X Factor: Decoding the subliminal messages

Sofabet commenter Chatterbox5200 drops us a line with an amusing screengrab from one of those TalkTalk adverts on Saturday’s show. The girl on the left is wearing a t-shirt that says “RELAY”, but the R and Y are hidden, so it spells out ELA. The girl on the right is in a shirt that says “WINNER”.

Talk Talk ad shows ELA winner

ELA! WINNER! An amusing coincidence or a subliminal message? As Chatterbox says, “I’m sure I’ve been watching too much Derren Brown”. Ah, but we think it’s great fun to take a Derren Brown perspective on the X Factor.

Some background first. As regular readers will know, at Sofabet our approach to Cowell shows is two-part – figure out what producers want, then ask how likely the voting public are to oblige. On that first part of the equation, we analyse such things as how acts are presented in their pre-performance VTs, how they are styled and presented on stage, and what the judges say.

Some tactics seem obvious in their intended effect, such as when a judge says something like “you’ll definitely be here next week”, which we take to mean “viewer, are you about to reach for the phone to vote? Don’t bother, it’s not necessary”. (New readers might enjoy our articles on the 28 ways Wagner was assassinated in 2010 and our Top Ten Manipulative Moments of 2011.)

But there are also many less obvious things we notice, where we find it harder to be as confident if they’re intentional attempts to plant subliminal messages or just innocent coincidences. We tend to mention these only speculatively in passing, or not mention them at all. In this post, we’ll confront a few of them head-on, donning our tinfoil hats and venturing boldly into Derren Brown territory.

We’ll start with the classic example. Our friend Richard at the brilliant betsfactor.com last year developed a theory that red and black lighting may sometimes have a vote-dampening effect. We’re aware that many commenters on Sofabet don’t buy this idea. We sometimes mention red-and-black in passing in our posts, but we haven’t yet directly discussed what we think of it. So let’s do so now.

Daniel and I wouldn’t go to the wall for the red-and-black theory, but we are intrigued by it, as it does make some sort of sense to us. What does red-and-black suggest on a subliminal level? Ant and Dec? Roulette? The pits of hell? Sophie Habibis, in the week she was eliminated, appears to be singing in Dante’s Inferno, where she is in danger of being trapped in a web spun by a giant spider:

Sophie Habibis in Dante's Inferno

Contrast, say, a colour combination of blue-and-yellow, which puts one in mind of a lovely summer’s day.

Is it conceivable that viewers who are subliminally feeling like they’ve been transported to hell are less likely to pick up the phones? Put it this way: if we were in charge of the show, then this is exactly the sort of thing we’d be interested in having a bit of fun experimenting with to find out.

Red-and-black sceptics point to counter-examples such as Little Mix being red-and-blacked during the Sunday final show, and apparently favoured acts James and Union J both getting red-and-blacked last weekend. The counterargument is that if there is anything in this, you wouldn’t want to make it too obvious – you’d throw in a red(-and-black) herring or two. Little Mix would have been uncatchable by then, and James and Union J may be doing well enough in the vote for it not to matter.

There is also the possibility that red-and-black presses different subliminal buttons depending on context. Let’s escape from Sophie Habibis’s arachnid hellscape and take a look at James Arthur getting red-and-blacked last Saturday:

James Arthur red and black

This isn’t hell, is it? It’s a seedy, sexy nightclub. It’s red-light district red, not Satanic red. It seems quite plausible to us that the Habibis example might have a vote-dampening effect, and the James Arthur example might not. Again, we wouldn’t go to the wall for this theory, but it’s definitely the kind of thing we’d be interested in playing around with if we were in charge of the show.

Continuing the hell theme, fire seems to be often associated with attempts to depress an act’s vote. Here’s a much-discussed example from last year, in the week when Janet Devlin’s death of a thousand cuts was finally completed – the show repeatedly put Janet’s face in giant frames, then made it go up in smoke:

Janet Devlin goes up in smoke

The week before, when ditching Craig Colton, they’d made him sing ‘License To Kill’ in front of scenes that appear to have been culled from a Valor gas fire:

Craid Colton fireplace

Last night Richard designated it Kye Fawkes Night on Betsfactor.com to focus on how fire has been used two weeks in a row now with Kye “32 flat notes” Sones, something we also noted in our immediate reviews of the week 2 and week 3 shows.

When they surrounded Kye with flames in week 2, we initially wondered if it might have been a pun on his backstory as a chimney sweep:

Kye goes up in flames - week 2

Then last Saturday, they stuck him on what looked like an enormous funeral pyre, while scenes of what looked like post-apocalyptic destruction played out on the big screens:

Kye on the funeral pyre - week 3

Again, we can think of some speculative ways in which it might make sense that this kind of thing could have a vote-dampening effect. One simple possibility is that the sight of fire presses subliminal buttons saying “don’t touch, stay away”.

Another possibility is that sending an act up in fire or smoke may make some viewers subconsciously think of that act as ephermeral, transient, not long for this world, on their way out, and thus not worth bothering to vote to keep around. Here’s another example that could have been tapping into this subliminal undercurrent:

Belle Amie in their coffins

This is Belle Amie in week 4 of 2010’s series, the Hallowe’en-themed performance of ‘Venus’ that got them eliminated. Here they are emerging from coffins (which, incidentally, are red and black. There were also bursts of fire during this performance).

Is the subliminal message here something like “Belle Amie are dead already, no point in voting for them”? Again: we wouldn’t go to the wall for this idea. But if we were running the show, it’s exactly the kind of thing we’d be interested in testing.

