X Factor 2017 Bootcamp 2: Coup de Grace

In two recent seasons of X Factor (the beneficiaries being Little Mix in 2011 and Louisa Johnson in 2015), producers have adopted “scorched earth” tactics – not only pushing their favoured act, as they always do, but also nuking every single other act from space, just to be sure. They don’t always do this: in most years they seem to be more relaxed about settling for a less-preferred winner – for example, allowing Ben Haenow to beat Fleur East in 2014. So what kind of season is this shaping up to be?

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Last weekend’s final bootcamp and first 6CC episodes made us suspect producers might be planning a scorched-earth year on Grace’s behalf. Not only did she remain the centre of attention on both days, there was a mixed edit on Saturday for one of her main apparent rivals, Rak-Su. With the boys and the overs looking weak, the groups and girls have so far been where it’s at – and now all three of the most heavily-featured groups have received questionable treatment in their arena bootcamp performances.

The first hint that our weekend would be full of Grace came on Friday, when her second original song of the series, ‘Don’t Go’, was previewed online in full. This is unusual, and was clearly an attempt to build pre-show social media buzz. Grace got duly the pimp slot on Saturday’s show, with a protracted segment to herself. And the absolute positivity continued with huge praise for another self-penned number, ‘Do It Better’, during Sunday’s girls 6CC.

It’s not hard to imagine why producers might be desperate for Grace to win: it’s now clear they see her as the ‘Lancashire Adele’, and with ratings suggesting a possibly terminal decline, they could do with re-establishing the franchise’s real-world relevance. (Given the lengths they went to for Louisa in 2015, you would think they might have hoped for more chart impact by now, and it would be a surprise if last year’s victor, Matt Terry, makes more of an impact than 2014’s Ben or 2013’s Sam Bailey.)

Meanwhile, it surely won’t be a coincidence that the impressive reemergence of 2012’s hitherto written-off winner, James Arthur, with the self-penned number one ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’, has presaged the X Factor’s sudden obsession this year with authenticity and original material – themes that featured heavily in the initial stages of James’s year, and have since been quietly forgotten. And, of course, even a tenth of Adele’s sales would be very welcome to Syco.

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Grace’s Saturday edit helpfully played up the Adele parallels. During an extended recap of her journey so far, she admitted: “in the past I’ve been told that I don’t look like a pop star, and I don’t write songs like a pop star. It’s quite upsetting to hear that, and I just wanted to come here and to prove to those people that I can do it. I believe in myself.”

If producers are to get the votes flowing in for Grace, they need to establish her as a sympathetic figure as well as a talent, and she duly came across as bubbly and down-to-earth as she explained that her latest song was written about her “one and only relationship in life, which did not go well”. She showed quickfire northern wit and flint when asked by Simon Cowell if she would take him back (“nah, he’s long gone. See ya later!”) and what she would say if he was watching tonight (“I know he’s got a new girlfriend, so I hope he’s very happy.”)

‘Don’t Go’ was Adele-esque, too. Nicole started crying, Simon looked at the tears sympathetically, and there was a standing ovation from judges and the arena crowd. Sharon said she was “so natural”, Nicole and Louis called her “honest”, while Nicole and Sharon held hands as they both explained that her performances “get us every time”. Simon called her “relatable” – which Sharon repeated – “a pure talent, brave enough to play your own material, no gimmicks, just all about you, the song, your voice, your talent, your charisma”.

Truth be told, we’d had our doubts about the song after playing it on Twitter on Friday night – but there’s no doubting how effective this segment was in promoting Grace, or how strongly it suggested producers’ intentions. Betfair concurred: last week’s panic over the news that Grace is supposedly headlining a charity concert during the second week of lives has subsided. While that mystery remains unresolved, the market no longer seems worried about Grace’s fate at judges houses: she trades at a similar price to Louisa at this stage in 2015.

On Sunday, Grace was given another recap of her journey so far, and Nicole helpfully said, “this is my girl, this is who I wanted” as Grace walked on stage. The Blackburn lass explained before singing that it was the sequel to her bootcamp song. And presumably this is why the girls 6CC was chosen to follow up the final bootcamp episode on the same weekend, despite it meaning that we won’t hear Grace singing at all next weekend (although what’s the betting she’s features in a recap or two?).

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The new number was called ‘Do It Better’, because, as she said, “I can do it better without him”. This more upbeat number felt less involving as a song, and Grace was a little pitchy in places, as she admitted afterwards in a tweet. But judges’ praise was as positive as before. Sharon reiterated that Grace was “magic, such a talent… you blow me away every time I see you.. I want to, need to, have to give you a chair”. Simon, meanwhile, also offered her his table, cup of tea and prawn cocktail Skips.

On which, here’s our first Sofabet rabbit hole of 2017: how planned was that “prawn cocktail Skips” comment? Simon has a track record of bringing food into the equation, having compared an Andrea Faustini performance to “eating six doughnuts” and dissed Matt Terry as being like “a sandwich without butter”. We suspect these sporadic food mentions are pre-meditated and intended to shape viewers’ reactions to acts on a subliminal level by activating their sense of taste.

If it was deliberate, what might “prawn cocktail Skips” say about Grace? It’s an interesting choice: lowest-common-denominator enough that ITV-watching Middle England might buy it in bulk at Tesco, but also a classier, more aspirational flavour than – say – cheese and onion. The taste is strong, tangy, distinctive – all sensations the show might well want to associate with Grace. Indeed, the flavour listed on the packet is “tingly prawn cocktail“. Grace makes you tingle.

Leaving the rabbit hole, let’s consider the other five girls to make it through 6CC.

