Sam Bailey’s Journey: Jam Tart Wednesdays to Final Sunday

We’ve heard that members of the production team read Sofabet, and every time we publish a new post it amuses us to wonder what they’ll make of it. We’d like to believe there are at least occasional moments when they think “you worked that out”. But we’re sure there are many other occasions when they think “you have no idea what’s really been going on”.

We reckon producers changed their minds about Sam Bailey after week 3. Up till then, we think they hadn’t been intending for her to win; after week 3, we think they decided to run with her as their best viable option. That’s the part of this article where we suspect producers will be thinking “you worked that out”.

And yet, and yet – something funny has been going on, with manifestations in weeks 6, 8 and arguably 9. But we’re not sure what. This is the part of the article were we imagine them thinking “you have no idea what’s really been going on”.

Here’s our take on Sam’s journey.

Sam was always lined up to be one of the stars of the series – that much was clear from the amount of screentime she was allotted in both the room and arena audition shows on the first weekend. But she also appeared to be a less obviously commercial proposition than, say, Tamera – also introduced in that first show. Tesco Mary and Cher Lloyd from 2010 were the obvious comparisons, though Sam seemed to have got off to a stronger start than her Irish counterpart.

So would Sam be pushed to the win, or put on the Tesco Mary checkout belt of frumpification to clear the path for younger and cooler acts? We split the difference in our pre-lives 1-12 prediction, slating her for 3rd – midway between the win and Mary Byrne’s finishing position of 5th.

Tesco Mary, you’ll recall, smashed the first week’s vote – the only act ever to best Matt Cardle. And when the figures are revealed on Sunday, we’ll be surprised if Sam didn’t do the same with ‘The Power of Love’.

Certainly week 2’s treatment suggested that producers had been sufficiently spooked by the strength of her week 1 vote to want to apply the brakes. She was sent out first in week 2, with Strictly still on the other side, and there was a deliciously awkward moment in comments as she struggled to work out how to react to Louis calling her “Screwbo”. Sharon shrieked and the audience jeered as Louis ingenuously protested “it’s a compliment!”

Well, yes, Louis, it’s a compliment to compare a vocalist to SuBo; it’s generally not a term of endearment to call a prison officer a screw. It’s a bit like expecting an opera-singing policeman to be delighted if you call him “Pig Potts”.

Week 3’s treatment suggested the producer feet were still pressing upon the Bailey brake. Her VT was all about her experience singing on cruiseships, ahead of singing ultimate cruiseship movie theme, ‘My Heart Will Go On’. She was dressed in a curtain.


“Cruiseship” is, of course, about as damaging an adjective as exists in the X Factor lexicon. Along with the likes of “lounge bar” and “karaoke”, it’s the very antonym of the classic X Factor phrases of praise, such as “world class” and “recording artist”.

We reckon producers held a meeting after the week 3 vote, though, and decided Sam was the best winner they could hope for. We assume they didn’t view Sam as their best commercial proposition, hence the week 2-3 brake application – but that they viewed her as more desirable than Nicholas, who the Star tell us won week 2. Hannah was in the bottom two in week 3 and Tamera was probably only just above it,  as she landed there a week later – so we reckon producers reluctantly concluded that if Nicholas were to be stopped, Sam was the only game in town.

Week 4 saw her styled much less frumpily, sent out in the pimp slot and showered with golden tickertape.

SamB_week4And since then, it’s been plain sailing, with unremittingly positive treatment for Sam that has seen her price progressively shorten to 2/7 for the outright win. Unremitting positivity except for just two or three things.

The first fly in the ointment came in week 6, when The Sun splashed on Saturday with a leak that Sam was walking the vote. Unlike the Star, the Sun doesn’t have form for being accurate – quite the opposite, it has form for printing things that aren’t true but producers would like you to believe (like Jedward winning the vote).

This puzzled us, and still does. Usually when we see a story like this, we would assume its intention is to dampen an act’s support. Indeed, the Star later leaked that Nick had won week 6 – and our article on Nick’s journey explained how producers seem to have been trying to undo this damage ever since. And in week 7, Sharon pleaded for Sam’s fans not to be complacent.