Moving away from hell and fire but maybe not death, what other subtle tactics might be working at a subliminal level? Here’s an interesting one we can’t remember seeing before, from week 2, when District 3 ended up in the bottom two:

District 3 as small as mice - week 2

For much of their performance, they were pictured against a backdrop of what appeared to be giant blades of grass and red poppies (a symbol associated with loss). Could this have been intended to metaphorically belittle them, by making us think of them – on some subconscious level of our minds – as being about as tall as dormice? Or to hint that they were about to be buried six feet under?

Here’s another from the same performance, showing the three boys on the Rebecca Ferguson Memorial Chicken Rotisserie, standing with their backs to each other and trapped in a cage of light:

District 3 on the rotisserie

What do we get from this image? When people stand with their backs to each other like this, it evokes them being cornered and powerless in the face of an all-pervasive threat. In addition, the cage of light serves to disconnect them from the audience.

And is there significance in standing with backs to each other? We occasionally wonder if groups do better in the vote when the staging shows them interacting in ways that suggest a synergistic bond, compared to when the staging suggests them being atomised. Here’s the opening shot of Nu Vibe’s staging in the week they were eliminated from the show last year – following tabloid reports that they didn’t get on well with each other, they were placed on five separate islands:

Nu Vibeon their boxes

In general, we wonder whether plinths tend to convey negative subliminal messages. Not in all circumstances – often it’s necessary for an act to stand on a plinth to enable a big production with dancers all around them. But consider when an act is stuck on a plinth alone for no obvious choreographic reason – Melanie Masson in week 1, for instance:

Melanie Masson on a plinth

What does this convey? Speculatively, we wonder if it makes it harder for the act to come across as humble, down-to-earth and connected to the audience. Kye was even higher up on his bonfire last Saturday. At the risk of sounding repetitive: again, we are being deliberately speculative with all these ideas, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that we’re barking up the wrong plinth.

What about subliminal messages when they want to boost, rather than dampen, votes for an act? Last year on Betsfactor, Richard developed a theory that producers were subliminally trying to associate Marcus Collins with the concept of “star”, through both words and images. We remembered that theory in week 1 this year when Ella appeared against this galactic backdrop:

Ella with starry backdrop

Judges’ comments reinforced in words the visual impression, referring to Ella being from “another planet”.

We could go on – we haven’t even touched on the possibility of occasional subliminal messages in the lyrics of songs they choose for acts to sing, something we often wonder about (the classic and not-so-subliminal example being making Wagner sing “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here”). Or indeed in the music that plays in the background during VTs – for instance, Sofabet commenter Nugg noted The Wanted’s “All Time Low” playing in District 3’s week 1 VT.

But we’ll leave it there for now. Let us repeat: we wouldn’t go to the wall for there being anything in the above examples, which is why we tend to stick to discussing tactics we’re more confident about. But we do find it intriguing and great fun to speculate about possible Derren Brownian tactics. And incidentally, in case you think we’re taking the great man’s name in vain, note that in the comments to our manipulative moments piece last year Sofabet commenter EM remarked:

I actually got into betting on the X Factor after reading a comment from Derren Brown. I can’t find the exact quote but he said that he loved the TV show and thought a lot of what they did was similar to what he does, making people feel like they have a free choice when in fact they’re influenced to feel like that… you must wonder whether they have a psychologist working on it.

If there is, we probably don’t spot more than a fraction of what’s being tried.

What do you think? Do you buy the idea that as much thought goes into this as our examples above would suggest? If so, what are your more outlandish theories of how the show might be subliminally trying to influence perceptions? Do let us know below. And if you haven’t already, pop over to Betsfactor to read Richard’s typically funny and perceptive “delight the demo” theory, posted today. Richard has promised to guest-blog for us at Sofabet soon – we can’t wait.

48 comments to X Factor: Decoding the subliminal messages

  • Dear commenters,

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  • jake Kl

    Lucy was pictured with bullets flying behind her, was she their target that evening?

    • Tim B

      I think that was just to fit in with the lyrics of her song “Bullet proof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away.” rather than any attempt to dampen her vote.

    • Wondered that at the time, too, Jake.

      But I think Tim is right – contrast Lucy’s lyrics (“you shoot me down, but I won’t fall”) with Sophie Habibis’s in her kill week (“Bang bang, he shot me down. Bang bang, I hit the ground”).

  • TLG

    There is definitely something in this. Slightly more obvious are the signs for the groups. We were told about ‘Union J’ in week 1, then this week we were shown the name of District 3 in lights – which makes me think they will be hanging around for a few more weeks to perpetuate the battle of the bands.

  • Curtis

    As ever with the subliminal messaging theme, I believe there is an element of truth in it but it’s very easy to overthink it and exaggerate what the producers are actually trying to do. It pretty much mirrors what my thoughts of red and black have been – yes, probably it is used to dampen votes, but I wouldn’t use it as a key factor in betting ever. There are bigger clues. That, and our observation of the red and black phenomena is almost certainly clouded by confirmation bias. You did note the James Arthur red and black and explain why that wasn’t the same, but I’m sure there are ‘hellish’ red and blacks over the year that didn’t work. I can’t remember them, but that’ll be because of my confirmation bias – I can only remember the times when red and black has worked.

  • TLG

    Also, being allowed to dance around the judges and go near the audience is helpful.

    What I want to know is, how aware of these tactics (and the less subtle tactics) are the competitors?

