X Factor 2012: Battle of the Boybands

“Neither can live while the other survives.” As it was with Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, so it is with X Factor’s seesawing Two Directional boy toys. Like conjoined entities with only enough producer blood to pump through one set of veins, the two acts have wilted and neither is as yet a frontrunner in the competition.

It all started back in the auditions with the confusingly named GMD3 and the unimaginatively named Triple J. The former were the act to receive the most favourable attention whilst the latter seemed brushed over and painted as the main trio’s perfunctory competition. Despite a more solid vocal, Triple J were sent packing at bootcamp after a death-warble duel with GMD3, who sailed through to judges’ houses.

Then came the allegedly visa-related departure of urban boyband Rough Copy, leaving a spot in the groups category for the newly formed ‘Union J’ consisting of three members of Triple J plus solo male rejectee George Shelley. The comments were immediately gushing, the boys were like ‘a new band’ – the addition of George was ‘a stroke of genius.’

At this point it began to seem obvious that producers were creating a sort of second chance / underdog narrative for the previously anonymous Triple J. In stark contrast, the previously well-covered Marty McFly and the Biebers looked a little cheesy, Americanised, desperate even. GMD3 were out and Union J were in. They even had a guitar.

Then came the live shows. Week 1 wasn’t hard to call. Union J’s rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was hardly stellar but compared to a poorly produced ‘The Best’ in a cage of light, in the death slot, with school-play American accents and zero regard for timing, it looked just fine.

Week 2 was little different, with Union J singing a contemporary mash-up on a very British theme and District 3 getting lumped with another American ‘vocal harmony’ standard. The assassination appeared complete when the latter boyband found themselves in the bottom two.  But this was the point at which producers diverged from the obvious and saved the boys against Melanie Masson. Perhaps they saw District 3 as easier to assassinate at a later stage. Perhaps they saw more mileage in the ‘battle of the boybands’ narrative or perhaps they genuinely weren’t ready to jettison the group in the first place. Either way, District 3 lived to bounce another day.

And bounce they did in week 3, with an excitable, e-number-infused rendition of Madcon’s ‘Beggin’ in which the boys overshadowed Union J’s less memorable ‘When Love Takes Over.’ It was still easy to see the latter group as favoured – all you had to do was assume that producers were expecting an inevitable bounce and were happy to ride it out until week 4.

But if that was indeed the plan then it backfired when week 4 saw Union J hit the sing-off after a mediocre interpretation of Beyonce’s ‘Sweet Dreams.’ It wasn’t as if rivals District 3 put on a great show – the Sting/NeYo mash up was creepy and uncomfortable in a way that went beyond the week’s Halloween theme – but somehow they avoided the double-dip that befalls the majority of sympathy bouncers.

I can think of two obvious reasons for this. Firstly, after last year’s ‘Little Fix’ debate and Union J’s more strikingly obvious resemblance to One Direction, voters feel the four-piece are too obviously favoured by producers and have become entitled, thus rendering District 3 the underdogs. Secondly, District 3 carry the kind of bubbly, Bieberesque ‘Call Me Maybe’ Americanised innocence that appeals to young voters. Union J have been too much like a moody, M&S branded One Direction tribute to capture the imagination of the twinks and tweenies picking up the phone.

Either way, we seemed back on course last Saturday when the guns were out in full force for Dissedrict 3. ‘Dynamite’ was lacking in melody – the group’s main selling point – and judges’ comments were faintly damning.

On the flipside, Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ as performed by Union J reeked of Cowellian brilliance in its staging and execution. The use of guitar, key change, the visual image of the boys ‘coming together’ on stage and the crowd going wild over Jaymi’s vocal all felt like a much more earnest push by producers than District 3’s bounce performance.

Alas, District 3 are beginning to show a Devlinesque resistance to assassination and failed to hit the drop zone. Even in a week that was supposed to be all about a Union J comeback, their rivals had a strong enough fan base picking up the phone to save them.

So here we are, heading into week 6 with both groups looking a little like damaged goods. As Sofabet has pointed before, no act has ever won the competition after an appearance in the sing-off but then again no group had ever won the competition before last year. Last year’s competition also proved that a slow start leading into a late sprint was an effective tactic, something producers might have had in mind before thrusting Ella Henderson up our nostrils with such blatant force.

