X Factor 2011: Judges’ Houses Part 2

The big news that emerged during the day and was confirmed in the second and final episode of judges’ houses, was the inclusion of Sophie Habibis for the live shows instead of rumoured finalist Melanie McCabe.

Sometimes, the obvious explanation turns out to be the correct one. Yesterday we observed that Melanie McCabe’s judges’ houses performance “was intercut with interview snippets, the treatment usually meted out to those in line to be rejected”. For all the theories we have been kicking around about producers playing a long game with Melanie – who had been reported as making the live shows in Judge’s spoilers and, earlier, in the Irish Independent – it turns out the opposite was true in this case. 

Punters who have lost money on Mel (this includes us) should not be too harsh on themselves. We have to accept it is an occupational hazard when dealing with unconfirmed information, and Judge’s track record with his spoilers – in previous years, and this year at the final 32 stage – left little room for doubt that he has been passing on information from a genuine source in good faith. We feel bad for him that he appears to have been let down on this occasion, and remain grateful for the other accurate steers he has given us. 

Ironically, a lot of the things we said about Melanie – that she had been kept under wraps and given little footage at auditions and bootcamp in order to create a sense of surprise – apply almost equally to Sophie. Our analysis of the length of first audition footage for each finalist sees Sophie (1m27s) at a huge screentime disadvantage against the other qualifiers in her category – Janet, Amelia and Misha. Bootcamp didn’t change that.

A shout out to some of our canny commenters, like JJ, who spotted her even at this stage. Fiveleaves and Rob picked up on her judges’ houses performance, where she was allotted more time than rival Melanie. The north Londoner was indeed impressive there and is now a best priced 14-1, although she has to overcome being previously below the radar and not having the regional base that Dubliner Melanie would have relied on.

Melanie’s continued low-key profile at judges’ houses may have been a clue that she would not qualify. However, James Michael, who was also shortchanged at the audition and bootcamp stage, was treated similarly in the first judges’ houses episode, yet qualified for the lives in the boys category, as Judge had indicated a few weeks ago. Like Melanie, his audition in yesterday’s programme was intercut with interview snippets. He was not afforded the luxury of an uninterrupted performance that was given to eventual non-qualifiers Luke, Joe and John.

Yet with mentor Gary Barlow making clear that this was his “gamble”, the show has tried to position him as an outsider. However, at a best-priced 8-1 in bookmakers’ lists, he is third favourite overall and best placed in the boys category ahead of Marcus, Frankie and Craig, so his odds hardly reflect this. Gary’s comments on putting through the other boys were also revealing. Of Marcus there was a sense that this was a solid performer and vocalist: “I wouldn’t have gone to the finals without you.” Craig was his “secret weapon” – a slightly leftfield but interesting package, whilst Frankie was, “not the best singer here …[but] you are my pop star, I’m not going to lose you”. This is how he has been positioned from day one.

The odds currently suggest an uphill struggle for any of this year’s groups to take the X Factor crown for the first time. Three out of four from this category have to overcome some rather botched manufacturing during the preliminary stages. Tonight we watched the rejigging of The Risk, with Charlie from The Keys replacing Marlon McKenzie as lead singer, ditching the rest of his bandmates in the process.

Charlie is a decent lead singer, and The Risk also have the engaging Derry Mensah on rap duty. Whilst producers gave more screentime to younger rivals, Nu Vibe, against a pre-Charlie The Risk during bootcamp, it will be interesting to see if there is still a sense of favouritism after the personnel change. I’m concerned that there’s not enough difference in vocal styles between these two boybands, and producers may look to push one over the other as a result. Commerical logic suggests the teenage Nu Vibe will more likely be favoured.

Bookmakers agree and reckon they offer the best hope in this category at 16-1, although we remain fans of 2Shoes, the only act in this section not to be manufactured in front of viewers’ eyes. The section is completed by Rhythmix, who impressed Oli and Fiveleaves in yesterday’s show, although they have to overcome being a new package and the curse of the girlband in X Factor. Female groups have a notoriously bad record in the live shows, though they have usually been dressed rather provocatively to secure tabloid inches, and Rhythmix are cultivating a different style. Quite whether I’d agree with Tulisa’s assessment that they have “an urban edge” is another matter.

