Tony Cow­ell

As the com­pe­ti­tion hots up, Tony Cow­ell re­veals which con­tes­tants he thinks are bound for X Fac­tor glory – and tells us what’s re­ally wrong with Si­mon...

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Si­mon told me to ex­pect the live shows to be ‘quite dif­fer­ent’ – and he was right. It’s the big­gest over­haul The X Fac­tor live shows have had in 13 years. There’s been much crit­i­cism of drop­ping the Sun­day sing-off, but the stag­ing and pro­duc­tion this year has been com­pletely trans­formed – it’s much more like watch­ing a live con­cert than a TV show.

This year, there are no nov­elty acts, no vil­lains (apart from the judges!) and no juke­box. So here are my tips for the acts who I be­lieve can go all the way to the fi­nal.

In a per­fect world, I ex­pect Rak- Su to win, al­low­ing Grace Davies to avoid the pres­sure of win­ning and let­ting her take her time record­ing what could be a sim­ply stun­ning first al­bum. Those who claim The X Fac­tor is no longer rel­e­vant need to take a look at the iTunes chart – as both of th­ese acts have al­ready proved their po­ten­tial by get­ting their songs into the top 10.

Grace Davies The Girls Men­tor: Sharon

Grace has been my firm favourite to win since her first au­di­tion when she made Sharon cry with her song, Roots – which got over 3 mil­lion views on YouTube. Si­mon called it, ‘A beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful song.’

She be­came the first-ever con­tes­tant to prove you can sing orig­i­nal songs on The X Fac­tor – as long as they are well-crafted.

There is a dan­ger Grace may have peaked too soon. She should do a few well­cho­sen cov­ers to show her vo­cal range. How­ever, she re­mains the book­ies’ favourite to win, for all the right rea­sons.

Rak-Su The Groups Men­tor: Si­mon

A group hasn’t won The X Fac­tor since 2011, when Lit­tle Mix came out on top. Si­mon told me he is des­per­ate to have a group win this year – and his dream may come true. Even Ch­eryl has shown her loyalty to Si­mon by pub­licly back­ing the tal­ented group and ad­mit­ting she is ‘ob­sessed.’

I also love the fact that Rak- Su are do­ing orig­i­nal songs, too. The group, who have been friends since child­hood, are now be­gin­ning to be­lieve in them­selves.

Band mem­ber Ash­ley said, ‘I don’t want to get ahead of my­self, but I think we can hon­estly do this. Like ev­ery­one who val­ues au­then­tic­ity and orig­i­nal­ity can win!’

Win or lose, this group will get a record­ing con­tract.

Lloyd Macey The Boys Men­tor: Louis

Louis tells me he’s back­ing Lloyd Macey to go all the way. ‘Lloyd brings some­thing dif­fer­ent to this year’s show,’ he said. ‘He can sing live with­out any gim­micks. He doesn’t need dancers or fancy stage props – he’s got it all. He’s go­ing to get the whole of Wales vot­ing for him.’

Lloyd’s ver­sion of the La La Land song City of Stars went straight into the iTunes Top 40. Whether he can win the show is still in doubt – but he could make the fi­nal and has done enough to se­cure him­self a ca­reer in mu­sic.

Rai-Elle The Girls Men­tor: Sharon

Rai-Elle, 16, has the back­ing of One Di­rec­tion’s Liam Payne and last year’s win­ner Matt Terry. At the Six Chair Chal­lenge, Si­mon told her, ‘If Sharon doesn’t give you a chair, you can take mine.’

Rai-Elle is no stranger to TV, hav­ing been a con­tes­tant on the CBBC show Got What It Takes – and her con­fi­dence showed when she was cho­sen to open The X Fac­tor’s first live show of the se­ries.

I be­lieve this girl can make the fi­nal, but per­haps is too young to win. Ei­ther way, she is des­tined to be a huge star.

The X Fac­tor is on ITV on Satur­day at 8.20pm & Sun­day at 7pm

Si­mon loves spend­ing time with son Eric Tony and his wife Emma ei­ther side of Si­mon and his part­ner Lauren

Lit­tle Eric watches Daddy at work on The X Fac­tor

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