We don’t currently see a winner in either group, but with One Direction having opened up the international market for British boybands, we can definitely see producers eyeing a post-show career for one of the two acts. Is that enticing enough for producers to want them in the final above one of the ‘big 3’ of Ella, James and Jahmene?

We at Sofabet don’t particularly buy the argument that producers wouldn’t want another successful boyband coming out of the show. There was space for Boyzone and Take That, Oasis and Blur, McFly and Busted. The market can therefore find space for Directions One and Two.

The question then is which? After their performance of ‘Love Story’ and news stories like these (this one courtesy of commenter Neeve), as well as their ever dominant lead on social sites like Twitter, we still think that Union J look like the alpha group, although producers must surely hope that their support is transferrable to District 3 should the latter’s fan base prove to be the more persistent. With Union J on their way down from a bounce this weekend, it really is crunch time.

Both groups have now hit the sing-off. Front runners Ella, Jahmene and James as well as oddball people’s champ Shakey Maloney have avoided it so far and Rylan has hit the zone twice but may be praying for a second bounce (the power of which is typically diminished from the first).

Logic suggests that one of the two groups is due to sing for survival this weekend and it seems safe to assume that said group would be sent home against any contestant other than Maloney or, in the case of Union J perhaps, Rylan. The real evener of scores would be the result of a District 3/Union J sing-off.

Which of the groups do you think has the staying power to reach the latter stages? Whose sympathy do you expect will run out first? Do you even think producers see space for another One Direction-style boyband once the series is over? As ever, our comments section awaits.



34 comments to X Factor 2012: Battle of the Boybands

  • Rad

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if both hit B2 next week (I expect Rylan to go this week, sadly)… in that case Union J would be saved… probably. I don’t see either getting higher than fourth place.

  • I haven’t checked this bit with regards to their being enough room for two similar style boybands, how many where part of same management/label? Because that’s where the investment comes from, is their any need/want to invest double the amount of money into the same market, when can just invest majority in to one act for that market and have more reward with less outgoings.

    No need to share the market etc.

  • Ronnie

    A Rylan/D3 bottom two would be hard to call and probably go to deadlock – surely Gary wouldn’t save Rylan so D3 has two votes minimum. Struggling to see how Rylan stays this week.
    On the bands, UJ is the alpha group for me but TPTB must be disheartened by D3’s dogged resistance to sabotage. What will they try this week? Faint praise perhaps?

  • Alen

    A big clue was last week as Union J got the full Little Mix VT. Everyones name and city was showed, this was a big push to make them the clear Alphaband. But what if they did because they were doing so bad with votings now and District 3 got more votes the past few weeks? Do they even care which of the two bands goes the furthest? I don’t know.

    The obvious highlight would be if both bands ended in the bottom two. Dramaaaa! They could probably suceed if Rylan bounces back and Christopher doesn’t slip. I think Rylan is too damaged now and will face bottom two again.

    One Direction are now a worldwide band and are already slipping in the UK (last single kinda flopped, will wait for the success of the album), so I do think there is space for a new UK-band. Even if it’s just for a year or two.

    I think District 3 are already different enough to 1D while UJ aren’t really. So it would be better if District 3 win the battle but I think Union J will.

  • Jay

    I think there is a bigger plan with D3. Their big moment came by being safe after the horror of their hallowen performance. Lets remember that this was a post bounce performance and so were very vulnerable. They were awful that night and had no right going through. TPTB seemed to have their knives out and it was all set for them to go but they did not. On top of that union J were b2 that week. I can only infer from that that D3 have support somewhere. They were the original alpha group, union J were not even invited to judges houses hence their air time early on in auditions was more limited. That early hit has affected how poular they are now. I would hazard a guess that D3 have a bigger voting fan base then union j.
    They were always safe last week, the critique was way over the top on what was an enjoyable and energetic performance. This was clearly to keep them in.
    If they can surcive the halloween performance I think they look good to beat union J who I think will go this week. Union J had their moment with One direction in the first two weeks, they can not repeat that VT. I expect D3 to get the One direction treatment this week. If they avoid b2 and union J go then there will be massive vote transfer to D3. That is why 120 on betfair is massive value and why I believe D3 are genuine dark horses. They have made it this far without us even really knowing their names, if they get momentum they could go on a run and yes will not win but will shorten to the price that union J are now.

