Miley High Club

Oct 28, 2015 by

Miley High Club

So, after a truly tortuous audition, boot camp, 6-chair challenge and judges’ houses process, we have our final 12 in this year’s X Factor.

First impressions are, it is a less competitive field this year than it could have been, which may well be intentional on producers’ part to help exert tighter control on their preferred outcome during this shortened series in terms of live shows.

The market leader is Louisa Johnson and whether you believe her current best price of 9-4 is value or not probably hinges on whether or not you believe Syco has enough expertise to guide her to victory. They couldn’t have been more clear in their handling of her to date that she is considered ideal winner material, even styling her down with less make-up to give her a bit more girl-next-door appeal.

We’ve obviously seen a good few early Girl favourites come a cropper over the years including Janet Devlin, Ella Henderson and Tamera Foster. History suggests they can be a difficult sell to a Saturday night ITV primetime audience.

You can, of course, factor in mitigating circumstances with all those 3. Janet refused to play ball with TPTB and was duly nuked. Ella, after being given a series of lifeless, slowed down numbers, landed bottom 2 with James Arthur. It remains a moot point whether she would have gone on to win that series, as James did, if she had been saved over him.

Tamera managed to shoot herself in the foot by continually forgetting her lines and hers was a series rife with judges’ egos spiralling out of control, recalling how, in week 3, Gary Barlow decided to deramp her from the pimp slot by giving her unflattering comparisons with Beyonce… after she had just sung a Beyonce song, and rather well.

Ironically, in Lauren Platt last year they found a Girl who was a safe pair of hands vocally, polling very, very well and who could have comfortably strolled to a place in the final and even competed for the win. Yet they decided her face didn’t fit as a potential winner – probably down to the Fleur fixation that overcame Simon Cowell – so she was given a series of poor running order positions, song choices, lukewarm comments and production, before being nuked in the semi-final despite still managing to beat Andrea on the public vote. Not that this is still cause for bitterness, having flagged up Lauren as the e/w value pre-lives last year…

One thing worth recalling for X Factor traders is that despite not winning, Ella and Tamera both traded very short in their respective series, and there was a big price drop on Lauren last year too after her cute rendition of Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ in week 1. A winning book on X Factor and the safest way to trade the show often lies in correctly identifying over-priced contestants, jumping on at big odds before managing to lay them when their price bottoms out.

Seann has the potential to become this year’s main watercooler act. He is a natural performer and while vocally he isn’t the best you can envisage extravagant and memorable productions for him and he probably has the versatility for a wow moment sat at a piano performing a more stripped back, intimate number.

He may well get plenty of producer favour as talent contest impresario Cowell has gone on record as saying he wants to find a winner this year that only X Factor could find. While we also know a lot that cascades from his lips is pure platitude this statement certainly rings true of Seann.

Don’t forget, Simon Cowell loves to don his superhero’s cape whenever possible. As well as his Help For Heroes work, and helpfully telling tabloid readers why David Cameron would be the best man to run the country, he would surely love nothing more than being perceived to help overturn prejudices and become a paragon (at least in his own eyes) of the LGBT community.

Seann also has a clear narrative of acceptance and ’being different is ok’. The main potential downside with him will be too many cabaret performances threatening to become samey over the weeks. He will also need to work on his likability as he has appeared a bit too brash at times so far, immodest, and the S&M styling with the ball and chain might be a bit excessive for the sensibilities of ITV viewers.

4th Impact had been looking like the most favoured Group this year up until last weekend, individually named already and featuring heavily throughout the selection process. Vocally, however, they are individually weak and this was fully exposed at judges houses’ whereas other acts were given a full backing track to make them sound better, including Alien Uncovered who were also individually name-checked. Their mentor Cheryl went on to express doubts about 4th Impact’s vocals while looking altogether more animated discussing the potential of Alien Uncovered.

