      There was rumours about louis switching up brothers it would make sense ifs it’s these 2 that means 3 acts yet to be revealed lemonade who we saw glimpses of tonight that guy from Amsterdam and the last boy. Girlband would probs be shown later in the series and Leon was shown tonight

  • Ben Cook

    Seems to just be Berget on tonight’s show, which is strange. They normally save a few good ones till the end. I suppose Jack Mason and the girlbands we’ll see their auditions in flashback in the next couple of weeks.

  • Martin

    There was a lovely montage of the acts we’ve seen so far at the start of last night – curiously, I don’t recall seeing Rak Su there.

    • Ben Cook

      I think Rak Su are being massively overrated and I’d be surprised if they were anything close to being Chosen Ones. We’ve seen groups like them on BGT/TXF before and they never do well in the real world.

      • Martin

        They remind me a lot of The First Kings a few years ago. They were used at the time to mostly illustrate the shows introduction of acts being permitted to use video footage and dancers as part of their audition and felt like a bit of a spare part after that.

        I’m not saying that Rak Su are that exactly – being first up in the audition show could possibly speak for something, and the fact that the audience/judge participation was so rapturous is a massive plus – their reaction from everyone involved was massively played up in the edit, more so than any other group, but there is always the chance that they could have been used to illustrate that the show is encouraging original material with a feel good song.

        It’s curious that the show would throw so much behind them, as others have pointed out, so many boy bands have failed before and my gut feeling says this lot won’t do any better.

  • Phil

    Weird to think that we’ve more than likely already seen the winner now auditions are over. Don’t think I’ve ever felt more meh about a series of X Factor. The complete lack of buzz makes it so hard to predict who’ll be going into the lives as favourite. Should arguably make it much easier to work out who they are pushing though when we reach that stage – nobody having much momentum gives the producers much more opportunity to successfully pursue their own agenda.

  • James Martin

    Interesting that although Slavko’s experience at Eurovision (and Louis Walsh tapping him up whilst with RTE’s delegation) was mentioned, his previous on the X Factor franchise wasn’t.

    Although Cowell went on record as hating World Idol at the time, I wonder if an International X Factor would be any good at injecting new life into the format? Or would the EBU have something to say about that and the fairly obvious similarities to Eurovision?

    • Phil

      It’s been done in a way hasn’t it? Wasn’t there a show a few years back that was like a best from around the world type affair – not shown here but somewhere in Asia I think. Jahmene represented the UK, and I think Louis was involved.

  • Uzair

    I think group judges houses starts this week on Sean and Connor Instagram they r off the airport in the middle of the school term so it’s most likely gonna be judges houses.

  • None of The Groups were in that montage last night were they?

    So it’s either producers have made Grace Plan A and Sam Black Plan B, going by the standard logic we use.

    Or more likely, seeing as they have pimped up the groups this year, they’re trying to keep us guessing as to what the Plan A is.

    • Martin

      May require a second watch, but I remember Sam Black and Grace featuring heavily, and I’m pretty sure i spotted the brothers and Cutkelvins in there but I have to admit my mind was wandering. Not feeling particularly invested at all, but boot camp is always interesting to spot producer intention.

  • Guesser

    The made up girl band were, as were Rak su.

  • Jessica Hamby

    What if there’s no plan? What if they’re trying to put together a decent shows on a show-by-show basis and there is no overall narrative arc or plan for a particular winner / top 3? What if they’re just making it up as they go along to try to make good, watchable tv shows?

    • James Martin

      Good one Jess… Good one!

      • Jessica Hamby

        I think it’s a bit early to start looking for chosen ones. We already know who’s through to judges houses but because someone stands out or is invisible now doesn’t mean much?

        Fleur East didn’t really feature until JH. She stood out there but even so but for most people she didn’t come into the reckonging until later in the series.

        Even after a series of amazing sing-off performances Saara Aalto was considered as disposable comic relief until her week 5 sing off last year.

        https://youtu.be/MoldM24I3pE

        Interestingly by the end of their respective series they were both regarded as chosen ones and were both pipped by cookie cutter good looking MOR males in whom the record companies had no long-term interest.

