X Factor Audition Show 2: Indie do well?

Is this a blip or a trend? Last night X Factor heavily featured two more singer-songwriters performing their own material. With Lucy Spraggan and James Arthur joining Ella Henderson at single-figure prices in places, three of the current top six in the betting auditioned with fully or partly original tunes. The other to make waves in the market last night, Kye Sones, also claimed to be a songwriter.

All of which begs the question: How far does the show want to take this? Will this early pitch for “credibility” be quickly forgotten with a return to staples such as ‘Purple Rain’ during the live shows? Or will producers allow some contestants to perform their own material week after week? Perhaps they’ll unleash an original song sparingly in the lives, when a contestant is in need of a “brave” or “risky” move?

While the decision to allow instruments on the audition stage is a sensible one, so far it’s feeling overcooked – guitars are the new black and there’s far too much indie-fixation going on for my taste. I realise that Ed Sheeran is a thing right now, but I want my Saturday night entertainment also to include some straightforward pop covers, please.

We didn’t get that even from the mercifully guitarless Kye Sones, the top-ranked of last night’s auditionees in the market at prices from 6/1 to 9/1. He stripped back a Swedish House Mafia dance tune, mashing it up with Rita Ora to produce an earnest yawn-fest.

To be fair, Kye has enough going for him to get into the lives, especially as he qualifies for the traditionally-weak overs category. He’s personable, doesn’t scare the horses, and the show set him up with a resonant backstory for these neo-Dickensian times by majoring on his work as a hard-pressed chimney sweep (rather than that he’s already had a record deal with Sony and has played at the Roundhouse, not just “shit toilet” clubs).

“A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be”, Dick van Dyke tells us, and Boki is right that Kye “could be a very credible over for Gary”. Barlow described Kye as an “artist”, but let’s not get carried away here – this is an epithet he has previously bestowed upon Frankie Cocozza.

I agree with Dr Rich, however, that Kye “lacked a bit of vocal consistency at times” – to me he came across as a low-rent version of Matt Cardle, who has already done the late-twentysomething, journeyman-labourer, first-seen-in-a-hat routine to better effect. Given how that worked out for the show, you’d expect producers would rather brick up the fireplace than allow Kye to develop into a serious contender. Given which, 9-1 doesn’t appeal at this stage.

Lucy Spraggan was the highlight of the whole show for Boki and Dr Rich, and I can’t disagree even though the Kate Nash shtick isn’t my thing at all. Lucy delivered the witty, self-penned ‘Last Night’ with aplomb. She’s distinctive, likeable and a strong performer. My only questions are what the hell is she doing on X Factor and what is the show going to do with her?

She’s had other media coverage in the past and is already flogging an album on her professional-looking website. On which subject Steve notes that “Some are thinking that Lucy didn’t even make the lives since her song is charting on iTunes right now. I’m not convinced, especially since judges’ houses haven’t been filmed yet”. Indeed, and we should also bear in mind that it’s too early to tell how this year’s rule changes – allowing acts with existing management and deals – will change the dynamic in terms of who the show is willing to push.  Who knows what deal Lucy might have signed up to?

Like Ella last week, Lucy got an Olly Murs interview on Xtra Factor. That’s where the similarity ended. Lucy is an anarchic, free-spirited presence, revealing a penchant for tattoos, and engraving the pop star’s full name on the side of her foot.

In terms of personality though not singing style, she reminds me a little of Jade Richards, who was controversially rejected last year at judges’ houses. Jade has reportedly returned to audition this year, but producers may feel they can get a similar character into this year’s live shows thanks to Lucy without admitting their mistake too openly by giving Jade a second chance.

Lucy was briefly available at 25/1 during the show, which would have been worth a punt considering how much there was to like about her. She’s now down to a top price of 10/1, however, which seems skinny enough at this stage given how hard it is to guess yet what such an unconventional audition might portend.

The words “acoustic guitar” are increasingly striking fear into me every time they are spoken on X Factor. Soon after the evening’s final auditionee, James Arthur, uttered them I was wishing I’d dived behind the sofa. He came across as a highly sympathetic individual, but I found the version of Tulisa’s ‘Forever Young’ overlaid with his own rap a rather painful experience. The vocal seemed limited and the rapping no better. This was no Misha B moment.

