X Factor 2012: 10 Questions for Bootcamp

It’s bootcamp weekend. Here are the questions your Sofabet team (Daniel, Dug and myself) are most looking forward to having answered in Saturday and Sunday’s shows.

1. Does Ella Henderson still smell like Plan A?

So far, so Janet Devlin. Just like last year, a demure 16-year-old girl was pimped to high heaven in the first audition show, and six subsequent shows have failed to throw up anyone who seems obviously more favoured. We have fewer misgivings about Ella’s appeal than we did about Janet’s at the same stage a year ago. One also assumes that, after the Janet fiasco, producers will have had a good poke around in Ella’s head to ensure there are no signs of an independent mind.

So if you gave us a free bet at the moment, we’d put it on Ella. She’s trading at around 7/1, like Janet was last year before bootcamp. If she follows the Janet trajectory, she’ll be about half her current price going into the lives.

That’s far from guaranteed, of course. But for now, it looks to us like the girls category is by some distance the strongest – with the intriguing Lucy, and the likes of Jade Ellis and Amy Mottram providing strength in depth – and that Ella is in line to be the alpha girl.

2. Does it look like we’ll start to tire of Lucy Spraggan?

With eight series behind us and the same old tropes popping up time and again, it’s usually possible to find someone from previous shows with whom to compare an act and get an idea of their likely trajectory. Not so Lucy Spraggan. This is a first for the show – someone sings a humorous original composition for their audition, and it promptly shoots up the iTunes charts.

Where does Lucy go from here? As has been keenly debated in the Sofabet comments in recent days, she could prove to have been a one-hit wonder, with a shtick that grows old quickly when it meets the themed live shows. Or she could prove to be an enduring character the voting public take to their hearts.

There is also the thorny question of producers’ comfort levels with Lucy. Sofabet commenter KaraokeSauron sees Lucy as a “semi-novelty act with tremendous appeal but limited ability, who will – I predict – do a Wagner by getting a lot further than producers will have planned”. In explaining why he has backed her at 12/1, however, Louis’wig takes the opposite view, feeling that producers “may be rooting for an edgy act”.

Our tentative view is that if Lucy does gain a cult following, there’s no logical reason for producers to want to nobble her – she’s already shown more of an ability to flog records after a single audition than most live finalists do after ten times as much exposure.

3. Will James Arthur grow on us?

Somewhat hilariously, James Arthur’s mum has popped up in his local paper cheerfully debunking his sob story – far from running away from home and regularly sleeping rough, she says, he once had a bit of a strop and stopped over at a friend’s house. Not so much the brooding Heathcliff figure, then, more Kevin the Teenager.

It is fair to say that James Arthur was received lukewarmly by the Sofabet community, with reaction in the comments ranging from apathetic shrugs to appalled fascination. Can he grow on us? What will he do when it isn’t “rapping earnestly over Tulisa songs” week? Are producers thinking of him as the next Ed Sheeran, or as someone who’d likely be as commercially disastrous as is traditional for the show’s male winners but is mediocre enough not to risk becoming unstoppable?

4. Will producers continue to poke fun at Jahmene Douglas?

Who was the last ante-post favourite for the show to have been treated as a figure of fun in their audition? Sure, Jahmene’s vocals were hailed as the second coming, but only after producers had made sure to dwell on his nervous laugh, social awkwardness and fusspot mother. As Daniel noted in our audition show 1 review, he was dressed like Forrest Gump, and they played the Forrest Gump music when he got his pass to bootcamp.

Where is this going? You wouldn’t think that Jahmene would be the male winner to break the commercial mould, so producers should from the start have an eye on how to pull the rug from under him as and when the need arises. You would also think that he represents something of a risk for the show – he’s told the press about his strong religious views, which could set “Ashley from The Risk” alarm bells ringing. It’ll be intriguing to see how they play him.

5. Will we get to see more of Starboy Nathan?

Hugely touted in the forums, Starboy Nathan snuck apologetically into the final audition show as part of a montage. In the comments, Shoulders hopes that “producers are introducing him gradually because of his head start with an already established fan base and they don’t want the public to think he has an unfair advantage”. R makes the general point that maybe “the show has realised from LM’s win last year that they can get away with not giving their favoured act a big audition but can build them up throughout the series as other acts fall by the wayside”.

