As Clear As Mud

Dec 6, 2013 by

As Clear As Mud

Will there be a sing-off/won’t there be a sing-off? In the hope of clarifying this weekend’s semi-final, EntertainmentOdds got in touch with the X Factor press office.

On Tuesday, the reply came, ‘As usual there will be no sing-off’. A follow up email was sent asking if there would be an official announcement of this before tomorrow night’s show. Then yesterday the response was, ‘Apologies for the mistake, but there will be a sing off this weekend.’

‘You put your left foot in, your left foot out. In, out…’  We were preparing to write something along the lines of, the obituaries being written for Nick looking premature. But now it looks like he could be in producers’ sights after all. Or maybe not… This series has turned into a crapshoot trying to figure out how it plays out below the unstoppable X Factor force that is Sam B.

In previous years there have been scenarios in which, at the last 4 stage, heavily pimped artists have departed the show in 4th place, last on the public vote, when an opportunity existed to have a sing-off as a mechanism to get them into the final, and get rid of a less favoured act. You only need to look at last year and Union J being jettisoned from the show 4th and last on the public vote when the show’s public enemy number one, Chris Maloney, could have been nuked in a sing-off instead.

So why have a first ever sing-off at the last 4 stage this year? The way they have gone about deramping Nick hasn’t been the full-on assault we witnessed last year with Chris Maloney and has always had the look of a series-long dismantling. Perhaps Nick wasn’t that far ahead of Rough Copy last week, and they are confident they can drag him into the bottom 2.

Looking at Nick’s song choices, however, they look reasonable enough for him. ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ is very much in the sweet spot of his MOR hitting zone. ‘Halo’ has had a trifling 189 million hits on YouTube and is undoubtedly one of Beyonce’s most recognisable tunes. The worry with ‘Halo’ might be, it proves too big for him, like ‘Greatest Day’ last week.

On song choices alone, Luke appears to have by far the weakest choices. ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ required a YouTube check to find out about this song. 130 million hits suggests it is far from obscure, but it doesn’t resonate as a popular Beyonce tune. ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight’ is also a rather drab selection from the Elton back catalogue.

The other way of looking at the sing-off is, Nick is still out of reach and maybe they simply want an extra insurance policy for getting their chosen act out of Rough Copy or Luke to the final. Getting Union J into 3rd place was probably the goal last year as they were only 0.6% behind Chris. Perhaps this is the biggest clue as to why there is a sing-off this year: they do not want a repeat of ending up with the ‘wrong’ finalist, and a sing-off provides them with the leeway they didn’t have last year.

So who out of Luke or Rough Copy is this year’s chosen finalist? Rough Copy have had ‘tuning issues’ virtually every week but you could argue they would add flavour to the final as the last remaining Group, and a backing track can cover a multitude of sins.

Song choices would also suggest Rough Copy. ‘Survivor’ was a huge hit for Destiny’s Child, and could be palatable enough to a Saturday night ITV audience. But it is the Elton track ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ that looks to have ‘big moment’ written all over it and it is easy to imagine the judges going into overdrive eulogising them after this.

We know Luke has been in the bottom 2 twice, Rough Copy once, and that Rough Copy have outpolled Luke in 2 of the last 3 weeks. The week Luke outpolled Rough Copy was week 7, the week of his bounce when he possibly had One Direction fans helping to boost his vote. Perhaps Luke is just too much of a niche act.

Looking back on last week, and the pimping of both Rough Copy and Luke, it now appears as if this strategy was undertaken with a view to getting Tamera bottom of the public vote. So she could be booted off the show, either against Luke or Rough Copy, via deadlock – deadlock used at the last 5 stage purely for added drama.

Perhaps TPTB do fear a bigger bounce for Luke than expected after his sing-off effort against Tamera and the way they sold his bottom 2 appearance as a massive injustice. Rough Copy were, of course, bouncing last week after their bottom 2 appearance the week before.

But on the basis Rough Copy were ahead of Luke last week and bottom 2 bounces are usually less significant at this stage, the cards do still look to be in Rough Copy’s favour to stay ahead of Luke. Rough Copy may also gain some votes from Tamera’s exit.