I’m not seeing any possible contenders among the overs finalists. Some of our commenters have looked for crumbs of comfort, with Tim defending Kitty Brucknell, whilst Boki prefers Sami Brookes and also considered backing to lay Johnny Robinson, and Matt suggests that the forces vote could boost Jonjo. Personally speaking, I can’t detect much beyond the whiff of desperation from this category, but I reiterate that producers will do their level best to keep Kitty in the show for as long as possible.

With the last 16 now known, it’s time for punters to start taking a position on how they feel about each act. This year it feels like a head-scratching process. This may be because some of the strongest vocalists (Lascel Woods, John Adams, Melanie McCabe) haven’t even made it this far. At this stage last year, Sofabet managed to predict the four finalists, partly because we could identify the alpha male (Matt Cardle), the alpha female (Rebecca Ferguson) and the alpha group (One Direction). It feels much harder to do the same in each of these categories this year. Market leader Janet Devlin has clearly been pimped the most, both tonight and through the audition process, but doubts remain about her versatility. It’s an open race.

What are your thoughts on this and the weekend’s events? Do let us know in the comments section below.

56 comments to X Factor 2011: Judges’ Houses Part 2

  • Ronnie

    Sad to see Melanie bite the dust – she was never given a fair crack of the whip.

    Any views on the ‘twist’, Daniel?

  • Thanks for the props & genuinely sorry I got Mel wrong. Suspect it was the same spinner that got to the Irish press that got to me.

    • Ronnie

      Will you be asking your sources about the twist, Judge? Rumour mill in overdrive on DS!

      • Would say the twist is designed just to do that, build up hype & get folk talking & speculating on different sites and social media.
        No idea what it is yet, have asked a good spoiler & waiting to hear back.
        If it was wildcards, I think I’d have heard by now unless they’re only doing them this week so seriously doubt that’s it.
        Will post if I hear anything.

    • Jack

      Judge, I don’t think anyone blames you and I certainly don’t. Its not your fault if you’ve been fed wrong information.

      I wonder about the twist, but I’m confident it won’t be another wild-card. 20 acts in a 150 minute show with ad breaks is too much to get in. I would be open to anything that could get Melanie back in, but just don’t see it happening.

      I think it could be something to do with a return for Simon or something like that? A fifth judge doesn’t seem too far-fetched at this stage. It will be interesting to see what the producers bring up.

      • Matt

        Do I vaguely recall talk of a different guest judge in addition to the four mentors on each live show or is my memory playing tricks on me?

    • Boki

      We are all sorry about Mel (this is my wallet talking, I found her not really interesting).
      I was sceptical with your spoilers but you got almost all goed, better luck next time 🙂

    • Ron

      The Melanie situation seems to have flummoxed everyone Judge, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

      The Irish Independent (a quality broadsheet) named her as a finalist. They would hardly have done that unless they thought they were pretty sure of it’s veracity. It seems someone purporting to be close to the show or to Melanie must have fed them bogus information.

  • Rob

    did you see the make-overs at the end of the programme. wtf were they thinking, some of them look… well… scary

    • Boki

      Very strange indeed, is that how they going to look like in the 1st live show or just an example what can be done?

    • Daniel

      Indeed Rob, I thought they all looked like extras on Star Trek. They should have called one of the groups The Klingons 🙂

      Boki, I think this is just an example of what can be done, and as a radical one it achieved its aim of getting people talking about it.

    • Henry VIII

      🙂 I think most were pretty dramatically improved though tbf.

  • Nicky

    Don’t be to hard on yourself Judge. The elimination of Jade was spot on and completely unpredictable without inside info. Maybe the inclusion of Sophie rather than Melanie is a case of mistaken identity – they do look similar!

  • Boki

    Well, Boki preffered Sami over Kitty but not sure anymore, she just filled in a spot iso Goldie who I backed on those insane odds to lay later, bad luck. At the end didn’t do the same with Johnny 🙁
    Don’t get the Jonjo except if maybe Louis wanted 50% man/women so he initially chosen him iso Sami. Btw, how big is the UK army and can he survive a round or two based on those votes ?

    Will post my thoughts later this week about all contestants.

  • Jack

    Just been reminded by looking on the DS Forums of the whole Michael Moral situation on BGT. Potentially another act could be brought back by Simon (most likely Jade, though isn’t she back at school?) Still think its unlikely though.