There have been a few red herrings thrown into the mix this year but it was surprising to see producers take this path. Alien Uncovered have vocal issues too, also acknowledged by Cheryl, but the message conveyed here was more about finding the right lead vocalist for them whereas 4th Impact appeared to be damned by Cheryl as vocally weak. Was this the early sign of a switch in allegiance?

It will be a difficult balancing act trying to make Alien Uncovered look urban, sassy and cool and not stray too far into the territory of them looking sleazy and threatening. Similar to Seann, an empathy-building theme to build upon in their VTs could be all about being ostracised for being different.

4th Impact already have at least one harrowing trump card up their sleeve, with their dad reported to be suffering from a brain tumour and risking blindness if it is left untreated. They claim they need to win the show to earn enough money to fund the operation.

Typhoon Koppu also recently hit the Philippines leaving 4th Impact praying for the lives of their relatives. The girls may secretly hope another one hits during the series to help garner some sympathy votes. They have also been reported as tee-total virgins who have never been kissed, Syco keen to play the sweet and innocent card with them and build on their image as cute-as-buttons sisters.

The initial thinking here was, Alien Uncovered would go to the live shows purely to try and show 4th Impact in an even better light. After last Saturday’s treatment at judges’ houses, producer intentions are a little less clear. The likeable Reggie n Bollie, meanwhile, appear to be making up the numbers in the Groups cast purely as one of this year’s fun acts.

Mason looked guaranteed to make the lives as soon as Tom Bleasby conveniently pulled out paving the way for his ‘controversial’ return. His narrative is clearly teed up to turn around public opinion of him after he stormed out of the 6-chair challenge in what appeared to be a heavily scripted moment.

The Mason story in this series is also tied into Cowell’s enormous ego and desire to be perceived as the better man for giving him a second chance. You can already envisage the sing-off moment when it hinges on Simon’s vote to save Mason, which he inevitably will do. The show needs a villain and a villain with the chance of redemption gives Mason potentially a powerful narrative arc.

Mason at least has a modern identity as an edgy RnB singer in the mould of Justin Timberlake – an interesting contrast with Che who appears to have already pigeonholed himself by declaring he is all about bringing back ‘old school soul’. It is conceivable Mason will be made to look the more relevant and exciting performer of the two while the major concern for big belter Che will be in being perceived as a one trick pony. The gut feeling, pre-lives, is Che is more likely to find himself taking a similar path on the show to Craig Colton.

With Simon Lynch, Josh Daniel and Ben Clark all being culled at judges’ houses, the message conveyed here by TPTB is they are very wary of another Ben Haenow-type winner, an inoffensive MOR male voting magnet, which also has to be viewed as a negative for Che’s chances.

Cowell has been about as subtle as a brick in telling the audience he doesn’t want an Over to win this series. He looked devastated to be given the category and then ditched accomplished vocalists Kerrie-Anne and Jennifer in favour of Bupsi, who looks to have a limited role in this series as a quirky entertainer; and Max, essentially a busker with a penchant for singing Bob Marley covers. Max was initially ditched at the 6-chair challenge only to be brought back and has been tagged by Cowell as boring and looking ’half-dead’. It is difficult to view Max above the status of simply making up the numbers.

Anton has received the most airtime in this category and has likability firmly on his side. One Anton tabloid story so far is that he beat brain cancer. He also brought his cute dog ‘Honey’ on stage during his audition. But in terms of singing Cowell has focused more on the strange facial expressions he pulls, pointing out that he is uncomfortable to watch.

Telling the audience he looks weird can hardly be considered a good sign for Anton’s long-term prospects. It is going to be intriguing to hear the qualified praise Simon dishes out for Anton as Syco must be aware they will need to keep the handbrake firmly applied to Anton’s popularity unless they are willing to settle again for another feel-good winner in the mould of Sam Bailey, with about as much commercial appeal as… Sam Bailey.

Anton, like Che, also looks somewhat one-dimensional with his favoured Broadway-style soul crooning, with accompanying vocal gymnastics. You can argue older viewers could gravitate towards Anton but he has certainly not been given the treatment of a desired winner up to this point.