The next sharp intake of breath came in week 8, when Nicole – the judge we trust to be on-message and ultra-professional – unleashed the c-bomb: “cruiseship”. True, she applied the epithet to the production rather than the vocals; a bit like bombing a munitions factory at night, that carefully avoided civilian casualties but was still an act of aggression. Lest we think this may have been done without producers’ blessing, they showed it again in the Sunday show. Twice.

Then ahead of week 9 The Sun carried a story about Sam’s alleged “diva demands”. On the face of it this seems unhelpful, but you could arguably spin it positively in that it suggests Sam has become a star – or you could see it simply as indicating desperation to get the show in the news, by any means possible. Tamera’s skeleton-packed cupboard aside, it hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for column inches.

What to make of these two, possible three, blemishes on Sam’s otherwise impeccable treatment since week 4? We don’t know, though two speculative possibilities spring to mind. Perhaps, as we speculated in our article on Tamera and shape-shifting lizards, the production team aren’t all pulling in the same direction this year?

Even more speculatively, if there is anything at all in suggestions that Sharon may have gone rogue in the last singoff save or two – a theory we’re far from committed to – could it be that there have been backstage tussles involving producers and Sharon? If we assume that Sharon wants to win, but knows that producers also want Sam to win, and therefore thinks they have no hold over her, could it make sense to interpret these as shots across her bow: “don’t think we can’t still stop your Sam Bailey if you push us too far”?

We raise that not because we believe it, but to spark discussion as we’d love to hear what you think.

Otherwise, the last six weeks have been all about Sam’s transformation from everymum to superstar. As Sofabet commenter Heisenberg put it, “you know you’re the chosen one when a cameraman climbs into your oven”.


Producers may have been impressed not just with her vocals and the way she had already connected with the audience, but also with her determination to succeed. Her week 4 VT focused on her weight loss as a result of getting fit during the show. Sharon took her to a spa, as a way to look after her. Judges stepped up their comments about her physical appearance, Nicole complimenting her curves on more than one occasion.

She was an ordinary woman living the dream. The show has transformed her life. In her week 5 VT, she met one of her heroes, Michael Bolton. In week 6, it was Celine Dion. In week 7, it was Leona Lewis. In week 9, she was invited to mentor Sharon Osborne’s house. Yet she’s remained incredibly likeable and humble on screen, sticking up for Tamera after the latter’s ‘Impossible’ mistakes, for example.

Her popularity with the public was evident in the weekly Channel 4 cult hit ‘Gogglebox’, which films a wide variety of British households watching television. Sam Bailey is the only contestant to have been given airtime on the show, from ‘The Power of Love’ onwards, and the response from the different demographics is always positive, adding to the sense that she’s a “People’s Champion”.

She goes into this weekend’s final in a seemingly strong position, favoured by producers and public alike. She’s the shortest-priced favourite in the show’s history. Her song choices look judicious, and indicate The Powers That Be will continue to do their best to help her over the line. The Sofabet team fully expects to see a pimp slot pimping. Anyone care to argue otherwise?

Do let us know your thoughts on Sam Bailey’s journey below. What do you make of the apparent push from week 4 onwards, and is there anything more than column-inch fluff behind the “cruiseship” and “diva” mentions? Let us know below.

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46 comments to Sam Bailey’s Journey: Jam Tart Wednesdays to Final Sunday

  • AnnaC

    I’m not sure that ‘cruiseship’ is as damaging as you (and possibly the producers) might think. For Sam’s demographic a cruise is something that they do or would enjoy – in fact, it’s quite aspirational. In addition, cruiseship performances are extremely professional even though the judges seem to imply that it’s one step up from karaoke.

    • Chris Bellis

      Couldn’t agree more AnnaC. I keep saying it. My friends who are professional performers love cruise ship gigs. They pay well and it’s a holiday. Why don’t the people who make this comment look at the big names that do cruise ships? They mention Steve Brookstein – but he wasn’t even considered good enough for a cross channel ferry. Not the same thing as a cruise ship. The kind of people who vote for SamB won’t be bothered.

