X Factor 2011: Judges’ Houses Part 1

As expected, the first of the judges’ houses episodes provided plenty of clues as to what producers are thinking – this is, of course, their last chance to tee up the trajectories the chosen acts may follow in the live shows. And despite our words of caution in our preview article about not reading too much into the vocals in this very different environment from the studio arena, it is difficult to be entirely unswayed by the performances.

As the show did, let’s start with the groups. There was more screentime for The Risk than at bootcamp, and the reported replacement of Marlon with Charlie from The Keys was nicely set up with plenty of coverage for the latter and a telling clip of Marlon admitting he did not feel entirely comfortable in a group. It looked to us like Charlie is being lined up to be the star of this apparently soon to be re-manufactured outfit, but they will need plenty of airtime in Sunday night’s show if they are to go into the lives with significant momentum.

The other boy group Judge’s spoilers tell us are through, Nu Vibe, looked cute and lead singer Ashford is perfectly capable by boyband standards. But given their unfamiliarity from the auditions to viewers who don’t switch over to ITV2 for the Xtra Factor, momentum to get through the early weeks has to be a question here too.

Rhythmix’s edit certainly suggested they are heading through as well, as Judge tells us. They seem to be going for a quirky Katy Perry style vibe, but vocally they were no more than average. Girl bands are usually cannon fodder in this show and we fear a similar fate is in store, although producers may want to keep them around for long enough to ensure that Frankie gets a crack at them.

2Shoes continue to intrigue us. Having alerted Sofabet readers to their unexpectedly impressive professional backstory when they were 100/1 (thanks to a comment from Alan), we were duly impressed by their vocal in front of Tulisa, and can see them doing better than their current odds (a general 33s) suggest – especially with Charley’s pregancy giving them a great theme for their weekly VTs.

Onto the girls, and the big news is that Melanie McCabe is still being kept under wraps. Her performance was intercut with interview snippets, the treatment usually meted out to those in line to be rejected, while Amelia, Misha, Jade and Janet all got their interviews shown beforehand and a fuller treatment of their audition.

While commenter Annie wasn’t impressed, the consensus from most of you in the comments to the last post is that producers must be playing a long game with Melanie, flying her under the radar in the expectation that she will wow us in the live shows. We are coming round to this point of view. And if this is the case, her current price of 9/1 could look very big in a couple of weeks time.

[Update: Judge, the source who has so far proved entirely accurate in his spoilers, commented after tonight’s show on our site that he is worried about having been misled concerning Melanie’s inclusion in the live shows over Jade and Sophie Habibis, who also got more extended screentime than Melanie. However, Donald saw a potential clue that Jade hadn’t got in by her performing in Cardiff this last Friday. We have no choice but to wait for Sunday’s show to find out.]

Although we took 13/2 about Janet after the final audition show, she is starting to look like a very opposable favourite at her current price of 11/4. Rob notes in the comments that he is “starting to detect a growing anti-JD movement in among the forums”, and her performance in front of Kelly suggested she may struggle to demonstrate the versatility she needs to avoid her vocal style starting to grate.

Amelia Lily once again looked solid vocally and performance-wise, and once again we question whether she has an interesting enough journey to make to justify her position as solid second-favourite. There’s only so far they can flog the “supportive dad” line.

Misha impressed and the edit certainly tried to soften her image, which will be necessary if she is to escape the territory of the Rachels Hylton and Adedeji and ascend to the heights of an Alexandra or Leona. We remain sceptical about her prospects of doing so.

The overs came next, and there is not much to say about them. With Goldie gone, we can confidently predict that producers will move heaven and earth to keep Johnny and Kitty in for as long as possible – and despite Tim making the case in the comments for 66/1 shot Kitty to be taken seriously as a contender, we still reckon some fairly heavy lifting will be required with them both.

Judge still has no news on who fills the last two places, and frankly we’re finding it hard to care. Jonjo, Sami and Terry – the most likely-looking contenders – all seem genuine enough and vocally capable, but none of them have the X Factor. While Matt worries in the comments that the forces vote might enable Jonjo to endanger the “Louis first to lose all acts” bet, we reckon he comes across as too anonymous for that to carry him through more than a couple of weeks.

