X Factor 2017 Final Preview: Rak Pact

An enjoyable series comes to a climax this weekend with the final it deserves. Rak-Su and Grace have been the big names since the very first audition show, often singing their own songs, and have had a noticeable impact on the iTunes charts. Kevin Davy White, whose musicality brings something different to proceedings, is the surprise package.

We completely missed Kevin in our just-for-fun pre-lives prediction six weeks ago, but plumped for Rak-Su to win and nothing that’s happened since has changed our minds. The manband have had most momentum in the lives, and we took it as a sign of confidence that producers put them on second in the running order for the double elimination semi-final. ‘I’m Feeling You’ duly gave them another #1 on iTunes. They return to their hits from weeks 1 and 2 tonight – ‘Mamacita’ and ‘Dimelo’ – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

We believe Grace Davies represents their biggest threat. She too is at her best when showcasing her own material, and returns to ‘Roots’ – her room audition breakout song – tonight. We’re not so enamoured with her other choice: 70s Bond theme ‘Live and Let Die’, which landed Kitty Brucknell in the bottom two in its previous outing on this show. Presumably she’ll be singing it more like Duffy than Kitty (and with less fire), but it’s a song that doesn’t need to be slowed down because it has no emotional resonance.

Kevin Davy White will no doubt be using his electric guitar to good effect on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – which keeps him in the same lane as last Sunday’s ‘Voodoo Child’, a track soon to be featured on Rak-Su’s ‘Driving Anthems’ compilation.

Kevin will then be returning to the piano for his week 3 version of ‘Fastlove’. That song won him the night’s vote, but only marginally – Dermot mentioned there was under 1% in it – and after a heavy pimping.

The Frenchman is behind the other two on all recent social media stats, which suggests he would need a helping hand from producers to get him above third place. And it’s not obvious why producers would want to give him more help than the others tonight – Kevin adds a feelgood element and musical credibility to the show, but in a year when above all else they have been pushing acts performing their own material, Kevin has been kept to covers in the lives.

One bright spot in the ratings this year has been the show’s take-up by the 18-34 age bracket, and Simon admitted in today’s Sun that Rak-Su represent the shoring up of that market. It’s suggestive that each of their rivals has been given one new song that pre-dates when any of this age bracket were born.

As always, it’ll be fascinating to see how skewed the coverage will be. There’s usually no overt negativity in the final – and if producers are happy with the state of the vote, they may simply give each of the three acts even-handedly positive treatment in confidence of getting the result they want. That was our interpretation of last Sunday’s show, and it would be a fitting end to this year’s kinder, gentler series. But there are always little ways in which producers can look to nudge the vote without any overt negativity, by reinforcing stereotypes.

If you’re not betting tonight, but still want the true Sofabet experience, we can suggest a drinking game based on every allusion that Kevin is French, that Myles Rak-Su is a hit with the ladies, and that Grace writes “depressing love songs”.

At the time of writing there’s still no confirmation about how the duets will work tonight, who will be involved, or if they will involve one of the already announced song choices – we can only presume so. Nicole has a record of appearing to take these things very seriously, having memorably grabbed Jahmene’s microphone in 2012, and there’s a case that she made the difference for Matt Terry in a close-run affair last year. If she appears with Kevin, that will give his prospects a boost. BGT winner Tokio Myers has told Twitter that he will be duetting, and if that’s the case, Kevin’s guitar skills would be the most obvious foil for his keyboarding. We await confirmation.

Last year’s final turned out to have hinged on vote transfers: Saara won the Saturday, but Matt overtook her on Sunday as more of 5AM’s voters switched to him. The question of whether something similar might happen this time has been a live issue in our comments section. We’d be surprised if it’s so emphatic this year, given what’s on offer – Rak-Su’s appeal is no more niche than Grace’s or Kevin’s in our opinion – though we recognise that some disagree with us on that.

More to the point, we’ve got the impression all series that producers have been where they want to be with the vote. They’re now in their third year of getting rich data from the app votes, and we see no real reason to think they’ll struggle to get the result they want tonight. Simon’s aforementioned quotes about Rak-Su in this morning’s Sun – “I take it as a tremendous compliment that they trusted the show… It’s been great for them but it’s fantastic for us too” – are another piece of evidence for what that result might be. The Watford lads have already demonstrated their ability to make an impact in the charts, and have an album’s worth of material ready to go – we assume it would boost the franchise for them to become the first male group to win.

We look forward to hearing your own predictions, but we’re sticking with the following:

1. Rak-Su
2. Grace Davies
3. Kevin Davy White

Happy X Factor Final weekend to you all, and best of luck with your punting. Let us know your continued thoughts below.

Photos/video via ©ITV / @ThePixelFactor

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