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Holly is being treated like the beta girl to Grace’s alpha. Her appearance was trailed just before a commercial break as she fretted over matching what she had just heard (Rai-Elle’s a cappella ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.) She was soothed by Anni, the voice coach we have encountered before (when credited as Annabel) questioning Bupsi’s and Emily’s commitment in their Week 1 VTs over the last two years, in the former case to immediately devastating effect. Watch yourself, Holly!

Holly’s performance of ‘Edge of Glory’ was interspersed with shots of her devoted, emotional Grandad in the audience, after she had promised to make him proud. She showed big voice and little in the way of nerves once again. Sharon told her, “your delivery was perfect… You’re a very special girl”. Holly’s focus was displayed when she was shown explaining from her seat, after the penultimate singer, “I just want to stay here”. But her support for the other girls also displayed a likeability alongside her determination.

In short, Holly is coming across very well indeed, and appears to be being positioned as a capable understudy in case Plan A fails to fly. If this does turn into a scorched earth year, however, we’re already fearing what they might end up doing to the Barnsley lass – hopefully not styling her like a hooker, as they did to Louisa Johnson’s beta girl, Lauren Murray.

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The other most positive 6CC edit was given to Georgina. After her enthusiastic rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, Simon, getting emotional at one point, said: “there’s something I love about you… it wasn’t perfect … [but] you deserve a place there, you deserve a place in the final.” Nicole added: “you make me want the girls category”. The narrative throughout has been that Georgina is not the best or most controlled singer, but she deserves to keep progressing.

As for the other girls that make judges’ houses, Alisah is making a habit of coming back from apparent defeat. Her rendition of ‘All By Myself’ was a real crowd-pleaser, but having been marked as “West End” in her arena bootcamp audition, Sharon said this time: “your style is very dated, it’s very cabaret for me”. Alisah managed to secure a chair thanks to the crowd demanding her return, and a pop at something more modern with ‘Bang Bang’ in the singoff – but “West End” and “cabaret” don’t suggest she’ll be around for the long haul.

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In the singoff, Alisah outsang Rai-Elle, who went gospel with ‘Break Every Chain’. Rai-Elle had earlier shown good control for her a cappella version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, and remains a precocious and focused presence. It may not have been an accident, however, that as Sharon said the line “you are fearless for a 16-year-old” about Rai-Elle, the editors chose instead to show us Holly – also, of course, 16. It all speaks of gamma treatment for Rai-Elle at best.

Deanna also had to sing off for her spot at judges’ houses, according to those who attended the 6CC filming – but producers not to show us this, which in a way is even more damning. Deanna’s head voice can get quite nasally, as she displayed again for ‘My Kind of Love’, and she isn’t being treated as someone in line for a starring role in the lives.

We also got to see Kelsey Gill, 20, who according to the above newspaper report is part of the sixpiece girlband formed from rejects. After a decent enough rendition of her own song, ‘Scars’, clad in PVC trousers, Nicole told her, “you’re a gorgeous girl with a really nice voice,” but didn’t feel that was enough. Sharon agreed, and after she exited, Simon said, “some of the girls that have gone, I’d put in a group”. We’ll see this weekend how that all plays out.

Back to Saturday’s final bootcamp show, by far the most interesting part of which was Rak-Su’s mixed edit. We started with nearly 20 seconds of their original song before it was interrupted by an interview, with the band introducing themselves again and a recap of their journey so far. It always feels slightly unhelpful to start a segment with the singing in question, and then interrupt it. For one thing, there’s no build-up to whet the appetite; and then by breaking up the performance itself, the implicit message is that it’s not interesting enough to hold the attention. Exactly the same technique had been used on the Cutkelvins the previous week.

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The recap reminded us of Simon disliking their Timberlake cover at their audition, and saying “I don’t think you would have got through this audition based on that first song”, before helpfully adding “maybe because it wasn’t your own material”. The boys picked up the theme: “we’ve predominantly always written our own stuff, so bootcamp was really tough because we had to do a cover. Today we can do an original song so we’re back home again.” Takehome message: they can’t do covers.

After their song, Nicole commented, “could’ve been better, it was like a pre-chorus to a chorus. I was waiting for it to get better.” Takehome message: their original stuff ain’t all that, either.

There was also a curious editorial decision to follow the song by showing us Simon’s question about what the song was about, which must have been asked before the performance. The point was to set up to the punchline about the girl not answering, which presumably came afterwards, but the effect it created was jarring – as if Simon had to ask what the song was about as it hadn’t made sense to him.

You can debate how much of this is deliberate. The point is that it’s inconceivable that any of it – the lack of build-up, interruption of the performance by other footage, and mixed feedback – would have been allowed to happen with Grace. Which is why she looks every inch The Chosen One at this stage.

Elsewhere on Saturday, a couple of overs were shown performing to the arena crowd. Tracyleanne Jefford and Slavko remain in contention for a place in the lives, the former going “deliciously retro” for The Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’, and the latter channeling his inner Beyoncé to sing, er, Rihanna.

Still, at least they got a look-in, which is more than could be said for some in the boys category supposedly through to judges’ houses. We saw nothing of Lloyd, Spencer or Leon in this second phase of bootcamp, having witnessed Sam get rejected the previous weekend before his rumoured reinstatement. The other supposed judges’ houses acts who missed out being shown were Kevin and Talia in the overs, plus Jack & Joel and Lemonade among the groups.

This weekend we get the groups, overs and boys 6CCs. It will be fascinating to see how much interest producers seem to have in building up a serious-looking challenger to Grace from any of these categories. As ever, do let us know your thoughts below.