Producers were keen to push a tragic backstory on us, with the idea of music saving a troubled soul and the feelgood element of James’s estranged parents coming together to support his audition. Which may all end up being a way of making a rejection at judges’ houses all the more heart rending, if producers share my reaction that James doesn’t look like he has enough talent or versatility to make it far in the live shows. They may, of course, have other ideas, but I’m not tempted by a top price of 12/1.

Competing with the Saltburn singer for a place in the boys category is Rylan Clark, who was like last year’s Essex duo 2Shoes, plus a beard and minus the vocal abilities and the charm. Given the amount of time spent showing his preparations, including spray tanning in the back garden, the audition itself was a big disappointment: his voice was remarkably thin.

On this evidence – and bearing in mind that we’ll need some pantomime from elsewhere this year if Gary’s overs is to be less of a joke category – the show may be intending to make a concerted effort to push Rylan on us as a ‘character’. In which case, he may at some point end up trading a bit shorter than his current odds of 125/1. But surely not by much – it’s hard to see the public buying it.

What do you think about last night’s performers, and the “X Factor unplugged” trend in general? As ever, do let us know in the comments section below.

22 comments to X Factor Audition Show 2: Indie do well?

  • Completely agree on basically all of this. It looks like Rylan (henceforth to be known as Conchita Chipolata) is very likely being set up as this year’s Wagner/Katie/Goldie, and as such I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him make it to the live shows as the polarising “water cooler” character designed to generate media attention and pull in casual viewers. His VT was extensive, and the show setting him up as a “character” this year would also fit in with its unpopular new scripted reality elements. I don’t foresee a Goldie-esque moment of self-awareness and withdrawal from him, so unless they do decide to jettison him after all this setup, I expect to see him in the lives. Interestingly, the song he performed was very melodically limited, so it was hard to judge the extent of his vocal talent (or lack of) based solely on last night’s audition. He may be more capable than we were shown. (Or less, horrifyingly.)

    On Kye, I defer to @pennyb on Twitter (who’s a really knowledgeable and astute person to follow X Factor-wise): “Thing is, perfectly nice if dull recording voice, but no stagecraft, no spark & nothing to look at. Hence dropped twice by labels.” He’s also best friends with Fearne Cotton (not an innuendo or euphemism).

    Wasn’t mad about James either. Aside from the way the show manipulated and commoditised his family tragedy for consumption, his performance wasn’t exactly kind on any of the senses. He could sing and the interpretation showed a basic level of artistry, but the Sheeranesque rap insert didn’t work, and the extended closeups of his pained visage and hollering piehole gnashing away at the microphone left me with the overall impression of Gollum trying and failing to fellate a robot while having a massive fit. Again, I defer to @pennyb: “another “credible” sub-Live Lounge dullard. Very poor diction. And again, this is the sound of 2006 Myspace/acoustic nights. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to his teeth for the live shows”

    Lucy: meh. I like her, I do, but yes, why’s she on the X Factor? I’m also tired of the “I’m wacky, me!” school of upbeat irritants with guitars. She was clever and entertaining but not exactly groundbreaking and certainly no Tim Minchin, and moreover, she sounded so like Kate Nash as to be aurally indistinguishable from her. Over to @pennyb once again: “It’s like the audience have never been to a terrible cabaret, acoustic night or on Myspace circa 2006.”

    The blip/trend question was occupying me during the show last night and while it’s impossible to know for certain at this stage, judging by the content of the first two audition shows, I’m forced to tentatively conclude artists that will be allowed to regularly sing their own songs this year. There’s no point in contestants like Ella and Lucy being so prominently featured otherwise. As @3am put it: “Wondering how all these guitar players are going to get on in Disco Week”. And @gdimelow (whose review of last night’s show is here: http://p0pvulture.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-less-than-magnificent-seven.html): “We could be heading for an all-Cardle top ten.”

    I doubt the show’s going to go “back to normal” and jettison all the guitar wielders before the lives, as it would completely undermine the attempt at credibility. Basically it seems X Factor has decided to board the “new boring” bandwagon and try to mine today’s lucrative “twunt with a guitar” market. I think this is going to backfire: ITV isn’t Radio 6. People want really great pop singers/artists, not earnest, self-aggrandising pub wailers. Last year’s X Factor got a lot of stick (unfairly, I think), but Misha, Amelia, Kitty, Marcus, Craig, Sophie etc shit on this lot so far. Even Johnny and 2 Shoes do.