It’s certainly possible. But they can’t hope to get through ten live shows without explaining what on earth Nathan’s doing on the X Factor when he’s already had top 40 hits and toured with the likes of JLS, can they? And wouldn’t the best time to address this have been in his  audition, rather than, say, having it come up in the week 2 VTs where everyone else talks about sweeping chimneys and selling bikes and restoring antique furniture?

It does feels worryingly reminiscent of James Michael. When the guitar-wielding Scouser made the lives last year after similarly little audition screentime, we all wondered if this was some kind of deeply cunning triple-bluff slowburn tactic – but in the first live show cull, the obvious explanation proved correct. They simply weren’t interested in him.

6. Is Rylan Clark going to be our only pantomime act?

The X Factor is at its joyous best when it features an act of limited ability and cult appeal who is championed by one mentor while being derided by another, Wagner and Jedward being the textbook examples. Where’s this pantomime fun coming from this year?

We’re expecting it to come from Rylan Clark. But is that it? We hope not. Poisonous Twin would be another obvious candidate, especially with Louis mentoring the groups, but the fact that their audition was relegated to the Xtra Factor doesn’t look promising. Nicola-Marie from week 3 would bring some much-needed fun to the overs, but she has been conspicuously absent from the (admittedly far from convincing) rumours on Digital Spy about who makes it further.

Or perhaps producers think that ostensibly serious acts such as Lucy and Jahmene will provide enough comedy and controversy?

7. Will Dr Frankenstein be let loose on the groups again?

Rumours have George Shelley being grafted onto MK1, which makes little sense. Why create a three-piece with a cute boy to compete with the three cute boys of GMD3? Then again, somebody has to be the week 1 sacrificial lambs – perhaps it’s them.

There was a distinct lack of credible girl bands on the main show during the audition process. We never got to see One Step Beyond, who had some internet buzz. Will one be manufactured, will one magically appear, or will Poisonous Twin get their moment after all?

Or, after last year’s victory and the current glut of bands out there, are the show simply investing less effort in the groups this year?

8. How heavily will producers invest in GMD3?

The market is unequivocal in its view that GMD3 are in line to be the alpha group, and despite the woeful vocals showcased in their audition, we currently see no reason to disagree. The big question is how much effort producers are going to put into them.

If – and it’s a big if – the rumours are correct that it’s Jahmene, James and Rylan who go through from the boys, the boys category will be conspicuously missing the traditional telegenic teen heartthrob. And if – another big if – Kye misses out in the overs, that would appear to leave wide swathes of demographics open to the GMD3 boys.

There’s an obvious case against the idea that GMD3 will be a producer favourite – Syco already have One Direction. But we don’t feel that argument’s conclusive. There’s always room for “battle of the boybands” hype, especially with the juicy added dimension of Louis Walsh taking on Simon Cowell.

9. Have the overs been thoroughly Borelow-ed?

After Storm and Wagner and Goldie and Johnny and Kitty, the overs category this year appears to have had all the fun sucked out of it without the injection of countervailing talent. Of the four main contenders for a place in the lives – Kye Sones, Christopher Maloney, Melanie Masson and Carolynne Poole – only the first, a poor man’s Matt Cardle, has the look of potential top-four material to us.

Carolynne seems perfectly nice and competent, but we’re struggling to imagine her catching the public imagination. Melanie and Christopher look like early-to-midway exits followed by a stint in musical theatre. Will bootcamp change our minds?

10. What happens to Robbie Hance?

The comments consensus was that the show sank to a new low in the way it exploited Robbie’s homelessness in last week’s audition episode. We’re still intrigued by the “show insider” who claimed to the press that producers were scouring the streets for him last week. If we find that Robbie was actually culled at bootcamp, as rumours suggest, the show will just have sunk a little lower.

Then again, maybe all the rumours this year are wrong, and we’ll end the weekend with Melanie McCabe and Joseph Whelan as our new market leaders.

Do let us know your thoughts on the above, and your own burning questions, in the comments.

24 comments to X Factor 2012: 10 Questions for Bootcamp

  • Daniel

    And of course, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the ‘Returning Class of 2011′. It looks like Carolynne Poole is well favoured, so how do they ditch Jade Richards, Melanie McCabe and Joe Cox, if indeed that is their fate? Will any of them get through to judges’ houses? If not will their rejection at boot camp be featured, or will their participation even at this point be forgotten?