        Is there a cookie cutter boy? That’s where my money would be going if I was betting at this stage of the show.

        • Jessica Hamby

          Having said that, I think Saara could have won last year but they made a total horlicks of her first song and her duet. It was all a bit WTF instead of WOW – which suggests to me that they really aren’t as good at the Machiavellian stuff as some people like to think. Unless they planned to give it to the boy from Narnia all along.

          • I was a Saara backer and I didn’t feel cheated, they gave her a fair enough shot of it in the semi and final. She was leading the votes after the final Saturday and then Matt, with the gold backdrop etc, pipped her on the Sunday.

            They are both Machiavellian and often clueless. Like their attempts to get rid of Saara in the first few weeks, and their promotion of the noncommercial and forgettable Matt.

          • Tim B

            Matt won because he will have taken the bulk of the votes from 5 After Midnight fans after they were eliminated on the Saturday night, not because of colours on a backdrop.

          • Any evidence for simple vote transfer based on demographics? I’ve never seen any. I think people are more complex. Matt won because of the performances on the day imo.

          • Tim B

            It’s not my data but there was this from @tvpolls / tvpolls.co.uk.

            NB. These results are BEFORE Saturday and Sunday Grand Final performances

            2. Who do you want to win The X Factor 2016?
            Answer Options
            Saara Aalto 35%
            Five After Midnight (5AM) 33%
            Matt Terry 32%
            100%

            3. Who’s your 2nd Favourite?
            Answer Options
            Saara Aalto 13%
            Five After Midnight (5AM) 44%
            Matt Terry 43%
            100%

    • Well let’s see what happens this year Jessica. They normally cull talent at 6CC and JH to make an easy path for The Chosen Ones and thus degrade the show and lose viewers, meaning a decent show is not the priority.

      I’m not holding my breath.

      • Uzair

        At 6 chair for the groups the best 6 got through no question. jBK we’re good but in the finale sing off between them and lemOnade lemonade were so much better. The groups are really good much better then last year not bratavio no bad girl groups

        • That’s good to hear.

          The 3 groups now in the Top4 of the odds table are untenable imo as we’ve not yet seen Lemonade and Jack & Joel were good and different. Lemonade in the Lives would also add something different, and they have bothered to create them in the first place.

          Would they have two urban groups going through? Neither of which can sing incidentally except Shereen but they have favoured Rak-Su so far.

          • Uzair

            Jay the other male vocalist in the cutkelvins is not bad he can sing and has a well controlled falsetto he’s better then rak su lead singer but shereen is the best female vocalist in the completion alongside Alisah and berget

          • Uzair

            Just checked Instagram and holly the culkelvisn and Sean and Connor r all going to London. While raksu are heading to central for a meeting. But jack and Joel r heading to Liverpool. Very interesting if they r running with Sean and Connor as alpha group having the cutkelvins there wouldn’t hurt holly would make sense she would be a good sub alpha to grace. Raksu live in London so then going to central doLondon ant confirm much and knowing Simon and how he likes diversity he will probs bring a girl group through

          • Shereen, Alisah, Berget best female vocalists but you don’t mention Grace. Don’t you rate Grace?

          • Uzair

            Grace is better then her other counterparts (Emily middlemas and Janet devlin) but compared to the other girls not so much she can’t belt but she can go quite high. She doesn’t offer too much vocally or as a complete package. I’m surprised she’s still favourite to win when so many people have been better then her

          • David Cook

            I think Uzair has hit the nail on the head regarding Grace. Besides a great recording vocal offering subtlety and craft and a connection with what she’s actually singing, I can’t see that she really offers anything at all. I mean they’re ten a penny on XF aren’t they.
            What we need is something we’ve never had before on XF. A belter who can throw every riff and run under the sun at at it and still be singing 30 seconds after that song’s ended. Now that’s what I call entertainment.

          • LOL. I hope they’ve learned from their Janet and Ella fiascos and don’t let her go too far from the mainstream.