  • tpfkar

    Been away for the weekend, but just in time for tonight’s show.

    My main feel is that the boys and girls category are way ahead of the other two, but I wouldn’t want to call the order of the pairs.

    The groups are so generic and manufactured they are boring, but Sami aside it’s hard to see who the overs superstar is. Was I the only person who laughed at Louis telling Terry that he was the hardest one to leave out, then Dermot’s voice over announced that Sami would be coming in a minute later?

    I’ve got on Janet at 5s on betfair as I think she’s far stronger than Amelia. Bit worried by her make-over we viewed at the end though.

  • JackB

    I don’t see Janet winning – she reminds me more of Diana Vickers where she’ll not actually top the public vote, despite being bookies favourite. For that reason, Kelly doesn’t seem that appelling to me – Amelia seems more likely to be controversially eliminated via deadlock against a weaker act (most likely Kitty) and Misha seems more like the one who just won’t get the votes despite good performances. I’m not sure where to go with Sophie – either cannon fodder due to lack of fanbase, or someone who, as has been said, grows in support as the competition goes on.
    Excluding the Overs and Groups (for obvious reasons), this leaves the Boys. James seems likely to be the one who’ll get a few bottom two places, but get saved either by deadlock or the judges and fall at the top four or five, Marcus seems likely to start well, begin to fall, and then drop into the bottom two at some point and return back towards the top of the votes but fall downwards as time goes on, and Frankie seems more likely to last for a bit, but disappear around halfway when he just becomes boring. That leaves Craig, but Craig seems more likely to me to struggle initially (due to home votes going to Marcus and James), but as the other two start failing, grow and eventually make the final, but I really can’t see him winning.
    As such, I’m at a loss on who’ll win.

  • malcolm

    If Frankie had jumped in the pool after Kitty and Goldie they would have just given him the X factor crown there and then.

    He seems to have a lot about him, Robbie and Gary looked like they were already wanting to be his mate.. for me he looked the most likely star from judges houses.

    Kitty = Wagner with a voice, she will go to the last 4

    I think Tulisa will spend all her efforts on The Risk now, her reputation in this competition will depend on it.

    The girls are between Janet (who seemed to limit the number of odd noises and tone down her Delores-isms) – and Misha who Kelly seems to favour. Still not sure about the rap in every song thing – a bit too street for universal appeal.

    My X factor hunches are usually right, but after Lascel and Melanie this year I’m losing faith in myself .

  • Danny

    Can I ask everybody what the consensus is please?
    Obviously seems a minefield but I guess it would be good to get a solid position this week before the live shows kick in
    Sensible/safe bets seem to be Frankie and Janet?

    • Daniel

      Hi Danny, the beauty and difficulty of this year’s contest is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus. Producers are pushing Janet and Frankie most of all, which is excellent for both. However, there are plenty of pundits who feel that the appeal of these two is rather limited.

  • Boki

    Don’t get Kitty-Wagner comparisons, Kitty is not intended to be funny.

    I have no idea about a winner at this moment, maybe it becomes more clear after a live show (or few), will concentrate more on first elimination. Is it sure it’s going to be a double one (meaning the betfair market reflects the one with lowest votes) ?

  • malcolm

    Twitter before Judges houses (in order)

    Frankie 79K
    Janet 17K
    Amelia 5.4K
    Kitty 2.8K
    Sami 2K
    Misha 1.6K
    Craig 1.4K
    Marcus 1.2K
    Sophie – not found

    Twitter after judges houses … and its only Monday

    Frankie 104K
    Janet 19K
    Amelia 14K
    Craig 6K
    Marcus 6K
    Misha 5.5K
    Sami 5.5K
    Kitty 4.3
    Sophie 3.3

    BIG head start for Frankie … and a GIANT leap for him after Judges houses.

    This isn’t everybody… Jonjo had 79 followers! A reasonable jump up for Amelia, another week and she might have more that Janet.

  • Dug

    Without wanting to sound like the prophet of hindsight, I had been keeping an eye on Sophie. Despite her annoying tendency to drop consonants, she has a nice voice and carries the barmaid credentials without milking them. I had dismissed her chances, based mostly on Judges Spoilers (no sweat, Judge, you still saved us all from putting any money on Jade). Having said that, I don’t see her going anywhere in the competition. ‘He Won’t Go’ was not a standout and her backstory makes her seem a little old, emphasising work rather than family (something that works better for Matt Cardles than for Alexandra Burkes).