  • Arthur smells a lot like Plan B, that’s for sure.

    Ba-dum ching!

  • tpfkar

    Checking in properly for the series – thanks for such good coverage yet again.

    Everything I’ve seen so far feels like penance for the sins of last year. For example:
    Last year, Janet Devlin is slowly suffocated for not being a clone. this year, a guitar and your own song are must have accessories.
    Last year, no Essex fun allowed with 2 shoes. This year Rylan Clark heads off Amy Mottram with much less talent. Poisonous twin are northern versions.
    Last year, we didn’t care who you turned up with, we chose the groups. This year, we’ll make it look like we value your closeness. Just don’t bring the accountant.
    Last year we couldn’t be bothered with the Overs. This time the jokes are elsewhere.
    last year, we didn’t show Melanie McCabe before rejecting her. Lots of screentime this year before sending her home.

    Agree with all comments on sinking to new lows with sob stories.

    First impressions for the next few weeks:
    1-they aren’t pushing any of the groups hard this year as they don’t want another group winner when there are 2 in the stable. Limited coverage, give them to Louis, all on track.
    2-If the boys through are the three rumoured, I can’t see a boy winning. There are much stronger we’ve seen and that indicates they are desperate for a different type of winner. Jahmene is new, I can’t see his faith being an issue as he won’t have the samepressure to conform that Ashley Risk had, but hispersonailty doesn’t say ‘star’ to me.
    Overs- strongest they have ever been, but Kye Sones is the only one I can see standing by the final.
    Girls- not as strong as some are saying (or as strong as last year) but I’d expect Ella and Lucy to be top 5.

    So My gut feel is that they will try to see if they can get the same kind of hype for an over that Johnny got last year, but with a more viable contestant. If they can, they’ll look to go all the way, if not get one of the girls over the line.

    • Andrew

      Hey, tpfkar! So true about the seeming Janet penance. It makes me feel a bit better about the way we stubbornly failed to believe for so long the evidence of our eyes that they really were trying to suffocate her, given that we couldn’t see a good reason for it. Seems like they’ve decided in retrospect that they don’t mind originality or a strong sense of identity after all (or maybe they never did and they just really, really, really hated Janet).

  • R

    Looking at the spoilers, I would expect Ella’s odds to shorten tomorrow to make her firm favourite.
    Jahmene should lengthen after forgetting the words, although he should still make it to the lives and Lucy should shorten after singing two songs.
    If I’m right, Starboy & Leanne should receive some much needed coverage over the weekend. I am coming around to them being invited to the party a little too late.

    As Tulisa has the girls, would the show want her to win 2 years in a row or does this not matter? I noticed that she has been in the limelight much more than the other Judges with the mispronunciation of her name 3 shows running (each of which trended on Twitter), the comments about her being more relevant than Louis with her recent number one, plus the OTT editing of how all the males had a crush on her.
    Nicola has been almost absent, Funsponge Blandpants hasn’t said anything of any note (ever) and the only noteworthy thing about Louis has been the cat curled up on his head.
    On that note, did they really let Louis in front of the cameras with that thing on his head or is it another contrived effort to say “Look at the idiot, obviously doesn’t have a clue.”

  • Simon "Le chat"

    Two stars will be born from this series Lucy and Jehmaine but I do not expect either to win it.
    Ella would be a worthy favourite, Kye to make last three. Nathan Starboy and Melanie to hear “We’re not taking you to the finals”.

  • I can only assume that in a year when the overs are given to the head judge and credible-fied (see 2009), at least one of them will be in the final. Who will it be? I am having trouble convincing myself who the alpha over is. Every1 seems to assume it will be kye, but isn’t that too obvious? What does every1 think?

    With a Kye-Ella-Lucy-Jahmene-Group potential top5, which is plausible, it would again mean that auditions 1 & 2 were front-loaded with the favorites.

  • I did a little bit of research into YouTube contestant hits (and sentiment) the other night, and the results are quite interesting. To put the following into some sort of perspective, as of yesterday night Janet Devlin’s Your Song audition (on the official X-Factor YT channel) had received 4,442,898 hits.

    Two acts from this series (plucked from shows #1 & 2) are already on course to exceed Janet’s total: Jahmene (on 3,303,645) and He Who Shall Not Be Named (‘Arthur’), with 3,586,291.