  • R

    This trend is causing me cause for concern too. From what we learned last year, the most obvious explanation is usually the right one. If it looks like they are pushing the singer song-writers probably means they are pushing the singer-song writers.

    The only explanation I can think of is the “Bo” factor. They have learned that the most profitable way to cash in on the acts is to strike while the iron’s still hot. Lucy is a prime example of this – she’s currently no.7 in the itunes chart. This adds further credence to the idea that the contracts have been altered this year. Maybe the artists sign up to give Syco/Sony x% of any profits they make while on the show.
    If this is the case, then maybe Lucy has already given Syco what they wanted from her, and will find herself cast aside at Bootcamp/ Judges’ houses.
    I think it will be difficult for her to cope with the variations in themes from week to week.
    She has also tweeted that she will be playing in Goole tonight. Is this usual for acts still in the show?

    I was surprised at the background info on Kye. It feels to me like he could get a lot of support from his contacts within the music industry. So Kye is a friend of Fearne Cotton & I presume with Holly Willoughby, who has a history with Syco. Plus Kye’s contract was with Sony who own Syco. There are too many connections. I think he will make the lives.

    By doing a Young mash-up, James showed he is willing to do what is asked of him. Beyond that, nothing much to show really.

    If the show does end up full of this type of act, I also have to question what the XF tour will look like, or if there will even be there.

    Then again these acts could split the voting and allow the pop acts to flourish in the later stages of the show.

  • Nugg

    In a way this whole singer/songwriter thing spoils the show for me, that said I do think of what we have seen so far Kye is EW value for the reasons highlighted by R (above).

    His catagory is traditionally the weakest so he is likely to make the lives, and clearly has some inside support to help him along.

    It certainly looks like being an XFactor season unlike any other, with this change of direction, and I am not sure it is in a good way, from a betting perspective we are left in the dark a little.


  • PG

    Maybe they are saving all the pop acts to the end of the televised auditions. Trying to show their credible side early on before reverting to type as the show progresses. The points made about “Bo factor” are well made and maybe the “artists” are just there as any early talking point and to shift some product on i tunes ( other downloads sites are available ) and make some cash for all involved

    It must be remembered that the live section of the voice was considerably shorter then the live section of x factor and much less of a slog for those involved. It will nearly be impossible for the “artists” to last in the x factor format and the weekly themes as mentioned previously would present a problem ( disco, big band etc ). The producers allowing people to do their own material will surely be the exception rather than the rule and they will be expected to tow the line as and when required, or face the Jane Devlin exit door.

    Lastly is the x factor audience the same audience that appreciates the Ed Sheeran’s of this world or is it the same audience that crowned Joe McElderry a winner!

    For me the winner is still out there.

  • I do not know what Lucy will be like in the lives so I would hold my horses in case of a Jade Richards situation. For someone with such impact (on the charts as well) why only 4th in the outright? is the market trying to tell us something?

    Kye smells like ‘Gary’s last remaining act in the competition’ but lets see.

    For me James was a case of an audition being presented to us way overrated cos an episode needs a climax and then maybe him being dropped at judges/boot. he just lacks the individuality factor ppl who make the lives need to have.

    Although one may argue audition 2 leaders are better in the real world, still jahmene and ella seem to me more x-factor friendly material.

  • R

    If this spoiler is true, Nicole has the boys, Barlow has the overs, Tulisa and Louis gets the groups – and I’ve just realised we haven’t seen any decent groups yet (cue Little Direction).

    More importantly, the acts will be able to sing their original songs in the live shows.


  • R

    *Tulisa gets the girls.

  • Dan

    I’m really not sure about the guitars and original songs. It isn’t traditional X-Factor so it’s difficult to tell how these sort of acts will go down with the voting public if any get to the live finals. I can see the original songs being used as another tool to help sway the votes for or against a certain act though. As an example, an act given a big build up with a song “written from the heart” in memory of a dead mother/friend/dog followed by tearful comments from the judges is a guaranteed vote winner. Conversely, someone the producers want to get shot of could end up with no pimping and a song that nobody has ever heard of or knows the background to. Add accusations of indulgence by the judges and they’ll be straight in the bottom two.

