X Factor 2011 Review Part 2 – A Deep Dive Into Weeks 3 and 8

This is the second article in our review of the 2011 series. You can see our favourite ten posts of the 2011 series here.

There were two weeks during X Factor 2011 when we were surprised by Little Mix’s treatment in the running order – weeks 3 and 8. With the voting stats to hand, we can start to make sense of what producers were thinking at each stage of proceedings.

Week 3’s treatment strongly indicates to us that producers were not yet thinking of the girls as winner material at this early stage. At the very least, if they were, they took an incredibly reckless chance in sending them out in a relatively poor running order slot (fourth of eleven) and allowing the judges to engage in pantomime arguments afterwards, something which usually depresses an act’s vote.

Given these two factors, it was entirely predictable that Little Mix’s vote fell off a cliff from week one, dropping from 104% of the mean down to 66%.

X Factor 2011 weeks 2-3It’s by no means unusual for votes to fluctuate this much in the early weeks – as the slope of their lines on the graph shows, both Sophie Habibis and The Risk fell off a cliff to a similar extent (131/94, 107/64). The steep upward slopes for Johnny, Misha and Marcus, meanwhile, shows how comparably they improved on their week 2 vote (78/188, 93/130, 82/123 respectively).

In absolute terms, Little Mix got 6% of the week 3 vote (the 66% figure expresses this as a proportion of the mean vote – which, with 11 acts, was 9.1%). This put them only 0.4% away from the bottom two – at this early stage of the competition, probably a matter of only a couple of thousand votes. Admittedly there were a clump of three other acts in the same position – Sophie, Craig and Frankie – but the girlgroup could easily have landed up in the bottom two.

And as a week 3 appearance in the bottom two would surely have scuppered their chances of winning, we find it hard to believe that producers thought of them as winners at this stage.

What were producers thinking in week 3? With the voting figures to hand, we can take a guess. They must, of course, have been in shock over Frankie’s bottom two appearance in the first vote, and worried about whether this relatively unsympathetic character would enjoy a sympathy bounce. As it happened, the gentle uptick of his line shows he didn’t bounce very highly at all – from 62% of the mean up to just 66%.

They must also have been deeply worried for Kitty, who – despite the week 2 pimp slot – had only just escaped the bottom two. Both Frankie and Kitty were acts they clearly wanted to keep around at this early stage, for the entertainment value.

They had a 15 minute overlap with Strictly, which gave them one chance to nobble an act. They chose Marcus – reasonably enough, given his unremarkable week 2 vote: roughly on a par with Craig and Johnny, only just above Sami. They must have thought that burying him while Strictly was on the other side, and shoving him down the memory hole by following him with big-hitting Janet (whose vote for both weeks 2 and 3 is off the above scale), might well have been enough to depress his vote sufficiently to get him below at least one of Frankie and Kitty.

However, they will also be well aware that in these early weeks, votes can bounce around like a dinghy in a hurricane. So they will have wanted some backup plans. Step forward Sami, Little Mix, Sophie and Craig, who occupied running order slots 3-6 in that week 3 show. In slots 7 and 8 came the two acts they wanted to save – Kitty and Frankie – and they will have expected that the lateness of slots 9, 10 and 11 would mean The Risk, Johnny and Misha were in no danger.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that slots 3-6 were a fishing expedition. In case Marcus wriggled off the hook – as he did, in some style – they must have been hoping that one of Sami, Little Mix, Sophie and Craig would do them the favour of sinking into the dropzone. Sami did so, of course, and the other three came very close indeed.

So we stick by our initial view that it was only in week 4 that producers started to take Little Mix seriously as potential winners, after the inspired ‘Insecure Jesy’ VT and the solid performance of ‘ET’ propelled them to second in the vote.

Producers then gave Little Mix the pimp slot in week 5, and they disappointed from it – just as One Direction had done from 2010’s week 5 pimp slot. Their rendition of ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’ got 99% of the mean, which is hardly stellar from the most favoured position.

However, with The Risk gone in week 5, the girlband were now the only game in town if Tulisa were to get to the final. Lady Gaga/Queen week was a bit better for the girls, but not much – up to a slightly more respectable 107% for their mashup of ‘Telephone’ and ‘Radio Gaga’. But week 7 was the gamechanger they needed. Singing ‘Don’t Let Go (Love)’, they stormed to 156% of the mean.

It must have been this strong vote which persuaded producers that they could take the chance of sending them out first in week 8. We also assume producers were alert to the danger we had posted an article about a few days previously, that the increasing obviousness of how favourably they were being treated could start to backfire on them, just as it had done with One Direction. Sticking them on first was the perfect way to nip the “Little Fix” meme in the bud.

However, the early slot predictably brought the girls’ vote back to earth.

X Factor 2011 weeks 2-8As the graph shows, the week 8 result was pretty close all round. Producers got their desired outcome, dropping Janet into the bottom two – but Little Mix were only four percentage points off displacing her, admittedly with Marcus as a buffer between them.

Given the closeness of week 8, it is somewhat surprising that Little Mix won the semi-final so convincingly without the help of a particularly stellar performance, although the weakness of some of the other performances may have had something to do with it.