      • AnnaC

        There is one context in which the ‘cruiseship’ tag is damaging, though, and that is for the contestant who claims never to have performed in a venue larger than his/her nan’s living room. I believe that is the reason that Sam had the early VT about her cruise experiences because she had claimed not to be a professional singer. The producers therefore had to get her professional experience into the open before the press did.

      • Hi Anna, Chris,

        I’m sure “cruiseship” is intended negatively – just look at the way Nicole delivers it in week 8, with the hesitant and faux-apologetic demeanour of someone who feels reluctantly compelled to be honestly critical.

        It’s a really interesting one. I guess it’s a relic of the early days of the format, when the conceit was all about the winner getting the all-important “recording deal” and the losers getting nothing. Obviously history tells us the winners have no guarantee of a recording career and the losers can make good in many different ways, and the show itself even acknowledges this at times – like with Gary saying Rough Copy need to get into the final, or indeed the use of “you’ve already done enough to change your life” as a vote-dampener for poor old Mary Byrne.

        But still, there’s some remaining element of suspended disbelief necessary for the show to make sense on its own terms, with “recording artist” being held up as the gold standard and the likes of “cruiseship” being used as a contrast. They’ve also used “musical theatre” as a criticism in the past – another perfectly respectable and enjoyable way for performers to make a living, and where lots of XF alumni will obviously end up. It’s just not what the show wants to admit to being about.

        • AnnaC

          I don’t doubt that the intent is negative but I think the impact is (generally) either neutral or positive. As I said, the demographic voting for Sam, and for Chris Maloney last year, likes cruises. ‘West End’ also doesn’t seem to have much negative impact. Joe McElderry and Ray Quinn were both frequently described as ‘West End’ but Joe won his year and Ray was runner-up to Leona Lewis. I strongly suspect that the much-used depiction of Chris Maloney as ‘cruiseship’ last year was one of the factors in his longevity.

        • Kahdoosch

          Hi Sofabetties

          Agree with that Andrew, It’s a matter of perspective. The cruiseship tag in terms of a professional ideal is roughly equal to ‘ solid performance, good payday but low public exposure’

          It’s a niche and sets a cabaret image, which might delight certain demos but will repel demos who prefer current, cutting edge, artists. It’s the Vegas of club bands, an aspiration of the Butlins circuit. Like a reward for solid industry performers who can’t or aren’t shifting records. Professional cabaret acts and perhaps established acts trading on their back catalog. You aren’t gonna do cruiseships to promote your latest album.

          Can anyone put a hand on their heart and admit to knowing which acts that matter publicly are performing on cruiseships at this minute?

          IMO it’s used on XF to limit appeal to a cabaret demo and repel the hip voters. How that affects voting figures will depend on the percentages of such voters on the show.

          I would suggest that at this stage in the competition, some demos will be more likely to vote multiple times than others, I don’t think the ‘cruiseship’ demo will be one of them.

  • Penguin-Llama Hybrid

    If anything I assume that the ‘cruiseship’ mentions are to remind us of her humble beginnings – there is a huge difference in the ways it has been applied to Sam than, say, Sami Brooks.

    The diva stories are rather confusing though, as I don’t see the value they could get from them and I still don’t believe they’re THAT desperate as to allow unhelpful headlines about their favoured act, despite the abysmal level of press the show has got this year.

    My theory is similar to the one you offered on the nobbling of Janet Devlin 2 years ago – that they are trying to create a sense that it won’t be a COMPLETE walkover, particularly with the idea that Nick is doing well in the votes and could possibly challenge her (despite the fact that he probably won’t). While this theory turned out to be false with Janet, I didn’t believe it then it’s the only thing I can think of now, and it would certainly create a lot more suspense around the final – does anyone remember how boring the season 3 final was because it was so 1 sided? They can’t want this again, and this would be one way to try to spice things up.

  • Kahdoosch

    An Idle muse here along the A&R lines

    A&R departments are traditionally loathe to take risks on investments, they tend to follow industry trends and run artists through pre-production to fit already identified niches.

    Syco are well aware that the middle of the road act is very much a money spinner in today’s market. This series has seen several mature female acts pimping new albums and ‘come back’ albums illustrating that the Industry has identified an upsurge in demand for such acts.

