X Factor 2018 Week 1 Review: Goodbye to Ola

Olatunji and Armstrong departed the show, victims of the overcrowded mid-20s-to-early-30s black male demographic niche that was one of the reasons we’d expected a further cull before the first public vote – totally wrongly, as it turned out. We assume the decision to keep Janice was to spare Ayda’s blushes – it would have looked bad for her to lose two acts in her first live show, especially the two more credible ones.

There have been mixed opinions in the Sofabet comments about the quality of last night’s show. The fact that ratings are yet another million down on last year suggests the wider viewing public are with the naysayers.

As for us, the enjoyment we’ve taken from the X Factor over the years has been entirely down to analysing TPTB’s techniques to nudge the vote the way they want. Unfortunately for us, as has been the case throughout the audition stages, our main takehome from Saturday’s show was that the producers just don’t seem to care that much this year.

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X Factor 2018 Live Shows Preview

After a succession of audition episodes in which it felt to us like producers were just going through the motions, the attempt to make sense of this series was made even more difficult by a ridiculously rushed Six Chair Challenge. Acts were given little or no introduction, with very few reminders of first auditions, and virtually everyone was offered a seat, however temporarily.

Usually we go into judges’ houses having seen the acts three times – auditions, bootcamp and 6CC – and already with a pretty good sense of narrative around each act, and the likely pecking order. Not this year.

The series, and our comments section, briefly revived with a highly entertaining JHs episode for Simon Cowell’s girls category, where the music mogul arranged a whole room of luminaries for his wannabes, ending with Scarlett singing Diane Warren-penned ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ in front of Diane Warren. It may have been primarily about boosting Cowell’s ego by showing off the size of his Rolodex, but at least it was a new idea and fun to watch.

But with the other judges’ houses episodes, it was back to going through the motions again. It was disappointingly hard to discern much of TPTB’s usual amusingly playful psychological manipulation at this crucial stage of proceedings. Instead, it felt like mentors and their guests had been handed a random platitude generator.

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X Factor 2018: Auditions Week 4 and 6CC Discussion Thread

The X Factor appears to be dying on its arse. It’s not just that ratings are down – that’s been true, year-on-year, since Sofabet started in 2010. It’s a general sense that producers can’t be bothered this year. In our coverage last year we repeatedly praised TPTB for how cleverly they steered the voting public to the result they wanted. In four weeks this series, there’s been only one moment that’s made us think “that’s clever”, and that – Louis Tomlinson’s relationship with Ant Russell – was a decision made a year ago. Otherwise, it’s been tired and uninspired – the same old tropes, joylessly and artlessly regurgitated. XF-by-numbers.

There’s been much less discusson in the Sofabet comments section than at the equivalent stage of previous series. We don’t blame you – there’s not much of interest to discuss. It’s not at all clear what producers are trying to achieve, or indeed if they’re trying to achieve anything in particular other than pocketing another year of ITV’s money with the minimum possible expenditure of effort and no apparent expectation of the contract being renewed when it expires in 2019. They’re phoning it in, and we’re finding it tough to get through.

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X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 3: Is Shan The Plan?

In the seven-and-a-half minutes of Sunday’s pimp slot, Shan shot to favouritism for this year’s X Factor.

Her audition ticked lots of boxes: an introduction to her supportive family, the childhood footage showing long-held dreams of singing, an emotional number from this year’s favourite ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack, the standing ovation followed by fulsome judges’ praise (Ayda: “You are the strongest competitor we have seen yet”; Simon: “genuinely blown away”), Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ emotionally playing as she greeted family members backstage, while Simon contrived to repeat the word “magic” three times.

However, 3/1 seems a short price at this stage for a 25-year-old session singer, currently starring in the touring Whitney Houston tribute show, ‘Queen of the Night’. At that age she’d usually be appearing in the overs, and she’s yet to prove that she’s capable of writing hit songs which seemed a prerequisite last year, though her Instagram handle does claim she’s a “singer-songwriter”.