    I seem to remember Aiden Grimshaw making reference to leeks on Twitter about him being in the bottom 2 after being kicked out, but surely Maloney would have noticed the Cruise Ship setting in Week 2? It wasn’t exactly subtle.

  • One of your most interesting articles to date, IMHO.

    A couple of points from me: Just as Lucy’s symbolism was a direct representation of the themes and lyrics of her song, so (fairly obviously) was Kye’s. Indeed, as Dug pointed out in his recent article about the evolution of talent shows, Kye’s number was a fascinatingly well-staged example of how far the X-Factor and similar shows have progressed beyond mere karaoke. Had the performer possessed more charisma and a Cardle-like voice, Kye could have done a District 3 and stormed Week 3 with the staging he was given. Unfortunately for him, he failed to do that. But crucially – the symbolism was not (I think) a symbolic assassination attempt but was once again a highly imaginative and artistic rendering of the content of the song.

    I’m not very cool, thus the first exposure to this song for me was via Kye and the X-Factor. But I have learned it’s by a ‘beat combo’ called Swedish House Mafia, and is entitled Save The World. The apocalyptic stuff going on in the background (and it was definitely there) was a reflection of the lyrics, specifically the overt reference to 9/11:

    ‘Shoot down a skyline/ Watch it in primetime…
    Who’s gonna save the world tonight?’

    Hence, in Kye’s staging, the smoking rubble, and industrial debris, etc. However, where I think you’re definitely on to something is the distancing effect of plinths, platforms and (in this case) bizarre piles of rubbish. I very much doubt it was a deliberate decision (if anything, producers/Brian Friedman probably thought they were doing Kye a favour by awarding him such a lavish production and set) but the number would have been performed more effectively at ground level, so to speak. The imagery would still have had its dramatic impact, and the viewer wouldn’t have spent so long wondering a) how in hell Kye had got up there b) how in hell he was going to get down and c) why he was sitting on a large pile of metallic detritus. The distancing effect, as you suggest, is subconscious, but when pointed out is self-evident.

    Staging-wise, I thought Saturday’s show was a huge step-up in scale from live shows 1 & 2. As entertainment, however, it marked a return to the rather grim standards of show 1, with all of the judges (bar Nicole) seeming out of sorts, baffling editorial decisions and devoid of joy. The saddest note was struck by the (unsolicited, and entirely genuine) ‘sob story’ of Jahmene, which of course was no sob story at all by dint of being real, true and truly horrific. Got to say, however, child abuse, rape and torture seem terribly out of place on a Saturday night variety show, however fully I respect anyone who can survive such things with their sanity intact.

    Indeed – the JD ‘narrative’ did, as someone mentioned, seem like an ending, or a near-ending; and made the earlier attempt to frame him as a singing Forrest Gump even less comprehensible.

    • Morning KS,

      Good point about Kye’s staging matching the lyrics… although that just pushes the question up a level – someone decided to give him a song that could lyrically justify post-apocalyptic scenes and putting him on a bonfire (or scrapheap, as Shoulders says below). As opposed to something with nice, cheery, feelgood lyrics.

      Speaking of which, when is he going to do Chim Chim Cher-ee? I’d hoped it might be his singoff song. Is he saving it for the “songs to get you to the final” round?

  • R

    As a Derren fan this post is right up my street (His Apocalypse show is Friday at 9pm straight after Janet’s 7pm online gig of her album tracks – sorry had to get that in there).

    I like the idea of red and black’s effectiveness depending on other elements sparking the impact of the colours.

    Another colour I’d like to add to the mix is bright yellow, or gold. It was used in Janet’s first week when she had the pimp slot, almost making her out to be some pure angelic figure and was noticeable in James Arthur’s week 1 performance. It’s not used as much but is a very happy colour, brightening up the whole set & helping the performer to stand out.
    The other part I like to highlight is the intro when Peter Dickson calls out the name of the contestant. If you watch how Janet’s (again) imagery changed over the series, they went from using bright colours, with Janet striding toward the camera, to having a black & white image which had been stretched to make her seem almost witch-like.

    I think Halloween week is a great week for the show to play around. They can go full out on imagery manipulation behind the guise of getting into the festive spirit. I fully expect Chris to be singing a creepy little stalker song.

    A few other points:

    I’ve read a number of tweets (and there is a Twitter campaign) about the MK1 phone lines being frozen with a number of callers unable to get through. This is something that crops up at least once every series, but I wouldn’t be willing to dismiss out of hand if the producers are struggling to find their targets.

    Compared to Melanie’s late 10.30pm performance, Ella was on just after 10pm which makes me think they are switching tactics week by week depending on times. A very late slot with all the big acts already been and gone is the death slot. An earlier finish with the big act at the end moves the death slot to the front end of the show.

    One other question to ponder. The show finishes at 10.20pm this week. Will the clocks turning back an hour make much of a difference?

  • I’m sure a lot of ITV viewers in urban Britain feel like they’ve been transported to hell anyway 😛

    Like yous and like Richard, I’m on board with contextual red and black, contextual being the key word here, as you elaborate on. The giant Janet head is a classic (as are the Nu Vibe plinths), and I think Misha’s Tainted Love is another great example. It was an AMAZING performance – I still love rewatching it now – but after the previous week’s allegations, styling her as red latex-clad she-demon with horn-like hair and scary makeup, bathed in hell-like staging and surrounded by strung-up victims, may not have been the best idea.