Since Little Mix won, X Factor has had 3 commercially limited winners. While you can argue winning the show isn’t the be all and end all in terms of post-show success – think JLS, One Direction, Ella Henderson etc – Syco must be desperate to find a potential global act this time around that actually manages to win the show.

So we return to the Girls which does look the category they are pushing the hardest. Lauren had faded into the background until last weekend’s judges’ houses where she performed well, fuelling a big gamble on her in the Outright. The main concern is, does she have the look of a potential future pop star?

You have to fear this year’s Lauren could endure a similar fate to last year’s Lauren with not enough going for her to really stand out. While she has likability on her side and seems to be vocally assured she is maybe a little too plain to push for the win. On the flipside, granted producer backing, being cast as an ‘every girl’ is also a potentially powerful voting magnet. Louisa and Lauren both herald from Essex which could also make Lauren the ideal plan B if Louisa doesn’t fly with voters.

Kiera initially shaped up as the Girl who could trump Louisa as the more voteable of the two in this series. But that has dimmed since Cowell damned her at boot camp saying he didn’t like her voice, and in their pushing of Louisa there has been a sense TPTB have already tried to stall Kiera’s early momentum.

She looks to possess the versatility to cope well with the different themes each week – Rita putting forward Kiera’s adaptability and ability to put on a show as one of the reasons why she chose her – and granted producer support, she could go far.

Kiera potentially also has a strong regional vote to call upon, heralding from the north-west in St Helens. You would think the show will seek to give all 3 Girls a solid start and re-assess where to place their chips once they’ve digested their respective early polling figures.

Looking at the first elimination market, Bupsi is a best-priced 13-8 favourite. Two things in her favour are, if she has been cast to offer the show some light entertainment along with Reggie n Bollie, it would be a little odd to get rid of her in week 1. And Simon Cowell has been a big Bupsi fan ever since her first audition.

Without a massive ramp Mason may find it hard to pull himself out of the bottom 2 but even if he is bottom 2 you would have to think he will be saved. Reggie n Bollie have more likability than Bupsi and look a stronger proposition to avoid an early bath in week 1. Which brings us to Max who has to be the early value pick at 8-1 given he has been an after-thought all along, and doesn’t appear to offer the show very much at all.

Thinking about who might get the week 1 pimp and potentially the first major price crash during the lives, Seann could fit the bill more than Louisa as TPTB avoid looking too blatant in favouring her, and a theme of ‘This Is Me’ looks tailor-made for him given his very distinctive USP.

It also looks a clever move by Syco to have a theme showcasing ‘who each contestant is as an artist’ as it tees them up to pigeonhole the ones it will throw under a bus further into the competition for being too one-dimensional, while it can big up the ones it is seeking to push as being ready-made pop stars, having a clear identity, looking like a recording artist, and so on.

In 2011, Janet Devlin received the week 1 pimp slot. In 2012, Jahmene Douglas. In 2013, Rough Copy. Last year, Andrea Faustini. Looking at that list you might even conclude a week 1 pimp is a bad omen in terms of a contestant’s winning chance but that probably won’t stop the market reacting positively to whoever does receive the week 1 pimp.

Last year’s pre-lives picks drew a disappointing blank and tipping up Little Mix to win X Factor at odds of 66-1 back in 2011 is starting to feel a long, long time ago now. Caution has to be the byword this time around as this series appears full of doubts with every single contestant having at least one major question mark alongside their name.

Value looks thin on the ground in the category betting. At current prices, Seann, Kiera and Alien Uncovered make most appeal but this is going to be a series that will hinge on producer favour more than any other and it would come as no surprise if they can successfully guide Louisa to victory.

There has also been talk of a possible wildcard. If this comes to pass you would have to think Monica Michael is best placed to win any wildcard vote.