    Between Janet (quirky), Amelia (edgy), Misha (urban) and Sophie (soulful) the girls’ category has been left without an obvious ballad-belter, which is unusual. I am predicting some serious elaboration on Amelia’s backstory as she is surely the only girl with a strong chance of beating Devlin into submission / curing her hiccups.

    It’s also a two horse race for top boy. Frankie will prove too much of a panto character (more the back end of a horse than an out-and-out villain). The fantastic Marcus, despite employing some hardcore SERIOUSFACE in his last warble, still emits cheeriness like nuclear radiation. Statistically, only one happy person has ever won the X-factor (McElderry) so it’s possible but very unlikely. It is then a battle between Craig and James. Both fit the “serious ‘n’ authentic” bill with an edge of dry, Scouse humour. I am not averse to the theory that this has been done in purpose in order to help a girl win. The driving force behind any of this is cash and the past has repeatedly proven than GIRLS MAKE MONEY!!

    One or more of the groups are being groomed for post-show success rather than for winning the contest. Interesting that Tulisa mentioned the saturation of the boyband market. I imagine the groups having to ‘prove themselves’ as different and original will be a main theme for surviving groups after a few weeks. One seed for this has already been sewn with the idea of Nu Vibe being a more ‘urban’ version of One Direction.

    The novelty acts (cough) sorry… The overs remain weak as a whole. I am, however, greatly concerned by the inclusion of Jonjo. Gruff voice, national hero, diamond in the rough. He’ll probably turn out to be the marine who gave his number to Cheryl Cole in Afghanistan. She’ll return to the lives in a shock twist and Jonjo will propose in the semi-finals. Eek! Make it stop. MAKE IT STOP!

    Janet, Amelia, James, Craig. I believe only one of these four can win. Not that my selections are against the grain at all.

    Sorry Daniel, but musically speaking I just can’t stomach your description of John Adams as one of the “strongest vocalists” eliminated. I found his vocal to be extremely hollow and breathy and felt that his inclusion was only ever based on his looks. We’ll have to put this down to taste but I find your description to be wildly over-complimentary.

  • Daniel

    No worries at all Dug, and thanks for putting a smile on my face this Monday morning. Myself and Andrew will be compiling our 1-16 prediction over the next few days and I have no doubt they’ll be plenty more dissent when it’s posted, which is as it should be 🙂

  • Simon "le chat"

    Marcus is by far and away the best singer, and the most versitile. He is a great mover and has a sunny disposition and bears no comparison with Joe McIlderry who was a poor voalist by comparison. Olly Mears was a friendly chappie who did well and when the acts are put through the mangle for the different types of singing the cream will come to the top. First three Marcus, Amelia, The Risk

  • miskynoodle

    To be fare on JAMES MICHAEL his twitter page has only been set up for the last 6 hours and has acquired a following of over 8 thousand.

  • andre

    Hi everyone – love this website which I only discovered recently.Just wanted to tell Judge how useful and enjoyable his spoilers are.We are all aware, particularly with this show,that nothing is ever written in stone. It makes the game of spotting value even more fun!!

  • fiveleaves

    She’s something very special.
    The best I’ve ever heard at this stage.

  • Boki

    Any thoughts on 1st elimination market ?

    Rhythmix seems the most obvious candidate to me also, also given the girlband history but maybe too obvious ?
    I’m surprised Kitty is doing so bad !?
    I would but Jonjo and the Risk lower…

    • tpfkar

      I have taken the tip that the producers are pushing Kitty, and have a few pence against her going first.

      Won’t make me rich, but even if she goes 2nd in a double elimination it’s a winner.

      • Boki

        I’m thinking about that one also, she will not go 2nd because they will save her, only danger if she gets lowest votes and goes 1st without sing-off. I hope they give her decent place.

        Any thoughts who is going to sing first (the least favorable act by them) ?

        • tpfkar

          My main thought is that running order will be crucial as there’s a 30 minute overlap with Strictly. So the first 4 or so acts will be at a serious disadvantage, and will give a good clue to who is seen as disposable.