    I’m with Sauron (not Nick) on Kye’s song. Whether it was intended to depress his vote is up for debate, but it definitely fitted thematically with the song (which I also hadn’t heard… I need to get with the times!).

  • Shoulders

    Well during Kye’s performance it did look like his piano was on top of a bonfire but when Dermot interviewed him right afterwards you could see it was made up of pieces of metal of various types, so basically he was put on top of the scrap heap exactly where all the overs go when their last chance at fame fails on the X Factor

  • maccafan

    This is one of my favourite subjects, as I am well into stage effects, hypnosis, Derren Brown and the use of colours in marketing. Red IS indeed the uncomfortable colour of ‘danger’ (as depicted above). Blue is trust and white is innocence (both as in my featured subject/video below of Little Mix from last year).
    Google ‘colours in selling’ to see what I mean about how they influence us.

    On closer observation of Kye’s setting (as KaraokeSauron said above), I have to say that the scene set for him actually did more closely resembled the 911 Twin Towers wreckage…look again and also listen to the words.. “Turn UP the love now, whos’ gonna BRING ME BACK TO LIFE ?” Was it just a ‘save ME tonight’ message perhaps?
    Is he to be rebuilt and re-launched to be a new Chris Martin to take on Ella, or is he ‘on the heap’ now and waiting to be scrapped after being burned last week?

    Also on the ‘ELA WINNER’ subliminal front, has anyone noticed also the Basketball hoop at the back. ‘Slam dunk…it’s in the bag’ as another message ?

    I got the MK1 bet right this week but on just viewing it again it was just a blaze of confusing colour, distracting dancers and a disjointed mash of 2 songs badly stitched together with no single solid direction. ALSO, there were 2 deliberate camera cut-aways to Tulisa (a big rap fan) and Louis (their mentor) with heads down and not even looking at them perform (a subliminal ‘not interested’ message too).

    There is a lot of mileage in this subject for us here and I for one will be paying even closer attention in future with some of these real eye-openers above. For instance, (and according to a great hypnotist) how many of you have been shopping and stopped to ponder and scratch your head over which one to buy at the ‘Washing powder’ aisle ?
    What is happening there is that you are subconsciously running all the many tv adverts through your mind until the most dominant likeable one stands out. Perhaps it’s a tune or pretty face that you like which influences your choice. They all clean the same and most are even made in the same factory (as my friend works as a manager for McBrides soap factory in my town).

    Subliminals were actually banned in adverts and I am actually wondering how much this blatant one above is illegal when people are spending money to vote.

    Just the opposite of ‘burning’ and ‘belittling’ acts with visual influences and well chosen key words and colours to make the public vote them down subliminally, I’ve been convinced since early on last series that they constantly employ these tactics to also bump acts up the psychological ladder.

    For once I am not ashamed to admit that I have been ‘had’ BIG TIME by this technique (in fact I am proud of it) because it won me a packet on LITTLE MIX last year with a couple of 66/1 early bets (a win and a straight forecast with MARCUS, which I had reversed, just in case, and which brought me a fabulous Crimbo pressy of £1,340. A small lotto win by my more modest standards), and I could not understand why most everyone here were so resistant to them when these very signs were smacking us around the face. I did try to alert everybody but I was constantly ribbed and panned for supporting them, or just ignored. Some here may remember me as PeteD then. Maybe now by using this science we should NOT ignore the signs any more and ignore instead the acts who we feel is our personal emotional favourite.

    Last year, right from the ‘get-go’ I observed and took note of SIMON COWELL in a VT saying that he wanted a girl band to win (subliminal message No1 perhaps, like it was an instruction to everyone, because we all know that what Simon wants …Simon gets?).
    I am still convinced that LM was plan A and that they did everything to kill off their error of Janet because she went more to the public’s heart than they had bargained for and also turned out to be an uncontrollable awkward mare behind the scenes.

    This band where pre-planned/fabricated for this task early on even ‘before’ Judges houses and then honed and publicised at every opportunity in a gradual ramp-up. Then came the final delivery to say that they were ready to fight and had arrived to take on all opposition with this……(it was the most deliberate and well worked out dramatic entrances I have ever seen on XF).


    I nick-named them ‘The Steamroller’ well before this performance and I was pleasantly gobsmacked when they actually came up with one to deliver them through huge steel doors in a belching blaze of ORANGE steam/smoke and bright (outward facing) powerful search lights. (ORANGE -being also a colour representing playfulness, warmth, vibrant). …I’m sure XF read this thread and nicked the idea from me ha ha. Looking back now, right the way through the song that Roller kept a watchful eye over them too like a threatening Sherman Tank war machine (personal bouncer) almost saying “These are MY girls, so don’t dare diss them….or else”.

    It is also as if they had ’emerged’ triumphantly from the orange glowing embers of a fire too to quash any thoughts that they were finished (or burnt out). Note too the cool blue steel colour lighting effect and massive unbreakable steel chains for rear projections. (BLUE – listed as the most popular colour and depicting trust, reliability, belonging, coolness).

    Then there was the Romanesque kettle drum (fanfare for the common man) type announcement with the gladiator style pomp and ceremony and the powerful and emotional grinding guitar intro like a buzz saw ripping up all the other acts feeble attempts. Then continuing with a dominant heart pumping bass drum all the way through the song. Not to mention the song itself, DON’T LET GO (message). This was a new Little Mix who were sassier, redesigned and with more attitude. Note to the skyward hand movements also (raising them up in unison and ending in a victory V sign). Even their clothes saying…”we are now unified, there’s no choice here folks, It’s as simple as ‘black and white’ that we’re now set to win this”.

