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Cool Cuts

Oct 24, 2017 by

Cool Cuts

It seems to become a harder watch each year sitting through all the audition, bootcamp, 6 Chair Challenge and Judges’ Houses shenanigans of X Factor but at last, mercifully, the live shows will get underway this coming weekend.

The Judges’ Houses rejects went forward to a public vote which closed yesterday at 1pm. Betfair market movements would suggest Alisah, Talia, Jack & Joel and Leon have won those 4 wildcard spots.

So we will have 16 contestants, split 8 and 8 across the first two shows, with 2 categories performing on the Saturday; two on the Sunday, based on information found in the voting Ts&Cs this year (since taken down).

The Sun has reported today we will have 2 eliminations this weekend; 3 the following weekend. It makes sense not to immediately cull 4 acts having only just parachuted in the 4 wildcards.

Given the focus on Girls and Groups this year it looks on the cards these two categories will be separated across the first two nights. And with Grace initially pencilled in for that CiN charity gig at Lowther Pavilion on Saturday November 4, it might well be the Girls are slated to perform on Sunday November 5 which might mean Girls will perform this coming Saturday, with Groups on the Sunday.

Given the focus on Girls and Groups this year it looks on the cards these two categories will be separated across the first two nights

We saw Girls and Overs chosen at judges’ houses on Saturday; Groups and Boys chosen on Sunday’s show, and perhaps this is in indication of the initial split this coming weekend.

Come week 3 of the lives it looks like we will have 11 acts remaining. This might well be when it reverts back to all 11 performing on the Saturday night show. It could feasibly then become 8 acts remaining in week 4, 5 acts in week 5, leaving the traditional 3-act final.

One thing is clear, having the field split in this manner, seemingly over the first 2 weeks of the lives (& those new voting Ts&Cs assuming they will be in operation) offers TPTB an even firmer level of control, in theory giving an easier passage for its favoured acts.

Everything this series has pointed to Grace Davies being Syco’s main project. Encouraging artists to sing their own material and doing away with theme weeks are just two clues regarding their Grace favouritism. The X Factor brand is flagging big time and it is in dire need of unearthing a legitimate artist who goes onto a hugely successful post-show career – Grace potentially ticks this box too.

The Twitter handle change (just like Louisa Johnson) is a further clue, and it comes as no surprise to read Grace already has her first 2 weeks cover versions lined up for the lives.

The X Factor brand is flagging big time and it is in dire need of unearthing a legitimate artist who goes onto a hugely successful post-show career

There are other parallels with the Louisa Johnson 2015 series: a shortened run of live shows this year and, TPTB making it abundantly clear throughout the selection process that a solo male winner is persona non grata this year.

Grace’s vocal style is very Adele-light and sitting behind the piano producing nuanced performances is certainly where she is at her best. Being able to authentically sell the emotion of her songs is something they look like using to promote her to the audience (and possibly where Holly will come undone). However, there might be a risk Grace’s performances become too low key for ITV’s primetime evening viewers, along with the fact her vocal delivery might be too much of an acquired taste.

That said, she only has 5 live shows to negotiate before no doubt reprising the likes of ‘Roots’ in the final and Syco has previous for obliterating the opposition to make way for TCO (the chosen one) in Louisa’s year. Grace has been cleverly portrayed by the show so far as down-to-earth, humble and she has likability on her side – a part of the equation where many thought Louisa would fall down, it is worth noting.

Holly has impressed with her powerful, controlled vocal and she is a more natural fit with the sort of singer the X Factor has historically favoured with pop star good looks. Another likeable northern lass heralding from Barnsley (not far from Grace who is from a village near Blackburn), if the wheels fall off ‘Project Grace’, she looks an able deputy. Croydon girl Rai-Elle, meanwhile, is as cute as buttons and given the chance to shine she can certainly put her unique stamp on songs.

The signs are one of this year’s Groups is teed up to be the main rival to whoever ends up being leading Girl. The tricky part is figuring out which one. Rak-Su have been shown favour but seem a tough sell to a Saturday/Sunday night audience. They are maybe too urban, with the beat box-ing a potentially alienating element, and they will require a massive pimping to make the final.

Croydon girl Rai-Elle is as cute as buttons and given the chance to shine she can certainly put her unique stamp on songs

The latter comment also applies to Sean and Conor Price. The young Irish lads have likability firmly on their side but they seem extremely limited in what they do. A small piece of judges’ houses dialogue – ’What will they do week after week? The same thing?’ That’s the point… What is the missing ingredient. At the moment, they’re buskers.’ Damning or given them room for a journey? Trouble is, it is hard to see what else they can offer.

The Cutkelvins haven’t enjoyed as much editing time invested in them yet but they look potentially the best of the Groups this year IF they are given the chance to shine during the live shows.