Photos via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

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109 comments to X Factor 2017 Bootcamp 2: Coup de Grace

  • Uzair

    Even if they want grace to win they cant keep giving her original as although she may seem good now will become boring late on. Shes not that great of a singer imo the worst of all the girls vocally. They will have to get rid of anyway who may be similar or dampen her. So I’m guessing no seam amd connor no holly no lloyd personally anyone girl with good vocals could outshine her like alisah berget and shareen. So far grace has had 3 pimp slots compared to Georgians 2 and alishas 1. Deanna seems a throw away unless given a great judges house edit same with rai elle. I could see a rai Elle being similar to kiera weather and being the one Sharon plays around with. Georgina is good but I cant tell if they want her as beta or gamma. Alisah is probs the biggest threat to grace they had to dampen 4I a lot to get them to lose to Louisa. At least Louisa voice could compete with the 4I girls. But alishas voice foreshadows grace a lot eveb holly is good too. Im looking forward to the group six chair lemonade should get a good edit but based of performances i can see VTs for all the acts who made judges houses as they haven’t invested much except in the 3 main groups. Im looking forward to the cutkelvins edit theu were the best out of the 3 at 6Cc. If they want an alpha role for them i would except a massive push at 6cc but if not they seem a solid sub alpha for Sean and connor who struggle witj nerves at 6CC

  • Keep the Grace puns coming, Daniel.

    She does appear to be alpha girl but I’m not on board with the idea that she’s the eventual winner for a few reasons:
    1. I’m not convinced the public particularly care for original material, she’s going to have to do mainstream stuff eventually and I’m not sure her voice is as good.
    2. I don’t find her particularly relatable
    3. Her stats, while better than everyone else’s, aren’t matching the favouritism in the edits suggesting that the public aren’t biting.
    4. While a backer may win on this occasion, it’s simply better betting to lay someone pre-Lives when they’re at 3.5, or back someone else at higher odds. It will work in your favour more often.

    I’ll be removing Premium Account restrictions from TellyStats soon, so that all that’s required to see the hidden App data (and faster Social Media stats) will be a registered account. You’ll find a much more accurate picture of each contestant’s popularity there IMO.

    – Dan (TellyStats.com)

  • Chris Bellis

    Thanks Dan

    Will you post here when you remove the Premium Account features please?

    Agree with you about Grace. I don’t find her likeable, nor actually psychonoxious. Bit nothing really. On a different planet from Adele.

    My bookie relative agrees with you entirely about laying at this stage. He was right about Eurovision and never backing the favourite, always laying, in such a large field when the odds were so low (Italy). I didn’t listen to him at first, so taken was I with the song. Later on I saw reason and won back what I had lost on that particular song.

    • Psychonoxious definitions:
      1. Having an unfavorable effect on the emotional life and reactions mediated by higher levels of the central nervous system; may be endogenous or exogenous;
      2. Denoting people who or situations that elicit fear, pain, anxiety, or anger.

      Chris I think you meant plain old “obnoxious”? But it’s good to learn new words.

    • I’ve just finished working on the site for the data and data originally reserved only for Premium Account holders is now available to registered members (it’s free), this includes the hidden data from the app and fast Social Media stats.

      I recommend checking out the ‘Audition Game’ stats personally. Grace isn’t doing as well as the show might wish to project and Alisah’s stats aren’t being inflated by the Filipino crowd so you get a decent picture of the situation.

      I’ve said it in previous Sofabet articles that I may simply be hoping Grace doesn’t win and am suffering confirmation bias as a result but I see signs everywhere that this isn’t a walk in the park for her.

      Much as I know the breadth of psychological tricks the X Factor uses, I think the Skips reference is a bit of a stretch! However, the stuff about how the edit favours Grace but not Rak-Su is IMO 100% intentional.

  • Alan

    Definitely a rabbit hole moment with the skips analysis. Comments that appear to make no sense are probably just spontaneous I always think. Everyone would have s different view about the quality or otherwise of skips so I don’t see how they could possibly use them as a means to push a certain agenda.

    • I’m going to defend this rabbit hole, Alan.

      The potentially useful thing about comments that appear to make no sense is that they might be able to bypass the left brain and associate a vague feeling with an act without your logic filters having a chance to intervene. That would be a reason to consider scripting them sometimes. I agree they’re not all scripted. But whenever we get a nonsensical comment in a part of the show you’d expect to be particularly well planned – TCO at 6CC surely counts – I think it’s worth asking the question, at least.

      I agree that everyone will have a different view about Skips, but I suspect many people will have similar associations about what kind of demographics tend to like them – and snack flavours have connotations too. If he’d offered her some pickled onion Monster Munch or sea salt and balsamic vinegar Kettle Chips, I think the effect would have been subtly different. If he’d been eating cheesy corn nuts, it would have been careless to associate those words with her.

      That said, I’m not going to the wall for this – I think it’s an interesting enough possibility to justify some brief speculation, but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if it was completely random. Sometimes a prawn cocktail Skip is indeed just a prawn cocktail Skip.

      • I agree, this is big business to them so they’re obviously going to script such comments.

        I’m wondering though if they did any research for this as I find the Skips type of thing thoroughly repulsive, but I can quite enjoy salt and vinegar crisps for example.

        • Martin

          Simon makes these types of seemingly off hand comparisons rather a lot – sometimes it’s part of a bigger picture (Andrea and his donuts) and sometimes it isn’t (Che and the singing dog comment in week one of 2015). What I found alarming about this one is how specific the comment was – he mentioned wanting to give Grace a chair, table, tea… and then his prawn cocktail skips. Why not just say crisps? Why not go full whack and say his might of earl grey with a splash of semi skimmed milk and one sugar?! It seems ridiculous to be discussing some prawn cocktail skips in such detail but as the Andrea point illustrated, sometimes it’s worth dipping a toe into the rabbit hole. I’ll be fascinated to see if any bags of skips pop up in Grace’s VTS.

          • Alan

            All these things are worthy of consideration but I personally dont think they go to anywhere near as much effort as some people give them credit for.