    Then there were the opening comments from Louis for LM (and the others for that matter) “Grown and blossomed…We’re looking at the next great girl band…ready made pop stars…go all the way” etc etc.

    (Are they also using this plan for District 3 for another ‘left field’ surprise late run to the finishing line?) They were in b2 last week just like LM were and even got *stars* on their backdrop nameplate this week. Are they gonna find a reason to give Ella a pounding to demote her in the ranks?
    I also said a good many weeks back after the first show that JAHMENE was MARCUS mk2. He HAS been gaining confidence and has also had a ‘bad Dad’ VT and has been 2nd favourite ever since and this week they even dressed him in a MARCUS cast off gimp suit with a dickie bow tie (and gave him a Motown-esque song to boot similar to Stevie Wonder style).

    There were upward camera pans too for Little Mix to make them look BIG and TALL (at 0.56 and 1.22 seconds in). The same technique was also used in ‘IF I WERE A BOY’….PLUS the use there of pink, white and purple lighting ….. (Note…PURPLE – royal, spirituality, dignity….PINK – soft, sweet, nurture, security….WHITE – pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild). A good ‘positive’ mixture.


    This is also where the famous desk slamming Tulisa “pick up the phone they are not safe” order was made.

    I love stage effects, my friend was tour manager for Genesis and AC/DC and used to take me back stage to see how they were done and controlled (and designed and programmed) to create an emotional roller coaster ride for the crowd. Another friend is now Management at Vari-lite (which was Genesis owned). These were the original forerunner of all the ‘moving-head’ colour changing lights you now see at concerts and on XF.

    One of the highlights of Genesis concerts was to fire them all out to the crowd and slowly raise them up in an ‘uplifting’ fashion in clouds of smoke to create an illusion of uplifting power from the band. This always created a big emotional cheer from the crowd and was often saved for the big finale. The same ‘power’ effect is created with just plain white back lighting called ‘blinders’ to create a ‘powerful reaction’ from the crowd when it lights them up and silhouettes the band. All these effects were used on Little Mix too too for the ‘we are in control’ effect.

    All this still leaves me with the burning question here “is Ella too obviously a forgone conclusion to win, or are we missing something that may come as a left field surprise ?”
    Are we all being hypnotised and duped into voting for other acts in the coming weeks instead?. The M&S adverts last year were ever changing and leaving us thinking and guessing and dropping hints that Misha B was possibly going to triumph at one time.

    • Little Mix were never in the bottom two.

      Agree on Ella. She’s too obviously safe – I’m missing the journey element and stronger emotional narrative that we have with some of the other contestants (Jahmene, Chris, James, even Lucy and Jade). She’s at risk of becoming competent yet overlookable.

      • maccafan

        Euro…Quite right, my mistake. I was very busy having a heart attack mid last year and in recovery and some memories do fuse and fade with the distraction and health worries I had (and which I don’t want to remember).

        All better now though and ready to take on Cowell again.

  • Crossing over between the worlds of Eurovision and X Factor, this is slightly off-topic, but I saw a really interesting interview with Roman Lob on German TV last night where he talked about his time on German Idol (he participated in 2007 but dropped out due to illness) and what he learned from it. “If you’re not willing to be manipulated and moulded,” he said, “if you say ‘No, I’m not going to do that’, then certain formats aren’t interested in you anymore.” He then added that he specifically chose to enter the German Eurovision selection rather than any rival talent show on German TV (Idol, X Factor, The Voice Of Germany) for this reason – because he wouldn’t have to do a sob story and because he knew they’d let him be himself. Really interesting.

    • aron

      This is interesting considering MK1 changed their song mid-week because Charlie wasn’t happy with it.

      In an exit interview she spoke about wishing that she’d ‘spoken up sooner’ regarding choreography and song choice (they hated having to do that cheese fest in week 2) but didn’t want to be seen as a ‘diva’. Put that with the MK1 phone line issue, which arose during the day well before the show, and it really makes you wonder.

  • zoom

    quoting mccafan “Maybe now by using this science we should NOT ignore the signs any more and ignore instead the acts who we feel is our personal emotional favourite.”

    But if these techniques we are discussing work shouldn’t we be trying to work out who is “our personal emotional favourite”

    There is no reason to think that we are less easy to manipulate, at least on an emotional level, than the average viewer.

    I think part of the art is knowing which of your emotional preferences are based on your own personal history and which are more general.

    eg I had a soft spot for MK1 but this is probably due to the fact I’ve always suffered from crushes on slightly unobtainable Tom Boy type girls. Rather than a broad emotional appeal on their part.

    • maccafan

      Hi Zoom. What I was saying there is to divorce ourselves from those ‘gut feelings’ because that is what they are programming the public to do. If you can ever get to read any books on hypnosis (otherwise known as ‘response to suggestion’), we all respond to suggestion an average of 6,000 times a day without realising it.

      This is how Derren Brown works to fool a full room of normal people (when they all kick themselves in mass at the end of his shows when he reveals the simple con). We are none of us immune to these subtle suggestions. What I am trying to say is that we should realise this here and stand back to take a more objective scientific stance and try to see it from the XF view/plan.

      A lot of money was lost on Janet last year. Even I had small hedge bet (just in case to cover my stakes because of public demand for her), and I did not rate her ‘yodelling’ at all (and perhaps that feeling got worse because THEY …XF…wanted it to ?). What a mug I was (and glad of it when I picked up my LM winnings).