    I’m not so sure that the producers have ever been blind to the potential of a genuine mature female artist.

    They do, however have to make television which has some kind of ‘jeopardy’ to keep the format alive. XF saves the A&R department a fortune in breaking new acts.

    Could the seeming anomalies in Sam’s journey simply be a device to create some tv around the act?

    Aside: Wasn’t the weight loss thing used before with Craig Colton? I seem to remember it having a bad affect on his brand, focussing on him being over-weight rather than determined to lose it. Voted off shortly after on a deadlock with Amelia.

    • sycamore

      I think the Craig Colton thing backfired on Craig because it showed him playing along with his mentor’s support and encouragement to lose weight to the mentor’s face, then gorging and giggling gleefully as soon as his back was turned. Which portrayed Craig as deceitful, as ‘disrespecting’ his mentor, and most of all, as not really caring about being overweight – the cardinal sin. Whereas with Sam it’s being used to reinforce both how professional she is, and how happy she is being part of the xfactor, the complete opposite to Craig.

  • stoney

    Creeping closer to the youguv poll, when the market moves like crazy within minutes of it getting published. Last year jahmene and james were neck and neck in the odds until the sun published the poll and James went heavy odds on within a few hours

  • Daniel

    ITV were reporting live from rehearsals this morning. Sam Bailey was performing ‘Power of Love’ to a backdrop of small golden stars shooting upwards. She was stood on a big, circular plinth with a similarly-sized circle of vertical strip lights that rose above her. She was dressed casually but the production team checked a red, slinky dress against the backdrop.

  • David Cook

    After the first live show I thought it would be a Tamera / Sam B one-two. Tamera appeared to be by far the most commercial act (potentially), but Sam B was by far the best singer. The producers must have been hoping to get Tamera as far as possible, but if the aduition fluff was genuine, and if they had done any background checks they must have been aware of potential problems. I am not sure if they genuinely thought Tamera could win, but I do think that Sam B was at least the back up choice and may have been first choice.
    Certainly from early on everything was done to get her off to a good start. Good coverage in the auditions and boot camp. Without being too rude the choice of the two other acts in her category appeared strange as it was effectivley no competition. The favourable make over. And one other thing the themes – which must be chosen well in advance. Certainly the first few weeks the themes could not have been better. You cannot look outdated compared to the younger acts when its 80’s week, Disco week, Big Band week – Love and Heartache and Movie week also allowed for favourable song choices.
    So is it possible that they favoured Sam B early on, but leaving plenty of time to deramp her if Tamera had taken off.

    • Kahdoosch

      Agree totally with that, David, weekly theme selection and how each theme is slanted must be one of tptb weapons of choice. It’s the starting premise of song selection.

      Take Halloween, this year ignored, what demo does that delight?

      Which demo would rather be at a birthday party than traipsing around, door knocking, in the cold and dark with a group of pre-teen vampires and zombies?

  • Natasha

    Did you also notice how set up that was?! Lorraine stopped talking to Luke and Nicholas once Sam had stopped singing? The sound of Sam singing in the background was really overpowering, so much so that you couldn’t really hear Luke and Nicholas talking to Lorraine.

  • tpfkar

    I’m with David Cook; I’ve had Sam Bailey pegged as the most likely winner since the first audition shows, and never wavered. I think the producers have too.

    Sure, they would have loved to be able to switch to Tamera (or less plausibly Hannah) but I never thought they were likely to succeed on either count and I doubt the producers did either. They had a go in weeks 2/3 of the live shows, realised that Hannah’s fan base was far too weak (and she did not look like a star on stage) and – possibly with some dissent – realised that Tamera’s background, issues with performing and attitude meant that she would have needed too much help to get over the line and been too high risk. And reverted back to Sam B, with great success.

    She needs to be seen as the people’s champion, hence the show can’t be seen as giving her everything her own way – I think that’s all I’d read into the subtle deramps you’ve picked up.
    I’ll be quids in if she collects the prize on Sunday.