  • R

    Grace is a much better singer than we’ve heard so far. It may be nerves holding her back, but she has a lot more to offer than people have seen to date.
    She also has years of experience doing covers, so this won’t be an issue in the live shows.

    I now see Holly as the beta girl who will take over if things don’t go well with Grace.

    With regards to the stats not backing up Grace. It takes time to build momentum for the female front runner. I expect her to start top 2 and build week on week in the lives.
    Alisha is already suffering a backlash for having been given too many last chances and being a bad sport. The latter could be something to bring her down if she makes the lives.

    The one negative about Grace so far has been the over promotion by the show. This is especially obvious with the many Grace posts on The X Factor’s Facebook page where many have commented on whether she is the only contestant on the show, or why the others aren’t being given a chance.
    This could grow into a backlash which causes her to suffer a shock bottom 2 place.

  • Uzair

    11 groups tonight followed by half of Nicole category. Im expecting VTs for rak su new girl group sean and connor lemonade and the cutkelvins. The top 6 groups were the best so giving them all VTs would make sense. But inter3sting to see if they show how rak su and sean and connor has to change their songs.lemonade had to do a sing off new girl group and Jack and Joel both had to sing again too. With only 11 groups ok guessing they can get everything in

  • Martin

    Entirely agree with the scorched earth stance – for our purposes I hope it’s what they’re up to with Grace, I eagerly anticipate weeks worth of Monica Michael’s gold dresses, empty pub VTs and shrinking hometowns.

  • Betfair Exchange prices of Lemonade and New Girl Band presumably telling us they didn’t pass JH. And continued lowish prices of the original 3 saying the same. Hope I’m wrong and market is not so telling.

  • Uzair

    Interesti they got rid of rak su first song so it seemed like they did better. I really hope they don’t push them cus they r bad and cant sing but s great edit for lemonade and the cutkelvins

  • Tim B

    Am I the only one who thinks Sean and Conor Price are total vote magnets in the context of this show? Young One Directioner types will be all over them and middle aged women will want to mother them. So much Irish charm! With a bit of direction in the live shows I think they will go really far.

    • 1D’s votes weren’t good but, maybe more importantly, they did hit 3s. But likely to get sacrificed for her Grace.

      • Tim B

        One Direction didn’t have the benefit of free app voting, the effect of which has generally been to bring the voting percentages closer together. I’m not saying they would’ve won their series in 2010 with free app voting, but they might have done a little better in the vote.

    • 360

      I’m with you, failing a Brooks Twins-esque controversy to sink them early they’re a lock for top 5, possibly even top 3 in my book.

      Whether or not any other act flies will determine whether they get Candy or a middle-of-the-road classic come the final stages. I wouldn’t put it past them being a solid Plan C that Syco wouldn’t mind having on their books for a more BGT-winner-like career.

  • Martin

    Christ alive that was a marathon of a watch. New Girlband got rather a lot of screen time – it seemed more to me like it was for ratings rather than putting them in genuine contention though.

    Tonight didn’t make any cases for change in the groups. Rak Su, Cutkelvins and the Price brothers seem like they’re fairly obviously through to lives and the fact that none of them are Grace means that producers should be fairly sanguine about them all being rap heavy, not voter friendly but relatively realistic commercial prospects.

    • Uzair

      Disagree with the fact that all 3 make it I think rak su have missed out they didnt get such a good edit today and seeing them compete with everyone showed how bad they r vocally. Also there was a real push for the cutkelvins tonight so i doubt rak su made it. But SC r good and could appeal to a lot of people if everything is about grace this year interesting to see if they r pushed or not. With sean and connor at bootcaml when they got through with 2 not too good performances people on Twitter were angry so although sean and connor may be appealing a bad performance could hinder them. But grace similar to Janet should be safe as houses. The new girl group jave to get to the live shows they cant go through all the effort of making them and giving tjem a pimp slot to just throw them away at judges houses. Even if they get through they r gonna be a gamma group s and c r vote friendly and the cutkelvins r Scottish so they trump the girlgroup.

      • Cutkelvins the most lackluster and poor-voiced of the lot imo.

        • Uzair

          Shareen alone has bettee vocals then anyone in the group’s so if how you’re saying that. Raksu cant sing. Jack and Joel and sean and connor only have 1 person who can sing both girl band are good vocally lemonade being the better one

          • David Cook

            The problem is that Shareen alone also sounds better than Shareen and the two boys. The vocal arrangement was better this week, and even the rapping is OK, but they’re just not good enough to really pull it off when they sing together. Am I the only person wishing they’d just shut up and let her sing?

          • Uzair

            Well when i went to watch 6CC love shareen had some great parts with her high not3s and she belted quite well. It was prior to the rapping but they cut it. They also cut rak su first song. S and C struggled with nerves and broke down.also ash being chosen was a bit random at the actual 6CC the judges commented on her being better vocally just like with Ryan and his husband last year. But in NQs edit we didn’t see any of that so for the public it might seem puzzling why he chose ash.

  • I feel like I am watching 2011 all over again when Little Mix won. Back then, Simon intimated early on that he would like to see a girl band win some time (and we all know that what Simon want’s, Simon gets) He even got the bands category too this time. Hint, BIG hint.

    LM were then thrown together at Judge’s house and were gently favoured all the way through and then pimped like hell to the final. With what Simon said, this was the point when I got onto them at very big odds. He did the same this time by making a BIG point to Sharon suggesting that all her rejects be formed into a girl group.

    As I predicted, this ‘New Girl Band’ were in the band pimp slot too and a huge amount of airtime was also given to them tonight, where 2 bands were also pulled of their chairs for a (tv sensational) comparison ‘sing off’. So are producers going to waste this valuable time? Are they already Plan A?

