X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 3: Is Shan The Plan?

In the seven-and-a-half minutes of Sunday’s pimp slot, Shan shot to favouritism for this year’s X Factor.

Her audition ticked lots of boxes: an introduction to her supportive family, the childhood footage showing long-held dreams of singing, an emotional number from this year’s favourite ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack, the standing ovation followed by fulsome judges’ praise (Ayda: “You are the strongest competitor we have seen yet”; Simon: “genuinely blown away”), Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ emotionally playing as she greeted family members backstage, while Simon contrived to repeat the word “magic” three times.

However, 3/1 seems a short price at this stage for a 25-year-old session singer, currently starring in the touring Whitney Houston tribute show, ‘Queen of the Night’. At that age she’d usually be appearing in the overs, and she’s yet to prove that she’s capable of writing hit songs which seemed a prerequisite last year, though her Instagram handle does claim she’s a “singer-songwriter”.

What she does have is a very natural likeability in front of the camera, as evidenced even in little moments such as her jig on receiving four yeses, and giggles when Simon agreed that he too was a “great role model”. My ears pricked at that perfect answer to the question, “what’s the big dream?” A great role model winning is great for a franchise, as Strictly recognised this year by eschewing ‘Love Island’ reality “stars” for a cast notably strong on female role models.

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X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 2: Scarlett O’Drama

Among the problems with this new season of X Fctor, the biggest has been the paucity of new talent. After two weekends of rehearsals, the top trio on the Betfair outright are two familiar faces from last year’s show – Ant Russell and Scarlett Lee – and Irish Eurovision non-qualifier Brendan Murray.

Instead of seemingly front-loading the earliest audition shows with exciting new acts, we’ve had extended segments featuring novelty contestants, and tired, seen-before storylines. The lack of bootcamp may be the primary reason for padding out the auditions (which have recently pulled in the highest ratings) over possibly longer than the traditional four weeks. But the result is a show currently looking like it’s going through the motions.

Still, gamblers are born optimists, and the trailer for next weekend’s auditions indicate the appearance of some interesting acts that spoilers suggest are already through to judges’ houses, such as Georgia Burgess in the girls category. Let’s hope we have more of those 24 acts to discuss next week – these are our thoughts on those we saw among them last weekend.

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X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 1: Mark Anthony

Call us jaded old cynics, but somehow we doubt that this time last year Louis Tomlinson decided entirely on his own initiative to appoint himself as unpaid social worker to Anthony Russell. You have to admire the long-range planning evident in the Scouse scally’s Sunday pimp slot. It suggests not only that – as commenter Stoney argued – Ant is in this for the long haul unless he manages to Frankie Cocozza himself out of contention, but also that producers are still on the ball. This is reassuring, as we’d spent much of Saturday’s show wondering if for some reason they were trying to goad ITV into pulling the plug one season early.

The first audition, which introduced the winner last year, was this time notable primarly for Louis informing us that One Direction is a corny name – this was presumably intended to suggest that Louis is an independent thinker, rather than that the show cocked up even with their biggest success story. The coveted first audition show pimp slot (we may have to retire that phrase) went to Robbie doing a karaoke duet of ‘Angels’, having been shown as bored out of his mind by his judging duties as early as audition #2. And we’re still not sure why they brought Ayda in if they’re not going to give her better material to work with than “you sang ‘It’s A Man’s World’, well it’s officially a woman’s world” or “you’re not just the X Factor, you’re the every letter of the alphabet factor”.

Anyway, on to the acts. As usual, we’ll be focusing on those reported by the Digital Spy forum to make it through the six-chair challenge, so don’t read on if you’re averse to spoilers.

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X Factor 2018: what to note from auditions

With the new X Factor season returning this evening at 8pm, here’s a timely reminder for Sofabet veterans and newcomers alike of what to look out for at the audition stage.

A big caveat for 2018: the show will be keen to show off and bed in its three-quarters-new judging panel, so we can expect as much focus establishing their personalities as the contestants. Still, here are a few pointers and questions to consider.

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Saara Aalto Eurovision Review and X Factor 2018 Preview

When Finnish TV tapped Brian Friedman to do the staging for Saara Aalto’s Eurovision 2018 entry, we were fascinated to see how this collision of Sofabet worlds would play out. You would think that Brian must have learned a huge amount about how to stage an act in a way that will maximise public votes, right?

Evidently not. With an okay-but-not-great song, Saara was never likely to win – but scraping through the semi-final in 10th of 10 qualifiers before finishing 25th of 26 in the final can only be considered disappointing. Let’s review how Saara’s staging went wrong, and what lessons we can draw about the workings of X Factor, the new season of which starts on Saturday.

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BGT 2018 Post-Mortem

The BGT voting percentages allow us to reverse-engineer what producers were thinking when they put together Sunday’s show. Our conclusion: they got the 1-2 they’ll have expected. Lost Voice Guy won his semi with an impressive 40.5%, almost double his nearest rival. We assume they’ll have been confident he would win the final from the middle of the running order.

The semi-final percentages don’t give us all the information producers will have been seeing – they will also be able to compare levels of interest across the five semis. But we can make a rough attempt to reverse-engineer this by comparing how the finalists from each night did in the final: Monday’s acts between them got 28.1% of the vote in the final, Tuesday’s got 17.4%, Wednesday’s 28.4%, Thursday’s 13.3%, and Friday’s 12.8%.

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BGT 2018: The Final

We get the feeling it’s been a mixed week for TPTB: things seemed largely to go to plan on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but Tuesday’s show baffled in-running punters and Simon’s claim to be “thrilled” at Friday’s result didn’t convince the Sofabet comments section. One big-picture piece of evidence that this week’s live shows have not unfolded entirely as producers will have mapped out a week ago is that they surely wouldn’t have planned 90% of the qualifying acts to be male.

Only once in 11 series has the final been won by an act who didn’t top the vote in their semi (when Diversity bested SuBo in series 3), so it seems reasonable that the market expects the winner to come from the four semi winners who aren’t Donchez. Three are comedians, and no comedian has yet won the show – surely something they’ll want to make happen sooner or later. The two key questions for punters look like: which of the three will producers get most firmly behind? And will a three-way split in the comedy vote allow the junior version of Diversity to come up on the rails and claim the crown?

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Anyone for tennis? Summer 2018 sports discussion thread

We’re happy to host discussion on any betting-related events for which our commenters have an appetite. Here’s a thread for your tips, thoughts and chat about the remainder of the French Open, the World Cup, Wimbledon and any other sporting event that takes your fancy.