    I think the reasons for the small negative ticks

  • Roxie

    I think Sam B was always the Plan A. Why let Tamera do a song during her pimp slot that Sam has done before and nailed and effectively got her the biggest fan base to start the show with when it would just be compared to Sam’s version? Combine that with the fact that they were aware of Tamera’s background with the news stories – and as they know from past experience bad press is never going to be a good thing! Combine that with Sam Bailey’s song choices + celebrity hype straight from the start, the show wanted her to do well. Tamera never got a standing ovation nor a vote call from any of the other judges + no interested look when the camera panned to the judges + confusing staging + called Beyonce impersonator in her pimp slot. It’s like Misha’s bully gating or calling out Ella’s awkward dancing during their pimp slots – it’s going to significantly weaken the pimp slot effect. Why on earth do that to your favorites? Yeah sure give them critique but why do that in a pimp slot when everyone’s going to remember that critique that Tamera’s an impersonator or that Ella can’t preform or that Misha’s a bully.

    I really do wonder what they’re thinking. Unless it’s been the plan all along to hide their real Plan A to avoid backlash which is exactly what they did. Sam B this year and James last year.

    • David Cook

      Roxie – I agree with what your saying about Tamera, and I too am a bit confused about the way she was treated, certainly in the later shows. All I can say is that week one I thought that she was the act with potential, but that potential was never built on. But I’m sure she wasn’t there just to make up the numbers – she was first choice girl. However everything you say is correct. So it doesn’t make sense. Why continue week after week with slow songs when it just wasn’t working, and left her in the shade of Sam B? Why not more up tempo – week one was her best week. She could have been helped with better backing vocals to carry her – as they did every week with Rough Copy.
      I do still think she will get a contract with Syco, and for that reason you would think they would have tried to give her the best exposure possible, even if they had given up hopes of getting her to the final.
      If anyone has any thoughts please let us know.

    • Kahdoosch

      Something about the panel’s reaction shots, during an acts performance, pulls at my perceptions. I put it down to this:-

      A camera cut does not necessarily have to be live does it?

      The audio and the video feeds are routed separately to the control room so a reaction shot can be a mini VT inserted into the live video feed.

      It’s simple and beautifully deceptive. Sharon and Louie seemingly laughing at Nic’s vocal implosion is an obvious one, The ambience was totally wrong, That was an inserted clip IMO.

  • Roxie

    When’s the yougov poll going to be published by the way?

    If my predictions are correct:

    1) Sam B – the show’s winner clear from the celeb endorsements.
    2) Luke – his ability to pick up floating voters (going into the lives with the least screen time, essentially establishing a fan base with each of his performances). He’s also neck and neck with Sam B on many online polls + on DM comments + different demos tune in to watch final and some would go for the more interesting and ‘cooler’ performer which is Luke (his duet with Ellie reestablishes this).
    3) Nick – the show want him out, he’ll be put on first + Candy + regional vote only really works till the final + voted lowest on nearly every online poll + different demos tune in to watch final.

  • Paolobow

    Rumours that the Yougov poll (published in the morning) shows some slightly unexpected results.

    • stoney

      Well let’s put it this way it’s going to be way off the laughable DS polls

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Sam B or Nic are equal results for me; Luke winning is a bloody wipe-out disaster.

      • stoney

        Your in a better position to me then. Luke finishing higher than 3rd will be a knife to the heart for me

        • stoney

          Unless he finishes second to nicholas then it’s happy days. The sam nicholas straight forecast is my safe guard against a nicholas victory.

        • Guildo Horn Forever

          Hi stoney,

          Can you, or do you feel you should, take out insurance bets re Luke’s finishing position? A top male bet on him etc?

          Or are you confident (yet understandably nervous)?