    The 6th girl also seemed just too handy and ready to add to the ‘big mix’ on stage. Six ain’t gonna work, so one (or even 2) will have to go too for yet another XF tv car crash moment (and even more air time devoted to it?).

    As I write, there are still some nice early prices out there, so I have taken some and may well rest my winners case here and sit out the forthcoming pantomime until the final.

  • David Cook

    The beneficiaries of the weekend so far seems to be the girls, with the odds of Sharon as winning mentor shortening further. Personally I though the groups were pretty lackluster. CutKelvins were a bit better but I’m still far from convinced about the boys vocals. If Rak-su progress we know it’s about the perceived entertainment benefit to the show rather than any vocal ability. They would be a safe choice – they know exactly how to boost them and how to cut them down when the time comes. Sean and Conner were pretty weak – again, but got to agree with Tim B about the potential vote magnet. The new girl group were probably about the best, and interesting that youtube views so far outstripping the other groups. I think somehow they will make it to the live shows, even if it’s as a wild card.
    Has Nicole – or the person pulling the strings – gone mad?

  • David Cook

    If they put Slavko through to the live shows does it prove that they’ve learnt nothing from the Honey G debacle last year? He’s another one trick pony. You can debate whether it’s a better or more novel trick than Honey G, but that’s it we’ve seen it now. There is no more to it than that. If you’ve got to have a novelty act try to find someone with at least an iota of likability.

  • Anglia Chu

    A few notes on the two filled categories. I’ve not seen the spoilers but am basing this off what’s on TV.

    Skeptical on Grace as the chosen one. I feel like they need to drag her hard (a la Louisa) to get these; does they really want to do that again?
    Alisha will be a shock-not-shock exit. Maybe it’s just me being cynical, but she was painted as desperate in both bootcamp and 6CC. That’s not appealing.
    I don’t rate Holly but I see why she’s considered the Beta, especially compared with a little too green Rai-Elle and TreyC Georgina Cohen. I prefer Georgina myself but I’ve watched the show enough to know she is a hard sell.
    Deanna isn’t going through.

    so prediction: Grace, Holly, Georgina/Rai-Elle

    The Groups look like three one-on-ones. Rak-Su v Cutkelvins, SC v JJ, new girls v Lemonade.
    All the Groups seem hyped up, but when ALL of them are hyped up, none of them are. Rak-Su have tapered since their first audition, but if the show really wants them to go far in the competition, I reckon they have a better thing going than 5AM or Rough Copy of yesteryear.
    The new girl group could be a dark horse (if they make it), but their performance lacked the spark I saw from 1D and LM. At best, they have a better chance than Lemonade, who are dead now.
    SC better than JJ, but they are vulnerable to an edit that makes them look “not ready.” The “teen” angle is overrated because many teens probably stopped watching years ago (remember that when 1D were on the show, there was a huge gap for them), but they seem like the harmless act that both teens and parents will like (imagine two less dull versions of Nicholas McDonald). If JJ get in, out in Week 1 or 2.
    This leaves me with the Cutkelvins. I prefer them to Rak-Su, but they’ve been framed as R-S’s weaker foils. Maybe I’m just keeping my hopes down.

    so prediction: Rak-Su, SC, Cutkelvins/new girls

  • Stoney

    Im keeping a close eye on Matt Linnens treatment tonight. Hes the biggest likelyhood of a vote magnet that I can see. Hes basically a poor man’s Matt Cardle up against a poor field.

  • Hi Ben. You’re quite right and they didn’t shake my foundations either, though they are good and better than LM were at this stage and where there was also nothing real obvious to suggest that they would be the next big thing either. But look at them now.

    LM were pretty scrappy at the start but when the grooming started we soon got to know them individually, especially during the online bullying sympathy campaign that was played out in all the newspapers and on the Internet. Now they have also cracked America too from these small (thrown together) beginnings, but even that won’t last forever.

    In the light of this, the way I see it is that XF is just a vehicle for Simon to create new acts to try to fill lucrative gaps in the market, hence he will be quietly planning ahead to fill theirs (and/or 1D’s) boots.

    It’s just an early hunch (where all that extra attention and air time niggles me), but if the NGB do start to get more featured (and favoured) attention, you can be sure that the producers are investing air time and money in them (for Simon).

    As I said, it’s all a pantomime anyway and things can turn on a sixpence. I’ve got passed thinking that it is a genuine talent show where the best voice(s) should win. It’s just a target marketing ploy to create a new money spinning vehicle and I can only echo the article in the Sun that Daniel posted above.

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/4622061/simon-cowell-to-create-x-factor-girl-band-to-fill-hole-left-by-1d/

    • Phil

      Not sure I understand the theory on the need to fill LM’s boots. They are very much still going are they not? And a girl group wouldn’t fill a 1D-shaped hole – their entire success is based on teenage girls thinking that one day one of them will sleep with them. For both of these reasons, I don’t see a girl group winning (or getting more than halfway through the live shows).

      • Hi Phil. Indeed they are still going (6 long years now), but having cracked the USA there is now already a future gap opening here, as they spread themselves thinner. Snooker and Chess players plan more than several moves ahead and in this biz one has to do the same to maximize the future market (and LM will fade eventually).

        In a quote about Simon in that Sun article, “Simon Cowell has a boyband-shaped vacancy in his roster after One Direction went their separate ways last year.
        And now he’s hoping to replicate their worldwide success with a brand new band — this time made up of gorgeous girls.

        A source said: Simon is placing his hopes on a six-piece girlband, which he made up from contestants who stood out throughout Boot Camp and the auditions. Simon thinks the band will appeal to ‘both girls and boys’ and is hoping they will progress to the live shows.”