What she does have is a very natural likeability in front of the camera, as evidenced even in little moments such as her jig on receiving four yeses, and giggles when Simon agreed that he too was a “great role model”. My ears pricked at that perfect answer to the question, “what’s the big dream?” A great role model winning is great for a franchise, as Strictly recognised this year by eschewing ‘Love Island’ reality “stars” for a cast notably strong on female role models.

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X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 2: Scarlett O’Drama

Among the problems with this new season of X Fctor, the biggest has been the paucity of new talent. After two weekends of rehearsals, the top trio on the Betfair outright are two familiar faces from last year’s show – Ant Russell and Scarlett Lee – and Irish Eurovision non-qualifier Brendan Murray.

Instead of seemingly front-loading the earliest audition shows with exciting new acts, we’ve had extended segments featuring novelty contestants, and tired, seen-before storylines. The lack of bootcamp may be the primary reason for padding out the auditions (which have recently pulled in the highest ratings) over possibly longer than the traditional four weeks. But the result is a show currently looking like it’s going through the motions.

Still, gamblers are born optimists, and the trailer for next weekend’s auditions indicate the appearance of some interesting acts that spoilers suggest are already through to judges’ houses, such as Georgia Burgess in the girls category. Let’s hope we have more of those 24 acts to discuss next week – these are our thoughts on those we saw among them last weekend.

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X Factor 2018 Auditions Week 1: Mark Anthony

Call us jaded old cynics, but somehow we doubt that this time last year Louis Tomlinson decided entirely on his own initiative to appoint himself as unpaid social worker to Anthony Russell. You have to admire the long-range planning evident in the Scouse scally’s Sunday pimp slot. It suggests not only that – as commenter Stoney argued – Ant is in this for the long haul unless he manages to Frankie Cocozza himself out of contention, but also that producers are still on the ball. This is reassuring, as we’d spent much of Saturday’s show wondering if for some reason they were trying to goad ITV into pulling the plug one season early.

The first audition, which introduced the winner last year, was this time notable primarly for Louis informing us that One Direction is a corny name – this was presumably intended to suggest that Louis is an independent thinker, rather than that the show cocked up even with their biggest success story. The coveted first audition show pimp slot (we may have to retire that phrase) went to Robbie doing a karaoke duet of ‘Angels’, having been shown as bored out of his mind by his judging duties as early as audition #2. And we’re still not sure why they brought Ayda in if they’re not going to give her better material to work with than “you sang ‘It’s A Man’s World’, well it’s officially a woman’s world” or “you’re not just the X Factor, you’re the every letter of the alphabet factor”.

Anyway, on to the acts. As usual, we’ll be focusing on those reported by the Digital Spy forum to make it through the six-chair challenge, so don’t read on if you’re averse to spoilers.

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X Factor 2018: what to note from auditions

With the new X Factor season returning this evening at 8pm, here’s a timely reminder for Sofabet veterans and newcomers alike of what to look out for at the audition stage.

A big caveat for 2018: the show will be keen to show off and bed in its three-quarters-new judging panel, so we can expect as much focus establishing their personalities as the contestants. Still, here are a few pointers and questions to consider.

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Saara Aalto Eurovision Review and X Factor 2018 Preview

When Finnish TV tapped Brian Friedman to do the staging for Saara Aalto’s Eurovision 2018 entry, we were fascinated to see how this collision of Sofabet worlds would play out. You would think that Brian must have learned a huge amount about how to stage an act in a way that will maximise public votes, right?

Evidently not. With an okay-but-not-great song, Saara was never likely to win – but scraping through the semi-final in 10th of 10 qualifiers before finishing 25th of 26 in the final can only be considered disappointing. Let’s review how Saara’s staging went wrong, and what lessons we can draw about the workings of X Factor, the new season of which starts on Saturday.

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