The surprise package among the boys was Craig Colton, who sounded a lot better than we’d heard from him before. Whether this will carry over into the lives remains to be seen, as he looked a lot more at ease performing in front of a Los Angeles infinity pool than he did on stage in his audition. But it means his purported inclusion will not now look like as much of a shock as we’d expected.

James Michael continues, like Melanie, to be kept under the radar, with a relatively brief appearance. The exchange about him usually performing with his guitar leads us to expect he’ll be allowed out with it at some point and thereby portrayed as this year’s genuine muso, a role which served Matt Cardle admirably. This dark horse continues to interest us, though whether or not there is any value left in his price is open to question.

Dug made an interesting comment earlier today about “the kind of male singer who represents the Brookstein/Ward/Cardle (charming, a bit working class with a ‘surprising’ vocal talent) and as much as I like him, I don’t see Marcus fitting the bill (too fun, too smiley – he should do something about that if he wants to be taken seriously)”. Well, Marcus’s journey to seriousness seems to be underway based on his performance, although he will have to learn to do serious with his eyes open.

We already know Marcus is a confident stage performer, and this performance showcased another string to his bow. He must be taken seriously in our opinion.

Finally, there’s Frankie. Gary’s comment about not wanting him to behave tells us all we need to know about the role scripted for him, and it doesn’t have much to do with his singing voice, which – although praised as a step forward – sounded to us as weak and breathy as it ever has.  Malcolm gave us stats in a comment today that shows Frankie appears to be winning the Twitter wars hands down, but to what extent this translates into votes remains to be seen.

Ultimately, however, we will be happy to oppose Frankie once the Betfair market opens as we still see him as likely to be too Marmite to be in with a chance of the main prize. The further he gets, the more opportunity there will be for the many voters who we expect to find him annoying to coalesce around alternative candidates.

Sunday night sees the final 16 finally revealed. Has the first instalment of judges’ houses changed your mind about any of these acts? Do let us know in the comments below.

36 comments to X Factor 2011: Judges’ Houses Part 1

  • annie

    It’s not the fact that i personally don’t like melanie that much, but I don’t really see objective reasoning to put her through, except to fill a spot instead of others who would have had a better chance of becoming contenders and maybe endangering’ chosen ones'(like jade or sophie for the obvious reasons, or even hollie repton who wasn’t shown much but had interesting vocals today). Melanie has a well trained voice, but not distinctive at all, her looks or style don’t draw attention, so far not even a good story to be used, her personality hasn’t shone through or sparkled either. I really can’t see at this point what would producers benefit from putting her through.
    I don’t think it’s the same situation with james, although they had roughly the same amount of screentime,he has a lot more working for him, his tone is definitely more distinctive, and he has a clear pretty-boy-even-my-mom-would-like vibe to him, plus as you noticed it too, he’s mentioned as a musician, someone who can pick up a guitar when alloved on the life shows. Plus the reasons he gets picked over the other guys is more clear(luke proves tobe too young, joe cox- quirky didn’t really work aiden either and so on…)
    So, I’m really intrigued if Melanie is in fact through, and if so it will be interesting to figure out her ‘role’ on the show, very unclear at the moment.

  • Unknown

    Melanie is the dark horse of the competition – just listen to the comments after the audio audition on YouTube. That is unofficial recording – why would they not put up the official audition. She got to the final day in bootcamp before when she was 14 – she is better than they are letting on.
    Frankie is cool but not a very powerful voice so he should get to about the final 6

