X Factor 2012: Why So English?

Sofabet commenter Chatterbox5200 emails to make a fascinating point about the way this year’s live shows are shaping up. They’re looking surprisingly English.

Of the 24 acts we saw put through to judges’ houses on Sunday’s show, there’s only one – Jade Collins, from Belfast – who was born and is still living outside of England.  Judging by her lack of screentime during the bootcamp episodes and the strength of the other five girls, it would be a major surprise if she made it to the lives.

There is also a Scottish connection with Melanie Masson. As Chatterbox writes:

The producers promoted Melanie Masson as being from Scotland. Although she was born in Glasgow and is married to Scottish Actor Forbes Masson (Rodney Morris in EastEnders), she lives in London, which is where she runs the weekly Fairy Flutterby’s Little Rock-a-Byes music session that was so heavily promoted. Reports have stated that she was asked to audition in Scotland.

As Daniel wrote in our review of Melanie’s audition show, she comes across as a North London yummy mummy. It seems unlikely that she will stir the Braveheart vote.

This is very much not typical of the show. Chatterbox continues:

Looking back at the first 8 series of X Factor, the acts that have got to the Live Shows (9 in Series 1, 12 in series 2-6 and 16 in series 8 and 9) have generally included a minimum of 2 acts that are not from England. This allowed for a regional base to be established and gave Louis the chance to say “I want the whole of Scotland/Ireland/Wales to pick up the phone and vote for you”.

Chatterbox helpfully sends a list of all live show contestants’ regional backgrounds from series 1 through 8. In season 1, we had Roberta Howett and Tabby Callaghan from Ireland. In season 2, two from Ireland (Philip Magee and The Conway Sisters) and one from Wales (Chico Slimani). In 3, we had three Scottish acts (Kerry Grainger, Nikitta Angus and The MacDonald Brothers).

Season 4 brought us the only non-English winner so far, Scotland’s Leon Jackson, as well as the Welsh brace of second placed Rhydian Roberts (you may recall the Scotland vs Wales vs England framing of the final, with Same Difference representing the latter) and Andy Williams.

Season 5’s Eoghan Quigg rode the Ulster vote to third place. Season 6’s crop included Ireland’s Jedward, Scotland’s Rikki Loney, and Lloyd Daniels and Lucie Jones from Wales. In season 7, Storm Lee flew back across the Atlantic to lay claim to his Scottish roots and Mary Byrne represented the Emerald Isle. And last year, we had Janet Devlin of Ulster and Sami Brookes, whose artistic home may be plying the international waters but who hails from Wales.

This year? Not so much. It’s not like there was a massive pool of non-English talent introduced this year but ignored for judges’ houses. Chatterbox sends a similarly thorough profile of the regional backgrounds of featured acts this year, and there were only really two high-profile non-English contenders who were looked over – poor old Melanie McCabe and Jade [agonising pause] Richards.

Of course, these two were unearthed in 2011’s show, or even earlier in Mel’s case. So it seems that the trawl through the British Isles’ talent pool in 2012 turned up next to no non-Englanders producers deemed worthy of inviting us to emotionally invest in.

Statistically speaking, this seems more than odd. The population of England is about 53 million, and the population of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland totals about 16 million. If you chose them at random, you’d expect one in every four or five acts to be from outside England.

What could be the explanation? On the face of it, this makes no sense. Viewing figures are plummeting. Why not make sure that viewers from all corners of the country have as many reasons as possible to tune in?

The only vaguely plausible-seeming idea we can come up with is that if viewing figures are declining, phone voting figures might be too, which could increase the relative power of a loyal regional vote and hence the risk of landing the show with an unwanted winner. We might term this the Jai McDowell Problem.

But would this really be reason enough to neglect the chance to drum up interest and hence viewers and hence advertising revenue in Scotland, Wales and Ireland? It seems unlikely.

In his email, Chatterbox makes a further observation:

I have also noticed, with regard to regionality, that the apparent favoured acts this year – or those that seem to have been pimped and given the most screen time to date – seem to be from the North of England: Ella (Lincolnshire), Lucy (Sheffield), James Arthur (Middlesbrough), Christopher Maloney (Liverpool), etc. Could this possibly have anything to do with the location of the final being moved from London this year?

They might well think it’d be nice to have a northern winner of a northern final. But if they’d thought about it at all, why not give as many locales as possible somebody to root for? Did producers just not notice how English the show was this year?

Thanks again to Chatterbox. Your thoughts and theories are, as ever, warmly invited in the comments below.

17 comments to X Factor 2012: Why So English?

  • Tim B

    Melanie Masson did audition in Glasgow. You can tell because Anastacia was the guest judge there. But does this have any significance at all?