    As for last night, again, still early days but we haven’t seen our winner yet. We also haven’t seen any groups sent through to boot camp (I can only speak for the main show as I haven’t been watching the Xtra Factor), and I’m keen to see how they will avoid a repeat of the mess from 2011. If they have actual bands as opposed to the judges/producers cobbling together something at the last minute, then this could be a game changer. I’m still waiting for the urban young female act that the producers have so desperately wanted to win in the past two series to audition, as I’ll reckon that they, whoever they are, will be one to watch.

  • Dug

    I would have commented earlier but I was too busy reacting to the show on my acoustic guitar and crying at a picture of my dead parents whilst on my break from my job as an Olympic toilet cleaner. Did I mention acoustic guitar?

    I didn’t think it was possible but I found this week’s measly half-bucket of auditionees to be even less inspiring than their predecessors. In particular, I look forward to more James Arthur with the same dread I imagine hangs around his impending dental work. What is so inspiring about a screeching Sheeran wannabe whose parents are not together? WHO’S BIOlOGICAL PARENTS EVEN STAY TOGETHER ANY MORE? IT’S 2012! At least they were alive, I suppose.

    I think, due to the rigid curse of the X-Faradox, these attempts to make the show more ‘credible’ will continue to drag it in the opposite direction (no, not ‘incredible’ but simply into the quagmire of disrepute and audience dissatisfaction). Northern Kate Nash wasn’t completely awful but Fringe Fest guitar lols hardly have a place the kind of competition that dreams of spawning the next Rihanna or Justin Bieber. Having said that, I think it’s too early to judge Northern Kate Nash. We should hold off until we see what other tricks she can whip out of the bag.

    Kye (I can’t believe they found a genuine chimney sweep. Producers must have creamed) was worryingly the act I found the most tolerable. He also probably had the strongest vocal so far, which bodes very badly for what is essentially still a singing competition. Luckily Rick Moorhouse hasn’t been taken too seriously in the market as his karaoke ladfest of a rendition of Iris left me with various internal twistings.

    I think so far the stand out characters are definitely the two pimpees. Out of the measly crew of 6 at relatively short odds, Ella is the only one who emanates any kind of pop star potential and that really is at a push. James Arthur strikes me as very able to win over a large fan base so his progression to the lives (or not) would be very much based on whether producers were happy to allow the kind of Devlinesque momentum that caused them so much trouble last year.

    Surely producers have enough data to analyse by now and they must realise that all their previous successes lay on the pop side of music. Do they really want to repeat the mistakes of Cardle and Devlin? The first two audition shows say yes. I’m definitely staying out of the win market for now and probably throughout the competition. Last year’s weekly eliminations proved fruitful enough for me and more than recovered my losses on the highly unpredictable win market.

  • Tim B

    I was away this weekend so have only just caught up. I really enjoyed Rylan’s segment! Definitely being set up as a pantomime villain and great press fodder – probably one to lay for elimination during the early live shows. He didn’t have the best vocal but I’d already made up my mind on him! The song wasn’t right to showcase his voice though so let’s see what he does at boot camp. I made a fortune laying Kitty a few weeks last year so I’m hoping he follows a similar fate.

    I agree with all about Lucy – what is she doing on The X Factor? She should have done Britain’s Got Talent instead – on there she could have sung 3 times and people wouldn’t have got bored of her musical comedy. On this show, however, she won’t be able to do her own material every week and simply isn’t strong enough vocally to go through to the live shows but stranger things have happened.

    Regarding James, I actually really enjoyed his performance. He doesn’t look very good though, so this could be a problem for him further down the line no matter how much they push the divorced parents sob story.

    Kye’s audition was dull. Did anyone notice the “Rita Ora, she’s quite fit” moment in his VT? – CODE: He’s straight, ladies, in case you were wondering, and we want you to vote for him. He’ll probably be in the running to be Gary’s last act standing. If he were a little higher into double figures I’d be tempted with an each way bet.

    • Boki

      Rg. current odds: I have the impression that both bookies (scared by the LMix win) and punters (encouraged by LMix win) are pushing the prices far too short at the moment.

      Rg. Lucy: despite the fact she’s doing a comedy act I had an impression that she is quite capable vocally – is it only me?