The counter view to Rough Copy appearing to be a lock for the final is, is 3rd place instead of 4th place really that important for Rough Copy’s post-series career? We haven’t had them name-checked during the entire series, there are the group’s visa issues likely to prove a barrier to overseas touring opportunities, their likability is suspect, and they strike us more on a Union J level than a One Direction or JLS level, no matter how many times the likes of Nicole has tried to tell viewers how great they are.

A final appearance from Luke arguably adds just as much flavour as this year’s ‘alternative’ act, and might TPTB be thinking Luke’s final appearance could be handy from the point of view of taking away some votes from Nick?

While the pair of them have a different niche, 2 Solo boys must still split the vote to a certain extent. And they could massively ramp Sam B on the Saturday of the final so that Nick simply has too big a gap to close come the Sunday.

Luke has not had a pimp slot series-long and it could be his turn tomorrow. The show has continued to brand him as this year’s dark horse and he is arguably more marketable than Rough Copy with a more clearly defined musical identity.

Sam B, meanwhile, looks to have been given all the ammunition to pull further away at the top of the polling chart. ‘If I Were A Boy’ and ‘Candle In The Wind’ should allow her to land two further knock-out punches and we have not even got to the final yet.

It is the semi-final so they are going to big up all the remaining contestants and it is surely too late in the day for an all-out deramp of anyone. Overall, the view here is Rough Copy were more likely loitering with being in the bottom 2 last week despite their pimp slot, and Nick’s MOR appeal is so robust it will more likely see him escape the bottom 2 again this week. Is confidence high in making these pronouncements? No.

If it does end up a Rough Copy vs Luke sing-off, we would favour Rough Copy being saved. And if it is Luke vs Nick you would have to assume Luke would be saved. So the safest way to proceed this week looks to be to lay Rough Copy for elimination as cheaply as possible, and to back Luke at 4-7 to be in the bottom 2 with bwin.

Cue a further email update from the X Factor press office, informing there won’t be a sing-off after all…


  1. Boki

    Good analysis Rob, not much to add, that sing-off uncertainty is really annoying (don’t know how credible is that tweet from Luke’s mom saying there is public vote only).
    As much as I like Luke, it’s hard to see him flying with such songs when others are given much better ones.

  2. Slightly off topic, but Ladbrokes are pricing Sam Bailey at 2.25 for xmas #1.

    Other firms are 1.53 tops for an X-Factor #1, so it’s a value bet considering Sam is 1.4 for the win.

    • Rob

      It’s a good spot, Gav, & one of the last remaining genuine pieces of XF value knocking around.

  3. Dissed on the Betsfactor podcast… I wouldn’t take that Rob. I’m up for ganging up during the Eurovision season!

  4. Ha – Not at all! 🙂 This is one of my fav blogs.

    I fully know my place in the pecking order (Conference North). Really enjoyed the Eurovision podcasts as well guys. I was a avid listener.

  5. Boki

    Luke tweeted there will be a sing-off.
    Victor & Bwin have opposite thinking about the deadlock, I don’t believe there will be one (what’s a point of deadlock in a first 4-act sing-off ever) so No at evens @Victor looks good.

    • Rob

      It seems it’ll either be Luke vs Rough Copy or Luke vs Nicholas sing-off. In the first instance, you have to anticipate an RC save, but this could be achieved through deadlock (probably used to contrive some drama) as RC more likely to maintain pv lead over Luke. The 2nd scenario will not involve deadlock as it’ll be a 2-1 decision with Louis abstaining. I still favour a Luke vs RC sing-off, Boki, so I would be less confident over no deadlock.

      • Henry VIII

        Louis has in the past chosen to save one of his 2 B2 acts over the other iirc. The judges have rebelled this year though so it’s unpredictable.

        • Boki

          In my view Luke has good chance of passing RC in the vote. People always say that the bounce in this stage is not big but last two years it was. The difference was even bigger so Misha and UnionJ didn’t catch third but for little and the difference between RC and Luke is certainly not so big.

  6. @gwri78

    What do producers want most? Viewers of final. They’d also like a Sam win.

    How do you get both? Sam b2, saved by judges, bounces to win next week.

  7. zoomraker

    is there bottom 2 this week?

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