      Now that your emotional ‘crush’ distraction is out of the way, you can get down to some serious observation, lol (and I understand exactly where you are coming from there as I am getting one for Jade….smack myself across the face to wake myself up). Good luck !!

      • zoom

        I agree with all you say here maccafan but I find it incredibly difficult to achieve that step back and not get drawn in by the narrative of the show.

      • zoom

        Perhaps reading “influence the science of persuasion” by Cialdini would be worth reading for some insight into the process.

        Like you I’m also interested in persuasion/hypnosis are there any books you would recomend?

        • maccafan

          Hi Zoom. I once did stage tech and props for stage Hypnotist Andrew Newton in the late 70’s and became fascinated enough to study it myself to do the more serious hypnotherapy side of it but music and show biz was my real vocation and took over. All my books are long gone now but for one, ‘Scientific Hypnotism’ by Ralph B Winn, Ph.D. It is full of history, theory and practical. Avoid any books by cheap stage/tv Hypnotists, they learn the best bits to use for their act and can talk the lingo but they often have no higher level academic or psychiatric qualifications. It can also go wrong if used improperly by the inexperienced amateur.

          My old Dentist often ‘influenced’ nervous kids with visual distraction techniques and verbal suggestions and did the biz without them even realising. Once, whilst we were actually talking about it (and him probing around my mouth) I asked him “when was he doing the injection on me”. He replied ” I just have done”, (and I am one of those who reckons that I could never be hypnotised).

          Interestingly they say around 6% of humans are of the ‘most easily influenced’ (deepest state, most workable types) and these are the ones that stage Hypnotists target for use on stage during their initial ‘sifting process’. Count them next time you see a show in comparison to audience numbers. Remember too that Hitler was a master of brain washing. 6%+ is also a whopping amount of ‘compelled’ XF voters (especially with gullible kids doing multiple votes ‘to order’ for LM last year. My YouTube ‘viewing number’ homework last year revealed kids intending to vote over 40 times for them for the final).

          I am becoming even more and more convinced now that Derren Brown (or similar) is being consulted by X-Factor. This, and clever editing, VT’s and camera shots can make you believe anything they want you to (as we have already witnessed). The ‘Ela Winner’ thing is a blatant cheat though and I feel that it should be investigated by the tv commission.

          I am still trying to work out the ‘first’ T-Shirt though that seems to say, “I NEED A HOLIDAY” with, ‘”HAVE A GO” underneath it. Perhaps it is because a VIP holiday weekend is one of the viewer competition prizes this week?

          • I was willing to pass off the “ELA WINNER” thing as coincidence (just), but another t-shirt that says “I NEED A HOLIDAY” and “HAVE A GO”? This is blatantly deliberate.

          • zoom

            have you ever done any reading into MK Ultra which was a program of mind control experimentation done by the CIA after the second world war. It’s discussed in Peter Levendas fascinating series of books “Sinister Forces” There’s also “Battle for the Mind” by William Sargent and “Propaganda” by Bernays who pretty much invented public relations and political spin.

          • Henry VIII

            I’ve read those last two. Very interesting. Bernays was employed by governments so they took him seriously.

    • maccafan

      Zoom. No I haven’t but I will look into it now at the local Library out of interest. I am wondering though if there is also some ‘opposite psychology’ going on this week with Cowell and the Union J nobbling newspaper story to raise their profile and get their new fans angry and more behind them.

      Its the same week as Gary telling them to harmonise more and smacks of the gradual Little Mix grooming from last year.
      He hasn’t had a boy band winner yet and may be wanting ‘the full set’. Confusing against the ‘Ela Winner’ theory but I can see both acts being top 2 final material now for a magnificent battle and ratings winner.

      They are also guaranteed XF tour ticket sellers too and would gradually replace 1D in ‘one year’s time’ (after the usual contract album release then) and the usual newness of an act like 1D starts to fade out.
      Just a thought, but possible in the way that this heartless fickle biz runs (one in out, one out). Like in Snooker or Chess, they will be planning 10 moves ahead all the time.

      • zoom

        There’s a ton of wild conspiracy stuff about MK Ultra and it all gets a bit X Files, but the fact is it was a real program by the CIA to investigate the possibility of mind control. Partly triggered by the strange and robotic conversion to communism by American Soldiers during the Korean war. Details of it came out during the watergate hearings, the CIA claimed they hadn’t found anything useful and had burnt all the records.

        Interesting thoughts about wanting a Boy Band winner. Maybe I’m disappearing down the the rabbit hole hear but could the “Ella Winner” subliminal actually be a de ramp, ie she’s won already so know need to vote. If the plan is to get a boy band over the line it’s not clear yet whether it will be Union J or D3.

        • maccafan

          Zoom, Good points !…As a musician/singer, now sound and recording engineer, I am very big on harmonies and noticed D3 are great at it but a little twee and softy looking to be hunks for girls to swoon over (only 3 members too). Great for Theatre/Cabaret though, which is where they were being steered this week after my seeing the Jersey Boys show 3 years ago.

          UJ sang in ‘unison’ this week when their potential is much much more. Hence they seemed ‘suppressed’ in this performance, but very safe in the voting (like LM was) and being honed ready for the kill later on in a ‘ramp up’..