        He said, “They all have incredible voices and look amazing together, given they all have a great fashion sense and can dance, too”.

        Not only that, but they are all experienced models too.

        Although I made up my mind last night before I read the article, it seems to be Simon’s pet theory too. For me, this certainly adds credence to my hunch.

        • Phil

          Heard it all before though. In fact, we hear it pretty much every series.

          • Phil. And so we do (agreed), but all else is unknown and totally unpredictable until the producer influenced final. Until then, all we can do is just take an educated punt.

        • R

          I don’t see this new girl group being pushed too much. I feel like they’re there to make up the numbers and will be sacrificed in the early weeks.

          I also don’t think LM ever broke America. Their 3 singles which broke the Billboard top 100 peaked at 79,69 and 67. Their current single failed to break the top 100. They also cancelled their US tour a few years ago due to poor ticket sales and have had a mare the last few weeks.

          http://www.billboard.com/music/little-mix

          It may be that LM are coming to the end of their time with Syco, but I don’t see them being replaced by another girl group who’ll have poor international sales.

          • R.You missed out their No 4 and No 6 in the album charts. Also, (quote) “The Little Mix girls have been making waves in the UK for two years now with their unique pop-fuelled anthems, and the USA learned exactly how good these four ladies are back in February when their album hit number ONE on the US iTunes”.

            I’d say with that, they cracked the USA, but as we all know nothing lasts there past their next commercial tv break. lol. Perhaps with your findings they are already fading then and need replacing? Nobody can really predict what will be or won’t be in the USA from the possible next big thing here.

  • Stoney

    Im on board the Matt to win train. After all its the most popular name when it comes to X Factor winners. Hes voice isn’t the greatest. A bit like James Arthur, but boy is he gonna mop up the votes. Just like Ben Hannoew did. Even Grace is sucking up to him on twitter this evening. Get on while the odds are juicy chaps.

    • Martin

      Does he get through though? I’d be looking to either Matt Linen or Lloyd Macey as a default winner if they do get to the live shows.

      My only concern about Matt is that there was no VT for him this evening. They’re certainly trying to keep a lid on him in the knowledge that he’s potentially a runaway train when the public start voting.

  • Ben Cook

    Why did Grace say “I’m so sorry”?

    On Twitter she says

    “Judge’s Houses preview for next weekend just made me cry… AGAIN. Perhaps THAT is what we should do a drinking game for. It’s going to be an incredibly hard episode to watch back.”

    Though she’s being quite a tease by retweeting all the “Grace to win” tweets.

    Another thing I don’t understand – her management Insomnia are still supporting her. I know you’re allowed to enter the competition with management, but don’t you still need to sign to the same management as all the other finalists if you make it through? Anyone know?

    • A few years ago they changed the rules so that artists could keep their own management if they wanted.

      But I’m sure Syco or Sony would retain all label rights if they released anything.

    • Stoney

      Grace is by far the biggest attention seeker on twitter of all the contestants this year, possibly ever. Of course she makes the lives. Shes just playing along with the drama. The fact shes in tears saying sorry at the end of the show does nothing to add any drama to the situation in my eyes.

      • Ben Cook

        They do almost always include a clip of one of the favourites crying in the judges houses teaser, though because all of Henry’s talk about her pulling out I’m a bit worried. Plus watching it back, Sharon has a look of shock on her face.

        But I suppose it’s just as possible that she was underwhelming in her performance, Sharon says she was disappointed with her, but she’s putting her through anyway etc etc.

        • Stoney

          That is exactly what will happen. We always get at least 1 act from each category that has a mare and goes through on past performances. Judges houses is the equivalent to a dance off in strictly come dancing. It doesnt really matter what they do in that performance. The producers have already chosen their finalists.

          • Uzair

            Agree with that statement. So interesting to see whos the hot hot mess labelled by Cheryl maybe one of the girlbands or sean and connor would make sense. Everything has went south since their room audition. Grace had to make it shes been featured so much and is clearly the plan A. Fingers Crossed the nuke her in the lives

        • R

          It’s the shock twist they always have to keep the viewers on their toes, and Grace is playing along.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if she was saying she’s sorry for stepping on one of Sharon’s dogs. ;P

          It got be worried for a second but looking at all the “Grace must win” tweets, it looks like job done in ensuring people stick with her, in the way people started voting for James Arthur after he was bottom two.

          • Stoney

            She wont fly with the voters though. Sure she will have a large support. Probably the largest at the start as she has been rammed down our throats up until now. Before free app voting came in id say shed walk it this year. However once people start getting knocked out Grace will not pick up enough floating voters week by week to hold off someone like Matt from winning. Depends How the producers play it in the opening few live shows though.

  • All this ”serious plans for New Girl Band” sounds very ”Four Of Diamonds are secret Plan A and were rejected on purpose only to be brought back and create a storyline/arc for them” to me. Imho, the 3 best/most promising groups are obvious. Both edits and spoilers tell me TPTB have identified them too. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Little Mix were lucky enough to have TPTB turning viciously against their Plan A (Janet), Misha being a hard sell and already in sing-off by 3rd public vote, Frankie snorting his way out, The Risk not being worth taking the risk in the end, etc. etc..

    • Tim B

      Yes, and after Marcus was thrown under the bus during the final he STILL nearly won the show. It was a lot closer than most finals have been.

      • fused

        I was just thinking today that Little Mix are one of the show’s most successful winners in terms of how they did after their series, and they won almost by accident! So much went wrong for a lot of the other contestants that year.

        Then there’s Olly Murs. Didn’t win, but undeniably did better than most X Factor contestants afterwards. The week he was in the bottom 2 if it had gone back to the earlier public vote like it did for all but one of the other elimations, he would have been sent home against Jedward!

        • R

          It’s those that are signed to Syco and do what they’re told who succeed.

