Jack Houghton claims to have tipped the winner of the X Factor since records began. Last year he put up eventual winners Rak-Su at [6.00] in his pre-show preview, and promises to do the same here. Will LMA Choir be a winning selection at huge odds?
"The value bet, though, is probably LMA Choir at massive triple-figure odds..."
Misunderstood at [4.20]
A duo who were part of the dance crew Myztikal (who got to the knock-out stage of Britain's Got Talent in 2010). They write their own songs, perform them with an accompanying jig, and will no doubt be lauded for their ability to entertain. Many see Misunderstood as Robbie Williams' best chance of being the winning mentor, but they are short odds for a group who offer little versatility, and whose cheeky-boy lyrics won't appeal to everyone. Expect them to go far, but not to win.
Brendan Murray at [6.20]
Following the recent tradition of the X Factor recycling singers who haven't quite made it before, Murray has previously been in a Louis Walsh managed Irish boyband, and even represented Ireland in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. He's cute, sings in a ridiculously high-register, and will certainly have a strong following, especially among dogs. There's every chance he'll get annoying, though, and the odds don't look especially generous.
Shan Ako at [7.00]
The Croydon session singer with a fantastic voice who can pen an uplifting crowd-pleasing song. There's something of the Heather Small about her. She's likeable, talented, and is a possible winner. If she's unsuccessful here, she can always get the gig writing songs for BBC Sport montages.
Dalton Harris at [13.00]
Winner of a 2010 talent show in Jamaica, where he went on to release several records, Harris has one of the strongest voices in the competition. He's got better as the show has gone on, and seems to have dropped some of the ridiculous shrieks and shrills from the earlier rounds. With guidance and some adaptability, he could go a long way, but it's hard to see him winning.
Vibe 5 at [15.00]
This year's we-wanted-to-be-individual-contestants-but-are-now-a-band-and-are-like-brothers act are Vibe 5. They seem nice enough, but follow the usual mathematical formula of most boy bands, which sees good-looking-ness decrease as singing talent increases, meaning the only two decent singers are unlikely to secure many adoring fans. They also have a nasty habit of looking constipated when they sing. It's hard to see them winning.
Molly Scott at [15.00]
Nice girl from County Durham who sounds a bit like whatever Cheryl Cole is now called used to sound, but altogether more whiney. Likely to be forgettable (I had to go back on YouTube to remember which one she was) and could well exit early.
Anthony Russell at [16.00]
The story of this year's competition, Russell has auditioned twice before, and even got to judges' houses in 2017 before withdrawing from the show because of drug use. In steps now-mentor Louis Tomlinson to support him through rehab, and we find ourselves at the beginning of this fairy-tale of renewal and revival. The danger for Russell is that he'll be the prime target of the tabloids, and whilst there's been something emotional about his performances this year, he's got a tendency to sing off-pitch, which won't help him in the live shows.
Scarlett Lee at [20.00]
Another returning competitor, the make-up artist from Surrey made songwriter Diane Warren cry at judges' houses, but she offers little that is original and is likely to depart the show in one of the early weeks.
A Star (Aaliyaha + Acacia) at [25.00]
The young combo of Acacia and Aaliyah have impressed with edgy mash-ups of modern urban classics. They present producers with a problem, though. In the past, younger acts have been styled as innocent angels, a schtick that just isn't going to suit the in-your-face brattishness of this pairing.
Bella Penfold at [28.00]
Essex girl who sings in hotels. A bit intense - she needs to talk less - and she doesn't seem to be able to say anything without accentuating it by swinging her arm from side to side as these young rap stars are akin to do these days. She's one of the most interesting and talented acts on this year's show, though, and if she can tame the annoying parts of how she presents herself, she stands an outside chance.
Olatunji Yearwood at [50.00]
Yearwood is a Trinidadian Calypso and Soca artist who writes his own songs. Upbeat and likeable: imagine a brightly-suited entertainer at an Ibiza family beach hotel. He's not considered a serious contender but could easily remain into the final rounds. There's a sense of 2015 runners-up Reggie 'n' Bollie about him - he'll get votes because viewers will look forward to his performances.
Danny Tetley at [55.00]
Another returner from reality-shows-of-yore, and this time packing some serious vintage: Benidorm bar-singer Tetley was on the very first Pop Idol in 2001, and even came back for Popstars: The Rivals, a year later. A decent enough singer, but his personality grates after a while. An early departee.
Janice Robinson at [60.00]
Apparently once a lead singer for a now-defunct Italian dance act who had a hit in the 90s, this Cleopatra-esque bejewelled American is one of the best singers in the competition. She's likely to join the long line of middle-aged female singers who have lasted a few weeks in the X Factor, but ultimately get voted off because they offer little that's new or interesting.
Armstrong Martins at [90.00]
A church singer who has been brought up by his pastor since the age of 13, Martins has impressed with idiosyncratic takes on well-known songs, including a heterodox version of the Friends theme-tune at judges' houses. Charismatic and watchable, it wouldn't be the biggest surprise if he lasted a few weeks, but at the moment it's hard to see what musical niche he will step into.
Giovanni Spano at [110.00]
A West-End singer and the annual token rock vocalist, it's hard to see how Spano is going to fill the stage on a Saturday night. Producers will likely go for breathy rock numbers with atmospheric smoke and, if he lasts a couple of weeks, he'll get a choir as well. Once this gets boring, though, he'll try something different, and this will prove calamitous.
LMA Choir at [110.00]
Surprising outsiders, this 14-piece choir are probably the best vocalists in the competition. They've already cost the show a fortune in plane tickets and hotel rooms and might yet stay much longer than most expect. Runners-up already on a BBC singing competition, they are unusual as finalists on the X Factor - with choirs usually being the remit of Britain's Got Talent - but, talented and likeable, they can do well singing popular, anthemic songs, and in a weak year, could be the surprise package.
The striking thing about this year's competition is the relative paucity of talent on show. There are a lot of acts who would be destined for an early departure in most years, and considering the truncated seven-show schedule, with most weeks likely seeing more than one eviction, many of these will be gone before they've established who they are. There will be "surprise" departures every week.
If I was forced to pick a winner at this stage, it would likely be Shan Ako at [7.00], but Bella Penfold at [28.00] and Olatunji Yearwood at [50.00] are also of interest. The value bet, though, is probably LMA Choir at massive triple-figure odds. Choral offerings are increasingly popular, and singing back numbers from High School Musical, The Greatest Showman, Hamilton and the like, LMA Choir can win this.
I'll be back to preview the final on 1st December.