          Methinks the Gary harmony advice (and the Cowell ‘nobbling’ publicity stunt) was a set-up for this huge ramp up to the finish line for them. Lets face it, it made front page news just as XF wanted for attention to them. They are stars in the making and totally looked the part last Saturday above any other acts (apart from Jade who looked stunning in her ‘vogue’ well photographed superstar setting).

          Jade has an amazing voice with a superb unique vibrato quality, but I worry about her very smoky talking voice. I knew that it was gonna give weeks back with all this punishment because she has obviously not had proper voice coach training (singing/breathing and projecting from the gut rather than the throat). Her vocal chords must be damaged with ‘nodules’ from doing it wrong all these years and I am concerned about that.

          Question on UnionJ….Why should Cowell want nobble them when he owns the rights to the whole shabang anyway and will have a cartel of 2 boy bands topping the charts all over the world? … He has just written his own contracted royalty cheque for the next 4 years if he buys in and owns the songs in for them.

  • tpfkar

    Fascinating thread and comments, and what a find by Chatterbox5200.

    I’d go beyond context and look at everything in terms of association. We associate Sophie with Dante’s inferno, District 3 in a prison cell with the lighting, Ella with being a winner and a star, and Kye with being stuck on a bonfire (what clubs does he go to if that’s a club classic?)

    Most of our difficulties last year seemed to be in reacting to issues unexpected by producers: The Risk shedding members, Janet not delivering what they expected, 2 Shoes being pregnant, Frankie walking, Craig threatening to go(?). When they lined up a target, we saw it pretty clearly.

    This year we seem to be struggling to read producers’ intentions as well, so perhaps they have got better at all the subtle suggestion techniques discussed here. It seems to me that there is now a ‘disposable’ list and as long as the bottom 2 are on this list, they aren’t too bothered about the exact mechanics. Makes for a better show but hard to predict

  • tfkar

    I’ve finally stopped sulking about the weekend so sorry to do the post-mortem a couple of days behind everyone else. My first losing weekend, but I shouldn’t grumble as I had a lucky escape on Melanie. The real hit was that I convinced myself Jade was going, so closed out my position on her in the win market at a small profit, and left the MK1 position. bah!

    Genuinely very surprised that MK1 were bottom. I know they were on the ‘disposable list’ and sang 2nd but everything else seemed to work: a much better song choice than the previous week, much more in genre (Delight the Demo!) a big production and good vocals. I also saw an upturn on twitter for them, and had them doing proprtionally better than the previous week. I won’t go as far as to agree with the phone line conspiracy theory, but I called that totally wrong and was surprised they were bottom.

    I think (both from twitter stats and general vibe) that the winners of the week were Jahmene and District 3 who could have topped the vote.

    Losers Jade, Union J, Kye, Chris, Rylan who I believe all slipped back.

    No answers to the running order argument yet. Assuming their ‘disposable list’ includes Kye, Chris, D3 and Jade, we could be stuck with Rylan for a while yet.

  • Chatterbox5200

    I totally agree with the ‘disposable list’ theory. It’s been extremely clear since the audition shows – from the time invested in certain acts – that there are those which the producers would like to see in the final (Ella, James and Jahmene) and those which will generate discussion, controversy and potential ratings (Rylan & Lucy). Everyone else is dispensable. The order in which they go does not appear to be particularly important this year. The “Battle of the Boybands” may help to keep the teen girl demographic watching, but if either group appears to be a threat to the potential finalists, they are likely to be de-ramped and disposed of. This could explain why they are not too concerned about their targets being executed with precision, as enough damage is likely to have been inflicted, to prevent them being a threat. As it’s been mentioned numerous times, no act that has ever appeared in the bottom two, has progressed to win the show.

  • AnnaC

    ‘delight the demo’ only works if ‘the demo’ votes. MK1’s demo almost certainly see themeselves as too cool to vote (possibly even too cool to watch X-Factor).

  • tpfkar

    I actually think it was District 3’s success that did for MK1. Had D3 laid down in the first two weeks they would have left the path clearer for MK1 to go further, but it looks like they’ve switched horses and gone with ‘battle of the boybands’ which leaves MK1 as surplus to requirements, sadly.

  • Kevin O Reilly

    So perhaps 2 boybands is better than one to prevent one from winning or reaching final? Perhaps this was the original reason to keep two

  • Kevin O Reilly

    as per above I meant to add while still coining the revenue and viewing figures from the demographic associated with boybands.

  • zoom

    Henry, do you think there are any lessons we could learn from Bernays book that could be applied to X Factor betting?

    • Henry VIII

      Well I guess we know it – that the public aren’t left to free will in everything, not that such a thing as free will really exists for social animals.

      He was probably the start of the scientific attempts to control the masses in a “democracy” but it’s worth remembering that things don’t always (don’t usually?) turn out the way that was planned. And we can also be over-suspicious.

  • Does anyone else think its “bye kye”

    I think there is one thing I totally overlooked the importance of one song this week… the song choice for Kye! It was the same song he sung at the audition.

    If he cant connect with his audience singing his Audition song aswell as great comments from judges.

    How can he possibly improve?

    Kye’s sing off song, “I cant make you love me, if you dont” – I couldnt agree more

    If Kye had enough fans surely they would have connected with him instantly since he was singing the song that should have already connected to them from past auditions.

