Dazed And Confused
After landing the big-priced eliminations of Relley C and Gifty, this series of X Factor has tailed off somewhat in terms of the advised investments. If your modus operandi is to find big-priced winners, it is inevitable opportunities thin out as the field is whittled down and the series draws to its conclusion.
This year’s X Factor has undoubtedly been the most perplexing series ever, and a very difficult one to navigate from a trading perspective. It’s a show that always carries the inherent risk of dramatic volatility but this year it has degenerated into a game of chance.
You even start to wonder if Simon and Louis, like Randolph and Mortimer in ‘Trading Places’, struck a £1 bet ahead of the lives. Cowell bet his long-standing lackey that he could turn a prime X Factor audience-friendly, solo male winner-in-waiting from hero to zero, while at the same time transforming a kooky, female cabaret singer from Finland from zero to hero.
The terms and conditions of the bet were that said kooky singer must appear in at least 3 sing-offs before going on to make the final, and said solo male had to top the public vote on more than one occasion before going on to lose. The bet might well have had a further condition: Louis would get his £1 back if he was able to get a boyband with suspect live vocals all the way to the final. And would go on to win £1 off Cowell if he succeeded in getting them to win the show.
If there is an adjective to sum up this series it would be capricious. It has been like watching a megalomaniac going through an existential crisis live on primetime ITV. The X Factor is in its death throes but Cowell can’t accept it’s on its last legs. ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’ as Dylan Thomas once penned.
The show is Cowell’s play thing and an extension of his gigantic ego. This is a man who gets off on controlling the public vote as much as he gets off on controlling the contestants. He is fully aware of the dark arts at work on the show yet somehow manages to convey the image of someone oblivious to what is going on around him. He delivers his words with such sincerity, it persuades viewers he is someone they should implicitly trust. It comes so naturally to him you sometimes wonder if Cowell believes his own rhetoric. He could probably beat a lie detector.
Within our niche of tv betting we see the manipulation as obvious but still the average viewer, and voter, is swayed by the show’s devious machinations. Cowell enjoys coming out with the line, ‘That’s what I love about this show. The public decides’. Is he really so delusional he believes this when the show goes out of its way week in, week out to ensure the public vote is ruthlessly managed? If nothing else, last week showed how Cowell’s words still wield enormous power.
If X Factor is an extension of Cowell’s state of mind this series has felt increasingly schizophrenic, and for those who invest serious sums in the show, trying to find any rhyme or reason to it all has been nigh on impossible
He orchestrates the whole sorry affair like the man behind the velvet curtain; an omnipotent and often malevolent force guiding events. Only he is present, front and centre. The contestants are unwitting cast members in this modern day Wizard Of Oz, hoping to follow the yellow brick road to pop stardom. But there are unseen forces at work conspiring against them. Send in the flying monkeys.
The way Cowell treated Emily in this series was downright cruel. Even taking her to his lair to show her the world she might soon inherit, knowing all along his plan was to put her away with a succession of funereally arranged songs, so she would not make the final. You sense Cowell still has a deeply-held hatred for all things Scottish ever since Jai McDowell beat his pet project Ronan Parke on BGT. A psychiatrist would have a field day.
If X Factor is an extension of Cowell’s state of mind this series has felt increasingly schizophrenic, and for those who invest serious sums in the show, trying to find any rhyme or reason to it all has been nigh on impossible.
‘Uncertainty’ has been a key adjective built upon in this series, presumably because uncertainty equals excitement which is much needed when ratings are on the slide. They have been keen to sell the message to viewers this is the most open X Factor ever. All the acts have topped the public vote, all the acts have been in the bottom 2.
We have had mixed signals throughout and it has played out in tabloid style. Build them up and then knock them down. Knock them down and then build them up. Cowell has built Saara up. Is the next phase to knock her down? He has knocked Matt down. Is the next stage to build him up?
You wouldn’t put it past Cowell doing an about turn in the final, ‘Matt, I must apologise for my comments last week. I was wrong. That was outstanding and you are a world-class recording artist in the making. Based on that performance you deserve to win this year’s competition’. Cowell’s whims in this series have appeared as random as a roulette wheel.
Saara could yet end up being put away through a variety of means. Having sat through the gospel church of Jahmene in 2012 while James Arthur was treated like he was arriving at his own gig, never underestimate the power this show can exert in dictating the public vote.
Having sat through the gospel church of Jahmene in 2012 while James Arthur was treated like he was arriving at his own gig, never underestimate the power this show can exert in dictating the public vote
Arrangements make or break songs on X Factor. More uncertainty. You pays your money and you take your chance. ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ done in a Lorde style does not resonate as something that is going to be especially stand-out. And this version is overblown tosh but could be in Saara’s wheelhouse.
It is hard to know what to make of Saara’s duet with Adam Lambert for Bohemian Rhapsody. It has always felt a song at its best early on during the piano section leading into the guitar riff but then goes downhill afterwards into the Wayne’s World homage. ‘Thunder bolts and lightning, very, very frightening…’ That’s when it could get messy.
How they edit Saara’s homecoming in Finland will be telling too. A chance to portray the Finns as strange folk from a foreign land, perhaps. And will Saara’s partner make a long overdue first appearance in her VT? It was odd we had Louis speaking in Finnish last week, telling Finnish viewers to vote for Saara. Then we had a tabloid story about the show investigating a voting loophole, and on his visit to Helsinki Dermot was intimating the Finns would be able to figure out how to circumnavigate the app voting system to register their votes for Saara.
Sneaking up on the rails come 5 After Midnight, though they remain outsiders of three. As things stand, 5 After Midnight look the value punt. They could have topped the vote last week. More likely they have Saara ahead of them but possibly within range. If Syco goes into full deramp mode on Saara and gives 5am a James Arthur-style ramp-athon, it might be possible for them to rein in Saara’s lead. It seems highly likely they will push 5 After Midnight hard which should see them trade shorter.
Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ certainly gives them the chance to deliver a high-octane performance, but outside the chorus they could be vocally exposed. Backing track assistance will be required but the crowd noise at Wembley post-song could be another ace up their sleeve on the night.
Speculation surrounding 5 After Midnight’s duet has seen the names of Little Mix, GEM and Clean Bandit feat. Louisa Johnson bandied around. It might now be The Weeknd, or it might not. If it is The Weeknd they can really play up the ‘current’ and ‘relevant’ ticket.
Matt must feel like a bride jilted at the altar. He seemed to be this year’s Plan A at series start only for Cowell’s brutal assassination last week. The ray of hope for Matt backers is that fierce criticism being taken out of Sunday’s show. You might read that as ‘job done’ treatment: it had only a short-term goal in mind and had succeeded – Matt was in the bottom 2 and would be in the sing-off so there was no need to reinforce the negativity.
’Take Me Home’ by Jess Glynne, however, doesn’t offer the sort of moment Matt might have created with week 1’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’ or week 4’s ‘I Put A Spell On You’. It’s not a disaster of a song choice. Matt could still do a fine job with it but it is a concern.
An even bigger worry for backers has been the ‘no one wants to duet with Matt’ narrative the show has appeared to be keen to run with all week. Sam Smith, no. James Arthur, no. So it now looks like Nicole will duet with him. At least there is the chance for a moment here. Nicole is an accomplished live vocalist and there is potential chemistry between them if the song choice is right.
Who finishes 3rd? No idea. Who wins? No idea. What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? Still no idea. The uncertainty built up this year has succeeded in bamboozling seasoned traders. Only the live shows will tell us more. Keep an eye on Comments for updates over the weekend.