            “Roots” type stuff is great imo. Original, nuanced and yet also pleasing to the XF audience.

          • Uzair

            Just checked odds cutkelvins has drifted quite a lot Sam black in now 4th favourite apparently berget is 5th while rai Elle and alisah r 6th then cutkelvins r 7th. It’s confusing rak su r still 3rd but they r probs the worst group vocally. They might be marketable but do they really want bad singing and rapping again. They r basically honey g and 5am fusion the worst 2 acts of last year. They need a good group if they want to win so that’s either Sean and Connor who could be Pigeon holed and get a bit boring or cutkelvins who have potential just need better song choices and a bit of a push

    • “During filming” may possibly suggest some form of dependence, in which case I feel sorry for him. “Erratic behaviour” they have no choice. At least they don’t test them, which they probably do in USA.

      • The timing seems slightly off.

        All the filming except JH was completed some time ago, definitely before the first episode aired 4+ weeks ago. Yet the decision was made “earlier this month” when there was no filming?

        • That’s just when the made the decision and informed him. Before that they were risk analysing. Generally they like “erratic behaviour” among one or two of the fodder.

          He even had a cameo in the trailer, talking to Dermot. The article says he can come back next year if he sorts himself out. That might incentivise him. He’s done lots of little gigs recently.

        • Alan

          It’s almost as if elements of the story are made up or untrue. A story about XFactor in The Sun. Who’d have thought it possible?

  • Sean

    Which category do they want to win this year and who is likely to win?

  • Martin

    All signs point to them wanting a group win – I think the most pointed reference so far has been Simon expressing his desire to work with The Cutkelvins, especially with him ending up with the groups. Rak Su were used to introduce the new material addition to the show, and first act of the series can sometimes be a marker of where the producers want the show to be going. (Thinking here of Luke Friend opening his year with Gary Barlow wanting credibility and all that nonsense, also Techno Susan being our first act in 2015 when the show was billed as being a more ‘fun’ year).

    Who is likely to win is a different question. The shows default is usually a pretty boy who can hold a note or a relateble, loveable over. I haven’t seen anybody in the overs who seems like a winner, and with the show having Matt win last year, I can’t see them allowing that to happen again. Sam Black would be the closest we have to that type of contestant, or maybe welsh Lloyd. I have no doubt that the show could take down anybody they wanted to – they’ve been very successful in surpressing likeable contestants votes in the last few series particularly – Andrea Faustini, Anton Stephens, Lauren Murray etc. If they have a particular adgenda with the groups, we may see some dirty tricks this year to get them over the line.

    • To get any of those groups to win they’d have to be as destructive as they were in the Little Mix year, and not since. They tend to give the Top 3 a more equal shot at it nowadays in the final weekend. 1D were only 3rd but were hugely successful so they don’t need a group to win.

      I think it’s clear they want Grace to win. And then whichever group takes off to get a place on the podium with her in the customary 3rd place.

      • Uzair

        I think it’s between grace and the group they choose to run with. In 3rd will probs be the final boy maybe Sam black or Lloyd the overs seem first out but that’s what we said last year so I’m not sure. The boys r the weakest category groups r the strongest.

      • Martin

        Alternatively they could do what they’ve done for the previous two series and select their winner and cast the entire live shows around them.

  • Stoney

    The Cutkelvins are closing in on swapping odds with Rak su. They are at their lowest odds while Rasku are now at their longest. Interesting.

    • Phil smith

      And rightly so stoney they are the best group!

    • David Cook

      Looking at the line up I think it’s pretty likely Rak-su will be going through to the live shows. Someone on DS who attended BC and 6CC noted that they were the act that really got the audience going. For a studio audience you need at least one act that’s going to raise the atmosphere – and in the last couple of years that’s been provided by R&B and 5am. They weren’t the best acts vocally either. Besides Rak-su I can’t see anyone else who would do that.
      Also interesting to note that initially Rak-su performed a cover version – which went down well – but were then ask to perform an original song which went even better. If they show both then we’re starting to get a bit of a narrative.

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