8 Apr 2015

The X Factor NZ: Enter the void

9:46 am on 8 April 2015

If developing these contestants into marketable singers is the aim, why do they seem so anonymous?


X Factor NZ's Stevie Tonks performs Gnarl’s Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ .

X Factor NZ's Stevie Tonks performs Gnarl’s Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ . Photo: The X Factor NZ

The theme of this week’s X Factor performance show was the bleakly ironic ‘One Hit Wonders’ and in an act of total sadism our dear sweet X Factees were asked to peer into their futures: “Who are they, exactly?” grinned the eerily prescient Dominic Bowden. Indeed the night was a celebration of everything the machine of The X Factor is so carefully designed to obscure.

Yet herein is not where this week’s problems lay. And a truly cynical audience likes a little tragedy with their reality entertainment. Sadly then, the greatest sin was banality and, where last week viewers were distracted by lavish sets and Dom’s darling leisure suit, this week seemed like a disappointing return to fairly lacklustre form. Whatever money Fruttare bestowed last week appears to have momentarily evaporated, with noticeably simpler sets and staging and a whole lot of dry ice.

There were moments of intrigue and, in the case of Stevie Tonk’s extraordinary finger painting masterpiece, utterly unprecedented brilliance. Yet there was a definite loss of overall momentum that even threatened to become literal with Stan taking like 10 minutes to decide who to vote for only to decide that “this is stupid.” And how right he was.

Sarah Spicer, eliminated from X Factor NZ.

Sarah Spicer, eliminated from X Factor NZ. Photo: The X Factor NZ

Sarah Spicer opened Monday night’s show with a not-great performance of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Going On’ and was promptly eliminated by public vote on Tuesday thus saving an innocent viewing public from ever being exposed to a ‘Spicer Original’. Unfortunately, this result also kind of affirmed Shelton’s thinly veiled ageist/sexist concerns regarding her “cross-over appeal” (young people).

Perhaps it is via my deep dislike of the song ‘My Sharona’, but Brendon Thomas and the Vibes’ pastiche of rock and roll tropes started to wear a little thin and, given their place in the bottom two, apparently New Zealand feels the same. They’re still cute and hairy but something has changed. We are a humble, God-fearing people and the hubris of breaking instruments that do not belong to them has not gone unnoticed. Even if they lacked the upper body strength to do it very effectively. Watch out BT and the V.

Stevie Tonks went sans hat for Gnarl’s Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and crossed over from excellent and rad to sublime and transcendent with what was practically a performance art piece.  And it was perfect for X Factor because it looked so cost effective! Did he actually come up with it? If he did he is an national treasure.

Joe, poor Joe, did ‘Time of my Life’ from Dirty Dancing in a performance that “ditched the drama” and was “all about the fun!” Thinking and talking about Joe makes me very anxious so instead here is a text from my mum:

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Photo: Unknown

New Zealand, however, disagrees and Joe remains.  

Finlay dressed up as a festive goth Easter bunny and did a cover of ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’, which is some pretty sweet shade to those loser has-beens Goyte and Kimbra. I especially liked her Kimbra-alike backup dancers. The producers clearly desperately want us to like Finlay, and I totally do but we could have done without that whole DJ cuddle monster thing.

Nyssa is just so lovely and her nana is sick so you better keep voting for her. Her version of ‘A Thousand Miles’ (my intermediate school anthem) was so good even without the do do do do do do do doo doo doo piano bit which is a pretty impressive feat. It was easily the second best performance of the night.

Mae Valley’s actually pretty ok performance of Wheetus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ was vaguely upstaged by the simultaneous realisation of Shelton’s zombie prom fantasy, But it was also kind of cool and definitely their best performance so far. Also I like their family in the audience and their sick-as Mae Valley hand symbol.

Lili, new and improved with blue hair, did her first tolerable performance of the season but, as everyone pointed out, she cheated by mashing up her one hit wonder ‘Tainted Love’ with the Eurhythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’. Lili, however, knows that nice girls finish last and for once she was not in the bottom two so good for Lili I guess.

Neither Stan nor Shelton had heard of Steve Broad’s song ‘Stay’ by Shakespeare’s Sister. As it happens nor had I, but a quick Google search revealed that it comes from an album called Hormonally Yours, and though his performance was meh this fun fact is more than enough to keep him in my good graces. Bless you Steve.

Beau, poor poor Beau, closed the show with ‘Freestyler’ and unfortunately failed to prove he could do any of the things he is apparently on the show to do. Beau is a sweetheart and Natalie had better dye his hair blue or something because this is a disaster.

Brendon Thomas and the Vibes.

Brendon Thomas and the Vibes. Photo: The X Factor NZ

With such bland performances and an apparently fluctuating production budget, now really seems like a good time for the X Factor producers to get cracking on the reality part of this “show”, yet we continue to sit through endlessly bizarre behind the scenes tableaus.

“What are you up to Joe?”

“Fixing the cupboard”

“What are you up to Joe?”

“Cleaning the Fountain”

In spite of these valuable moments of insight, what goes on in the ‘contestant house’ or who in fact even lives there remains fairly opaque. Who broke the cupboard in the first place? Will the house fall apart if Joe is voted off? Why did Mae Valley only just move in? These are the questions New Zealand need answers to. I’ve been watching weeks of this and I only just found out how much of a “goober” Finlay is. If developing these people into marketable singers is the aim, why do they seem so anonymous?

This week was not good and I was very bored and disappointed. Yet like a lamb to the slaughter I am excited and optimistic at the very thought of an Ed Sheeran vs. Taylor Swift theme next week. Who will do ‘Love Story’? Who will do ‘Blank Space’? Who will be stuck with an Ed Sheeran song (with the added burden of him actually performing next week)? It can only get better.