          • stoney

            I’m cautious mate as the unexpected has bitten me on the backside a few times lately but I won’t take insurance until the youguv poll is published. I will be up at the crack of dawn ready to respond. I fail to see nicholas polling lower than luke but we shall see

          • stoney

            But the cover bet will be on the higher odds forecast of sam-luke if Anything

  • David Cook

    The competition may well have effectively been two separate races – one between Sam B and Nick for the top spots, and another between the rest for the minor places.
    As early as week one Sam B and Nick could have had 50% of the vote with Sam B comfortaly leading. That would leave the others averaging 5% – and probably none anywhere near double figures. Week two Sam B was held back a bit – Sam B and Nick still get over 50% but now Nick is leading. The rest are still all below 10%. So maybe by week 3 the producers decide that they are happy continue with Sam B as the favoured act with Nick second – as long as they stay in that order.
    Beyond that I think that the manipulations have been to try to maintain this situation whilst trying to get the other favoured acts as far through the competition as possible. If this was the revised plan then it probably worked as I think that they would have been happy with the final six.
    I have thought that Sam B and Nick might still be quite close in the voting picking up 50 – 60% between them. In week 8 I thought that Tamera, Luke and RC would all be very close at around 15% each – so still massively behind the leaders with little chance of closing the gap. For that reason I thought that the B2 sing off last week came down to whether they needed to keep Luke to avoid votes going to Nick, or if they felt comfortable that they could push RC through to the final (personally I think Luke has improved throughout and deserved to go through over the much hyped RC).
    If this is the case, and if it was a level playing field, then I might be thinking that Nick might still have a chance. But ofcourse it isn’t a level playing field, and as the producers have all the statistics I’m sure that they will tilt it enough to get the result. The song choices certainly point that way.
    So I fully expect 3rd Luke, 2nd Nick, 1st Sam B – but I could be wrong.

  • R

    While waiting for the YouGov poll, a few more insights from Miss Devlin.

    The interesting parts are:

    Janet’s song choices were often entirely out of her hands, the process a “give and take”. In week 4, she was given Uninvited by Alanis Morissette and was really happy, then she was given “the bloody Police (Every Breath You Take)”.

    She giggles, saying: “I took pretty much all the major notes out of it, messed around with it and made it really dark and twisted. I was quite angry. Don’t taunt me by giving me a good song and then that!”

    Janet’s worst moment was the week she sang Mmm-Bop – she’d been begging since the start of the show to sing the Chilli Peppers and they said she could if she sang that. It was the first time the contestants had two songs to do as well. They also threw her a curveball she wasn’t expecting.

    She recalls: “They came into my room one night and said, ‘How do you feel about flying back to your hometown to turn on the Xmas lights?’ I said it would be nice but I didn’t have the time, to which they replied, ‘You have to – it’s already in the press.’”

    They also, rather oddly, took her iPod off her for the visit home. It had the two tracks she needed to learn on it and could have listened on the flight home and back, but a researcher continually dodged her questions about why she’d taken it away.

    “That still gets to me today. Turning on the Christmas lights at home was amazing;10,000 people turned out – but I would have liked some notice. I came back and had two days to prepare the songs.”

  • stoney

    Ok I got up extra early to get my copy of the sun and the standings are
    sam bailey 56%
    Luke 24%
    Nicholas 11%

    While its blatantly obvious this poll doesnt take scottish multi voting into account I took a an insurance out on the 7/2 sam luke forecast. Watch that price vanish later. Ive learnt from my mistake last year! Also interesting that the sun are running a nicholas sob story. Are they getting cocky on the back you the youguv poll?
    1 more thing I noticed, the youguv poll scored luke a higher percentage in last year’s vote even though he polled before nicholas, so Definately a cause for flaw there

  • Gamblebot

    XF winner supports Queen Bey in the UK leg of her tour. Does that mean a female winner has been and is their preference since Day One?

  • stoney

    I expected the market to react more to luke friends 2nd position in the poll even though I still expect it to be a false finding

    • Boki

      I guess people wait for the more detailed pdf report with a regional breakout. I took the sam/luke insurance this morning btw.

    • There’s a 30% gap in the vote between Sam (who everyone thinks will win) and Luke (bottom 2 three times). The market doesn’t react to “who is more likely to be 2nd place”, it reacts to who is most likely to win. There’s a large element of uncertainty with regards to Nick, whatever he polls, whereas everyone already has a pretty good idea of what vote Luke has been getting and what he could realistically expect to gain in the final (can he really gain a minimum of an extra 25% of the total vote needed to win?)

  • Boki

    What’s not visible on oddschecker is that fred still has 4.5 for Sam/Luke forecast.

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