        • Boki

          So the candidates for the first 4 should be less-pimped ones like Rhytm, Sami, James, Sophie right?

          • Andrew

            Hi Boki, to a large extent that’s what you’re betting on if you get involved before the show – which acts are the producers likely to think are expendable? As tpfkar says, the 35-minute overlap with Strictly gives them an even bigger opportunity than usual to nobble whoever they don’t want making it through.

            I’m struggling at the moment to figure out who that might be. Are James and Sophie’s lack of screentime so far indicative, and would they be in danger if so? Might they prefer to lose one of the boybands before Rhythmix, and if so which?

            Of the overs, it surely won’t be Kitty or Johnny on early. I guess it will be whichever of Sami or Jonjo they anticipate having the weakest voting base.

            They may also stick a popular act on early, to see just how popular they are – eg Matt Cardle and Rebecca Ferguson were on 2nd and 4th last year, with two acts they had no interest in keeping – FYD and John Adeleye – in 1st and 3rd.

          • Boki

            Thanks Andrew, it’s hard to predict but at least we are narrowing the list. My worry is poor liquidity on betfair at the moment, are there bookies offering live betting during the show ?

    • Tim

      How about Sami Brookes for first elimination? I’m thinking producers won’t be favouring her – as she wasn’t picked to be in the final 16 in the first place. Plus there may be some sort of ‘backlash’ by fans of Goldie who won’t vote for her as some sort of protest at her absence? Could be overthinking this,

      • Andrew

        Hi Tim, I think your logic is sound, the only problem being that you probably don’t need too many votes to make it through week one and Sami seems to have something of a fanbase, plus she should have the the North Wales vote – maybe enough to see her through. Where she appears in the running order will tell us a lot.

  • Simon "le chat"

    I believe Kitty will do very well. She’s a reasonable singer, but her main attraction is her unpredictability and she is sexy, sexy, sexy – something to keep the middleaged blokes happy.
    First eviction?
    Look no further than Rythmix


    • Boki

      There are many markets right now and I don’t get one of them: First Act Announced Safe.

      Is there a pattern on this one historically speaking? Do they announce it randomly or not?

      • fiveleaves

        Fairly ramdom, but it tends to be the more high profile or controversial acts that are called 1st or otherwise left til last.

        It’s really only a fun market and doubt you’ll get more than a tenner on.

        I haven’t looked but I’d have someone like Kitty or Johnny as favourite.

      • fiveleaves

        Obviously the baldie compiler doesn’t agree.

        Johnny 20/1 & Kitty 28/1.

        I’d couple the 2.

        Maybe Johnny being less likely to be B2 or 3 the bet @ 20/1.

      • Jack

        Sometimes they are novelty acts. In Series 6, Jedward were the first act announced safe in Week 1, iirc.

  • Oli

    I think it’s very good news for Sophie that she was put throught third on the show as opposed to up against Jade, I would have feared a backlash against her. I think this first week will be very important for her she needs a good position.

    I’m also worried for Sami, if they bung her out first, but i do think she’s got a bit of a fanbase behind her.

    There are two real unknown quantities for me left in the competition who I find difficult to place. They’re 2 Shoes and Jonjo. 2 Shoes actually sing so well and they come across so well but I still fear for them slightly. Also I don’t know how far the army card can take Jonjo?

    Finally if I was pushed for a winner, I think I’d be inclined to go for Marcus. Until Judges Houses I didn’t have hime down as a possible winner but his voice is amazing and he just reminds me so much of Will Young now. Don’t underestimate the granny, mum and housewife vote. I think it may depend how long the other two scousers last aswell.

  • Allan

    Happy with Colton and Collins in the outright, might add a girl, either Misha or Sophis, but time to focus on the first out betting now. I think just go for the group or over who is out 1st or second, worked well in the first few weeks last year. Just looking over the bets and I managed to get Storm to go in week 2 at the ridicukous price of 8-1!

  • Simon "le chat"

    Its not who is favourite now, its who comes through strongest at the finish.
    The best male vocalist is Marcus by a mile, he seems genuinely nice bloke and as previously said, dont underestimate the granny and mom vote, and the vote of the silent masses of viewers who do actually treat this as a singing competition and put through the best voice. I’ve lumped on Marcus – he’s a sure thing to get through to last 4 and I will review my positions then!

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