Keep an eye on the Comments section for post-Saturday night analysis and please feel free to post your series thoughts below.

Advised:

Outright – Seann – 8-1 – 2pt e/w – Skybet, Betfred

Kiera Weathers – 18-1 – 1pt e/w – Skybet

Alien Uncovered – 28-1 – 0.5pt e/w – Skybet

Max Stone – first elimination – 8-1 – 2pt win – Ladbrokes, Skybet

16 Comments

  1. Tim B

    Hi Rob, thanks for such a detailed pre-lives analysis. I fancy Seann to do well too, so much so that I’m almost bored of banging on about him. I’ve built up a large green that I hope to lay off at a later date. One thing worth mentioning is that he’s a theatre professional – having turned down the lead role in Priscilla in Australia. Therefore I think he’s up with the most reliable contestants this year. He’s the only one of the market favourites I can envisage winning at the moment.

    I agree with your Kiera selection. I thought she was looking a bit short for a while, but at current prices, is probably worth a go. She is sufficiently middle-of-the-road and to be honest, a little bit boring, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If she does well early on, she could pick up a lot of second preference-type votes required to challenge. I think the market has overreacted in regards to Lauren. Despite putting in a decent performance at Judges’ Houses, her big voice has to remain a threat to TPTB’s objective of getting Princess Louisa over the line. For that reason, I see her as disposable.

    I keep changing my mind on Alien Uncovered. I think they could potentially get a push, but 4th Impact are probably too much competition. If any act is going to get the “Fleur East” treatment this year, I can see it being Mason Noise, rather than Alien Uncovered.

    For the first elimination, I agree with you that Max is fodder however, I think his shy-guy underdog schtick should pick up enough votes in the first week, at least to avoid last place. Reggie N Bollie to go for me at the prices – they are the least talented act and although they are “fun”, I just don’t see where their vote will come from. Bupsi will get a regional vote and has had a decent amount of coverage, and I think she’ll get a late slot in the running order. However the biggest question mark is what format the first elimination(s) will take. There are several possibilities, but the 145-minute running order time on Saturday, with special guest Ben Haenow performing, leads me to believe that there’ll be a single flash vote elimination on Saturday night, with another elimination on Sunday.

    And will there be any wildcards? Jennifer would prove a fly in the ointment as her big voice would likely make her out-poll Louisa in the first few weeks. Monica’s return would have some initial hype, but she would surely fade by being made to sing cover after cover. Josh, however, would imo be a serious contender and could easily M-O-R his way to victory with his commercial looks, regional vote, competent voice and nice guy persona.

  2. Rob

    Thanks Tim. Clever song choice for Mason 🙂 If this week earmarks the artistic direction they see them all going in – ‘This is me’ – then that has to be seen as an ominous choice for Lauren – very karaoke and not remotely relevant.

    Louisa and Seann have been given songs they can put their spin on, at least giving them a chance to stand out.

    More Luther Vandross for Anton so he looks like he is being pigeon-holed already. Uptempo, fun tunes for the 2 novelty acts, while Max turns Adele into a reggae number. Hmm…? Very happy with 8-1 on him for 1st elim.

    The Boys
    Seann Miley Moore: Life On Mars – David Bowie
    Ché Chesterman: Tears Dry On Their Own / Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Amy Winehouse / Marvin Gaye & Tammi Tarrell
    Mason Noise: Sorry – Justin Bieber

    The Girls
    Lauren Murray: I’m Every Woman – Chakka Khan (Whitney Houston version)
    Louisa Johnson: God Only Knows – Beach Boys
    Kiera Weathers: Crying For No Reason – Katy B
    Monica Michael: Make It Rain – Ed Sheeran

    The Overs
    Anton Stephans: Dance With My Father – Luther Vandross
    Bupsi: You’re A Wonderful One – Marvin Gaye
    Max Stone: Someone Like You – Adele

    The Groups
    Alien Uncovered: Do It Like A Dude – Jessie J
    Reggie ‘N’ Bollie: It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy
    4th Impact: Problem – Ariana Grande Ft. Iggy Azalea

  3. Boki

    I struggle to understand what kind of artistic direction/relevance they are trying with the supposed TCO Louisa. She will put her spin on it just like Ella did !? What is their thinking I wonder… can she be pushed far with dated choices?