  • Andrew

    Interesting that, of the seven big-screentime auditions so far, we have zero groups, one over (Kye), two girls (Ella, Lucy), and no fewer than four boys (Jahmene, Curtis, Rylan, James). Which makes you think, surely at least two of those boys are going to miss out? For me it’s only really Ella and Kye so far who would be a huge shock if they didn’t make the lives.

    Having said that, I checked back to see how many of the live show 12 we’d seen by this stage last year, and was surprised how many. Two of the three girls (Janet and Misha B), two of the three boys (Frankie Cocozza and Craig Colton), two of the three overs (Johnny and Kitty), and two eventual components of one of the groups (Derry Mensah and Charlie Healy when he was still in The Keys). In fact, of the big-screentime auditions in last year’s shows 1 and 2, it was only the rest of The Keys and Goldie who didn’t play some role in the lives, and the latter was supposed to.

    Hmm. If they’ve similarly frontloaded the first two audition shows this year, we’re in for one strange series.

  • If this trend holds, I’m auditioning next year with a 17-minute post-dubstep beat poem on the dangers of landmines accompanied by Tim B on the accordion. My sob story will be “I gamble”.

  • Boki

    Very interesting analysis from Andrew, is there more evidence from the previous years that being in the first/second audition show gives more chance for the lives?

    • Andrew

      Hi Boki, quickly checked the previous couple of years on Bitch Factor. Not so much in 2010 – looks like only Katie Waissel made it from the first show, and Mary Byrne and Matt Cardle from the second. In 2009 it looks like we had four through from the first show (Stacey Solomon, Joe McElderry, Jedward, Danyl Johnson) but only one from the second (Jamie Afro).

  • News that Lucy’s song/album has been pulled from Amazon perhaps signals her place in the live shows. That girl is sure to get a cult following, but I agree that she’d be better suited to BGT. Who’s to say that she wasn’t one of the many acts scouted for X Factor.

    • I’d wager she was specifically scouted.

      Listened to her album on Spotify yesterday: professional-sounding and very accomplished for her age, even though it wasn’t my cuppa. I can see younger folks lapping it up in droves, as they obviously have been doing since her audition.

  • I said Amazon, but I actually meant ITunes (also due to a rule change). No matter. The brand this girl is building is remarkable, but as always, one negative story or one massive blunder is enough to push her from her perch. I did see a video of her performing Titanium at bootcamp, and it sounded fine to me. She also followed up with another self-penned ditty.

    I’m glad I invested at 17.0, even though I still doubt we’ve seen a winner.

  • Curtis

    So I’ve been on holiday this weekend, but I didn’t let a thing like that get in the way of watching the X Factor. I enjoyed Lucy Spraggan’s performance – definitely the most memorable thing to come out of this year’s X Factor so far…but she wasn’t really that good. Definitely like a weaker female version of Ed Sheeran when you stripped away the comedic lyrics, and I don’t particularly like Ed Sheeran.

    Then there was that guy at the end. I’m really not interested to look at his name, to me he was just that guy at the end. I can’t remember his performance at all, other than he had a guitar I’m getting fed up of guys (and girls for that matter) with acoustic guitars. To me it’s the cheap way of looking authentic. But seriously, I can’t remember what this guy sung…was it his own song or a cover…can’t really remember. I just remember he performed with his eyes closed.

    And as for all the other performances, I literally remember none of them! Either I’m going senile or X Factor is becoming more and more forgettable by the year. I still say we haven’t seen the winner, or even a finalist (as in final 3/4) quite frankly yet.

    Oh, and one more musing – groups. Where are they? We seem them in montages sometimes, but mainly in ones like the “Mel B is a strict judge” montage and “Newcastle has no talent” montage – not entirely complimentary. It looks like this may be another year where the groups are pretty much all manufactured. Then again, as Syco now has One Direction and Little Mix, they probably would rather not be lumbered with another group which would only serve to compete with these.

  • As spoilers (obviously to be taken with a cellar of salt) indicate that Rylan makes the lives, do we think there’s any mileage in back-to-lay on him? As I suspected, he is more vocally capable that we were led to believe: http://www.starnow.com/media/134145-Rylan+Clark+-+Desree%2c+Kissing+You+LIVE He has odds as high as 100 in some places, we can expect these to fall if he makes the lives. He’s charismatic, can sing and has the whole Essex thang that’s totes en vogue atm.

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