    Suggesting that the buzz from this show is not as weak as the headlines make out, Ella’s audition has already proven considerably more popular than Janet’s (5,128,866 hits).

    Interestingly, Rylan Clark – whom spoilers and editing suggest is being primed for a pantomime role in the lives – has only garnered 219,793 viewings; against Billy Moore (who murdered ‘Don’t Stop Believing’) with 869,996.

    However, all of the above pales into insignificance against the popularity of arguably the key player in the series to date, Lucy Spraggan. As of ‘last night’ – to coin a phrase – her first audition has attracted 11,585,564 viewings: well ahead of the official new video from last year’s winners, Little Mix.

    If she can carry this momentum into the lives, her current price (of 10-1 with Paddy Power) looks to represent good value.

    Crucially, however, other (anecdotal) factors suggest that her popularity may well depend on whether or not she is allowed to perform primarily as an acoustic artist. Her privately produced ‘official video’ for Last Night has not received as much attention as the 11 million plus hits for her audition might have led us to expect; its current total stands at 793,911. And very significantly in my opinion, the consensus from a straw poll of YouTube users is that this version – fully arranged with a band, plus a backing track and vocal effects – lacks the special quality of Lucy’s solo work. A selection of comments (all taken from the first three pages) will bear this out:

    ‘I really just liked her acoustic version better with this song’ [Top comment, with 167 likes]
    ‘This song is not good with all this pop poop in the background. no offence but the song was much better with a naked acoustic feel’ [79 likes]
    ‘Great song but the acoustic sounded a bit better’ [6 minutes ago at the time of this writing]
    ‘Completely destroyed the novelty of the performance’ [14 hours ago]
    ‘I really like the song but this version is all fucked up. I really hope she play acoustic instead and then i will buy if she sells any cd.’ [19 hours ago]
    ‘I prefer the other version. This one is shit.’ [20 hours ago].

    To me, this suggests that producers’ intentions for Lucy will be signalled by whether they saddle her with full production numbers and a band (or not). Interestingly, the trajectory for previous folk heroes – such as Jedward, Wagner, etc – was arrested by insisting (after a few weeks of controversy) upon early places in the running order, and stripping down their sound to its acoustic essentials. With Lucy, I expect the reverse will be the case. She’ll shine in the first three to four live shows as an acoustic act, but time will be called very clearly as soon as she’s invited to ‘step it up’ by going electric.

    • Steven

      One quick note regarding comparisons to last year’s contestants’ view counts. Many of them had their entire audition bit and a shortened version with only the song uploaded to Youtube, and those two videos obviously split the views.

      Janet’s song-only video, as an example, has about 8.7 million views right now – add that to the view count above and she has over 13 million audition hits all told. As far as I can tell, this year’s contestants have no similar song-only uploads.

      Admittedly, this difference probably helped boost last year’s contestants’ view counts, but I don’t know quite enough about how Youtube counts views to know that for sure.

  • R

    The tellymix preview of Bootcamp is very negative on a number of the acts. Lucy struggles without her guitar, Robbie Hance storms off and doesn’t get on with anyone and Barlow wants Jahmene out.

    This shouts out to me that they have already started the negativity on Lucy & Jahmene before we even get to the lives.

    This is especially interesting for me on Lucy’s portrayal as all I have heard up to now is how amazing she was at Bootcamp and there is a YT video someone recorded on their phone where she was given a standing ovation.

    For me this now leaves Ella, one of the overs or an outsider. I have (perhaps prematurely) dismissed the groups.

    • Boki

      Ella not featured, Leanne R. finally appears, lot of questions remain for tomorrow…
      Tonight was heavily scripted in my eyes, every producer’s favorite got a really good matched song (James Arthur for example) except Jahmene and Lucy who got the oposite and made them look rubish. It appeared they can pull a break on them easier than we thought so it remains to be seen when they are going to do it. Are we going to see Lucy with guitar every week? Did I say she can sing ? Oh my 🙂

  • Having just returned from holiday, predictably my in depth knowledge and confidence has somewhat diminished.

    I’ve never taken Jahmene seriously. His only redeeming feature was his apparent innocence which drew parallels with Joe McElderry. Even so, he’s not star quality both in his voice and demeanor.