  • Dug

    Indeed the underexposure of Melanie and James doesn’t look good at this stage. I was almost certain that either or both of them would have a huge boost at judges houses. Even considering the slightly risky theory that their popularity would shoot up based on the element of surprise seems to dwindle when they fail to get a leg-up at the last stage before the vote goes public. Had Melanie ‘shone’ at judges houses, I was considering putting some money on her to win. Contrary to my previous comments, I’m starting to doubt her. Not completely, but my feelings were based on confidence that she would be elevated this weekend (I can’t now help but bite at the theories that she is ‘fodder’ for the process – necessary to reach the finals in order to prevent others from winning). We shall see. I still don’t see James in the same light. The comparisons between their coverage are blatant but I have never seen James as a potential threat in the way Melanie could be. For one thing, I believe the audience don’t like to see a similar winner two years in a row and James would make for a much weaker Shat Cardle. The doubts of ‘Judge’ are interesting but I have seen many other stories about Jade failing that don’t seem to be based on this information. I also suspect that the producers wouldn’t want her to make the finals for the following reasons: She has been set up as a mini-Adele. Whilst that is going to rocket her voting credentials, it doesn’t set her up to fill a gap in the market and thus the thing that will make people vote for her will be the exact thing that ensures her failure as a post-X-factor artist. Sad, but true. I’m assuming that everyone on here has heard the story of how she arrived singing Etta James and was asked to perform ‘Someone Like You’ to Kelly’s retort of “I had a dream – this sounds crazy, you’re not gonna believe me, I’ve been thinking about this song”. The whole Melanie/Jade thing is fascinating though, as it makes for a mystery that seems far beyond the usually blatant decisions of the judges. But they do make the wrong decisions sometimes – remember Cheryl putting Rikki Loney through to lives? Perhaps the Melanie Hype is unjustified but the bookies must get their info from somewhere serious and Melanie’s been of clear interest for a long while. I still can’t help but think of Alexandra Burke – never even a contender until way into the live shows. Certainly not above Laura White who dropped out early.

    Groups still looks miserable to me. Utterly miserable. The show has tried to make this category looks more credible each year but I feel that in the wake of JLS and 1D, there isn’t the demand that once made these options look refreshing.

    In the overs, I am very interested to see if Jonjo makes it through. I suspect not on the grounds that his backstory could generate a genuine base of support and the producers would surely quake at the thought of his potential success in the voting.

    The Janet backlash is something I suspected (or maybe not – maybe just hoped for) from the first episode. I try to remain objective when judging these things but she has grated on me from day one and I really believe she will slip down the ranks. Her performances so far have been progressively worse, in my opinion.

    It can all change, and does, week to week but if I were to put my money where my mouth was…. I’m looking at Amelia right now. I see the point about the journey but she looks good to me. As far as I’m concerned, only the following are in the real race: Amelia, Janet, Melanie, James, Marcus, Craig. In no way do I predict them to represent the top 6 of course but I am 100% sure that one of them will will. Looking at it now, Amelia looks the best but of course we shall wait and see…

    • Dug

      And spot on with the eyes open point. I think people underestimate body language in these things and failing to connect with the camera can be fatal. Can anyone remind me of a contestant in the past who has been criticised for closed eyes – it rings a massive bell.

      • Dug

        A small but potentially interesting afterthought. After having named my contenders, I have Youtubed their Judges Houses auditions and the only two I cannot find are… BIG SURPRISE… James and Melanie.

        • Dug

          And on a completely personal note, my favourite is by far Misha Bryan (or as Kelly has dubbed her, Misha B). I love that the plural phrase of ‘Rachels Hylton and Adedeji’ has become a regular expression. They have been two of my favourite contestants in the past and for that reason I am expecting Misha to fail early on the same grounds. I also expect too many ridiculous style overhauls for Misha and style overhauls have always proved disastrous in the past.

        • Rob

          i can’t find Janet’s or nu-vibes performance on the x-factor site either… interesting?

  • Oli

    Hey, excellent article as always.

    I’m wondering how they’re going to play Charlies’ move to the Risk, will they welcome him with open arms? Will the rest of the Keys be happy? It’s a strange one. I thought that Rythmix were actually rather good but I’d guess the top group would be 2 shoes.

    I think you could be underrating Sami, she’s the comfortable favourite in our house she’s got a brilliant voice but she was under-par yesterday. Her personality is good aswell. Jonjo doesnt interest me the army story is already wearing thin.