Lead singer Shereen has abundant star quality and they have their roots in old Motown, which is potentially a very nice fit with the ITV audience. It looks like they can put their stamp on a variety of different song types too. Of course, equally, one false step along the way and they could be at risk but that applies to every act under this new format.

Granted the right sort of tracks and arrangements, they have the talent to go all the way. Being Scottish will potentially aid them on the public vote too. One niggling concern is Cowell, while claiming to have Scottish roots on Sunday, has exhibited a deep-seated hatred of all things Scottish pretty much since Jai McDowall won BGT in 2011.

As for the Boys and Overs this year, they are an uninspiring bunch and look like cannon fodder. Spencer comes across as far too corny and contrived; Lloyd should clearly be singing in a West End show or in an all-male choir – ‘Musical theatre’ was Louis Walsh’s tag on Sunday – and Kevin has a one-dimensional raspy vocal like someone trying to imitate the Kings Of Leon lead singer, Caleb Followill. They are all competent but interminably bland.

The Cutkelvins look potentially the best of the Groups this year if they are given the chance to shine during the live shows

Matt Linnen, Sam Black and (presumably) Leon Mallett all look rather limited in what they can offer too. It’s debatable which of these 6 solo males has the most potential voter appeal – this will partly be dictated by the show’s handling of them – but at least one of them could end up a lucrative back-to-lay.

Everyone likes to hark back to Ben Haenow, and Matt Terry’s success last year as highlighting how a likeable, MOR solo male crooner can win XF virtually by default. But there is a sense that in the free app voting era the goalposts have shifted and it is much easier for TPTB to exert tight control over the vote, pigeon-hole acts and essentially put them away by whatever means possible.

Sam has clear likability but is very limited with his 60s style, Leon seems a fundamentally weak vocalist, while Matt has come across as a blank slate of a performer and his renditions so far have been somewhat insipid. In a nutshell, they all look teed up to be ruthlessly dispatched the way only Syco knows how.

Looking at the tc & cs of this year’s voting rules (as they originally appeared), it remains unclear if this is the death knell of the sing-off but the wording appeared to make it unlikely, at least before the semi-final. It seems odd the show would want to lose the excitement, jeopardy, and extra layer of control, a sing-off provides.

There is a sense that in the free app voting era the goalposts have shifted and it is much easier for TPTB to exert tight control over the vote

If someone is bottom of the vote in their category the show does not want to get rid of, the wording of those voting rules – and they may well be tweaked again given they have been taken down at time of posting – hinted at some wiggle room:

‘Each Saturday, either one or two act(s) will be eliminated as stated in the show. This may be either the act with the lowest number of votes across both categories that performed or the act with the lowest number of votes from each category that performed.’

Reference to a best performer of the weekend vote was another surprising new element written up in those ts&cs, as it would obviously tell the audience who has topped the public vote. There was also mention of judges having a say on who survives in the event of a tie – a strange contingency as a tie on the public vote is close to impossible.

With regards to the other likely wildcard picks, it is hard to envisage any of (the predicted) Alisah, Talia or Jack & Joel as contenders. Alisah can power out big ballads and in the sing-off era would have been a potentially useful assassin; Talia once carried Sharon and Nicole’s bags at the airport so they might have her back during the lives; while Jack & Joel could enjoy a brief stay of execution as a lightweight but likeable duet.

As for Tracy Leanne, her vocal is very uncontrolled but Syco loves a contestant with a back story and as ‘ambassador of the travelling community’ they couldn’t resist giving her a place. She might be one they decide to fanfare initially with a view to her being easily sacrificed further into the live shows.

Talia once carried Sharon and Nicole’s bags at the airport so they might have her back during the lives

Syco being Syco it has shown in the past it can forcefully drag virtually anyone to the final. Given this year’s new format it has even greater power to protect and promote its favoured acts (while ruthlessly burying those who are unwanted), and you end up coming back to the Girls or the Groups as being highly likely to supply this year’s winner.

Neither Rak-Su nor Sean and Conor Price can be dismissed from calculations but there are clear reservations with both and they will require relentless fanfare to win.

A great first live show for Grace (which could well be on the cards) and she will end up trading much shorter than her current price on Betfair. If this happens, Holly is likely to drift. Both have strong claims overall, Rai-Elle has the potential to surprise while at the odds The Cutkelvins look the value play among the Groups.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Ben Cook

    If the ITV voting T&Cs are anything to go by, they’ll stick with the split format until week 5

    • Rob

      Thanks Ben. Seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Which is maybe why they have take the ts&cs down and are re-working them. And as we know, Syco being Syco it has fudged things in the past and may well do again – they seem to still be in the process of figuring out exactly how it will play out this year.

  2. But will Grace still shorten if several of them have a great show and are equally praised? I think Grace’s price is largely due to favouritism, which seems to have stopped. If she only had the one great song in her, or she annoyed them in some way, they needn’t be that interested any more and will treat her equally with the others.