  • shoulders

    This year we’ve had the Jubilee and the Olympics, the Union Jack been flown / shown more in recent times than ever before with the public pride getting right behind our national flag, I’m fully expecting the staging visuals to reflect the red white and blue of our nations flag (nations boy band) at just the point the producers decide its time to fully ramp Union J

  • Heisenberg

    Can’t see Union J in trouble this week…


  • Daniel

    I note that One Direction are due to perform on Saturday, which is pretty unprecedented. What are the odds on them appearing straight after the less favoured boyband and then saying they are backing someone else entirely?

    • Tim B

      I would also like to request a ‘Can Chris Maloney win The X Factor?’ article, which I guess makes it ‘by popular demand’. Maybe if he gets through to next week? 😀

      • Daniel

        Hey Tim, we learnt our lesson about those last year! 🙂

        • OK then – how about an article analysing the Maloney phenomenon from a general perspective?

          His odds have been slashed today – to 10/1.

          • Boki

            He’s not really that low yet. Btw amazing amount of bad press today again, are they preparing the final blow – curious to see the song choice…

          • eurovicious

            You could probably do that by collating/summarising several of my comments on here. I don’t necessarily believe he’ll win (equally I wouldn’t rule it out) but I’ve argued the clear case for his established popularity. It’s like Leanne Mitchell – overlooked by the betting community until the very last minute. When it comes to the question of what a show wants vs. what the public wants, too many focus too much on the former and not enough on the latter. The Voice pimped Ruth and Jaz to high heaven, the public still didn’t buy. Ditto Frankie on X Factor last year and to a certain extent Rylan this year, at least at the start. The show sometimes overestimates its ability to make an act popular – when we look back now at Gary saying to Frankie “You’re the one to beat in this competition”, it looks ridiculous.

    • For those that dont know, I believe its a pre-recorded performance also.

    • Boki

      But I read that One Direction are tweeting support for D3? It’s all a little confusing…

  • eurovicious

    I did a really stupid thing this morning on Betfair – wanted to lay Chris for B2 but accidentally backed him instead!!!!!!!! €75. It was matched immediately so I couldn’t cancel. I could have kicked myself, but that would only have caused further harm. Of course, I can lay him at the same price, except that I can’t get anything matched cos of low liquidity.

    If any of you had an unmatched lay on Chris at 4.0, enjoy my money 😉 sigh…

  • wideofthemark

    oh crap – just too D3 at 100-1

  • Louis's wig

    I backed Jahmene at 2.7 when I meant to lay. Too many bets! too many markets! too many bookies! Money sloshing around all over the place, its a nightmare.

  • tpfkar

    Interesting article http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/x-factor/x-factor-2012-sweet-christopher-maloney-still-topping-public-votes/

    Do we really think Shakey has topped *every* week? If so, producers must be tearing their hair out. If not perhaps yet another trick to make you think you don’t need to vote for him as everyone else is, and even if they’re not, Chris is voting for himself.

    • Curtis

      Surely if Shakey had topped every week, and the producers didn’t like it (which surely they wouldn’t), they would have realised that what they were doing wasn’t working, and changed their tact. I imagine if he was performing that well in the vote, and they wanted to cull him, the best way to do that would be to give him a modern song that would fail to ‘delight the demo’. The fact they haven’t done this to me is evidence that Chris is not doing that well in the voting. I’m sure ‘leaks’ like this however are designed to try and push him into the bottom 2 just to get it over with.

      • eurovicious

        You say “they” but Gary wouldn’t go along with it. Especially when all his other acts have gone. Assuming for the moment that Maloney is getting twice the votes of anyone else, showmakers must also realise that he’s connected with the public and is the main reason why many people watch, so nobbling him off would dent viewing figures. The best thing they can do now is just ride with it, let things take their course and see how far he gets. My mum is so getting his album for Christmas 2013.

  • Phil

    Not sure if anyone’s seen but on the US version results show for the first public vote, they announced the acts going through *in the order of how many votes they had*. Very interesting move, and I’m curious as to whether they might try that here and what effect it might have.

  • Mick

    I can see a situation of both boy bands in the b2, but maybe not this week. A bit like Janet v Misha last year and if so will Louis abstain and vote neither of his bands off. On a judges vote I think UJ will win easily but personally I like to see a deadlock just so we can see which is more popular.

  • eurovicious

    Surprised how many people think Rylan won’t bounce. I’ve been working on the assumption he will.

  • Louis's wig

    mint to be here…….and thanks

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