    I really like James Michaels’ first audition but I didn’t enjoy him yesterday. Gary will have to a good job with him. I thought it was interesing they referenced the fact there were 3 scousers. Could James or Craig have a Nicolo esque exit. Marcus is growing on me and he reminds a tiny bit of Will Young.

    I think Janet will end up fourth she’s already showing that she is too divisive. Amelia seems too self assured to be really likeable but she’s very good, I think her vocal is fab but she doesnt have a story. My brother asked yesterday when they were showing her dad, Does he have cancer? The answer of course is no he’s just a proud dad but it makes for a pathetic sob story.

  • EM

    Well we can see the panto villains, the cannon fodder, the close but no cigars but Im not feeling I’ve seen the winner…

  • Panos

    I agree that things are looking harder for Melanie, but lets not lose all hope in the panic of the moment!! But I do have to hand it to them, betting aside, they have actually managed to have me anticipating for the next episodes of the melanie drama!! Will be a total anti-climax if she is cannor fodder. Of course, sometimes acts who have been considered also-runs by even the producers themselves end up simultaneously (1) improving and (2) taking on an unexpected trajectory/journey. And in such cases their treatment by the producers can change accordingly to adjust to the new situation. Even what the producers want is malleable up to some point. So, you never know. Even if Melanie is there as an also-run/cannot fodder for now, if she improves her already good skills in a mcelderryesque kind of way and if she just happens to find some kind of journey, the producers might turn to her during the live shows. McElderry had no journey initially, but then he acquired the ”lets make our home region proud” journey with his mentor and the ”it’s all about the girls and the over 25’s this year, danny Vs simon” worries of his. Viewers, myself included, crave for an underdog, especially one possessing a talent which inflates at high rates from show to show! Maybe Melanie can pull off the ”i’m a nobody amongst 3 already-edited-into-stars girls?” at exactly the right time when we are becoming irritated by Janet’s voice and Amelia’s persona?

  • fiveleaves

    I agree with Oli.
    Rythmix were very good and have the right image for the show.
    They’ll appeal to young women and their mums, much more than the overly sexual female groups, who often couldn’t sing in tune, that have failed so miserably before them.

    I’m sure they’ll be bigger than 20/1 on betfair because of the failure of the previous girlbands, so no rush to back them, but they’ll be one of the acts I want onside.

    I agree with Dan that Biscuit boy was the best boy, but he’s always had the best voice of the boys by a mile for me.
    Whether he can overcome the obvious drawback, that he isn’t ‘fit’ is the main worry.

    I still see the 3 girls we know are through as way underpriced.
    I’ve taken a punt on Sophie being the 4th.
    The spoiler has often been wrong about at least one act and there has always been a doubt about the final girl.
    Only a small punt, but she blew me away last night and if she doesn’t make it ths year I can see them bringing her back next.

  • Rob

    lol fiveleaves ‘biscuit boy’… cruel.

    i was surprised how much better CC was to the others. he could get a decent following and be the surprise package. other observations:
    it clear JD is still plann A.
    i was surprised by nu vibe – better than 1D imo and should get a strong teenage girl vote.
    i was diappointed by JM and he’ll have to up his game to justify his odds.
    the frankie hype is already in overdrive and i suspect he’ll make the latter stages.
    all th girls are good but i’m still not getting the MM hype that’s on this site – admittedly there’s still not much to go on but i’m not seeing a ‘great’ talent. certainly no better than the 3 confirmed finalists.
    i though misha upped her chances last night with a good performance and she controlled her black girl stich in the interviews, starting to come across with a better persona than in the past… one to watch.
    i like amelia… wish she’d tone the make up down though.
    the overs are rubbish. expect louis to go first… but here’s a thought. sami is strong enough vocally that the judges can safely back her in sing offs to maybe get rid of some of the competition without it becoming an obvious fix… nah i’m thinking too hard, it must be all the MM conspiracy theories affecting my brain

  • fiveleaves

    Janet might be plan A atm, but by about week 4 she’ll be plan F or G.

    • Rob

      nah… they stuck with 1D through thick and thin. there’d have to be a catastrophic collapse in JD’s vote for that to happen. she’s a shoe in for a top 4 i think… winning is another matter altogether.

