Middle Class

The X Factor live shows start again this weekend. Last year, Louisa Johnson was favourite at this stage, and ended up cantering to victory. But she had been treated like Plan A from the very start. This year, producers haven't made it so obvious there's a single chosen one they want to push to victory.

The act they've treated most sympathetically is Matt Terry, the current favourite. Simon Cowell has compared him to previous finalist and successful alumni Olly Murs, and it's clear that he's currently most favoured among the boys category. But Matt is a short price for an act who doesn't feel like a particularly commercial proposition once the show is over.

Second favourites are 5 After Midnight, a threepiece boyband in the mould of JLS. They've also received nothing but positive coverage, and look likely to be treated positively by producers. Otherwise, it's the girls category that looks most intriguing, with each act potentially offering Simon Cowell a chance to be the winning mentor.

Our pick is third favourite Emily Middlemas on the basis of secure vocals, indications of producer support, her sweet girl-next-door demeanour, and the Scottish vote. Ever since Jai McDowell surprisingly won Britain's Got Talent, Simin Cowell's producers have been reluctant to put Scottish acts in the X Factor live shows. We've had only one in the last six years - 2013's runner-up, Nick McDonald. To send another Scot into the finals on the back of highly positive treatment is very promising for Emily. As is the decision to shoehorn her current boyfriend Ryan Lawrie in as one of the other finalists, having rejected him at an earlier stage of the competition.

The danger is that her girl-with-guitar routine, which often involves slowing down uptempo songs, can get you labelled a one-trick pony. But she showed in the 2014 auditions, when singing Ellie Goulding, that she can mix it up. I'm hoping producers will allow her to display such versatility.

The other acts in the girls category - all under the guidance of Simon Cowell - are not to be written off. Gifty Louise seems set for big uptempo productions of the kind that helped Fleur East reach the final in 2014. Samantha Lavery has been less consistent during the audition process, but impressed with her judges houses performance. Those punters wishing to spread their bets across more than one act might like to take a punt on Simon being the winning mentor.

Bookmakers have been less keen on pricing up a first elimination market. The most likely candidates are Relley C, who has received less screentime during the audition process than any other finalist, and Bratavio, who are this year's camp-as-Christmas combination. The last-named may be overshadowed in the novelty stakes by Honey G, a female equivalent of comedian Ali G.

Of the other acts, Freddy Parker seems like the least promising of the boys, whilst it's hard to predict quite what will become of Brooks Way and Saara Aalto. Both have the potential to do reasonably well, but producers have to show greater positivity around them than they have during the audition stages. Finally, we may not know until the start of Saturday's programme if there's a wildcard brought back from rejection. At the time of writing there was no news, and a two-hour long show indicates they could only squeeze in one at most.

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Emily Middlemas
X Factor [Winning Act]
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Simon Cowell
X Factor [Winning Manager]
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