Another possibility, suggested by Boki and taichou in the comments, is that a lot of Janet’s support transferred to the girlband. This makes some sense. Indeed, we have to consider whether producers had anticipated that the “sweet, shy girl” vote might be transferable, and that it contributed to their desperation to get shot of the Ulster lass.

Even with this convincing semi win under their belt, producers took no chances in the final, as we described in our first article of this series. And given that their split over Marcus was only 53/47 in the end, they were right to do so.

8 comments to X Factor 2011 Review Part 2 – A Deep Dive Into Weeks 3 and 8

  • Frank5

    Great article! So if producers didn’t want Little Mix to win in week 3, the question is which one they truly backed at that time or they didn’t have one at all? Because Janet was already removed as possible winner(I still can’t understand why. Doing too good in voting or just trying to be too independent?) because in week 3 was first time when word ‘boring’ was mentioned by Louis which followed her rest of the show. So maybe they tried with Misha? but then unexpectedly happened ‘bully gate’?

    • Andrew

      Hi Frank, great question! Maybe giving Misha the pimp slot that week is an indication that they were seeing if they could make her fly? And they must have had high hopes for The Risk at that stage, too.

      Then they had bullygate and Ashley quitting, and were back to the drawing board again! 🙂

      • lolhart

        Andrew, I’m not so sure if Misha became the producers Plan A that week. Otherwise they would never have allowed Bullygate to happen, although I think you mentioned in the previous article about Misha that maybe this was a misguided attempt to create some controversy and/or create a story arc for her. I think it’s more likely The Risk were being considered as potential winners at this stage. But even before the lineup change their vote dropped in Week 3 despite a strong place in the running order and a decent song choice. Little Mix really benefited from the misfortunes of others ultimately.

  • annemarie

    Something to ponder! The ‘Talent Show Story’ has been showing on Saturday nights. Catch up here
    What is very interesting is at the beginning of each of the two episodes shown so far Misha appears at the beginning of each episode after comments such as ‘uncovering new talent and ‘discovering new talent’. Apart from winners Little Mix, I did not notice any other of this year’s X factor finalists mentioned in these two shows. The X Factor plan for Misha does appear have gone catastrophically wrong because of ‘bully gate’. Misha’s appearance on ‘The Talent Show Story’ feels like some kind of recompense: that Misha is still being re-enforced here as ‘new talent’.

    I am a great fan of Janet’s and do not really understand what quite went wrong with her. I am puzzled too as to why she was sent out as the ‘golden child’ in Week One, throwing her in at the deep end early on, so to speak. Her performance of Fix You was definitely the best of the bunch that week but perhaps TPTB may have felt for her to keep up that level of performance would be difficult for an inexperienced 16 year old. TPTB may have felt Janet did not have the mental or emotional stamina to last the distance of the whole show. Perhaps Janet was a tentative Plan A but as the show progressed TPTB felt they had other options and took them.

    • Andrew

      Hi annemarie, lolhart – Here’s a wildly speculative thought… could it be that a producer meeting might have decided on Misha as the new Plan A between weeks 2 and 3, hence the pimp slot; but that this was controversial within the producer team as some of them disliked her personally for her backstage antics, and bullygate was some kind of internal backlash which got out of hand?

      Presumably the decisions on who to push are made for coolly calculated commercial reasons, so it would be hugely unprofessional if so – but then, personal dislike of an act because of backstage behaviour seems to be one of the more obvious explanations for the volte-face on Janet.

      • lolhart

        Andrew, your speculation could be correct, although I would have thought that there’d be a united party line among the producers when it comes to the acts. I think it’s possible they were hoping to replicate Cheryl v Wagner with Bullygate – Tulisa attacking her and Misha defending herself and coming across sympathetic. Instead she was stunned into silence and things got out of control when Kelly and Louis waded in.

  • annie

    How good to have you back!
    Little Mix have definately won by default, by screwing least up among all. And I am sure they came up as potential winners only week 5, that’s the time by which all potential winners were out or wounded.
    I am not sure Misha was fully backed by week 3, otherwise they would have made sure something like bullygate had no chance of coming up. (or tulisa and louis just didn’t get the right memo…)
    I was and am a big Janet fan, and watched some of her live-streams through twitter recently, based on those I have to say I can very well imagine her being a difficult teenager to work with. So her being the Plan A and then when the live shows started she being difficult and then being abandoned seems like a very plausible scenario to me.
    Despite a group winning sounds like a good thing for the show, I think the way they did everything this year did a lot of damage.
    Yes, a group won, but a group made in 2 steps, from soloists. General audience may kind of forget that but I doubt groups to potentially audition will that all groups in the lives were producer made.
    Plus the very predictable treatment of the acts. In this I am not sure if the general public who tunes in on saturday noticed this, or only the analiticaly inclined sofabet readers. To me it was almost shamefully done. I hope this doesn’t stop creative and good acts from auditioning in the future too much.

  • It’s interesting on this graph that the weeks Misha received an above average vote were those she performed standards (Purple Rain, Proud Mary, I Have Nothing) and the weeks she received a below-average vote were those she performed songs that included rap (Tainted Love, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) or were “urbanised” and made less recognisable (Would I Lie To You, Born This Way). This pattern can definitely be born in mind with future “urban” X Factor contestants.

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