      • fiveleaves

        Cowell had all but given up on 1D winning by halfway. He went from talking about them winning to talking about doing his best for them and making sure they made the final.

        I reckon Janet will be a Vickers like ‘shock’ elimination, but a few weeks earlier.

        • Rob

          yes anything can happen, but DV wasn’t a shock… she’d reached her limit. it will be a shock certainly if JD can’t at least get to Mary Byrne’s position with the irish vote… probably the biggest in xfactor history

  • fiveleaves

    btw on the youtube channle I’m looking at Sophie has most views of her JH performance.

    Ofc it means nothing if she’s not through.

    • Rob

      yeah she’s good. she’s been under my radar. i’ll have some of that if she goes through tonight – better than MM imo. also surprising she is the internat leader (outside of the xfactor channel, where she doesn’t appear)

  • fiveleaves

    ..and only 50 of those views are me.

  • Matt

    Interesting that when they showed footage of Gary choosing the final 4 with Robbie, with Gary talking about aleeping on it with respect the final choice, a very clear shot of the cards was shown with Marcus, Craig and Frankie in a line and then Joe and John’s cards – no James. Maybe reading too much but could Judge be wrong re James or is this just a set up for a bit of Sunday night show swithering?

  • Panos

    I noticed that too Matt and I thought that maybe it was James Vs some1 else for the fourth spot and James eventually got it… which is not that good either!

  • fiveleaves

    Some good sources on DS saying Sophie is the final girl.

    Don’t shoot me if I’m wrong.

  • Sorry folks, It does look like I was fed incorrect info and it is Sophie Habibis taking the final girls spot.

    • Ronnie

      Have you had this confirmed from another one of your sources, Judge?

      • fiveleaves

        One of the sources on DS is from Tellymix.
        I’d say it was 99% Sophie being the 4th girl.

        Also an article in an Irish paper has virtually said Melanie didn’t make in.

        • Ron

          The article in the Irish Sunday tabloid has Melanie returning to school ‘this week’, but as a secondary school student she should have returned five weeks ago.

          It’s all rather puzzling as there were a lot of hints in the Irish media that Melanie was through, plus she has vanished off Twitter for the last four days having been a prolific poster.

          Looks like a large number of people will be wrongfooted tonight, as first they expected Jade to comfortably make it, and then Melanie in her place.

          • fiveleaves

            Her twitter posts. On which either account was hers, struck me as someone who hadn’t made it past the JH’s

          • fiveleaves

            Brazier gave it away on This Morning.
            He said one girl was a surprise and blew the judges away.
            That was clearly Sophie from last nights edit.
            That’s why I had a nibble @ 33/1 and more on when it was all but confirmed on DS.

            It will probably end up being Sarah 😀

          • Ron

            It’s true she was very unhappy with her audition edit (and had every right to be).

            I’d agree that all the indicators are that she is out and Sophie is through.

  • Jack


    I’m absolutely gutted, I really wanted Melanie to get through. 🙁

  • Allan

    Thought Biscuit Boy Colton did very well, don’t think he’ll win, but he still has scope to shorten. Added Mr Collins as my second bet. Like others, really not rating the girls this year, although 14-1 for Misha seems big compared to the others in her category…

  • Rob

    ha, typical that while i’m playing footie in the park with the little ‘un this news comes in. i’ve had a nibble on sophie. don’t think she’ll win but she’s better than jade and MM so has to be taken seriously.

  • Just a note to say sorry if anyone placed bets on Melanie due to my wrong spoiler, I was duped deliberately.

    • Rob

      no worries judge. the info you have posted has been so valuable as far as i’m concerned one wrong is more than forgivable. i doubt anyone here piled all their dosh on MM. when you do this you expect one or two of your early gambles to fall by the wayside.

    • Donald

      As said last night no worries.I rated her though and wrote DJ bit etc. on here so you were far from alone. Too early to be steaming in anyway. Long way to go yet. That’s the great thing about here is there is always air of caution early on, hedge a bit to get going. Daniel spot on re Jade V Janet at the end.

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