    • Bexley

      I think the percentage differences between a few of the ‘lesser lights’ is so small that any kind of bounce or any real show support to keep him would be sufficient.
      His treatment last week from the VT showing his flat moments through to the staging for his song were as clear as mud to me tbh as to their intentions.
      I think at the current prices I’d rather just wait and see what happens during the show.
      Song spoilers would be helpful for this themed night but we never seem to get any now.
      My early backs have been for both remaining groups to fall into the B2. At the prices one would do, I’m not seriously expecting both of course.
      I think its possible whatever teen vote exists may have kept them in so far but will it be sufficient now that a few have already gone? Given their polling remains weak and I’m uncertain as to which rally is the most favoured I think its some value.

  • maccafan

    In direct reply to ANDREW here (for analytic thoughts only and may I also say for a BRILLIANT ‘best ever’ thread subject), I think the Union J stage set was a very good risk indeed for a tentative red/black scene because the vote IS going well for them and (as XF know too well) ‘very safe’.

    However, it wasn’t a total dismal red/black effect as it was accompanied by ‘WHITE’ forward/upward ‘blinder’ type power lighting which depicts a positive from the stage (as I mentioned in another reply here for Genesis stage theatrics). They also got the finale type victory firework treatment at the end. Listen carefully again to the Judges and Dermott’s comms too.

    Their main theme was of a giant ‘red heart’ throbbing away merrily (a ‘heart-throb’ image perhaps?). Hence red can also stand for sex and love here. Also notable was the hoards of girls allowed around the front of the stage screaming and reaching out for them like at a big concert (forward thinking suggestive image) and which Dermot deliberately commented on (not there at all for D3…..look again at both sets).

    Ella also got the ‘multiple gushing heart’ treatment too in her back-drop. So for me, these are now the 2 acts to be fighting it out in the final and my ‘heart’ goes to Union J to be victorious (but not in a sexual way of course as I have a missus y’know, lol). I also got the straight forecast bet last year as well as the winner and this is what I will be on for this year (reversed just in case ‘again’).

    XF were ridiculed so much last year with all the OTT dirt digging and bad press; and in the wake of the more serious ‘The Voice’ I think this that year the show is notably different and more serious and they clearly want to kick the BBC up the proverbial ass to put them in their place as a second rate XF.

  • Lia

    The attack on Shakey continues with full power. Now it’s being reported that Simon wants him out. Simon does not want a winner like him (I wouldn’t either) but he doesn’t want him to do half well either, especially because he’s in Gary’s category, which ties in with Simon wanting Gary out, which is very likely in my understanding.
    Also MK1 have been very vocal about a few things, like their lines being frozen for a while and Shakey’s diva behaviour. They say he’s a cool guy but gets annoyed by simple things, like his food not being ready at the right time, not having something to drink available and if he can’t get into the right taxi (???). Doesn’t seem diva to me. It’s more like childish. Remember, he’s grandma’s boy, so that also makes sense, but diva brings a more negative connotation, so they’re sticking to that.
    What surprised me a little is how MK1 portrayed Lucy as being miserable. They say she doesn’t smile, is always grumpy, etc. This makes me think 2 possibilities:
    1- They are just talking what they want regardless of production intention since they have no ties to the show as they’re not making the tour;
    2- They are part of the producer Masterplan and Lucy’s de-ramping has just been initiated.
    What do you think???

  • AlisonR

    I have thought for years that there are subliminal messages within song lyrics, deliberately positive or deliberately negative, both in the main song and sing-off songs (though the latter can be a lottery if the wrong people end up in the bottom two).

    The most obvious example – Sophie Habibis – has already been mentioned here but Saturday’s example, D3’s “Begging”, what on earth was that if not to say to the british public, “Pick up that phone, we need you to vote for us”?! Trawling back through the wikipedia log of past series, there are lots of possible examples, both positive and negative from just song titles (without delving further into the lyrics).

    In series 7, 2010, Katie’s sing off songs were respectively, “Trust in Me”, “Don’t give up on me” and “Save me from myself”. Aidan sang “Don’t dream it’s over” when eliminated against her. In Paige vs Cher, Paige sang “Stop” whilst Cher sang “Stay”. Earlier examples of songs where an act left that week: “I have nothing” (Danyl, series 6), “That’s life” (Miss Frank, series 6″), “You know I’m no good” (Rachel, series 5), “Bridge over troubled water” (Daniel series 5; Voices with soul also made bottom two series 1 and were eliminated the following week), “Will you still love me tomorrow?” (Austin, series 5), “I can’t make you love me” (Scott, series 5), “All by myself” (Cassie, series 1. Saw her in Les Mis a couple of years back and she was great) and “I’ve had the time of my life” (2toGo, series 1).

    One positive example is Shayne Ward (series 2) who sang “If you’re not the one” early in the series, then reprised this in the final, together with “Right here waiting”. Going right back to the series 1 final, Steve Brookstein sang “Against all odds” and “Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher” whilst runners-up G4 sang “Creep”. Obvious, really.

    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed subliminal messages within the sponsors’ ads, mainly because I change channels as soon as they say “After the break….” or go and make a cuppa or something. Also never really noticed the red & black thing until discovering this site.

    Going back to last weekend, there were stories coming out about Charlie’s sexuality around Sunday lunchtime, which I failed to recognise at the time could have been a potential deramp (wouldn’t be the first time). Will be watching out for new stories this coming Sunday!

  • maccafan

    After just watching Derren Brown’s ‘Apocalypse’ with all those (rather coincidental) raging fire and desolate aftermath scenes, I’m just wondering when XF are planning to tell Kye that “this isn’t really happening”. (Or then again ‘is it’, and this weekend too?).

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