          Cowell doesn’t like his acts having an opinion, as happened with Cardle, Leona Lewis, Brookstein etc.
          And once they split from Syco the media spots quickly disappear.

          It’s no coincidence that Little Mix and One Direction were played in the background of the show for years, or that they and Olly just happened to get a guest slots in the Sunday show every year to market their latest single.

  • Ben Cook

    She’s going to be a lot easier to get over the line than Louisa was, Stoney. More likable and more talented. There’s always the risk a nice boy will pick up support but I can’t see it being Matt. He’s not given any particularly exciting performances so far. I wouldn’t even put him through to lives.

    • David Cook

      One advantage Louisa had was the ability to pull off a bigger crowd pleasing performance. When things appeared to be getting tight – which they were in terms of the vote – she did ‘This is a Man’s World’. Pure karaoke copy of Christina Aguilera right down to the dress, but vocally and performance wise enough to convince that she was a cut above the competition and re-establish a strong lead. I don’t think Grace has got a performance like that in her. If she’s going to win she’s going to have to do it with her own style.

    • India Marie

      Doesn’t he have a wedding to plan?

      Also, why not the guy who was kicked out via sing-off? Oh wait this is The X-Factor not everything has to make sense

  • Dazzle

    I could see Matt linnen going one of two ways either catching on like Ben haenow and picking up floating voters or they could completely max stone him like in 2015 and make him come across as really boring and get rid of him early on.
    The one thing this year is how the live shows will work with them performing on both nights they can put Grace on the Sunday with all the acts that cause a threat to her on the Saturday night that way they can just about guarantee she will get through every week. I’m surprised they haven’t done this format years ago to get the winner they want.

    • The flip side to the split Sat/Sun performances is that there is much more limited time to vote and to manipulate that vote.

      With a Saturday performance and Sunday elimination, they could look at the overnight vote and craft a recap and comments to push a close vote. To some extent they could even control the voting window.

      How long will the vote window be open on a combined show? Will the judges have time to say anything further or will it all be given over to guest artists?

  • Anglia Chu

    On the Overs and the Boys:

    The ones presented in the Saturday episode feel rushed. When you look back, the Overs chosen are strong, but didn’t feel that way during their performances

    Aidan looks like a clear Alpha Boy. Everything else is a mess, from the brothers (I hated seeing the older one get thrown out initially because he was injured ffs) to the sing-off.

  • Anglia Chu

    How do we feel about the odds? The top 4 are Grace-SC-Holly-RS. At least two of those are overpriced!

    • They might be overpriced in terms of the fact that not all of them will end up being contenders at the business end of the competition, but they could all trade lower at different moments in time given that chances are they will all (or most of them) be given their ”Emily – Creep” moment.

  • Tim B

    According to The Mirror, Rak-Su are 25-year-old friends. Does it not worry people that they’ll be 26-ish when launching their first boyband album?

    • Tim B

      Just to compare, 5 After Midnight were aged 20, 21 and 22 this time last year.

      • Martin

        Spot on. They didn’t make 5AM happen post-show, I don’t know what would possess them to try another boyband in a similar lane who are even older. I think it points to the show having no commercial investment at the moment in anybody apart from Grace.

        • India Marie

          Grace is probably the most appealing commercially among the bunch, but that’s not saying much. Not sure how she will fly in the real world, considering that Syco aren’t throwing as much on contestants as they did during Leona/Alexandra’s time.

  • Stoney

    Im not surprised they seem to have decided not to take Leon Mallet to the lives. He would be instantly eating into the Grace vote pool.

  • One act the market thinks is a front runner… looks to me like Simon is sending them (and their backers) a clear message.

    https://twitter.com/jscouser2002/status/920001363605688326

    6 times in just over a minute

    • Spiidey

      Who was performing at this point?

    • India Marie

      Based on time stamps, this is probably Sean and Conor Price. Bearish on them to win, but them as top Group is possible if Rak-Su struggle in the Lives.

    • Milton

      We see Simon apparently in deep thought, that could be a positive as well as a negative. Also in this performance we see him motioning his hand up and down to slow them down. Can you think of any other times that a judge has given an act coaching mid performance during an audition?

        • Milton

          Well remembered Panos. Surely its a good thing if a judge is trying to help you mid song.

          • Martin

            I don’t think it’s a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination – at this stage, I think it helps to give the act a narrative/something to work. Alternatively, it’s something TPTB can play up to should they wish to dispose of them. At this stage, it makes an act more memorable if they have something constructive to work on for their next performance and gives the judges the change to go “oh wow look at that, you listened to what we said aren’t you wonderful” which I expect to be the case with Sean and Connor as their other treatment has been broadly positive.

          • David Cook

            Did anyone else think that the the audition they showed for Holly might have been her second attempt at the song? The direction she received from Nicole seemed to suggest that she might have already received a bit of a pep talk.
            The thing about S&C was that Simon wasn’t directly in their line of sight so seemed more like a comment on the performance than a direction to them. Also it emphasized that the performance was starting to speed up and become a bit more manic – as had been commented previously. It can work both ways – either they can fix it and improve their performances in which case it’s a positive or it can be used against them later on if they don’t.

  • Agree with JSoucer2002 twitter comment “Grace is just in a totally different league to everyone”
    She’s so Plan A..,B …C…..

  • Nick

    As JScouser2002 says on twitter…

    “Grace is just in a totally different league to everyone”

    She’s so plan A . Her “covers” on YouTube are real quality…but not barn storming x factor Sat/Sun night stuff, so they will have to handle her performances carefully.

  • Milton

    Feels like JScouser2002 has fallen for the TPTB lead hype. Two of the four performances we have seen by her have been poor. How can that put her in a totally different league to everyone?

