Terry’s All Gold
We have our final 12 heading to the live shows on X Factor 2016. Once again the Digital Spy spoiler list has proved 100% accurate and once again it is a somewhat underwhelming field.
If there are no further additions – which could yet happen – it is shaping up as a single elimination each week, leading to a 3-act final on the weekend of December 10.
It would appear that Syco, not for the first time, has opted to cull a good few of the more promising acts ahead of the lives this year. Four Of Diamonds, for instance, had the look of a half-decent girlband in the making and put in the best performance among the Groups at judges’ houses. Yet they were apparently surplus to requirements.
Among the Overs there were certainly more talented vocalists jettisoned compared to some of those selected. More significantly, especially in the case of James Wilson, he had clear votability on his side which is presumably why he wasn’t chosen for the live shows.
Watching Sharon make her deliberations was especially amusing in that her opinions clearly did not matter a jot as she had to cede to what the show producers had already decided. The selection of Relley C should have come with a caption reading, ‘Early exit material for the purposes of protecting those acts the show is more invested in’.
Poor Saara Alto has already been rejected by Sharon during the 6 Chair Challenge and was damned by Robbie Williams saying he got a bit bored and Sharon murmuring her agreement. Sharon also gave Saara plenty of withering looks as she performed, with a hint of indifference thrown in for good measure.
‘This is Saara from Finland,’ she accentuated, introducing her to Robbie, suggesting the former Eurovision wannabe faces being pigeon-holed as a quirky foreign performer. At least TPTB have been sympathetic enough to give her a song in week 1 she has performed well live previously in ‘Let It Go’ as seen here.
Fellow 6 Chair Challenge rejectee Honey G got Robbie enthused as he informed us he was doing a shoot in LA and all he heard were people talking about her. Impressive she has trans-Atlantic appeal already though one wonders if Robbie actually overheard people discussing their favourite breakfast cereal.
The overriding sense with the Overs category this year is, once again, the 3 of them are cannon fodder, though Honey G could well gain cult status and in such a weak field end up going surprisingly far.
The all female Overs category vaguely makes sense in that it balances up the all male Groups chosen this year. We are used to some laughably terrible name changes for the Groups but this year Syco has surpassed itself.
Brooks Way sounds like a really bad soap opera; Bratavio, a little known character in a Shakespeare play, or maybe a state-of-the-art coffee-maker; and 5 After Midnight, a second rate jazz ensemble performing exclusively at Premier Inns in the East Anglia region this Christmas.
While Bratavio are difficult to like as a novelty act, and probably already pre-booked for January’s Celebrity Big Brother, you can make a case for one of the boybands going far.
Individually name-checked, the further good news for 5 After Midnight is they also got dubbed, studio quality sound to try and cover up their weak vocals while performing ‘live’ at Louis Walsh’s Ibizan bolt-hole. Their boyband shtick isn’t exactly new – having synchronised dance moves is seemingly one of their bigger selling points – but more importantly we were informed they have ‘huge potential’.
Brooks Way have been criticised for their vocals and weren’t great at judges’ houses. They are ‘only 17’, ‘look like pop-stars’ and ‘girls are going to love them’ were among Louis’s platitudinal endorsements while adding the proviso ‘they are limited’. They also both have the habit of singing with their eyes closed when giving it the full heart-felt ballad style. They will perform DNCE’s massive hit Cake By The Ocean on Saturday which is at least a fun, uptempo starter for them.
With the previously favoured Caitlyn Vanbeck surprisingly getting the chop (even though she did forget her lyrics), this could be read as a sign a Girl winner is not this year’s Plan A. Maybe it was also fear of the Scottish vote, which is now conveniently split between the young lovebirds Emily and Ryan.
Louisa Johnson is set to release her debut album on November 18 – and will no doubt perform on the live shows to promote it – and Tamera Foster’s debut album is also still in the pipeline, so Syco possibly has enough solo Girls already on its roster. That concern aside, this year’s 3 Girls look strong.
Emily’s ‘cute girl with guitar’ act is one that can very easily be made to look one-dimensional during the lives though the popularity of the likes of Lissie does arguably make her sound ‘current’. Emily will no doubt ditch the guitar at some point, as she did during the 6 Chair Challenge two years ago, to try and demonstrate her versatility but her vocal isn’t the strongest and doubts persist whether she has enough about her to challenge for the win.
In support of the weak vocalist Soheila Clifford, Cowell also previously stated, ‘On the upside you are going to remember her. She’s not just going to sit there with a guitar.’ And this was before Emily came out and performed, standing there with a guitar…
While the re-styling of wildcard Samantha was X Factor at its most gratuitously confected, it has propelled her into the live shows with a degree of momentum. And she is clearly a talented live vocalist with plenty of range.