    • Rob

      I think it’s something that could be made beautiful, Boki, which is presumably the aim. I’d rather see a contestant with a choice like that rather than the over-covered and extremely hackneyed ‘I’m Every Woman’.

      • Boki

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, Lauren’s is far far worse so it looks like both gamma girls got more solid choices. No doubt Louisa can make something beautiful of it but it’s still sooo dated.

        • Rob

          I wonder if Louisa was initially slated for the Lana Del Rey song, Boki, but ill health and vocal struggles maybe led to a change of plan.

          • Boki

            I’m probably overreacting Rob, I like her voice and wish her the best. It seems that BB song has many covers/interpretations so it might suit her anyway…

  4. Rob

    Looks like XF contestants are going to be scored on vocals and performance: http://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/615847/X-Factor-Seann-Miley-Moore-breaks-down-scoring

    A strange development as obviously the groups are a lot more about performance, whereas the likes of Che/Anton have no performance as such – it’s all about the vocals with them. A chance for judges to steer the pv, I presume.

    RnB now singing It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy.

  5. Rob

    Unclear now with conflicting reports over whether the new scoring system will be applied. 15mins clash with Strictly tonight so will be interesting to see who is on early.

  6. Rob

    Hope readers took the 8-1 advised Max 1st elim. He is now trading on BF around 2.92 so a fantastic trade come what may.

    Bupsi and Kiera clearly the other 2 potentially under threat. Kiera endured something of a nuking, as they twisted the knife giving Monica the penultimate slot & talking her up as if it was a mistake not to originally put her through.

    It looks pretty clear if it’s Max vs Bupsi, Max very likely a goner. But if it’s Kiera vs Bupsi, could well be on for our 1st ‘shock’ elim as could see them ditching Kiera given her treatment tonight.

  7. Rob

    Having advised Max at 8-1, the wise cover has to be Keira. The reasoning is, if Keira does land b2, her treatment last night suggests TPTB will likely get rid, possibly even if she is up against Max.

    Advised:

    Keira – 1st elimination – 5-2 – 2pt win – Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Betfred

  8. Rob

    Max traded sub 2-1 so a great start to the series regardless of Max ultimately being a loser on the official chitty of investments, advised at 8-1 here. Enabled me to green up 1st elim book.

    Concluded Kiera must have been 3rd bottom on pv & double elim a way to contrive getting rid of her in the sing-off.

    Then when it went 2-1 in her favour concluded she must have been 2nd bottom on the vote and Cowell would send it to deadlock.

    Kiera obviously sang superbly in the sing-off and completely eclipsed the out of tune Alien. Maybe this was the reason Cowell had to be seen to do the right thing and put her through.

    A shame no 2nd elim market formed on BF. Would have been carnage 🙂

  9. Great article as ever. I’m always hooked in by your thoroughness. I backed Alien and Kiera before reading and was pleased when you put them up, given your recent successess. I could not believe that they were both in the sing off on Sunday. I don’t get Lauren/Monica/Mason or Anton yet they all survived. Crazy night. I’ll keep reading and hope we can pick up some cash along the way.

    • Rob

      Hi General. Thanks for posting. I’m always on the look out for potentially over-priced contestants and Alien/Kiera fitted the bill. Of course, there’s no knowing what treatment Syco has in store. Sadly, they nuked Kiera.

      Alien always looked vulnerable for an early b2 appearance but there was a possibility they could keep above the drop zone and take a Fleur trajectory. Sadly, not to be after favourable treatment.

      Struggling to find opposition to Louisa at the moment. Hopefully we can end up in profit come the end of the series 🙂

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