    When I first listened to Elle, I was left disappointed. Her composition was strong, but it needing some pepping up with an ambient back beat. Her voice however, was nothing special. Furthermore, her tone is meh and her image is ordinary. That leaves her story, which is the archetypal dead relative to compliment her song.

    Having seen the Carolyne Poole audition, I believe she possesses a stronger range, tone and image, but like you say I’m not sensing mass appeal at this point. Nevertheless, the judge’s comments exceeded my expectations.

    People do pick a favourite from an early point after becoming attached to a story or distinctive voice or character, but as last year showed us, people can change their minds. This year’s selection is rather disappointing, so I still want to wait to see what bootcamp presents me with before I jump on any bandwagons.

    Given the low grade quality of this year’s entrants, I believe it offers the possibility of an unknown popping up out of nowhere; one that the producers dismiss at first and who is usually wedged into a group, but could eventually proceed as a soloist.

    To name a two:

    Matt Defreitas
    Nathan Fagan Gayle

    Anyway, lets hope that this weekend delivers more clarity.

  • Bob

    I haven’t been following too closely but I’ve caught all the James Arthur segments, and I couldn’t back him at 33s. Not a factor in this at all for me. 9/1 (bottom price) is joke.

  • Shoulders

    Starboy Nathan’s albums are back up on iTunes so I guess that means the end of him on X Factor

  • Louis'wig

    Wouldn’tworry too much about Lucy & Jahmene looking rubbish,I can see TPTB telling them to sing Moves like Jagger,we will put you thru anyway, the viewers will wonder if you get thru and then you can have a triumphant comeback the following day.

    • Boki

      Since their odds are not really moving everyone expects ‘a triumphant comeback’ tomorrow but they seem to be much more vulnerable than I expected. As long they are in mercy no problem. Btw James got great treatment he shortened significantly.

  • Tim B

    Boki are you on twitter? Follow me @Reality_Tim. That goes for anyone else too 😀

  • Ronnie

    That’s a shame, Shoulders. I thought he could have been the best act of the lot – especially for a Saturday night TV audience. I was clinging to the hope that Nathan may have got a reprieve via a ‘twist’ such a a wildcard but if he’s albums have been put back up it looks like the writing is on the wall for him. I’m surprised his price is still as ‘short’ as 25/1. Some have mentioned that the reason they didn’t put him through is because he has already had a music career – to that I’d say, why go to the effort of changing the rules to allow those types to apply if TPTB are unable to justify putting them through? Also, I believe he has never had a record deal and out his records out himself. Will have to wait and see if his version of Labrinth’s Earthquake is shown tomorrow. The song is repeatedly played before and after ad breaks on the show, I thought this might have been some kind of manipulative ploy by TPTB to link viewers minds to Nathan’s audition – every ad break would remind us of Nathan’s audition which, going by the youtube version, looks on a different level to what Rylan, Jermaine and James served up today.

    It looks like James Arthur could be the chosen one – he got decent coverage tonight – he was the only person Gary tweeted about during the show (saying “wow”) plus at the end of Xtra Factor Nicole said James’ performance was the best of the day. I’m not not convinced by him and finding it hard to warm to his awkward style and awful teeth. Was tempted by the 25s but just couldn’t do it.

    Other thoughts: Triple J were better than GMD3. Jermaine and Lucy have been set up to come back stronger tomorrow – with the latter being allowed to sing her own song and play guitar. Rylan is definitely going to be this year’s joke act – putting him through after already sending the two other guys through just gave him that extra screen time and an opportunity to showcase his ‘personality’. I don’t mind, I have backed him at 100/1 in order to lay him in the hope he can ride the Only Way is Essex wave to the final 8 or 6.

    If the final 12 rumours are true, it will be the worst 12 I have known in all the years I have been watching the show. The format is struggling badly and the manipulation is clear for everyone to see. I just hope they throw a few curve balls our way when the final 12 are officially announced.

  • Tim B

    My only thought of value tonight is that the non-showing of Ella gives the producers an opportunity to give her the pimp slot tomorrow, which will emphasise her “wow” moment singing her stripped back version of Cher’s Believe.

    Jahmene hasn’t lengthened, as I was hoping. I think he’ll be the alpha boy in Nicole’s category.

  • Ronnie

    Strange Boyles felt it necessary to cut Nathan from 14s to 12s today.

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