    • Andrew

      I guess their thinking is that if they’re going to try to pull the “I want everyone in Scotland to pick up the phone” thing for someone who lives in London, it helps a bit if they can refer to her having auditioned in Scotland, at least…

  • Re the people who re-audition: I have been hearing that the show actually invites some people back to re-audition (e.g. Melanie McCabe, Carolynne Poole not so sure). Say this year, for all the reasons mentioned or not, TPTB decided to really push the girls and the overs to a potential victory. I know they get the applications for a series in early on, but it’s still different hearing thousands of people sing or, say, the idea who have of the remaining people at boot camp stage. So, why not invite a few people from last year with potential and then, if their categories prove to be strong pull the plug on them (Melanie), or if a role seems to be available within their category, turn them into The-Second-Coming contenders (Carolynne). If the producers thought otherwise, I am sure Melanie could have easily been now 3rd or so in the outright betting and Carolynne back home petting her antiques.

  • EM

    Ah it’s good to be back. Sorry I haven’t been able to participate much but I have been keeping up to date with your fine posts.

    A comment much used here last series was that Simon Cowell had taken all the good production people with him and left the work experience kids in charge. That thought has now made it into the mainstream media with reviewers panning the show, the falseness and the ethics on display at the weekend. I don’t have much experience of work experience kids in London but I know one thing about them, they think the world begins and ends in London. So I wouldn’t read much into this apart from its another clumsy move on the producers part.

    PS having had experience of working with the X Factor crew this year the directors, camera crew and assistants I met were all professional, passionate and knowledgable. It seems to be much further up that the bungling starts !

  • Nick D.

    I think your explanation can be found here.

    A big regional base makes it an awful lot more difficult to pull off a clean kill when the producers decide they want to.

    If the Devlin affair has influenced the decision to take out the regional acts, it would seem to imply that the producers want MUCH closer control over who stays and who goes this year. Not great news for the show if so, but awesome news for Sofabet…

      • tpfkar

        I’m not sure I buy this. The problem with Janet wAs that she had generated near unstoppable momentum, and jamming the brakes and going into reverse did great damage to the show. The only contestant who I can see the show losing control of in the same way this year is Lucy Spraggan, and from what we saw of her attempt at Moves Like Jagger, you’d guess that she could be easily nobbled.

        On the other hand, I was impressed by Melanie Masson and James Arthur at bootcamp who both did well at songs way outside their comfort zones. I didn’t take either seriously before but have had to change my view

    • Andrew

      Good thinking, Nick!

      I hope for the show’s sake that this isn’t the explanation (although simple clumsiness hardly inspires confidence either…)

  • Nugg

    My question is, why Manchester for the finals ??? It is most inconvenient 🙁

  • Nugg

    Wheres the value now ?
    IMHO despite having bet Ella at 8/1 and thinking she still has a great chance of winning, then current best price of 9/4 is a complete over reaction by the books. They wont want this to be a one horse race from the first live show.
    I would make the true price somewhere closer to 7/2 , there has got to be some value in some of the bigger prices now, especially EW or with a view to trading and laying later.
    Whats everyones thoughts ?

  • Tim B

    Kye Sones each way at 10-1 is very worth taking I’d say. Melanie Masson each way at 26-1 and MK1 each way at 50-1 are also worth considering imo. Anyone agree?

    • tpfkar

      Assuming they are all through to lives, fully agree. In particular the ‘experimental’ boys category may promote Kye to alpha male, despite coming from the overs category

    • Nugg

      Hi Tim, already bet Kye EW at 14/1 (I think he went as high as 20/1 at one point) before bootcamp, Melanie could definately be value at 25/1 EW assuming she make finals, I was thinking of maybe a bit EW on one of the groups, though cannot decide which one at the moment.

      XF are doing a grand job of keeping final 12 under wraps this year, I cannot recall not knowing it by now in previous seasons, does anyone have a definitive list? All sorts of conflicting reports on digital spy.

  • Tim B

    I just convinced myself to bet on MK1 E/W at 51.0.

    Anyway, this is the final 12 as I understand it.

    Girls: Ella Henderson, Lucy Spraggan, Jade Ellis
    Boys: Jahméne Douglas, James Arthur, Rylan Clark
    Groups: MK1, GMD3, Union J
    Overs: Kye Sones, Melanie Masson, Carolynne Poole

    Hope I’m right 🙂

  • Tim B

    Just had a look on the G-A-Y website and on the same night Leona Lewis is playing, also “The 1st act to be voted off The X Factor”. Now, you might not think that this is such significant information, but last year they knew about the 1st show twist WELL in advance (about 3 weeks if I remember correctly) and it said something like “X Factor special twist – all will be revealed on the first live show!” so they seem pretty certain to have booked just one act to perform. Here’s the link http://www.g-a-y.co.uk/?content=25&articleid=62783

    So we might well be heading for a single elimination in week 1, with no twists.

    • Nugg

      MMM, I cannot help but think there will be a twist of some description, at some point, maybe not week one….even if it’s not planned , there is always the possibility of an illness or a walkout.

      I did read that the contestants are going to be looked after better this year, with luxury accomodation, more parties etc, BUT the whole thing will be filmed to provide even more TOWIE type footage. This will likely suit some contestants more than others. Whatever they do the guys are still treated like producer fodder and forced to work 12 hour days, I would imagine it’s quite an exhausting and mentally draining experience.

      Is anyone going to the lives this year? I have tickets sorted for 2 Saturday shows and the final so far, if anyone has any spares , let me know, happy to queue for 12 hours plus 🙂

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