  • India Marie

    Read reports that Fleur East just left Syco. Take that as you please.

    • India Marie

      Also, I didn’t know that last year’s winner Matt is in a different Sony label and 5AM are the Syco act. So…

    • Tim B

      I think she was too old to be singing pop music and launching a pop career. Being in her late 20s, she isn’t very aspirational to the consumers of that type of music (11-22). You have to be in your teens or early 20s.

  • Score

    Description of the first live show on the ITV Press Centre:

    The nation’s favourite singing show returns this weekend with the start of the anticipated live rounds and the reveal of this year’s four wildcards.

    Each of the final 16 contestants will sing their hearts out on the live stage with judges Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell resuming their seats behind the judges’ desk to battle it out with their contestants in the hope of impressing the audience at home.

    http://www.itv.com/presscentre/ep17week44/x-factor

    So we’re getting wildcards in each category and a final 16. Sunday’s show has the same description and both are 2 hours. I can’t see them squeezing 16 acts + voting time + results into 2 hours so I suspect it’ll be 8 per night. Presumably 2 categories per night although they could also do 2 acts from each category per night to mix it up.

    Only 6 weeks of live shows means we’ll lose more than 2 acts some weeks as well.

    • Score

      Looks like they’ve edited the page, unsurprisingly as it seemed a lot to reveal. Irritatingly I’d closed the tab so can’t screenshot it. But that is definitely what it said originally.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Score. Makes sense to me that this would be the format.

    • Interesting… I wonder what they’ll do in say week 3, when they’ll have loads of spare time in two hour shows if only six contestants are performing each night.

      It also means that acts won’t be competing against the others… which will make the voting figures for this series an intereting read.

      Are we still going to have sing-offs? You’d presume so, but if they don’t care about most of the acts does it matter which order they go out in? They can just split the favour acts up over the different nights.

      • Ben Cook

        I think it works perfectly really – they’ll just shorten the show a bit. Keeping the live shows shorter was one of the goals for this year, as hinted by Dermot a while back. Finishing as late as 10.15 isn’t ideal because the viewing figures always take a dip after 9-ish.

        I would imagine for weeks 4 and 5, all the acts left (8 maybe?) will sing both nights, and then week 6 is the final of course.

        I’d rather they’d stuck to the old format because I like the live shows the best, but I do think it’s a good tweak to try.

  • Anglia Chu

    I don’t understand this format. If we wanted a Eurovision format (contestants split up), we’d watch Eurovision; it’s more fun and the audience isn’t dwindling.

    • Tim B

      Presumably it’s to breathe new life into the series by attempting to make BOTH nights essential viewing for fans of the show. It was widely believed that Saturday night live show ratings used to suffer as a result of younger people going out on the razz and watching it on Sunday afternoon instead. I guess this might still happen, but those people will miss both voting and eliminations on the Saturday night if they choose to go out.

      If I remember correctly, flash voting wasn’t particularly popular when it was first introduced in 2013 (though I loved it), so it’ll be interesting to see how the new changes go down. I think it will reduce the boredom of a previously padded out Sunday night results show, at least.

  • Martin

    Not massively sold on this format, but the show has become stale and I understand the need for change.

    I’m enjoying that there’s sixteen acts this year – always more room for a bit more depth within the acts, and more room for some brutal nukings to get rid of the deadwood.

    I’ll be fascinated to see how they split the performances. I’d assumed it would be two categories per night but hadn’t considered two from each. This is a show that struggles to follow its own rules at the best of times though, it could just be decided seemingly at random. Am I right in also thinking that theme weeks have been abolished?

    It’ll be interesting to see how they deal with comparing the votes between each day and the difference in ratings between a Saturday and a Sunday.

  • Chatterbox5200

    A couple of thoughts about the potential new format for the live shows:
    – Saturday and Sunday shows could both follow the same structure (at least to start with), with two categories performing against each other. A “battle” round, judge v judge?
    – This would see a maximum of 8 acts performing each night, which would allow a guest artist to perform while voting takes place, followed by the result/sing off.
    – The categories competing against each other could be varied each week, allowing TPTB to pitch those they want to ditch against stronger acts, or put those they want to keep against acts who are struggling in the vote.
    – Finally, removing the theme weeks may make it easier for acts to perform their own original songs.

  • Tim B

    5 After Midnight and Matt Terry have just launched new tracks. I wonder if they’ll both be special guests on the first live weekend? Rak-Su and Sam Black had better be worried if so 😉

  • David Cook

    There seems to be some confusion regarding the selection of the wild cards. There are suggestions on DS that there will be a public vote-in this weekend. If so that would leave Nicole to choose Slavko as one of her three out of six, as the public will never vote him in. Why not just leave it to good old Louise to choose Nicole’s wild card act?
    The other issue is that when you have a vote-in the voting public gain some allegiance to those acts, making it more likely that they’ll throw some free app votes their way. Presumably not exactly what the producers want.

    • Martin

      You’d think that they’d have announced it as a public vote for a wild card if they were the case though surely?

      • Ben Cook

        Not really. They want people to think when acts are rejected they’re really gone. Then at the end of the show they reveal the shocking twist that they’ve definitely never done before.

  • Plinkiplonk

    It will all depend on what the plan is behind the wildcard idea, as it would be perfectly ok to just have each judge select 4 finalists. Calling 4 of them wildcards makes them stand out for better or worse.
    If they want some of the wildcards do well they will get them in via a public vote.
    If they want a joke act that the judges are too embarrassed to select them selves they will get the judges to chose for each other.
    And they they just want to mark 4 of the 16 acts as obvious fodder, they will just introduce them as wildcards rather than full finalist, thus giving them an air of ‘not quite good enough’.

    Whatever it is, it will be telling, I think.

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