She was labelled ‘distant’ and only seen ‘with a mask put up’ by Cowell. ’I want to get to know who you really are,’ he told her, offering up his best David Brent impression. Confiscating Samantha’s make-up bag had the required effect, according to the pop Svengali. Hailing from County Durham, Samantha has a potentially strong regional vote to aid her.
Gifty is a talented and distinguishable Girl too. She has a powerful voice and is a confident performer. The clear concern with her is, she is maybe too fierce for ITV prime-time viewers’ sensibilities. It will come down to how palatable she can be made for the audience – and whether TPTB even bother to soften her image – but pre-lives there are more question marks over her potential popularity compared to the other 2 Girls.
As for the Boys, Matt Terry could hardly have been shown more favour up to this point. He has the looks, and his vocal seems assured enough to navigate the live shows. He also got to perform at judges’ houses in front of a perfectly setting sun and Nicole teased, ‘You haven’t even heard his full range’. While the press has tried to make a big deal of his break-up from his girlfriend being over-played that doesn’t look all that damaging to his chances in the long run.
It is perhaps a further plus for Matt that some of the other Boys the audience has been encouraged to emotionally invest in such as Christian and James got the Spanish archer. Freddy is fundamentally a weak vocalist and it is difficult seeing him have much of a say in this series. Ryan Laurie’s inclusion is more intriguing, after he got the boot at bootcamp, returned as part of a manufactured boyband at 6 Chair Challenge, and was then thrown back in as a wildcard.
He has the looks to melt teen girls’ hearts too and his live vocal is better than Freddy’s yet he was initially overlooked. The whole wildcard thing may well have been dreamed up to get him back in the lives, purely because producers want to contrive a Ryan vs Emily sing-off at some stage.
Given Syco’s track record for seeking to create drama and shamelessly tugging on viewers’ heart-strings you sense they will try their utmost to make this happen. Whoever survives this potential sing-off would certainly gain some momentum, with the other half of the Scottish vote poised to lend its future support.
The alternative to this would be producers liking the idea of a feel-good Emily vs Ryan narrative as part of this year’s final. Taking into account how malevolent Syco consistently is, this latter scenario seems less likely. Ryan has been given the huge One Direction hit ‘Perfect’ to perform on Saturday which could be viewed as at least a short-term endorsement.
Last year’s X Factor was all about culling the Boys with the most potential pre-lives and stuffing the Groups and Overs chock-full of easily disposable fodder to ensure Louisa Johnson had the easiest passage to victory possible. And Syco succeeded.
This year, it appears to have teed things up in a similar manner, this time clearing the way for Matt. Things can and do change on X Factor once the live shows get underway but in theory, it is also a lot easier to guide a favoured Boy to victory compared to a favoured Girl, and Matt appears to have a lot going for him.
The main question surrounding Louisa last year was her likability. The only question regarding Matt is probably the one raised by Nicole, ‘Is he interesting enough, distinctive enough, unique enough?’ In a field as anodyne and limited as this one, and with Syco so adept at its hatchet jobs, not to mention its ramping of Plan A, the most likely answer is, yes. Similar to Louisa Johnson last year, there isn’t much juice in Matt’s pre-lives price of 9-4 but given the paucity of competition there is also an argument he should be even shorter and he certainly looks the one to beat.
Mentoring the Overs, Cowell was out by week 4 last year. After failing to get an act in the final last year, it looks an odds-on shot one of his Girls will go all the way this year.
Second favourite Emily looks like getting off to a good start at least doing a slowed-down cover of Britney Spears ‘Toxic’. This has been done very successfully in the past, one of the first of which was by The Chapin Sisters in 2009 (found here), and since copied many times over including by X Factor USA 2013 winners Alex & Sierra, as seen here.
For those looking for some e/w value, Samantha, Ryan, Brooks Way and, whisper it, Honey G should come under consideration but in the end it is hard not to gravitate back to Matt. We have not had a Boy win the show since James Arthur in 2012 despite the category being the best fit with the voting audience. If backing Matt, it is probably wise to cover on Ryan, because he looks the most capable replacement should things go awry with the former waiter from Bromley.
Interestingly, it was edited as Emily vs Caitlyn with Samantha breezing through. Similarly, with the Boys it was Niall vs Ryan with Matt breezing through. At the odds Samantha looks a reasonable bet at 3-1 to be Top Girl as there was arguably a touch of Fleur East in the way she was edited as coming out of nowhere and impressing Simon at judges’ houses. A more gold-plated investment potentially lies in the Overs, where Honey G is taken to outstay Saara, with Relley looking most likely to be first out in that category.
Outright – Matt Terry – 4pt win – 9-4 – Paddy Power, Betfred, Skybet
Ryan Lawrie – 1pt e/w (a quarter the odds) – 16-1 – bet365
Top Girl – Samantha Lavery – 2pt win – 3-1 – William Hill, Ladbrokes
Top Overs – Honey G – 4pt win – 15-8 – William Hill